Sunday, October 31, 2010


After spending three days at the Scheepens' farm enjoying their hospitality and touring their installation we left on Sunday the 31st — the last day of October.

It is quite amazing what Kees and family have done by creating a brand around their organically grown cattle and pork.  We tasted every day the difference that their care gives to the meat.  Also I was impressed with his many ideas to commercialize his installation; with the introduction of safari's, for instance.  Who'd ever have thought of setting up safaris around a cattle farm?  Kees did, and it works!  He says he has groups of twenty or thirty at a time from the city—people who have never seen a cow or a pig in their lives!

After a delicious breakfast on Sunday we took off with the idea of making it home by end of the day.  However Claire had a different idea and had her heart set on seeing the battleground around Waterloo.  So, since nothing couldn't be changed we drove there (just south of Brussels) for lunch intending to break our journey there and make it to Amiens for the evening.

Well, as you can imagine the tourist industry has not let this site stagnate and have found many ways to make a living from the way others made a dying.

Full of kitsch: the museum located right at the battlefield
More interesting was the museum in the inn having served as Wellington's headquarters

Commemorative plaque on the outside of the inn

If you're expecting a photo of the battlefield I suppose I'm going to disappoint you.  In order to get an overview you have to take the little tour and climb the Lion Mound that was apparently erected soon after the battle to preserve and protect and commemorate the battle site.

We are not in the mind to glorify war, fighting, or soldiers in any form.  We remain steadfastly opposed to any sort of unkindness to each other.  So this really wasn't our thing.  Historical events (like them or not) are one thing but the annual re-enactment that takes place here every summer seems a little overkill.  Apparently they are expecting a big crowd for the 18th of June 2015—the two hundredth anniversary of the battle that changed European history.

So having marked the spot we were off for our last outing of the trip—Amiens.  More tomorrow!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


We decided to overnight at Rouen and had such a good time wandering around the old streets and reading the old notices.  There was really so much to see and enjoy!  Yesterday I told you about the Joan of Arc memorial, which is the first thing most people know about the city.

Olivier and Christopher in front of the Gros-Horloge

Today while walking the pedestrian street to see the Gros-Horloge we saw a plaque erected to the honour of Louis XV (in Latin) and visited the enormous Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen and saw the tomb of Richard the Lionheart who died in 1199 and wanted his heart to be buried in Rouen to show his attachment to Normandy!  Here's his gisant (recumbent effigy) and the inscription underneath it:

The heart stored here is of Richard King of England called Lionheart died 1199.

View of the pedestrian street from the Gros-Horloge tower.

There is more, folks, but it's going to have to wait because right now we're preparing another trip to Paris and England so this last one will have to wait for now!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the road to the Netherlands

We decided to go visit our dear friends in the town of Best, in the Netherlands. We left a day earlier than we needed so we could stop and see a few sites in Rouen, Amiens, Belgium and Waterloo.

So I'm going to start off today by showing you a few pictures here to summarize our trip to Rouen. I hope the girls will soon give you the full report but in the meantime these two pictures show you our first stop:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Strange feelings

I am writing this under yesterday's date so it will not interfere with dear Claire's birthday being the only really important thing that happened this day—or fourteen years ago, for that matter.

A very strange thing happened to me this morning; I shall have trouble putting it in words.

I went into the office to greet Jonathan since I hadn't seen him when he came in. He had his back to me and when I called him he quickly jumped back, turned around and wished me good morning. We quickly kissed and he got back to his work but not before I'd caught a glimpse of him as I'd never seen it before.

He looked old, ragged, worn, adult, used, almost a little fearful. I caught an unforgettable and unknown glimpse of him then that filled me with uncontrollable and unexplainable sadness. I came very close to expressing my grief but didn't.

I returned to my office with a renewed sense of my own age—there's nothing wrong with getting old but it's always funny when the feeling first strikes you. Up till that time, you've just been you. Eternally young, eternally existent in the now.

It struck me that my life is over, in the sense that what I have done, I have done. I must leave and respect the older ones—and I do respect what they have become. It is so easy to keep them eternally "children".

Becky, Christopher, Claire, and Olivier are now our only "children"—without disowning the older ones (God forbid, I don't mean that) but we now have four "little" ones to finish training.

And I'm impressed that I must not interfere with the lives of the older children—it's so easy to keep them as children forever and thereby cramp their style. The remaining life that God gives me I must spend on training the younger ones and enjoying the older ones, for this is their life now.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Yves Duteil

There is one singer that always seems to bring a tear—and I don't know many people who would disagree. I've known Yves Duteil ever since we first came to France and fell in love with his poetry, his gentle way, his reflections on children and childhood.

If you are reading this and don't know his songs do yourself a favour and listen to his most famous, most well-loved song of all Prendre un enfant. I remember when it came on Radio Monte Carlo while we were all working cutting up cheese at my first job here in Trans-en-Provence all the other workers would drop tools and stop chatting. An almost sacred hush fell over the room while everyone listened. Here's a link for that song for you.

But Becky's favourite (and the reason for this post) is La tendre image du bonheur which is simply heart-rending with beauty and melancholy. Here is a link for you to listen to and here are the words. (The lnk will open a new window. If you want to follow the words, come back to this page.)

La tendre image du bonheur

by Yves Duteil

Roland rentrait de son collège
Et dormait tard ces matins-là.
Je regardais tomber la neige
En finissant mon chocolat.
Je voyais Lise à la fenêtre
En contre-jour, et dans un coin
Papa relisait une lettre
En tenant Maman par la main.

Alors, j'ai pris pour moi tout seul
La tendre image dans mon cœur,
Et d'aujourd'hui jusqu'au linceul
Ce sera celle du bonheur.

J'attendais l'heure de mon solfège
En regardant depuis l'entrée
Les pas de Lise dans la neige
Qui dessinaient comme un sentier.
Roland, pour terminer son rêve,
Faisait semblant d'être endormi,
Lorsque Maman, pour qu'il se lève,
Allait l'embrasser dans son lit.


Le temps d'écrire quelques pages,
Il est passé quelques années
Sur le décor et les visages,
Et puis Maman s'en est allée.
Lise vient dîner certains soirs
Et Roland passe à l'occasion.
Papa m'appelle et vient me voir
S'il est trop seul à la maison.

Et j'ai gardé pour moi tout seul
La tendre image du bonheur,
Mais d'aujourd'hui jusqu'au linceul,
Elle me déchirera le cœur.

God bless him!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A card

For those of you who enjoyed seeing Aunty's diplomas the other day I thought I would treat you with a small card I came across and which has been spending the past couple of days in my shirt pocket. It's about the size of what I used to call a "three by five" card but is actually 9x13 cm and is her membership card to the Inter-Hospital Nurses' Christian Fellowship.

Don't you just love the declaration of faith? Never mind all your doctrines and creeds ... what else matters but this? She became a member (says the card) on the second of July 1956 and I'm sure held that membership firm till June 18, 2008—a nice fifty-two years.

I also appreciated the prayer of Morning Watch; a very good one, I think.

All through this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives
as possible for THEE. And every life I touch do Thou
by Thy Holy Spirit quicken, whether through the word
I speak, the prayer I breathe, or the life I live. In the
Name of Jesus. Amen.

Why should she only be granted a Life Member status?

It has been getting cold enough here at night and staying cool enough indoors even during the day to make us want to light the downstairs fire. We still haven't lit the main fire in the dining room yet but I think we'll do so this weekend. Don't we go off summer time soon?

I have changed my wardrobe today and traded all my short-sleeved white shirts for their long-sleeved counterparts. 'Tis that time of year—just thought you'd like to know.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Some history archives

Just for those who will find this post interesting, here are a few diplomas I have just discovered in the billiard room. Davie was using a small old tube as a sort of bazooka (thinking it was as empty as it looked) pointed it at someone and swung with a downward motion. Sixty-year-old curled-up diplomas rolled out onto the ground!)

When someone brought them to me I carefully laid them aside for inclusion here. If you're one of the several who know Aunty you may want to download these for your own inspection. I have, for this reason, done a high-resolution scan for you at 200 dpi (my normal is 100).

Here they are, the oldest first. All together they tell the story of a loving missionary-nurse. Here is her life and career simply told with several diplomas. Enjoy!

1. Her school certificate at 17 years old.

2. The backside of that diploma shows what subjects she studied.

3. Her typing training.
4. Next comes medical training, March 1942.

5. Nursing training, December 1946.

6. Preparation for Midwifery, August 1947.

7. A registered midwife, June 1948.

8. Post-graduate course in Operating Theatre Techniques, June 1954.

Your comments are welcome!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I hope you're not all weary of my little discoveries because I have another one for you today.

We have found a buyer for the hotel so the whole area needs to be emptied and cleaned out of its clutter within the next few weeks. This has involved a lot more work than we need since if people know you have room we have found that they have a tendency to ask you to store it for them.

Coupled with this fact is the more obvious one: when you have the room yourself you tend to keep things rather than throw them out, where they belong. The result is that we are often finding ourselves overwhelmed with moving "junk" from one area to another.

So the other day while cleaning out the billiard room, where I had once stored all of Aunty's excess I discovered a few interesting papers that I'll record for you.

Today I have this postcard from my grandfather to my Aunt Ruth dated 15 May, 1975. The picture is a strange one; of the "Snowdon Mountain Railway" and appears to show a steam locomotive pushing a carriage uphill.

Now Snowdon, for those who may not know, is a mountain in northern Wales. My grandfather was a die-hard railway buff and may have gone just there just to see this train—or maybe simply picked up the card because of the picture.

At any rate, his message written on Thursday (15 May 1975) from Bath was, "Back in England. Windscreen wipers working all the way to Betts-y-Coed. Since then long bright periods. Dear Mr Stewart hasn't got his £15.000. Hope there are no snags at your end and that you have sorted things out with David. Sale of 108 hung up at the moment. Elf going over the mountains like a bomb. Love, Len"

A little detective work on our part shows "Betts-y-Coed" is today spelt Betws-y-Coed. It's a little town on the border of Snowdonia National Park and very near the border of England.

I seem to remember my grandfather had remnants of his first family (he married my grandmother as a widower) that lived in Wales. Apparently he was on a trip to sell a property—that he refers to simply as "108".

The reference to David doubtless refers to my father but I have no idea in what respect. Finally "Elf" was the name my aunt had given to her little car which was a Morris Minor Riley Elf. She loved it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sacred or secular?

"[The Church] has divided activities into the sacred and the secular. I am said to be engaged in a sacred task and my shoemaker in a secular task.

"But the religious man should not hold that distinction as valid. The religious shoemaker is as much a servant of God as the man who hands you the sacrament. He is, in fact, in God's world doing God's work for God's people for God's sake.

"Indeed, he is cooperating with God in guarding the health of his people in wet weather. He is helping God answer the prayers of his people for health. Because he is a religious shoemaker, he cannot put cardboard instead of leather into shoes. Making a good pair of shoes thoroughly is a divine service because it is a contribution to the welfare of men, and service to men is the only way of serving God.

"When we get more sense we shall ordain shoemakers, and charwomen who really come at eight in the morning and maids who do not give notice after their first rebuff from the mistress. We shall ordain bus drivers and railway men and carpenters and plumbers and so on.

"It was when Jesus had been a carpenter for twenty years and had never preached a single sermon, that the Voice said, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'

"If once we could get this idea really operating, we could 'Christianize industry', as the phrase goes and religion could unify all industry if industry could be seen to be an expression of the work of God in the world. Let the church stop talking about sacred and secular, and send into society who will live always in God whether they make soap or make sermons, whether they light a fire of coals in the grate or a fire of faith in another.

"God is not the copyright of religion, and God's ways are not to be expressed only in theological jargon, nor God's activities carried out in what is called religious work.

"As Browning says, 'All service ranks the same with God.' We shall never unify the world until we see it all to be God's world and until a man interprets his religion in terms of his own job and stops thinking that God is interested in him only if he takes a Sunday School class, or show people into their pews, or preaches sermons, or helps to run a church."

(From "Did Jesus Distinguish Between Sacred and Secular?" by Leslie D. Weatherhead, page 18)

What do you think of that?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Great Ladybird Reading Contest

A month ago Claire had the most novel idea. Having been recently enamored with some books in the Ladybird series her idea was to share the joy: let's see who who can read the most Ladybird books in the space of one month!

The contest, duly announced the first week of September, was to start on the tenth of the month and finish on the morning of the tenth of October ... 2010 — 10/10/10 :-)

Well, a month sounds like a long time but we have literally hundreds (we once tried to get the complete series) and there is something for everyone. Most of us started off with a bang but soon slowed down. Christine was particularly diligent as was Claire herself, of course. I made an honest stab at it but knew I was lost when I saw the books on 'Tine's list—but I had a lot of fun in the process.

It is truly amazing how fascinating most of those books are and how they can still capture your time and interest. I particularly liked the historical series and nature and science. I challenge anyone of moderate intelligence to pick one up and only read 2 or 3 pages!

So we've just now past the fatal date of accountability when the lists will be tallied and the winner announced. Turns out I was designated the judge and jury and prize-giver!

At exactly ten past ten (10:10) of the tenth day of the tenth month of the tenth year (sort of!) Claire took the school bell and ran through the house upstairs and down to herald the deadline had passed and everyone was to stop!

Well, you must be wondering who won the contest, for it was a contest, remember?

Well the winner was: CHRISTINE!!! with 34 books. Claire was next with 30 (one a day!) so I think I'm going to honour those two girls. Now what would be an apt prize? A new book? :-) We'll see ...

So what has she spent this last month reading? For those of you who might be interested, here is Christine's winning list of books:

- Night Animals
- Tadpoles and Frogs
- Jack and the Beanstalk
-British Birds & Their Nests
- Some Great Men & Women
- Ducks and Swans
- Lions and Tigers
- Soldiers
- The Tree and Its World
- Coffee
- Teeth
- Roads
- Living Things
- Water
- Man in the Air
- Deserts
- Around the World in Eighty Days
- Leaves
- Joseph
- Joan of Arc
- Hansel and Gretel
- Cinderella
- Thumbelina
- Adventure on the Island
- The Nurse
- The Farmer
- Moses, Prince and Shepherd
- Flight Six: The Holy Land
- Ships
- Sleeping Beauty
- The Airmen of the RAF
- A First "Do You Know" Book
- The Lord's Prayer
- The Fisherman

Just reading over the list makes me so thankful for such intelligent work done fifty and sixty years ago by people who wanted their children to grow up interested in the world around them and intelligent.

A wonderful idea! A great time was had by all ... now I have to think up a suitable prize! Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Harvest time

It seems that every spare moment these days is spent in reaping and then processing the bountiful harvest the Lord has given us. Kevin is the master-worker that is transforming the garden this year into the most productive it's ever been and we're thankful for his work.

Green beans, onions, garlic, pumpkins, squash, courgette, and cucumber gave way to buckets of plump tomatoes—almost more than we knew what to do with. Last week we all picked grapes for our wine and this weekend we went to the orchard to get the apples—for the table, apple-sauce, and cider— and pears, chestnuts, and walnuts.

It is a simple, but lovely, way to live and the children all love it. Here are a couple of pictures Raph (our resident photographer) took over the past few days.

Aunty Clacla with "Salah" (A name believed to be of oriental origin)

Picking up chestnuts


Amos checks the apples

Peeling onions (in the summer kitchen)

Olly and David helping in the cellar with last year's wine

Curtain of grapes hung up to dry

Blanching green beans

Meanwhile Grandma tucks into some fresh buffalo lasagne while little Amos ("Squonk" to those who know him best) looks mischievously on.

Grandma with Squonk

Friday, October 08, 2010


The English name is medlars, in case you're not familiar with them (I wasn't).

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

NOT found in my office

The avid follower of these posts, upon seeing the next picture of some old document, will naturally assume it suddenly appeared in Ali Baba's mystery cave (aka my office) but, logical though their assumption would be, they would be mistaken this time.

While going to the workshop to get some nails this morning my eye caught hold of this and I did a double take:

In case you can't read it, the yellowed little brochure reads,

FALL 1957
This report is sent to successful candidates and mission
secretaries only, and should be considered confidential.

Well, of course I realized it was something connected with Aunty but was surprised at its just appearing like that out of nowhere (I'm not making this up!) and found it an interesting artifact that I thought some of you might enjoy seeing.

(I am guessing that fifty-seven years in hiding has effectively removed the shroud of confidentiality that clothed this document and that I can open the thing without fear of reprisals.)

After several pages of examiner's notes and general remarks concerning the level of student work throughout the year we finally get to the grist of the matter: the tables of student marks by subject.

And there, right at the bottom of the first table (Urdu I), we see a certain Miss Ruth Neve who passed with fairly decent marks (338/500 total in Oral subjects and 195/300 total for Written work).

This makes a Grand Total of 533/800 and in case the significance of that number is not immediately apparent they kindly convert this unwieldy score to a percentage: 67%)

All I can say now is: Well done, Aunty!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Well, this will be the report I promised to give you of the opera in all its glory—though it was all of that. Spectacular in the extreme, wonderful and stirring! We ended up with almost front-row seats that were just perfect!

We had left here about four in the afternoon so as to leave ourselves lots of time and arrived just as seven, as planned, ready to go. The weather was perfect (21°) for this time of year and although rain had been threatening for a couple of days it held off all evening and we didn't get any precipitation until Sunday.

The sky was clear above us although our seats would have been protected had it rained. The plan apparently was to postpone the show for Sunday in the case of rain. Well, everything went well and we enjoyed it immensely!

Tons of sand, gigantic pillars, brightly-coloured costumes, mock sphinx, and hundreds of singers and dancers made the evening unforgettable! Here's a little 28-second clip Raph took during the show.

There were several huge screens around the arena, as you can see, and they made it possible to enjoy expressions and close-ups of the singers so that our binoculars weren't even necessary. Here's another little 15-second clip which gives a great overall view of the event once things had warmed up.

Finally, here's the one you've been waiting for; the climactic chorus that starts with the trumpets that just sends a chill down one's spine. The most well-known part is found at about 2:20 into this clip.

(I was having trouble uploading this clip—but I think I got it now! You really ought to watch these in full-screen mode to get the effect! Enjoy it!)

I hope this has given you a feel for the evening. Three hours of glorious music in a wonderful environment on a warm autumnal evening. All I can say it, I wish you'd been here with us—and I hope you liked this little presentation.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Grandma with Squonk

(Squonk, you will appreciate, is the nickname — origin unknown — for little Amos. Sorry about that. You don't choose a nickname; it just comes.)