samedi 28 mars 2015

Calories, it's not that simple




   A couple of days ago, Kim was watching a programme on calories on the TV. I was only half watching, as it's a subject which doesn't really concern me, my weight remaining stable without the need for dieting. The programme stated that 100 calories consumed in excess of requirements would build up day by day leading to a continual weight gain.
  I feel, from my own experience that this is an oversimplification. There must be a separate process which prevents this in many persons, analogous to the system where the kidneys excrete surplus salt. When I was living in Portsmouth as a young man, I stayed in digs run by an ex-Navy petty officer, who prided himself on his cooking. My skinny frame was a reproach to his feeding, he compared me to a Maltese goat, ' All ----- and toe-nails'..... He decided to feed me up. A full English breakfast was on offer, sausages, bacon, fried bread, the lot, as well as cereal. At work I ate a good canteen lunch and in the evening a copious dinner of soup, main course and a good desert, on which suet pudding was a frequent choice. Did I gain weight? I did not, though I did have to visit the toilet much more frequently....
   I feel this pretty conclusively proves that thin people will remain thin whatever their diet, while people who are naturally plump can remain thin only by eating carefully. Life isn't fair, is it?

    Bye for now, going to eat breakfast.......

mercredi 25 mars 2015

End of an Era, sad death of Gremlin



  I'm afraid I have sad news for readers of the Ark-- on Monday we had to have Gremlin put to sleep. He has had a heart condition for many years and had to have medicine to keep him running. Still, he was a happy and apparently healthy cat, enjoying his food and would come running across the cour when called. When he was diagnosed we really didn't expect that he would survive for so long, but he defied all pessimists and seemed to go on and on. However, an ominous lump developed on his side, a cancerous growth, that threatened his life but due to his heart condition it was impossible to operate, he would not have survived the op. But he was not really inconvenienced by the lump, and continued much as before. But the swelling got worse and while I was in the UK for a few days to fetch Kim back, it started to bleed. Agnes, who was looking after the animals, took him to the vet, who said the bleeding was not serious and he could await our return. but it was obvious that the tumour had become infected and its growth was accelerating, and we were not surprised when Francois, our vet, agreed that the time had come to decide. So we came sadly back home with an inert package in the cat box rather than our silky-haired cat. He's now buried under the quince tree in the orchard, joining several of his friends. Kim is going to plant some daffodils and cowslips round the plot.
   Its always sad to say goodbye to a much-loved pet but we are comforted by the thought that he has had a good life and we were able to let him finish it with dignity and without suffering. Goodbye, Gremlin, run free!

mercredi 18 février 2015

A surprising Destination

   We are both very fond of our GPS, or Satnav as it's known in Britain. When we had our initial one, a Navman , we derived much amusement in setting it to take the shortest route to a destination, rather than the quickest, and we learned of many pretty out-of-the-way places, quite close but unsuspected and some short cuts which have since proved useful. To my mind, the Navman was the best machine of the three we have had, and it is still in the car, although now semi-retired, as it is no longer supported with up-dates.
  Our latest machine is a basic Tom-tom, which we are still learning to 'drive' and it was this which has led to the blog you are reading. We were at Sauzé Vaussais on Monday for Kim's Zumba session and I set the GPS to come home. You can set it by an alternative method of expanding the small scale map displayed initially until it shows the 'Home' symbol previously set and clicking on this, and to show off, this is what I did. The machine then directed us in the general direction of Mort Limouzin but instead of following our usual route, veered off towards Saveille. Aha, we said, it knows a short-cut. It then followed increasingly narrow and dilapidated lanes, eventually taking one which was no better than a cart track. I was remarking to Kim that I did not feel that I would be using this shot-cut in future, when it said 'You have now reached your destination' ! It seemed to think we lived in a field...
   Well! We had to turn round with some difficulty, the track being very muddy and slippery and, having set Home more carefully by the old method, we successfully extracted ourselves from our suggested abode and returned to our real house, keeping a close eye on the suggested route. A strange  but amusing experience and a lesson about trusting too blindly to technology....

   Bye for now, going to wash a load of mud off the car!

mercredi 4 février 2015

Winter starts to bite

After a relatively mild autumn and early winter, February has shown its teeth, with heavy rainfall earlier and now the first snowfall of the year this morning, admittedly only a sprinkling on the ground. I hope it's not the fore-runner of heavier falls.
  The heavy rain ten days ago has raised the river levels locally, the Charente in particular has filled it's banks though we haven't seen any actual flooding. This was brought home to us on Sunday afternoon, when we decided on a little outing. We chose to visit Moutonneau, where a little footbridge spans the river, leading to a pleasant walk through the fields. However, the bridge was barely above water, with a swirling and angry torrent rushing underneath. As the narrow bridge lacks any handrails ( we seem to remember it used to have one) we chickened out from crossing it, instead driving on to Aunac, where a safer, but rather muddy footpath let us walk beside the Charente in a safer manner. Luckily, the weather has now dried up, so rivers will eventually fall to more normal levels, we hope!

  Bye for now, breakfast calls...

samedi 31 janvier 2015

The Village of Wooden People?



    On recent visits to Cognac, the GPS has taken us through the village of Bréville, whose chief peculiarity  is a large number of wooden statues lining the streets. The last time we passed, I took the opportunity to stop and photograph some of them and to try to find out why the streets are largely populated by crowds of wooden beings, human, animal and mythical.
I found that the images were by various different sculptors and had to revert to the Net, once I had returned home to find out the reason behind this plethora of wooden statues. It appears that it has specialised in woodcarving, having several different workshops and training schemes and an annual fete with woodcarving as a theme. Obviously, the town has decided to display some of the best figures in its streets to an impressive degree. it certainly makes the town memorable!

  Bye for now, lunch calls



vendredi 23 janvier 2015

Are you a Sitztpinkler?

 I read a fascinating article on the side of the BBC news today which not only added to my knowledge, but showed me the German race in an entirely new light. A German man was being sued for 1900Eur for damage to a marble bathroom floor by a slight mis-direction when using the toilet, what the French refer to as ' pisser a coté ' The learned judge ruled that a man was not obliged to sit when using the apparatus, and that the standing position was still considered normal for men. WELL, I was not aware that the matter was in any sort of question, but as background it appears that a debate is taking place in the Fatherland as to whether the seated position should be considered the norm. Indeed, it appears there are traffic light-like signs appearing, forbidding the standing position at the adjacent toilet bowl. An opposing faction refers derisively to seated pee-ers as Sitzpinklers, implying that their masculinity is in doubt.
  As I said, the whole question is quite new to me, and the traffic light would not have conveyed any meaning. I have in the past been taken to task by Kim for a few misdirected drops, but I assure persons inviting me into their homes, that my aim is usually good, and, if the worst arrives, I would, of course, rectify any spillage with toilet paper. In the circumstances, I intend to continue proudly erect, ein Stehenpinkler whatever the traffic lights may instruct. The German male has, however, fallen slightly in my eyes.....

   Bye for now, just going to strain the greens, see a man about a dog, take a leak in fact, standing, of course!

lundi 12 janvier 2015

Is There a Kitten in the House?







  I promised you at the end of my last blog to let you have news of an event after we returned from Lille. The sad death of Charlotte had left an empty space in our household, even though Mu-Mu or Mounette, as her official name is, had tried to comfort us with extra cuddles. Then Kim, surfing on the site of Annabel Hinchcliffe, who re-homes loads of kittens, had an appeal for a tri-colour kitten,  who had the name of  Lottie! We felt this was an omen, and after discussion agreed to take her on.
She was said to be extremely shy and really needed special care to win her trust with humans.
Annabel`s house is in the Dordogne, a couple of hours from here, but we are not fazed by distance and set out to fetch the kitten. Unfortunately, it was a day of mist and drizzle, as seems common lately, but we arrived ok, after a rather idiosyncratic route provided by the GPS, and found the house with not too much difficulty. Annabel was sorry to see the kitten go, she is a lovely lady and has the same attitude to cats as we do.... After coming back by a more direct
route suggested by the other GPS, we installed the new kitten in our isolation room, otherwise known as the salon. This has a wire door so the new arrival can see the other animals but there is no further interaction.

At first, the kitten hid, each time in a new hiding place, so each time we wished to cuddle her, it was a game of hide and seek. She even spat and clawed the first time we pulled her from her refuge. The strange thing was, once placed on a knee, she was quite tame and affectionate and seemed to relax under caresses, even to purr. Yet once released, it was the same game again, we even re-named her Cache-cache, the French for hide and seek, with a more formal name of  Cacharelle. Still, there are only so many hideaways, even in so cluttered a room as our lounge, so we unearthed her each time, and now she has gained confidence she can usually be found sitting in `her` armchair. We also have
been taking her on our laps in the kitchen, when we are looking at the TV in the evenings. Gradually
we are winning her confidence and in a few weeks we will risk letting her out of quarantine!

  Bye for now, going to play with Cache-cache. Kim is unfortunately suffering from a painful kidney stone and has gone back to bed with a hot-water-bottle.