|Coffee and croissants in Chef-Boutonne
Au revoir January
We have reached the last Sunday in January and I’m ready to bid it au revoir. Looking back in my diary I can’t quite believe what we have managed to fit in, although I guess being busy has helped the time pass quickly.
The January weather has treated us a bit of everything. We guessed the ferry crossing to Dieppe was going to be rough when we found a plentiful pile of sick bags in our cabin. It was a cacophony of booms, groans and creaks, rattles, crashes and lurches, but surprisingly calm cocooned in the dark of the cabin. The closer we got to France, the calmer the water and my mind. Back home, we’ve had torrential rain that left fields and ditches flooded and overflowing, hurricane Gérard who blew in with gale force winds of 100km/hour, and a week later, snow heavy enough to settle, although it didn’t hang around for too long. The only thing we have been missing are the cold and crisp days with blue skies and sunshine – our favourite winter days.
This year we are planning some sparkling adventures to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary, but can we succeed in getting away at least once a month for a cycling mini break? The maps are out, our Bromptons are fully loaded, and we plan to use them - with at least one cycle tour every month, whatever the weather, that must include at least one night away and at least one hundred kilometres of pedalling. Having spent three weeks in the UK over Christmas and New Year, we wasted no time in ticking off January’s challenge with a three night, one hundred-and nine-kilometre getaway in Bath and Bristol at the beginning of the month. We were blinded by bright sunlight on our way into Bath, soaked to the skin the following morning, tossed around by a stiff coastal wind in Portishead and cycled up lanes flowing like a river, but I can’t think of a better way to have started the year. It certainly beat what was waiting for us on our return to France.
The French health service is big on screening and now I’m in my (early) fifties, I’m on their lists. Last January it was the mammogram and ultra-sound, followed by a recall, as nothing is ever normal with me. Thankfully in March, after a bit more squishing and poking, I was given the all-clear. Before Dad was diagnosed with liver cancer, he’d had some polyps removed from his colon. Our doctor was adamant that this meant there would be no bowel cancer self-test to post off for me, so I was sent directly to a gastroenterologist and a colonoscopy was booked. Life got a bit hectic towards the latter part of last year, so I rearranged my October appointment, for January. What kind of idiot puts their bowel under scrutiny following three weeks of festive indulging with family? That would be me.
Within a week of returning home, I was following the dullest diet imaginable, avoiding all the foods I was craving, fruits, nuts, chickpeas, lentils, vegetables. It was almost more of a struggle to stomach than the cocktail of laxatives that was dinner the night before the proceedure, almost. I’m delighted to report my colon is in tip-top condition, scoring 9/9 on the Boston Bowel Preparation Scale, and there were no pesky polyps to deal with. I’m now the proud owner of a fab set of colour colon photos too, but I won’t share them here.
It was a relief to get it over and done with, especially as we’d not met up with Ed and Pearl, or any of our local friends, to reduce the risk of catching covid. Ed came home to cook for us the day of the colonoscopy (isn’t he lovely), and this week we spent an evening with them in Poitiers, watching him perform at a music school event ‘Chansons d’un Soir’. You have no idea how proud I was, watching him playing the guitar and singing, switching effortlessly from French to English and back again.
Last weekend we belatedly celebrated Christmas with our friends, dining out at a local restaurant and following that with an afternoon of fun and games. Research suggests that in order to keep our brains active and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, socialising with friends, playing games, reading and writing are just as important as lifestyle choices of regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation. Seeing as we cycled to the lunch, which was delicious and sensibly portioned, I think we ticked all the boxes there.
We have also slipped back into the comforting routine of cycling to Chef-Boutonne for the Saturday morning market. It’s not the vibrant, bustling event of the summer, but the fresh air, rosy cheeks and meeting friends for coffee and croissants makes it the perfect way to start the weekend.
The sun is shining today, so my fingers are crossed that February will be welcomed in with crisp, clear sunny days to put a smile on my face.