Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas preparations

Today seems to have been a day of keeping my mouth shut - never an easy task!

We have decided not to 'do' Christmas this year because we have demolished the living room and are making the best of the new barn space/utility room to live in. All very sensible and logical.

Last week our nephew decided to join us for the holidays. Still all fine. He was warned that we are not 'doing' Christmas. But we decided that we would have to move back in to the living room while he was here.

This morning we have had the plumber come to fix the shower and the window man come to finally fix the windows and to collect his cheque before the end of the year. So while they were here and needing various decisions we continued cleaning the living room space and started bringing down some furniture to make it habitable.

Since when did Him Outdoors have an opinion on where furniture should go!

Then I had a crisis of maternalness (if there is such a word) and lack of Christmas. Nephew has trained/flown/trained/stayed overnight/more train to get here and I need it to be more welcoming than a couple of chairs and a table. Lets have a tree. (Only need to go and chop one down and clean the attic in order to get to the box of decorations.) Or at least be prepared for him to be able to go and chop a tree down tomorrow.

Him outdoors: Nope, he knows we're not doing Christmas. And we're not. Only concession is out to Christmas lunch at a local restaurant which we are only doing because Nephew is here.


Nope, sorry, going to insist on this one. Have cleaned the way to the decorations and cleared a space to put up a tree tomorrow. Nephew will be chosing/cutting/decorating.

Have now put up the Christmas cards on the windowsills and put out some bowls of oranges and some chocolates and found a few lamps and lit the fire and it looks very jolly if you ignore the hanging pipes and bare render! Also found enough ingredients to make a gooey pudding and put the casserole on the woodburner so it will all smell lovely and foody when we get back from the station.

Where is the cd of carols?????

Friday, 18 December 2009

Hooray it's not a red day

We have, by some wondrous sleight of hand that I am not even aware of, managed to retain the tarif with EDF that was already in the house when we bought it. An electrician told us that this was very unusual - what he actually said was bof and a lot of silent whistling! This tarif loses EDF a lot of money because the canny french immediately turn everything off on a red day so they don't let you continue it when you buy a house.

What it means is that for 22 days picked by EDF between November and March the electricity is very expensive and for the other 340 odd days it is very cheap. Well, they are not stupid, the weather has been very very cold this week, - 10C yesterday and we have had 4 red days in a row.

Apparently, according to, the fount of all knowledge french, they can only do 5 in a row and they don't do it at weekends and fete days. (Well if you don't do weekends, you can only do 5 days in a row..........duh.)

To show which is a red day, we have a red light in the kitchen that lights up. Except it doesn't. A kind electrician managed to open it and change the bulb and I think he checked that there was power to the bulb but I'm not sure now. So we assume it is on a cold day, and don't plan washing, bathing and electric radiators until Him Outdoors has been down to check the meters.

Last night it snowed - which actually makes it warmer today - but we still assumed it must be the fifth red day, but IT'S NOT. So I have been round switching on the radiators and put a load of washing in. A more normal day.

Because of the snow, the window man that was coming, finally, to replace a door that doesn't shut properly, is not coming. And the plumber that needs to replace something in the shower because they forgot to put the sealant in when they did it, hasn't rung to say if he's coming or not.......

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


I have just rediscovered why I love reading blogs. I follow several people who write about different parts of the world and I love their insights into life in their country. Some quite staggering stories about life that is perfectly normal to their neighbours.

I have also just spent half an hour immersed in some really wonderful writing. I love the way that you can really wander through stories and the people that they follow and stumble across such thought provoking items.

We live in rural France and have settled into quite a solitary existance - or whatever the word for two people together is. We started in a way that I remember from having to move to Singapore with Him Outdoors' job. Trying very hard to discover the local culture, see things, attempt the language (although not so much of that in Mandarin, I certainly tried Cantonese when we moved to Hong Kong). After 3 years of the Far East, although still fascinated and loving the experience we had settled into the expat community and were much more 'us' in a foreign place. This had a lot to do with having kids and, certainly at the beginning, finding that they were happier with as much familiarity as possible. There was so much 'foreign' that a familiar homebase was a huge comfort.

We have now settled into a more English based frenchness. My french is adequate and due to my french teacher giving up due to a new job at the tourist office that seems to consume her, not improving much. Him Outdoors uses mine as much as he can and has little of his own. He has the confidence to try and explain but really only needs the DIY sheds and is slowly increasing his number of english speaking assistants. I seem to chat only to workmen and shop assistants and have no french friends that don't speak quite a lot of english. We don't have any neighbours. The nearest one died as we arrive the next nearest is a very rarely occupied holiday home, then we have a family that I have only set eyes on once that have a huge barking dog that doesn't encourage visiting. There are local people that smile and say a few words at every occasion that we go to but we have never set foot in their homes nor they in ours.

On the other hand we have not immersed ourself in Englishness. We don't have english television although we have now discovered how to get iPlayer which enables us to pick and choses programs from all the english channels. We don't buy english newspapers but we do read The Times online. The noticeable difference between this and immersing ourselves in English media is that we are managing to ignore Christmas completely. We have no advertising, no Christmas programs.

So, back to blogging. It is a way of reading in the same way as I would read magazines but also on occasion in much more depth, seeing the world, exposing myself to other lives. It gives me things to ponder. It amazes me, fascinates me, absorbs me. It also gives me women's company which I sometimes crave. And today it has introduced me to several more quite wonderful writers.

Friday, 27 November 2009

The stair saga.............. again

The stair saga still continues. At the beginning of November we got a letter left in our letter box which seemed to be from the bailiffs. It seems that we have been summoned to appear before a tribunal on 3rd December. After a series of letters/telephone calls/faxes between us the Axa man and the stair man and his solicitors and les Huissiers de Justice Associes in which we have paid his bill in full (and he has cashed the cheque) , asked for him to repair his mistakes and received a letter saying that he awaits a rendezvous so that he can repair the stairs but he cannot guarantee that in so doing he will not make a worse mess!! the tribunal is still on.

Today we have been told that there is a document awaiting us in Sarlat that we must both go and fetch - because he is summoning both of us - before the tribunal. So off to Sarlat.

I realise that we made a basic mistake against 'the french way' by sending him a letter originally saying your work is crap here's half the money - on the basis that this would make him come and talk to us when he didn't turn up to our arranged meeting with the builder - but I don't understand why we still have to go to the tribunal when we have paid in full and have no case to answer. What a waste of court time. The Axa man says that he is going to try and claim his costs.

Oh thank the Lord that we ticked a box that said we would like free insurance while we had the building work done so that we have the Axa man on our side. They are also sending a solicitor to the tribunal and the Axa man is coming.

Today it has all got to me again and I am finding it hard to get back to the happy corner.


Went and collected what turned out to be a full copy of the original summons with detail of what we are being summonsed for. Lots of quick direct translation seemed to include lots of 'condemned' and 'abuse' and 'insincerity'. After sitting over a very good lunch with a bottle of wine and a dictionary (and feeling much better for it) we have decided that he is accusing us of not paying the bill in spite of agreeing that there is nothing wrong with his work and then while we're there we should pay 1,000 euros damages and 800 euros for something else that we don't understand at all. Since we have copies of letters with proof of delivery that both he and we sent saying that he accepts the errors, and all that was sorted before we got the original summons, we hope all is ok. But then this is France so who knows. We shall see on the 3rd. Meanwhile a good lunch and a peaceful afternoon with a book dozing in front of the fire have brought me back to the happy corner :-)

Saturday, 21 November 2009

How to meet the neighbours

We've had two events recently where we have been meeting neighbours.

November 11th is Armistice Day and a public holiday here. We had been invited by special posted invitation to attend a ceremony at the war memorial in the village and then for a drink in the village hall afterwards. (Always and drink/meal afterwards.)

We duly turned up at the stated time to find a few people hovering around. Much nodding but we hadn't set eyes on any of them before and we were obviously foreign so that was it. Then a little procession arrived from the Mairie headed by the mayor in his sash and including some school children. We knew half a dozen people, but far from most of them.

The mayor read out a little piece about how he had had the memorial restored and then each child read out the name of one of the deceased and how they had died. All this was interrupted by cars passing through the crowd as we were gathered in the road. Everyone spoke into their papers so I expect it was the same as you would expect but I didn't hear well enough to be sure.

When all was done we progressed to the mairie for kir and nibbles. On the wall was a display of the death certificates of the people on the war memorial, most very very young and died on the field of battle. I asked if there were any second world war deaths and was told that no one from the commune had died in the second world war.

We had a little chat to the deputy mayor and her husband who we have met at every occasion and exchanged a word with another man and that looked like it was going to be it. I constructed my sentence to another lady about had she got any of her family killed in the war and she said no and turned away. As did the next person - is my french that bad?? Then I decided that I wanted to meet the old man who has a garden up the road and went over to the deputy mayor and asked to be introduced. Another drink all round and we ended up actually communicating with someone! Not that I could understand a lot of it, but we did at least get to socialise with 4 more of the locals. As is always the way, some of them are delightful twinkly people, happy to talk once you get them started but it is sooooooo hard to get them started.


We had another occasion to meet the locals this week. We had decided to pollard the lime tree that was starting to get in the electricity wires. Don't like the french way of cutting all the trees to death but it would let more light in, had obviously been done before and it was getting muddled up with the wires.

Started wonderfully. Him Outdoors cutting carefully by hand to avoid the dangers of chainsaws and ladders. About half way through amazing crackles and flashes. Oh ... my ... God. It was the tree that was holding the wires apart. Fortunately at that moment lovely local man passes and I explain. He says that we should stop (good idea) and he would see the mayor because if the electricity board was called it would be expensive. So all stopped for the day and await the mayor.

Eleven thirty the next morning and there was the most almighty sizzling and banging, rushed outside to see huge flashes and the wires split and the electricity went off. Oh b+++er.

Went to see nice man - a little later because it was lunch time. He rushed off to get the maire who appeared with mobile phone and rang the electricity board in his official capacity explaining it as if he had just found the wires in the road (still not sure if these are live wires or not but wasn't going to risk it). Lovely people, much humour and goodwill.

We decided to run away for the afternoon rather than explain the situation to the EDF and reappeared at dusk to find that we only had one wire instead of four but we had power and all is well. Finished the pruning next day and all seems fine. (And the computer didn't get blown up by all the surges and cuts.)

Friday, 23 October 2009

Groupe Electrogene

Not, as you might think, the electricity board but french for generator.

Back in May we saw a one day offer in the publicity that arrives every week for a generator that was very good value at the local diy shed. We arrived for opening time and joined a huddle outside the door all watching the uniformed staff that were smoking at another door. Not a queue - this is france after all - but we all knew who was first. A young, smartly dressed man in a smart car arrived just before opening and somehow managed to be first in the queue and into the store first.

We all walk very quickly across the store to where generators would be to find an elderly lady already leaving with one of the staff and the last one and a man with a scrappy pad. Give me your name, address and telephone number, take this copy to the till, pay your money and wait. So, feeling decidedly naive, we pay our money for a generator we haven't seen, they haven't got and don't know when it will arrive. But it's May, how long can it take to get one and we won't need it til the winter when all the storms and power cuts come.

After a couple of months I ring to ask if there is any news of the generators. Coming from China in a container. Probably at end of October. Probably.


Well now it is the end of October and we were in the store (buying some grape vines to go up the new arbour which were, for once, quite reasonably priced). I asked for Frederique who is the man who knows about the generators and the man I asked smirked a bit but found me Fred. I say my piece again and he asks me if I have my receipt. No I say, I just wondered if there was any news. OK he says, I have 4, you can have one but it is a big secret and don't tell anyone!

So we walk out with one of the precious generators. And the ridiculous thing is that I feel honoured that I was one of the chosen ones! I love it. The french have paperwork coming out of their ears on every occasion but just sometimes it's all ok without any of it, just being in the right place at the right time. Sooooo glad we aren't one of the other 10 or so people who aren't going to get one.


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

French Children

Someone that we met the other day had lived in France for 40 years and had a french wife and french children. Set me thinking, would I want french children. I have always thought that it is wonderful for kids to have two languages but maybe I haven't thought this through.

I was thinking that I wanted children that I understood their cultural background and that I wasn't sure if I wanted them to have something totally foreign to me where, although I speak some French, I would not be up to speed on their school life.

Then Him Outdoors said well what makes you think you know what went on in our childrens' lives at school. True enough. Taking to extremes that they have one language for the playground and one for home (and another one for grandparents) who knows what they keep to themselves.

I do think that having a second language is wonderful but the guy we met said that although his children could speak english, it wasn't brilliant because they all spoke french at home. The guy also said that speaking two languages fluently and switching between them had been known to cause quite serious psychological difficulties with knowing who you were. (Wished we could have continued that conversation but the flow of the party intervened.)

Not sure I'm coming to any conclusion here, maybe this is a work in progress...............

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Foire a l'arbre

When we were last at one of the local markets one of the flyers that was put under our windscreen wiper was for a 'foire a l'arbre'. Today was the day. Or rather morning. This being Sunday, it would only be for the morning because a Frenchman needs his Sunday lunch.

It was cold in the night and we woke to white frost and -4C. Oops should have done the rearranging of the outside spaces for winter before today. If we were organised, and thought ahead, the car would be safely under the new abri de voiture and we wouldn't have to spend time defrosting and deicing. The trailer was still out from our trip to IKEA earlier in the week so with a bit of scraping of ice and demisting we were off.

What was I expecting. Well it started at 9 so maybe by 10 when we got there, quite a few people, a lot of trees and other plants, some of which would be unusual, some hanger-on stalls selling associated stuff, the usual coffee stall, maybe food of some sort...........................

We arrived to a carpark with about half a dozen stalls, a display of a machine that chops up trees into little pieces and a huddle of men around a plastic bottle of wine and plastic cups. The machine had the obligatory huddle of testosterone gazing admiringly. The stalls were all selling very mature shrubs or 10ft over pruned trees, all very ordinary things. All very expensive. The expense is partly to do with the fact that the euro is now pretty much equal to a pound but even at this they are probably twice if not three times as expensive as the UK. And all for instant planting. It is very hard to buy small trees that would settle in well and that you have to wait for. Not what the french want at all.

Ho hum, back home via the boulangerie for coffee and croissants.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

What's been going on

Seems like a while since I was here. What's been going on?

More visitors. We've just worked out that we will have had 10 weeks of visitors in 2009 and that's with no visitors because of builders for the first 4 months! And I love it. Look forward to them coming and enjoy having them. So far we haven't had any of the problems that are a constant topic of conversation on the internet forums. Just nice people who all seem to relax into Le Calme!

Him Outdoors has been working away at a lovely dry stone wall around part of the pool and now an added bit around the pool shower. More of the little touches that turn it into a loved house rather than a holiday home. He's repointed some of the barn walls and house wall. Decided to patch what's there rather than take off the crepi (render) and completely redo. Looks great.

Begun planting on the house walls with a pomegranite tree and a beautiful climbing rose as well as retying in the wisteria. On the look out for a reasonably priced espaliered apricot but because that won't happen it will probably be a tiny one and then we wait and prune with the book in one hand! Peaches/nectarines seem to be prone to a lot of disease but the apricot we have has grown very well without any sign of any problem.

Round the front have begun planting and cut down the fig tree that covered that side of the house. Lovely leaves but no sign of a ripe fig. It just doesn 't get any sun and even here you need that to ripen the figs. Him Outdoors was also worrying about its proximity to the fosse septique. We have several other figs and apart from making jam, we don't really like them so I don't think we'll miss it. The virginia creeper that will cover the wall one day should come on fast with more light.

Planted half a dozen hedging plants this week in what turned out to be solid chalk. Him Outdoors had to get the masonry drill out to get down deep enough to put two of them in. Hopefully with lots of muck and water they'll get a hold. Eleagnus ebbingei for those that know. The much situation was much improved by a huge trailer load from M. Mazet in exchange for the hay from our field.

Lovely bright sunshine today and colder and right on cue the cranes have made an appearance. Wonderful sight. You hear them first, and then spot them much higher than you think. Huge numbers in V formations travelling southwest to Spain from Germany I think. Other wildlife has been a praying mantis which I have never seen in the wild and the usual deer and hares.

Tame wildlife has seen the arrival of 9 new chicks. One of the hens disappeared for 3 weeks and reappeared with 9 bundles of fluff. They are very very cute. Apparently she lays one egg a day in a nest and she can leave them cold and then when she has enough she sits on them for 21 days and hey presto! Clever stuff eh.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


We've been out for the morning at a local market. Bit late this morning so more tourists although nowhere near as many as there are in 'the season'. We decided that there must have been a bus load of americans about somewhere to account for so many american voices.

Had a lovely wander along the long street of stalls. Watched one stall owner get very annoyed with a french man who let his huge alsatian cock his leg on one of her pretty scarves. Last we saw she was waving the offending article in his face while he looked totally unconcerned.

Coffee in a cafe watching the people go by. Bought mussels for lunch and some trout for supper from the wonderful fish stall. Best one we've come across with really lovely fish.

Arthur hadn't arrived home by the time we left this morning and we were vaguely surprised that he wasn't here when we got home. He's not usually late for his breakfast. As we finished lunch he came in yowling, holding one leg awkwardly and trying to rush upstairs. Well as much as you can rush on three legs. Decided to dissuade him from that and we sat on the stairs while he looked sorry for himself. Him Outdoors brought him a tin of gourmet cat food left over from his picky friend Hamish, which he gulped down. What a lot of effort he must have to have put in to getting home from his night out.

And he's now fast asleep on the chair beside me having had a token wash. General opinion is 'wait and see'. Can't be that bad if he's eating, washing and sleeping.......................... and anyway he's got three other legs!! Oooops hush my mouth.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Oh this old thing

We have been invited to a drinks party tonight given by a lovely American lady who lives in the town. Champagne et amuses gueules (whatever they are). We have decided they are like amuses buches but hopefully bigger.

I have spent the last hour delving around in my 'not worn since we got here' clothes (or actually not worn since we downsized 9 years ago) trying to find something suitable to wear. Encouragingly most of it still fits - except the ones I bought when I did actually lose the half stone/stone I have been fighting all my adult life and they have hardly been worn!

If I'm the only one that knows that one potential outfit is about 20 years old and another one even older, does it matter? Maybe everyone else practices the philosophy of 'if you haven't worn it for six months throw it out'. I practice 'if it fits keep it' it will come in.

I was a tall child and by the time I was a teenager I was six feet tall. My family are all tall too so at home it didn't seem odd and it wasn't until secondary school when I was at an all girls school and my twin brother was at the boys' school that I was the tallest. In the 70s this made clothes impossible. There just weren't any to buy that were long enough and shoes were a nightmare.

Him outdoors has none of these problems. Clothes for him have to be 'friendly'. A new thing has to be virtually (or completely) identical to the one it is replacing. He'll come in from the garden at the last moment, throw on the same pair of chinos, hope his favourite shirt is ironed but if it isn't second favourite will do, and off we'll go.

Friday, 18 September 2009


Oops we're in trouble again.

In the summer we got a letter addressed personally to me from the recycling people to tell us off in very official terms for putting glass in the yellow recycling bags.

How did they know it was us? and We haven't, have we?

We are very good about putting our glass in the bottle bank. Aren't we?

The penny dropped. It was our house sitters. Apparently in the US you put glass in with the other recycling. Oh OK let you off then. But how did they know??

Eventually, after pondering about why the letter was addressed to me when all official things go to Him Outdoors, I remembered that you had to sign for numbered recycling bags. They don't just throw them at the door like in England and wait for you to fall over them - and the pile of telephone directories - you sign for each roll at the Mairie.

Today we have had another equally official letter telling us that you must not put anything in the recycling bin that isn't in a yellow bag. No good just dumping empty cardboard boxes into the yellow bin, all must be in a bag.

Have no idea what I have dumped into the yellow bin with my name on, I think I'll just hope that everyone has got a letter. Don't think I'll worry about the waste of recycling bags either.

Incidentally the view from the nearest bins is the finest for miles. Always a pleasure to dump rubbish.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Bats in the bathroom

Being more organised than usual, I had shut the big door before getting into the bath. Had a vague idea that I might read in the bath and would need the light on and then all the bugs would make a bee line for me.

But just for now it was just light enough to see but not light enough to see the wobbly bits in the bath! As dusk fell there were a couple of bats flying outside the window, highlighted against the sky and I was smugly thinking that they were safe outside. Vaguely wondering how they were managing to make the shadows across the ceiling with the light falling as it was. With my usual speedy thought process...... oh my God it's in here.

Him Outdoors fortunately was within screech shot and opened the doors to let the poor thing escape - not the others in!

Now does the bat spend the day in the barn and had got shut in, or had I shut it in after it had come investigating at dusk?? Surely if it lived in the barn you would see some crap or something, but then it must have some clever mechanism for crapping whilst hanging upside down or it would crap on its head. David Attenborough has to climb over mountains of crap to get to a bat cave, so how do they do that?

Saturday, 12 September 2009

An interesting day

Lovely start to the day viewing the deer in the bottom of the field. There seem to be two that come first thing. They may well come at other times but we can see them from our bed and they certainly go by about 8 am.

Later in the day we discovered from the paper that the chasse starts tomorrow and there will be about 140,000 hunters registered in Aquitaine out to slaughter anything they can find. This afternoon we have been to the local DIY shed to buy a CHASSE INTERDITE sign which the mayor had said was all that you needed to stop the hunters coming. Him Outdoors has now put it up so we have done the best we can. Look out Bambi................ and Arthur come to think of it.

We went to the market this morning which was lovely. At about 9.30 there were no tourists at all, just french people marketing and not many of them. We met American Carol and had a coffee in the sunshine and then went to the Tourist Office to collect a Blue Disc. You pay 1.50 € and you have a blue parking disc that you can use anywhere in France forever. None of this it only costs 5 pounds for a year that was Lymington and then next year it costs 8. The Blue Disc only gets you into about 4 places outside the bread shop but you never know when you might need one!

Then on to La Journee Forestiere which turned out to be a testosterone laden exhibition of huge machines for cutting up trees. Every version of turning some poor unsuspecting oak tree into logs for the fire. There were men up an oak tree cutting bits off and huge machines chewing up the branches and spitting them out; a slightly out of place hippy woman carving delicately on a plank; examples of sheds and pigeoniers being built out of the raw materials; stalls selling baskets and stuff. Nearly local men, very few tourists. By the time we left there was a huge table laid for lunch under the trees they hadn't cut down. I think we were glad we weren 't there in the afternoon when all the men controlling these huge machines were well oiled!

One of the stalls was a local man who writes local history books. Why here??? He was talking to a local man whose grandmother was spanish and from what I could gather this local man was writing about the history of the spanish in the south west of france and was interested that this other man had a map with the family home in spain on it but had never been. The spaniard thought he had cousins still there and there was someone in Toulouse with the same name.

He was then talking to us - or rather talking at me. He was one of those that I mostly understand and then lose and when asked to speak more slowly he just looks at you but speaks in exactly the same way. I did learn that he knew our house and was yet another person who had known the hollandaise who had lived here and died in a car accident quite close. Everyone knows them and seems to have liked them. Anyway I decided I needed a book (20€!) of his stories of the area at the time of the french resistance. The bit that I have so far deciphered is a series of short tales of his life up to his time in the resistance when he was in his late teens. Lovely pictures of him at about 8 looking exactly the same as he does now at nearer 80!

Time for supper.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Where are all the vegetables?

We went out for dinner last night. (It was good food but there was some 'cock up on the catering front' and it was very very slow.)

The food was lovely and the people watching interesting. As always, there was a selection of duck and its lesser known parts. The usual range of deserts - a tart, creme brulee, chocolate something and icecream.

But never a vegetable in site.

The markets are full of wonderful fresh produce. At this time of year there are about ten different types of tomato of all shapes and sizes, lots of lovely squashes. But you never get them on the menu in a restaurant.

You always get lettuce/salad as an accompaniment or as a course on its own if it is very french but the only vegetable that appears is an overcooked (probably tinned) french bean. Although this being france it's not called a french bean!

What do they do with them all?

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Him Outdoors' Eye

Went to Perigueux to have the wart on Him Outdoors' Eye burnt off. Very quick, professional and easy. Just a wart and all clear.


The season of mellow fruitfulness.

I don't like the beginning of September. I didn't like my secondary school years and the back to school feeling is not one I like.

It's funny how it is those years that stay with you. I loved primary school. Have very happy memories of that. I loved it when my own children went back to school. And now, in France, I love the cooler weather. Beautiful days that start just about warm enough without a sweater then become lovely sunny days. The leaves are just beginning to turn, the tomatoes are just finishing, there are still some courgettes/raspberries and the weeds aren't growing much.

Secondary school was ok, nothing particularly traumatic. It was an all girls grammar school. I now realise that we had a lot of very clever girls. A lot of academics daughters, most of the upper sixth went to Oxbridge and certainly all but a very few went on to university or teacher training college. I decided that I had had enough of exams and would get some money and leave home as soon as possible. The quickest way was a post A level secretarial course and I was out of home and earning within 9 months of leaving school.

Nothing dramatic, just always bottom of the class. We had exams twice a year, once in January and again in June. I remember sitting in the class waiting for the teacher to read out the results. It didn't matter whether she read from the top to the bottom or the bottom to the top, it would still be me in one of the bottom few places. Except in maths where I came top or nearly top. But then that was division 3B so somehow that didn't count!

When I got to tech and started the shorthand/typing I was top! It was so lovely, magical to be top, able to do it easily when the other more academic girls were struggling. And then I met a gorgeous man and life was soooooo changed.

On one day in my whole tech life I wore a very, very, very short pale blue brushed denim skirt, a tight black polo necked jumper and knee high 'ox blood' (rust) suede boots with a heel. And that is the day that this gorgeous leg man saw me. I never wore the outfit again but that was enough to catch the man that I have been married to for 35 years on Monday. Bless him.

Sunday, 30 August 2009


Oh oh here it comes again. I can feel the tension rising. Tear level lifting. Things that were not even on the radar are suddenly major obstacles. Words of songs suddenly push all the buttons.

It will pass.

Why there have to be hot flushes as well is JUST NOT FAIR.

Him Outdoors still surprises me

Dear Daughter and I were singing-along-a song from my teenage years which I can sing with exactly the same phrasing as the singer. Not the same voice, obviously, but I used to have them on repeat on my Dansette record player in my bedroom and sing them over and over and over.

Him Outdoors NEVER, EVER listens to the words. Decided years ago that he couldn't hear/decipher them and doesn't know the words to any songs.

Took my breath away.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Beaucoup de bruit pour rien

Or 'Much Ado about Nothing'.

Last night we went to the Halle to see a London theatre company perform Shakespeare. It is a beautiful setting for any performance and at this time of year the swallows swooping about are wonderful. (Him Outdoors was a bit late because we forgot that we would have to get the chickens in bed before we could go out!)

As we have now come to expect, the local British 'posh' contingent was there. The ones that we have met are very wealthy Brits and Americans who have large holiday houses here. They get dolled up and go to all the performances around. We have been to 3 or 4 and I did ask one woman last year whether it was the same people at all these things and she said 'no, but it's the same sort of people'. I quite agree. The ones we have met have been through a very kind American woman who also visits in the summer.

I didn't remember the plot - it's a film with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson (aren't they all) and also Keanu Reeves and Denzil Washington, set in a beautiful villa in Chiantishire. BUT it's stupid! You want to shout out for the heroine (Hero) to get a life and not marry the stupid bastard. As with all Shakespeare, there are some people that can speak it as though they are just chatting and you understand completely and wouldn't even know it was 400 years old, and there are the rest. Unfortunately there were quite a lot of the rest in this. Quite a lot of young actors who were only just starting being held together by some excellent people and an elderly man who had obviously been 'treading the boards darling' for years. I wonder why they do a summer season in France. I mean it's beautiful and all and it's work so maybe that's enough but it's an awful lot of work for 5 performances. Maybe they do a load more all over the place.

Monday, 3 August 2009

More staircase

After we had received the letter from the solicitors, Him Outdoors remembered that he had been given some free insurance from our expensive french insurer that might include something to do with legal matters.

He went to see the Axa man and sure enough (something right in this saga!) although the amount isn't enough to be covered completely, we do have insurance that enables us to ask their legal team what we should do. The Axa man also offered to come and see the stairs to see if we were being sensible or not and to write a letter to the stairman/solicitor.

After he had visited the general concensus was that he would write a letter taking the attitude that we were not going to pay the bill yet because the stairs were not finished. List the things that could be mended in situ, mention the things that were wrong but presumabley unsolvable in situ - like it goes in front of the door underneath it, and it's put in crooked. And see what happens.

This has now been done and sent off with 'avis de reception' and we await the next stage.

From the happy corner the Axa man has been lovely, very helpful and prompt.

Do they see us coming?

From the happy corner I always try and make excuses for everything unpleasant that happens. There is always an explanation for turning a hurt into a mistake.

But it's too hard this week.

I have just seen my french teacher in the town and whilst explaining the last round of things that have happened I found I would quite like to sit down and cry, so a blog is called for.

The final straw was the wardrobe. We have had difficulty finding a wardrobe for our wondrous new bedroom. We went to a shop that was recommended about an hour's drive away and although they did not have what we wanted in the shop they had an old oak one in the workshop that looked as if it might be lovely. The very nice man said that he would do it up and then we could look at it and if it wasn't what we wanted we needn't have it. 900€. Sounded too good to be true but ok.

A month later his wife rang and I'm sure said that it was ready and we arranged to go and see it on Saturday afternoon. When we got there we were shown another one at 950€ that was nothing like the other one because there had been so much work to do on the one we wanted that it was now 1200€. We went to see the one we wanted which was still being done and looked lovely. BUT forget it. Why do they think we would suddenly pay 1/3 more? Why didn't she say on the phone - well actually I know why she didn 't say, if we were in the shop we might have bought the other one.

On the same day we had a letter replying to our letter to the plumber/electrician. We had asked why the bill was 39% more than the devis and listed loads of points requiring explanation. In France, if you buy your own stuff for the pl/elec to fit they don't quote for fitting on the devis, they add it at the end. You would think that someone would have mentioned this perhaps. Even from the happy corner - who else did they think was going to fit it. All the other points were just repeated with more words. No mention of any less money.

I'll put the update on the stairman on another blog.

Monday, 27 July 2009

18km is too far

This is to remind me that next time people want to go canoeing I must try harder to stay at home!

We have just returned home sun blasted from a day on the Dordogne. Did an 11 am til 5 pm stint from just up river of Beynac back to Siorac. The good news is that when you get back it is only 5 minutes from home but the bad news is that it takes SUCH a long time.

It was a bit windy too and of course 'on the nose' so sometimes it seemed very hard to get anywhere. Sometimes it is very quick and clear and the canoe seems to race over the bottom of the river and you can see down.

It is a beautiful river. Wide and shallow with a few lovely houses and Beynac is beautiful from the water but very touristy. There are huge long stretches with no one at all and very very few other canoes. In the winter it is very very fierce and rises up to 10 or 15 feet with flooding. Nobody much seems to use the river for anything. Near Siorac there are a few fishermen but before that we only saw about 3 boats tied up. There aren't many places to stop and swim and all the cafes are at the beginning.

About 10 kms would be about right.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

The staircase saga continues

Sunday evening and Him Outdoors has just driven off with a letter for the stairman enclosing a cheque for half the original devis. The letter explaining his shoddy workmanship and if he'd turned up for the meeting we would have explained this to him.

I am surprisingly frightened of his reaction. To the point of checking that I know the number of the gendarmes. (17)


A week later and no reaction from the stairman. The Builder reckons we might have got a half price stairs. Shame it's not good enough but hey..............


29th - letter from Stairman's solicitor saying 'give us the money'

Saturday, 18 July 2009


One of the chickens didn't come home last night and after wandering around calling 'chook, chook, chook' in an encouraging voice - how could it resist - I found a pile of feathers. Oh bugger. We're not doing too well on the animal front this week.

Did lots more gardening. Veg garden now all planted and it's cool and looks like rain which would be perfect. Planted the last corner with rows of beans/carrots/beetroot/mache and then a packet each of wallflowers/pinks/erigeron k....../delphiniums. Also 6 more lettuces that Him Outdoors got on the market for a euro.

I love the moment when it all looks productive and possible. Must draw up a plan and write what I've planted. I already can't remember what I planted last year without trying hard so there's no way I will remember for 4 years rotation.

Also did a major clear of the flower border which looks much better and ready for some new plants. I think I'll have a look at the shop in Belves tomorrow morning. All this coolth is lovely for planting.

Friday, 17 July 2009

A blustery day

We have the most amazing storms here and I have to say I'm not too keen on them. The heat tends to build up for a few days and then comes crashing around us, with the Gods swirling and roaring around. None of the 'playing with a match and then getting a smack' kind of storm but a good hour of continuous sheet lightning and thunder with pouring rain driven by gales which bend the trees. We have so many trees around that it all sounds very very dramatic.

In our new bedroom we are fully exposed to the west which means that you get a stupendous view of the lightning but feel much more vulnerable than in our old bedroom which is in the middle of the house. There is an element of being cosily tucked up safe while this thrashes around but IT'S SCAREY.

This morning it was much cooler and everywhere was wet which is lovely and made me feel like gardening for the first time for ages. Decided to tackle the veg garden and try and get the purple sprouting broccoli moved. The weather hadn't quite made up its mind what to do today so it has been a day of heavy showers but in between times I have got the iris bed cleared of everything but irises and planted with the psb. All watered, mulched and sprayed against caterpillars for good measure. Also got all the rest of the beds weeded and edged so it all looks very good.

Hopefully tomorrow it will still be cool and I can clear the last of the onions and plant another go of carrots/beetroot/radishes/lettuces/french beans/mache and maybe some leeks if they still have them on the market. Also need another half dozen lettuce plants. Then it will all look neat and tidy and ready for the next drought.

Also got some more of the tiny yellow plums picked, stoned and frozen. Discovered that they were tiny enough to use the olive stoner which made the job much easier.

Chickens have sorted themselves out in their house but not quite sorted out the egg laying bit. We have had some eggs but they aren't consistantly laying in the house. Still, early days yet. They do make the most lovely clucky noises and seem to think they are a family and stay together.

Monday, 13 July 2009


We got Hamish and Arthur from a rescue home in August last year. Arthur was a large, vocal, ginger and Hamish was a tiny pretty tabby. Both settled down well, joining us for walks around the estate in the evening.

Arthur has always been full of joie de vivre. He does everything with gusto. Charging about the house, thundering up and down stairs; throwing himself down when tired and being asleep within seconds. He eats anything and everything in huge volumes.

Hamish, on the other hand, found life much more difficult. He soon began to be much pickier about what or when he ate and in tiny quantities. Deciding that he wouldn't eat something at all - usually when we'd just bought a load of it. He spent a large part of the winter literally under the wood burning stove, hunched and miserable looking. Instead of playing on an equal standing with Arthur, he became an easy target and Arthur began to jump on him and we had to separate them at night.

He was checked out at the vets and blood tested and nothing was found to be wrong. With the way of small children at the doctors, he would be perfectly all right at the vet's, wolfing down the cheese triangles she gave him and waiting til he got home to throw them up.

As the weather warmed up he seemed to improve and we found that he loved duck necks which seemed to boost his strength. But over the last few weeks he was gradually eating less and less and for the last week or two when it has been very hot he seemed to get even worse and it had obviously become too much effort to move about much. He has never drunk much and as that stopped too it began to seem that he really couldn't last much longer. Yesterday and the day before he didn't eat anything and only drank a bit from the swimming pool with difficulty - doesn't want the fresh water in the bowl, only swimming pool water. Found him under a chair last night, tried to give him a drink by putting water on his mouth which he licked off and then was very sick. Put him on Grandad's chair for the night and found him in the same position this morning but obviously dead.

Poor little scrap.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Chickens again

All well. Survived the night. Cat hates them. One egg already. Ridiculously exciting.


All well with opthalmo. Wart to be removed by surgeon who is on holiday at the moment. So it has cost 79 € in appointments to find out it is nothing. Fortunately all covered by insurance. Very french experience at the eye clinic. Lots of form filling then a 'no room left' waiting room complete with the most boring fish tank in the world - 4 fish in huge empty tank. Long long wait but who minds when it is all ok. The Boots eye woman had announced that it was probably carcinogenic and needed looking at urgently. Stupid woman. Whatever it is that's not how you tell people. (Unfortunately Him Outdoors was sent into shock and came back to me and his mum to announce 'she says it's cancer') Lots of patting required to make this one ok.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

The chickens arrive

We went round first thing to collect the chickens. The couple are very sweet but very difficult to understand. The husband has lived in the same farm all his life. His wife is much travelled having come from 5kms down the 'ruisseau' - little river at the bottom of the hill.

They seemed to be saying that the chickens should be inside for one day and then fenced but not shut in for 2 or 3 more. Him Outdoors has only built a beautiful house, not a fenced bit so we put the chickens in the house and then built a fenced bit round them. They clucked and crowed a bit but seem to have settled down. We will check later to see that they haven't kicked over the water or anything.

Him Outdoors also went to the doctor this morning to have a tiny wart thingy removed from his lower eyelid. The drops that we got last time do not seem to have done anything and although it would be simpler to leave it be, we suppose we ought to get it removed. The doctor has referred him to an opthalmologist locally which we are off to in a minute. The town where he is also has an ALDI, LIDL and Leader Price so we are going shopping for cheap stuff we don't need!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Major rant before breakfast

Yesterday's plan was that The Builder's Wife would make an appointment for The Stairman to come on site with The Builder and us. The phone call at 8.45am I assumed was her telling us of the time of the rendezvous so didn't rush to answer it. But no ....................................

He's here!!

Started off cordially with us showing him what we thought was wrong. He took the position of 'c'est normale' what did we know about making stairs in France. We persisted. He got defensive. When we suggested that we wouldn't pay any more, he threw a major wobbley and took the devis and screwed it up and threw it on the floor and marched off with lots of 'what do you want from me'. He didn't actually leave unfortunately. Lots of 'what do you want me to do'. Me saying I didn't want him to make anything else because I didn't trust him to do a better job, very disappointed, rest of the work has been perfect and this is crap. Maybe your work is ok, conceded a few things, but 'your fitting team is bad and the result is bad'.

By the end he was agreeing that it wasn't good and with Him Outdoors playing the calm one we have agreed to go away and reflect and reconvene on Monday evening with The Builder to negotiate a deal.

Exhausting and all before breakfast!

The day has improved majorly by me calling on the 'beautiful chicken' lady and she saying that she would give me 4 chickens tomorrow. Very exciting. Have been collecting the leftover hay from the field and buying something to feed them with.

Him Outdoors' day has not improved. While I was out he has cut through a water pipe, messed up the first attempt at mending it and is now on the second attempt. I'm sure this will work and all will be well.


I suppose, unsurprisingly, the man didn't turn up on Monday so we are getting a letter in french composed and send him a cheque for half the original cost. Then see what happens!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The progression of the stairs

Well, they carried on putting in the stairs and by the end of the day they had fixed all but the top three stairs............................and their true awfulness was revealed.

Eventually, after Him Outdoors had summoned the Watchmaker and his wife to come and see, we got to the root of the problem.

The Watchmaker has made stairs in his time and after a careful look around everything, he decided that the main problem was that the fitters had made the first cut wrong and so one side of the stairs was fitted 2 inches out of alignment with the other. This has made all the stairs crooked and impossible to fit. Apart from that, practically every joint was badly jointed with holes too big, square recesses drilled for round holes, gaps left. More and more depression.

Today we left for the airport and left the fitter fitting it and he has made even more of a mess of it, scraping great gouges out of the side to fit the steps in. I think he hopes that by applying masses of filler and rubbing that down we will be satisfied.

To add insult to injury we got a bill from Mrs Plug the Plumber today and she has added another 4,000 euros to the original devis. Stupidly we thought that the devis included the price of fitting the baths/showers/etc. We don't mind paying extra for the bits that were needed to complete the baths/showers etc. but we now have another bill for the fitting as well.

This was all too much for Him Outdoors. Major ranting which had more to do with our stupidity and disappointment than what we were actually shouting about.

I need space and he needs to dig, which he is now doing which should work off some of his anger and make him more amenable for when The Builder arrives later this afternoon.

Monday, 6 July 2009


After a wait of 5 months the stair men arrived this morning.

We had called in to the workshop a fortnight ago to see how they were progressing and were promised that it would be ready last week. When it obviously wasn't going to come last week we called again and he promised Monday.

Not surprisingly we were not confident that it would arrive this morning but nevertheless got up at 7.30 to be ready for the 8 am start that was promised. And lo and behold there they were.

Great excitement as it was unloaded into the hall.

Then the emotional rollercoaster begins. It IS beautiful BUT......................... it would be more beautiful if the man had some imagination and they weren't just installing the standard staircase of this shape. The general idea seems to be that if you have this staircase then you have to have it like this, not that this is a good starting point but how can we make it better.

Good effort but could try harder. Still it will be much easier to get the tea tray upstairs in the morning!

Thursday, 2 July 2009


Another difference between Him Outdoors and me which made me smile.

He doesn't get the comfort factor of watching old episodes of Friends. Saying 'I've seen this one' is daft. Of course you've seen it, that's the whole point. It's spending time with old friends. That you know what's coming and even the next line is what makes it good.

It also gains hugely here by being in English. Major comfort factor.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

A cool afternoon in the car

Decided that a good plan would be to spend the hottest part of the day in the air conditioned car.

We have heard of a wardrobe shop that is about 3/4 of an hour away so if we left here straight after lunch and went to the huge supermarket that is open over lunchtime first, then by the time we got there it would be open. It's no good appearing at any of these shops before 2.30 or even 3.00 to be on the safe side.

Well, the plan worked. Went to Leclerc and had a shop with just a few English people because no self respecting french person goes shopping at lunch time. Forgot the list which never helps but got nearly everything and an extra electric fan which wasn't on any list but may make our visitors more comfortable. Then found the shop and was disappointed to find that most of the wardrobes were either enormous or very expensive or both. Had a very ancient lady serving. After we had explained that they were not right she thought there might be one upstairs - we hadn't even noticed there was an upstairs. While we were upstairs she rang her son in the workshop next door and he had one that we could look at.

We ended up saying that if he did it up we would come back and look at it and if we liked it and he delivered it we would buy it. He said 'quinze jours' and when we laughed he insisted that it would be 2 or 3 weeks and he would ring when it was ready. We live in hope. It's a dark oak one with very pretty locks and hinges and not too huge. (Forgot to check that it was wide enough for a coat hanger - oops.)

Came back to a swim in a lovely warm pool, a read and then supper and watching Wimbledon on the telly. OK by me.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Too hot

Have realised that if I want to comment on other peoples' blogs I had better update my own.

Today is super hot for the third day running. The grass is crunchy and the veg are beginning to wilt before I am really about in the morning. Have just read something on that was discussing whether you should water your veg every day. I am firmly in the 'not unless they need it' school. But since I am also in the 'idle' school maybe that is the reason. I did water the Bramley apple tree this morning because that is really not used to this heat any more than I am having been brought from England.

We have at last moved into the barn and it is glorious. A wonderful space which delights. It's still not finished of course but we've given up worrying about that.

The stairs would be good. Last week, the man said that he would be finishing them today and might deliver them tomorrow but even from the Happy Corner that is way too optimistic. The door man came to refit the windows that they had done wrong and, guess what, they'd done them wrong again so they will now be ready at the end of July. (Which is good because everything closes for August.) We have managed to jam one of the new wrong windows and the man should be coming today to fix it. It's now 12 so I guess he won't be her euntil this afternoon which means that we could have gone to the market. Ce n'est pas grave.

The shower would be good to. We are awaiting delivery of a bit that has taken 6 weeks so far. Since the other shower is down a glorified ladder, through the main living room and up another set of stairs, and what you need is always in the other space, this gets a bit tedious. But the bath is great, with a stunning view. We decided to have a glass basin which is placed on top of an old chest of drawers which has turned out brilliantly but I can't get used to cleaning my teeth into the chest of drawers :)

Must be time for lunch soon. Went to the supermarket and bought lots of tomatoes so a tomato and basil salad is in order. I was hoping for flats of peaches or nectarines but it's obviously not quite the season yet. The supermarket is full of tourists and what they sell has changed hugely. Lots of bbq stuff, inflatable things for pools, summer clothes, picnic things. Love it.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The Happy Corner

Always put hope over experience, it's a fundamental requirement of being in the happy corner. The expectation is that everything will go well, people will try their best and keep you informed.

Today the electricians and plumbers were supposed to come. We are now waiting for the electrican to come and finish and connect up the electricity, the plumber to come and finish and connect up the water, the window man to come and finish so that we can have windows in the utility room and the downstairs shower room and locked doors, the woodburner man to come, and the stair man to come.

Him outdoors is in the utility room fixing plinths and handles to the units. This is a very fiddly job with a lot of swearing involved. It has taken the best part of two days to do these but it looks lovely. (Not my sort of thing at all, I'm way too impatient.) One day we will have the washing machine in there, the freezer, microwave and large fridge and all sorts of kitchen stuff from the attic so that I can lay my hands on it rather than it being in that box under that box behind that..........I think. Can't wait.

The woodburner team are supposed to be coming tomorrow. Last time they were very prompt and very good. We live in hope. (Happy corner.)

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


I shall add to this as I manage to take pictures of orchids close up that aren't blurry.
Here goes with trying to show pictures of the orchids in the field. This was the first sort, it's a green winged orchid. There are loads of these all over the field.

After that I found the lady orchids.

There are very few of these and mostly around the edges of the field. These are man orchids over by the wood pile I think because they have bits in the middle of the flowers that look like people.

And then when we were taking the lid off the swimming poolI found a patch of spider orchids. I went this evening to inspect the man orchids and there was a bee orchid there.

At the bottom of the scrubby wood bit there are lots of pyramid orchids in fact they are coming up all over the place.

It's a delight. Every week there is another sort. Brilliant. More pictures to follow.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

An early visit to St Cyprien market this morning. Well, early for us, we got there about 1/4 to 9. It is a glorious day and everything looks fresh and green and shiney. The morning sun shows off the ancient town at its best. Meet ladies already coming away with beautifully boxed patisserie and baskets full of vegetables. Still lots of setting up and loads more stalls now that the tourists are coming. Lots of clothes stalls that must have been hiding somewhere for the winter. Because we are so early everyone is still in good humour and the stall holders are all chatting to each other or disappearing off to get a coffee before they start up properly. Less black clothes today on the locals although still lots of coats and hats.

I wanted some artichoke plants but we had a lovely walk down the street chosing the lovely stuff that we would buy on the way back - if we had fifty quid to spend on lunch!

I think oysters to start. The asparagus looks lovely and the strawberries look and smell gorgeous. A nice bit of cheese perhaps and some bread. Not for lunch, but the soap stall smelled lovely too. A beautiful desert. Lovely flowers for the table......................

We bought duck breast and eggs from the same stall which are all double yolks - must remember to ask her what brand of chickens they are. (In the back of my mind I have it that these may well be duck eggs because they are from the duck stall and quite large, but maybe not large enough for ducks? - ignorant again.)

Asparagus and strawberries because we now know that the strawberries won't get any cheaper and they are always gorgeous. In the whole of last year only had 3 or 4 soft ones in the punnet. And my artichoke plants. Left meeting a steady stream of ladies with their wheelie shopping baskets ready to load up. Got bread, and pain au raisin for late breakfast, on the way home.

Came home to sit in the shade and 'love it'. Another wow we live here day.

Saturday, 2 May 2009


Have been in conversation with our chicken adviser about how french housewives afford these huge prices for meat. The vast majority of her customers are french and she says that they have a big 5 course blow out on a Sunday when the family come and apart from that eat pasta/charcuterie/omelettes. But I still think 25 euros for the meat for a meal is a lot. She says that the french are lead by their stomachs not their wallets and they have acquired a taste for farm raised meat and even though most of the young people no longer grow it they want to eat it.


Uneventful supermarket visit and small DIY shop visit this morning. Went to the bigger DIY shop forgetting that we will get 10% off on Monday so just looked. They still have the worktop I want which is a surprise.

Came back to decide that Hamish had sticky eyes as well as having been sick and generally even more pathetic than usual and we really ought to do something. Had an immediate appointment at the vets and she gave him drops. Having been sick and pathetic here, he munched down some of her cheese. He then threw it up when he got back but as usual he was full of life in the vet's surgery. Found him yowling and sitting on my shoes which is not good and he's now sitting on my lap breathing very oddly. The vet seems to think he's on his last legs and he certainly looks odd.

In between times we opened the pool and Arnie the hoover is busy doing his stuff . Of course the sun immediately went in but the forecast is good for the next few days. Him outdoors managed to reconnect the pump and is now sorting out the pump for the well so that we can have some more water in the pool and start the filtering system. Water is not green but looks like it's full of amoeba. Add lots more chemicals and it's be fine! The swimming pool shop is of course shut on a Saturday!

Thursday, 30 April 2009


Well that was a lovely morning. Which I'm surprised about because I thought killing chickens was going to be unpleasant. We have spent the morning on the sort of farm that has lots of baby animals and that was looking as lovely as it possibly could, everything lush and green, flowers and blossom everywhere, welcoming dogs. And in a very lovely setting.

OK so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Joined in a discussion on a french forum about how people got their chickens killed and ended up with an invitation to come and see and learn.

Today was the day. Up at 6.00 and off to near Perigueux to a farm run by a Welsh woman who has been here 30 years who was killing and preparing 10 chickens for market with her french neighbour. Mixed farm with chickens/rabbits/ducks/quail/pigs/sheep/cows. She prepares meat for sale on a market and also delivers to local customers.

First catch your chickens from the shed where they have spent the night and put in a crate, hold at top of wings. Don't let them eat the night before. Wheel the crate down to the barn and meet up with the neighbour and her sister. One person takes one chicken, holds firmly by feet and upper wings with head down. Other person puts hand over head which seems to calm it and inserts knife through wattle and cut up towards chin. Catch blood in plate already containing garlic and pepper. Wait til stops dripping and it's done. Put in large cardboard box and on to the next one.

(This blood makes sanguette. Leave the plate to coagulate and when solid, slide off plate into a pot of boiling water for about 20 minutes. Cool and fry like black pudding.)

And it really is that simple. The chicken doesn't seem to notice that you are slitting its throat, it struggles a bit but very little, you've got your hand over its eyes so you can't see it dying and the others in the crate don't seem to notice.

To get the feathers off you dunk the bird up and down in a large pot of water that is just off the boil, for a couple of minutes - don't cook it. And when you put it on the table the feathers come out really easily.

Cut where neck meets chest and remove a bag of stuff - think it's the crop. Cut below chin and pull out the tube (airway?) and if it's for the french market cut off the bottom beak and clean up. At the bum end you have to cut out the anus in one piece and gently pull out the guts. DON'T cut the gall bladder or everything will be green, bitter and spoilt. Apart from that just pull everything out. Cut off and discard feet, cut off the gland that oils the feathers. Cut gizzard in half and empty out, remove layer of skin next to the contents, wash. For market put heart, liver, gizzard back in the cavity. Then use a blow lamp all over to singe any feathers and rub with cloth to make sure all spotless and tie up.

It was a good experience. I can do it, it seemed simple, I enjoyed being part of a gossipy, good humoured group of women preparing something.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Well we got the plastic for the window, just in time because it has just been tipping it down and window is perfectly watertight - Him outdoors strikes again. Nobody came to serve us, so we cut it ourselves which is very brave because you then have to explain to the checkout lady why you haven't got the chitty!

Got the table from Champion too. Had to have the last one so had to ask if we could (note use carton not boite for the cardboard box). Also apropos of nothing in particular, use c'est bien not c'est bon, aparently bon is for tasting good not for everything.

And the cacti thingies which are sitting on the new table waiting for it to stop raining!

Also went to pharmacie to get the tick remover for Arthur. 7.30€ for two tiny pieces of plastique !

One year on am confident to explain what I want or why I want it and understand what they say back - mostly. Still can't understand enough of the chat between people. Get the gist but lose the detail. But get great satisfaction out of these tiny achievements.

Thierry and Wayne are off now so I'm going to go and look at what they've been doing.

Another wet day in the Dordogne

Evelyn tells us that we will have 3 days of rain before the good weather comes back. This is mid way through day one. Evelyn is a very glamourous french woman who presents the weather on TF1 as if going to a cocktail party. A new outfit every day and although sometimes more than a bit odd, always beautifully put together.

Arthur has decided that he doesn't need to go out in the rain and has plonked himself on my lap to help with the typing. Hamish is, very surprisingly, out exploring. Unusual for him, he doesn't usually like the wet.

Sound of tyres on gravel either means that Thierry the mason is back from his lunch - not likely as it's only 1.30 - or the postman's come. Will restrain myself from leaping up to see what it could be. Put in an order for DVDs at this week so am expecting something. Also belong to and there's usually a book in the pipeline somewhere.

(One of the DVDs that arrived was I am Legend which made me realise that I really don't enjoy scarey movies. Need something to do while watching to replace peeking out from behind the sofa. And it really isn't a very scarey movie at all! Enjoyed it 'in spite of'.)

This afternoon have to go and get a gadget for taking ticks out of Arthur from the pharmacie. Didn't have any yesterday but the nice lady said that there would be some today. Him outdoors is going out to get some plastic for the new temporary window that he is making to stop the rain spoiling the new floor, so I expect we shall combine the two. But have to wait for at least 2 and probably 2.30 to make sure that the shops are open.

I also have it in mind to buy a small marble topped table to go with granny's wrought iron chairs that I have painted and some little cactii whose name escapes me for the pair of urns that are too small to keep damp in the summer or unfrozen in the winter.

The front door has finally refused to open after sticking for weeks so Him outdoors is struggling again with the bloody thing. Maybe we shall have to add a new door handle to the things we need from Weldom :)

Wayne the tiler is here today making a lovely job of the hall floor. Tiles we bought to go with the kitchen ones are too small, too thin and a pain in the arse to lay diagonally rather than straight. I hadn't realised how many more cuts you need to lay the edge tiles of diamonds - sorry Wayne.