The Little French English Improvement Project

little french person trying to improve her english, little french english person trying to improve herself, french english person trying to improve a little bit… and blogging along the way. (Now in Deutschland)

Posts Tagged ‘cold’

Cure for all ills

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on February 25, 2013

Some of you might have heard me say that carrot cake would cure anything, even political despair. Give them cake, right? Chocolate cake, Frau Boxler’s mocha cake, macaroons etc would take care of the rest. But recently I have driven around the countryside with my grandad in tow and now I know better. You see, although I still don’t have a driving licence (at 25; shocking I know), I can drive when accompanied by an adult who knows how to drive. Never mind that I feel safer with Papy sitting in the passenger seat where I can see him than if he were driving himself.

IMGP9282So anyway, in order for me to acquire experience of driving along narrow winding roads with a rockface on one side and a ravine on the other, we go together to visit his friends from way back when; old grannies and grandads who went to school with him, or sat next to him and my grandma on coach trips to Lourdes or somewhere. Nowadays they sit around their front rooms wrapped up in shawls and scarves, waiting for winter to be over. We have long conversations about the weather, the war, farming, and grandchildren like myself who should really be looking for a husband and produce offspring. Someone heats up coffee in a pan on a wood-burning stove, which we drink from worn out bowls or cups or glasses. As the conversation goes on, an old bottle is brought out of a dark cupboard and someone will ask, or rather state: “You’ll have a little drop, won’t you.” “Une goutte”, a drop, “of eau de vie” of course. My grandad chuckles and protests, just a bit.

The bottle itself if usually a little sticky and dusty; it has been kept in there for so long. The stopper never quite fits, so there’s an accumulation of “stuff” round the neck of the bottle – you don’t really want to know. Sometimes, as a conversation piece, there’s a pear floating around in there (my grandfather’s godfather put that in there), or a stick, an articulated wooden doll, or even a snake or two. Someone explains: it’s quince, pear, plums, marc de raisin or some other fruit, and you have to take their word for it because really, you could not tell the difference. Either it tastes like pure alcohol and will burn your tonsils off, or if you’re lucky, it tastes of sugar. If it has any flavour at all, it will be of coffee because it is poured straight into the warm cup or bowl you’ve been using, even if you have explained that you’re supposed to steer the car all the way home and it’s getting dark. “Come on. Just a drop. It can’t do you any harm.”

Because whatever the shape and size of the bottle, the percentage of alcohol or sugar and which members of the extended family were involved in the distilling process, it’s good for you. So far, it has been recommended to me as an aid to digestion, a cure for the runs, the solution to headaches (hair of the dog perhaps), and as a panacea for all coughs, sneezes, tickly throats and bad colds. For internal and external use. If you have a sore throat and a runny nose, imbibe cotton wool in eau de vie and tie it around your neck with a scarf. That should sort you out. And make you smell like an alcoholic.

Well I spent hours outside in the cold over the past few days, shovelling never-ending piles of snow from the yard, and although my many layers of clothes made me look like the Michelin man, I got the sniffles. Maybe I should try the “goutte” remedy. But Mam went to the chemists today and bought some Fervex. Just in case.


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A rapidly evolving situation

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on February 3, 2012

Over the past few weeks I must have started writing half a dozen health-related blog entries. Typical subjects were:

Three days and a lot of medication later: massive improvement

  • having the sniffles
  • having the sniffles and a headadache
  • surviving a first day at work on throat lozenges
  • waking up buried under mounds of used up hankies
  • comparing tonsils with aggressive difformed little jellyfish recently discovered by R. Attenborough
  • unsympathetic doctors
  • the uselessness of homeopathic medication
  • oh, the homeopathic stuff does seem to be doing something…

And all of these just wove in and out of each other. Not enough time to finish one paragraph: whatever I had written five minutes earlier would no longer be relevant ages before I got that far. It was a rather busy week. And it all eventually culminated with me writhing on my bed at 5 in the morning covered in angry red blotches, trying not to scratch and just shaking incontrollably whilst waiting for the on-call doctor to get extra-medicine from his practice.

My very first allergy! How exciting! I would love to linger on and tell you all about it, about the inadequacy of of the the verb “to itch”, about tiredness and recurring eczema and nice mad doctors, fairytales, medical students, ointments creams tablets and drops… BUT I am now quite far behind in my revision “plan” and exams are looming ever nearer. So I’ll just leave you with this lovely picture from last week and a suggestion for low-budget horror film makers. You know, if you need a good zombie look.

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Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 16, 2012

Yes I will be talking about the weather.

We had the most amazing sunshine today, a proper crisp winter day that just felt lke a proper crisp winter morning, only played over three times in a row. The light held its slanty sharpness, the grass stayed white until evening come. It was sunny but I could not feel it, just see it ; the warmth of it was swept away by this tiny wind before it had time to settle on my cheeks. Nevertheless it was comforting standing there on a frozen puddle, loooking at the light through the branches, through my eyelashes, through my eyelids, and thinking how I could use all this in terms of blogging.

And then I got home and settled down to write, full of cold thoughts and frosty ideas (and it had nothing to do with a t-shirt wearing tiger) when our neighbour came knocking; her heating did not seem to be working, was ours? After we do all share one boiler. We went down to the cellar and sure enough: no huff, puff or other heating-related noise was to be heard. Only thing that was working: the wireless connection to the outside thermometre, indicating -1ºC (now -4). Handy.

Extra blankets anyone?

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What? Presents? What presents?

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on December 14, 2010

And yet again a small bit of eternity seems to have happened since the last time I wrote. Where does all this time come from, where does it disappear off to, and will I ever learn? And it’s not that I haven’t spent enough time in front of the computer or that I didn’t have time to spare. I have been doing precious little these past few days apart from coughing, sleeping and studying (in decreasing order). That little niggle I had, tickling the back of my throat last week has turned out just about as bad as it could have. I went to a doctor’s on Tuesday, and since I had a cough, he gave me cough treatment. So far so good. But he didn’t know me and my history. So it just got worse and worse. I think I reached the lowest of the low on Friday. The plan had been to get a train at about 2:30pm, then someone would pick me up and drive me to our usual doctor so he could pump me up with medicine and make me get better. Which he did eventually. But Friday lunchtime as I sat on my backpack in the freezing, draughty railway station in Clermont-Ferrand, fighting to keep my lungs inside my chest, all trains canceled because of an unexplained, unannounced strike, I felt I would never get there. In the end, my lovely dad came all the way from home to pick me up. At least he had no difficulties in finding me despite the station being so crowded: not only could he hear me a mile off, but people were giving me a wide berth. And apparently they were right: Docteur Pascal told me later on I was highly contagious… I hope I haven’t contaminated too many people (apart from my cousin Celia in England apparently – though how my germs reached her from my library all the way to her bay window desk in the north of England, I haven’t the faintest idea.)

But let’s talk about something else. I have literally spent the last week and a half thinking, talking, worrying almost exclusively about this and I DON’T LIKE IT! I am getting better though, thanks to a lot of cortizone, so maybe it’s time I changed the subject and wrote about something else that I’ve had to postpone so far… like Christmas presents! As you may have read in my “Books” post, I already have a couple of ideas for my own presents list (Maybe someone will have noticed?). However, being a very naughty, self-centered selfish girl, I have not yet even started on buying presents for other people! Oooops… It’s all the weirder since normally, I love buying presents for my friends and family (maybe partly because it means I can afford it). Normally I start looking out for stuff around mid-October, and I go through a series of ideas for each and every single person on my list until I have settled on what I believe is the best possible pressie. Well this year I suppose I’ll just have to follow my first intuition. I already have a couple of ideas. Of course I won’t write them here though. It is highly unlikely that anyone concerned by this Christmas’ present-making will ever read my blog, but why take the chance?

So it would seem I am going to have to be organized and effective… *crestfallen sigh*… This is so not me. I love wandering more or less aimlessly about town before Christmas, searching for ideas and criticizing the festive/extravagant/rubbish festive window setups, all lit up and tinsel-strung. But I have to admit, what the weird contradictory little person in me loves most of all is walking around the cold darkening streets, just waiting for all the illuminations to light up. And just when your nose starts to feel like it’s  about to fall off, stepping into a clothes-store and getting hot air blasted into your face by the gigantic automatic blowers they sometimes have right behind the door. Or walking into a chocolaterie, knowing full well everything in there is far to expensive, but taking all the time in the world to browse and look at every single one of those amazing chocolate/orange/nut/gold/caramel/roast/melting/spectacular/crunchy/round/square/star-shaped/dark/white/milky/bitter/sweet pieces of edible wonder, and maybe buying just the one truffle for yourself. (But shhhhh… don’t tell anyone about it!)

I must write a post entirely about chocolate…

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Write a post about how much you like winter and catch a cold. Typical.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on December 3, 2010

hopefully the cure to my cold...

Now, I have to admit. I got a little carried away on Tuesday. The first glimpse of snow always makes me go a wee bit mad. But I slipped on a patch of ice this morning on my way to Uni, fell on my backside and saw the light. What was I thinking? Winter is cold. Winter is wet. Winter is the time when every single person in the hemisphere gets a runny nose, accidents multiply, and the weather becomes so bad it precedes murders, wars and disasters on the evening news. And yet it’s sooooo pretty!

Actually I would probably still be enjoying it if it wasn’t for a bad cold and all the germs I have been carrying around since the weekend. I normally fly over the ice and skid around joyously. I love snowball fights and making snow-angels and snowmen. A couple of years ago I slid on a sledge and it was heaven. But it will probably be the death of me in the end. I am a natural-born germ catcher and I don’t tend to do things by half. When I get a cold, it usually degenerates to the point I end up feeding exclusively off cough medicine and breathing in puffs from various inhalers for weeks on end. I HATE it!

I think what caused it this time was going holly-picking last weekend. I was wearing a woolly hat, a thick jumper with a high collar, a scarf, mittens, a coat, two pairs of socks and wellingtons (along with the usual assortment of ordinary clothes, underwear etc)…. Retrospectively I must have looked a bit like the michelin man; with all those layers it’s even a wonder I could lift my arms above my head to reach the branches. But still I got the sniffles. Had I known, I wouldn’t have bothered; it wasn’t even that cold. And since I’ve come back to Clermont, I’ve been trying to do some damage control. But it may have been too late. I’m on the threshold of descending through the seven circles of my usual hypochondriac hell. Even as I sit here wrapped up in a warm fleecy blanket in front of a chick flick drinking herbal tea laced with something called “fervex” (to take care of the runny nose and headache) I wonder about this itch at the back of my throat… Should I not resist the urge and cough? Or shall I give in to paranoia: will that one little cough be the camel back-breaking straw which will irritate my throat to the verge of bronchitis?

(Ironically as I am writing this Cameron Diaz is sprinting towards Jude Law across snow-covered fields with a very deep V-neck and a proportionately very small scarf. I hope she gets a cold) Anyway, a bit of honey in the already weird-tasting mixture should help with the tickly throat. After that, straight to bed. Night-o.

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♪♫♫♪♪Well the weather outside is frightful…

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on November 30, 2010

Or so most people seem to think. This is where my weirdness shines through once more: I love snow! Is winter my favourite season? Hmmm, I don’t know for sure, but it is certainly a time when get to do a whole load of things I absolutely love! Going into the woods looking for the perfect christmas tree. Coming back home after a walk and warming your hands on a hot cup of tea (I even like that sensation when you suddenly recover a sense of touch and your skin burns  and itches). Snowball fights. Walking in the woods and shaking branches over people’s head to make them look like snowmen. Finding a patch of pure white snow and walk across it just for the sake of turning around to look at your footprints… And there are also so many indoorsy things to do as well: cooking and baking christmassy stuff that fill your house with the smell of spices and citrus fruits, decking the halls with boughs of holly (tralalalala lalalala)… And sitting snug and warm in an armchair sorting through the remaining Quality Street chocolates looking for something other than “strawberry cream”, and peeping through the curtains every now and then to say: oooooh what a dreadful weather!

But snow is really what turns it all into winter (and therefore pre-Christmas time). Everything that happens before the first snowflakes start falling is just preparation. Mise en place. Last weekend for example I made traditional mincemeat (for people who don’t know what it is, you’ll get an explanation further down), and stored it into jars. And I left it at that. But now… I feel like making a bit of pastry, bringing out my muffin tray and get cracking. And with that I’ll have a glass of mulled wine, please! The perfect winter snack: mince pies, a tangerine and mulled wine. Mmmmhh!

Over that same weekend I also went out into the woods to get some holly, ivy and fir branches to make the advents wreath. With the leftovers (and I had quite a lot of them) I also made a nice wreath to hang on the door of my flat. And at first I did wonder: “is this too early? Am I turning into one of those people who start decorating waaaay to early, so early it’s almost ridiculous?” But then today it snowed. And somehow it’s enough to justify Christmas decorations.

Soooo… Mincemeat and mince pies (Google kindly informs me they are known in America as mincemeat tarts..) I hadn’t planned on explaining them at first but it occurred that my french friends wouldn’t know what I was going on about, so a quick description is in order.  Basically mincemeat is a mixture of fruit(dried, candied and fresh), sugar, spices and BRANDY, and you use it as a filling to make mince pies. It is absolutely lush. I usually use Mrs Beeton’s traditional victorian recipe, with a couple of so-called improvements, which end up a bit like this:

200g chopped suet/ 150g raisins/ 200g sultanas/ 200g glacé cherries/ 200g crystallised ginger/ 200g chopped candied peel/ juice and rind of 1 orange and 2 lemons/ 200g apples, peeled and grated/ 250g soft brown sugar/ 250ml brandy, 1tsp each of dried ginger, cinnamon, mixed spice. (not fixed, you may add in or omit what you like)

Mix it all up in a bowl. Cover and leave for two days, stirring occasionally (this prevents it from fermenting later on), and then store in jars. If you want to be sure it’ll last, you can boil the jars afterwards to seal them.  Like most of Mrs Beeton’s recipes, this one could probably feed an entire victorian household (including the downstairs staff). But because it keeps so well (being only fruit, sugar and alcohol), you can keep it from one year to the next. Not that it happens on a regular basis though, I’ve never had difficulties using it all up. I love making traditional english Christmas recipes. And if ever another french person tells me this winter that it is oxymoronic to talk of english cuisine, I’ll just stuff a mince pie or tow into their mouths. It’ll have the double advantage of shutting them up, as well as proving them wrong and spreading the good word. Yay!

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