A Simple Act of Kindness

P7330361Yesterday was the first day since we moved to the Charente Maritime that temperatures failed to get above 0 celsius all day. The bitterly cold weather was accompanied by freezing fog which –  like the mercury – failed to rise; it silently swirled around us all day long and anyone we saw on the street outside the boulangerie was hurrying along without a sign of dawdling. Bisous on either cheek to say ‘Hello’ and that was it –  definitely not a day for outdoor leisurely conversation. 

In the afternoon I had a meeting in Rochefort and before I drove home I desperately wanted to wander around the Christmas market. People were braving the cold, bundled up in hats and scarves, but after half an hour of walking, talking, and taking photos, my fingers turned blue; the tips had lost all feeling and I was frozen.

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There were several food stalls selling the usual crêpes and beignets (doughnuts)

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and another offering vin chaud – hot mulled wine of course or there were roasted chestnuts (marrons) and wine for 5 euros, a cone of chestnuts on their own for 4 euros, or a glass of hot mulled wine on its own for 2 euros. If I hadn’t been driving I know what my choice would’ve been!

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At the stall below it was 50 cents more; perhaps the glasses were bigger! But then I thought an afternoon snack might have been a better bet, for the pain perdu on offer is one of those French names that I cannot resist; the literal translation is ‘lost bread’ but it is actually what we all know as ‘French Toast’; delicious slices of bread soaked in egg and then fried in butter, very yummy. The name, pain perdu, originates from the tradition of using old bread that was no longer good enough to eat on its own –  in other words, it had lost its place on the table and another use had to be found for it; makes perfect sense!

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There were stalls selling homemade cakes and festive treats

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and others offering jewellery, handbags and candles.

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I passed a couple of homeless people and stopped and dropped some coins into their bag and I thought how lucky we all are; we take warmth and shelter for granted but what will their Christmas be like this year?

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Christmas charity is a recurring theme for us, for back at home we have been trying to do a little of our own. Yesterday after morning school Gigi and I took a little walk in the hope that we could make someone of our own choosing happy – it’s a long ongoing story, which I’ll explain.

For some time this year when we’ve been at our tennis-court on the outside of the village amongst the wheat fields, we’ve see an elderly man taking his daily walk around the adjoining football pitch. For several months we had been aware of him. He always minded his own business and we never really said anything. His progress was always slow and every few steps he would stop and take a breather and look around, obviously a local person with perhaps 80 years of memories to look back on.

But there was something about him that I admired a great deal – not just that he walked every day, but in his general demeanour and tenacity.

Then, one day in October, our worlds slid into orbit; our eyes met his at an opportune moment, and we waved to him – and he waved back. We’d broken the ice. The next day he called out a cheery “Bonjour” and we replied with a wave and “Bonjour” back. After that, each day we saw him taking his walk he would call out hello to us and then he would add some comment about the weather; “ Il fait beau aujourd’hui,” (it’s lovely today), or “Le vent, il fait froid” (the wind, it’s cold). Some days he would be wearing his blue coat (always the same one) and on other warmer days there would be no need for an outer garment.  The comment about the weather on those days would be different too. He was difficult to understand for he spoke in thick heavily accented French. But these past couple of weeks we have only seen him once and that was only a glimpse; he didn’t even make it to our side of the football pitch; he just took the briefest of outings and waved from a distance. We assume it’s become too cold for him, for it has been really bitter for an unusually long number of days.

Gigi and I decided we would take him a Christmas gift of some homemade shortbread; a gift chosen quite carefully since it is not only typically English but it’s also soft – and that may be advantageous for a man of his age;  in truth I have no idea. However, we had a problem in that we didn’t know where he actually lived. We know the direction where he seems to always come from, but that’s about all.

In the freezing fog we set out. Banging on strangers doors is far from my idea of fun and yet I knew we had to do this and feeling really nervous and very self-conscious we knocked on the door of the first house in the road that we’d decided was the most likely area where he lived, if nothing else someone would be bound to know who we were talking about and point us in the right direction. There was no answer. We headed to house number 2 and a lady we see out jogging quite often came to the door. She recognised us cheerfully, and I explained that we were looking for the elderly gentleman who takes a walk around the football pitch every afternoon, but it seemed she had no idea who we were talking about. “He often wears a blue coat?” we said helpfully, “And he has a moustache and is probably in his 80’s? He walks out each mid afternoon, at the same time?” Still she had no clue as to who it could be. Dejected we knocked on a couple of other doors, but drew blanks with both occupants and we returned home shortly afterwards, feeling rather deflated and quite amazed that no one seemed to know our elderly man.

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Obviously we needed to do some further thinking, after much discussion, we set out in the early evening whilst we still had a good half hour of daylight left. I am not good at talking to complete strangers, a situation not helped by the fact that the moment I utter my first sentence my accent gives me away as a foreigner, not always English, I’ve been asked if I am from a vast number of different countries, but certainly not French; despite people kindly saying it is utterly charming, it still makes me feel somewhat awkward at first. Gigi was too shy to speak despite the fact that she would instantly be taken for a local French girl, so I agreed I would talk and she would hold our box of shortbread and the little card she had made.

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Finally as we were about to give up and as night time was falling we found our target at a house down a lane not far from where we had tried in the morning. We had encountered a gaggle of very angry geese and a shaggy wet sheepdog who being over friendly had covered us in mud as he jumped up to say hello. A woman who we presumed was a daughter opened the door and nodded sympathetically at our request and came back to the front porch with our old man who seemed quite startled to see us – not surprising, really.  Rushing out my little prepared speech, we handed over our small gift and explained that we had missed him and just wanted to wish him a “Joyeux Noël“. I am sure his eyes moistened a little, and he gave Gigi a kiss on either cheek and warmly shook my hand. As we left, I think some freezing fog finally got into my eyes and made them all blurry for a moment. Gigi said she felt it too…..

We walked home in some silence after that, deep in thought. No more needed to be said. Truthfully it had taken so little effort on our part, and hopefully brought something a little different to the old man’s day. However, alarmingly, a dissection of the affair amongst the family over supper turned into a long angst-filled debate about refugees, religion, Christmas calendars and then began a slow slide into the merits of Santa Claus – the latter period of conversation a time during which Gigi quietly slipped onto my lap and cuddled me in eager anticipation of  his visit!

Because of the cold it’s been a week better suited to indoor activities and we’ve been turning our thoughts to Christmas more and more. Even the mornings that have dawned with a brilliant sunrise

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have been an act of trickery, for whilst there is some warmth in that lovely orange glow it takes a while to thaw the frost, which – whilst not severe – coats the grass and shrubs in a veil of white; these are mornings when our dog walks are brisk.

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We have started to think about decorating the house and while our Christmas Tree is always very traditional with the same decorations every year, the kitchen table is a place where I love to play a little and change things each season. This year I came up with the idea of having a clutch of trees in silver and gold which we would make and paint. I knew we had masses of pine cones, previously sprayed silver in years gone by, and I thought we could use them to set the scene. I managed to find some polystyrene tree-shapes in a local store and armed with a couple of glue-guns and some willing helpers, we started what has turned out to be a very long-winded affair.

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For my idea, one of the trickiest parts is removing each scale from the cone; some are prickly and really hurt and some are so well attached that I needed pliers and scissors. Needless to say this was my job until I realised I was too slow and Roddy was called in for some reinforcement! He reappeared with a Dremel and a cutting disc which made life far easier! I know it would have been much easier just to go and buy something, but it would’t be half as much fun!

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Hours and days later, we are still working on our trees, out goal is six in total, the two larger ones will be sprayed gold and the four smaller touched up with a little more silver.

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Hopefully they will be finished by the weekend, when our village lights will be turned on and very slowly the festivities will begin.

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And in case you are still looking for a few Christmas gifts for friends or family or if you want to treat yourself to a little Frenchness, don’t forget our Etsy Shop. We are adding lots of new items this weekend for our “One Day Christmas Shop Special on Sunday”. What’s more all items will have a 10% reduction.

Anything purchased on Sunday will be packaged very carefully and dispatched on Monday afternoon with postage that should guarantee delivery in time for Christmas.

If you want something gift wrapped, just let us know and we will happily oblige at no extra charge, and if you want to add a card with a personal message, we can take care of that too!

From 2pm Sunday afternoon (French time) / 1pm UK time / 8am USA EST time / Midnight Melbourne. The Christmas Special will run for just 24 hours.

 

 

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112 thoughts on “A Simple Act of Kindness

    • Thanks so much, it really made us both so happy that we were able to find him and surprise him, he is such a lovely old man. A very Merry Christmas to you too. Is this your first in France? Hope you are enjoying it so far, as you will have gathered by now, it is all very relaxed and low key which I rather like, somehow it makes it even more special xx

      • Yes, it’s our first French Christmas. I loved the Christmas market in Poitiers but I feel it would have been more impressive at night with all the lights on. We haven’t been out much in the evening so I’m missing that night time Christmassy feeling… I’m not missing the manic Christmas shopping frenzy in the high street though!

        • Yes, everywhere does tend to look that little bit more festive once it is dark and the lights are twinkling. If you are in the Rochefort direction again you really must visit, it is stunning with the whole of the Place Colbert taken over by the giant open air ice skating rink, voted as one of the top ten prettiest in France! xx

    • Thanks Amanda, it just felt like such a natural thing to do, I am not sure why, but I have missed seeing him walk every day, we didn’t speak much at all, but I could almost set my watch by the time he would turn up, it was somehow rather comforting and not seeing him for a couple of weeks is very sad. xx

  • Had to laugh when you described your attempts to chat in French with the locals. The same has been experienced here for me. When I attempt my “not so great” Swedish, the locals immediately know that I’m English speaking and switch to English.
    Palm trees and a Christmas Market, my mind is still processing that one. Lovely images, numb fingers or not. Christmas is a time of charity and I found your story of the 80-young gentleman very warm and wonderful. My keys got moist too, must be the freezing fog.

    • Ha ha, the thing is I actually speak French very well, but I guess they just know from my accent that I am not French!! Fortunately few reply in English here as no one speaks it, but I can just picture you in Sweden and them all switching to English, because most Scandinavians speak it as their second language do they not? I mean they kind of have to, I admire you for learning Swedish. I thought I would see who picked up on the pine trees and Christmas market first, I just loved the photo, especially in the cold weather we are experiencing, the two are completely at odds with one another! So glad the fog affected you too!! xx

        • It’s taught early on here too, they start in primary school at around age 8, but it still seems that unless the child is really motivated and wants to learn that most leave school with just a smattering of English and the usual phrases that will see them being able to comment on the weather, the time of day and order in a restaurant but not hold a proper conversation! The Swedish are definitely doing it right! xx

  • I empathise with the story of your ‘old man’. For the past number of years my son has made it a habit to purchase a hot meat pie to give to the first homeless person he sees on his way to join us for Christmas dinner. It makes us all feel so much more grateful for what we have.

    • What a lovely thing to do and a great idea. You know sometimes I think we are all guilty of wanting this or that, but when one looks around and sees a homeless person, especially in this cold weather and at Christmas it just makes us realise how incredibly lucky we really are and it just makes me want to do all I can to help a few people. I am going to chat with the family about the meat pie idea at supper this evening, it is a really good one, thank you xx

  • Early each morning I sneak down the hall and leave three little chocolates for a 90 year old man who loves his little bit of chocolate. He has no idea who leaves it for him and I don’t intend to tell him. That way, anyone he sees might be his secret Santa.

    • What a lovely thing to do Patricia, & all the better for not telling him it is you! As you say, anyone he sees may be the kind stranger. Merry Christmas to you.

    • What a fabulous story Patricia and what a wonderful thing to do, I can imagine you must make the 90 year old man so happy, it is so nice to feel wanted and loved and just to be noticed. Good for you, so kind and so thoughtful, this has really made me smile. xx

  • You just killed me with kindness Susan…. I am tearful and happy and to my happiness something else adds up: Yesterday I wrote many cards, mails, phoned a lot and one very long mail was all about KINDNESS… go figure! We’re so totally on the same wave length, it could be frightening, if it wasn’t so beautiful 🙂
    You and Gigi have made yourself a new forever friend. I so often say that those who expect the least are the ones who deserve kindness the most.
    To put a little damper on our kindness stories: Also yesterday, I discussed with Hero Husband a fact we encountered a few times already here in France, a fact which is not very nice but alas, human too: We helped quite a few people who have nothing / not much. A number of those were ‘very good friends’ who phoned regularly, spoke of everlasting friendship etc. Until the very moment, they didn’t need our help any longer; they then disappeared from our lives and IF we meet them again, they are just friendly in the usual way they are with anybody else. But at the times of need, when they uttered their eternal friendship, I used to say: Well, let’s wait a few years and see if you still think the same way, and it sometimes only took a few months to ‘lose’ them. Not that I’m complaining, just stating that my often too tender heart got walked over a few too many times. I never ever expect thankfulness and it will never stop me from being kind to anybody, it just shows that kindness IS needed more than ever.
    Love the handmade ‘trees’…. another lovely addition to your Christmas decoration. My tree is decorated and candles are burning all day. I go through hundreds during winter and stock up every time I’m in Switzerland.

    • I think you and I are very alike, I have been walked over a few too many times too. Only this week, someone we thought was a good friend, turned round and shocked us completely, it was a business arrangement and I guess the old adage is true, ‘never mix business with pleasure’. It’s a long story, but alas when we say we will do something then we do, we are good to our word and believe in honesty and integrity, it seems not all are of the same mind. Anyway, changing the subject and onto happier things, the simple pleasure of taking the shortbread to our old man more than made up for this, just seeing his face, it was wonderful. We are going to buy our tree tomorrow and decorate it at the weekend, it takes a while and is very much a family affair, everyone is very excited! Now I wonder, why do you buy your candles in Switzerland? Is there something I should know about regarding Swiss candles?? xx

      • I was sure you’d ask…. it looks so silly when I say that but fact is that candles are much more easily available in CH, the quality is excellent and you get those very beautiful rich colours. I love a deep red and I never buy the simply ‘painted’ stuff but only those where the colour goes right trough the wax. Also, the choice is fabulous and they are much cheaper than the ones I get in France. Btw; Ikea’s candles are excellent too and obviously pricewise an unbeatable deal. But sadly we are way too far from any Ikea. I once said I’d like to live in Féchy in CH just because their boss lived there and it was a few miles only to get to the shop…. 🙂
        We had the same problem in UK too and we filled our car with the stuff. Especially recommendable is Migros, if ever …. Should I buy you some?
        My tree of last year carried only little animals, puppets and felt hearts, this year it is all in red glass baubles and because I’m a lucky girl, I already smashed a really big one on the day I mounted the tree. It’s always a day of excitement for me because I love doing that and get stuff out from the basement, sort out light guirlandes, and so create a Christmassy atmosphere, to be enjoyed with a large mug of Christmas tea and something nice with it!
        Happy days and good dreams for you and yours…

        • Ahh I knew it must be something like that. I have also found the Ikea candles to be excellent, although like you, we do not have an Ikea on the doorstep, our nearest is Bordeaux, only an hour and a half away, but a little too far just to pop out and buy a few candles!! Your tree sounds gorgeous, ours is always the same each year, the same much loved decorations and every year someone drops one on the tiles and of course, it is always one of the really good decorations that gets broken! Such is life!! We are buying our tree this evening, which will mean much excitement of course and a very long debate as to which is the perfect tree and we will all stand and freeze whilst we discuss the merits of this one and that one, it’s a tradition!! Then we will be home for a glass of something very warming and to start decorating, can’t wait, one of my favourite times of year. xx

          • Aaah, wonder-wonder-wonderful. I remember best the time we went as children with our father; he took us to the ‘forest’ as we call it and to this very day I don’t know whether he had a special ‘license’ to cut down a smallish tree (we had a very small apartment) or whether he took the license to….
            The 2nd best experience was in the Torbay region when I passed daily at a Christmas tree farm and we went to choose our own tree 🙂
            It IS, malgré tout, a marvellous time.

          • Those are the best sort of memories. It always takes us at least half an hour, it is a very serious business, but I wouldn’t do it any other way, the tree has to be just right and the merits of each side must be considered! xx

      • Bonsoir Susan. Votre village a beaucoup de chance d’ avoir votre famille comme résident. Le cadeau offert par Gigi a un inconnu est un geste magnifique et rare de nos jours.On voit que vous aimez les gens autant que la France et ses paysages. Votre famille est réellement parfaitement intégrée à la vie française. Cela fait chaud au cœur de voir et de lire votre bonheur de vivre dans ce pays.// Good evening Susan. Your little village is very Lucky to have your family as resident. The present offered by Gigi to a complete stanger is a rare wonderful gesture nowadays. Obviously you like people as much as France and its landscapes. Your whole family is really perfectly integrated into french life. It is heartwarming to see your nice pictures and read your happiness to live in this country.

        • Thanks so much Philippe, actually yes we do love people and there was just something about this old man that really touched me, we seem him virtually every day and I was so concerned when suddenly he stopped walking, we could almost set our watches by the time he would arrive and I just thought how wonderful that he makes an effort to walk every single day. I have always said we feel very lucky to be able to live here. As you know we love it and so do our children, who are really more French than English now! xx

  • @Amanda b
    @Anne
    @Patricia
    In order not to crowd Susan’s blog too much – a big Thank You and your kind people who also share some of their own good(ness) with those who have less. I’m super sensitive to the fact since I live in the Paris region and see homeless people ‘living’ in tunnels, in corners of shops, along the railways and under bridges…..

    • I like the hot pie idea, we have a lot of homeless in La Rochelle and Rochefort and Hetty wanted to donate some of her birthday money she was given by her godmother recently to them, but I think buying a hot meat pie is a much better idea.xx

  • I so enjoyed reading your tale of kindness. It was inspiring to see how much you searched. I’m sure you not only blessed that dear gentleman but I’m sure you inspired all those other homes where he didn’t reside, for they saw kindness searching high and low. I invite you to visit my blog where I’ve been sharing ideas on gifts of kindness also. Here in America’s Midwest we’re expecting our first snowfall this weekend so we’re a little chilly too. Merry Christmas!

    • I shall certainly come over and have a read at the weekend when I have a little free time, it really is the season when those that have lots just get even more and those who have nothing suffer terribly and a little kindness really does go a long way. A very Merry Christmas to you too xx

  • Oh my goodness Susan, I have a huge lump in my throat. What a wonderful thought, you must have made the old gentleman’s day, & hopefully his daughter’s too. As you say, it takes so little, & these acts of kindness can actually turn a persons day around. We should all take a little time & reflect on those less fortunate than ourselves. I used to be a Registered Nurse, & I know how lonely people can be, isolated & forgotten. I once spoke to an elderly lady at the bus stop, & as the bus came she thanked me saying I was the first person she had spoken to that week, so it can just be a kind word that makes all the difference. Gorgeous photos as ever. xxx

    • Thank you so much Janet, you are right and I think sometimes we forget that a simple good morning or good afternoon and a smile can really make all the difference. For many elderly who have given so much of their lives to so many people and then to be almost forgotten, it is just too sad for words, but the truth is if we don’t explain this to our children, then often they simply don’t realise. I must admit our old man’s speech is so thick and accented that I cannot understand everything he says and I find myself smiling and just saying “oui” quite a bit, but he doesn’t seem to notice and it is better than me constantly saying, I don’t understand! xx

  • You brought a tear to my eyes too. What a blessing to the gentleman, and in turn to you and your daughter. Your Christmas tree projects brought memories back, of the decorations I’ve made in past, some of which are still my favorites. Some I use yearly and some only occasionally, but when I see them I remember and see my grandmother at the table with me, or my Brownie troop friends giggling and working so hard complète our projects.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    • It really made us both so happy to find out where he lived and just to give him a little something. I think this is why we love making decorations so much, because each year when we unpack them again they bring back so many memories. A very Merry Christmas to you too xx

  • Susan, I’m not surprised by yours and Gigi’s act of kindness. With all of your wonderful post kindness shows through. Thank you for that.
    It seems so strange when our temperatures are warmer than yours at this time of year. This week was sunny and we might get all the way up to 10°C. It won’t last though.

    The small Christmas trees will be family heirlooms and and eagerly brought out each year. They are a true labour of love, and quite beautiful.

    Jet lag gone, and contented to be home…

    Ali xxx

    • Thanks Ali, yes it has been incredibly cold here, really unusual, no one can quite believe it. I guess we are paying the price for such a lovely October and November, when it hardly rained at all and every weekend we seemed to be lunching outdoors. But this is so unusual to be so cold for so long. Tomorrow is forecast to be sunny and 10C, that will seem positively balmy and yet it is still below average for the time of year! So glad you are over the jet lag, now you can really start to enjoy the festive season, I am sure it must be quite magical with you. xxx

  • What a lovely example of kindness you’ve shown us. Truly, it’s the little kindnesses that are remembered and treasured. We practice kindness, too, and there are so many people who need a simple smile, a box of cookies, a kind word. The Christmas stalls look intriguing. Your tree project is going to be beautiful, and I love that the whole family gets involved.

    • I think you are so right, there are so many people who we don’t realise just need to hear us say ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ with a smile, it really can make their day. I am sure the old man is much loved and very well looked after, but it was still lovely to be able to say hello, we had missed him. Hope you have a wonderful merry Christmas xx

  • What a lovey story, I’m so impressed that you set out to find your man, and succeeded. Your photos have me shivering with cold, it looks bitter. It’s just the sort of weather we never get here thank goodness I don’t know if I could cope with days of that after 10 years in the south! Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance I hope you and your family have wonderful fêtes de fin d’année!

    • It was tough I can tell you and we were so surprised that no one seemed to know him, I thought everyone knew everyone in our village! Our weather has been so unusual, we never get it like this here either, normally! But I thought Provence had just had snow, a rarity for you and one we were forecast to get and it never materialised, it just remained deathly cold and dry instead, until he fog descended, followed by the rain today! A very Merry Christmas to you and your family too xx

    • Thanks so much, I hope we made him feel really special, just for a short while, isn’t that what we all love to feel, and I know it felt so wonderful just finding him and being able to offer something. xx

  • What a touching and sweet story of hunting down the passerby gentlemen. I’m sure you absolutely made his holiday season a bit more merry and bright. Your homemade trees look so lovely. Seasons greetings with all good will to you and yours. 🎄

    • Thanks so much Monika, I hope we made him smile and made him extra happy just for a while, I know he certainly has made us happy, we so love seeing him every day and it has been horrid that he has not been there, we were quite worried and just so relieved he is ok. Wishing you a very Happy Holidays too xx

  • Certainly one of the most beautiful, natural and heartfelt posts I have read on the web in a long time. Such a lovely thing to do.

    • Thank you so much Shari, it was just something we so wanted to do, we were so worried not seeing him and it felt so wonderful to know he is ok, just staying inside until it gets a little warmer here, I don’t blame him xx

  • I always feel especially bad for the homeless as Christmas, wish we could help them all. Love your atmospheric market photos.

    • Thanks so much Peggy, it is a time when we spend so much extra money on gifts and so I think it is also a time when we should reach out and help those less fortunate too, in any tiny way that we can, even if it is just a smile and a couple of words, even that can make someone’s day as Janet’s comment earlier explains. I shall certainly be doing my best to speak to a few more people. xx

  • what a heartwarming story about making an old lonely man happy at least for a moment
    It was a sentimental memory seeing your girls seating at the kitchen table and making christmas decoration as I
    did when I was a child. Enjoy this time with your family

    • It is a wonderful time of year and just by making some things together seems to make it so much more special, because hopefully they will remember them in future years to come. Our old man really makes me happy every time I see him and we were so worried that he had not walked for a couple of weeks and we were so relieved that all was well. Hope you are starting to feel festive and enjoying these early December days, I love this gentle build up to Christmas xx

      • your girls will definitely remember those days. …likw I do. I am in the festive mood since a couple of weeks (I know – too early) and decorated already my home quite understated despite the mild temperatures and sun
        (solo durante del dia). Evenings are the time when it comes to my Xmas mood.

        • Yes I agree, evenings are always the most festive, I have a more festive feeling than usual this year also. I wonder why, I have no idea! We have just started decorating slowly, put lights up all round the kitchen windows this evening, we are always very low key too, tomorrow I must make a wreath for the front door. I am sure your apartment is absolutely perfect, enjoy your sunshine, we have huge storms forecast here, it is being quite an eventful winter so far! xx

  • What a lovely post and you are very kind . I also love the trees that you are making…i love making things and they are just lovely. We are just back from York where it was cold and windy but not as cold as you seem to have it. We visited every Christmas market there.Every year I like to buy a Russian Doll but they were none here in Glasgow and not a single one in York. I think the Russians have gone home…not a single Russian stall anywhere.

    • I shall look out for Russian dolls for you here, not that we have many Russians in this part of France! I just watched the UK weather, I think you are going to get very cold tomorrow, whereas we are warming up to double figures, sunshine and maybe even 10C, still below average for us but after the past days it will feel positively balmy! However, I think you may even get snow, so stay warm and be careful and hopefully you can just look out and enjoy it, if indeed it happens! xx

  • As I swelter away here – it’s hotter than usual for December – I can nonetheless feel that crisp Christmas cheer you write of so beautifully. I almost wish I was there! Lol. And what a lovely story of the old man and your kindness. Best wishes for Christmas – I think we’re off to the beach for a few days so I’ll think of you!

    • I think I might be a little jealous! It is way below average here, although tomorrow we do have sunshine forecast and a day of respite as it may get as high as 10C!! I am so glad you are having a decent start to summer, long may it last. Enjoy the beach and think of us shivering here!! xx

  • I think doing some small thing like this makes Christmas so much more special and it completely in the spirit of Christ. For a number of years, we asked our pastor to find someone who needed some help and then gave them a basket of goodies and $50, all we could afford at the time. We delivered the baskets and I still remember how apprehensive we felt, wondering if people would feel we were patronizing them. But one woman talked for years about how we made her Christmas because she could afford to buy her son a coat and that meant she could. That made it all worthwhile. I also used to make cookie and candy trays for librarian, the people at the post office we always used, some of the smaller stores where we shopped, etc. People we so surprised and happy, especially the garbage men! We’d put a note on the cans saying to come to the house for a gift and then gave them each a $10 gift card to a local coffee shop. They took great care with our cans after that. 🙂

    Oh, I do love Christmas!!!

    janet

    • I know that feeling completely, we wondered what he would think we were doing, delivering a gift and worried that he would find it most odd too but he didn’t and he seemed so genuinely touched and we were so happy to be able to give him a little something. We always give an envelope to our post lady and to the dustmen (garbage collectors), they do a great job in all weathers. It really is a time to help others and for me that makes all the difference. I do so love Christmas too and the gentle build up and everything about it. It’s a fabulous time of year. xx

  • What a lovely sentimental post, a pure act of kindness that asked for nothing in return and making decorations with your girls, you’ve got it all right, hats off to you.

    • Thanks so much, we were so worried when we didn’t see our old man for many days and so relieved that all was well, and it was lovely just to make someone smile. Making things with the children is very much a part of the Christmas fun and hopefully we are building memories for the years to come. xx

  • A lovely and timely story. I’ve been looking to make some good shortbread cookies as well for holiday gifts and wondered if you’d be willing to share your recipe. Happy Holidays to you and all your delightful family.

  • What a wonderful gesture, Susan and Gigi. Christmas is so much more about giving than receiving, and this illustrates the sentiment beautifully. I hope your old boy managed to eat the shortbread! Love the photos, as ever. The ones of Rochefort seem so cold I expected to see skis leaning up against the chalets!

    • I couldn’t agree more, it really is far more about the giving than receiving for me, because that is what brings us all such happiness, to help others, especially at this time of year. Hope you have a very Happy Christmas xx

  • I’m so glad you found your elderly walker! And your photos made me feel lot more like Christmas. I should tell you I made your mincemeat recipe last weekend and tried your pies as well!! Wonderful. I’m going to try to decorate and get my greetings out this weekend. I hope it warms up a bit–or the fog lifts!

    • I am so glad you made the mince pies and even more delighted that you liked them! We are buying our tree tonight and decorating this weekend also, it is all so exciting. Hope you get everything done and have fun doing it all. The fog has lifted here and it is 11C and sunny, perfect winter weather! Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Hmmph! The fairy bringing this message all the way to Australia must have broken a wing . . . .had to come alooking when nought had arrived this morning! May have to resubscribe when I have a moment !!!! Loved the story and a true Yuletide message naturally. Although’ I must admit to being quite content that the temp gauge here says about 29C at the moment 🙂 ! Oh: and had a kind’of Santa arriving a few hours back with a lovely parcel . . . . beautifully packed from your shop to my home: thank you: feels ever so precious . . .

    • How bizarre, I cannot explain the reason for that except to say there is nothing as weird as what goes on in cyberland!! I hope you find the time to resubscribe and sorry for the inconvenience. So happy that Santa arrived with a gift for you safe and sound. We have 11C and sunshine today, it feels positively warm, enjoy your 29C, perfect summer temperature. xxx

  • Susan and Gigi, what a wonderful post! Congratulations on finding your elderly gentleman, and making his day! Why is it so hard for us to break the ice and make that first connection with a kindly stranger? Your story has made my day, too. Now I need to go bake something to give to the new neighbors near us–we haven’t even spoken more than a couple of words yet. Everyone’s always so busy; I just need to find some time to do this.

    • Thanks so much Judy, it felt so wonderful to be able to find him and far more importantly to know that he is ok. Perhaps as it is sunny today and so much warmer finally he might be out walking once more. I am sure your neighbours would so appreciate anything you bake them, what a lovely gesture. Finding the time is always very hard, I know, if only we could invent more time! xx

  • You know how I feel about kindness and how easy it is to make someone’s life better for a moment or even longer so it will not surprise you that in this cornucopia of delight the shortbread is the star. Bravo to you all ❤️ We visited one of the many Christmas markets in Lyon on Sunday (we have several here too and I am having to sit hard on my hands every time I pass because I seriously could bankrupt us in a heartbeat. Across France they share much in common but each also has a personality of its own …. it intrigued me that Lyon which is only 50 miles from Grenoble was singularly more Lyonnaise whereas we are singularly more Grenoblois … this might sound obvious but it brings home one of the things that I most love about France – that it is such a series of micro-pockets of culture each as lovely as the other. Tell Roddy that we ate in the most fabulous Brasserie and my youngest almost ordered Andouillette by mistake. Fortunately, mummy switched on at the crucial moment and intervened 😆 xx

    • It is so easy to make someone’s life just a little better isn’t it, I think sometimes we forget the importance of a smile or a simple good morning or good afternoon. I could spend a small fortune in our Christmas markets they are always such a delight, ours tend to all be themed, in Saintes, half an hour away for example it is centred around a Canadian Christmas this year, certainly makes it all the more interesting. Thank goodness you stepped in at the last minute and saved your daughter, just the smell would have had her retching I am quite sure, they really are possibly the most disgusting thing I have ever come across on the menu in France! Even thinking about them sends shivers down my spine! xx

    • Hello Osyth! Very pleased you visit my home town of Lyon.As you are actually living in Grenoble you could come back this week-end to see the awesome ” Fêtes des Lumières ” ( Have a look here :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzevNlhTl9s ). I suppose that the Brasserie where you eat a fabulous meal is ” La brasserie Georges ” near Perrache station. It is obviously a famous restaurant but very affordable. About andouillette I could say it’s a speciality of Lyon’s gastronomy and it’s far better to the taste than the smell… if it is well cooked like ” à la lyonnaise” of course! But I can very well understand your dislike to it.

      • Salut Philippe …. how lovely to ‘meet’ you. My moment in Lyon was necessarily brief and on a Sunday (I was meeting one daughter flying into Saint Exupéry and seeing another and her husband back to England and we wanted the opportunity to have a meal together. Georges was wonderfully and exactly what they wanted. I will return to the city (probably on my own) for a couple of nights in the New Year – it would be foolish to miss the opportunity when it is so close. In fact last night I was at a ‘Pot de Noël’ for an Institut that I am connected to here and met a delightful young man from Croatia who is intending to take his girlfriend to Lyon for a couple of nights at Christmas. As for Andouillette – I am so sorry I just get so put off by the smell but I do know many who love it …. for me the quenelles de brochet were the best I have ever tasted and I would walk to Lyon to eat them again!

        • Osyth; I was shell-shocked to read your sentence about Lyon being the heartland of disgusting things…. I had to re-read all the rest about and around it to get your words 😉
          HH & I have been eating at the Georges too and as for the visual and dramatical impression it really IS the place to go to. For the food we were mildly disappointed on the evening we went. But of course it absolutely is a MUST for everybody visiting this city.
          When are you planning to go? Will you be going on your own? If so, I sure would like to join you; I have a feeling we’d have plenty to talk about and would laugh quite a bit…. 🙂

        • If you come back to Lyon to eat again a quenelles de brochet dish ( with ” sauce Nantua ” I am pretty sure…) , you have to go to a real Bouchon ( typically Lyon restaurant like bistrot in Paris ). The special dish in La Brasserie Georges is ” Choucroûte ” and Quenelles de brochet is one of the special dishes made in Bouchon. Here is some good places among many: Café des fédérations ( rue Major Martin ), Le Pique assiette ( rue de la baleine ), , Le Tire-Bouchon ( rue du bœuf ). Average cost Menu in Bouchon is about 20 € /better to reserve. You won’t regret. Bon appétit Osyth!

          • Thank you Philippe … a Lyonnaise bouchon is surely on my wish-list – sadly it was a Sunday and it is hard to even find things open so we went with Georges and we were very happy but next time a bouchon it will be!

      • Bonjour Philippe, est-ce que je comprends bien ou est-ce que je me fais des idées? Habites-tu (on se tutoie online, non?) effectivement à Lyon, ma nouvelle ville française préférée, ou est-ce que Lyon est ta ville natale? J’y étais une fois, cela fait plus longtemps que je voudrais l’admettre, j’étais avec une chorale suisse pour le weekend de la Fêtes des Lumières (et naturellement pour présenter notre concert!), et c’était là que j’ai mis Lyon en décembre pour la FdL sur mon bucket list…. Entretemps, j’ai eu la grande chance d’y aller pour 2 1/2 jours fin août 2017 et je suis retombée amoureuse de cette ville. Je crois je vais faire RV avec Osyth et peut-être on peut se voir les trois….? Cette idée me fait sourire en ce super beau matin avec une très, très légère couche de sucre (neige) sur mon jardin adoré et me rend la journée encore plus belle!

        • Bonjour Kiki ! My/Our ( all the followers of this blog ) favourite suissesse / swiss woman that I am always very pleased to read your long, fun and sometime moving comments. Yes I was born and I live in Lyon since always ( I am 57 ). Very glad but not surprised that you felt in love with this beautiful city so underrated ( like Bordeaux too). So many tourists think France is only Paris , Provence and french riviera! It is so wrong as you very well know and thanks to this great blog too.To meet you and Osyth would be a great pleasure.

  • Hi Susan, I’m in the uk at the moment where it would appear it’s warmer than France! Good choice of gift .. I think shortbread is always a winner with the French and am often asked for the recipe if I serve it. Loved the picture of Gigi in her furry lined coat. Hope to see you all over the festive season XX

    • I think you spoke too soon!!! You were so much warmer, and we were freezing, but then today there is a complete turn around as I know London is freezing and we on the other hand have a balmy 11.5 degrees and sunshine, finally! Most definitely we must plan a big get together, long overdue during the holidays, cannot wait, I am excited already xx

  • a lovely story about kindness — and persistence! that fog may have swirled around here, too. blessings on you and your family.

  • I really loved the story at the core of this post — and the photos of Christmas markets and all the homey activities associated with Christmas are the perfect accompaniment! Thanks for sharing this experience. #AllAboutFrance

    • Thanks so much Richard, we were so worried when our old man stopped walking for a couple of weeks, we had got so used to seeing him every day and really knew we had to find him, isn’t this what Christmas is all about. xx

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