Thursday, March 31, 2011

Classe de mer, day 4

This is postcard just came this morning ... I haven't been to that part of the coast for awhile and this is giving me ideas!

And here's what will be their last email and picture for us—we're expecting Olly home tomorrow evening.

Bonsoir les parents.

Comme le ciel, la nuit et la journée furent perturbées.  Une petite épidémie de gastro a empêché quelques enfants de participer à la pêche à pied.

Le médecin consulté nous a rassuré et a donné les médicaments nécessaires (motilium, spasfon lyoc et lopéramide).  Ce soir tout semble rentrer dans l'ordre.

Cet après-midi, Patrick et Charlotte nous ont appris plein de choses sur les animaux que nous avons pêchés.

Le soleil revient en fin de journée.

Demain nous serons tous sur la plage soit pour la carte postale de la mer soit pour le char à voile.

A demain pour un gros bisou vers 18h30.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Classe de mer, day 3

Bonsoir les parents.

Aujourd'hui le ciel a été gris et pluvieux toute la journée.  Cela n'a pas empêché les plus jeunes (maternelles et CP) d'aller sur la plage pour faire des châteaux de sable.

Pendant ce temps là, les CE-CM ont visité le port de St Gilles (la criée, la zone de carénage, les bassins de plaisance et de pêche, etc...)

Après le déjeuner, nous sommes allés visiter un "Marais Salant" en car. Heureusement qu'il y avait un hangar avec une maquette. Les sauniers nous ont expliqué leur travail. Au printemps ils nettoient et réparent le marais et l'été, ils récoltent le sel. En partant  nous avons tous eu un petit cadeau, mais chut.....

En arrivant aux Amarres un bon-chocolat nous attendait.

Le menu :
Hier soir : couscous, boulettes d'agneau, camenbert, pommes.
Ce midi : haricots verts, steak haché, yaourt ou fruit.

Olly on the right, in yellow

Postcard from Olly

We got this in the mail today from Olly who is in Brittany on his "classe de mer" holiday trip with  his school.  I thought it was so cute!  His spelling is not perfect but is phonetically correct—just like French would be!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Classe de mer, day 2

This evening we got a second note and picture from Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie where Olly is spending his spring holiday.

Chers parents 

Nous avons bien dormi même si quelques uns ont eu du mal à trouver le sommeil tout de suite.

Ce matin au réveil, il pleuvait très fort.  Les grands n'ont donc pas pu  visiter le port.

A la place, tout le monde a fabriqué des noeuds marins.  A midi, le soleil est revenu et nous avons pu visiter la "maison du pêcheur".

Les plus jeunes avaient d'abord fait une petite sieste.
Jusqu'à présents nous mangeons très bien:

-hier soir :
salade de tomate, pâtes à la bolognaise, yaourt ou chocolat liégeois
-ce midi :
salade de carottes rapées, cabillaud-riz au beurre blanc et haricots verts, crème au chocolat ou à la vanille.

Juste avant de se remettre à table, il se remet à pleuvoir.

It sounds like they're having fun and eating well!  And here's their photo for today :

Monday, March 28, 2011

Classe de mer

Olivier left today on his long-awaited class de mer, which, as it sounds, is a trip to the seaside with the whole school.  He's been looking forward to this so he could do some crab fishing along the shore for quite some time.

They are staying in a children's holiday camp a little south-west of us, in the Vendée, at a little town called Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie.

The teacher of his class sent us a little report of events and a picture so the parents would know they'd safely arrived and that all was well.

Bonsoir les parents

Nous sommes bien arrivés après avoir fait bon voyage dans la grisaille. Un beau soleil nous attendait. Le voyage a durée presque 4 heures.

Après le pique-nique pris dans un parc tout près du centre nous avons fait  un jeu de piste. Il fallait répondre a des questions sur St Gilles Croix de Vie.  Les lunettes de soleil et la casquette ont été bien utiles.

Bisous à tous 
L'école Sainte Marie.

Here's the photo she sent: no one here can spot Olly in this picture so don't try too hard.  I reckon he's probably the one clowning around off-camera to the left that everyone is looking at!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Got it!

Rebecca has been trying (and hoping) for some time now to earn her driver's licence –in vain.  She's passed the written highway code test without a problem but that was now a long time ago and she's been having so much trouble (she 'missed' the driving test twice now) that she was starting to get discouraged.

Yesterday she went on the test once more – and came back sure she'd failed again.  Well, when I saw the official-looking envelope from the driver training school this morning I realized it must have news for us.

She got it!  Rejoice with us. :-)

The letter and the Learner sticker (A for apprenti) for the back of the car.

Before the noon meal (which we all eat together) we decided it was time to break out that bottle of Champagne we'd been keeping in the fridge since Christmas for just such an occasion.  It was good!

'Tine, so proud of her aunt!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Newspaper today

Our local newspaper had an article headlined on the front page that caught my eye.  Here it is ...

And, turning to the last page, here is the article for you!

All about our Raph and his precious buffaloes!  The title reads "The only breeder of buffaloes in the Sarthe"—our département!

(I scanned it hi-res for you in case you want to read it—just click on the article.)

Apparently next week they want to do an article on Microtec ... I'll show you that next time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

David Cuthbert Neve

Don't ask me why; it's because I can and I want to and because I feel sure there are others who will enjoy these photos.

Today I went through a few more of the boxes of old photos that I've been enjoying so much lately and thought I'd present them to you; two old photographs of my father.

The first one from his youth (at about the age of 15) and the other just a few years later, during the war—when he was only nineteen or twenty.

On the back of this one Aunty has written "Garden at Hedge End, Summer 1937, With Fido"

During the war

Monday, March 21, 2011


Today is the first day of spring and we have the weather to go with it.  The moon is very large—it's a supermoon, they say.  All weekend we've had such glorious sunshine that I felt we just had to get away.

Saturday morning we left with Rebecca, Claire, and Olivier to see Saint-Malo for the first time.  Well, it was the first, but it may not be the last.

We first stopped in Rennes to explore a little and have lunch.  Rennes is also a city we don't know well at all though it's only two hours away.

We found ourselves in the middle of one of the biggest weekly food markets in the country—called the Marché des Lices (no English puns, please!) which was started at the current location in 1622 and in its present form since 1965.  It turns out to be an enormous display with hundreds of different shop-keepers and thousands of people coming every Saturday.

Since it was just past noon, and we'd stopped to eat, the girls wanted to taste something from the cheese stands which were just beautiful as well as appetizing!

After lunch we continued another half hour to Saint-Malo where we wanted to see, among other things, the grave of Chateaubriand.

Saint-Malo has a wonderful museum right next to the mairie but you really need a couple of hours to do it justice.

Finally we went out to the little island called Le Grand-be where the author is buried in a very humble, unmarked grave.

We were warned by several people to be sure to get back to land before the tide started to come in at 14:00, apparently it's a treacherous spot—one person was carried away just last night by the tide.

Here are a couple of photos for you to enjoy:

A great French writer wished to rest here in order that he might hear nothing but the sea and the wind.  Passer-by, respect his last wish!

Meanwhile ...

Who can see why I took this picture?

Look very closely in the centre of the photo and you'll see a little ten-year-old boy in a red pullover bent over looking for crabs!  Far more exciting than trying to find an old grave!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


If you were expecting a birthday picture, I fooled you this time!  This is an old picture of my parents on their wedding day the I ran across in one of Aunty's trunks.  It is a particularly nice shot and has a little bit of an informal air to it.  I like it!

It was taken on this day, in 1948.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Let's have another war

Am I the only one today who feels devastated by the news coming out of the UN Security Council?  I feel this feeling deep inside me as I listen to the news: finally, they're going to get him!

I've seen this coming as everyone has been gearing up for a strike at Gaddafi for weeks now.  Everyone sounds so belligerent.  The US has tried before and I'm sure there are so many that want another war with somebody.

What does anybody want with Libya anyway?  Their oil?  Why don't they leave them alone?  All the news reporters talk about the "dictator" and the "Gaddafi régime" and praise the rebels—why?  What is in it for them?

France and Great Britain, apparently, and the US are the instigators this time.  I simply cannot believe how many people want to kill, want to fight, just love the rhetoric and all the jargon.  God help us all!  God help the peacemakers, wherever they are.

What hypocrites!  How evil it all is!  Some things you just can't get used to and war has got to be one of those things.  Since 911 the world has had nothing but war, war, war.  Kill the poor, that'll teach 'em!

I just hate it.  But there's no point pretending that this world is run by people who have our best interests at heart.  Stay away from it.  Flee all appearance of evil.  Love not the world.

At times like this everything inside me cries out for justice; for the right thing to be done.  Sometimes it is, but so, so seldom.  May God have mercy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


This little miss has just made her début on life!  She decided to come a little bit early to keep us all guessing, but both mother and baby are doing very well.

Life goes on, thanks, in part, to the obedience of Christian couples like Nat and Gérard.  They have named her Caroline and she is the joy of the whole house!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Learning Latin

Rebecca just loves languages; speaking them, reading them, studying them she's always ready to pick up a new one.   Besides French and English, she's also fluent in German, is at ease in Italian and Spanish and is working on Dutch and Czech—a real polyglot!  I remember a couple of years ago she could converse a little in basic Chinese!  (Didn't come from me I'm afraid!)

Maybe her success is due to her mastery of the foundational languages—she loves Greek and Latin and reads it well.

All this news to explain the background to this funny picture she sent me:

["Once you've tasted it, you just can't do without it!  Do Latin!"]

Monday, March 14, 2011


After a lovely ten-day visit Evangeline is gone and here is the proof.

Eva on the TER for Le Mans this morning.
We drove her from Marçon to Château-du-Loir where she took the TER to Le Mans then the TGV to Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.  From there she takes an Aeroflot flight to Moscow where she connects with a Air India flight going to New Delhi and from there it's a short flight to Kathmandu.  At last!

I can't remember what time she said she'd get home tomorrow.  God give her a safe trip!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Bottling party

Last night we had a "bottling party" with Raph directly operations and me making pizzas as fast as I could, cutting them up and bringing them down to the chais.  In the end we got 286 bottles of cider taken care of and 200 litres of red wine decanted into ten-litre bag-in-boxes!

As I joke, that should see us through the month!

Today the four young people you see above decided they wanted to have a good visit of Le Mans.  For a couple of weeks Claire has been reading up on all the tourist sites so they could maximize their time there.

They decided to go up by train and ride the tramway all day to get around.  They took a picnic with them and planned on going swimming at the end of the afternoon before getting the train back.  The boys have phones but we've heard nothing all day—no news is good news!

Yesterday afternoon poor Olly was upstairs in the apartment when he dropped a large heavy utility battery on his bare foot, doing a lot of damage to his big toe and causing him a great deal of pain.

Sarah took him over to the local hospital where they said they had to remove his toenail (which I think was already effectively removed by Olly) before sewing him up.  It was quite a traumatic event for all concerned as these things always are.

A house rule is to never walk around bare-foot.  I'd told him that morning to take the battery to the workshop but he loved playing with it so much.  I felt so bad for him but there was nothing anyone could do—he had to bear his own consequences.  Poor little guy, he's so enthusiastic about his hair-brained projects!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Pruning the vines

It's that time of the year again—all the more so when we have visitors! :-)

Glorious weather did a lot to help get us up there.  Here's a couple of shots of the teams up at the vineyard these past days.

Eva and Camille
Bas, Claire, and Rebecca

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Des hommes et des dieux

We are not cinephiles here and it seems rare that we ever find the time to sit down and watch a film.  Nevertheless, there are some made that are most worthy of one's time and I wouldn't want to make it sound otherwise.

When I started to hear of Des hommes et des dieux for the first time last year I had no reason to pay it any more than a passing attention—a popular film makes good at Cannes.  Happens all the time.  But lately I've started to hear of it again on France Info, the talk radio station I often listen to as I'm driving to Christopher to school in the morning.

Well, a few weeks ago I got a newsletter from Plough Publishing that mentioned Christian de Chergé, the monk in charge of the Monastery of Tibhirine at the time of the massacre there during the Algerian civil war of fifteen years ago.

Plough mentioned that a recent book of theirs (Why Forgive?) had mentioned Brother Chergé and what he'd said.  Their point was that his attitude of forgiveness was so exemplary.

This got me thinking and soon I was looking a few names up on line.  And that's when everything fell into place and I got to know this new film and the subject.  I thought it might be worth seeing.

You see, it was the release of the film on DVD that has sparked renewed interest in this topic so on the strength of what I read, the reviews Darvell gave it, and having seen the trailer, I ordered our copy.

If you have not seen this film yet (it's called Of Gods and Men, in English) I would suggest you do so at your earliest opportunity.  I'll give you here a couple of useful links and then tell you how it left us.

Des hommes et des dieux (Wikipedia article, French)
Of Gods and Men (Wikipedia article, English)
Plough article on Christian de Chergé
See the trailer on Youtube

I was greatly inspired and uplifted.  The drama is done in such a sensitive and moving way.  To even say this sounds so weak, like such an understatement.  Not for a very long time have I seen and heard a movie proclaim Jesus' message of love, peace, and forgiveness like this one does.  It is quite simply an amazing achievement in the day in which we live!

No sex, no bad language, no arguing, just sublime, conscience-racking, heart-rending questions that must be answered.  This is not about Catholicism, or denominationalism of any kind.  This film reaches so far above all that and touches the essence of Christianity.  And that is the question that is being asked through this film.

I would be very interested to hear from each of you who is reading this what you think of this film.  How did it affect you?  What was your reaction?  What emotions did it kindle in your own spirit?  No need to be long-winded—keep it to the point.  Let's share; especially those of you who we haven't heard from in a long time.

May God bless and keep and teach us, every one.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Eva is here!

It's been eight years since her last visit so all the children have been excited for weeks!  Today was the day I picked her up at the station—our special visitor from Nepal!

It was March of 1996 that she first went to Nepal to work in the orphanages there—fifteen years is a long time and some of the little ones had never even met her.

Claire and Christine managed to translate the words "Welcome" and "Evangeline" into Nepali script so they could add it to the banner they posted going downstairs!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A couple of cute shots

Here's a picture taken last night at evensong.  Amos crawled up onto Grandma's lap to get a cuddle.

And here's a picture I got of Ruben playing around in the garage...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


I want to write and tell you about carnival this year because it was quite funny.  But first I want to reassure all of you that are looking in that crazy photo I posted a few days ago.

Do you think it was a "photoshopped" montage?  Sometimes when I look at it I am convinced, because something seems wrong with it.  Then other times I'm not so sure.

Anyway, Wendy got it quite quickly—I think perseverance pays off!  She got it right and gets the grand prize once I think of one; Becky gave up too easily, I reckon.  You misunderstood, though, Wendy: I didn't see anyone else I knew in that picture—I just wanted to know if you had. :-)

I couldn't see how I could describe her position by counting heads (like Wendy did) so I prepared this, which is as clear as I can make it for you:

So anyway, that was just for fun.  Now, on to other things.

Last week was (of course) carnival at school and Olivier and David wanted to dress up as something just as violent and war-warmongering as they could dream up but in the end settled for a crusader of sorts—complete with battle-axe.

Christine, on the other hand and true to form, dressed up as the cutest little thing.  Don't you think?

Finally, do you remember that time I found all those old furs that no one knew their origin (if not, the post was here)?  Well, Sarah dreamed up an idea for little Susanne who wanted to be an Indian princess; she sewed the furs into decorations to her coat and a sling for her baby papoose!  Here she is showing off her little baby:

And finally, a shot of the three of them while Olly was probably gone to sharpen his blade!