A very good end to the year**

I realised after I had published the last blog that I had forgotten to wish you all a very Happy Christmas…so Im doing it in retrospect! I hope you all had a lovely time over Christmas and managed to do everything you wanted to…and of course that Santa was good to you all! We certainly had a lovely day on Christmas day, spending it as usual at our daughter, Hazel and son-in-law Phils house with my brother, Alan. As always, we were fed royally, opened wonderful presents (although the Alexa thingy given to us by our son is still perplexing us a bit!) and had great fun playing silly games. It was a great way to spend the day and once again we were so pleased to be near our family and able to do so with ease. We had visited Matthew and Susie during the week before Christmas and were also pleased to have had the chance to see our grandchildren in the run up to the big day. They were very excited! As always, we found the traffic around Manchester horrendous…how on earth did we cope with it for so many years when we lived there??.. but it was worth the effort to see their house all decorated and to share again some special time with our family. Hazel and Phil came to eat with us on Boxing Day which was a small attempt for us to repay their hospitality on Christmas Day. Silly games were on the menu then too…as was fixing up the Alexa thingy so we can use it a bit! :blush:

We had managed to cram in quite a bit of activity before Christmas. We enjoyed being able this year to experience the delights of Christmas shopping (well I did…not so sure about Geoff!) in town centres again. Hazel and I went over to Newcastle one day, by train, which was really great. I relived many happy days taking my “little girl” to see Fenwicks windows (a big Newcastle tradition) which were wonderfully decorated with an animated story starring Shaun the Sheep. I really loved wandering around the city centre visiting many shops I have not seen for many years and although neither of us bought a lot, it was just wonderful to be back in the place I still regard as “home” territory.

Geoff and I also went to the first Christmas fair to be held on our new home turf…in Denton Holme in Carlisle. It was a good first attempt at this and although the organisers had been let down at the last minute by several attractions, there was a pretty good turn out of local folk. We are both keen to support anything like this as we feel that encouraging the local community is very important. I have joined a local craft group too which I am enjoying. Everyone tends to “do their own thing” but there is a lot of sharing of ideas and encouragement for projects which others are doing. I was very pleased on my last session with them to find that a knitting pattern which I was struggling to get to work, defeated the much more experienced knitters in the group too. I felt much better after that! The pattern was ditched following that session! I did complete several knitted things though in the lead up to Christmas including a “choir” of several angels (more about them later), more knitted toys and several little Christmas and birthday gifts for the family. My knitting needles are still busy as I try and complete a pussy cat for my granddaughter now.

One of the other delights for me this year has been the opportunity to attend carol services. I really missed singing carols in France and so this year I have been very keen to sing (as best one can from behind a horrible mask!) as many as possible. We went to a carol session in Cornerstone one evening and also the candlelit carol service at our church. Hazel and Phil came to that one and Hazel and I were very amused that the words of the carols were put up on a screen rather that using hymn books. Poor Phil (who thinks we Methodists sing far too much in church anyway) had no way to see in advance just how many verses there are in some of those carols! Whilst Im on the subject of church, Geoff and I were very pleased to be received into membership of our church one Sunday morning. At last people there have recognised that we are not “visiting” and now we belong! I have already been put onto the “readers in church” list and in fact was delighted to be asked to do the reading during the Christmas Day service. Im beginning to feel that I`m home again in church.

We have, of course, continued to eat lunch out whenever we can. Planning has been a bit harder this month as people we have wanted to eat out with have not always been available on our usual Wednesdays! We had a super meal at one of our favourite places, Hidden River Café, with Linda and Mike one week and a really nice Christmas meal with our U3A French speaking group at Laings Café one week too. I gave each of our group un petit ange (remember the knitted angels?) which they really liked. This last week saw us eating locally in Carlisle at the Spider and Fly, which we have driven past on many occasions, after our visit to Curry`s to get a new fridge freezer in the sale there! Very nice it was too…a taste of France for me with a huge portion of Moules Frites :blush:

Our big adventure this month though has been our trip to Cambridge which we both enjoyed very much indeed. We went to a special dinner at Geoffs college (Selwyn) to mark the 50th anniversary of him starting his university studies there. It was a long way to go (many hours in the car and too many traffic jams for our liking) but the whole weekend was fantastic. We really enjoyed wandering around Cambridge with Geoff reliving his student paths and haunts, and seeing all the wonderful University buildings floodlit in the evening was magical. The dinner itself was also great, with Geoff meeting up with several of his old pals - although I have to say he didnt recognise several of them…50 years is a long time after all! The dinner took place in the beautiful hall in the college (a very Harry Potter like place) and we were treated to a couple of carols sung by the college choir from the minstrels gallery as we ate. Of course, we dressed up – for the first time in ages for both of us – evening dress being the order of the day. I felt quite chic in my lovely dress and even wore heels…although they didnt last the trip back to our hotel! It was a fantastic weekend and was rounded off on the way home by a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park which Geoff has wanted to visit for a very long time. Since the reunion, Geoff has made contact with several more of his friends who, sadly, could not get to the dinner and we have now plans to meet up with some of those in person next year, and for Geoff to keep in contact via zoom and internet.

Talking about contacts, we were very surprised and pleased to get a phone call from an old friend in France the other evening. We first met Pierre when we were house hunting in the Auvergne as he and his wife, along with new baby were doing the very same thing, and we all were staying in the same B&B! That baby is now 17yrs old and we stayed friends for all the time we were in France! He is a lovely guy, but can talk the hind leg off a donkey, so phone calls from him often go on for ages! Geoff does most of the chatting but I usually get dragged in to relieve him for a while too! I was particularly chuffed the other night though, when he rang back, after the call had ended, to compliment me on my French! I remembered that when we first met, my French was very limited and Geoff had to do a lot of translating for me. A huge compliment for me indeed :blush:

One “not so nice” experience this last month has been yet another visit to the eye clinic. I wasnt supposed to go back until the end of January, as at the last appointment my eyes had improved so much that I didnt even need injections. However, I felt that my vision wasn`t good again and so I rang the clinic to ask for an earlier appointment, which I got. It was not good news…the flipping blood vessels were leaking yet again and so the scans showed deterioration again. My consultant decided to try a new treatment which involved putting a small pellet (by injection of course) into my right eye, which will slow release a steroid drug. The idea is that this treatment will last for 6 months. The procedure was not pleasant…and was not helped by having a roomful of doctors, students and nurses who had come to watch as it is not done very often! I tried explaining what a wuss I was but to no avail! I have to have the left eye done in the next few weeks…and as you can imagine I am so looking forward to that…not! Hey Ho!

I have just recorded the last poem in my self-inflicted challenge to read and record a poem every day in 2021. I have loved every minute of doing this…it has meant that I have researched and found a different poem each day and judging from the comments on Twitter, where I post the recordings, a lot of people have enjoyed them too. I have decided to continue doing this in 2022 for as long as I can. It has made me realise just how much I love reading aloud and how much I have missed the opportunity to do so. Heres hoping I can find enough poems to continue now! I have also realised that I have been writing this blog for many years too. I first started in 2006 before we set off on our French adventure. The first few posts were all about selling our house in the UK, resigning from my teaching job and travelling to France to find our new home! I keep thinking that one day I will turn it all into a book…maybe!

And so, its New Years Eve. We have nothing much planned for tonight…Ive never really liked NYE. I suspect we will just watch some dreadful TV as usual. I have to say I will not be sorry to see the end of 2021…I feel we are still living with way too many restrictions on our lives and so much unnecessary fear. I really hope that next year, people will get their lives back and become more optimistic about life …but I am not sure that will ever happen for many folk now. I am still planning to live my life as fully as I can. We will both celebrate our 70th birthdays in 2022 (argh!) and so we intend to approach whatever years we have left with joy, thanks and fun!

On that note I will wish you all a very Happy New Year. May you have lots of peace, good health, happiness and family time in your lives and with your loved ones.

Happy new Year! Bonne Annee, Bonne Sante, et Meilleurs Voeux a tous.

A Bientôt Mes Amis


Happy New Year Christine.
I have been taking on a very difficult pattern for my knitting, a two colour Brioche scarf, with a complicated pattern as well.
At last I have got the hang of it, thank goodness. It was a project that I wanted to do so that all the time spent at home was not wasted.
Carry on knitting.

Thank you and Happy New Year to you & your family too. I am really enjoying knitting again but am still reluctant to attempt anything big! I rediscovered how to do cable again recently though.