One Lovely Blog Award

Surprise!  Today I opened my in-box to discover I’ve been nominated, with several others, for The One Lovely Blog Award.  This is as flattering as it is interesting, because we’re 7 nominees in total, and we’re a mixed bag, including a female soldier serving in Afghanistan, several photographers, a woman sharing her grandmother’s fascinating diary entries from 100 years ago, a couple running  a Bed & Breakfast in the States, and a dog lover.

And this is surely what makes the world of blogging such an interesting one?  We who read a variety of blogs get views and insights into other worlds, other lives, other ways of thinking,  and forge cyber-relationships with people we’d never otherwise come into contact with.

The blogger who nominated me, who writes Thoughts from an American Woman, is very different indeed from me.  She calls herself as ‘an American housewife and Army mom’, and writes about her experience of being the mother of a serving soldier, and shares with her readers her curiosity, her busy life, her love of dogs, her poetry and her Christian faith.  Despite her active days, she finds time to follow very many blogs.  Thank you, Patty, for nominating me and for sending me frequent words of encouragement.

Now, apparently I need to share 7 things about myself:

  • I’m fine with spiders, and snakes, and mice, and bats, and birds, and creepy-crawlies.  But I don’t much care for the scrabbling and rustling noises that are beginning to emerge from behind our kitchen cupboards.
  • I sometimes fear my life is defined by my total inability to get a good night’s sleep.
  • I think I’ve got quite a mixed blood-line.  On my mother’s side, Suffolk and Yorkshire blood, with great grandparents called ‘Pickard’.  Originally from Picardy in France surely?  My father, long dead, took any stories of his Polish family to his grave.
  • For years I’ve been banging on about doing a long stretch of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella.  I even have half-baked plans half-talked about with several different friends.  Perhaps going public here will force me to do something about it at last.
  • I can’t begin the day without my fix of coffee. Please don’t expect me to.
  • I can’t end the day without reading myself to sleep.  I normally get an hour or more in during the night as well.  A good way to be fairly well-read.
  • The best stress-buster is to get in the kitchen and cook.  Then relax over the results with easy company and a glass of wine.

And then I need to tell you which blogs I would like to nominate.  Here they are, in alphabetical order.

As a Linguist:  An American teacher comments perceptively and engagingly on language in its many forms.

El Bueno El Malo Y El Feo: Exciting, atmospheric, often gritty photos, mainly taken whilst travelling round Spain.

Mama Clark’s Kitchen and Back Porch Emporium: Leann was our friend and neighbour when we all lived in Harrogate.  Once back in the States she began this blog.  Beautifully and atmospherically written

My Spanish Steps: One of my daughter’s blogs, highlighting things that interest her during her early months teaching in Spain.

Slow Living in the French Pyrenees: Kalba moved to France at much the same time as we did, and we met very early on, so I enjoy her take on France and the French.

The Nelson House Diaries: A bit incestuous this! Sharon is a Francophile and found Kalba’s and my blog – so we found hers.  Hers is the story, among other things, of the challenge of renovating her home to an exacting – and exciting – standard.

The View from the Potting Shed: Gilly gardens with great knowledge and enthusiasm here in the Ariege.  She’s not posted recently, so I hope this may encourage her to resume her useful and inspirational blog.

Welcome Visitor: Another incestuous one.  This American expat, living in Germany, discovered my blog – so I discovered his.  It is, as he says, about his life in Germany – and life in general.

So…. Just eight among thousands and thousands of blogs you could spend 200 hours a day reading.  And to Patty, and all the bloggers who give me such pleasure: thank you.

 The rules for One Lovely Blog are:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Nominate  other bloggers for this award.


I like BookCrossing.  I love the idea of ‘releasing books into the wild’ for some lucky reader to find, and I love finding books in the same way.  It brings me face to face with choices I wouldn’t normally consider when I’m browsing the shelves of my local bookshop, library or charity shop.  Unfortunately, I’m not very good at releasing books.  If I leave one in a café, an anxious waitress will scurry after me waving my latest offering.  Leave them on a park bench, and the heavens open.  And so on.

But I do have 3 outlets.  The first was McQueen’s coffee shop in Knaresborough. For the first and only time in my history of BookCrossing, I heard from someone who’d found and enjoyed a book I’d left.  She was writing to me from France.  Result.

The next place is Le Rendezvous in Léran, a village near our house in Laroque. The bar is not an official BookCrossing site, but owners Marek and Shirley encourage people to browse the shelves of the overflowing bookcase and choose a book or two, leave a book or two.  It’s a great resource of both English and French reading matter.

My third place is new to me. It’s in the adjacent block of flats to ours in Ripon. Calling on a friend there, I discovered a bookcase in the entrance hall to the block. Unofficial BookCrossing again: the great idea of one of my friend’s neighbours.  I met her at his party on Friday and she told me her ideas of encouraging neighbours to share books has become popular, with paperbacks changing on an almost daily basis.

So now I’m deep in a gritty ‘policier’, set in Portsmouth, a town I thought until this weekend that I knew quite well. I’d never heard of Graham Hurley, or of  ‘Angels passing’.   Glad I have now.

A love affair

Valley Gardens

Every time we come back to England, I realise how much it is, quite simply, ‘home’.  Our house  is rented out, we have few personal effects here, but still I routinely and unconsciously speak of it as ‘home’, and Laroque as ‘back in France’.  So you don’t have to be a genius to work out where my heart really is. My daughters, grown-up, mature, independent, make no secret of the fact that they’d prefer us to be around more.  It’s difficult not to agree.

England itself works its way under my skin every time I return.   We’re staying in a friend’s house on the Valley Gardens in Harrogate.  Daily walks in the park, easy access to the Stray, and the busy neighbourhood shops of Cold Bath Road have put a much more positive spin on the town than when we lived in our house in the suburbs.  Yesterday we spent walking near Grassington, along the River Wharfe, where baby ducklings and a heron held our delighted attention.  But the landscape of windswept green hills, drystone walls, sheep with their lambs, and late in the afternoon, the bluebell woods, captivated us as only ‘God’s Own County’ can.

A walk round Grassington


I’m happy in Laroque, very happy:  and I don’t want to leave.  Not yet.

Three French Hens

Léonce and I have long wanted hens.  But she’s beaten me to it.  A friend of Henri’s keeps quite a brood: lately, one of the cocks has been having a go at a quiet little trio – a cock and his two hens.  So Henri’s friend decided, sadly, that they’d be better off elsewhere.

We went for a tour of inspection last week.  Léonce was charmed by their pretty colours and diminutive stature and promised to buy.

She’s got the hen house finished off, and now….because of what’s happening over in the UK this week, she’s named the new additions to her family.  Let me introduce William, Kate…..and Queenie

Rando commando: or….training for the TA?

Yesterday, we randonneurs headed for the Aude, for a pleasant easy 18 km. walk round a man made lake, la Ganguise.  Not too much climbing, just open views across the lake itself, and to the Pyrénées beyond.  François pointed out that the lake got bigger some three years ago, when more land was flooded to increase its capacity.  Drowned footpaths had not yet been replaced, so we’d simply  be walking at the edge of the lake.  A healthy, but not too hearty day out.  Or so we thought……  Here’s our day, in pictures

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Why peasants need computers: and why, maybe, they don’t.

Three minutes after publishing my last posting, a message popped into my in-box.  It was Kalba.  Had I thought of looking on Le Bon Coin, the site where everybody looks for anything from a second-hand T shirt to a pre-loved car?  Well, no, I hadn’t, but we were soon ploughing through and responding to all the wood-for-burning adverts we could find.

By the next morning, there were a dozen suggestions in my email account, and as comments on the blog.  Even Bloggerboy, all the way from Germany, was on the case.

So how could we peasants have done without our computer? Quite well, as it turned out.

A phone call from a friend led to our calling his brother, who passed us on to somebody else who…..has wood.  Lots of it.  Well weathered chestnut, oak, beech.  We ordered some. It’s coming on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, another friend called HER friend who rang us with another lead.  This lead was the mayor of a tiny commune near here, and, intrigued by our plight, he came straight round.  He hasn’t really got any more wood to spare, but he promised to go home and scout round, and bring us something, anything, to ‘put us on’.

Just after we’d concluded that all the calls and emails made to people we’d heard of courtesy of the computer had come to zero, this evening we had a message.  A farmer near Ventenac who’d advertised on Le Bon Coin has stacks of well-weathered oak, and he wants to come round tomorrow lunchtime to see whether he can get his tractor and trailer down our street.

Yeah, yeah, I know we’ve already ordered some for Wednesday, but we peasants, you see, have to have something put by for when times are hard.  Play our cards right, and we won’t need any more wood for another four years

Wood awaiting deivery. Can you see the wild albino rabbit centre stage?

In which we visit Rievaulx Abbey and Hay-on-Wye, UK, without leaving France

Slightly iffy weather on Saturday made us decide to take the car out (petrol’s back!) to explore with our guests the Montagne Noir area, north of Carcassonne.  We’d decided to visit Villelongue, a Cistercian abbey there.

Back in the 11th and 12th centuries, the Cistercians spread wide over Europe.  Following the simple life of hard work and austerity promoted by the Rule of Saint Benedict, their architecture was also simple and distinctive, avoiding superfluous ornamentation.  We’ve got two Cistercian abbeys in Yorkshire, Fountains and Rievaulx, and what they have in common with Villelongue is their ruined condition. But the Yorkshire abbeys are National Treasures, and beautifully managed.  Villelongue’s in private ownership, and more quirkily run.  It has, for instance, an important collection of pumpkins, though we’d missed their big day of celebration last month.  After enjoying the peaceful cloisters, the remnants of the abbey, we spent our time inspecting the slightly zany management of the monastic gardens, all ancient bicycles, parakeets, and blue chairs with pumpkins perched on them.

Then we went to Montolieu.  That’s France’s answer to Hay-on-Wye.  Both towns are in their own versions of the Black Mountains, and both have made their mark by appealing to book lovers.  Books old and new, collections of magazines and dog-eared collectable posters appear in traditional shop fronts, down narrow side streets where bookshops have been made from tiny front rooms, and ancient staircases lead you to low-beamed attics stuffed with more books and papers.  We had fun poking around, but didn’t buy.

We’ll be back to explore again, but half the party was nursing the first colds of the season, and anyway, there are only so many pumpkins and second-hand books you can take in one day.

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