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Primrose E

A piece of news sometimes can be chucked into your life like a grenade, blasting your reality into a million disbelieving fragments. Your whole being resists it, like water droplets, unabsorbed, on a polished surface. This can’t be happening says your mind. This can’t be true. It is just not possible.

In July 2012 my sister was diagnosed with cancer; non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She had never been sick a day in her life. She was a person full of energy and enthusiasm, unbelievably fit for her age, living life to the full. It just couldn’t be possible that this bombshell could be true, and yet at the same time my sinking heart knew that it was.

The evening before she phoned me with the news I had had what I can only call a premonition. I was in the kitchen cooking supper when out of nowhere a realisation suddenly filled me. It entered my mind with a tremendous impact; a vivid inescapable awareness: my sister might die. It brought tears to my eyes. I gave myself a shake and asked myself what on earth was the matter with me. Where had such a thought come from? I tried to shrug it off but the feeling had been far too intense. It wasn’t even a thought, it was a sudden inescapable realisation.

It was the next morning that she phoned me and told me about the lump she had found. Two days later she was in hospital. I’ve thought back many times to my ‘premonition’. It wasn’t unlike the time many years ago when I lived in Canada and she was in England and I had three successive dreams that she was pregnant. I received a letter from her two days after the third dream telling me just this. She was forty at the time and the pregnancy was an accident and completely unplanned. I had no way of knowing or suspecting it. I was completely floored and got shivers up my back when I read her letter and thought about my dreams. There’s no doubt we had a strong connection and I’m sure that when I had the premonition about her dying I was actually picking up on her own fears. I think she already suspected something but, as was her way, didn’t want to worry anyone.

My sister died on January the fifth this year. I still can’t believe she’s gone. I will never comprehend why or how it came to be. I still have so much anger that fate saw fit to end her life so suddenly. It probably helps if one has some sort of faith, but I don’t; I have no time for conventional religion. I remember at the funeral the vicar saying something about ‘And those who believeth in me shall never die’ and I thought well that lets me out then. I did ask her during her illness if she was frightened of dying. She half grinned at me and said, ‘No, I’m smug enough to think I’ve lived a good life and I’m going somewhere good.’ And if anyone should go somewhere good, she should.

The one thing I shall be forever grateful for was the time I managed to steal with her during that last eighteen months. I flew back to England from France many times and spent many weeks with her. I lost all interest in blogging and all my creative stuff during that time. I just had no incentive or spirit to do it any more. Now I seem to have at last found the need to write again. 




Wonderful post by Michael Lai.

Originally posted on retireediary:

CIMG3142Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying? 
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying? 
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile. . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . .

You may want to listen Nat King Cole singing this song at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN8oLGBNXpE

(Picture taken in Luoping,  China March this year, after climbing up…

View original 25 more words

Musket Ball, Fossil, or Rock?


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I’m fascinated by fossils. We live in an area that oozes with the history of pre-historic man, cave paintings of mammoths and other such treasures, but I find fossils much more interesting. It maybe because I love nature and fossils are usually sea creatures from a million years or so ago. The land around our house is heaving with them, and I can’t go for a walk without half an eye on the ground.


A few days ago on a trail up through the woods I spotted a shape. It always seems to be shapes that attract. This one was round. I dug it out and held in my hand a perfect sphere with a small nodule. It was particularly heavy and quite fascinating.


My hubby and I pondered over it and he wondered if it was a musket ball. Half a mile from us is an old forge, one of only two in France that produced musket balls and cannon balls during the Napoleonic times. In the end I measured it and weighed it (one inch across and 38 grams) and put a photo up on the fossil forum. Lots of help and explanations were forthcoming as to what it probably is, and I was told it’s most probably something called an ironstone concretion and not a fossil. It was then fascinating to read up on how these concretions were formed – but far too long to relate here. There are certain spherical concretions called thunder eggs. What a brilliant name! Whether it actually is one or not I can’t be sure, but that’s what I’m calling it. My Thunder Egg! I’m quite sure it has magical powers and is stored with some sort of long-forgotten knowledge from a hundred million years ago when it was formed. If you put it to your ear and close your eyes you can hear water boiling and crashing on rock, earth-shattering explosions as volcanoes spew forth molten lava, and the wail of the winds of change … honest you can!


Maintenance Zero Update


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Just a short post to thank all who read my recent post Maintenance Zero (now removed), and maybe clicked the YouTube link to the slide-show. For anyone who didn’t read the post it was concerning the unpaved road to our house which over the years has deteriorated more and more. This past winter, due to seemingly endless rain, there was a long stretch which had turned into a sea of mud interspersed by some enormous pot-holes. It was becoming positively scary trying to navigate this stretch on motorcycles which have been confined to the garage for months.

A number of requests by more than one road-user have been made to the Plazac mairie who’s responsibility it is to repair the road. Nothing was being done and so, after years of frustration, hubby and I made a video and a slide-show of the offending section of road and posted them on YouTube. We sent the links to the mairie.

A few days later the mayor himself paid us a visit. He agreed that the road was unacceptable, but currently he didn’t have a lot of money for repairs. We said we understood this, but if he would supply the materials we would do the work. He was most agreeable. The next day after five trips with our trailer we had made a good initial repair. Shoulders and back are aching a bit but it was worth it, plus it’s now safe to get the bikes out! Result!

Road repairs

Note action photography by hubby – stones in mid-air!

Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-legged Beasties and things that go BUMP in the Night!


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I awake with a start and freeze under the duvet, stare wide-eyed into the darkness, my heart hammering in my chest. My bed just moved. It was exactly the same sensation that you get when a dog or cat, or something heavier jumps off the bed and it springs back to normal. I don’t have a cat, or a dog, or anything heavier that lives with me.

I lie absolutely still and hold my breath. Is whatever it was still in the room? My mind does circuits faster than a formula-one driver.

‘You imagined it!’

‘I didn’t!’

‘You must have done!’

‘I did not!’

‘What on earth could it be?’

Pictures of a hideous wolf-like creature fills my mind. Sometimes an overly active imagination is just not an asset.

‘It must be a burglar!’

‘Why would a burglar get on the bed and then jump off again?’

‘He didn’t fancy you after all?’

‘Very Funny!’

I don’t know how long I lie barely breathing, listening for the minutest sound, duvet pulled over my head. I can’t stay like this all night, sweating and terrified. Whatever it was I have to face it. I have to put the bedside light on. That means sticking my arm out into the dark and fumbling for the switch. What if it grabs my wrist! My heart bashes itself wildly against my ribs.

‘You’ve got to do it!’

‘I can’t!’

‘For heaven’s sake do it!

Breath held I summon all my courage and shoot my arm out, connect with the base of the lamp and flail madly for the switch. Got it! Heavenly light! I force myself to squint over the scrunched duvet, petrified of what might be staring back. Nothing! No axe-man grinning knowingly at me from the doorway. No hairy drooling beast. Relief floods through me. So what jumped off my bed?

I have to search the house. If I don’t I can’t possibly put the light off and go back to sleep. Under the bed I feel around and pull out my equalizer – the biggest screwdriver in the world. Useful at both ends, one for stabbing, one for bashing, it’s hidden away for exactly this type of situation. I quietly pull on jeans and trainers, then I methodically check every room and every cupboard upstairs. Nothing. At the top of the stairs I gird my loins and then I sing noisily all the way down. This will warn him I’m coming and give him time to escape, and I won’t have to do my best impression of Vlad the Impaler.

I flick lights on as I go. Loo – clear! Utility room – clear! Kitchen – clear! Lounge – clear! A clean sweep. And not a window pane broken or a door forced. Nobody’s here and nobody has broken in. So what in the hell jumped off my bed? A worse thought slips into my mind. What if it was a ghost? Some lost soul risen from the peat bog (I live in the fens), or some ancient jilted fen man trapped between two worlds, still seeking vengeance on his bronze-age lover! No way could I live with that! Not some sporty spirit using my bed as a nightly springboard. I’d have to move. I made a large mug of tea and stuffed two sugars in it, then I sat at the kitchen table and tried to calm down.

Bleary eyed I trudge in to work. Sleep was hopeless after I returned to bed. I’d kept waiting for the bed to go boing again. I sip my first coffee and stare vacantly at my computer screen.

My friend Julie comes over, ‘Did you feel the earthquake last night?’ she asks excitedly.


‘The earthquake! There was a small earthquake somewhere up north and it shook houses as far down as Peterborough!’

‘Are you serious?’

‘Yes, it was on the news this morning.’

A look of relief and then a silly grin has spread slowly across my face.

‘What?’ says Julie.

‘It means I don’t have to move house,’ I said, ‘I don’t have a ghost!’

The above is a true story. Earthquakes are exceedingly rare in England. This one really did happen in September 2000.

Mrs Beeton’s Dark Course-Cut Marmalade


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Mid-January is that time of year; the time when the Seville oranges appear in the supermarket. Here in France they’re know as oranges amères (bitter oranges). A few weeks ago I suddenly spotted them and thought marmalade! My Mum always made her own and I decided to give it a try. My ancient Mrs Beeton’s cookbook had a variety of recipes but I liked the sound of this one. And the result was absolutely deeelicious!

Mrs Beeton’s Dark Course-Cut Marmalade

Yield: 10 lbs


2 lbs Seville Oranges (about 5 oranges)

1 Lemon

7 pints Water

6 lbs Sugar (I used ordinary Granulated)

1 TBSP Black Treacle

Wash the fruit, cut in half, and squeeze the juice. Scoop out the pith and the pips in the skins of the oranges and tie it up in a muslin bag (this will produce pectin). Slice the skins into medium thick shreds. Put the juice, muslin bag, sliced peel and water into a large preserving pan and simmer until the peel is tender and the liquid is reduced by at least a third (approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours). Remove the muslin bag after squeezing the juice out gently (I found it easier to put the bag in a bowl and squash it with the back of a wooden spoon, then put the pectin juice back into the pan). Remove pan from the heat and add the sugar and the treacle. Return to a low heat and stir till the sugar is completely dissolved. Then boil rapidly for 15 minutes and test for setting point. If setting point is not reached then boil 10 minutes more and check again. Repeat the process until setting point is reached.

Setting point note:

Before the boiling stage put two saucers in the freezer to use for testing. When ready to test spoon a little marmalade onto a cold saucer and allow it to cool. If the setting point has been reached the surface will set and will wrinkle when pushed with the finger.

Make some wholegrain toast, smother it with crunchy peanut-butter and spoon some marmalade on top! Yum!

The Fruit

The Fruit


Squeezing the juice

Ready to Cook

Ready to Cook

Add Sugar

Add Sugar

And Molasses

And Molasses

Boil Rapidly

Boil Rapidly

Dark Thick-Cut Marmalade

Dark Thick-Cut Marmalade

Thank you Mrs Beeton! Taken from her 1967 'All About Cookery' edition.

Thank you Mrs Beeton! Taken from her 1967 ‘All About Cookery’ edition.


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