Monday, 30 July 2012

The Forth Bridge - jobs at Le Pre Vert ...

If you are holding your breath waiting for the post about our trip to La Promenade, you’ll have to wait a little bit longer.
Tim rubbing down!
Today we started to prepare and paint the Forth Bridge aka our 10 sets of French windows and shutters – that’s 20 windows (‘cos we’re only painting the outside) and 40 shutters! That’s not to mention the barge boards, downpipes, garage doors, other windows and walls!!
With any luck we’ll run out of paint …

*For those of you who might be wondering about the reference to the Forth Bridge, legend has it that the painters never finish painting it. When they get to the end they go back to the beginning and start all over again! If you want to know more you can read all about it here - it makes fascinating reading...

**Susan pointed out that I should have linked to the FORTH RAIL BRIDGE and methinks she could be right!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Dr Sally Ride 1951-2012

It was with great sadness that I heard the reports of the death of Sally Ride. I wasn’t even aware that she had been ill. For someone in the public eye Sally Ride was an immensely private person but had been fighting pancreatic cancer for the past 17 months. On July 23rd she lost her fight and passed away peacefully.

Sally compiled her own obituary (which you can read in full here) with her life partner Tamara O’Shaughnessy , such a brave thing to do, as I guess she wanted the world to know something which although known to friends and family wasn’t generally public knowledge.

In 1983 Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle, something she also did in 1984. She was preparing for another mission when in 1986 Challenger exploded on lift off and the program was suspended. Sally retired from NASA in 1987 and continued her life as an educator, setting up Sally Ride Science in 2001. Her great passion was to get kids, particularly women interested in Science and Maths.
 As Sally would point out, if you Googled “scientist” you were most likely to get a picture of a mad scientist than a normal young woman or man.  She wanted to make it more “normal” to master chemistry, physics, biology, and calculus – the survival skills for tomorrow.
In her opinion the 1960’s Russian satellite Sputnik inspired the public to focus on science and engineering.  “It was cool then to be a scientist or engineer, and we need to make it cool again.”  .
In a tribute to her President Barack Obama said -
"As the first American woman to travel into space, Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools. Sally's life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come."
As an admirer of what Sally Ride achieved, a scientist and  a woman I sincerely hope so…

Friday, 27 July 2012

Dinner tonight ...

We'll be eating dinner at a restaurant in Le Petit-Pressigny with friends tonight, so prepare yourself for a virtual (via blogger) gastronomic feast at the weekend!

To prepare, our lunch was made up of very meagre rations ...

Thursday, 26 July 2012

All in a day's work....

Tim was ‘working from home’ today. In the morning we popped across to the market at Le Grand-Pressigny and happened upon Tim and Pauline with their friends Eunice, Peter and Harriet at the Prehisto, so spent a very pleasant time chatting over a mid-morning drink.
To make up for his hour out Tim spent the afternoon working whilst Gaynor sat in the shade! As the temperature began to cool (to a manageable 34 in the shade) Tim finally found time to put up the hammock we’d bought a couple of years ago.

All he needs now is a wireless connection that reaches his very shady spot in the garden. Gaynor either needs Tim, or for him to fashion a rocking device...

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

In the way...

Yesterday we were ‘cooling off’ in our sitting room – following my recent moans about the weather who’da thought I’d be saying that! Tim spotted something heading towards us, although to be honest it would have been very difficult to miss!

Did it stop in time? No, but it did turn!

As we ate our supper on the terrace we noticed that everything was covered in a fine dust – even the window frames that Tim had spent the morning brushing down and vacuuming off …

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Friendship + Cake = Yummy ...

A couple of weeks ago my friend Barbara handed me some gloop in a container, with instructions about how to look after this gloop and a recipe for a ‘friendship’ cake. She assured me that said cake would be delicious!

I dutifully followed the instructions and Barb was right it was delicious, although better warm than cold. I kept some of the by now even bigger bubbling pile of gloop and passed some on to friends Linda, Debbie and Gill. Gill, I could tell, was more than a little wary and Rory was dispatched to put it in the front porch!

I brought some of Herman junior with me to France and today made another friendship cake, this time substituting the Bramley apples with rhubarb – I love rhubarb, but mostly because we have tons in the garden!

As I type it’s baking in the oven and the smell is wonderful. Tim is drooling but has been promised a slice of the warm cake with a cup of tea.

The instructions and recipe are as follows-

Herman The German Friendship Cake

Hello, my name is Herman.
I am a sourdough cake. I’m supposed to sit on your worktop for 10 days without a lid on.
You CANNOT put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling, I am dead.
Day1: Put me in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel.
Day 2: Stir well
Day 3: Stir well
Day 4: Herman is hungry. Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. Stir well.
Day 5: Stir well
Day 6: Stir well
Day 7: Stir well
Day 8: Stir well
Day 9: Add the same as day 4 and stir well. Divide into 4 equal portions and give away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Keep the fourth portion.
Day 10: Now you are ready to make the cake. Stir well and add the following:
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • half tsp salt
  • 2/3  cup of cooking oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 cooking apples cut into chunks OR 6 sticks of rhubarb cut into small chunks and cooked with a tablespoon of sugar for a couple of minutes to soften.
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 heaped tsp cinnamon
  • 2 heaped tsp ginger (optional but we are a ginger loving family!)
  • 2 heaped tsp baking powder
For the top of the cake
  • 1/4 cup flaked almonds 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
Mix everything together and put into a large greased baking tin. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and flaked almonds. Bake for 45 minutes at 170 180C. You may need to cover in tin foil and bake for a further 20 minutes to make you’re your Herman is done in the middle.
When cold cut into finger pieces. The cake freezes well and is also delicious warm with cream or icecream.

The recipe and full instructions can be found here, a website devoted entirely to Herman and his variations!

If you are due to see me in the next couple of days shout if you DON'T want your very own 'Herman' or shout something different if you do....

Monday, 23 July 2012

Another three bite the dust ...

A year ago I posted about the retirement of my friends and colleagues Barbara and Sue.
This year it was the turn of SueG, SueH and Jane to retire, and Emily and Lisa to leave. Emily is setting up as an independent artist – she is so talented- and Lisa has moved to another school. We had a couple of great meals to celebrate the occasion.


Barbara, Corrie and Gaynor
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil!
They will all be greatly missed and the look and feel of our school will be entirely different, not to mention the age profile of the staff and consequently the salary bill - 

 age + experience = expensive!!

We will, I’m sure, miss their wisdom and experience.
Soon (with good luck and a following wind) it will be the turn of Corrie and Gaynor to find room for the 'retirement bench'. Gaynor has just the spot waiting at the bottom of her garden at Le Pre Vert, overlooking the bief ...
In honour of their retirement another track from my Monday Music collection. Kirsty MacColl with her version of the Ray Davies classic, 'Days' ...

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Team Sky's the limit ...

Congratulations to Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Bernhard Eisel, Christian Knees, Richie Porte, Michael Rogers  and the rest of Team Sky on the fantastic achievement of winning the Tour de France 2012. What a combination of team effort and individual brilliance! 


What are the odds ...

… of winning this car?

All you need to do is to hit a ‘hole in one’!

I wonder …

Saturday, 21 July 2012

There's only one thing worse ...

... than a day at Alton Towers and that's a cold, wet and miserable day at Alton Towers!
The park was packed with school groups and I felt rather sorry for the people who'd gone for a family day out only to be confronted by hoards of kids.

The Corner Cafe, aka the teacher's lounge!
Still, my class had a wonderful time. Better still, it marked the end of term …

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Internationally famous.... S4S

Last month I posted about a competition that Tim organises called Scalextric for Schools.

Last night I was looking at the stats for La Petite-Presse, clicked on a traffic source from Russia and happened upon this...

If you look closely you’ll spot us on one of the photographs.

You can read more about the collaboration with the Russian school here...

Internationally famous or what?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The same, but different...

As I type

  • It’s 6.46 UK time and 7.46 in Le Petit-Pressigny.
  • The temperature is 15C in both places.
  • The weather is overcast with just a few blue patches.
Pretty much the same really.

So what’s different?

I’m just about to get into the car and set off for work. That’s what’s different…

Actually, today is a special day at school. We have our 'Leavers Evening' and it will be great to see so many proud parents celebrating their children's achievements with us.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

This land is your land ...

Woody Guthrie was born 100 years ago today. As a tribute I’ve found a clip …

Growing up I was greatly influenced by him and others who were inspired to do what they did because of him and his friend and contemporary Pete Seeger. He was one of the inspirations for the young Robert Zimmerman to become Bob Dylan. Bruce Springsteen pays tribute to them both in the Seeger Sessions.

Sadly Woody developed Huntington’s Chorea and died aged 55. His daughter has given Billy Bragg access to his writings and lyrics some of which he has set to music.
Some of the lyrics are as relevant today as they were 70 years ago when they were first written.

My strong sense of social justice, which goes way beyond any particular political viewpoint, began at home with my parents, and as we sang folk and protest songs at my chapel youth club. Religion wasn’t a big part of this and we were all very earnest and wanted to change the world. We would change the words of ‘This land’ to the places in Wales, although I think the places are symbolic and we can all identify with them.

I would like to think that we’ve all done something to change just a little bit of our world for the better…

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Heading east and bits of other news ...

This morning the nest will be less crowded as Tom heads off for a summer teaching English and travelling in Japan. He has been assigned to a camp at Gujo, Gifu Prefecture.  I write like I know where this is, but to me this is just another place on the map. No doubt Tom will feed me a few titbits of info to keep me happy, so you'll know when I know! We’ve looked it up on the internet and he’s rather pleased with his lot. You'll notice that the Boulder weather has been replaced on my blog bar by Gujo. I tried hard (without any success) to import a pic of Mt Fuji into the weather widget. I'll try again when a spare day or so comes my way!

Last night we met up with Rhiannon for a 'last supper' at a local pub. The food was typical pub grub although Rhi and I shared an enormous (but delicious) strawberry shortcake sundae. The photographic evidence is on Tim's camera and he's away until Sunday.

Tom will be working (sadly unpaid, except for flights, accommodation and food at a hotel) for six weeks and then travelling with his girlfriend Meg who is Japanese.

We’ve spent a few days getting organised and choosing gifts for some of the families he will stay with during his visit. We were a little bit limited as Tom doesn't really do shopping and it all needed to fit into his rucksack! The spoons are Portmeirion, so a link with the Potteries area near to where we live. Just the thing for a race used to using chopsticks for just about everything - even I'm told to hold a washing up sponge. We removed the 'made in China' sticker but I guess this is just another sign of the times!

The malt was made in Scotland! If it arrives unbroken it will be a miracle.

Meg's brother was bought an English rugby shirt. It was impossible to get his first choice of a Welsh rugby shirt in Stafford.

 One of the Japanese traditions that I wasn't really aware of surrounds the rituals for the wearing of shoes. He needs to take indoor and outdoor shoes and trainers and in order not to offend needs to follow certain guidelines.

When Meg and some of her friends came to visit us in Salt a few weeks ago, they were delighted when I gave them each a pair of knitted slipper socks I'd found in M&S (of all places)! 

They’ll be hard pushed to find any slippers in Japan big enough to fit Tom …

Monday, 9 July 2012

What a surprise...


After a couple of (typically British) weather obsessed weeks, this will definitely be my last comment on the subject of the rain – other than to say that the weather so far today is living up to expectations. Heavy rain is forecast, predictions are for the wettest July since records began!

Somehow I DON'T think I'll be to be needing my sunglasses...

Image courtesy of OCAL

Saturday, 7 July 2012

After the rain ...

Comes the rainbow.

 The same view from the office window as yesterday.

It rained again today, but at least it didn’t rain all day. Tim was at a conference today so I picked up some goodies at Waitrose in Lichfield. As I sat with an almond croissant (lest I forget how wonderful they are ;o) and a pot of Earl Grey, the newspaper headline was
“It will (not might) rain until September”.

France, here I come …

Friday, 6 July 2012

Nice weather .... for ducks!

A very dry winter followed by almost incessant rain for goodness knows how long. Where will it all end?

I had to drive through this flood outside our drive in order to get home tonight.

Many cars were turning round at the flood. Some, me included, in Tom’s little VW Polo slowly edged our way through. A few drove through at speed with the wash nearly covering their bonnet and spluttered on. One very stupid lady started to come into the flood whilst I was driving through, but since I was driving in the middle of the road and had no intention of stopping or moving in to the deeper water she was forced to stop. A wicked part of me was hoping one of these loonies would conk out and have to wade to safety when I had my camera handy for taking pics. No such luck!

The river you can just see through the hedge is actually the road!

On a happier note a glimpse of blue sky taken through our office window as I was uploading this post.

Followed  15 minutes later by this...

I just hope that a hot dry spell is forecast for Le Petit-Pressigny and it’s environs for late July and August. Then the summer won’t have been a complete washout.

P.S. Did I mention ducks? You'll have to wait as for some reason Blogger has stopped uploading pics!

This image is courtesy of 'just ducks'.