DragonVale lives!

Nick and I are on a mission to walk more regularly. To this end we took ourselves out into the cold sunshine, after Nick had rung the Sunday Service Church bells. With a new walk to organise and lead for our village group in the autumn, we thought there is no time like the present to investigate possibilities. At least it will give us some insight as to the ‘going’ after a sustained interval of wet weather. We look for a walk of roughly four miles with terrain that is not overly steep or arduous. With fond memories of walking down to Church Ope Cove and over the undulating cliff tops to the south, we drove to Easton on the Isle of Portland, parked and descended to the castle which towers over the small cove fringed with beach and fishermen’s huts. The pebbles and cobbles on the shore are all smoothed and you find some wonderfully regular shapes.

By the castle there is an option to turn northeast and walk along under the Jurassic limestone undercliff. We passed some climbers scaling the relatively low cliffs. Learners perhaps. We continued along the track of the old railway line with wonderful views onto the lower clifftop and out to Weymouth Bay. That lower clifftop is an undulating terrain of boulders, grazed shrubby grassland, relict spoil heaps of quarried limestone and a network of tracks. It immediately struck me as a real world DragonVale complete with plant, water, air, earth and metal habitats! Having walked along the undercliff we took a small track down onto the lower cliff tops and followed the tracks back to the steps leading down to Church Ope cove. Nick spotted a single primrose plant in flower, nestling in a very sheltered patch of scree.

Currently I risk the ridicule of my spouse and sensible (sceptical) friends and family by participating in a breeding simulation game in which players display dragons in habitats in order to earn dragon cash. Dragon cash is a currency with no actual value. There are eight basic elements: plant, earth, fire, cold, lightning, water, air and metal and these basic dragons can be bred to produce a specific set of hybrid dragons by being paired in the breeding cave or breeding island. There are a number of limited or rare dragons that are only available during a specific period of time, for example, the Ghost dragon for Halloween and the Reindeer dragon for the winter holidays. Limited dragons include the gemstone dragons, which correspond to the monthly birthstones. (Currently I have tried numerous times to get the January gem, a Garnet dragon, by breeding an Obsidian and a Smoke dragon and I only have one day left!)

There are also a small number of Epic dragons, namely the Sun, Moon, Rainbow, Treasure, Seasonal and Olympus dragons. You feed the dragons with treats paid for in dragon cash which the dragons earn. There are also gems which open up other possibilities. That is the nub of the matter……….. although I would like to think that I am not a nub (Urbanspeak) at the game!

I enjoy DragonVale for two principal reasons: firstly three of my family members are playing it and we visit each other’s sites and gift each other gems each day. The other reason is that the dragons themselves are so beautifully visualised with varying body shapes and ornament which are graceful and colourful. They remind me of sea slugs- take a look at the gallery on my friend’s Nudibranch website.

Reconnecting in Dorset

Within 24 hours of our return to WK, we had supper with Maddy and Andrew. We had missed them whilst we were away. We ate a delicious lasagne made by Elisabeth and finished up the various chocolate brownies and crunches that Rollo and Terry brought to St Vaast. Later that night and into the morning it snowed and we woke on Friday morning to a fresh blanket of snow. We fared well in Dorset for no further snow fell and after a few days it started to melt. During the snowy days we were visited by a large cock pheasant who settled into regular visits once he discovered he would be fed.

After our supper with the Dukes we made trips to the cinema on three consecutive evenings. We saw Quartet, Les Miserables and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I had already seen the latter film but it was showing at the Athelhampton Cinema and Nick was keen to see it too. These wintry days are perfect cinema weather.

A quick midweek-overnighter in Godalming saw my teeth and hair sorted. The latter appointment was a blessing as Dorset hairdressers have struggled to understand my requirements, or in one case, think they know what I would like better than I do. At the end of the week I went to visit Mum after a lengthy absence. It is a blessing that she does not feel the passage of time. We sat and looked at photos on my iPad, played a few games and she enjoyed looking at the Facebook pages of some family members.

Celia and I went over to Rollo’s to celebrate her birthday. We all prepared something for our lunch which we ate in leisurely fashion. Afterwards we drank wine and compared notes on teeth and hair……………

After a year’s absence from meetings, Nick and I drove to the Natural History Museum in Cromwell Road on the last Saturday in January to attend the first indoor meeting of the Conchological Society in 2013. I took up some shells to exhibit and spent the day looking at other exhibits and catching up with the fraternity. The speaker failed to show, having found the weather conditions in northern England somewhat daunting. Nevertheless there was never a lull moment and I left at the end of the afternoon with a list of tasks and follow-up items to get my conchological year rolling. As I left the museum I was much taken with the frontage which is illuminated by divine blue lighting. London can be rightly proud of this institution for which admission is free.

First Week of a New Year

After Rollo and Terry returned to Dorset we spent our remaining time in St Vaast packing up decorations and readying the house for our absence.  I spent a little time in the garden cutting back dead foliage in the small circular bed, and the top borders beneath the pergola.  A number of our early daffodils were in flower, as were the Daphne odora and Sarcococca hookeriana.  The latter plant is known as the Sweet Box or Christmas Box, for obvious reasons, and it’s heavenly perfume wafted my way as I knelt on the pathway clearing the Iris and Centaurea leaves from the plant crowns.  But the seasonal prize must go to the dwarf Iris unguicularis.  This my birthday flower; its short stemmed buds emerge from the dense clump of spear-shaped leaves early in the year, and its bright amethyst mauve colour reflects February’s gemstone.

We spent three more enjoyable occasions with our friends: a trip to Cherbourg to eat dinner with the Roux and Poulets after which we went Bowling, a farewell supper with the Lerminez and Poulets at Le Debarcadere on the final evening.  On Sunday morning at 10.30 a.m. we offered a typical English cooked breakfast to some of our friends.  This was a new departure for us in our entertainment repertoire and a bit of a culture shock to some of our guests, but it seemed to be very successful and was a stress-free means of offering a meal at our house.  You don’t spend half the afternoon in the kitchen conjuring an exciting three or four course meal for the evening.  A cooked breakfast requires concerted effort over a very short period of time and is served straight from the pans.  To be repeated.

New Friends and old: FeFe and Rollo

On the 5th day of Christmas Rollo and Terry crossed the Channel to come and stay with us.  They arrived late at night, after we had spent the early part of the evening with Fefe and Francois in their lovely terraced house in the town.  Their back gate gives out onto the quay and the house itself is full of artefacts and objects.  There is joyful colour throughout.  Fefe collects elephants.

We met them through Ty and Claire, and Nick and Francois instantly found common ground in their enthusiasm for fishing.  We drank champagne and ate delicious savouries including baby boudin noirs dipped in chilli salsa.  They were utterly toothsome.

During Rollo’s visit we made an excursion to try and trace her long-lost French pen-friend. With only the name of the village and Rollo’s memory of the house she had stayed at, we conducted our own enquiries which took us to Villers-Bocage and eventually to St Louis sur Seulles where we found Francois living with her English husband, someone Ro had worked with and dated when she was in London.  The trio of former friends swapped news of the intervening years and we left at the end of the afternoon with some gifts of wine from Mike’s cellar.

The weather was less than kind to us during their stay but we did manage a walk round La Hougue.  We also drove up to Gatteville intending to walk a stretch of coast back to Barfleur but were distracted by the snorting of a very large seal close to the lighthouse causeway.  We watched him for a good while and the weather closed in, so we retreated to 104, stopping to buy patisseries for afternoon tea.

Georgy blows out his Candles.

And so the 12 days of Christmas roll on, and on the 3rd day we pop over the road for drinks with the Tuttles.  We meet Francois and Fefe, a charming couple who live in Centre Ville.  Yet again my newly acquired basic skills with canapes come into play and we enjoy champagne and chat whilst the two grandchildren sample the various nibbles.  French children are certainly more adventurous when it comes to foods and flavours and the little boy tucked into the Satay chicken sticks and the Thai fishcakes with gusto.  In the end we stayed on for a cold supper, feasting on fridge left-overs.

On Saturday evening we celebrated Georgy’s birthday.  Six of us squeezed into our car and drove the short route to Reville.  We took a composite gift with us: a heated propagator, seeds, twine, plant labels and 10 elegant steel spiral plant supports.  This was Nick’s brainwave after Georgy had consulted him about tomato cultivation.  Martin and Alain arrived with friends from Brittany and twelve of us sat down to enjoy a casserole of oxtail, assorted beef cuts and sliced marrow bones, the latter considered to be a delicacy.  Francois showed me how to winkle the marrow out of the bone, spread it on some French bread and sprinkled with a little bit of salt.  It was indeed delicious.

Gateaux were produced, Happy Birthday was sung and candles were blown out.  We then talked on into the evening, the women ending up in the kitchen for a gossip.  Rien ne change.

And now for Something different……..

After a quiet Boxing Day we switched tempo the following evening, and joined a group of English friends who had rented a house in nearby Montfarville for the Christmas week.  We had been invited to a Murder Mystery evening, having been given persona to guide our dress for the evening.  Nick’s character, an Irish journalist, was a minor player and as he was below par, needed very little to dress his part.  I had been assigned the part of Cherie Boot, a 20-year old French nightclub singer which was something of a challenge.  She was described as an androgenous character for which a black tie costume would have been ideal, and given more notice I would have been able to pull this together in Dorset to bring over.  With a black top and my wide, full-length, rust-brown linen culottes (bought in Split on a sailing trip in Croatia), and my newly short hair smoothed flat I felt it was a noble try.

During the course of the evening we ate an excellent dinner interspersed with dialogue for which each of us had our own prompt booklet.  Periodically we would adjourn upstairs to listen to a DVD where a narrator summed up the plot so far, and prepared us for the next exchange.

No-one guessed the murderer although one of us got closed.  As it turned out my character played a key part, but not wishing to drop a spoiler I will say that an enjoyable time was had by all, young and not so young alike.