Saturday, February 16, 2019

Spring once again

French Village Diaries signs of spring
Golden hazel catkins in the orchard
The change in the weather from winter to spring makes me very happy, so imagine my delight when this week all the signs of spring I eagerly look out for seem to have come at once. 

The wind and rain of last week have become frosty mornings that have given way to blue sky and warm sunshine, meaning wash load after wash load, day after day, have dried outside. This along with my super new washing machine, (who knew they had become so big, so fast and so quiet in the last 14 years) means I finally cleared the heap of non-essentials that have been festering in the laundry room since autumn. 

This week the goose, the ducks and the chickens have all started laying again, which for birds who are past their prime, (Brucie the goose will be ten this spring), is more than I could have expected at the first sign of warmer weather. Now I am flush with eggs once more, I’ve made my first quiche that I enjoyed with salad, on a little bistro table that I dusted off and set up outside the kitchen door.

The orchard is also coming to life; the hazel catkins are dangling like gold in the sun and the wild orchids are pushing through the grass. The first daffodils have ripe buds that will be in flower very soon and our resident Little Owls are busy (and noisy) day and night, preparing for the breeding season, I assume. Every trip out there reminds me of the work that needs tackling now the earth is warming up.

French Village Diaries signs of spring
From a dog walk
Whenever I am outside, in the garden, walking the dog or out on my bike, my eyes are drawn up to the sky and my ears are listening for unmistakable sound of the migrating cranes. Yesterday, although not close enough to photograph, I heard and then spotted my first V of birds heading north, a sure sign spring really will be here soon.

French Village Diaries signs of spring
Open skies on a bike ride
There is energy and new life to be felt everywhere making me feel more alive and that I must get out and enjoy it. I have now completed 300kms of my 2019kms cycling challenge, including 50kms this week out by myself. This might not seem like much, but to me it is a huge achievement. Not since 2014, when my epilepsy came back to kick me in the teeth, have I got on my bike without Adrian by my side (or rather somewhere out in front, but with me none the less). I’m not taking unnecessary risks, but I'm becoming bolder and refuse to let it beat me. 

French Village Diaries signs of spring cycling the canal de la Garonne Bordeaux to Toulouse
Planning - cycling the canal de la Garonne
We are also busy planning (and training for) the first of our 2019 adventures that will not only give me an overnight stop in Bordeaux, something I have wanted for a long time, but also another cycling touring holiday and at last, my first visit to the city of Toulouse. I can’t wait, but I do hope the weather will be kind to us as everything seems so much easier to cope with if served with a generous helping of sunshine.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Book review of The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

French Village Diaries book review The Lost Girls of Paris Pam Jenoff
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

As part of the TLC Tour, my review today is for The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff, you can read an excerpt here.

From the author of the runaway bestseller The Orphan’s Tale comes a remarkable story of friendship and courage centered around three women and a ring of female secret agents during World War II.

1946, Manhattan

One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

Based on the real-life female agents sent into Occupied France to assist the underground network in the sabotage of German supply lines, this is a complex work of fiction that follows the incredible stories of three women; the mysterious London based Eleanor Trigg, SOE agent Marie, and Grace, who stumbles upon a snippet of their lives and is determined to uncover the truth.

These three women, while all very different, were all strong characters who had faced loss and sadness in their pasts, that served to give them the grit and determination to rise up to the challenges the war presented. Fighting for the right to be heard in an all-male environment, the fear of being sent into the unknown, the comradery between the agents and the dreadful situations they found themselves in, plus the grief at their losses, all came through in the detailed descriptions in this book.

With the three storylines running simultaneously, there is always something left hanging as we switch back and forth from New York to London to Occupied France, and while this can cause confusion, I found it added to the suspense and kept my interest as the book unfolded. In places, I struggled with the plausibility of the plot and one too many convenient coincidences, but as the author reminded me at the end of the novel, it is a work of fiction and I did enjoy discovering the final piece of the jigsaw at the end. 

This book will appeal to those who enjoy historical novels set during The Occupation, where the female characters show their many strengths in face of adversity.
French Village Diaries book review The Lost Girls of Paris Pam Jenoff
Pam Jenoff

Purchase Links

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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Lazy Sunday in France, to work, or not to work?

French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance
Farewell my friend
Life is all about balance, do I make the sensible choice or follow my heart, until sometimes, the decision is made for you. 

We awoke today with that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from seeing sunshine once more after a week of high winds and rain, but it left me with a dilemma. Should I crack on with the washing, in order to watch it billowing gently on the line as it dries, enjoying the fresh smell only line-dried laundry gives? Or, do we head out on the bikes?

French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance
Penultimate resting place

Sadly, this time decision was made for me. My trusty friend, who has been my laundry buddy for fourteen and a half years, finally hung up her spin today. It is true that she has been in the final stages of heart failure for many a month, but we still achieved a good wash, even if it did involve quite a bit of input from me as I manually moved the programme through the cycle. However, today, there was no drum movement, all was still. It would have been a peaceful and dignified end, if the process of getting her down the stairs hadn’t been so brutal.

This week I foresee shopping trips and washing machine pros and cons spreadsheets, followed by much puffing and swearing as we attempt to manhandle a new laundry buddy up the stairs, and then no doubt lots of head scratching as I attempt to work out the new instructions.

For today, you’ll find me out on Katie the Tiny Tourer!
French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance
#KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance