Beth Haslam - logo amsterdam
Hello, and welcome to the spring edition of Fat Dogs News, where lots has happened.
Planted just a few months ago, new crocuses popped up to greet the mild weather. Blues and pastel whites with cheeky yellow centres, they cheered up the wintry drear no end.
Blues and pastel whites with cheeky yellow centres
Next on the scene were the jonquilles. Newbie daffs burst out of the ground to join swathes of buddies already in residence. Talk about crowd-pleasers – even the bugs loved them.
Jonquilles. Newbie Daffs.
And now we’re enjoying an ebullience of podgy little grape hyacinths, or at least the ones that survived. My brilliant idea of planting them down the grassy centre of our drive failed miserably. There’s something about those bulbs that deer find particularly yummy. Hey ho, you can’t win 'em all.
Hyacinths
Sadly, it hasn’t all been fluff and fun. This month began with a serious incident for our great friends, Anton and Camille. A fire broke out during the night in their home. They may be getting on in years, but you’d never guess it from their reaction. What a brave couple they are! This snippet shows you why.
Hearing the news the next morning, Jack and I rushed over with a care package and offers of help. Anton was standing outside his charred house, chipper as usual.
“You poor things, are you both alright?” I asked.
“Yes, yes, no problem. Camille was a little shaken, but she’s fine now.”
Camille, covered in smuts, joined us for a team hug.
“So what happened?” asked Jack.
Anton shrugged his shoulders.
“The chimney in the middle of the house caught fire. The dog alerted us by whining and scratching on the bedroom door.”
“Yes, the brute woke us up. And to think I’m always telling Anton to keep him outside the house!”
“True, but he did save our lives. As you know, our bedroom is at the end of the corridor."
“Gosh, yes, how on earth did you escape?”
“The electric cables were burning so we couldn’t raise the blinds in the bedroom. We were worried about being trapped, so Anton thought about smashing them with a ham.”
“Yes! We have a boar ham drying on a hook in the bedroom, but I didn’t want to waste it.”
Knowing how precious Anton is about his hams, Jack proceeded with caution.
“Of course not. So what did you do?”
Anton and Camille 02
“Anton used a scarf to protect his face and ran through the house to get help.”
“Crikey, Anton, that was so brave of you!” I cried.
“Nooooo, not at all,” he smiled, pushing back his trilby. “It was just smoky and hot...and a bit sparky. No real problem.”
“Anyway, we’re both fine now,” beamed Camille. “The firemen made a hole in the roof to put out the flames. They think it will take six months to rebuild the house, but that’s alright, we’ll be staying with Marcial, our eldest son. Oh, and I’ve started making jam. Would you like a pot?”
And in other news...
Carol singing
It was Camille who kicked off our year with an initiative. It may have been misplaced for many, but not for the folks in our corner of France. To find out how we ended up carol singing in January, click on the blog link below.
The Christmas Caroling High Note

Fat Dogs Memes

Quad bike riding is always eventful with Aby and Max!
Fat Dogs memes

Progress on Fat Dogs Part 5

Hooray, Fat Dogs Part 5 is written! Now the editing begins. That takes ages, but I’d prefer to take the time to get it right. In the meantime, I’ll keep you topped-up with extracts.

Here was a situation that caught us completely by surprise. Ironically, it involved Anton and Camille. We had just arrived at their house for supper.
A small herd of goats quickly surrounded us. Very lively, they were, too. Camille flew out of the house as I was batting one of them off with the flowers I had brought.
Anton! Oh, Antoooon! Les bêtes. Viens, viens!
There was no need for a translation here, Camille was plainly furious with the beasts.
“Don’t worry, Camille,” I laughed, pushing away another petal nibbler.
Anton appeared and started cooing at his latest pets.
“Anton!” snapped Camille.
“They’re no problem,” he said, welcoming us with a wink.
Camille bustled us into the house.
“They are even worse than the geese at destroying things,” she cried. “My plants, my berries, they even ate Anton’s socks last week. Either they go, or I cook them!”
With that, a youngster popped its head around the door with a hopeful expression.
Argh!” cried Camille, shooing it out with a frying pan.
“Aww, you don’t mean that,” said Anton. “What about you two? Would you like some? They’ll keep your lawn nice and short.”
“No thanks, Anton,” said Jack, before I’d had a chance to open my mouth.

Jack’s latest tantrum

My husband, Jack loves a good old rant, but beneath that grumpy exterior lies a heart of gold. We know not to take his tantrums seriously. Fortunately, he fizzles out as quickly as he ignites. Until the next explosion...
I ground along, frequently engaging low. Slooshing through mires of mud, the bike slid sideways as it tried to find purchase on a firm surface. After about half an hour, I spotted a branch pinning down the fence cables. Eureka!

Stopping, I tried to slip the gear stick back to the neutral position. I couldn’t. Try as I might, it wouldn’t budge. This was frustrating. I switched off the engine and had another go, but that didn’t make any difference either. Now I was in a fix. There was nothing for it. I had to call Jack.
“You’re never going to believe what’s happened.”
“What?”
“The gear lever is stuck in low.”
“It can’t be, just pull back hard.”
“I have tried, but I’m nervous about breaking it.”
“Don’t be silly, of course you can’t break it.”
“Okay, hang on.”
I gave it a hearty pull, but nothing happened.
“Sorry, no go.”
“Is the engine idle too high?”
“Engine? I’ve switched it off.”
What? Why?”
“Well, I thought it might need a rest…or something.”
“Oh my God! How many times have I told you never to cut the engine with it in gear?”
“I know, but I didn’t think I could drive all the way back with it in low, and anyway, it was smelling a bit.”
“Smelling? What of?”
“You know, a bit burny.”
“Bloody hell, you’ve probably burnt out the drive belt. Just stay where you are.”
“Jack, I can’t go anywhere unless I walk back.”
Noooo. Stay there. I’ll just stop everything I was trying to do and come out straight away.”
I let the dogs off the bike to mooch around and continued to fiddle with the gear stick in the vain hope it might free up. It didn’t. By the time Jack reached me in the Jobber (a side by side quad), the rain was hammering down.
“Now, watch carefully. This is all you have to do.”
Jack gave the gear stick a deft wiggle and then pulled back. Nothing. He tried again with the same result. Frowning, he got off the bike, rocked it a few times and then started yanking on the lever.
“I didn’t realise you could be that rough with it.”
“It’s a bloody machine, it’s fine. I don’t know what the hell you’ve done with it, and of course, I can’t start it now because the designed for idiots ignition system won’t let it start in gear.”
“Um, perhaps it’ll sort itself out once the engine cools down.”
“You do say some ridiculous things about mechanical devices, and that’s right up there with the worst of them.”

A word from French Property News

With most of us on lockdown, we could do with a spot of that elusive feel-good factor. Thanks to the terrific team at French Property News, we have a wonderful dollop here.
Featuring some of the best villages in France, this fab article will help show you why we love it here so much.
FPN March Newsletter 20 profile pic

It’s official! These are the best places to live in France

So you already know the most beautiful villages in France, the hotspots that grace the covers of the tourist guides and have the Plus Beaux Villages de France label. You've been there, done that, bought the ceramic souvenir and taken a million photographs. But what about the villages and towns in France where you’d actually want to live? Which communities offer the best quality of life?
Of course, it would take years to come up with any kind of objective answer. There are so many factors to consider, such as security, transport, shops and services, health, education, sports and leisure and solidarity. But we’re glad you asked because researchers at the Villes et villages où il fait bon vivre association have done just that. Over two years, they analysed and compared a grand total of 34,841 French communities on no fewer than 182 quantitative indicators, to come up with a definitive ranking of France’s best communities.
Read the full story by clicking on this link: https://www.completefrance.com/french-property/buying-property/the-best-places-to-live-in-france-1-6498869
The village of Guethary in Pyrenees-Atlantiques ©OT Bidart

Recipe from France

Tapenade

If you’re looking for a deceptively decadent snack with a difference, this French favourite might just hit the spot. It’s easy to make, has a hint of the exotic and adds a little je ne sais quoi to supper or nibbles at drinks time.

Tapenade is a paste traditionally made using black or green olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and olive oil, with added flavourings such as thyme, lemon juice or parsley. Although the origins of this dish can be traced back to Italy and Roman times, the word and tradition of eating Tapenade come from Provence.
march tapenade

Ingredients

Makes 1 smallish bowl (a little goes a long way)
  • 200g whole black or green olives
  • 3 tbsp capers, well rinsed if packed in salt
  • 2 anchovies, well rinsed if packed in salt, roughly chopped
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Method

  • Remove the stones from the olives with a pitter or a sharp knife. Put in a food processor with the capers, anchovies, garlic and thyme, and whizz to a rough puree. Squeeze in the lemon juice and, with the motor still running, add the oil.
  • Alternatively, pound the garlic, anchovies, capers and thyme together in a pestle and mortar until smooth, followed by the olives, leaving these slightly more chunky, then gradually add the oil and lemon juice, pounding between pours.
  • Add pepper and more lemon juice to taste, spread on a chunk of bread and enjoy!
marchTapenadeOlivesNoires_768x1024

Bookish Corner

bookish corner
Over the past few weeks, I have read several excellent books, two of which have stood head and shoulders above the others.

Victoria Twead’s: Two Old Fools Down Under.
Loved it! Victoria’s latest memoir was every bit as good as I imagined, no wonder it has already racked up hundreds of five-star reviews. Click on the book image for the Amazon link. Or click here: http://bit.ly/32m1dGl
Two Old Fools Down Under
Val Poore’s: Living With My Sin: The Story of a Dog’s Life.
Another wonderful tear-jerker that also had me giggling. Click on the book image for the Amazon link. Or click here: https://bit.ly/2WXERf0
Living With My Sin

Fat Dogs Comp

Congratulations to Carolyn Saunders, whose guess was closest to the number of serious property contenders I considered. The original figure was an unwieldy 62.

Caption This!

For this competition, to win an ebook of your choice from the Fat Dogs series, add some fun words to this pic of our very naughty rescue cat, Claus-Paws. Please mail me with your one-liner!
fatdogsfrance@gmail.com

Closing date: April 30 2020.
Fat Dogs Comp

The Series So Far - (Click on a book to take you to the Amazon link.)

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49831306_243120759913265_8116846422541729792_n
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And Finally...

That’s all for this time. I know we’re all facing dreadfully difficult times at the moment. Please, please stay safe, and I sincerely hope this issue has helped give you a smile.

Hugs from France,
Beth - logo - cropped for newsletters
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