Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Vulture

Found on the fridge door this morning!


When a lot people from different families live together for any length of time — especially with children — one of the first things that needs to be sorted out is what to do with birthdays. Parties? Cakes? Presents? Who gets what and how many and how often. With fifteen or twenty people living in a community setting things like this take on a much different proportion.

Long ago we had to settle this question by decided to group together all birthdays within a certain week and celebrate with a shared birthday cake that we enjoy after sometime on the Lord's Day — sometimes as dessert, sometimes later on in the afternoon. This system has worked well for years now and I only mention it today to explain why we are eating a birthday cake for little Christine (our only birthday this month) who actually turned eight sometime last week — on the twenty-second, in fact.

For years this pleasant lot has fallen to Camille who has made us the same cake every month (I think March is the only month we have no birthdays at all yet). Recently Debbie has been trying her hand and doing very well at it. The picture below is of her double-layered chocolate creation of the day — thanks, Debbie!

Earlier I captured the moment for you before the knife fell.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A recursive picture

Today being Saturday, Roo calls for "all hands on deck" at his new house to prepare the lime groundwork for the floors of his new house. He'd already taken two days off this week and he and Debbie had worked all night Wednesday trying to get things prepared (read more about it on his blog).

They plan to put down earthenware tiles in two weeks time and a whole crew of people are coming to help so it was important for the lime flooring to be laid and dried in time for the event.

Pascal kindly said he'd come along to help and was there by eight. Patrice, who lives next door, was also there to lend a hand. So along with everyone else Roo loaded all the gravel in the trailer and I help him with the cement-mixer and off they went. Olly and 'Tine and Davey, of course, were right there with everyone else.

Next thing we heard was that Olly had hurt himself! We ran over there to find that he had been tamping down the mixture with the others using a large wooden tamper when it had rebounded after hitting a rock, and hit him in the face. It hit him just below his right eye and connecting with the edge of his cheekbone, cut through the skin.

We took him back to the house to clean him up — besides the dirt there was a fair bit of blood. He was more in fear of being taken to the doctors (he'd overheard someone talking of "stitches" and "sewing it up") than he was from the pain of the wound.

Camille and Becky had just finished the basic first-aid course last week so we let them handle things. In the end it was Sarah who drove him to the emergency unit at the hospital of Château du Loir. An hour later he was back in fine form, just like his old self: no stitches, no sewing, just glue.

Olly was delighted and said things like, Now I look like all the other boys! Then he said he wanted to draw a picture of himself with his scar so he'd remember it. This is the result, I thought you might like to see it.

I asked him to explain the picture a little by telling me what he was supposed to be looking at? Apparently this is a picture of Olly looking at the picture he just drew of himself!

Please notice his nice scar under the (wrong) eye. :-)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Our living room

Here's the fourth picture in my series of how things used to be around here almost a hundred years ago. This picture was taken down on the first level (slightly underground) from a position in what we call our living room today.

The windows help to identify the spot and that motor was sitting roughly where our piano does today. :-)

As always, the caption is brief and to the point "Cooperative Diary of Marçon — One of the motors" In keeping with our newest resolution, here is a picture from roughly the same spot taken today.

Of course the uninitiated will ask, What was a motor that size doing in a dairy?! And I really don't know, either. Have a happy day!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The swimming hole

I got such a good reaction and interest to the old pictures of the house I'm going to treat you to another one today. :-)

Next to the house is what we call "The Island" since the stream flowing through this area is split upstream in order to provide water for the old mill, formerly all part of the same property, though now a separate building owned by our nearest neighbour.

Right in the middle of the waters, and completely surrounded, is a hectare of land once used as pasture, then just before us, as a poplar farm. Since we've been here we've just enjoyed the bushes and scrubby trees, content to leave it in a semi-wild state.

Well, at the point where the waters split is a weir and a small waterfall which has created a roundish pool that we sometimes use for swimming. This picture, dating from the same time as the others, is taken from a position on the island and pictures a couple of children on the weir.

This time the caption reads "Cooperative Dairy of Marçon — The weir on the Dême" (The Dême, you will have guessed by now, is the name of the stream that ends up in the Loir.)

Now for a special treat. See that same shot today (well, not today; I dug it out of our collection. This one was taken in April of 2004).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


It's so easy just to say sorry, isn't it? But what does it mean?

Raphael shared with us yesterday a few words of profound wisdom from the lips of his Susie, now three and a half years old. While he was reproving David for something who kept saying "Sorry," Susie, who was listening said:

"Sorry means not do it again."

Psalm 8:2

Think about it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My back yard

Someone asked (and others of you probably wondered) where on earth I stumbled upon the old photograph of my house that I showed you a few days ago.

It's a very good question. In fact, over the years I knew from neighbours that old picture post cards existed of this place from back when it was a dairy. A few years ago an old man that lives just near us came over and mentioned that he had the whole set and that he'd show them to me if I'd like.

I quickly got them and made decent scans and here they are. I had several of them enlarged and framed to hang around the office and visitors like that.

This one for you today shows what is now our kitchen and dining room on the left, Raphael & Camille's apartment on the right, top floor overlooking what is now our back yard — barely recognizable today from this picture. :-)

The caption under the picture reads "Cooperative Dairy of Marçon — The Meeting Room" and it's your guess which room they're referring to.

Incidentally, it's nice to know that even at that time this property has been associated with Citroën cars! (That's just a joke, folks. Can anyone put a positive identification on that car?)

Monday, February 22, 2010


Here she is, eight years old today with her little brother, Amos!

Monday, February 15, 2010

A birthday picture

My office has turned into a cave of Alibaba and no one knows what lies hidden inside it. There are drawers and cupboards which haven't been opened for ages. The funny thing is that I should know about everything but I don't. Things appear. Some people have a problem with things disappearing — not me.

Things that weren't there the day before are sitting there out in the open. I ignore it, thinking it'll go away. After a few days it intrudes on my consciousness that it's there. I suddenly ask myself, What's that? Then the next question always is, How did that get here?

This morning as I stood up I idly picked up a scrap of paper next to some books to put it in the bin next to my desk. As I picked it up I noticed it wasn't just a scrap of paper; it was the torn corner of an envelope and it contained an old colour slide, a transparency as my dad used to call them.

Scribbled on the outside is my mother's handwriting saying None of mine came out. I'll get copies of Wendy's or Derrick's for myself and to send to you one day soon. B

Huh! I thought, what's the picture of? Here it is for you all to enjoy.

On the border of the slide is written, in Aunty Ruth's unmistakable handwriting At my 70th birthday in Edmonton. A quick calculation would put that at the beginning of October (the ninth, actually) in 1990.

Please don't anyone ask me how this one slide came to be on my desk like that because I really don't know. But it's nice to see it, isn't it? :-)

Bonus question: is that Wendy with Aunty, or my mother?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ready for carnival

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the King, the Mouse, and the Eskimo!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Do you remember Expo 67?

The place was Montréal, in the Canadian province of Québec and the time was the summer of 1967, the centenary year of Canada's creation by an act of British Parliament, the British North America Act of 1867, if my memory serves me correctly.

Ken, the pastor's son and my best friend, and I had flown out of the Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories to Edmonton in Alberta where we picked up a Canadian National Railways cross-Canada ride to Montreal. My brother Bryan, who was working for the summer as a guide at a fishing lodge on Great Bear Lake, was due to join us en route in Winnipeg next day.

The train waited in the station but Bryan never showed up. Finally with minutes to spare we had him paged. He ran up and we all ran for the train. For some reason he'd just showed up at the station thinking he had lots of time!

He was dressed in thick parka and boots and told us how the plane wouldn't start on the runway because of all the snow and ice that was blowing around them that day! Finally they got it going but the few passengers had to get out and push the plane to line it up right on the frozen runway.

As it taxied across the lake for take-off he and two or three others who'd been pushing the plane scrambled through the gaping door in the side of the plane, and it was off and up!

When he got to his hotel in Winnipeg he was so tired he overslept and that's why we had to have him paged and why it was a small miracle that we met in time.

Meanwhile, in Montréal our new friends Pierre and Chantal were expecting us — we'd put them up that spring in a cultural exchange organized by the high schools — and they insisted on returning the favour to put us up at the occasion of the World's Fair, known to all as Expo 67.

Simpler days bring memories for you and me. All this — and more — comes back to me when I see this old picture I took that summer with my new Polaroid camera. It show Bryan, Chantal, and Pierre at the exposition. Strange twist of circumstance: the changing signboard of lights at the back right reads,

++ 11 AM and 3 PM ++

Why strange you might say? It's just that Bryan has been a faithful employee of the Du Pont Company for the past thirty-odd years.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My house

... In the 1920s.

The caption underneath the post card (in case you can't read it) says "Cooperative Dairy of Marçon — General View" Its speciality, eighty or ninety years ago was apparently a fine Camembert cheese. Our neighbour remembers when he was a small boy the tanker trucks going around to all the farms collecting the milk. Those times seem far away now. We are the only ones left within the immediate area still producing milk for cream, butter, and cheese — and we only do it for the pleasure of eating our own produce.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Grandad and Squonk

Last week after evensong someone passed me Amos who sat on my lap mesmerized by something. He laid back and, while still sucking his thumb, just stared straight at me. It was so cute and intense it made me laugh. Raph whipped out his camera and recorded the incident to share with you.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Fabien & Maryline

Meet our friends Fabien and Maryline. We first knew them before they were even married and went to their wedding in La Roche sur Yon probably in 2002 or 2003 and have kept up with them over the years.

Since his mother lives in Tours (they live in La Roche — about 3 hours west of here, near the Atlantic coast) they are fairly often in the area of often stop by and see us, sometimes with her, as well.

This time they phoned in advance to say they'd have the time to spend a couple of days so, as always (Fabien plays the guitar) we had a good time singing old songs and shared what the Lord is doing in their lives.

Fabien took today off work so doesn't need to start again until Tuesday which meant that they were less pressed than usual. We had a good visit and I quickly got a shot of them to remind us of the occasion.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Bottling cider

David, Susanne, and Kevin with the barrels of cider. Photo taken today by Raph in his newly-furnished chais — the wine-making and bottling room.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The straights of Messina and Assisi

The final leg of our cruise lasted for two days as we sailed across the Mediterranean day and night from Alexandria, in Egypt past Sicily on our left through the straights of Messina. When we passed these straights on the way out we did it at night so there was nothing to see. This time we did them around noon. We gathered on the front top deck with many others to catch our first sight of land in two days.

On our right we followed the coast of Italy, finally seeing Reggio di Calabria on our right and Messina, in Sicily, on our left. At their narrowest point the straights are not more than 3 kilometres wide. and we took on a pilot to guide us and enjoyed the wonderful view of Favazzina on the Italian coast.

The next morning we arrived at Civitacecchia, the traditional port city of Rome, and docked there for excursions. Having "done" Rome last year, we had decided to visit somewhere completely different: Assisi, the home-town of Saint Francis so off we went. Here's a picture of the impressive cathedral dedicated to Saint Francis, which includes his tomb.

We spent all day on a three-hour coach ride to Assisi and visited the town, the cathedral, and the other special places, and had lunch all together at a great little trattoria called La Stalla, ending up with another three-hour ride back to the boat. We had a wonderful meal of grilled pork chops on an open fire.

Well, that's all for now, folks! We sailed back to Savona where we were provided with another free coach ride that took us back to Nice, our point of departure in France. Let's do it agaiin! Coming?

Friday, February 05, 2010

My mother in Nice

A picture I like to study from time to time was taken in 1940 while my eighteen-year-old mother was on leave in France during her duty in the WAAF, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. Written on the back in my mother's handwriting is this.

This was taken on the balcony of the Hotel Westminster, which is the American Red Cross Club. This is to show the "Promenade des Anglais" which is the well known part of the Riviera. The Med is a real blue and the sky too.

This isn't too good of me I don't think — at least it appears to make me broader in the beam. Doreen's is the same. I am not vain really though I sure took some photos this leave, but thought they'd make souvenirs!!

(Had to cut to make it fit the envelope)

2010 - 1940 = 70. Seventy years is a long time in anyone's memory.

God bless her, may she be honoured once again for a few minutes.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Well, friends, I've found out what was in the contents of the first box and have a picture to prove it for you: there were five brown furs, nicely tanned, and another jet black one, as well as an assortment of little pieces of black fur tied together to keep them safe.

Each skin is about 40 cm long and about 20 cm wide and none are any the worse for wear — considering they may have been packed seventy or eighty years ago — and are exceptionally smooth and fine.

This was the (unknown to me at the time) contents of the first empty box I found in the scullery that was full of nothing but old newspapers. Sarah had originally found the box, taken the furs, and put the box and its contents out for garbage.

But what kind of fur are they? Look at them; they're beautiful! Becky and Claire reckoned they are rabbit but I vote against it for several reasons:

1. They are (to my way of thinking) a little too small for rabbit.

2. They are wonderfully fine and luxuriant.

3. What would make rabbit such a prize that someone would want to carefully tuck them away like this?

4. The black one has a small leather tag tied to it reading "1129" which I take to be a batch number from a tannery.

5. They've all been well tanned, which is a costly affair for mere rabbit.

6. The skin is still supple and clean with no smell or dirt. They've been well prepared.

7. The assortment of black scraps would also seem to rule out rabbit to me.

So what could they be? What kind of animals fit this kind of description that people were using as furs this long ago?

Answers on a postcard, please!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Becky's friend Flora and her mother Bridgitte have gone skiing and Becky has been invited to join them in the mountains south of us. We thought about it and tried to plan how she could get there. Flora said to Becky that if she came up by train, they would drop her off on Saturday when they came by.

The plan looked good on paper but buying the train tickets still showed a more complicated trip than we first expected. From Château-du-Loir to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps to Moulins to Clermont-Ferrand to La Bourboule — with a change of trains at each step!

Flora's holiday home is in La Bourboule with skiing at Mont-Dore just a few kilometres away. The idea sounded a bit complicated but feasible, though we hadn't planned on the SNCF pulling a strike for that day!

The trains were still running but the schedule was completely off. In the end I took Becky to Saint-Pierre to put her on the train due to leave at noon thereby saving her the first leg of the trip. Well, the first surprise was that train had been cancelled and the next one wouldn't leave till two-thirty.

It was the train going to Marseille and she needed to get off in Lyon then transfer to get up to Clermond! Never mind, the girl and the ticket counter gave me a refund and Becky was undaunted so we walked over to a brasserie just next door and I bought her lunch.

After a cozy lunch she got off just fine but it was after midnight before I got her call saying she'd safely arrived. The return trip on Saturday went just as planned after a couple of days of great skiing so it made a nice break for Becky and a great time for the girls.

The train network in France is so sharp and punctual you could set your watch by the arrival of the trains. You just have to watch out for strikes!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Another box!

Can anyone help me here?

I decided to go out and look around where the first box had been found since Sarah had said there was another. And there was!

It turns out to be much of the same and just as old and reads Au Printemps, Paris — presumably the name of a clothing store in Paris. Does anyone recognize it? :-)

Inside were five pieces of women's clothing: two rather plain-looking, off-white, linen, sleeveless vest affairs with buttons down the front. Unfortunately they have been visited by moths at some time over the years, but then, what do you expect? Someone must have thought them rather special since each was carefully ironed, folded and wrapped in newspaper, before being packed in this box. Here is a picture of one of these two hanging on a twenty-first century coat-hanger.

The newspaper used to wrap all this stuff is a copy of a paper called Le Temps and dated December 3, 1937. Guys, that's before I was even born! Who left this stuff around here?

There were three other pieces of clothing, much flimsier, almost fragile. All had been carefully folded and packed in this same box. These three were knitted, woollen tops, not ornate but nicely done and practical. Here's one of them:

Finally I noticed that the bottom of the box has been lined with a shiny piece of store wrapping paper. Perhaps that will give us a clue as to where all this stuff came from! It comes from a store in Le Mans (not far from here) but the telephone number of four digits (we now use ten) reveals a little about its age.

Maybe I need to start offering prizes to you all, to try and get some positive feedback on all these things. What, pray tell me, does a book on Swiss cheeses have to do with a postcard from Panama, and what do some letters from a gardener near Tours in 1958 to the chef of a famous New York restaurant have to do with some old rotting lady's woollies bought in Le Mans in 1937? I give up!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Details of the latest mystery

You've been following wonderfully and your guesses have been wild — but no one has managed to throw any real light on the latest mystery. (If you're new here, click on those last two words to get up to speed.)

However, though no one can explain how that box got into my house — nay, my scullery no less — Sarah had seen it before. She said that she noticed it had appeared for the first time that day in the storage area in front of Microtec.

Thinking it was my doing, she took it into the scullery to throw the old thing away. So that is where it was when I saw it and that's how it got there. But who put it into the Microtec storage area, of all places?

She told me that when she opened the box it was found to contain a very old fur wrapped it these seventy-year-old newspapers. But she knows nothing further about how it got here, who it belongs to, nor who boxed it for storage.

The plot thickens ...