Food for love!

The comings and goings of Miss Pea Trimble, spinster of the Parish of Chessington Underwood did little to disrupt the lives of those around her.
Every morning at precisely half past eight she could be seen cycling through the village, her hair a complicated wigwam of pins and curls piled precariously above her long sad face.
That morning Miss Trimble felt even more moth-eaten and mournful than ever, her corset was rubbing particularly badly and her bike had an infernal squeak that was starting to get on her nerves.
For a moment, a mere unexplained moment she thought of cycling past the library, of not opening up, of doing something completely outrageous, but it was only a moment a mere unexplained moment.
The sun felt hot on her back and the heady scent of wallflowers mingling with the sweet fragrance of cut grass filled her with a sadness she didn’t understand.
Inside the library was cool, the smell of books and polished wood oddly comforting. She made a cup of tea straight away without waiting, the gas fire coughing gently into life as she bent to light it.
The tea was good and already she felt better.
Year had followed year with the same routine, lighting the fire, drawing back the old black-out curtains, arranging flowers in the blue vase that stood now full of purple pansies, their velvet heads drooping as if in sympathy with her mood. Nothing had changed, nothing at all.
Yesterday she’d overheard old Polly Perkins telling the postman. ‘That didn’t he think that Miss Trimble was becoming the archetypal ‘Old Maid’ and wasn’t it a shame as she’d been a real looker as a young girl and wasn’t he surprise that someone hadn’t snapped her up? The words had hurt terribly and still they swirled through her head like a tidal wave, ‘Old Maid, Old Maid’.
Feeling dreadfully sorry for herself and extremely annoyed with everything she picked up some books and clasping them tightly to her bosom strode purposefully to open up.
The day was almost at an end, Miss Trimble was feeling tired, her head ached and waves of self-pity seemed to swamp over her. Tears welled hotly in her eyes threatening to spill over and fall down her pale cheeks. Bending her head over her desk she let them slide slowly down.
Someone coughed, startled she looked up. A man stood gazing down at her. Blinking back the scalding tears she pretended to brush something from her cardigan.
‘I wonder’, his voice low. ‘Do you have Flaubert’s Madame Bovary?’
She looked up at him, her eyes shining now, her voice eager. ‘Oh yes I do’, and proceeded to bustle about under her desk. Retrieving a very battered book she held it out to him. ‘Here please borrow this, it’s my copy, rather old but it’s all there, we have trouble keeping every book, the room you know, she waved vaguely around her. I read it over and over, there’s just something…’ Embarrassed her voice tailed away, her cheeks burning.
The man smiled as he took the book from her.
She could feel his eyes on her again, she looked up at him and something stirred just beneath her breastbone, fluttered and was still, she felt it with wonder.
Opening the book he glanced at the name written there in large sloping handwriting. ‘Pea Trimble. Aged 15’ and then proudly. ‘To be taken to France, mu first time abroad.’
The man looked unbelievingly at the childish words, he looked unbelievingly at the woman opposite him, at the sad pale face, the questioning eyes. He leant across to her and his voice like a caress whispered her name. ‘Pea?’
She looked up at him, her voice trembling. ‘Yes?’
‘Oh my God it is you, Pea, my little Peewit!’
She froze her face no longer burning but cold and white. ‘Charles? It can’t be, I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it!’
‘It is, it is’, he laughed. ‘I can hardly believe it either, after all this time and you are still as beautiful.’
‘Oh Charles’, she laughed too, his eyes causing her a kind of pain she didn’t understand. ‘Me, beautiful, oh no, oh Charles’ and the tears that now fell were tears of sheer and utter joy.
‘Oh but you are, you are,’ he grasped her arms across the desk. ‘To me you are the most beautiful thing I have seen’.
His laugh filled her with memories long forgotten, memories of a childhood in France, of long hot days and a young French boy called Charles, who had held her hand and made her heart race, who had read Madam Bovary to her, words she would never forget, words that made her head swim with happiness, words that turned her whole world upside down. His eyes were the same eyes, the smile the same smile, the laugh the same laugh. His hands still held her tight. He smiled. She was fifteen again and in love for the first and last time.

I would often stay with Pea and Charles at their home just outside Paris where the food was always the highlight of my stay. One night after eating a sumptuous salmon dish Pea told me it had been the first meal she had cooked Charles after they had fallen in love again, and it was with much laughter that they reminded me of this – their extraordinary story, a story of a love that never died.
Saumon Flaubert. Serves Four.
4 skinned salmon steaks approx. 6 oz. each
4 oz. dry white wine
1 oz. unsalted butter
I tbl. Good olive oil
Finely chopped parsley
Make sure you dry the salmon well otherwise it won’t brown.
Use a heavy frying pan which is hot, then over a high heat add the oil and butter, when the foam just starts to subside add the salmon steaks, sear quickly on each side, then turn the heat down, pour the wine over the steaks, watch it doesn’t spit at you! Turn up the heat briefly so the wine bubbles. Then cook gently for 5-8 minutes depending if you like your salmon slightly underdone, (mi-cuit). When the salmon is done to your liking, remove from the pan and keep warm on a heated plate, turn up the heat and boil the sauce until it is slightly reduced, season well, add a big knob of butter and pour over the steaks, sprinkle with the parsley. Serve with tiny buttered new potatoes, the nice waxy ones if you can get them and a lightly dressed green salad.
A lovely wine to go with this is a Bourgogne Aligoté.
Bon Appetit!


Rain, books and painting.

Well here I sit in my study with the rain pouring down the window pane watching the birds tucking in to the fat balls and getting drowned in the meantime.  Honey and Hannah are fast asleep I think they are hibernating, I wish I could, where is the Spring?  Last Saturday it was sixteen degrees and sunny. Here it is I thought, finally, how wrong I was.  There is snow forecast for next week, what is happening, our garden is full of daffodils, primroses and beautiful white and purple hellebore which time and again are beaten to the ground with the wind and the rain but defiantly raise their heads when the sun decides to shine.

Therefore the garden is being neglected except for a couple of late afternoons when I battled with my roses which were climbing to the sky, they are now about four foot high and I am praying I haven’t been too brutal, I do it every year and every year they bounce back so here’s hoping.

I am still waiting to here from a couple of publishers, one wrote back a charming rejection letter!!  But I am still trying, even if, as I keep saying, I have to self publish I will do it before I reach my dotage.

I actually dug out a short story I had written almost thirty years ago, it was good, I think I wrote much better then than I do now!  It is a sweet story and at the end is a recipe for Saumon Flaubert.  I called it then FOOD FOR LOVE and will stick with that I think, the story is a love story and the recipe is the meal the lovers ate when they met, hopefully it is a original idea, I think it well maybe. I have four or five new ideas up my sleeve so hopefully I can get enough recipes and stories together to maybe try and make a book, who knows, it will keep me out of mischief anyway.

Also our dear Mayor Henri has asked me to paint a picture of our village Vieuvy so I have spent the last month walking and driving around trying to find some decent pictures, I think I have two photos  that will do so that is going to keep me busy and I am looking forward to the challenge. I have to have something to do all the time otherwise I go crazy, I wish I could just sit and do nothing then maybe I wouldn’t fell so worn out!Our five children are much the same, I like to think that their father and I gave them inspiration to enjoy life to the full, this is not a rehearsal it is the main event.

Well chaps hope that wasn’t too boring, I am off now to fight my way around our supermarket and then treat myself to a ‘brushing’ (blow dry) at least there is no slip of the tongue with ‘brushing’.

Enjoy your weekend and let’s pray for sunshine wherever you are.

Girlfriends, gardens and other stuff

Well here we are in February, almost March and today the sun is blessing us with it’s warmth albeit the wind is icy but it is bright and the skies are azure, gone is the grey wet foul weather we seemed to have had forever.

Our poor chickens and cockerel have been wallowing around in the mud and rain and looking like drowned rats, but even so they are laying like there is no tomorrow, bless them!

Our little cat Honey who I understand managed to write her own blog last month, without my permission I may add on my computer, really, I ask you who does she think she is.  Queen of the castle I am sure.  She is rather cute and just to watch her asleep curled up is enough to make you feel happy.  She has just learnt, after goodness knows how long, to use the cat flap so now spends happy hours whizzing in and out of it, having a quick prowl around the garden, chasing one of the chickens who has decided outside is better than in and avoiding Hannah who enjoys chasing them both.

I had lunch yesterday with three friends which was lovely, girlfriends are so important, something all us girls realise, they are such an essential part of our lives, it doesn’t seem to matter what we talk about from sex to face packs to President Trump to what we are reading at the moment, to awkward husbands and having to think what to have for supper, it all makes little difference it is just sharing our thoughts, hopes and dreams with each other.  Living here in France I think the thing I miss more than Boots, Waitrose and libraries are my friends who go way back to when our children were little, they are special friends and will be forever however far apart we are, those who read this will know who I am talking about!

Well this is not a very exciting blog really as I have been hibernating for the last three months, writing my book and generally being ensconced inside, so now Spring is around the corner and the garden is full of primroses, daffodils and some lovely tall snowdrop type flowers that grow in great bunches (I have no idea of their name but they are stunning) while the actual snowdrops are just finishing and the camellias are in full bloom I will be able to be in the garden once more where I am my happiest if I am not drawing or writing, the trouble is the earth is hard as iron so not a lot I can do other than cutting back everything and worrying about one of our rose arches that is about to collapse with the weight of a massive rambling rose and four different clematis, David is all for cutting it down and starting again much to my horror, it has taken fifteen years for it all to grow so I am going to have a tentative look tomorrow and see if I can save it all from the executioner, I will keep you posted!

Happy Springtime everyone.



2018 and other stuff!

Well the new year has been and gone and celebrations are over, it is January, cold dark and wet, so what’s new, living in the North of France is a bit like living in Cornwall, a bit colder and a bit hotter but pretty much the same except everyone talks French!

I have just sent my book of to a publishers so am sitting her in anticipation waiting for Spielberg to contact me, it will make a very good film and I am wondering what to wear to the premier I will have to buy something as I need to look rather spectacular, don’t you think.

We have just heard that David and I are to become great grandparents in July, our first grandchild Romany, married to James is to have a baby, all very exciting;much about the same time last year Atticus number eighteen grandchild was born to Luc and Nadia a baby brother for Hector five and Otto three, so we are really blessed.

Other than that not a lot to report, life goes on the same here in La Mayenne, we have a little cat called Honey that arrived on our doorstep at Christmas, she adopted us. She is adorable, Hannah our old Bernese Mountain Dog is slightly jealous but they seem to be happy being with each other which is somewhat of a relief.

Sitting here in our study with the rain pouring down outside and the fire lit can’t be bad, so will now start editing a children’s book I started writing last year, all about a little dog that has lost it’s bark, I have done the illustrations, it is now time to get down to sorting out the story, wish me luck, it would make a jolly nice animated movie too actually!





A Cat’s tale!

I would like to introduce myself if I may be so bold.  I managed to get on this computer before my lady hogged it, once she’s on it there’s no moving her.

My name is Honey, well actually it should be Miel which is Honey in French and as I am French….. but hey ho, I am learning English so that is fine.

I adopted my lady and her man by arriving on their doorstep one cold wet day. Well actually that is not the slightest bit true, it was hot and sunny and I arrived next door as my lot were on holiday but arriving wet and shivering sounds much better somehow.  The next door neighbours are holiday people and are only here on and off so when they left, (much to my disgust), I tried this place and being so pretty and so cute they liked me straight away, not sure about their large Bernese Mountain Dog, Hannah she is the size of a bus and terrified me the first time we met but she turned out to be okay, for a dog that is, and ignores me most of the time, she did look a bit peeved first of all as my lady kept picking me up but she seems okay now, she chases me a bit but she’s very old it was her birthday today, Thursday and she is nine, now that is old, I think I am about 6 months old, anyway I am pretty sure what the man with the needle said so who am I are to argue, after all I am only a cat.

I went in what is called a car on Thursday, they put me in a wicker basket with a nice soft rug but it was horrifying, we moved and moved and  bumped up and down, it was frightful but my lady kept talking to me so it wasn’t that bad I suppose.  I went into this strange place that smelt of disinfectant where a man picked me up, felt me all over, poked me then stuck a needle in me, A needle, why I asked myself, what have I done to be tortured, actually to be perfectly honest it didn’t really hurt but I am sure it should have. Then I was put back in the basket which was a bit of a relief to be honest and we bumped and whizzed around yet again, must say it was good to get home, I went straight onto the couch and was out like a light until supper time. I’ll tell you something I am rather glad it is all over, whatever it was.

You may be asking yourself where I originated from, I haven’t the faintest idea, as J.M Barrie said, ‘Out of the nowhere into here’.  Here is nice, a huge  place with lots of rooms and places to hide trouble is everywhere there are cobwebs, under or over me, all over my whiskers, very disturbing so I get a bit tangled up but I am getting used to it and avoiding dark corners!

I heard my two talking about going on holiday and putting me into the kennels with Hannah, sounds awful but they said I would love it, mmm. not so sure, will keep you posted!!

Well I’m off for a sleep, Hannah is asleep on her bed, my man is asleep on the couch, my lady is drawing Christmas cards so might as well have a lie down, I will be back when I can get onto the computer again.

From comedy to pathos!

The reason it has been a while since I wrote is rather a sad story and it all got in the way of me writing my blog which in the scheme of things seemed rather trite so I let it ride until things were relatively back to normal.

Before I met my man David, he was growing up in Northwood with a crowd of boys and girls all about the age of 15-16, one of these boys was called Chris, David and him were close friends and their hunting ground was where I met David.  They were both motor bike mad, and when I first went on David’s bike I was in a state of shock and panic, I remember when we went around Watford roundabout he shouted out to me, ‘lean with the bike’.  I leant the opposite way, I still can’t understand why he didn’t dump me there and then and the fact why he has put up with me for 55 years still baffles me!

Well a lot of water has gone under a lot of bridges since then.  Chris was our best man at our wedding and David was his at his first wedding, Chris married five times and had four children, his third wife he married, divorced and married again, he was what one would have called a rake, but a lovable one.

When he was 21 he emigrated to Canada, we took him to Liverpool and waved him off on The Empress of Canada, he came back for his first wedding and then returned to Vancouver until he was 75.

The reason for this story is that we went to Canada in June to say goodbye to Chris, he was dying of colon cancer, he had been ill for four years and the chemo had knocked him sideways, yet he worked up until the day he knew he only had a few months left.  He was very well known in Vancouver for his daily television programme which was a financial stockbroking chat show so he was pretty famous in his own little way.

Chris had booked us in nearby at the weirdest B&B I have ever stayed in, all paid for so we didn’t mention it!! The woman who ran it was extraordinary, she said she was a gourmet chef, well believe me she was not!  Breakfast was dead on 8.30 and if you weren’t there she would knock on the door and shout.  The first breakfast was the strangest one ever, cherry clafouti( like a pancake batter cake) and a very stodgy ham and cheese quiche served on the same plate, and all at 8.30 in the morning.  The coffee was okay though.  The next breakfast was worse so we then ate in a diner where they served up  about 10 pancakes on your plate with two or three eggs maple syrup and sausages and huge mugs of watery coffee, but it was breakfast even so. The next time we managed to ask them for just two eggs and toast, which I think threw them!

Now our bedroom was a sight to see, it appeared to  be a theme on Japan, well I think it was supposed to be, there were 25 large exotic cushions on our bed and frilly things all over the tables with strange masks on the wall, and was an extremely large ebony wardrobe with scary carvings, right next to my side of the bed. Oh yes, I forgot we were told to not wear shoes as the carpet was white.  We were blamed for breaking the sliding door into the bathroom which came of its hinges, which had nothing whatsoever to do with us, it was rather like being back at boarding school.

Being with Chris and meeting all his extended family was a memorable time, when he came to collect us the first morning from the B&B we were shocked by how he looked, a shadow of the man he had been but his mind was as bright and sharp as ever and his sense of humour wicked, over the days we watched him change from an exhausted man, full of morphine to almost the old Chris, he smoked like a train and drank like a fish, he knew it was the end and he was determined to go out with a bang.  Saying goodbye was quite the hardest thing we have ever done and there were tears in his eyes as he hugged us goodbye, I managed to hold back mine until we were in our taxi. David spoke on the phone to him twice a week, I had been emailing him weekly since he had got ill and now it was everyday, the emails were amusing as usual, he worked tirelessly sorting out financial stuff right up  until a week before he died.

We will never forget him, he was part of our young lives and with his death both David and I feel a great gap in our lives, but we have the memories to talk of and I thank the Lord that we were able to spend some quality time with him near the end.  He made us laugh and he made us cry with his black humour.

So there you go. amongst the sadness when we were with him there was a great deal of laughter and I like to think that talking with David, reminiscing together over their exploits with various girlfriends made his days a little brighter, he was a bigger than life character and I am so happy that we were all such good friends with each other.

We will miss you Chris.


A Book, Tattoos and Children

Well it is September again, what happened to the last eight months, that is what I need to know?  Maybe getting older makes the world spin faster, something is happening I know that, time is slipping away, each time I turn around it is the weekend!

I am slowly climbing up the wall and driving myself slightly mad editing my book, I was sure I had it all sorted after the first edit with the hard copy, but the minute I started looking at it on my computer I started changing everything, not sure what actually happened but I seem to have added a lot more words and have somehow, rashly, decided to change the ending which is probably going to be problematic than I realised but I will cope, hopefully. Everything has to be perfect, that is my problem, I am a bit of a perfectionist, when I draw or paint I can’t bear it unless everything is  just right so I wear myself out unnecessarily, nothing changes I have always been the same, sometimes I wish I was a bit gentler  on myself.

To change the subject completely, yesterday one of our daughters, who has just had her 46th birhtday decided to have a tattoo. Oh dear, she lives in Ibiza so is a free spirit as her three beautiful children are, but a tattoo. ‘Is that necessary Charity, can’t you have a pretend one that washes off?’

‘Of course not, this is going to be with me for ever and ever?’

‘What’s it of darling?  Crossing my fingers and praying it wasn’t going to be a large brightly coloured eagle across her breasts.

‘Just the three children’s names in italics on my lower arm, I will have it covered a lot but I know it is there that is all that matters, no need to worry Mummy!!’

When you have five children you think when they leave home that is the end of worrying and thinking about them constantly, oh dear me no.  Then the problems are big ones. Before they were small ones that seemed enormous at the time, learning to breastfeed is the first one, then  spitting out food when they were babies, not being potty trained, crying at night when you were hosting a dinner party so you spent most of the times running up and down stairs in between cooking a four course meal and trying to look serene. No one brought their children downstairs in those days over 50 years ago, goodness no, once in bed they stayed there.

From the minute they were old enough to ride a bike you worried, then when they learnt to drive, that was even a bigger nightmare but before that our first three children, who were born within three years  of each other, all had mopeds.  They would have been about fifteen, sixteen and seventeen, now that was as big a nightmare as anything.  When they left in the mornings that was bad enough but the worst thing was when they came home in the afternoon, I would hear the mopeds arrive at the top of the hill then there would be silence as they reached the bottom and I would stand holding my breath until they came up the other side.

Well this was a bit of a higgeldy – piggeldy blog but even so I hope it made you smile, that is all that matters.