Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 What a year...


Was very wet, the Vienne at Chinon was the highest we have ever seen it. To compensate we photographed some splendid reflections on our numerous walks.


Was the start of my baking bread rolls of various types. It continues weekly to date...  It was also the first visit of the year to the Grande Vente Emmaus, at Chatellerault. (The brown bowl was purchased to rise the dough in)


gave us the wonderful display of Fritillaries at Véron and a surprisingly early start of the surveys for the Butterfly Atlas project (STERF)


Saw the first outing of the Touraine Trekkers, hosted by friends Gaynor and Tim and our first photographic opportunity and sighting of a Green Lizard.


We had the pleasure of attending the marriage of our lovely neighbours, Pamela and Maximilien


And we were taking a trip back up to Saumur to collect our own wedding ring! 

And then the planning began...


What a month! Elizabeth's 60th coincided with the Bastille celebrations, which we viewed against the backdrop of the Forteresse det Chinon, Richelieu's Cape and Epee and a visit from her family to take a trip up to Paris on the TGV...


And plans for our September wedding were well and truly underway.... We had found and booked our venue...

and our neighbours announced the birth of their second child, Maxence, a brother for Thimeo!


Once Colin got the right date in his head, our wedding day was just perfect in every way...

The wedding celebrations continued on our return to France, as we held a party for friends and neighbours there and Jean was kind enough to bake us another wedding cake...


And so we began married life back in France.. I bought Elizabeth a little gift... a set of chisels and with those she started carving tuffeau.... Owls...
and this hobby has continued to grow..


This was the most glorious month! The unseasonally warm weather was wonderful and confused our potager no end. We were still picking strawberries and autumn fruiting raspberries right up to the end of the month. We enjoyed plenty of walks with friends, spotting a few unexpected gems for this time of year..

and several heavily laden Spindleberries...

And so we come to:
and after all the Christmas festivities, touched with some sadness, we look ahead to the New Year, with hope and a paint brush in our hands...

We wish each and every one a happy and healthy 2015 
May it be the year your dreams come true... for us this happened on September 10th, 2014!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A Tale of Two or Three Birds...

On Christmas Day I had a special gift to unwrap. Those of you who read our last posting, A Celebration of Life will understand that this is another example of Christine's thoughtfulness. During her last days she was worried about getting my Christmas present to me! Although she didn't live to give it to me personally, it was all wrapped and ready with a beautiful card...

Needless to say, I love it!

Interestingly, when I mentioned this gift via 'social media', my cousin's wife put up this photo of a similar ornament she had recently received..
.... she lives on the other side of the world, in Tasmania!

Coincidentally, what Chris didn't know was that I'd been carving a bird out of a block of tuffeau, a soft limestone common to our area of France..

And speaking of birds, this jay helped finish off the peanuts which the grey squirrels had tipped out of the bird feeder. After eyeing things up from the safety of the trees it took its chance and came down to feast on the nuts.

Usually such shy birds, this one obviously decided this was too good an opportunity to miss. And who can blame it!?

Birds, eh!?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

A Celebration of Life

I wrote a post back in March (here) about Friends; and one friend in particular...

Chris died on Friday, 12th December, peacefully at home, with her family. She stayed positive to the end and I never heard her utter a single word of complaint or self pity.

Her funeral and a memorial service celebrating her life are to be held on Monday 22nd December.

Tonight, quite by chance, I found a birthday card she had sent me a few years ago...

I was finding it very hard to come to terms with losing her until I spoke with her husband, Paul, and I read the tributes her daughters, Caroline and Vikki, have written. Chris would have wanted us to think of the happy times; the good memories, so I'd like to share some of the things she achieved in her 59 years...

Chris was a keen runner and a member of Southport Waterloo Athletic Club, who describe her as:
"Club coach at Southport, long time helper/supporter at club races and multiple marathoner."

She raised thousands of pounds for charity over the years and her "Just Giving" page for 2013, only months before she herself became ill, reads:

"Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page. I am thankful still to be running marathons! The London Marathon on 21st April will be my 17th London Marathon and 31st Marathon in total. I like to run a marathon for a different charity each year. This year I have chosen Cancer Research UK, and dedicate it to family and friends who have fought or are fighting the disease - with special thoughts of the families of those friends, especially of those whom I have lost to cancer. Advances in research will continue to improve survival rates"

Unfortunately these advances did not come quickly enough for Chris.

The list of her racing achievements goes on and on but this is only one part of the story. Christine was first and foremost dedicated to her family. Wednesday, 17th December, was her eldest daughter, Caroline's 30th birthday. Caroline wrote:

"Special thanks to my awesome husband  for recreating my 3rd birthday cake, my beautiful sister for the book of photos and messages from my family and friends and to my AMAZING mum for being super organised writing my card early!"

I would have expected no less of Chris; who else would have thought to bring along my birthday present to her daughter's wedding a couple of years ago, in case she didn't see me again before we went back to France?!

The strength and closeness of her family and extended family is witness to the love she and Paul shared. It touched everyone who came into contact with them. She was a very loyal friend. Never a birthday, anniversary or special occasion missed; always there and always in just the right way.

Chris lived life to the full from her involvement with the Mothers' Union to holidays in the camper van, the happiest times being those spent with her family...

Even during her gruelling treatment this year she climbed Pendle (June 24th)

She and Paul went up to the west coast of Scotland, an area the family had visited on holiday (July 12th)

She took part in the Southport 10k run.... walking some of it but jogging when she could (September 28th)

And she celebrated an early Christmas whilst her younger daughter, Vikki, was home from Canada (November 29th).

You've always been there for me, Chris, through good times and bad. You gave far more to life than you took from it. It has been an honour to be your friend and I echo my son, David's words:

"Amazing person, gone too soon but achieved more than 99% could in 100 lifetimes".

Christine Cutner
March 12th 1955 - December 12th 2014