Sunday 27 November 2016

small steps

Although my adopted country has, and practices, certain things that I feel disturbed/disgusted by: fois gras, Marine Le Pen, ultra-bureaucracy (well, it was invented here) bof, etc, there are many wonderful things: cheese, bonjour Madame, empty countryside and a certain bloody-minded - 'right let's do this attitude' which occurs sometimes, for example when our local small train route is threatened each year - "Quoi? Mais NON! You weel not take our tiny train away from us - eet is our right to ave zis!"
I was a bit mystified when the smoking ban in bars/cafés came into force. I'd imagined mass rioting: "Mais NON! c'est pas possible - we 'av zer right to fill our lungs wiz ow you say tarmacadam."
But no, the ban seems to have stuck and with no apparent fuss. Perhaps most people realised it was actually a more pleasant experience to enjoy one's fois gras with an accompaniment of fresh air, not a fuggy cloud . . .
Anyway - small steps: hurrah for La France! It has been decreed - no more plastic plates, cutlery and cups! Moving slowly towards reducing some of the terrifying amount of discarded apres-nosh garbage, although apparently this won't come into effect until 2020 by which time a landfill area of about the size of Bordeaux will no doubt be occupied by the stuff - still it is a start.
Here's a pic I took of a few bits of packaging gracing our home, two of which are usual to the eye, and depressing, and two of which I was impressed and intrigued by.


Tomatos in a plastic . . . thing. Why? Why not in cardboard with a cellophane covering? Cost I suppose, and tomato protection to a certain extent. But if there was a ban on plastic packaging there would have to be an alternative. Why did we buy them then? Hm, good question - think it was because all the 'en vrac' (loose) ones from Holland looked scarily genetically engineered. Will try harder!

Organic chilies (or they were until we ate them) in a poly tray with cling film . . . organic! Surely they really could be in a small waxed cardboard tray? cheese-box balsa wood stuff? a cellophane packet?

Then, these two:

Very unusually, a pot of cream cheese in a waxed cardboard pot - not even a plastic lid!! Amazing!

And, a TIN of body/face cream- I love this stuff; mainly composed of almonds and probably a load of water, it costs about two euros, does the job, and the pot will rot down, or you can keep screws or something in it afterwards - well you could in the plastic version, but there's something very satisfying about small metal pots with screw lids . . . don't you think? No? (Yes, I need to eat something -writing this dangerously beyond lunchtime).

The company - Le petit Marseillais probably have a factory the size of Luxembourg, and unfortunately all of their other products seem to be encased in plastic - how did this one escape into tin/aluminium or whatever it is? Why can't they produce more stuff, or perhaps less stuff (we all have FAR too much choice!) in the tin-type material. Actually . . . I'll ask them, when I've had lunch - Oh, it's Sunday. Tomorrow then.

Friday 25 November 2016

Information, and fathoming stress

To a certain extent anyway.
The information part of this post refers to Ted Talks.

I'd forgotten about these marvels until friend Kim reminded me via a Facebook link to one such mini-lecture on the cheering subject of Hitler.
So, the last few days during any fairly mindless activity: washing up, going through bills, etc, I've loaded up a Ted Talk and have learned and/or certainly deepened any previous knowledge I had acquired on a variety of subjects: why sugar is so bad for us, sleep behaviour, how the brain synthesises happiness, neurosurgical implants to combat depression, environment issues . . . so many talks, so many subjects.
The one I was listening to this morning while clearing up the kitchen was about Stress - not avoiding it as such, more how to look at it. Rather than assuming stress is totally a bad thing, the speaker (who was an eminent psychologist in this field) was describing what happens in our bodies if we learn to accept stress and know that we are in fact equipped to deal with it.
So, rather than panicking and feeling we are about to do damage to ourselves during a stressful situation, we should understand that our heart is beating harder for a reason; breathing faster, important, as we are sending more oxygen to the brain in order to rise to whatever the challenge is. Err . . . probably not so well explained (but then I'm not an eminent scientist, more of a muddled muser). Anyway, I thought I'd try out these theories this morning on a dog walk - often fairly stressful as at the sight of even a pathetically small squirrel will send the hounds into a frenzy with me desperately hanging on to their leads.
We went 'up the hill' and as usual one of the local cats was sitting in the middle of the lane, smirking at our approach. The dogs shriek-barked, gyrated, pulled and did all the usual stuff they do and the cat continued sitting and smirking.
Normally at this point I will swear a lot, get very cross and become anxious about what might happen to my back, arms, etc, and what might happen if the dogs slipped their collars. This time I thought about dog-stress. These dogs have been bred to chase and probably maul furry creatures; their bodies were reacting as they should, I was reacting to their stress and that was okay. I could deal with it and I wouldn't die (hopefully).
I let them shout a lot, and studied the morning's spectacular clouds rather than swearing and when the cat finally went off to find something to be stressed about itself, we peacefully continued the walk.
I'm sure I'll forget these rather Zen thoughts when a particularly appalling bank statement arrives or whatever but . . . maybe not.
Right; in-tray and a lecture on Space, I think.


Thursday 24 November 2016

More free food

November - sweet season of hazy bonfires, russety colours and . . . unpicked fruit.
In this part of the country we are lucky enough to be blessed with the king of fruit, or perhaps, goddess of fruit - the most beautiful, exotic, health-giving, and largely ignored, pomegranate (grenade). Our main tree gives enough to make jam, juice, syrup, salads etc, but we often forage for other overlooked fruits as it seems criminal to waste them.
Oddly, people will buy them from shops(?) - as well as other seasonal 'up for grabs' such as figs, walnuts and cherries; not enough time? too fiddly? I don't know but it seems a crucial part of the passing year however stressed or busy we might be, as much as blackberrying in the UK - also seemingly, largely forgotten when I was back there in the early autumn. Step backwards a little? bit less watching TV about people baking big wobbly cakes, or bitching over other peoples' table decor/dinners and a bit more time out in the wilds collecting the real stuff?

Sunday 20 November 2016

Life chapters

The last trip back to the UK was very different to the last thirty or so I've made in the last five years to see my mother in her nursing home.
Now it's a different home - modern, town-based with different benefits: familiar shops, tea rooms, Oxfam and a river walk as oppose to a rambling, Lutyens-style house surrounded by towering beeches and oaks; mossy lanes and . . . well, that was the problem, there really was only one mossy lane walk and we did it (with wheelchair) about 7,000 times (or so). The home is a lovely place, and she had a lovely room, but once you were there - you were there, often staring out at the rain and discussing where socks go to to after being introduced into one of the home's cavernous washing machines.
When I had visited Mum in the new place, I felt the need to go back and say hello, and thanks, to all the staff I had got to know over the years in the old home, after all I probably spent about three months of my life there - one of those sums I occasionally muse over - how many weeks or months of life are spent queuing in a post office, or how many days actually imbibing tea . . .
Having no hire car (another advantage of the new place - get-atable on P. Transport) I decided to bus as far as possible and then walk the few miles that are only reachable by car, or horse.
Oh . . . this should always be done! Like any route that is hyper-familiar - to get out of the car and do it on foot is to observe the previously un-observed details of that path taken so many times and never really considered; especially a route so layered with emotion - sadness, guilt, relief or happiness depending on the particular visit . . .




                                              Acer planted at the old home for Mum's birthday

Friday 18 November 2016

Free food

I've often noticed these graceful trees down on the South coast, but never observed, or perhaps have never been there when it was their fruiting time - mid-november. The small pink and red berries, I discovered after some Googling, are 'Peruvian peppers corns' not actually pepper, and more closely related to cashews.

The taste is peppery (really . . . duh) a little spicy, sweet and bitter. We added them to currys and salads, etc and the taste is quite unlike anything else - in a good way.
Once picked they can be laid out on trays for a few days to dry and then stored in jars/added to other pepper varieties.
Only snag - if you are allergic to some nuts - tree-nuts like cashews, probably not worth the risk of a trip to 'urgencies'/ER. However I've tried them out on quite a few family members and friends - no complications as yet . . .


Saturday 12 November 2016

happy willy graffiti

Every time I visit our favourite seaside village of Cerbère I see more of this artwork - this one I reckon is the best, semi-hidden behind a municipally-trimmed bush, and seemingly ignored, (possibly revered?) by the the town's 'mairie' and the Cerbèrians (inhabitants of Cerbère).

Friday 11 November 2016