Monday, 27 April 2009

Ste Anne

Tuesday 7 April

The nice thing about having visitors (and there not being a strike on!) is that you are motivated to get out and about far more than you would usually. I am afraid we have become very much like the locals, taking the beach for granted and almost forgetting about it much of the time! But what a wonderful place it is, with fun and exercise and beauty for the youngest to the oldest, all for absolutely nothing! What's not to like?! (Apart from the salt and the sand of course. But that might just be me.)
It is definitely getting easier to go there now that our trio are a bit older, and to see the immense joy it gives JoJo to go running and splashing in the water before splatting the castles so carefully constructed is worth all the effort of getting our bags and bags of stuff ready (you wouldn't believe we were just heading off for a couple of hours) and all the rinsing, changing, sand in the car, washing etc etc.
The day sped by and our departure to Ste Anne was much later than planned, added to by that sad feature of Gwada Life, a lengthy traffic jam. However, the later you arrive the more chance of finding a parking space (the beaches were packed out all week due to it being school holidays) and the fewer the people on the beach. We also stayed late enough for a new experience for me - moonlight picnic on the beach! We watched the moonlight streaming across the water and gobbled down our hot potates (great suggestion for beach tea - warms up the coldest bodies!) before it got simply too dark to see them any more. Bertie kindly queued for our chi chis (with chocolate sauce - delicious!) and then we fumbled around in the dark hoping not to leave anything (or anyone!) behind. In fact, we actually made it home with an extra swimming ring!

La Cascade Aux Ecrevisses & Deshaies

Monday 6 April

In sharp contrast to the warmth of the Atlantic Sea was the freezing cold of the river, but equally enjoyable as we scrambled over rocks, sat on massaging pools of water (strangely like the spa at Archway pool!) and in CassCass' case, sat playing with and sipping the water! We feasted on a roast chicken collected on the way whilst admiring all the greenery of the forest.
Then we moved on along La Traversee, enjoying the scenery outsideand in
Our next stop was Deshaies where we enjoyed the scenery and watched incredulously as the girls bit by bit whipped off their clothes and made a somewhat unscheduled stop in the sea! Ah, to be young and free!

Our search for a good old cuppa was finally fruitful, in this elegant cafe by the sea. So what is BF's dad looking so glum about?
Just take a look at the bill. A good look.Yup, you did read that correctly. No need to hurry to the opticians. An astonishing €16.30 for 3 cups of tea and a can of Ordinaire. Including three jugs of (warm) milk for the princely fee of, gulp, €1.60 each! You can bet that we got the girls to drink every last sip of that milk! You can also bet that we will not be returning there again in a hurry!
On our way home, we stopped off at the viewing point to admire the curiously named Tete a l'Anglais and to wait for the sunset
Worth the wait!


Sunday 5 April

We were delighted to see our friends arrive safely on the Saturday evening. LissaLou and her BF were so excited to see each other that they lay in bed talking until past 10pm! (all the more astonishing, 3am UK time for BF!) And then they bounced out of bed as bright as anything far too early the following day - oh glorious jet lag! By lunchtime it felt that we had been up for an eternity!
However, we still found the energy to head off to the beach and we went for the closest, in the very touristy area of Gosier, which is only 15 minutes drive away. We had never visited this beach before, always going to a smaller one just before it, with a steep hike down rocks. This part of the beach is busier, but much more accessible (and most importantly well situated for buying chi chis, ummm!)
From the beach you get a great view of Marie-Galante, Les Saintes (picture on the right-hand side in the middle) and on a good day, Dominica. The bottom left is Ilet Gosier, which is perhaps 500m from the coast and popular for folk to spend the day or even swim to. There is a strong current going out but I guess that would work in your favour on the return. Another feature I love about this beach is all the boats, which add an extra something to the view.
Everyone had a great time in the sea and out on the sand, although having told our friends it was perfectly safe in Guadeloupe, we felt terrible when they got bitten by some random thing in the water! It cleared up though and all was fine. When we finally pulled ourselves away the sun was setting and our shadows stretching out into the distance.

Poisson d'Avril

We in the UK have April Fool's Day, actually only celebrated until midday. Here in France, they have April Fish, and pranks are allowed the entire day. Fortunately we weren't subjected to any. Bertie did however get an April Fish of his very own when he went fishing at La Pointe des Chateaux and then in Le Moule with a friend of his and his fishing-mad nephew that evening.
His sole catch, barang,* was described by his dad as the oldest fish in the sea! It is certainly reputed to be one of the boniest. In any case, he roasted it for our friends and we all appreciated it greatly!
*the creole name - no idea what it is in french or english

A Dream Fulfilled

Dreams are funny things. I constantly have them and many are the strangest things, several are scary and often all too real. But there have been a very few select occasions when I knew that the event in the dream would happen - like when Bertie's wallet mysteriously disappeared from our living room table one night. We wondered and wondered till our brains hurt what could have happened to it until a few months later I dreamt of finding it in our suitcase and lo and behold the next morning, there it was! (We had been unpacking after a trip away and can only assume some little fingers slipped it in there!)

So last night when I dreamt that some French friends of ours crashed Bertie's brother's car because they were watching tv on the sunblinds, of course I knew it was just a dream. But when I dreamt that the computer was mended I equally knew that it would be. And so did Bertie. And so it was! Bertie was chatting to his sister on the phone and mentioned the problem, so she passed over her super duper computer husband who hmmed and hahed and directed Bertie almost in a HelpDesk kind of way and hurrah, they resolved the problem! Do you know what it was? Apparently if you press a random selection of keys you get the computer into video mode (where it will play on another screen but not the original one). Well I never!

Of course, there is the big question of why it happened. Perhaps one of those little fingers was tapping away? In any case, I would also humbly suggest that God uses such moments as a teaching time (get off that computer! what, you won't turn it off? then I shall turn it off for you!) and so it is for me to apply that lesson even now it is back again. In fact, I have been rereading a beloved R T Kendall book, Pure Joy, and one of his favourite phrases is to "dignify a trial", that is, to welcome it and consider it pure joy, and to refrain from grumbling and complaining. Well I really really missed my computer, but what a wonderful opportunity it has been to put such a lesson into practice! However, I am delighted it is back and I can safely say there are plenty of other trials for me to dignify instead!

Plenty of photos from our Easter hols coming up, bit by bit!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Time For A New Computer?

I have been absent for a while....this was initially due to our being in the midst of a funpacked fortnight seeing the entire island and all its delights with LissaLou's BF and her parents and sister. Added to this housekeeping and cooking for 9 and entertaining five children, this hasn't left much time for anything else!

To give you an idea of our travels...
Sunday - (woken at 5am by the kids!!!) walk by the sea, church, beach at Gosier
Monday - Cascade aux ecrevisses, drive along La Traversee to Deshaies, then along the north part of the coast following the sunset
Tuesday - Visit to much more stocked Leader Price, beach at Ste Anne late afternoon with our hot potato tea by moonlight
Wednesday - LissaLou finally made it to the dentist (2 fillings, €72!), BBQ at Pika with Bertie's Bible study group
Thursday - Escaped the rain by driving to most furtherly eastern point of Guadeloupe, La Pointe des Chateau, then to the beach at St Francois
Friday - Easter activities at Pika (Bertie made an impressive Easter Garden based on an empty coconut shell!), made a sorbet in the evening
Saturday - Climbed the Soufriere (our volcano) - it took 5 hours (one for each child!) and my legs are still suffering!! We took the backpack for JoJo but CassCass gave up after a couple of hours so he was in our arms for the rest of the trip, ouf! Very impressive sight though, finished off by a very well-deserved hot thermal bath
Sunday - Eglise de maison, yummy lunch, well-needed 2 hour siesta!
Monday - More rain so Bertie took advantage of it to clean everywhere, then lunch was traditional Bebele and crab courtesy of Mamie. the boy have gone fishing at Le Moule and we are awaiting their return hoping they will be laden with fine things!

However, our latest computer disaster (will they ever end?!) is that the screen has gone kaput - the computer wioll turn on but you can't see anything for love or money! Sigh! So can't promise you will be seeing all my lovely photos of the above events in the near future!


Saturday, 4 April 2009

Bun Overload

I meant to put this in my last post and forgot, but Mum's post on LissaLou's birthday reminded me...

If you are a busy mum of three already overwhelmed with cooking, cleaning, caring for little ones etc, and (most importantly) you only own 10 very hard to clean bun holders, here is what not to bake for your eldest daughter's belated birthday celebration at school...

It seemed like such a good idea beforehand...but took all morning of slaving away, wasn't helped by me miscalculating the cake mixture and only making half the amount needed, and was only ready 3 seconds before LissaLou left for school in the afternoon! See, even the picture was taken in a hurry!

Next time I will make a cake.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

What We Have Been Up To

The past week has been punctuated by the electricity and water going off frequently - and usually not at the same time, so it has been almost impossible to use the washing machine. Bertie thought that the former was to do with a lack of resources to run the electricity since the strike, whilst the latter was the more mundane reason that there are so many leaks here (and we thought London was bad!). In any case, it is so normal now that we barely notice it, and just make sure that we constantly fill up our many bottles when there is water, and keep saving any documents on the computer in case it suddenly goes off.

I finally worked out how to reduce the size of my photos so I have much more space on the computer (I had to be very ruthless about what old photos and videos to keep!). It also makes uploading photos so much speedier, hurray!

Bertie brought home some more fruits of his labour. Vegetables rather. Yum yum!

There has been lots of rain surprisingly, but he is very glad about that for his garden's sake. It does mean that there are all these tempting pots of water to play with downstairs for the kids, but they know now not to go near them when Papy and Mamie are around....
Bertie made another of his cakes for his niece's birthday - delicious! I got her the third Narnia book and am hoping that she will lend it back to me when she has finished it!
Monday we went shopping and bought so much food! It is definitely a stocking up mentality resulting from the strike! In order to fit it all in the freezer, I had to get rid of all the ice - just look at how much there was. I must have lost half the capacity because of it!
Cleaning the fridge and freezer was part of my Huge Tidy Up plan before our guests arrive this weekend. Haven't got any further though, so I must get a move on!
Early one morning I saw my first cockroach in months, so I did the necessary and doused it in spray then WHACKED it, all without Bertie's help! I was relieved!
Today we went shopping for various items and came back with lots of goodies, including this, which the girls are thrilled about. Bertie just came back with a headache. Shopping and him don't agree!
Tonight he has gone fishing in St Francois with a friend and a brother. I am hoping he will come back with several kilos of fish!!
Oh, and my very kind husband gave me a lie-in this morning whilst he made the kids crepes. What a gem!

Plage du Bois Jolan

Sunday saw us out for a West Indian speciality - church on the beach! I was particularly looking forward to it as we were visiting a new beach for me, just a bit further on from our favourite of Sainte Anne.
I asked Bertie en route why he had never taken me there before and he shrugged and replied that it was just a flat beach. Well! Try telling that to half the Guadeloupean population and tourists alike who were there en masse that day! As we drove along off-road looking for a parking space (this is one of the few beaches where you don't park right next to where you swim) I was amazed at how long the beach was and how many cars there were already there. We were at the very far end where it was much quieter, but otherwise every single (and there were several) little picnic area had been taken over by huge groups equipped with tables, chairs, even electric motors and sound systems! These people take their Sunday picnic seriously!

This beach is particularly famous because at Easter it is where everyone goes for four days to camp, and the areas were already marked off and reserved. It looks like it would be quite an event, but not one I am desperate to experience as it must be manic. In fact, I would like to see the beach in the week when it is a bit quieter.

The other thing that struck me about Bois Jolan is that it is the nearest thing to a European beach that I have seen here. Yes, I can imagine that isn't the first thing on your mind as you look at these pictures of golden sand and coconut trees! But what I mean is it was long (usually they are pretty short) and the distance out to the sea was also long (usually the sand is a tiny strip and the sea straight away). In fact, as I went for a long walk along the beach with LissaLou (that in itself is an unusual thing) it felt just like walking along West Sands in St Andrews! Well, almost! LissaLou was delighted to enjoy her Mum's exclusive attention, asking if I had invited her along so we could chat together!
We were rather late so missed a lot of the service but enjoyed the picnicking (our quiche was meagre compared to the canaris (huge pots) of rice and meat that were brought out! Happily there was plenty to share. Especially as JoJo turned his nose up at ours and headed for the rice!)As I have said before, people are so well equipped here, with table and chairs and table cloths and everything you could possibly need! (One person told me her friend's church always brings a portable loo - now there's an idea....I hate bushes!)
Afterwards we took the girls and JoJo into the chilly sea. Whilst the main sea with fierce waves is very far out, there is a huge expanse of shallower water that was perfect for the children - at least, till I was warned about the ursin that inhabit it and give fierce stings! There were also bits of sand in it great for playing on.
The folk separated into their usual men and women groups, the one chatting, the other enjoying the Guadeloupean past time of dominoes. Bertie and his friend disappeared to try and find bernard l'hermitte for their fishing expedition this week but came back empty handed. As we finally left at dusk, there were still plenty on the beach and the party with the traditional gwo ka music was only just getting started...

Pictures from our walk - our picnic spot was right at the far end
And this picture really doesn't show how far on the beach went in the other directionI was fascinated by this coconut tree which had started life on a slant and then suddenly one day decided to grow straight!And just look at all the roots it takes to keep one of these standing! Amazing.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Family Photos

When I first came here 8 years ago I was shown through all the family photos which were scattered here there and everywhere with no evident order or purpose throughout various albums in different stages of decay. Oh how I longed to get my hands on them and order them!
Well now my wish has been realised! Mamie has let me loose with the photos and over the past months I have been ordering them bit by bit and trying to decide how to present them. Now I have purchased a large album, I have been able to get started - I decided to put them in date order as much as possible but it is not always clear when they were taken (or even who they were of! Usually Bertie is more reliable than his Mum but I feel like Colombo always asking him just one more thing...!). I am also trying to put in important dates (birthdays, marriages, moving country etc).
The early photos of the children's baptisms and religious celebrations (First Communion, Confirmation, Renonce) are the best and I have put a selection below. After that they are a real jumble - some photos I look at and wonder why on earth did they take this! But all in all I feel better acquainted with the family as a result and I hope that it will be helpful for other outsiders who come into the family.
So here with have Papy (age 16), Mamie (age 21) both bottom left and centre, Bertie's baptism (his sister is his godmother - marraine) and bottom left a selection of different siblings and their communions etc.

Our Kids

JoJo loves....dancing...putting things in boxes or tubs or water....splashing....climbing (the more dangerous and precarious the better)...yelling for you things....taking them back again....and giving you them again!....knocking over building blocks....

Here he is placing some objects in a pot with great precision and concentration!
LissaLou had her Conseil des Parents last Friday which I duly attended. I was not very impressed though, as it was all about targets targets targets and how they have got behind as a result of the strike (they are four and five years old!!!) so a week of the Easter holidays and the May half term as well as all school outings (including swimming) have been cancelled. Honestly! Don't they realise there is value outside of sitting at your desk and colouring pictures in? When we came out, another mum and I looked at each other in despair and asked "but when do they play?" They even want us to do workbooks at home to ensure the kids don't get behind!! Groan...
Here is a picture of our family

This is all fine for LissaLou as she loves these kind of activities but what about those kids who don't and would rather discover the world in a different way? I was also annoyed by the teacher telling us that one child has been promoted to the Champion's group (LissaLou's) for hard work - what is that telling those not in that group I wonder? And finally she told us that those in the Support Group were doing really well, especially LissaLou who has made great progress. Fantastic! Er, hang on, what support group? Nobody mentioned this to me! I discovered she has been seeing the Language specialist twice a week to enrich her French vocab (other children in the class are creole only speakers).
LissaLou learnt to draw a Poule from using her hand at school - note the ou sound that they learnt at the top in red.
CassCass comes out with the funniest things. This week she asked for a biscuit because "it is shouting CassCass at me!". When we discussed that we liked the same food, she told me "nous sommes copines Maman" - ah!

I can't believe how good her pen control is - presumably due to copying LissaLou in part. Her pictures of people are coming on well
And here is her writing (I think she was writing her name).

She likes to walk to school with LissaLou and me carrying LissaLou's bag like a proper little schoolgirl! She keeps telling me she has her own school too! At home it is lovely to see her and JoJo playing a lot more together (when she is not stealing his toys from him) and they provide each other with a lot of laughter. And CassCass' day is not complete if we have not had a Dora storytime!