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.