Beth Haslam - logo amsterdam
Welcome to the winter edition of Fat Dogs News, and brr, it’s starting to get nippy. Here’s the list of regular features, which ends on a decidedly Christmassy note.

  • Chez Fat Dogs
  • Fat Dogs Meme
  • Jack’s Latest Tantrum
  • Fabulous French Entrée
  • Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates
  • Fantastic France!
  • Recipe
  • Bookish Corner
  • Et voilà!
All sorts of fun stuff (well, Jack rants aside) has happened since my last update, and it began with an exciting arrival.

Chez Fat Dogs

Following the sad death of our ancient car last year, instead of replacing it with a diesel model, Jack invested in a hybrid. The car has been a revelation, enabling me to do the weekly shopping without using a drop of fuel. Result! Impressed by the technology, Jack decided to replace one of the quad bikes, also dead, with an all-electric model. Excitingly, it would be mine.
Bike arriving-2
We eagerly watched the lorry arrive, unaware that it came with two challenges. First, the nice Romanian driver didn’t speak a word of French or English, a minor point completely overlooked by Jack. And, as you’ll see, the bike came in a great big box.

With the aid of my phone auto translator, the driver told us that he didn’t have any means to unload the box, so could we do that ourselves? Still oblivious to the linguist issue, Jack had a one-way discussion with the man about the handiness of using transporters with tailgate lifts. The bemused driver politely endured the filibuster. When Jack finally fizzled out, the man, still clueless, said, ‘Da’. Luckily Nathan, our forester, came to the rescue. He attached the forks to his tractor and gently/nervously, because the forks were too short, removed the bike without it toppling over.
Bike and tractor
I tried to ask the Romanian man if he wanted some food. He said ‘Da’, so I made him a packed lunch anyway, and he left with a big smile. Now we had a brand new electric quad, and I was dying to use it. Not so fast!

Jack banned usage until he’d given the bike a thorough check. He finally released our new wheels, and we headed into the forest. It’s a marvellous machine; even fence-mending jobs are fun now. And can I get Aby and Max off? Rarely.
Dogs and bike-2
After the challenges of our summer-long drought, conditions slowly improved. Not much, but enough for Jean-Paul, who farms some of our fields, to prepare them for winter wheat.

During the process, he called to say his son would be preparing the soil for winter wheat seeding, and would I like some horse manure for my roses. He’d just had ten tonnes deposited on the verge. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I replied with a ‘Rightho’ and ‘Ooh, yes, please’ and got my barrow out. Jack appeared during my energetic muck-spreading stint. “With all that shit,” he observed, “your roses are going to be belters next year.” He’s probably right.
Alternative tractor shot
I watched Jean-Paul’s monster machine, armed with fore and aft kit, trundle by. As Michel executed yet another professionally-managed turn, he stopped and came over to say, ‘Bonjour!’ I couldn’t believe how young he was. Michel is still at school. As I complimented him on his driving technique and the sophistication of his mechanical equipment, he grinned, ‘Yes, it has air con and surround sound speakers in the cab, too. It’s fab!’ Yep, Michel is still a kid.
Michel and tractor-2
Everyone loves a happy ending, even grumpy Jack. Remember his rant about the roofers I shared with you in the last issue? Well, we were proved wrong. Almost.

Monsieur Bonnet did supply us with an enormous estimate for replacing the entire roof (because ‘the roof gradient is not acute enough’). However, he had the sense to give us a second estimate for the dormer window area and redecorating the apartment salle de bains. With no confidence at all (Nathan, still convinced he was a gypsy up to no good), we accepted the smaller quote.
courtyard mess-2
To our surprise, Monsieur Bonnet and his brother did a magnificent job both inside and out. And as an added bonus, he even bought our dead quadbike. Needless to say, Jack now thoroughly approves and has booked him to help with our next round of renovation works in 2023.
on roof-2
The hot weather hung on for ages. Still, the fresh sprinklings of rain gave the forest, our streams and the garden plants new life, and just last week, I spotted lots of hawthorn sloes. They’re burgeoning now, and I’m tempted to harvest a few for gin-making this winter.
Sloes
The higher temperatures mixed with showers brought out the best in the animals. Lots of late babies started appearing.
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Here is one of my favourites, and what a little sweetheart she is. Meet Madeleine, our friends’ gorgeous cria, now flourishing in the winter sunshine.
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Still on animals, and I recently made a fascinating discovery. The dogs and I were on a trek around our neighbour’s reservoir. A white splodge caught my eye. Intrigued, I investigated. To my surprise, I found that it was an albino ragondin (nutria/coypu). Apologies for the awful photo quality, but this will give you an idea of its appearance.
ragondin white 1-2
Even more interesting was the behaviour the others exhibited. If you click on my YouTube link below, you’ll see that as it entered the water, other ragondin surrounded the albino. One patrolled, keeping an eye on the dogs and me. This family was looking after their unusual youngster, which was a privilege to witness. I’ll continue to track its progress and share more photos if I get close enough without disturbing them.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoqHUvgIDF4
At the end of the autumn, I fulfilled another promise to myself. I’ve wanted to do this for ages. I went along to our wonderful neighbour’s apple farm for a behind-the-scenes tour. And, goodness, was I impressed! Click on this link to find out what happened.
https://www.bethhaslam.com/le-crunch/?utm_source=mailpoet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the-latest-post-from-fat-dogs-monthly-blog_36
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Fat Dogs Memes

Poor Aby, I thought she looked festive.
Aby meme use

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.
High-speed fibre Broadband internet had finally reached us and was due to be installed by a gentleman from Orange, and we were the last to be done in our commune. Bear this in mind when you read Jack’s rant.

Orange, awfully good at communicating, telephoned us, ooh, about eight times before the installation date. A technician arrived to have a recce, establishing technical requirements and the contract parameters involved. This took a while because several buildings were affected. Jack did the tour. Two days later, a different technician arrived. Same tour. This man assured Jack he would complete the work the following week. So, when a third man (who took ages to locate us) turned up on the appointed day, Jack was already crotchety.
Jack rant-2
Bonjour, Clement, well done for finding us, but Cyrille said he was coming back.”
Non, monsieur, this is not possible. But no problem, I will install your fibre cable very quickly. It will probably take about three hours.”
“I doubt it. Have you spoken to Charles about the job?”
“Cyrille?”
“Yes, him.”
Non monsieur.”
“Well, that was another episode in my life wasted, then.”
“Um, I do not understand, monsieur. Please tell me where I need to begin.”
“Right, come with me.”

[Jack took Clement across the road to the telegraph pole. Then back to the first garage, up the ladder into the cobwebby grenier for a root around. Back down and into the guardien’s house to have a rummage. Then, down the driveway to the main house and upstairs to the study. They returned sometime later. Jack was looking grumpier; Clement was looking flushed and dusty.]

Monsieur, the cable has to run a very long way.”
“I know, as do two of your other colleagues. I’ll let you carry on unless you have a different colleague who’d like the tour?”
Non, monsieur, it’s just me. I will begin.”

[Sometime later, Clement reappeared.]

Monsieur, I need some plastic conduit tubing. Do you have any?”
“Why do you need that?”
“I must protect the fibre optic cable on its underground route to the driveway access point. This is essential for our installation. And legally required.”
“So why haven’t you got any? Your van is full of cables. It looks like a snake pit in there.”
“Snake pit?”
“Never mind. You have lots of cables!”
“Ah, yes, monsieur, but not the right ones. I cannot continue without the plastic conduit tubing. And I need ladders, please. Your old walls are very tall.”
“I honestly don’t believe this. Right, come with me. Let’s go for another trek.”

[Clement was equipped and reappeared sometime later, looking a bit muddy. Don’t know why.]

Monsieur, I am here now.”
“I can see that.”
“I can install the fibre into your house, but there is a new problem.”
“What now?”
“Your walls are too thick.”
What?
“Your house, it’s very old with thick walls. I cannot get the signal to work through your walls.”
“I’d love to help, but I can’t make our walls any thinner. You’ve been installing these cables for months; you must have worked in houses like ours.”
“Yours is different, very thick walls, and your study is in the wrong place.”
“Where would you like it? Garden?”
Non, I don’t think so, monsieur, but what you need is un répéteur.”
“A repeteteter?”
Non, Un répéteur.
“Oh, a repeater. We have one.”
“It is no good. It will not work with your new Orange connection box, which I must install downstairs. Because of your thick walls.”
“Do you have a compatible repeater in your van full of useless cables?”
Non, monsieur. You must buy one from Orange or Amazon.”
“For goodness’ sake! You have been here nearly all day, you don’t have the necessary equipment, and now you’re telling me the installation won’t work without a repeater that you haven’t got either?”
“Yes, monsieur. But look, the box functions. A nice blue light. You will have excellent internet speed when you buy your répéteur. Although perhaps you might need two. Your walls are very thick.”

Postscript: Jack eventually calmed down and bought the répéteurs. We now have a much-improved internet system. Hooray!

Fabulous French Entrée

French Entrée logo
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in Paris? The team at French Entrée chatted to an American lady who did just that. Click on the link below to find out about the challenges and joys of living in one of the world’s greatest cities. As you’ll learn, Paris is strangely addictive!
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https://www.frenchentree.com/living-in-france/living-in-montmartre-paris-real-life-in-france/

Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates

Dragon fife
I’m thrilled to announce that the dragon has finally flown! Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates is now available on pre-order and will be published on the 12th of January.

The writing journey has been so much fun, allowing me to indulge in research and memories of adventures, cherished animals and learning experiences. Here’s how I have described my tales:

Imagine a land protected by craggy mountains, lapped by whispering seas, and guarded by mighty fortresses with bloody histories. This is North Wales, home to the legendary red dragon and my beloved birthplace.
Petulant ponies, neurotic sheepdogs and rabbits with razor-sharp teeth shape my life growing up on a farm estate. I’ll tell you tales of sailing the treacherous Menai Strait Swellies, site of many a dark happening. And you’ll learn about the stunning region whose slate once roofed the world, and the ghost-filled castle that became my home.
Mine was no ordinary upbringing. Croeso i Gymru!

If you’d like to discover more about my charmed childhood, please click on the book cover or this link to order your copy from Amazon:
https://bit.ly/Fat-Dogs-Prequel
https://bit.ly/Fat-Dogs-Prequel

Fantastic France!

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It’s that time of year again. Fancy learning all about Christmas in France? Here are some fabulous facts about the festive season. Click on this link from French Moments, and all will be revealed.
https://frenchmoments.eu/christmas-in-france/

Recipe from France

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Like my bestselling author pal, Lindy, I hate waste, and the recipe she has kindly shared with us is an inspired way of using leftovers!

Lindy's Curried Chicken and vegetable pie

Lindy pie 2
Christmas is a time of plenty. It can also be a time of waste as many of us tend to buy, cook, not to mention eat, too much food.

Here at Les Libellules we have practically zero wastage on food as I am an expert of making something out of nothing…

We’re fortunate that we have our own potager (vegetable garden), so I can pick leeks, fennel and potatoes as I need them. We haven’t had much success with Cauliflower and carrots though, so I bought these at the local market. Cauliflower is very expensive in France, and seen as a bit of a luxury at Les Libellules, making it even more important to use every scrap.

This pastry topped mild curry dish is the perfect way to use leftovers from your Christmas dinner to make a tasty Boxing Day supper. I used leftover chicken and vegetables, so had no need to pre-cook them, but I’m going to give you the recipe from scratch and you can adjust to suit what you have at hand.

Wishing you all the best of the season.
Ingredients
(serves two generously on its own, or four if adding another serving of veg or potatoes)
  • 1 chicken breast diced into 1cm cubes
  • 1 medium potato diced into 1cm cubes
  • 2 small leeks finely sliced (I like smaller leeks as more of the green stem is usable)
  • 1 small/medium fennel bulb finely sliced
  • ½ a small cauliflower broken into tiny florets
  • 1 medium carrot diced into ½ cm cubes
  • 30g of light olive/vegetable oil
  • 30g butter
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of corn-flour (corn-starch)
  • 1 dessertspoon of mild curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon of dry white wine (optional)
  • 200ml of whole milk
  • 100ml of single cream
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh / 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A shake of white pepper
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 280 g pack of ready rolled flaky pastry
  • 1 litre casserole dish (4 cups)
Method
  • Gently sauté the chicken in some of the olive oil over a low heat until cooked through but not brown and remove from pan and set aside.
  • Gently sauté the leeks and fennel in the same manner and set aside with the chicken when softened.
  • Cook the carrot, potato and cauliflower in lightly salted water until tender, but keeping their form.
  • Melt the butter over a low heat in a saucepan and add the cornflour and curry powder to make a smooth paste.
  • Remove from the heat and add the white wine to loosen the paste.
  • Add the milk a little at a time, mixing well with a wooden spoon to avoid lumps.
    Continue to whisk with a hand whisk and add the cream.
  • Season with fresh or dried tarragon, salt and white pepper to taste.
  • Cut the flaky pastry into a shape slightly larger than the casserole (you can freeze what remains to use another time).
  • Pour the mixture into the casserole and cover with the pastry lid, make two incisions to allow the steam to escape.
  • Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and bake in a moderate oven (190 C / gas mark 5) for around 35 minutes or until top is risen and golden.

Bookish Corner

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Have you got your Christmas reading sorted out? If not, I have suggestions! Here are two super memoirs I recently read. The first is a Spanish upping sticks adventure, and the second takes you on a European tour in a decidedly dicey bus!
Liza Grantham
Mad Cows and Englishmen: at large in Galicia (Mad Cow in Galicia Book 1)
Having tired of endless sunny days, sandy beaches and jobs that no longer excite, the author and her husband decide to try a different way of life. And to achieve their ambitions takes guts and determination.
Their decision to move from tame Gran Canaria to Galicia, possibly the wildest and woolliest region of Spain, may seem ironic, but they have a plan. Having fallen in love with the Galician rustic lifestyle, they buy an old farmhouse filled with charm and as many quirks as the villagers in their new hamlet.
I love the author’s candid writing style, love that she embraces all that Spain offers, and admire her fluency in the language. Each chapter, which contains a beautifully penned poem, highlights her literary versatility. I giggled, gasped and smiled throughout this terrific off-beat memoir. And to my delight, I find it is part of a series. I can’t wait to start reading book two!
https://www.bklnk.com/B08NTMF38M
(Click on the book image or the link below to take you to the Amazon page.)
https://www.bklnk.com/B08NTMF38M
Robyn Boswell:
Nine Weeks on a Shaky Bus: Four naïve Kiwi girls learn the world
Inspired by her intrepid aunt, New Zealand lass, Robyn, is grabbed by the travel bug. She and her friends hire an old jalopy and set off to explore parts of Australia. With a car that’s falling to pieces, it’s character-building stuff. Undaunted, they take the big step and set sail across the oceans to join a budget coach tour of Europe. And this is where their great ’70s adventure begins.
This wonderfully entertaining tale is packed with fun, interesting facts and warmth. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be singing, ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday’ most of the way through! I loved the book.
https://www.amazon.com/Nine-Weeks-Shaky-Bus-na%C3%AFve-ebook/dp/B09XKZC7QG/ref
(Click on the book image or the link below to take you to the Amazon page.)
https://www.amazon.com/Nine-Weeks-Shaky-Bus-na%C3%AFve-ebook/dp/B09XKZC7QG/ref

Et voilà!

We may not have snowflake carpets and icing sugar-covered trees at the moment, but the spirit of Christmas is here.
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Villages with cheery, intermittently working lights welcome inhabitants, friends and neighbours.
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Towns are dressed in festive clothes, beckoning shoppers to stay awhile.
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We have jubilant carol singers whose French accents improve an old favourite no end.
Carol singers-2
And we have the traditional Christmas markets, which I love. I’m never sure whether it’s because of the goodies on offer, the centuries-old settings, or that steaming beaker of vin chaud (milled wine) that warms our hands. These snaps will give you an idea of what happens at these timeless country events.
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Whatever you have planned for Christmas and the New Year, Jack and I wish you the best festive period and our heartfelt thanks, as always, for your fantastic support. We’ll be snuggled here in our blissfully cosy home with Aby, Max, the cats and assorted animals, and family on the way. It’ll also be plotting time for me.

Having spent this year ‘in Wales’, I have French tales stacked up and ready to share. I’ll start writing Fat Dogs and French Estates Part 6 very soon, and I can’t wait!
Christmas All books from me
Hugs from us all,
Beth - logo - cropped for newsletters
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