Thank Goodness for Friends and Neighbours

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The weather is revolting. When it’s not raining, it’s grey and overcast and I can’t remember the last time we saw any sun.  The adjustment to retirement is proving far more difficult than anyone imagined so I am truly grateful for any distraction that will take us out the house and into the company of others.

Dull grey weather typical at the moment
Dull grey weather typical at the moment

The first distraction on the programme is a gougères and mini-croissants workshop at Martine’s in preparation for Christmas. We tasted both these goodies at her place recently when she held a book signing.

Martine, Jean Michel and Françoise
Martine, Jean Michel and Françoise

The gougères are a speciality from Burgundy, where Martine hails from. They are little puffy cheese things, light as a feather, delicious and surprisingly easy to make. You can also freeze them for later use (as in Christmas).

Mini-croissants, ready to be rolled up
Mini-croissants, ready to be rolled up

Next come the mini-croissants filled with ham and cheese, salmon, goat cheese or whatever else you think will taste good. You start with store-bought flaky pastry and use a little cutting wheel to make sixteen wedges. You cut the filling to size, roll up the wedges and pop them in the oven. Hey presto! Perfect as an apéritif with vouvray sparkling wine.

Gougères and mini-croissants beside the fire
Gougères and mini-croissants beside the fire

The second distraction is lunch with the girls from Françoise’s gym. I’m not really into gym but I like meeting all the participants. Sixteen of us, including one game husband and the gym teacher, have a most enjoyable lunch in the Initiation dining room of the local catering school, where we’ve already eaten a couple of times in the Brasserie.

A little help from the supervisor in getting the flambeed bananas right
A little help from the supervisor in getting the flambeed bananas right

For 14.50 euro, we have an apéritif, eggs Benedictine, poulet chasseur and flambéed bananas which are prepared at the end of the table, together with a local red and coffee. As usual, good value for money. The young apprentices are very serious and do a good job under the attentive eye of their supervisor.

The view from the dining room - grey as usual
The view from the dining room – grey as usual

On Saturday, a local caterer, Eric Bacon, is holding an open day where you can taste and buy various Christmas foods, such as foie gras, salmon, snails and a selection of tarts. Around six, we walk up the hill with our four neighbours from Les Grouets to Eric’s place where a large tent is keeping everyone nice and warm to the sound of the accordéon. Our local biscuit maker, Damien, is also there as well as a representative of Daridan vineyard near Cheverny.

Sharing an appetizer platter inside Eric Bacon's tent
Sharing an appetizer platter inside Eric Bacon’s tent

We taste their cheverny, cour cheverny, sauvignon and « fines bulles » (natural sparkling wine with fine bubbles) and choose the sauvignon to go with the appetizer platter we’ve decided to share : shrimp, whelks with herb mayonnaise, foie gras and wild boar pâté.

Chanterelles mushrooms in their natural habitat
Chanterelles mushrooms in their natural habitat

Going down the hill is much easier particularly as Liliane has invited us all to share a duckling that has been simmering on the side of the wood burner all day accompanied by chanterelle mushrooms that Jean Michel and Alain went picking the day before while Françoise and I were enjoying our lunch!

The Mikiphone, the smallest talking machine ever made
The Mikiphone, the smallest talking machine ever made

Halfway through dinner, Alain brings out a surprise. It looks like a large tobacco tin and turns out to a Mikiphone pocket phonograph patented by a Swiss firm in the Jura mountains in 1924, the smallest talking machine on the market. We watch as Alain puts it together, then gets out an old vinyl record. The sound isn’t brilliant because the stabiliser is missing but the songs are still recognisable!

We walk home feeling warm and fuzzy at the thought of having such wonderful friends and neighbours to help us through this period of adjustment to togetherness as one of our Australian friends so aptly described it.

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14 thoughts on “Thank Goodness for Friends and Neighbours”

  1. You’re absolutely right, Rosemary. Adjustment to retirement isn’t just something that happens, but rather something which needs to be prepared for and adjusted to. I’ve found the process very difficult. This said I haven’t once doubted that my decision to take early retirement was the right one. Maybe in your case the house move away from busy Paris has also had an effect, although I believe that you aren’t fully retired but Jean Michel is.

    Looks like you have established the basis of ‘life in the great beyond’!

    Joyeux Noel.

    1. Hi Gaynor, thank you for commenting. No, I’m not retired at all, only Jean Michel. What aspects have you found difficult? I’m trying to understand to make it easier for him.

  2. The weather in Lore Valley can be pretty gloomy at times. I experienced that first hand last time I was there. If at least it would be snow… Let’s hope the joy of Christmas would replace the joy of sun. At least you are in good company. Have a Merry Christmas, Rosemary and may the new year bring you joy and prosperity to you and Jean Michel.

    1. Thank you, Anda. We have actually added some light – the door in the former gîte bedroom is now glass – but there’s no sun!
      All my best wishes for you and your family too. Your Christmas traditions post inspired me and I went and bought some decorations today!

  3. We have much the same problem. We are not retired, but we don’t have clients over the winter, so have to make sure we book time with friends to stay cheerful and motivated. We’ve got stuff to do, but the weather is so uninspiring.

  4. This finds me in Perth, WA, to celebrate Christmas with my son who moved here in February. 39c when we arrived Friday but the following day settled into the late 20’s with amazing crystal clear sunny skies. I’ll try to send some sunshine and warmth your
    way. I must admit though, that I am loving reading about your Christmas experiences.

    1. I’ve never been to Perth! Thank you for telling me that you love reading about my Christmas experiences. I was afraid that my posts were a little dull at the moment (like me!).

      1. Never! Life in France is such an opposite to here. Your photos and words transport me across the distance and I don’t notice the lack of sun!

  5. Adjusting to togetherness. I never imagined that was a thing but it makes sense now that you mention it. I’m sure you’ll both get into a groove soon enough but it sounds like you’re finding plenty of fun things to keep you occupied in the meantime.

    I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year! xx

    1. You and F are together all the time so you won’t need to adjust at retirement – you’ll naturally know how to do it. But perhaps when you first started out together on your itinerant adventure it was not always easy? I am used to being at home by myself all the time so when I retire I won’t have to adjust to not having people around me all the time. I desperately need a holiday and change of scenery but that doesn’t seem to be on the cards yet. I’m working on it!

  6. All major changes require a time of adjustment, and moving and retirement are two of the biggies. It may be cloudy and dull now, but remember, in just a few months the sun will reappear and there will be all sorts of activities in your lovely part of France.

    It may take a little time for your husband to find things to fill his time at first, but I’m sure you’ll both adapt.

    Best wishes for a very happy holiday.

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