Abstain from alcohol and bread for an entire month…A whole month of sobriety and shaking our heads when Natalie asks if we want bread today in the village shop? Not possible we thought. Dry January is finally coming to an end at la gare de Sos and we actually did it – JOB DONE! With the help of friends in Sos who also gave up the bread and the booze and joined us for weekly walks we have completed the challenge for the first time. The results – we’ve both lost some weight – Lee has actually lost the most out of our little group, A-Star awarded – and Tracey has done more exercise and feels physically fitter. We should probably consider that our livers have had a de-tox too so that’s got to be a good thing. Conclusion – It just wasn’t pleasant, not having the wine with meals and forgoing the bread. Some days, Tracey was proper miserable and when the floods and cold temperatures came towards the end of the month, we both looked longingly at the Pen Deryn whisky and the bottles of red. Our non-alcoholic substitute, local organic apple juice was enjoyable but not gratifying in the same way as a glass of wine. I suppose what we have realised is that we were gorging and gobbling far too much on delicious fresh bread and other lovely patisserie goodies – having a whole baguette with every meal, plus a croissant or a pain aux raisin every time we passed a boulangerie – and this over-eating really should change if we want to stop expanding. It might change, it might not. I don’t think we’re about to go on a booze binge either (well, maybe a little one) but the alcohol abstention was really, really difficult. Suffice to say, Tracey has the bottles of red lined up, ready for February and thanks to our generous Cornish friends Christmas parcel – we have 8 Cadbury’s Double Deckers awaiting!
Running out of butter was always the one item that forced me to go shopping to an actual supermarket but I’ve had a whole month where I haven’t needed to buy any butter and I guess that has contributed to the weight loss as well. We’ve made and enjoyed lots of vegetable soups this month – it turned into a hot-soup-sort-of-month weatherwise and we managed without chunks of bread with thick lashings of butter so hopefully we can keep this healthier choice up. So, to celebrate the back end of Dry January, we’re off to our local Bistro for a “Soirée Tartiflette” on Thursday 2nd February – hurrah indeed. If you don’t know this mega-mountain dish, look up the recipe because it’s really worth making during the winter months – a Savoy French Alps dish made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons, onions and white wine. Eat it on an appetite with a crisp side salad and a crisp Savoie wine to match – perfect. Reblochon is a great creamy melting cheese but I’ve made my own versions of Tracey-flettes (food purists, look away now) – with Super-U’s cheapo cheese triangles and enjoyed them just as much! Pictures of the real deal next month. (The recipe I followed when I first made this dish was from Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen cook book – page 37 is covered in smudges of cheese fat)
The only one in the group not to lose a bit of weight was Daphne – who is approaching her tenth birthday and has turned into a little barrel. Odd because she’s had more exercise this passed month but we think it’s just her middle age spread. She’s very happy.
See the photo of our New Year’s Eve last blow-out before the B-Minus (No Bread, No Booze) diet commenced – what a lovely afternoon we had with a roast dinner and a chocolate yule log from a cake shop in Mezin, followed by hand made chocolats. These are the friends doing the diet with us and we also hooked up for a weekly support session in the bar on Wednesdays and to plan our Thursday and Friday dog walks which were enjoyed by the two & four legged participants. It just looks like we’re having a picnic in a carpark I know but the photo is after a 1 1/2 hour walk around Lac de L’Uby, with a flask of tea and a couple of biscuits and some local prunes. The well behaved dogs in the background are Tui, Turbo & Bijou. Spot the spoilt pooch of the group!
What a long month it’s seemed and we’ve had some right mixed weather – starting off all sunny and ending bitterly cold with a flood in the middle. On 6th January, we had afternoon tea on the platform watching Clarence curled up in the sun, in our t-shirts and on 17th Jan we were watching the river Gelise rising over at The Pump House, running to find our wellies to rescue two garden chairs from going up stream. The bird table didn’t fair so well and ended up at Poudenas. Notice how the sky changed from blue before lunch to grey in the afternoon – it went all downhill from then – we had some sleety snow, the road flooded and was closed for a day and it got horribly cold until now. Fortunately, the February forecast is “mostly sunny” – good! See the pictures of the waters rising and then the lovely golden sand that gets left behind on the river bank when the waters recede. And there’s a gallery of January sunny day photos where we had the most beautiful clouds and the blue sky that we’ve got used to (and miss terribly when it’s glum) as well as some curious goats that belong to our farmer neighbour Francois. The rain & bit of snow has at least re-filled the irrigation lakes around here which were all dried up after last summers drought. See “the lakes” down the old railway line which will be full of frogs in a couple of months – they were bone dry in December. Also see the not so brilliant photos of the deer that have evaded the hunt and have been regularly visiting the garden if you can make them out – we can’t get too close because they just bolt.
We’ve had a full-on month with maintenance jobs here – the Pump House log store – lighting & roof complete, just a bit of zinc work to finish off. We also had to re-treat the Pump House abri extension as the linseed oil didn’t seem to be protecting the wood enough. Rooms 102 and 161 in the station have been re-decorated and the new headboard in the double family room looks like a work of art to us. Remember those lock down Covid days when we all found bizarre things to keep us occupied? Well, Tracey discovered “Mod-Podging” – it’s a brilliant glue for all sorts of crafting and I found so many things that absolutely required a Mod-Podge make over and that’s what I used to stick & seal all the railway posters and timetables onto the headboard. Great fun. Two dressing gown hooks put up as requested in the double rooms too. Room 161, the twin, has a feature blue wall now – Tracey felt that it had been a pink room for too long. And now the news that Lee is excited about – his big garage is finally getting the re-fit that he’s wanted since we moved here in August 2020. This means that the motorbikes needed a new temporary home – see below (not too happy about it but The Pump House was the only secure place we could use).
Lee’s putting in a mezzanine floor to create upstairs garage storage, plaster boarding & insulating, creating Tracey a clean laundry area and painting & finishing with new Revo lighting. Once that’s done, he’ll have garage space to actually store the bikes and move around without knocking into them and bashing his ankles and should be able to find everything with ease. The engine shed project was on hold during the bad weather but has just started again this week. He’s created himself a new tool board for this engine shed and called me out of the warmth to go and look at it one day this month – I looked at the clock 3.10, right get this over with, so off I went to the freezing cold garage, and there it was – just a rectangle of wood with a frame. He told me that it was painted in traditional tool board colour – yawn – he told me about the hooks he was going to use – bigger yawn, and then the varnish it was going to get and I can’t remember how many other dull facts about tool boards I was subject to. You’re with me on this girls I guess – Back to the warmth, fast as I could, 3.30pm! Joking aside, I know it will look wonderful and keep his “very important tools” tidy & organised. I like the fact that tools can make things so I say, “I might be able to find things now”, “Keep Out” he says! He got his revenge – the stocky Sapeurs Pompiers paid their annual visit with their Fireman’s calendar on Sunday just gone – I was waxing a floor in the Station so didn’t hear their arrival and he didn’t come to find me – the curmudgeon.
On some of the nicer days at the weekends we had some trips out to local villages – see below. Not by design, but one Sunday we ended up visiting several different churches – all fascinating buildings – but the creation of the replica Lourdes grotto within l’Eglise Notre Dame at Francescas was a bit of a shock – a rock cave with a hole has been built in one corner of the church as you enter. We had no idea that over 700 replica Lourdes grottos exist all over France.
Talking of visits, if anyone is interested in holidaying in The Station or The Pump House in this lovely corner of South West France, we’ve had an August cancellation – get in touch for details. 12th August to 2nd September is available as well as the UK October half term week, then we close down again for the maintenance schedule to start all over again but that’s a long way off – we now have the promise of Spring to look forward to and we really do look forward to welcoming our 2023 guests from Easter.
Right, that’s about it for Dry January – au revoir, a Tartiflette is calling (and some fermented grape juice – how healthy does that sound). Food & Wine photos to resume next month and hopefully some Engine Shed progress – Santé & Bon Appétit All, from Lee & Tracey, la gare de Sos
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