Nicola Lathey’s Life Blog (33)
Communication tips and tricks, and the daily life of a Speech Therapist, Author, and Mum.
Today we had the most fantastic meal with some dear friends of ours, Pinni (Rods' school friend) and Tracey (the co-author of my book Small Talk) and their children, Minnie and Monty (7 & 4). We went for a walk along the beach early doors and then to a truffle restaurant about 18 miles from where we live for a 7 course truffle extravaganza! Funnily enough, truffles seem to be a theme of our friendship - on a previous holiday with Pin and Tray we went to Croatia and actually went truffle hunting with a dog and an old man. We have also had a 7 course meal with them before which was a total disaster as horrendous hangovers kicked in and meant a range of different things for each of us; one of us could hardly stay awake, one could hardly keep it down, one had massive hangover munchies and the small plates of food were definitely not what the doctor ordered, and one spent most of the meal on the loo. Anyway, this meal was a total truffle triumph and we all came away with big smiles on our faces.
Here you go:
1. Truffles on Toast - we tried to disguise this as cheese but no such luck as not one of the children even licked it - nor would they eat the toast that had been contaminated by disgustingness.
2. Truffle soup - yum, with two scallops at the bottom of the cup. Jess took a sip and spat it back into the espresso cup. Nice one Jess. The waitress then questioned us as to why no one else had eaten it - ummm. Not today thanks.
Truffle soup - disgusting!
3. Truffle salad with truffle dressing - I think.
4. The Piece de resistance - Risotto with lobster bisque. I'm afraid I'm not sure where the truffle was in that possibly becuase it was gobbled down so quickly. Delicious.
5. Pigeon with truffle mash. Interesting.
The children's meal was fish and mash. Jess ate it and then started crying at the thought that she had just eaten a fish. I blame my mother in law for this, an avid vegetarian and is always on about how that nice little lamb or sweet little chick will soon be on Jess' dinner plate! Rods goes to comfort Jess; he is better at the circle of life conversation than me, although Jess challenged his claim that the death of a fish implied any kind of circle at all. I'm not sure if Rods had an answer to this.
6. Goat's Cheese salad with grated truffle?
7. Dessert - my choice was Pineapple liquer, pineapple ice cream and fresh pineapple - scrumptious!
7. The boys chose a grapefruit and orange tart.
8. Hang on a minute. Where's the best truffle of all? The chocolate truffle. Nowhere to be seen... Complete and utter truffle failure.
But in all seriousness, this was an excellent meal and I enjoyed every mouthful.
Happy Mother's Day to you all.
Business as usual Chez The Latheys while we await the arrival of our Pinniger friends tonight. Can't wait!
Yes, just are we are about to leave, things are massively on the up; both in terms of Jess and her getting to grips with French and a trip 'up' Mont Blanc!
Today, with tears in my eyes, I watched our ‘French’ school girl run to her friends, calling their names and hugging them like long lost friends who’d been apart for years. I never thought this day would come because for at least the first two months of our 6 month stint in France, Jess was a girl with ‘selective mutism’ - she had barely uttered a single word in the school grounds, and we found ourselves in a meeting with her teacher talking about whether she was ‘ok’ or not. Six months later it’s a very different story. She has learnt that you can communicate with single words and a few hand gestures, that looking and smiling are enough to show that you’re trying even when you don’t understand, you can still have a good laugh with a friend by pretending to be a cat or dog and fundamentally that she has made her parents proud that they belong to her. I am honestly amazed. Yesterday she ordered her whole meal and her drink in a French restaurant. She was told by the waitress that only spaghetti bolognaise was on the children’s menu and not the spaghetti carbonarra that she had asked for, in French, and she replied, in French, saying that she liked spaghetti bolognaise just as much as spaghetti carbonarra so that’ll be fine. Heart melt. And today after more than a week away from school, as she arrived at the school gate, she ran without looking back to check whether I was watching through the school gate and spoke in French to the teacher and her friends, I knew it has probably been a very worthwhile and life changing experience for Jess and us all.
In other news, we’ve just come back from a brief trip to Wales for my lovely Aunty Jo’s 70th birthday at Caldicot Castle (because one of our ancestors, Jospeh Cobb, renovated it) and then to a fabulous skiing trip to Chamonix with some fab friends. Rods decided not to ski after realising it’d take him too much time and too much money to get good at it but Jess and I had a ball. We fell into each other too many times to count and we are both covered in bruises from head to toe but surely that’s what apres ski was designed for, to take away the pain from the day!
See you back in Blighty in a fortnight, people! x
The video shows the car trip to my aunt’s party. When we realised I had directed them to Raglan castle instead of Caldicot Castle, there was a sudden shout of “Arhhhhhhh” from my nephew which pretty much continued for the rest of the journey, much to Rods’ delight. The other clip is of our skiing trip.
Last night, we went had a fairly typical 'Lathey' evening. After school Jess had her French class with Jenn our American friend (and Jess’ class’ English teacher at school), so Rods and I went for a drink at Le Chic and when Jess had finsihed with Jenn, she was dropped at Le Chic, and then we went to the local Pizza Place for supper. We are locals in both the places I mentioned above - locals enough to get kissed (or hand shaken) and have very friendly “how things?” conversation.
(Saying that, kissing doesn’t mean a thing here. EVERYONE kisses everyone and anyone. Jenn said she went to a party the other day and when each person walked in they kissed every single person in the room, twice, regardless of whether they knew them or not. Jenn, who is pregnant was going up and down like a yo-yo and was very relieved not to be the 40th person in the room - yes that would have been 80 kisses. Wooah!)
Anyhow, I digress...
After our kisses at the pizza place, we sat down and I asked for 'a glass of red wine' and the owner said "is that all? Are you ill?". Can you believe it! You see I usually order a caraf. He even knows what my favourite pizza is! Neither of these things are anything to be proud of and today all I can think about is how to get a grip on a bloomin better eating plan / diet back on track... Any tips welcome!
The pizza place is owned by Enzo's dad. Enzo is a friend of Jess' at school and she adores him. Have a look at the video below. So cute.
I am also very proud of Jess who happily went to sit at the table of a local family in the pizza place becuase she really loves Maenna who is 13 who we know from bumping into her from time to time around town. She never would have done this even a month ago - the fear that a French person *might* speak to her in French stopped her from even giving eye contact at one point and now, just as we're coming home, look at her go!
Today it was my birthday. We’ve had a lovely day with my family including with my father in law and Kate.
7.30am - Wake up to a massive pile of cards, presents, 5 tier chocolate cake, helium balloons, kiss-a-gram and a hot bubble-filled bath!
In your dreams girl ....
Reality = 4 cards and a hand written piece of paper from Rods and Jess about a back moustache (massage)!
7.35am - Start to feel annoyed that yet again my husband has had an epic fail on the birthday card / present front. This piece of paper was obviously an afterthought. I put on a brave face for Jess who is very excited about my birthday.
7.40am - Tea in bed and an almighty apology from my husband. Things start to look up.
7.45am - Get Jess ready for school. There is a mardi gras celebration going on at school today and Jess is going as a Welsh Girl in honour of St David's Day. She looks fab - outfit is homemade of course!
9am - Listen to my friend on Radio Gloucestershire talking about her business - Recruit For Spouses. She’s fab and she is my biggest advocate when it comes to ‘women in business’ and we love talking shop together as well as all the other gossip.
I hang out with my in-laws who arrived last night - and catch up on all the gossip from Wales.
11.30am - collect Jess form school (school’s only for 1/2 a day on Wednesday here in France). All the pupils look fab! There are often police at the school gate and rather than feeling reassured by their presence, it sometimes unnerves me - do they know something I don’t? I suppose with a bit of a party going on at school, they want to be better safe than sorry.
Emma, Madame Vollery, Jess' teacher, and Jess.
11.35am - We head off to Le Chic for an aperatif. Immediate red cheek alert (my cheeks go red after the very first sip of alcohol - is this normal? I am going to end up with purple cheeks when I’m older because the capillaries in my cheeks are so over-exercised, my future as not only The Lady Who Wears Purple but The Lady Who Is Purple is a dead cert).
12 pm - Siren for the war memorial goes off. It’s a shock when you hear it for the first time!
(see the video below)
12.15pm - Bus to the local beach restaurant for lunch. Yummy - the creme de la creme was the cafe gourmand dessert.
Choosing tea is always tricky - pretty much all of them are yuck! Look at the beautiful beach in the background.
Customary food on my shelf alert!
2.30pm - A walk on the beach. We were the only ones there and it’s gorgeous.
5pm - Le Chic for al fresco drinks in the beautiful, beautiful sunshine.
7pm - Home for cheese and baguettes.
12 am - Listening to the bells in La Garde. Have I told you about this? The bells chime all day and all night every day and every night - not only once but twice, one minute apart, so that’s a whole 24 chimes at noon and another 24 rings at midnight. Whenever we first arrive here, I always find it quite difficult to sleep through the bells. Now I barely notice it.
And so to bed....and that’s it for another year! Night night all x
I've woken up to tea in bed (I'm hoping that breakfast will follow shortly). The reason... after a completely wonderful week in Italy, I had a terrible journey home to France - I had a serous bout of car sickness and ended up throwing up into a bag which had holes in it (of which I was not aware!), and therefore needed a change of clothes and a plastic lining for my sick-covered car seat. And to top it all off I then had to listen to a conversation between Rods and Jess about how much they'd pay each other to eat it! Yes. This is my life!
Anyhow, we're back. We still have another week for half term and we're going to do some nice day trips. And after what's apparently been the coldest winter for years, it's hotting up here nicely so we might even try and get our surf board out later for a stoll on the beach.
Wowsers - to say it's beautiful is a serious understatement. It's completely and utterly beautiful! (Really need to expand my vocabulary). Snow-topped mountains, sheer cliffs made by gullying erosion from spring waters and ephemeral streams with alluvial fans down below (thanks Barney who helped resolve a dispute about whether the creases in the moutains were caused by an extinct volcano or not); colourful houses balancing on the cliff by a whisker, and a brilliant blue lake with sea planes landing and taking off intermittently throughout the day. I presume the airplanes are tourist trips because they go quite close to the cliffs - my idea of hell.
We didn't do an awful lot while we were there. We enjoyed sitting on the balcony or in the flat overlooking the lake. We watched an array of films:
Little Miss Sunshine
Life of Pi
Charlie and The Chocolate Factory x 3
100 Feet Away
The Imitation Game
We went to Switzerland to build a snowman, lots of eating out and playing games - no wifi! - feeding the ducks and swans, scootering around our little complex, and a couple of picnics. Here are a few pictures so you can get the gist:
One of the highlights has to be the driving. The scenery is breath-taking, but honestly, to return unscathed considering the narrow streets, vespa extravaganza and 100mph convertible cars is nothing short of a miracle!
Sending love to you all,
We met up with old (and new) friends in Lake Como. The most gorgeous Christina Bassi and her family. Elisa, 3rd from left, will spend 6 weeks with us in Cheltenham in the summer.
Jess at sunset.
A pint for Jess and for Doggy - someone is about to steal Jess'.
After a few drinks whilst watching the rugby, we end up in a Cordon Bleu restaurant - not what the doctor ordered!
Movie night every night!
Snowman in Switzerland
Games on the balcony.
Our lovely friends Sal and Ferg came to La Garde for the weekend and brought Storm Doris with them - to say it was a wet and windy weekend was an understatement! In fact Sal had a very close encouter with a plastic bin that blew narrowly past her head and smashed into smithereens on her leg. My scream, as the bystander, was enough for our neighbours to poke thier heads out of their windows and have a look at the commotion.
I've put a few pictures together: our windy trip to the beach, me pretending to eat snails, Jess unimpressed by the 'child-sized' portion of lasagne, burgers at the local Veggyvan, watching the rugger and a windy wander around Nice. You'll see the very poignant memorial to the 87 people who died on Bastille Day last summer when a 30 something year old man of Tunisian origin, who had lived in Nice since 2003, drove a hired lorry into the celebrating crowds. There is still a very heavy police / army presence in Nice which is comforting and scary, especially to a 6 year old who can't understand how these horrors can happen - neither can a 40 year old, saying that..
Much love to you all. Nic x
Am I a failure?
This was the question my little 6 yo daughter asked to her dad last week. He tells me it was a passing comment but I have taken this seriously and literally, I am utterly speechless, horrified.
We are a fairly upbeat sort of lot who tend not to take life too seriously. We certainly don’t bash the word ‘failure’ about and I don’t even think our behaviour or emotions shout the word ‘failure’.
This stemmed predominantly from the fact that Jess is finding division (maths) difficult and she keeps getting these silly little stamp faces in her book with a straight mouth rather than a smiley mouth. She is desperate for the smiles although there is no reward for effort - perhaps I should be teaching her reliance (excuse the buzz word). But furthermore, she is still finding French a massive challenge, which doesn't help her learn maths concepts, although, to be fair, this is improving day by day. It's certainly a lot easier now that she isn't completely out of her comfort zone in a French speaking school.
I’m actually furious and I can assure you that operation ‘confidence boost’ has begun, starting with us bigging her up last weekend and two internet searches this morning: 1. How do you build confidence in children? and 2. How long does it take English children to learn to speak French?
Answer to question 1:
1. Practise Attachment Parenting.
2. Improve Your Own Self-Confidence. ...
3. Be a Positive Mirror. ...
4. Raise a Confident Child by Playing Together. ...
5. Address Your Child by Name. ...
6. Practise the Carry-Over Principle. ...
7. Set Your Child Up to Succeed.
8. Encourage your child to be home-wise before street-smart
9. Raise a confident child by losing labels
10. Monitor school influences on your child
11. Give your child responsibilities
12. Encourage children to express their feelings
Answer to question 2:
6 to 18 months! Yikes.
Hope you're all having a wonderfully successful day, particularly those who struggle to get out of bed and those who have managed to go for a jog for the first time in ages!
You know when you've been accepted by the locals when this happens...
But on a more serious note, we were talking about how our 'circle of friends' is increasing slowly and, during that conversation, Jess and I drew our own 'circle of friends' diagram, showing all the people we know in France. We use this tool for Speech and Language Therapy when we talk about the kind of social interaction we have with each tier and the social skills we employ within each. The funny thing about our grid (apart from some of the unlikely names that Jess mentioned from seeing them continuously on BBC World Service) is that we hardly know any of our friends' names. We're working on it! Nic x
'Man Buys Bread' - We used to joke about this in Blighty as this was about the most exciting story that our local paper could manage, but here in France, especially in 157 Rue Doumet (our address), this is big news - ‘Which bread do you buy today?’
I know I’m lucky that such a mundane thing as choosing bread is worthy of writing about, but this is a geniune dilemma I face each day. I walk into the boulangerie and this is what I see - 11 varieties of baguette!
Only one is named ‘baguette’, and since we arrived, we have tried every single one of these loaves - we have bread for breakfast and lunch, and in all honesty, I am stumped to find the difference between them. I tend to choose by the colour, I prefer the paler ones, or whether I fancy a crunch lunch or not. Some are a little airier, I think, and some are pointier at the end. In my opinion, they all taste pretty much the same (I’m obviously not a connoisseur). I did once ask the boulanger ‘qu'est-ce que c'est le difference?’ and had a very elaborate answer of which I understood the word ‘pain’ and ‘baguette’, ‘grand’ and ‘petit’. That’s about it. Anyone else know? And does anyone have any innovative ideas about what to do with the runt of the baguette that is always left over, every single day. Merci.
Well today it's snowing. Not enough to stick but snow none the less. It's bloomin' freezing. This is the one heater that our house owns and bearing in mind it was -1 degrees last night, the heat from this titchy piece of metal is as about as effective as a match stick.
My seat next to the radiator - at least my back is warm!
We've all become rather obsessed with the temperature - that's the temperature outside since noticing there's a digital temperature display outside the pharmacy on our way to school, and inside our bodies since I recently bought my first ever ‘in the ear’ thermometer from Lidls last week.
I have taken our temperatures at least twice a day and it changes from second to second, ear to ear, whether you are standing on the tiled floor or rug, sitting next to the radiator or facing the radiator, or in the kitchen v. up in the ice box bedrooms. However, it is not dependent on whether your nose is warm or cold - Rods has a lovely and large nose, which is always warm, and I have a normal sized nose which is always cold. It's a very dubious gauge therefore but thankfully Jess is better, and now I'm the one who seems to have a mild temperature pretty constantly. Does it deserve regular duvet days, hot honey and Lemon, endless TLC? Does it hell!
I'll leave you with an image of our lovely life in France - Have you seen the film Frozen? At the end Anna’s body starts turning into ice, limb by limb. This is how I feel - my leg is slowly turning to ice and weirdly only the right one. It starts on my right toe, then foot, then ankle, then calf. Hope you're all enjoying the heat from your radiators - brrrrrrrrrrrr!
Since we’ve been in France, anything that reminds me of home, even the tiniest of things, becomes treasured and special - examples of this are gravy granules (!), tea bags, fluffy carpets, daffodils (I bought some last week), slippers, and, well - she shouldn’t really go into such a mundane list of items as she’s far superior - my friend, Jo, from Fishguard. Jo has lived in Carcassonne with her partner, Stephan, and her son, Etienne, for 8 years and my ‘little bit of home’ has just left, having spent the weekend with us, leaving a little hole in my heart :(
Not only was it great to have Jo here, but Jess adores Eti, and Stephan - a real French person - shed light onto things that have puzzled us since we moved here. Here are some examples:
- Every so often there is an enormous siren - so, so loud and at first we looked into the street to see if people were running to take shelter. We now know that once a month they play this siren as a mark of respect to those who died in the war.
- The difference between a crepe bought in a death van (a mobile van which sells snacks) and a real creperie. I now know I was a creperie virgin until Saturday lunchtime.
- And in a Creperie, you must drink cider from a bowl.
- French people are still ‘asleep’ until they’ve had a very, very strong coffee. My Welsh father in law is exactly the same!
- The French only eat fruit and vegetables in season - Steph didn’t eat the tomatoes I bought because tomatoes are out of season.
- We were ripped off when we bought a piece of fish for E19 and a butternut squash for E6.50 from the market.
- There are no town planners in France - possibly why it’s so complicated to drive here.
- CP is Jess’ class name. I thought it had something to do with the teacher’s name but, no, it stands for Cours Préparatoire - Preparatory Course - learning individual sounds before reading. Next year it’d be CE1 - Elementary Course 1 - and on it goes.
- In France you do not put pineapple on pizza
- There is a pharmacy every 10 shops or so because most French people are hypochondriacs.
Looking forward to our return visit to Carcassone soon.... x
Stunning cliff-top town of Le Castallet
Jess and Eti watching The Secret Life of Pets
A real crepe (or, in this case, a galette, which is savoury)
Drinking cider in bowls in a creperie - a great photographer cut Rods and me in half!
The phallic fence
A pizza-making competition - cheesy hair 'n' all!
The highs and lows of our little life in France
When I first arrived in France in October, I tried to write a blog post about what I liked about the country but I didn’t have anything to say. I think I was a bit homesick, which is surprising considering the fact I’ve spent a fair bit of time abroad in the past, but a combination of not knowing the lingo, not knowing anyone, working hammer and tongs at marketing the Owl Centre, and the unexpected cultural differences didn’t help. I am now much happier – just in time for our return home in March, and I’m really starting to love and enjoy the little things...
The lows... (let’s end on a high!)
Let me hit you with it... there are very few charity shops here! I now realise how much I love a good butchers in a charity shop.
Dog sh*t – everywhere! It’s absolutely disgusting.
Shutters – they’re very pretty and quaint but they are also very antisocial. No ‘nosing’ into what everyone else is doing, and at night the towns feel like ghost towns.
The opening hours of restaurants and tabacs (a tabac is a combination of a tobacconist, cafe and bar) are odd. They are generally busy in the mornings and people go out for lunch but the restaurants strictly stay shut until 7pm. Monday nights are dead –one night we organised a baby sitter for our only night out without Jess, and we were home within about 30 mins – shutters on all the local bars and tabacs were well and truly shut!
Grumpiness – definitely a French characteristic. And the road rage is pretty hefty too – horns at the ready and I’ve even seen cars stopping at roundabouts and people getting out to give each other what for. Comedy.
Another observation is that there are very few people with special needs out and about. Not sure why.
Lastly – fountain moss. I have no idea why French people think this is attractive. There are loads of them. A massive turd on the top of what would have been a rather attractive water feature.
Christmas was pretty magical. The lights in virtually every town we visited were classy and elegant and the ice rinks were fab. If you fancy a Christmas market trip next year, this area would be a good option in my opinion.
The simplicity of being able to sort out everything connected to your status as an inhabitant here in the Town hall. How straightforward is that?
Al fresco eating and drinking – even in the freezing cold.
Am. Dram. – the French, especially the older French men, seem to love acting and genuinely putting their heart and soul into it. You’ve gotta love it even though I don’t understand what they’re saying.
Beautiful churches and architecture in general. Churches built into caves and on top of mountains. Stunning. And again this is in virtually every little town or village.
And the little festivals randomly going on in a random little village in the middle of no-where - celebrting the horse chestnut - of course!
Road travel. It’s expensive but the roads are generally clear and easy. I have also become rather fond of a toll. They are a nightmare – firstly, in a British car we are always on the wrong side to pay so if you’re on your own you have to get out, you have to have the right money and they often don’t except cards. Even if you do have a passenger to pay, the machine is often too far from the door and you have to get out anyway (this was hysterical when my mum and dad came over – my mum having just had a hip replacement and not having a clue how to pay, etc.). To make things worse, these bast*rd tolls appear every 10 miles or so, and we have often had to reverse (and thereby get all of the cars behind us to do so as well) as we haven’t been able to get through. We’ve even tried manually lifting up the barrier to get through or just flooring it through the TAG lane in the hope that French road laws don’t apply to Brits. Very tempting.
Very funky zebra crossings – dapper men with their hands in their pockets and neon lights to guide the way. The car parks also have red or green lights above the spaces so that you can tell if they’re empty. Road travel is so expensive that I’m not surprised they can afford such features!
The smell of the boulangerie and the lunchtime bread and cheese.
The slow pace of life. And I have very much enjoyed hanging out with my two. I feel we have become a real little unit since being here – probably because there’s no-one else to hang out with. We play a lot of cards rather than rush out to clubs although I did like the club culture in the UK.
I just said to Rods, “what do you like about being in France?” and his answer was not feeling any pressure to speak to anyone at the school gate. This is kind of true. The only time I ever spoke to someone is when I told them their kid had stepped in dog sh*t.
And finally, here there are whales and dolphins less than 10 miles off the shore. That is a big thumbs up for our family!
*Warning* - this video is not for children's ears! And no children were present when this was filmed!
As I've said before, it's a fairly simple life here. It's Saturday and we're having a coffee at Le Chic, collecting a few groceries in the town's little market, a French class for Jess, and Sarah to play in the afternoon. We'll probably be back at Le Chic for a vin rouge later because there's no Saturday night TV here and I am sick to death of BBC World and Sky News.
We did get our glass of champagne with the owners at Le Chic a couple of days ago, as they invited us for a new year drink with them, and we found out they are actually from Champagne. They love talking about Brexit. French people generally are so interested in Brexit and keep quizzing us about it. For those of you that know him, you'll understand why I have told Rods not to get involved in a political debate with the locals. He studied politics and philosophy for many years (too many years), and he loves to stir up a good discussion playing devil's advocate! A couple of times Rods has been immersed in a political discussion - take Larry, for example, the guy who owns one of the local pizza takeaways, who sees Remain v. Leave in terms of good v. evil / the racists v. the good guys / the bigots v. the tolerant. He's definitely not Rods' cup of tea and sadly, we haven't had many pizzas recently.
Anyway, back to mundane stuff... this is what our view looks like. You'll notice it's raining outside and it's flippin' cold today. Madame de Galle has told us about her haemmorhoids and will be divulging secrets about her 'Gall' stones next. Boom boom. Hold onto your helmets - it's fun in the fast lane!