Beth Haslam - logo amsterdam

Hello and welcome to the summer edition of Fat Dogs News. Over the past few weeks, our surreal way of living has completely altered the way we interact. Masks, gloves, social distancing, they have been the norms here, as I’m sure they have in your neck of the woods. I wonder whether we have seen the last of our traditional French greeting. Who knows?

That obligatory peck on each cheek (sometimes three to be thoroughly confusing) or warm embrace with special friends, accompanied by a hearty bonjour! While I shall be sad if that goes altogether, it would be a huge relief to some, like my husband, Jack. He has always been terribly bashful about the whole interaction.
June use use
(Photo courtesy of Annie AndréTravel, Expat and Lifestyle blogger with a French twist.)
The spring has been hot here. I thought we would be in for a quiet few weeks, nurturing plants and going on dog treks. Sadly, things turned out very differently when disaster struck.

Aby, one of our Australian Shepherd dogs, had a bad fall. What we hoped might be a superficial injury was not to be. Our poor lass ruptured ligaments in her knee and dislocated her kneecap. There was nothing for it. She had to have reconstructive surgery.
June Aby post surgery
We are now into week eight of Aby’s rehabilitation. Being restricted to short, lead-only, walks is tough for an athletic dog, but she is incredibly patient. The recent inclusion of regular swims has cheered her up no end.

Max, her bro, is allowed to join us on hydrotherapy sessions. Being a hash-it-bash-it sort of lad, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. So far, so good. While Aby gracefully paddles up and down, Max thrashes around, leaving a wake of watery destruction behind him. That’s Max for you!
June Max jump
It wasn’t only Aby who had health problems. During a regular deer feeding session in May, we found an ailing baby boar in the forest. It’s a tough life for a little ‘un out there. A skinny chap, he was being bullied by his siblings and wasn't strong enough to fight for a decent meal.
newsletter poorly boar

For the next few days, we watched him dwindle, agonising over what to do. Knowing he would die if we did nothing, we took our hearts in our hands and caught him.
newsletter june better baby
Little junior spent the next few days in a dog crate. We built him up with lots of feeds and warmth, and he quickly improved. As soon as his tummy was bulging, we re-introduced our stripy patient to his mum. Much to our relief, she accepted him, seeming not to have noticed he had gone. He trotted back to his siblings, this time with a fighting chance of survival.
In other news, my blog this month takes you back to an outing my sister and I had with the dogs before Aby’s accident. Unfortunately, our happy amble was unexpectedly marred by one incident.
June canal
Click on the image, or link below to find out more.
https://bethhaslam.blogspot.com/2020/06/the-canal-history-and-that-smell.html

Fat Dogs Memes

These cute new additions to our forest family certainly live up to their name at mealtimes!
Newsletter June meme baby boar

Progress on Fat Dogs Part 5

With a small hooray! at another phase completed, I sent the Fat Dogs Part 5 manuscript along with image ideas to Maggie Raynor, my illustrator. I can’t wait to see her early sketches. In the meantime, editing rumbles on. I have just revisited this section. The scenario occurred following my ‘brilliant’ idea for keeping our pheasant chicks entertained:
June canary
We had used a couple of mirror toys for the chicken chicks. Perhaps we could do the same thing except on a bigger scale. Convinced of my logic, the next day, I rushed to the local pet shop and had a semi-discussion with a sales assistant.

“I’d like some canary toys, please.”
“Yes, madame, how many do you have?”
“We don’t have any, but I want some toys for our young pheasants.”
“Ah, you are English, and I think you are confused. In France the word is canari. Can-a-ri.”
“Yes, I know, but we really don’t have any. The toys are for our fuss-ons,” I replied, trying hard to pronounce the word pheasant correctly to avoid further misunderstanding.
“This is bizarre, madame. I am afraid we do not have anything for pheasants.”
“No problem, I didn’t think you would. The canary toys will be fine.”
“We only have two mirrors on chains at the moment.”
“I’ll take them, thank you. What about parrot toys?”
“You have parrots too, madame?”
“No, just the fuss-ons, but if you have parrot toys, they will do just as well.”

Jack’s Latest Tantrum

Jack is a black belt at ranting, but beneath that grumpy exterior lies a heart of gold. We know not to take his outbursts seriously, and he fizzles out as quickly as he ignites. Until the next explosion...
June laposte
“You know that parcel I needed to send?”
“What about it, Jack? Did you pre-pay online and print the label as usual?”
“I did. Then I left it in our letterbox for collection by Anael on his Wednesday rounds. He came and left the proof of collection slip in the letterbox.”
“Sounds great.”
“No! It would be if he’d actually collected the parcel. He put the slip on top of the damn thing and left them both in the mailbox.”
“Ah, that’s frustrating. But hang on, it’s now Friday, is this going to be a serialised rant?”
“Very droll. Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. On Wednesday, after I realised the parcel hadn’t been collected, I sent a message, politely pointing out the error.”
“Properly politely?”
“Yes, very politely. I said I’d leave the parcel in the box for him to collect yesterday.”
“And did he?”
“No, he bloody didn’t.”
“Oh dear.”
“Quite. Realising he needs help with this tortuous mental process, I decided to intercept him on his next visit. Lo and behold, he sped in and didn’t even open the letterbox! Can you believe it? He was about to speed off again, so I darted out and only just managed to stop him on the road…”
“Darted in front of his car? Hilarious! I’m now picturing a scene from Fawlty Towers.”
“It’s not funny. He almost ran over my toes.”
“You must have given the poor lad the shock of his life! Did you manage to resolve it with him?”
“Yes. And apparently, it’s all Amazon’s fault.”
“I see. Actually, I don’t. Was it an Amazon parcel?”
“No. But it’s still their fault because they’re daring to do lots more business which is causing postmen extra work. It’s making them very tired, and causing lapses in concentration when confronted with complicated mental challenges.”
“So, is it all sorted out now?”
“God knows. All I can be certain of, after many apologies, is the parcel has moved from our box all the way to Anael’s van. Whether it reaches the final destination is another matter entirely.”

A word from French Property News

FPN March Newsletter 20 profile pic
COVID-19 certainly hasn’t kept the French Property News team’s enthusiasm locked down. Grab a cuppa, and get away from it all with their fab article on how to set up a smallholding in France!
https://www.completefrance.com/home/how-to-set-up-a-smallholding-in-france-1-6628218
20190526_162543

Recipe From France

Ragoût D’asperges Printanier – (Spring Asparagus Stew)

We have only just crept into summertime, so I can still get away with this choice. As an asparagus lover, I couldn’t resist it. My recipe comes from the celebrated chef, Alain Passard, owner of the three-star restaurant L’Arpège, in Paris. I have roughly translated it from The Happy Cooking Friends, whose style had me in stitches!
June newsletter Ragout-asperge- first pic
The addition of sorrel brings out the tangy side and replaces lemon. I know that by seeing the other ingredients (onion, garlic and chives), you will think that this is not a recipe for an asparagus stew, but rather a cure for vampires. Well, no, you will see that it is a very subtle dish where asparagus is the star.

The only condition for making this simple dish a success is to use very fresh products. Don’t even think of using a dry garlic head that has been hanging around in your closet for ages... No no no, you are going to the garden or your market gardener to buy a beautiful new garlic head.

I give you the basic proportions, but as Chef Passard says, no need for proportions, do what you feel and follow your taste, in a word, improvise. Direction the kitchen…it’s over here!

Ingredients: (serves two people)

  • 6 large, green, white or purple asparagus
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 new garlic stem or 2 (or more) cloves cut into thin strips
  • 1 handful of fresh sorrel leaves
  • Cilantro
  • Chives (optional)
  • Salted butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper from the mill

Method:

  • Peel your asparagus and cut them into sections of about 3 cm (1 bite).
  • Do the same with your spring onions and the ‘green’ of the new garlic. (‘Green’ refers to the stem that grows above the head of garlic. I found fresh garlic, but it did not have a stem, so I used a few cloves which I cut into thin strips.) I can see you getting boggle-eyed thinking about the super breath that you are going to have after. I must admit that the garlic was very soft after cooking, and by using fresh garlic, the spiciness was reduced. It brings a slightly subtle taste which goes perfectly with other vegetables.
  • Arrange the sections in a large saucepan (not the asparagus heads because they are very tender. We will add them at the last minute) and sauté over medium heat without stirring the vegetables. Your vegetables must have space around them. Pour a trickle of water into the sautoir. The idea here is that the water barely covers the bottom. The vegetables, and in particular the asparagus, being tender will cook very quickly by the action of the steam. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a lump of salted butter.
  • Cook 2-3 minutes uncovered, then 2-3 minutes covered (to prevent too rapid evaporation of the vegetables cooking water, and to preserve a little sauce). After these 4-6 minutes of cooking, remove the cover and turn off the heat. Add your handful of sorrel leaves, a little cilantro (the equivalent of 1 or 2 tablespoons), the asparagus heads cut in half lengthwise, and 1 spoon finely chopped chives. These delicate ingredients will cook with the residual heat.
  • Stir everything then arrange on the plates. Pour the remaining flavoursome cooking juices (there should be very little left) on your dishes. Finish by adding a little fleur de sel, a turn of the pepper mill and a veil of grated parmesan.
Treat yourself!
June newsletter Ragout-asperge-2nd pic

Bookish Corner

book
Once again, I have been royally entertained by some terrific authors. Here are two books I reviewed with a five-star rating.
Kathryn Occhipinti’s: Conversational French for Travellers
Many of us are hoping planes will soon switch places with armchairs for our travels. If France is on your future schedule, you might find this booklet useful. I wish it had been published when we set out on our adventures. It does exactly what it says on the cover, and I think it’s excellent. Click on the book image for the Amazon link.
Newsletter June kathryn book front
Lally Brown’s: The Volcano Montserrat and Me
Do you love adventures? I do. There can’t be too many people who have lived on an island with an erupting volcano. Lally Brown did. Her memoir gripped me from the first page, I highly recommend it. Click on the book image for the Amazon link. Or click here: https://bit.ly/35642MP
Newsletter June lally book
As a side note, I asked Lally if she had a particular favourite photo of the volcano erupting, I could use. This is what she said.

“I think this one, which I took seconds before racing inside to sit out the black blanket that descended moments later, raining pumice hammering on the roof, thick acrid ash in the air seeping in through the shutters… This ‘blackout’ lasted about fifteen minutes. I came out afterwards as the darkness lifted to find several inches of soft, warm, ash covering everything. On the plus side, we had a fabulous sunset the following evening! Ahhhh such memories.”

And here it is!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fat Dogs Snaps

Congratulations to Jim Setter, whose quote, “Meow, guess I overdid it on the catnip again!” won the caption competition.

Earlier this year, I got together with Victoria Twead, my wonderful editor and pal at Ant Press, to produce a photo album. The snaps, which I have never shared before, give you an insight on some of the domaines we visited during our house-hunting adventures, and the renovation work at Le Palizac. Many are linked to a quote from one of the Fat Dogs series. If you would like to have a look through, please click on the link below.
https://www.bethhaslam.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Beth-Photo-Book_compressed.pdf

In Conclusion

Deconfinement is creeping in like fresh air and with it an indulgent event for me. Sick and tired of my alarmingly dour salt ‘n’ pepper roots, it was a thrill to have my hair done.
Newsletter June hairdresser
The salon reeked of disinfectant, we all wore masks (my hairdresser managed two), and I was doused with hand gel as I entered. Excellent. For the next two hours, my hair gradually changed colour and locks were liberally snipped. It felt lovely. And did Jack notice the rejuvenated me? Of course not!

That wraps up this issue, thanks so much for reading it.



Hugs from France,

Beth - logo - cropped for newsletters
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