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.