Beth Haslam - logo amsterdam
Welcome to the latest edition of Fat Dogs News. I can barely believe that autumn has dawned in our part of the world. Mind you, lots has happened. Here is the list of regular features, which begins with a trip to the seaside.
  • Chez Fat Dogs
  • Fat Dogs Meme
  • Jack’s Latest Tantrum
  • Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates
  • Fun with French Property News
  • Recipe
  • Bookish Corner
  • Et voilà!

Chez Fat Dogs

I finally wore him down. Jack agreed to go on holiday to our beloved Capbreton. Whoopee! It was just for a week, but enough to have that much-needed ‘changer d’air’, change of scene.

We waved goodbye to the cats (who ignored us) and left an anxious Nathan in charge of Le Palizac. Aby and Max, our two Australian Shepherds, desperate not to be left behind, bounded into the car and started howling hysterically. It took a while to calm Jack down.
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Our aims were simple. Beach walks, relaxing in the sun and mooches around the old harbour. But Capbreton plans are quickly foiled. The weather can be capricious. Storms rage across the Atlantic in the blink of an eye, whipping up mountainous seas and barrel waves. It’s one of the reasons this coastline is so popular with surfers.
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Happily, this was the scene that beckoned us from the apartment balcony, and it stayed like that nearly all week.
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That beach was too inviting. I ditched the cases, left Jack to enjoy a coffee in delicious solitude, and took the dogs out for a session of their favourite beach game. Frisbee.
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Every day we played. As a famously bad thrower, my Frisbee-spinning prowess is haphazard at best. The dogs know this and eyeballed their discs, totally focused on trying to guess which way theirs might fly. Good luck with that.

Sometimes I got it right, but that fatal cry of, “Joli Collies!” from a kind passer-by couldn’t be ignored. Instantly distracted, I flung Aby’s in a random direction whilst yodelling, “Merci, mais ils sont des Bergers Australiens!” (you’ll guess the translation). Flummoxed, poor Aby had no idea where it had gone. I confess this happened several times.
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Our first evening dinner marked an oyster-eating bonanza. We love these molluscs and especially the Gillardeau variety. Farmed in Marennes-Oléron on the west coast, this Rolls Royce of oysters is so cherished that the farmers protect their authenticity by laser engraving every shell with a G. You can see for yourself by clicking on their website link below.
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https://www.maisongillardeau.fr/
Seafood prices were so favourable, we mostly followed up with the uber-healthy specialities of Moules-frites or lobster, and they were yummy.
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Now and again, buskers would appear while we ate. This scruffy pair may not have been world-class musicians; nevertheless, they entertained us royally! If you fancy sampling their dulcet tones, click on the YouTube link below.
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https://youtu.be/dz4ZF4h0p4k
Eventually, the dining carnivore in Jack got the better of him. He ordered a hamburger, which I must admit looked excellent. Others thought so too. This chilled-out place is very doggy.
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Canine bars are provided at every restaurant. Dogs are either parked under tables or popped into bags. Usually. Occasionally, a pint-sized sweetheart like the one below inveigled its way to the table. What a cutie!
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There are infrequent minor altercations, such as that awkward moment when a monster German Shepherd tried to drink Max’s water. Nobody seems to mind, so long as it doesn’t end in carnage.
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Having savoured the seafood, we decided to explore the fish market. During mild weather, it’s easy to forget how tough life is for these hardy folks. Every day they bring in fresh produce and sell it to lines of waiting customers. Folks come from all over to buy their catches.
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The marina behind has vastly expanded from its days as a whaling port. Now over 1,000 vessels can be berthed in its five protected basins. Pleasure boats, jet skis, ocean-going yachts and trawlers, the eclectic mix is a far cry from centuries before.
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While there’s always something going on in this seafaring place, one thing never changes on all but poor weather days. We watched them at dinner and admired them from our balcony. We just can’t get enough of the stunning sunsets in this magical place.
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And did the dogs behave? Well, there was that embarrassing moment when Max mistook the parasol pole for a tree trunk. Easily done. And then there was an unfortunate incident when Aby took fright at the man blowing monster bubbles.
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With no warning at all, she sprang sideways, directly into a passing lady, knocking the ice cream cornet clean out of her hand. It took Jack all afternoon to get over the shock.
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One last world-class sunset brought our holiday to a happy end. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we returned to a relieved Nathan and still-sulking cats. Dying to see the other animals, I completed my rounds, leaving our new baby pond until last. And guess what I found? I’m thrilled to announce that we now have resident frogs. Jack may be distinctly underwhelmed, but I think it’s a coup!
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Back to reality and I’ve made some technical changes to my monthly blog. From next month I’ll publish blog posts on my website. Although we can’t transfer existing Blogger subscribers, I’m hoping that you’ll find it easier to access all Fat Dogs information in one place. So if you’d like to receive notifications of future monthly blogs, please use the ‘Manage my subscription’ link at the bottom of this email and complete the tick boxes as directed.
In this month’s blog, I chatted with my lovely pal, Lisa Rose Wright. As it happens, the timing couldn’t have been better as she has just launched the third publication in her excellent memoir series. I had the pleasure of beta reading the book, and it’s an absolute delight. Click on the image of Lisa and her mum below to find out what she had to say.
Lisa and Mum in Galicia-50

Fat Dogs Memes

Every day this young gull perched on a street lamp close to the balcony of our Capbreton apartment. It had to be the same bird. Those knobbly knees (ankles, strictly speaking!) were unmistakable.
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Jack’s latest tantrum

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Jack’s 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...

The background.
It was our much-anticipated meeting at the Préfecture in Montauban. This government organisation carries out the work of the Ministry of the Interior, and today we had an appointment to sort out our residence cards. Jack went first.
(When reading what followed, do bear in mind that the French are sticklers for admin. And Jack is a stickler for precision.)

“Your name, please, Monsieur.”
“Jack David Haslam.”
“So, zis is ’aslam Jack David?”
“Haslam is my surname. It depends on how you want to present the information.”
“But I need ze name of your birth, Monsieur.”
“All these names were given to me at birth.”
“But which is your name?”
“It is Haslam, also known as a surname. And please don’t miss out the ‘H’. I do realise you don’t pronounce Hs, but I don’t want to be dealing with an incorrect entry when my card comes.”
“Sank you, Monsieur. So it is as I say. Monsieur ’aslam Jack David.”
“I live in hope of an H being included.”
“I see. [He didn’t] So now, Monsieur, please place your fingers on zis electronic pad, so we can record your prints.”
“Okay, pass the machine, please.”
“I cannot, Monsieur, ze cable is short. You must stretch.”

[The machine was a small scanner, and monsieur had to squeeze it sideways through a tiny gap in the security glass. Jack’s hands were too large for the available space.]

Monsieur, I am not getting a reading. You must plant your fingers ’arder on ze pad. Try again, please.”
“It would be much easier if you’d just give me the reader. I’ll try a different way.”
Monsieur, zis is no good. Now your hand is upside down.”
“Look, I was born with it this way up. It’s perfectly normal.”
“But I cannot accept upside down prints, Monsieur. You must try a new position.”
“Right, right.”
“Sank you, Monsieur, but now you have no sums.”
“What?”
“Sums, Monsieur, you are not recording any sums. You must repeat ze procedure.”
“Lord, give me strength. You need to be a contortionist to record these prints. I’ll have one final attempt, and if this doesn’t work, I’m giving up.”
“Hold still, please, Monsieur, we have a faint sum coming up on ze screen… Ah, yes, bravo, Monsieur, now we have both sums and all your fingers ze correct way around.”
“Oh, marvellous. If you’d lengthened that cable by an inch, we wouldn’t have had this trouble in the first place.”
“Inch, Monsieur?”
“Yes. Two point five four centimetres, to be precise.”
“Ah, yes, zee American system. Sank you, Monsieur, we are finished. Madame ’aslam Jack David? You now please.”

[And was the information on Jack’s card flawless when he finally received it? No. Ironically, the name was perfect. It was his date of birth that was incorrect!]

Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates

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Our hols enabled me to finish writing another chapter of Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates. Part of my tale recounts school experiences. The truth is, I never had much luck with the sciences. Was it due to a lack of natural aptitude or something else? This extract describing some of my teachers might give you a clue.
‘The sciences teachers were an intense lot. Mr Roberts lurked around his Victorian chemistry laboratory, hugging bell jars and lengths of dirty orange rubber tubing. He constantly recited chemical elements to himself and always seemed vaguely surprised to find a row of expectant pupils sitting in front of him.

Rather like her biology lab, Miss Whitby stank of formaldehyde. It was a gaggy kind of pong. She harboured dustbins containing strange sea creatures, part-submerged in the stuff. I’m pretty sure one was a dogfish, or at least had been. It has taken on an ambiguous form with a tail segment at one end and a few teeth at the other. I’ve no idea what happened to its fin. It wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

Miss Whitby delighted in strapping frogs to racks with pins and opening the poor creatures up. She was a neat worker. Intestines would be heaped in one pile, so revealing the heart and lungs. For anyone brave enough to witness the massacre, she had a poke around the remaining bits, explaining how they all functioned. The whole business was dreadfully grisly.’

A word from French Property News

French Property News October profile pic
Hot off the press from the top team at French Property News, here’s another mouth-watering article to get your itchy feet tapping.

Want to know why rural house price growth outpaces cities for the first time in France? Click on the link below to find out. I love these characterful properties!
https://www.completefrance.com/home/rural-house-prices-in-france-rising-faster-than-in-cities-1-6965339
Country house for sale in Gers with Compass Immobilier (1)

Recipe from France

Fresh from tending her garden, in this edition, Lindy Viandier, shares another of her fabulous culinary creations. I haven’t tried the dish yet, but I shall soon. It looks delicious!
Photo courtesy of Kate McGowan
(Photo courtesy of Kate McGowan)

Roasted Pumpkin Pasta

Hello everyone. Autumn is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, and the garden at Les Libellules has been taken over by giant pumpkins just begging for a Fairy Godmother to turn them into golden coaches. Last year we had three that weighed over 9 kgs each, and this year there are another three looking likely to top that, so one of my recipes using pumpkins is the obvious choice, and this one is bursting with autumnal colours and flavours.
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Talk of pumpkins also turns our thoughts to The Eve of all Hallows, commonly known as Halloween. Halloween or Toussaint (All Saints’ Day) in France is the 1st of November, and it is a national holiday. During the last week of October, pavements outside florists, general stores and garden centres are barely passible as they are crammed with large pots of chrysanthemums in an array of yellow, orange, purple, russet and white, contrary to the supermarkets being full of plastic pumpkins, witches hats, devil’s forks and broomsticks. Chrysanthemum plants are also sold at the gates of cemeteries, and families buy them to put on the graves of departed relatives, a custom which is very strongly observed, the origins of which lie in the Catholic ceremony to honour dead saints on this day.

Over the last few years, I have noticed more children getting dressed up and going from door to door with a bag for treats, but it is a very low key affair compared to the UK and USA.

The tradition of carving out a pumpkin to make a lantern to put in the window is also gaining popularity – and what better way to use the pulp from inside than to make a delicious pasta sauce…

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • A 15 cm wedge of pumpkin sliced into 10 wedges (skin on)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of Ricotta cheese
  • 150mls of vegetable stock
  • Olive oil for roasting
  • One clove of garlic crushed
  • A teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
  • salt, pepper, ground nutmeg and smoked paprika / cayenne pepper
  • A good handful of pine kernels
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve (optional)
  • Fresh basil leaves to garnish
  • Pasta for four people as required.
Being in Burgundy, I like to use ‘lumache’ (snail shaped pasta) but ‘rigatoni’ (fat tube shaped pasta), ‘conchiglie (shell shaped pasta) are equally good for trapping the sauce inside.

Method

  • Spread the pumpkin wedges on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast in a moderate oven (around 200 degrees) until soft, but not brown.
  • Allow to cool a little then transfer into a blender with the vegetable stock, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, nutmeg and smoked paprika and blitz until the consistency of a puree.
  • Add the Ricotta cheese and pulse to blend.
  • Put in a covered saucepan and keep warm on a low heat while waiting for the pasta to cook (if the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more stock).
  • Cook the required amount of pasta for four servings.
  • Gently roast the pine kernels in a non-stick skillet until lightly golden.
  • Pour the sauce over the cooked drained pasta and serve immediately with a sprinkling of toasted pine kernels, freshly grated parmesan and fresh basil.
This is a great simple lunch or light supper dish.
Bon appétit!
Lindy
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(Photo courtesy of Kate McGowan)

Bookish Corner

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I have been lucky enough to read several terrific memoirs recently, and here are two of the stars. In the first tale, readers join Simon Michael Prior on his quest to meet someone very special.
Simon Michael Prior: The Coconut Wireless: A Travel Adventure in Search of The Queen of Tonga (South Pacific Shenanigans Book 1)
This wonderfully entertaining book will take you on an unforgettable Pacific island escapade. You’ll be roasted by the sun, cooled by the sea, wowed by the jungle and woken early by raucous animals. And does the author achieve his dream to see the queen? You’ll have to find out for yourself!
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(Click on the book image or the link below to take you to the Amazon page.)
Smarturl.it/thecoconutwireless
My second featured memoir is entirely different in style and content. I was riveted from page one.
Victoria Twead: Dear Fran, Love Dulcie: Life and Death in the Hills and Hollows of Bygone Australia
How to describe this book? How about shocking, heart-warming, overwhelmingly gripping.

Letters exchanged between penfriends in different countries sounds mundane, doesn’t it? Far from it. These letters, presenting a unique insight into the harsh realities of farming life in Queensland, are utterly breathtaking.

I urge you to read the book, read it all. Weeks after I finished the last page, I still think about Dulcie, and I don’t think I will ever forget her.
Victoria Dulcie
(Click on the book image or the link below to take you to the Amazon page.)
https://bit.ly/3nqD9y8
As for future reading, we have Lindy Viandier’s debut memoir. It’s out on pre-release and already receiving rave reviews from advance readers. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Please click on the book image to access the Amazon link if you’d like to grab one too.
Lindy book-50
www.smarturl.it/LesLibellules1

Et voilà!

As the forest leaves begin to take on their own sunset tones, let me leave you with two final souvenirs from our holiday in Capbreton. It was another one of those heavenly evenings. The sun was relaxing over the Ocean as we dined, basking in its warmth.

Dauphines! Dauphines! someone shouted. Knives, forks, oysters were dropped as we crowded the sea wall, just in time to watch a pod of dolphins swim past. It was a magical sight. If you’d like to enjoy a snippet of what we saw, please click on the YouTube link below.
https://youtu.be/EcVMYfTRx4w
And it was against that orange-tinted backdrop that I spotted one man and his dawg.
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Thank you to Thierry (with the most magnificent curly moustache) for allowing me to share this pic of him and Pod. It sums up this wonderful place pawfectly.
Hugs from us all here in our little corner of France.
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