Thursday, 22 December 2011

France on line

Because we are moving into a rented house, Him Outdoors wanted to get the rent paid by Direct Debit. I wonder if you can do that on-line like you can with Smile (the online Co-op bank that we have been using for years).

Log on to Banque Populaire and with a bit of 'what does xxx mean' 'look it up', he filled in the form and sent it off. NON you are not registered for this service. Oh for f**k's sake. OK contact the Banque from my logged on page thinking that our Personal Banker will receive it directly.

Receive an email from Banque saying that they have received our email.

Several hours later receive another email from Banque saying that they had passed on our email ........ but to whom............................

And nothing more.


Saw in the paper that Carrefour in Sarlat are doing on-line shopping. Yay. Brilliant. We have a Carrefour nearer, maybe it will get to us. How does it work?

You register and select from a very limited range of products. These are then picked out for you by the very pretty photographed girls. You then collect them from a special place in Carrefour in Sarlat!!!

Oh the possibilities for error are endless.....................................

The Christmas Story

Thank you Ayak for putting this on your blog. I hope you don't mind that I am passing it along.

Happy Christmas to everyone.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

French ladies and their scarves

Maybe this will go some way to making my scarf look less like a piece of string and more like one of the elegant french ladies who seem to be able to fling something round their necks and make it stick!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

French utilities

I have just spent the last two hours on the phone to various utilities and am now enjoying a restorative cup of tea. All were kind, helpful and pleasant. But because they all use vocabulary I'm not sure of and try and sell me stuff I have no idea if I want, I really have no idea what I have just done! We live in hope :-)

Getting the telephone sorted was the bizarrest. I think (and it's a big ??) that I have managed to keep the phone here and get the same set up in the new house. Did I want xx, I don't know, what is xx, it's xxxxxxxxxxxx. Is it more expensive than I've got. Yes. What extra do I get? Nothing. Don't want it then. Do I want yy. I don't know, what is yy, it's yyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Now I know I do not want my french mobile to be able to pick up something or other throughout france because I haven't got a french mobile. NON is the firm reply. Do I want television through my telephone line? Ummmmmmmm probably not NON. And so it goes on. I come away feeling that I maybe am missing out on something wondrous but at least I'm not paying more. I hope.

The best bit was 'am I near Le Buisson de Cadouin?' Yes I say. Good then you can collect your new modem from the dry cleaners???? Now first, why do I need a new modem when I have a perfectly good one here and second, why can't they send it, why do I have to go 10 miles to the dry cleaners??????????????

Mine not to reason why.................................

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Chez nous

As of next week we shall be the proud renters of this humble abode. A very sweet little house with plenty of room in the garage for our furniture and a lovely view down the valley.

Yesterday, the agent rang to say that, if we would like, the landlord was in town and we could meet him. Sure, I say and an appointment was made. A little later the phone rang and a french woman speaking french v e r y  s l o w l y introduced herself as if I knew who she was and talked of something about the village where this house is. After a bit of tooing and froing I discovered that she was the landlady and would we like to meet at her house rather than the agent. Of course, we would be delighted.

They turn out to be a couple of elderly retired teachers from Paris who have the farm below this house as a holiday home, and had bought ours to stop anyone else buying it.

So if you are invited for something at 2.30pm expect:

A table laid with table cloth and paper napkins, wine glasses, tea plates, bowls and cups on the dresser,
A glass (or two) of sweet white wine
A plate of sweet biscuits
Tinned fruit salad

And lots of kind french chat. As we left there was a perfect rainbow overhead. Good omens for our renting.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Breathing Space

House hunting is on hold. We have had a quick - or slow - loop round the roller coaster going after a fermette to restore. Lovely group of buildings, if you're going to do up a property then this is an ideal one. The only boxes it doesn't tick are 'a view' everything else is there. Only decision (and it's an impossible one) is, do we want to spend the next two/three years doing up a renovation job.

We have a rented house - yes they did eventually get back to us and all is well. Little white box but lovely position. So we could tackle a renovation without having to live in a caravan for years.

After we had taken busloads of people to look at it, the general decision was that it was sound. Still can't decide whether we want to do the renovation but ok, let's go for it.

On at 160,000 euros. Needs 200,000 spending on it. Never get the money back at that price - probably won't anyway but hey. OK offer 125 go to 135. Agent says owner has turned down 150. Bye bye house.

Meanwhile one of the people we have taken round is local french and guess what, his mother knows one of the sons of the owner of the property in town that started all this off. So there's a tiny light reappearing on that house.........................................

And so we go on with the piles of cardboard boxes and dustbin bags. (Local removal company wanted more to move us locally than it cost to move us here from England.) Lots of time because we have the rental from 15th December and we don't have to be out of here until 27th January. So all seems possible and calmer.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Nothing to report

Or, still waiting, waiting, waiting....................................................

Life has ground to a halt on the house hunting front. We have run out of places to look at and are clutching at straws. So time for  a rethink.

Renting. That should be easy in this land of holiday homes and houses that have been on the market for ever. Not.

You have a dog. Can't help you. Was the first helpful reply. Another agent was overly positive and although she said pets were no problem at all, it would be fine, she actually has one house that would be suitable.

OK rush to see that before someone else, rush to the office to sign all sorts of stuff. Get a phone call to say that they need something from the bank and also an attestation from the notaire to say that our house is sold and how much for. Why????? but needs must,OK whatever.

Go to notaire immediately and ask. They can't ask for that, it's illegal. I can give it to you if you want but it's illegal. Ended up with him faxing them something but who knows what.

That was Wednesday, today is Saturday and no word if we can have it.


Removal guy came and looked at our stuff ten days ago. I will send you a quote immediately but I am very busy so you must get back to me quickly. Too busy to send the quote!


Oh and the long awaited Tribunal for the stair case was last Thursday. Endless meetings here with insurance companies, experts, people quoting for new stairs, all to come to a final event on Thursday in front of a judge. Letter today saying that it had been postponed until January.

But at least The Killing has started again on the telly :-)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Adopting a lifestyle

We have now seen about 30 houses. Ranging from totally converted to total wreck. Have learnt a new french word - relookage. Love it.

Yesterday we saw a selection which brought it home to me how much you look at the life that the people live as well as the house itself. I was going to put up some details on here of the houses but the details are so awful that there is no way that they convey the reality of the house.

The first house we saw was a 1960s house lived in by an English couple in their late 40s/early 50s. It was immaculate. White tiled floors, everything white, spotless, no clutter at all. It was 1 pm and there was absolutely no sign that anyone had had lunch or was going to have lunch. As we arrived, the estate agent knocked and said would it be alright if we went around the outside of the house first and then came in. 'Yes, if you don't bring in any mud'. As we went in, they went outside to sit and wait until we had finished. Made me think of little mice.

It depressed the hell out of me. Lovely position on the edge of a medieval town with splendid views and the right size but a house to die in not to die for.

Then we went to see a mill in a damp leafy valley. Similar age of couple but he was a woodworker and she an artist. Everywhere you looked was a visual delight. Little carved or painted corners. Bits of stained glass. Lovely old wooden furniture. The walls were lovely ochrey earthy tones. A kitchen that was made to eat in and sit by the fire and talk to the cook. Larder stocked with filled jars. Endless, endless clutter and piles of wood that might come in useful. Have no idea how they are ever going to clear it. Charming, lovely but when you come down to it and remove the stage set, you are looking at a lovely kitchen, a glorious bathroom/only toilet on the ground floor and two bedrooms upstairs one of which was a sitting room as well. And the rest is up to you. Endless work for Him Outdoors. But a lot of money for 3 rooms.

And the last one that day is a mix of the two. Still ancient but has been lived in by an elderly couple for ever. So needs the wallpapered ceilings and oddly placed walls redone but not anything to frighten Him Outdoors. New bathrooms, new kitchen, more bedrooms in the attic, maybe move the stairs....................... We would be able to make our own bohemian mill house. Now just have to convince myself that I want to live in a tiny hamlet with nothing there, rather than the whole idea of this game which was to move into town.

The moving into town house has fallen apart. We still haven't seen the house we started all this for. The vendor is too ancient and ill to sign anything and it really isn't sensible to wait for him to die. And there isn't anything else in the town. We saw his notaire who said that she would talk to the two sons and see if they would give permission for us at least to see it but she's not known for her speed of action and we really have to get a move on with this house buying to get moved by the end of January.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A person of two parts

Being here on my own with kind friends visiting I am realising I am two people.

My wobbliness is much better, I am not deaf, am not in pain and have no tinnitus. I am fine. I have loads of the sort of food that you buy on a whim and then sits in the cupboard, that needs eating before we move and am doing very well on the sort of meals that I enjoy with the addition of some milk and fruit kindly brought by dear friends. I am doing well. Counting my blessings as Mum would say.

But if pushed by dear walking husband with too many 'No really how are yous' the person that is

angry because the only time I have been ill since we've been here, he's not here to look after me
lonely after 3 1/2 weeks on my own
fed up with being by myself
frustrated by being even more isolated because I can't drive
embarrassed having to ask for help
worried after googling too much 'dizziness'
tired because I'm not sleeping well
bored of my own company

comes to the fore and roars.

and then feels guilty...............................

Monday, 17 October 2011


Thank heavens this morning the world is not spinning as much. First morning since it started when I haven't felt the need to hang on to things all the time.


Thank you anyone that reads this that has helped. You are all very kind indeed and much appreciated.

Friday, 14 October 2011


Yesterday when I woke up and turned over in bed the world took a moment to respond. That's weird, feels like I've been drinking but I haven't had anything but other people's aperos since the walkers left.

Went carefully downstairs to get a cup of tea with all the thoughts of being on my own and falling over and breaking something and all the difficulties that that would cause. Of course I didn't, was very careful and by the end of the day the world had righted itself and everything was fine.

This morning, however, it is worse. Any movement that isn't lying down or straight up causes the world to tilt mightily. Then a sudden move caused me to be sick. OK enough.

Dear friend Jackie upset her day completely and arrived to take me to the doctor. Had to clutch on to her arm and go slowly. At the doctor's had to hold his arm to get from waiting room to surgery. He checked everything, gave me an injection - when asked what is was for he said it was for my ears - duh - only two sorts of medicine and told me to get a blood test and come back at the end of the week when the pills were done.

Just googled the names of the pills and they appear to be an anti inflammatory and something for vertigo and as you can see, as long as I just sit here in the sunshine, I'm fine. 

Debated with myself whether to tell the walkers or not. In the end sent an 'I'm fine but I thought you should know' text.

Thursday, 13 October 2011


A friend of mine has blogged about her fear of flying and it made me think of people who don't fly because they have had a premonition that the plane would crash. Would I believe it?

I have only ever had one premonition. I was eight months pregnant with our third child and as I was carefully coming down the stairs I suddenly knew that it was a girl called Sophie. Absolutely definitely no doubt whatsoever. Sophie was not a name we had discussed because it is the name of a very good friend of our first child and seemed to have been 'taken'.

My mother always said that she knew the sex of the child as she went into the delivery room.

Now with all these things there is a 50 50 chance of being right. Mum had 4 so that ups the odds of her 'knowing' I guess.

From my life experience I didn't trust my premonition. Yes, it felt completely and utterly convincing, real Road to Damascus stuff and privately to myself I began to talk to her as Sophie but to other people I would only tell them in a 'probably isn't but' sort of way.

At that time, if you had had no problems with other deliveries you were allowed to opt for the Domino system which meant that you had no hospital appointments at all, just saw your doctor and your own midwife and took them in to the hospital with you. With the other babies, hospital appointments were things that took at least 3 hours of waiting in a crowded waiting room while you were herded like sheep from urine sample (peeing in an egg box) to blood test (done by the newest, least experienced nurse) to prod by a doctor, to make another appointment. So the idea of not doing that was great. (Him Outdoors was an emergency caesarian delivery so we always opted for hospital deliveries.)  Anyway this all meant that we had had no scans at all so had no idea of the sex of the baby.

Of course, as is the way of these things, my doctor was on holiday and my midwife not on duty so the ones that turned up were not ones I knew very well. But after a really positive delivery in which I felt totally in control and of which I have nothing but good memories, there was a girl called Sophie.

So, would I believe another premonition? Yes, if it felt as that one did, I would. I still think with my logical head that it was just the toss of a coin whether it was a girl or boy and however many babies you have it is still just 50 50. But, in my heart,  I KNEW it was a girl called Sophie :-)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Another couple of classics

Bath time.

Defiant nine year old when asked to get in the bath:

"Make me" (I can still see the challenge in his eye)

Wrong decision.

Still just strong enough to pick him up fully clothed and drop him in.

But the best one was a friend of mine who was so tired of the bickering that went on between the children when they got home from school about what they were going to watch on the telly...............

She marched in, unplugged the telly, cut the plug off with a large pair of scissors, put the plug in her pocket and marched out again.

Love it.

The therapeutic values of loud music

Ever since I've been at home with small children there have been occasions when a really loud blast of rock music clears the tensions.

This morning it is Mark Knopfler. A good burst of really loud singing and dancing raises my spirits immeasurably. Thank you for the speakers that don't mind that dear twin.

Some mornings on the school run there would be a gloomy child that would be cheered by choosing their tape (in those days) and we would all sing along.

I do remember one occasion when the kids were a bit older when there was a battle as to the music. After a bit of argy bargy.

'No, it's my car, I'm driving, I'm choosing the music for once'

Elder son puts in his music and turns it on.

I take out the tape and throw it out of the window.

Stunned silence in the car.

Sunday, 9 October 2011


It's cold! First fire of the season last night. More to do with it being very grey and gloomy when I got back from a jolly lunch. Very cheering.

The lunch was a thank you from the commune to all those that had spent months making flowers for La Felibree. A local restaurant has been taken over by a young couple and been given a revamp. I think it is doing well as an evening place too which the town needs. Looking at the relationships of the staff, I think that it is the son and daughter in law of the previous owner.

I sat at a table with all the usual ladies and was very much welcomed, which was lovely. Same old, same old for lunch. I'm so tired of garlic soup, foie gras, confit de canard and walnut tart and I've only been having it for 4 years, how tired must everyone else be? Noting Fly's comments about the frozen food delivery vans, I had a look at their usual menu and as she says, there is no way at all that any of it could be fresh. You just couldn't keep that many things going. Couldn't hear the pinging of the microwave from the restaurant because there was too much chat/background music.

I find it really hard to understand anyone when more than one person is talking. And I know I was nodding when I should have been shaking my head but they are very tolerant. They have got to the stage when they are wanting me to know details of their lives - my husband left me after 37 years of marriage and such like and I'm sure I'm not shocked enough because I have misunderstood. Managed to have a sensible knitting conversation with one of the ladies who is going to show me what I am doing wrong on Tuesday afternoon.

Today I got out early to go to the market and got to be the first car parked nearest the market! Never happened before, in August you have to park way back down the road. I love it early. All french people, food stalls in full swing, tourist tat just setting up. Lots of ca va, hand shaking, chat. My favourite stall was there so got lots of their veg/eggs/fruit. The season is always changing, more squash and lots of apples this time. Lots of winter clothes too of the fleece, thick jumper variety. And the flower lady had the most wonderful display of zinnias really zinging out.

Was intending to come back and take Sweety for a walk but passed loads of hunters on the way back and as I got the basket out of the car there was a lot of banging in the valley. Sorry Sweety you'll have to wait until these trigger happy guys have gone to lunch.

Tomorrow I am meeting the walkers for lunch. They will be at Montcuq which according to my book is about 380 km from the start. What an achievement. They are so full of stories of kindness, lovely people, lovely places, tired feet. It will be such a change to have a proper conversation rather than money running out, phone box ones.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Change in the weather

At last we have had some rain. Yesterday we had the first downpour for months, the wind got up and the stressed trees shed their leaves by the million.

This afternoon I have been into the local tourist trap for a haircut and then taken Sweety for a walk down by the river. It is sooooooooooo beautiful.

The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, the golden leaves are swirling about, the already stunning yellow stone buildings seem to glow even more in the autumn sunlight. Because it's so windy you seem to be able to creep up on the cormorants (guillemots or shags?) egrets and herons before they notice you.

But the best thing is that the falling leaves reveal whole new vistas. Today you can see much more of the river than in the summer. You can glimpse chateaux that I didn't even know were there.
Lovely. And now I feel very virtuous and am quite content to sit down with a book that has arrived from The ninth life of Louis Drax. Any good??

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Notes on  a house I have just seen while I remember it.

Things it has going for it: ancientness, just about in the town, garden, view from the garden, possibility of garage maybe.

And then I was going to list the pros and that gets more difficult because the feeling you are left with is an overwhelming net curtained brown/orangeness :-)

Proudly shown by young woman whose husband is a pompier. In her eyes it has a little apartment for her daughter at entry level, a main living room and kitchen at ground level at the back and 3 1/2 (already I can't remember whether it was 3 or 4 and a half) bedrooms at first floor and a big attic. Lots of cupboards all over the place. And is therefore worth 300,000 euros.

It actually has a damp smelling (after the biggest drought ever) cave, then stairs up to ground level space then a first floor space, everything is panelled, tiled or wallpapered with three feet thick walls probably just where you don't want them. Some of the house is actually in next door's house in the way of old buildings. It would have to be gutted and start again.

But it did have this:

which was a surprise. Its back courtyard is charming. Much lighter/brighter/larger than I was expecting with a niche of a fountain in the back wall. And stairs up to quite a large garden which if it hadn't been the first foggy day of the autumn would have had a lovely view.

Have arranged for Him Outdoors to see it when he gets back.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Estate agents

Why do estate agents make me so cross?

Our purchasers are pushing for us to confirm a completion date. I email agent to ask a couple of questions about timescales and to confirm the details of what happens if the vendor of the house we have our eye on dies mid deal.

After half an hour of conversation during which I managed to drop in that I am going tomorrow to see a house that a neighbour has told me will be coming on the market, he admits he doesn't know the answer to the questions I asked. But would I like to go and see a couple of totally unsuitable houses?

And ended up with. would I like to come over for an aperatif with him and his wife. Sure I say, that would be lovely. Oh, says he,  I'm fully booked for a while but I'll let you know when.

I think I've answered my own question.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Being the youngest/smallest

Thinking of dear daughter.

It seems odd now when I have spent all my life being the tallest (6ft), but growing up, in our family, I was the smallest, and only girl.

I have just been dusting an old chair that my grandmother had that is really on its last legs now and is seeing out its days as my bedroom chair. When I lived at home, it had been handed down to my parents and was in the hall next to the grandfather clock and was fairly rickety then. Nobody sat on it, it was just there.

But when there was a family meal that required all our chairs, I, as the smallest, had to sit on the wobbly old chair. Dusting it, I remembered the feeling of having to sit very still because if it moved it might break. Not that I might get hurt but I might break the special chair.

Dear daughter is the smallest in our family and it is always her (she?) who has to sit in the middle in the back seat of the car, take the smallest bed, smallest chair. It makes you feel that you are the least important somehow. Now, as the grown up, I can see that it is just what happens, your older brothers won't fit in these places but it hasn't taken away that feeling.

Love you dear daughter.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Commenting on other peoples' blogs

I have had so many problems with this that I have given up. But today I have gathered enough energy to have another wander around the internet and hey presto!!

Of course I changed two things so I don't know which of these it is or both.

Uncheck the stay signed in box when you sign in.

Go to tools, internet options, privacy, advanced privacy and uncheck the box that says that you filter out third party cookies.

And this time it works. I am not optimistic enough to think that it will next time but who knows :-)

The market

You'd think if there was only one of me to get sorted out and I didn't have to be at the market to meet a friend until 10.30 I could get myself there. Well wouldn't you. But life conspires against me :-)

First Sweety has to be walked because it will be too hot later. So get up in plenty of time, feed dog and off down the field. Remembered to take the carrier bag so that we spent quite a long time digging about in the long grass under the walnut tree on the corner, and gathered a good haul. Sweety enjoys the digging about and if she finds one she crunches it up but doesn't seem to be able to find them. (All plans of being a truffle hound don't look promising.)

Back home, check emails and texts to see if there is anything new from the walkers. Answer their questions. Discover I could have killed the dog by walking immediately after feeding (gastric dilatation and volvulus who knew). And suddenly it's 10 o'clock.

This is the first morning ever that I am shopping at the market just for what I want to eat. Slightly complicated by the main stall that I like not being there. And what did I come home with: milk, eggs, mountain of grapes, a melon, avocado, courgette, shallots and aubergine. I am really being surprised about how little interest I am taking in food of any sort. I knew it would be lovely not to produce a 'proper' meal twice a day and make sure the stuff for breakfast is there but I didn't realise quite how much I wasn't interested. I wonder how long it will last.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

La Banque

My bank card will not let me take money out of my usual hole in the wall. Contact your agent it says.

I rang the nice lady in the English speaking department to be on the safe side but did it in french. "I can't find anything wrong. There is not a problem with your card perhaps it is the hole in the wall."

OK I say. It is not a problem that we drew out 600 euros on Saturday (so that Him Outdoors could eat on the Camino)? No she says, you went to one of this bank's holes in the wall and you are allowed to take 900 euros if you do that. Yes folks, you are only allowed to take out 900 euros a week from your own bank, it is only 300 euros a week from any other hole in the wall. We had made a special trip to one of ours.

"Try again in another one."

OK so this morning I go to another one. Still no money. I rang again. The english speaking office is unusually closed - could this have anything to do with the school canteen people being on strike today so the schools are shut. (Yes, you can't have a school open if the canteen is shut.)

I ring our branch of the bank.

I explain my problem to a young man. He asks me for my card number. This in itself presents difficulties because in France all numbers are done in pairs which involves a lot of quatre vingt seize and soixante dix sept. I tell him in individual digits so that I can be sure it is right. He repeats it back to me in pairs. I can see he is going to be really helpful.

He starts by saying that you have taken out too much money, it's obvious. So I explain his system to him and he agrees with me. He then suggests that perhaps they have no money in them!!!! Then gives a huge Gallic shrug and says that there is nothing wrong with their system. And goodbye.

I am spitting feathers and since I am on my own here, I start typing..............

And then the phone rings and a charming manager sounding banque man explains to me in slow french that unfortunately, because we have taken 600 euros out of our bank, we have to go back to our bank to take out more money for the rest of the week (up to 900 euros). It is the system, it is the security. He answers my questions simply, makes sure I understand, is totally charming. He tells me that the sun is shining, life is good and makes my day.

Perhaps, in the end, there is customer service in France.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Helen Mirren in 1975

An article in The Guardian refers to this interview with Michael Parkingson in 1975.

She is 7 years older than me but this is the sort of TV interview that was perfectly normal at that time. I had forgotten just how amazingly patronising was acceptable in the world in which I spent my teenage years. Be grateful younger people for how life has changed so much so quickly.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Camino and being solitary

Today I have got back from taking Him Outdoors and his sister to the start point of a 750km walk. This has been a year in the planning and it seems strange that it has now actually started.

They are walking from Le Puy en Velay to St Jean Pied de Port which is part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostella (looking at all those I begin to doubt my spelling!). Not for any religious purpose, just for a long walk.

Him Outdoors drove to Le Puy - 5 1/2 hours - yesterday. We stayed in a really lovely Chambre d'Hote last night and then I drove back today after dropping them off.

I am not as tired as I thought I would be. It is usually Him Outdoors that does the driving while I navigate and I am very proud of myself that I managed to do both without any mishaps. I have just heard that they have arrived safely at their first night stop and all went well. Yesterday and last night there was much discussion about whether they could actually achieve this distance in the month they have to do it and they were considered very sensible to only be doing a relatively short walk for the first day as it was sooooo steep. Seems like they managed very well, didn't find it too steep and are going to double the distance tomorrow.

Meanwhile I am here on my own (with dog and cat) for a month which is ok so far :-)

I have never spent any length of time on my own. I left home at 18 to share a house with girlfriends and then married Him Outdoors. He used to be away on business at least one week a month at one time but there were always the kids about so I am very interested to see how I cope.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Making things fit the facts

Him Outdoors has just come back from walking the dog around the commune. Very proud of himself because he has had a chat with two of our very elderly french farming neighbours.

Trying to keep the surprise out of my voice, I asked what they had been talking about.

Well, I asked Jean Claude if he had been walking this week and said that we hadn't because it was too hot but that I am off at the weekend to start a 750km walk from Le Puy to St Jean Pied de Port. And they were very impressed.

Then M. Deltreil asked me if I had heard the donkey last night but it wasn't the usual word for donkey. (M. Deltreil has just acquired three new donkeys in the field opposite.)

Well how did you know it was a donkey then?

Because he brayed at me and then waved his ears above his head for the ears. And then I asked him if he had a baby donkey too because I thought I had seen one but he didn't seem to understand that.

A bit later a thought occurred to me. Was the word he used le cerf?

Yes, that's it.

When I could speak for laughing I told him that le cerf was a stag and it must be the rutting season and the noises and gestures M. Deltreil were making were entirely appropriate for stag too.....................

Monday, 19 September 2011

Journees du Patrimoine

This weekend has been a weekend of free visiting of sites. I think it is probably some sort of tax dodge where tourist sites are given funding if they open for free for a couple of days a year but maybe that's just me being my usual sceptical self.

On Saturday we went to see a DVD showing of the history of our local town followed by another one which was a collection of early photos of the town and the area and then a visit to a model of the most ancient part of the town. All done by local older people so that what they know or had collected wouldn't be lost.

We had somehow thought that there might be some interest in this but turned up to find the guy who had made the DVDs and his computer and screen, then two old ladies, another couple of old ladies arrived a bit later and another english speaker. We all chatted together for a bit and then the DVDs were shown. I loved that two of the older ladies were nudging each other at some of the photos and obviously recognising some of the people. Also got back in contact with one of the ladies who used to be a neighbour so that was good.

On Sunday Him Outdoors wanted me to come and translate for the 'Discovery of the Paths of the Resistance'. All meet in the centre of town, share cars - we went in a french couple from Nantes' car - and drive off to a memorial. Four Spanish guys were killed in a farm nearby. Went to see the farm whose ruins still exist. Told how and where they died. Most importance on the fact that they were Spanish and fighting for France. Some discussion of the fact that they were working in a coal mine locally which employed a lot of foreigners and enabled foreigners to have paperwork that satisfied the Germans. Then went to visit their grave which had been redone a couple of years ago. Much mention of ceremony.

On the way to the next one we pass the mine that they worked in. 'Quick' diversion while we got a half hour lecture on the art of mining.

Him Outdoors was by now beginning to mutter about hoping that some mention was going to be made about why the guys were in the woods in the first place and what sort of thing they were doing and the local groups and really any general background stuff.

Off to another memorial beside the main road. Translation completely hindered by guide talking to the memorial rather than us who were behind him and by the cars that were speeding past. Again three foreign guys to one french man. Much talk of the fact that they were initially buried in one commune when they actually died in another because the border was a few feet away. Still no mention of why they died just that they were shot.

Much photo taking of participants of the group.

Third memorial, same. and the Fourth.

OK so we went on a tour of memorials to foreigners who fought for the french and where most of them worked.

At the third and fourth memorials the guide was discussing that there was a plan to make a new memorial in a garden away from the main road so that all the armistice day ceremonies and such like could be held without getting run over. Seems like a good idea. But one of the people on the tour came from another commune locally and was very indignant that a memorial to people who died in his commune was going to be put up in the next commune. Obviously very very important that communes keep their own memorials. As far as I could tell, they aren't planning to move the memorials which are placed where the men died, just add another plaque in the garden.

All in all, a very french weekend. Lovely.

Friday, 16 September 2011

First World War Domestic Deserters

We watched one of the 'Who do you think you are' programmes last night. Don't specially like Alan Carr who was featured but enjoy the connections that they dig up.

Turns out that all the family stories about some name change in the family were due to him being a deserter in the first world war. He deserted from one of the Pals Brigades that were formed which was a group of men all from the same area (from the souvenirs, in this case a group of men all from the same few streets) that joined up together to fight.

He didn't ever go to France, there were a couple of nights when he was AWOL which was considered normal - just sleeping off a celebration - and then he disappeared with wife and two children.

He then went on to have, I think 12 children in a new place with a new name, one of which was Alan Carr's grandfather.

We were both saying 'don't you get shot for desertion'. But apparently not if you never get to the field of battle. But you are still a wanted man who might potentially serve two years' hard labour.

Alan Carr's attitude now is 'good for him' he got out at the best time to be with his family, love not war. And apparently their were 50,000 others.

It has left me full of wonderings about what life must have been like for this man. How you live all your life with such a big secret. What is it like to desert from a unit that is made up of everyone that you grew up with?

And the final kick was that he had 8 sons who all served in the forces in the Second World War....................

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Ha ha slight misunderstanding

Got another staircase letter this morning.

A copy of the report from Monsieur The Expert. Apparently this report isn't The Report, it's The Pre Report. The Pre Report goes to both sides for their comments and it is those that have to be received before the first of October in order that Monsieur The Expert can write his Report.

(I thought this was already the Pre Report but it must have been the Pre Pre Report - silly me.)

So it's not a month until it goes to the Judge, it's a month until it goes back to Monsieur the Expert so he can spend another three months writing his report.

You're right Perpetua we will be moved before it finishes - I wonder if that matters............................

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The stair case continues

Yesterday we received the expert's report. Only three months after his meeting.

He says there are twelve points wrong with the staircase, two of which are fundamental errors in that the stairs do not meet the norms of staircases. So the only thing to do is to take them down and replace them.

And from the estimates that you have provided that will cost about twice what you paid.

Over to the judge who (apparently) will give a ruling in 30 days ........................................

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Plan D or is it E??

OK but no cigar.

We met Monsieur outside this house and he welcomed us in. He had got there earlier and opened some of the windows. This is the house of his parents. He moved there when he was two and to him it is his family home and therefore perfect. It is an old stone house almost next door to the ancient church. It must be very old although he didn't know how old. (All questions would have to be referred to his sister who had all the paperwork.) Everything of any age has been covered up in carpet, hardboard or peeling flowery wallpaper. But they can't hide all the signs of 2 foot thick walls, curved wooden staircases and wood floors.

It has potential. The garden is small but there is one. There is a modern, plastic garage at the back of the garden but how you would get a car in it is debatable. There is a well but it had been blocked up because as a little boy it had been dangerous - I wonder if they just blocked it off or filled it in??

What still tickles me is that when we went upstairs to see where the large rooms had been divided up with hardboard and a bathroom somehow in the way, we had to ask him to open the shutters. This revealed the lovely view down the valley that would be from the master bedroom. No, no, don't show them the wow factor..............................

He made a special point of telling us that the boiler was old (ancient) but the heating worked fine so we wouldn't need to replace that, there was a kitchen so we wouldn't have to do that would we and the bathrooms were old but hey (gallic shrug). Therefore it was priced to be lived in, not as a renovation project. Yeah right.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Plan B

Thank you Fly for your advice. Blogger is being a real pain about not letting me comment. I write beautiful, well thought out, comments, now copying them before I start trying to get them to show up (I do learn some things eventually) but no luck.

Rang the agent yesterday to get some info on what was happening with the house that we would like to see. The owner is (as we knew) very old and ill. Moving backwards and forwards between Maison de Retraite and Hospital. He has always dealt with the Notaire of the village of our agent - not our village. He has always dealt with this notaire back to the previous one and his father and will only deal with this notaire. She is on holiday - it is August after all. The man has up to 4 sons, number varies but however many, he doesn't get on with any of them! Notaire will be back next week and will sort things out then. So we wait. Patiently. And hope he stays well.

Today we went to see this house

Being french particulars, it looks nothing from the picture but it is actually a very sweet little house.  Completely done. But in a very very quiet green valley just below the house that we want. With small, very steep, very chalky garden, 2 beautiful walnut trees and lovely views. So in one sense not what we are wanting at all but it is in Belves (just) and we could see ourselves living in it and it allows Him Outdoors to be day dreaming of canal boats and Camper vans.......................

We have also arranged to see another one next week and then that's it. Just wait patiently. I will try.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Oh that's better

Much more normal feeling of things not going well :-)

or maybe I should have sacrificed the stairman as Fly suggested..............................

Off to the estate agent who during the afternoon turned from the wonderful Monsieur to 'Him Who Speak with Forked Tongue'.

In France the buyer pays the agent's fees - and they are enormous - so there is a huge element of desparately wanting to be the one that shows you the house first because if you do buy it they will get the fee. Him Outdoors says that we haven't signed anything saying we are seeing a property with this agent but I just know that that won't matter, if we've seen the house first with him, he will get the fee.

So, of course, Monsieur Barde also wants to be the one that tells us that he is The Man for the House that we want.

He says that he hasn't got the key at this moment but he was just going to get it that afternoon and if we went to see these other houses by the time we had seen them he would be able to get the key. OK ......................(doubts beginning to creep in).

First we go off to see

Which looks like a possible. An enormous muddle of ancient stone buildings but is in the middle of the town, has a garden, garage and view. Too much, too money pit and whatever you did you'd still end up with a house next to a pizzeria. We met another neighbour that walks with Him Outdoors who said that of course that did not matter because it was only in the summer?? Umm is not that when you sit outside? I thought that maybe it wouldn't matter quite so much if all the pizzeria chatter was in french - it would add to the ambiance. But of course it isn't in french is it, what french food tourist would eat pizza. It's all smoking english and dutch. Anyway no to that one.


This is the house that everyone we have mentioned that we are looking for a house in Belves with a garden tells us about. We've peered over the wall at this. Good garden that stretches between two roads and lots of garage. It's very small but has room to do up the roof and the cave is lovely with two flat bottomed boats for going on the river - and the old septic tank that hasn't been got rid of but hey. But it's so dull. And overlooked. And no view.

Beginning to lose heart now. (and remember the downside of all this househunting lark.)

Off to his third one

Lovely garden, lovely view, except that by being this side, it is above the only factory for miles. No garage. And guess what, the house is on the corner but the bit of house that is for sale doesn't include the bit on the corner so it is absolutely tiny. And peeking through the windows of the bit that isn't for sale, one of the rooms has a full set up drum kit! Umm is that better or worse than a pizzeria?

So now all that's left is the one that we want. And I know I lose quite a lot in the translation but suddenly he doesn't have the key for that. But if we pop in next time we are in Belves he might have..........................

Ho hum, trusting soul that I am.

I am determinedly of the opinion that there is always another house. And this morning I am back on that track but last night was full of 'we're never going to make this happen', 'there just aren't enough houses'.

But this one looks possible.

The one that we really really want is on here.

About mid way down the picture about a third of the way in from the left with a horrible conservatory thingyand all the garden you can see in front of it and two garages on the other side of the road at the bottom of the garden. Off to daydream.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Propitiate the Gods

I feel the need to sacrifice something this morning! All my fingers crossed/too good to be true/can't possibly happen/what have we done to deserve this feelings are in full flow.

Nothing logical about it, just have a huge feeling of too much good is happening and we will have to pay for it somehow.

Doesn't help that today has dawned with dark grey threatening clouds of the sort that would have an alien spaceship decending from them in a Steven Spielberg film!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Heat and house hunting

Wow it's hot. Today is better in that there is a breeze but it is over 35 all day. There was a blissful moment at 3 o'clock this morning when I felt a cool breeze but until then it was very sticky.

I don't function well in this heat. A minimum of housework and shopping.

Today we set off reasonably early to the supermarket. I went shopping and Him Outdoors walked the dog by the river. I joined them at the bathing place when I had finished. It was deserted, shadey and cool. Very very lovely. Not nearly as much water as usual but we have major storms forecast by the end of the week. C'est normale after heat.

Whilst I had been shopping I met Maurice who is the loveliest local man. We had missed the 100th birthday party of Madame Cassan who is still living at home with her daughter in law, reading the paper every day without her glasses and only recently given up her garden. The event went well apparently - I hope they got my apologies letter - and Maurice was telling me that the Felibree had made so much profit that there was going to be a very good meal for all those that helped shortly. I love that that is the main way of celebration. I hope it isn't tete de veau like last time. Probably more duck.

I told him that we hope we had sold the house and were looking to move into the village. He seemed to think that that was an acceptable plan. And surprise, surprise, of course he knew the man who owned the house that we wanted to look at, the man's son was his neighbour.............

The tourist office lady has just rung to say that there is another house that we should see but don't go to the agent, the number is on the door..........................

And so the net widens.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Paying the Parking Fine

Whilst we were in a peaceful haze after our luxury house, we went into the nearest town to try and get my glasses mended and buy some more nail scissors that one of the kids had gone off with - back to reality.

Beautiful wide main street lined with lamp posts festooned with flowers.

Unfortunately some of the flowers obscured the fact that you had to pay for parking. We've obviously been living in France too long. Pay for parking???

Back home to sort out the parking ticket.

Long strip of purple paper with black writing on. Tiny tiny numbers not quite printed in the boxes provided.

After both peering at the numbers, under the light and at the window, and finding the magnifying glass, we establish the numbers that they must be looking for.

Go on line and enter the number and then find it wants the car number. Oh bloody hell, what the hell was the hire car number.

More searching through papers.......................... Eureka.


Well that's odd it's the same number as the ticket number???????????????????



Look for more numbers. And eventually they manage to take 40 euro off us.


On the way back to Dublin after the wedding we stayed in a house that was part of the Hidden Ireland scheme.

Over the years I have read articles in magazines about Irish country houses that open their doors to visitors without really becoming hotels in the traditional sense. They share their home.

I want some of that.

So we booked for one night in Mornington House in County Meath. This was mid way between Donegal and Dublin and looked perfect. And it lived up to all expectations.

It is a large house with more recent Georgian frontage that has been in the family since it had enough staff to keep it immaculate and enough land to provide the income. It is still lovely but with a slightly faded elegance that perfectly suits my idea of Lord Peter Wimsey. Yay, I'm living in a novel!

Tea in the drawing room full of slightly mismatched furniture with fading covers. Lots of family pictures, interesting books and magazines. The bedroom is perfectly proportioned with huge comfortable bed, windows overlooking the lawn and complete silence.

Drinks back in the drawing room meeting the other guests and then dinner at a large table in candle lit dining room with sparkly silver and glass. Excellent food.

The gardens look as if they only have a gardener once a week to help out and that's enough to help keep the vegetables productive and the grass cut but not enough to tidy the corners. That untidy tidiness that I love.

Huge full moon rising behind the enormous old tree in the middle of the lawn.

Walk down to the lake before another enormous breakfast and then back to the reality of Ryanair.


Memories of the wedding are much more confused.

I love:

being part of a large family party staying in several places that get together in the evening.

being the one that feeds them............and the one that doesn't.

meeting new members of our family and getting to know them

meeting old members of our family and spending time with them

spending lots of time with our new grandchild (and his parents)

being part of an enormous Irish family party

having a house full of gorgeous young men in morning suits

being at a catholic wedding (which was a completely different experience) with humourous priest, beautiful flowers, beautiful bride, handsome groom, gorgeous ushers and bridesmaids, and a splash of sunshine

watching Him Outdoors crying before the bride had got down the aisle

seeing dear daughter as the best looking bridesmaid

having a best man that sings his speech with the chorus line that our son is the nicest man he knows - still makes me cry

being part of such a delightfully happy occasion

Friday, 19 August 2011


To Ireland for middle son's wedding.........................................

Lovely bus conductor at the airport telling us how to get to our hotel without having to wait another hour.

Kind gate man at a music festival pointing us in the right direction for the hotel after we turned the wrong way out of the Dart station.

Lovely helpful girls in the shoe shop buying black wedding shoes for Him Outdoors - just happened to have some that I 'needed' too.

How perfect a mug of tea can be.

Walking along the pier in bright sunshine at Dun Laoghaire (sp?) watching the storm clouds over Dublin.

Getting soaked on the pier at Dun Laoghaire listening to the band that were playing in horizontal rain.

First curry for ages in a pub trying to understand the vagaries of Irish football on the telly.

American foursome in the B and B. Two well travelled and name dropping, one just got his first passport and totally overwhelmed.

Young student Gavin leading the historical walking tour of Dublin. Extremely elderly American woman who arrived for the walking tour pushing an oxygen cylinder on a trolley! Watching Gavin trying to suggest that perhaps a 2 hour walking tour wasn't quite what she needed to be doing. (she managed half of it).

Fish and chips in the garden of the cathedral.

The amazing treasures at the Chester Beatty Library.

Eccentric book shop owner telling tales of James Joyce

Meeting a chinese waitress who looked about 15 and turned out to have 2 children and an Irish husband so was probably early thirties. She goes back to China for a month every year with the kids so that they can see the family.

First sight of the spectacular beaches of Donegal.

Sold the house!!

I have just looked at the date of my last post and what a lot's been happening.

The house is sold. In a month. For virtually the asking price.

I'm sorry, I know I'm delighted with this but 'everyone' said that it would take at least two years to sell the house and we're in shock.

We have sold to an english couple who have enough money to get a mortgage to buy our house to use it as a holiday home for 8 weeks a year - and they can't move in until after Christmas because they are already committed to a ski ing holiday. Perfect buyers. (Too good to be true??) All fingers and toes crossed.

With hardly time to draw breath we are on to looking for the next one. I dug out the list of things we were looking for when we bought this one and interestingly what we are now looking for is a selection of the things this one didn't have. I want to have more contact with people, a garden that you don't have to drill holes in the chalk to plant things in, still need a view and Him Outdoors needs another project.

We had a property in mind when we started this process but the guy who owns it is very old and is now in the local maison de retraite. The french friend who found this out said that that was ok, you just go along and see if he's senile and then talk to his family. Ooooooh that's not a very english way to do things :-)

I find all these things more difficult when the temperature is in the high 30s. What little brain I have left ceases to function!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Blogger won't let me comment

Can't make the bloody thing let me comment on anything this morning.


Well, of course they didn't want it. But enjoyed meeting two gay guys with plans for a holiday home in Dordogneshire to add to their houses in Spain and England!

and thank you guys for all your good wishes.

The energy man came yesterday afternoon. He was lovely and helpful and also knew the house we had our eye on in Belves because he had surveyed it.

Trouble is they have taken it off the market because the vendor is ancient and ill and they can't get the paperwork sorted. Still, if we can't see it, nor can anyone else. (Is my glass half full or what??)

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Putting the house on the market

We have spent a lot of time this summer with friends who live in the local town. They are renovating a 500 year old house. We want a go at that.

But then we'd have to sell this........................

Lots of discussions back and forth. Shall we, shan't we.

And we have. House is now on the market.

No great excitement. Nobody's looking for houses. Won't sell for years.

But the first people are coming round in a minute - all tidy and waiting - and what if they want it.............................................................

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

La Tombee de la nuit

On the way to the market this morning we passed some posters at the side of the road. As usual they whizz by and it takes me about 3 to read all the information. On the first couple I gathered that there was going to be a Cinema en plein air on Monday in a local village. Oh that would be good to go to. They are rare here because the weather is really not reliable enough I guess. And it doesn't look like it will be this week but you never know.

I decided that the film was called La Tombee de la Nuit with maybe a second film called Petit Nicolas. Try very hard to fix in the memory in order to google it when I get home. Vague memories of something Marlon Brando'y with that name. Maybe.

Get home and google La Tombee de la Nuit and although there are several films that are sort of that, there is nothing specifically that.

Then light dawns (or falls). You idiot.

La tombee de la nuit means that the film is shown at dusk.............................................

(The film is actually Petit Nicolas.)


Him Outdoors said this was worth a blog................................

We have been to a local market this morning. We have visitors tomorrow and more fruit and salad was required so let's go early and beat the tourists. Since it had the look of a stormy morning we didn't hang about.

Had a discussion with the Jacks (Jacque et Jacqueline who run the veg stall we favour) about how aniseedy her basil tasted compared to ours. She sells lovely generous bunches for a euro when I have to be very stingy with mine that suffered in the very hot weather. She busily crushed leaves of different shapes and agreed that the pointy (or was it the round?) ones were indeed much aniseedier than the others. Bizarre. But she had bought 3 packets of seeds and none of them had said anything apart from big basil on them. But yes it was true they were different. Next year we must get our seed from different places.

After the market we had to go to the local DIY shed to get various bits and pieces. I had hopes of some low growing plants to fill in some holes in the patio but not very big hopes because they have lost the person on their staff that actually knew you had to water plants to keep them alive. We gathered our few things and approached the check out. There was a long queue but they have an information desk that sometimes acts as a check out. So I asked the girl who was busily shuffling paper if she was a check out too today. Oh yes she says, of course, and busily signals to the back 3 people of the queue to go round to the other side of the information desk while I stand looking at her over the till she was behind.

Fortunately this left only 2 people in the original queue so it was ok but Him Outdoors was spluttering with laughter by the door.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Miserable people

With us at the back of the church at the christening were another couple. Probably English but since we were English we didn't say anything to each other :-)

When we met up with the family party it was obvious that they were part of the event and we exchanged a few words. After navigating our way to the party we eventually got chatting properly.

Usual questions: Where do you live? (never heard of it, as far in the other direction as we are from the party.) How did you meet the family? (same as us, they had had work done by Ruby's dad.) How long have you been here? (eight years.) Got lots of visitors this summer? and that started them off.

No they hadn't got lots of visitors this year because their house was put on the market last year so they had not booked in any visitors in case they weren't here. They were quite pleased about not having any visitors, it was much nicer sitting in their house enjoying it than trolling around the countryside taking people to places they'd been to 50 million times.

Turns out Mrs Guest hates the winters with a passion. They have a flat in England somewhere and she leaves him and goes back to it for the winter. Nothing to do, horrible weather.

They'd both been having french lessons every week for 6 years and had got nowhere. When they went to village events they were looked at with dismay and no one wanted to talk to them because they didn't speak good enough french.

After a bit more of this and a couple more glasses of wine I was beginning to think that it wasn't anything to do with their lack of french, it was just their total negative attitude. I would be dismayed. There followed another couple of tales about how negative 'the french' were, how rude the other expats were to them, how prejudiced expats were against northerners........................

Fortunately lunch was then served which was the most delicious curry. Such a treat.

Family Baptism

Yesterday we were very kindly invited to join the celebrations of a local family at the baptism of their fifth child (a dear little six month old called Ruby). Baptism at a local church and afterwards at their village hall.

We arrived at the village where the church was way too early. As usual! So had plenty of time to find somewhere to park and sit in a cafe watching the world go by with a coffee. This village is only half an hour away from ours but has a completely different feel to it. The stone is grey rather than our rich yellow and there was a real buzz about the place. The square was full of cars with lots of comings and goings and the cafe we chose was full of young people. There were a lot of tourists about but these looked like young working people enjoying meeting up regularly on a Sunday morning after a leisurely lie in. I love this aspect of french life. It is so civilised.

After a coffee and a request as to the exact whereabouts of the church we wandered over and slipped into the back of a huge ancient church full of people ending mass. I have been in a lot of these since we have been here but not when it was full with all ages of people and children wandering about. The mass ended and we sat still while the congregation filed out with lots of chat and greeting.

The family we had come to join originally came from Burma so it was easy to pick them out in this very white french community! We know the parents of the child but not the father's (it's he who has the Burmese mother) brother or sister who between them had another 7 children. And then there were their friends who had young children too so there were small children everywhere.

The service was conducted by an enormous, and very black, priest with a lovely deep resonating voice. It was a lovely picture when he took the tiny little girl in his arms. All the children were watching closely but it obviously wasn't anything new to them, they'd all been to christenings/first communions often and were quite happy to sit quietly.

The thing that has stayed with me most is the idea that this tiny delightful little scrap of a six month old that gazed around wide eyed over her father's shoulder could possibly be full of sin that needed casting out.

Loved the occasion, delighted to be there but it's not an idea that sits easily with me.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Be careful what you wish for

I have been going to the village hall to make flowers pretty much every Tuesday afternoon since January. There are a core of elderly ladies who chat and I sit and listen mostly with the occasional comment. I can now understand what they are talking about but lose their opinions which is very frustrating.

Yesterday I went up to hear what they had to say about La Felibree and whether they thought it had gone off well. Most of the discussion was about the tremendous heat. Quite a few of the ladies (or their husbands) had been unable to go because it was so hot and they couldn't manage the walking around which was a shame. They had all been to admire the flowers. The town does look beautiful and apparently they are to be left all summer. Dear Maurice arrived and was greeted warmly. The main effect on him has been to make his back much worse so there was much discussion of the treatment he was signed up for and where it was and who else had had it. He did look like he was hurting poor man. This led to more discussion of health - always a popular topic - especially stairs and how many and how difficult they were. And also dementia. One of the ladies was recounting her lapses of memory and the more she said, the more people found it difficult to say that 'that was normal we all do that'.

They also discussed the case with Dominique Strauss-Kahn with great energy but I couldn't decide whether they were on his side and she was a prostitute or on the woman's side and he was a bastard.

There was also a long discussion about Prince Albert of Monaco's marriage. Marie had brought a magazine with pictures of the wedding. But again I didn't get whether they thought he was a good guy or a playboy (or both).

As I left, I was walking along thinking that I was never going to get this and then the other half of my head arguing that of course I would and how much better I understood than before, when there was a call behind me.

Rose was following and she said that she hadn't realised that I had left and that she had wanted to catch me to invite me to come and visit her one afternoon. Made sure I knew where she lived and that afternoons were best.

Bless her. At last. But now I have to do it.........................

Murphy's law strikes again

We decided that Sweety should be chipped and passported so that if we ever had to go back to England suddenly we could do so relatively easily. There had been mutterings when we adopted her that 'they' were thinking of changing the rules for dogs entering the UK but decided that French bureaucracy moves mighty slowly and we would do it anyway.

Sweety was duly taken to be chipped and given a rabies injection. Oh no we can't do that today, the computer says she is still registered as belonging to the pound and we can't chip her without the document that directly relates her to you.

OK. Emails sent, phonecalls made. Apparently there is one office in the whole of France that deals with updating dogs' details and the only way to get this done any time soon is to contact them directly and you get to the top of the list.

In the back of our minds was a vague, possible plan to go home at Christmas time and since this whole process takes 7 months we were on the verge of missing it.

Paperwork duly arrives. Sweety is chipped and vaccinated and the next bit could be three weeks instead of a month later so we might just get home for New Years Eve. C'est la vie.

Last week we go for the blood test. Sweety is now desperate to go to the vets where she gets extra biscuits and triangles of what looks like Dairylea Cheese Spread. Rushes in. All OK. Pay the 120 euros that it costs!!! (Blood tests for Him Outdoors cost 12 euros. Blood tests for dogs cost 80 euros.) All being well we can now get home for New Year's Eve - although too knackered to do anything like celebrating.

Now here's where Murphy's law kicks in.

That evening we get an email from the woman that we got Sweety from, saying that England had changed the laws and as from 1st January 2012 you would still need the chip but not the blood test...................................

So if we delay our trip home 24 hours we don't have to do all the blood test stuff.

We decided to cancel the test. It now occurs to me that if we go through customs on New Years Day we will be the first people through the French customs with the new English laws. Hmmmmm (and after they've been celebrating too).

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

French eating

One of the biggest differences about the french fairs and the equivalent in England is the way that people eat.

At La Felibree with your entrance ticket on the day you can buy a ticket for one of the sit down lunches. As locals we have booked weeks ahead for a sit down lunch which was being held at the school.

As I walked through the town to meet my knitting friend every single seat was taken up with people eating. Every available possible restaurant space was open and serving sit down lunches. The streets were empty at 1.15, everyone was eating.

Whilst we were knitting, we were watching the passers by and no adults (repeat none) were eating during the afternoon. The only eaters at all were two children, one with a drippy ice cream and one with some candyfloss. This is a huge cultural difference between the french and the english. At an english fete there would be a long queue at the ice cream van, there would be a tea tent at least and probably someone selling hot dogs or burgers. No idea of feeding people to a sit down lunch, you would have eaten before you went or had a picnic - probably in the car park.

For the lunch that we went to, there was seating for 1,000 people!!!

Beautifully laid tables already having bottles of chilled water for the hot people that had just walked up the hill from the town on one of the hottest days we have had. We had an aperatif of vin noix, soup, foie gras, confit du canard, haricots, fromage, dessert, coffee, endless bread, wine and water all served and cleared promptly by smiley waitresses, everything that should be hot was piping hot and everything cold was chilled. Absolutely amazing organisation and it tasted delicious too. I knew they could do the 500 people that they usually have for Bastille Day but 1,000???

After we had finished this I went down into the town to see the flower making ladies who were doing chores from their farming days. Paulette was bunching up the tobacco leaves for drying. She said that these weren't cut right because they should be pointy and she and her neighbour were both saying that their fathers kept an eye on what was happening and made them do it again if they were wrong. Her neighbour was cracking walnuts on a stone slab on her lap which I have seen before and another had obviously been husking sweet corn for the chickens. They did look hot but were pleased to see a face they recognised.

I learnt from Madame Mazet in the Post Office this morning that they had served 250 omelettes aux ceps at Sunday lunchtime. When I suggested that that was an awful lot of eggs she said that they come sterilized in cartons!!! As does the milk. So much for local produce! Incidentally I noticed an item in the local paper this week that said that organic farmers were being allowed to feed 'other food' to their animals at the moment because it is so dry and there isn't any feed. Hmmmm.

La Felibree Samedi

Well, our 6 months of Tuesday afternoons of flower making have been worthwhile. The streets of the town look absolutely lovely and ours have made a superb effect. This and a pink street the same are gorgeous.

I had arranged to knit on a stand for La Filature which is a restored woollen mill that I go to for
Cafe Tricot on a Sunday afternoon in the winter. They wanted volunteer knitters in costume for the afternoon.

Here we are, ready to go, gossiping with a friend from the tourist office.

As you can see we had a really good time! We had been given no idea what was required of us really so in an attempt to look like knitters from the olden days I had been down and bought some skeins of natural coloured wool and picked out my wooden needles. It was very, very hot so we didn't really want to knit at all so we wound wool very, very slowly!

To begin with there weren't many people about. But when everyone had finished eating they began to appear. Over the afternoon we would keep catching people (men especially) gazing fondly at us wool winding and then they would say that they remembered doing that for their granny and remember a happy time. We also had people saying that they used to knit up wool from their own sheep, or their mother used to take wool to the mill on her bicycle. One woman said that in the war she couldn't get or afford needles so had knitted with bicycle spokes.

When we started knitting something I was knitting a woolly hat on circular bamboo (and plastic) needles and this was a great novelty. Lots of women wanted to have a go or have a good look. Some even wanted to buy my woolly hats but when it came to it I couldn't bear to part with them! I said they were my samples and not for sale and offered some of the professionally knitted ones at 20 euros!

By about 5.30 we'd had enough of knitting and went to have a look round. Most of the stuff was familiar from the various medieval fairs and there was a lot of tat for sale. We had a look at the Josephine Baker exhibition (she was a local celebrity) and promised to come back and read properly the exhibition of the local women from the resistance. Then went back to Anne's to sit in the shade with a glass of wine. The guys were full of stories of the vintage cars and the local village beauties that had been parading in them and we swapped all our stories.

In the evening we wandered about the town which was still buzzing and then went to a free concert of these people:

Brilliant both musically and that they were a female group.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Domaine Coquelicot

A few weeks ago we went to the local very expensive restaurant for a special anniversary tapas lunch. It is expensive because the setting is lovely, the food is beautifully presented with lots of linen/glass/silver and it has lots of waiters hovering (or hoovering as I mistakenly put the other day). The food at a tapas lunch here is not out of this world expensive (until you add the wine/coffee/water/aperitif which doubles it).

We had a bottle of rosée wine which was delicious and afterwards I emailed the restaurant and asked where we could get some. After a bit of emailing around I found the domaine that it came from and yesterday we had the opportunity to go.

It was delightful. is their website. I had telephoned them earlier in the day to make sure there would be someone there (this was Monday and France after all) and also that they still had some of their delicious rosée. All ok.

We arrived at a house that was frankly a bit of a wreck in a being done up sort of way. We were welcomed and sat in the shade under an ancient walnut tree. The cat and dog came to check on us while Madame went to fetch the wine. They are a young couple that have bought a few acres of vines about 5 years ago from a man retiring from winemaking. They have the barn with huge vats of wine, stacked up bottles, bottles waiting for labels, boxes of wine waiting to be delivered. All tidy and clean just in too small a space.They are beginning to win prizes and get their wine into restaurants and they are loving it.

They spoke enough English that between us we had a very jolly time discussing vines generally, the wine trade, the weather (which was exceptionally hot that day) and the weather so far for the year and how the drought affected the wine.

Of course we bought more than we thought we would and I am off to flower making this afternoon with the prospect of a delicious glass when I get home.

Bats again

Him Outdoors is in the process of rubbing down and repainting the french doors that we have in the living room. They are heavy and he needs assistance to get them off their hinges to get them outside. Schoolroom leverage with a spade has worked.

I have been undercoating them as they are rubbed down and rehung. Yesterday we got in a bit of a muddle with dog/wet paint so today, as I was painting while they were out walking, I pondered how to resolve this.

OK. We have shutters. Half close the shutters on one side and block off the whole thing on the other side with a convenient bit of old hay manger that doubles as a grandchild fireguard.

All going well until I realised that there was a bat spending the day behind the shutter. Oops keep pondering.

Nope, it's no good, that's a really good way and they must get disturbed in the wild sometimes. They are grown up bats (who knows) they must be able to cope with this.

Boldly open the shutters and bat blinks, obviously thinks 'what the....' and then flies off. All ok.

Except as I shut the shutters more there is another bat gasping on the ground. You can see its tiny heart beating madly (or maybe normally for a bat, who knows). Other bat is still flying around but this one is just lying there...............

Carefully scooped up to put on the top of the door out of the reach of the cat, it suddenly recovers and flies off to join the other one.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Avoiding the ironing

Another cup of coffee
Put the robot in the pool (called Arnie, he has a large, used to be white fabric bag as a filter that looks like a huge pair of droopy pants and makes me smile at the idea of Arnold Schwarzenneger wearing them) and check the chlorine
Fish dead mouse out of skimmer - yuk
Finish off the hat I was knitting to get the gauge for a new jumper
Block and measure the hat - had to get the iron out, which was a start,to wave at the knitting a la Elizabeth Zimmerman
Weigh the hat to see how much wool it took
Pick the raspberries
Taste the gooseberries
Tie up the tomatoes
Deadhead the perennial sweet peas and cosmos
Water the courgettes
Admire the Miss Wilmott's ghost that is just turning a lovely shade of blue
Facebook a bit
Check the emails

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Apricots and Hoopoe

Mrs Ayak reminded me of the 'Stats' button on my blog and the blog that has had the most people by hundreds is one called Mimosa and Kiwi Fruit, which was about a trip to the local market here. I wonder if Apricots and Hoopoe will be up there with that and if so, why??

Today we picked our first precious apricots. We have a tiny tree that I am wall training and it had it's first fruit this year. There are eleven altogether and this afternoon the first couple came off in my hand when I was gently testing them. And they are so amazingly better than anything I have ever bought. So juicy. Brilliant.

I also saw my first definite hoopoe sighting this afternoon. We had seen a pair on the grass as we drove in to the drive when we came to visit the house before we bought it and I have heard them in the distance when out walking. They have a a definite hoo hoo hoo call. But this afternoon there were four on the grass.

Yay, a good day.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


Last night a french friend and I went to see the new Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris. Slightly dubious about the Woody Allen bit but it turned out to be a lovely film with none of the obscurity of some of his others and lots of stunning costumes and sets. Good playing by the actors - apart from a wooden Carla Bruni but then what were we expecting.

Replaying the film to myself in bed later one of the notable things was the angle from which we had been watching!

It must be years and years since I have not been the one that decided where we sat in the cinema. 'No I don't mind where we sit'. So instead of near the back we sat very near the front, in the middle.

What creatures of habit we are that this was the main thing that I noticed.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Rush rush rush

After a phone call with a new stairman recommendation first thing this morning, I rang the new guy and asked to see him. He was going out but if we could get there in the next half hour he would be there.

Fortunately his workshop is only down the road, these things are easier for me (in French) face to face, so with a scurry of doorlocking, toast eating, coffee gulping, shoe finding we were in his office in ten minutes.

Lovely guy. Showed him the letter from our solicitor saying what was required. Lots of no problem I'll drop by at 5 on my way back from somewhere and then you can have the estimate by the end of the week!!! He also got a look at our stairman's name on the letter showing what was required from him and was full of 'oh him' 'gallic shrug' ('can't do the noise for silent whistle').

So...........fresh coffee and on with the day. Which is a damp, grey, misty morning with everything dripping. A baking morning I think.

And he came when he said he would and measured and discussed and will look at the numbers and see what he can do by the end of the week. So far so good.

And the cake sank in the middle :-(

Friday, 3 June 2011

Well, we seem to be winning!

Staircase report is in now and we seem to be winning! Still can't quite believe it but the expert seems to have agreed with everything that we said and is asking us to get a quote for removing, remaking and putting in a new staircase.

Trouble is, he seems to be wanting this to be done in a week, which seems a bit odd since we have been messing about for two years now but hey we'll give it a go.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Phew stair cases are exhausting

Today was the day that the judge's expert would come and have a meeting with us, our solicitor, the stair man and his solicitor. We also had dear Anne to do translation as required and make sure we knew exactly what was going on.

I was surprised about how nervous I felt about this. Real pre-exam nerves. Lots of cleaning and tidying. Dog decided she would sit in the car and ignore it all.

Our solicitor had charged nearly 500 euros for this morning's work so she had better be worth it. (Fortunately most was paid for by our insurers so the 150 euros we forked out is the first we have had to pay for 2 years of meetings/experts/judges.)

By 9.30 am everyone but our solicitor had arrived so gave them a cup of coffee while we waited and the judge's expert made polite conversation.

For the first time since the stair case was put in, the stairman put in an appearance, his solicitor's office had obviously sent the junior clerk. The expert was a very professional, large 4WD driving, pale suited man and our solicitor arrived with a huge briefcase (she's tiny) and wearing a very fetching, black lace lined with flesh coloured fabric, number.

All sat round the kitchen table but very formal, announcements listing why we were there by the expert. Our solicitor was asked to speak, then stairman's solicitor. Fairly amicable so far but our solicitor was getting her points across and stairman was already floundering. Then off to view the stairs.

We have had two other experts looking at these. Basically they cost a lot of money and are badly fitted. Experts want to know about whether they fit the 'norms' for making staircases.

We had given up on listing all the tiny mistakes - masses of filler, gouges, not square, cut wrongly, endless things - but the expert seemed to want to know, so off we went with measurements and photos of everything. The other guys had said that the fact that the top step wasn't square was the 'dangerous' thing and maybe that the spindles weren't strong enough. BUT this guy just measured the width, said they should be 80cms and they aren't. Triumphant glance from our solicitor whilst he continued with his measuring.

Our solicitor was brilliant, clear summary of what was going on, absolute disdain of the other girl who could only keep muttering that it was 'artisanal' and therefore you should expect some rough edges. Stair man tried to say that we had agreed plans (there are no plans) that we had been to his factory to see the work (we had been to the factory to chase him up because nothing happened for such a long time) that because I had agreed that the bottom step could protrude a bit I had realised that that was because it was the only way it could fit and I had therefore agreed that it should go across the door!

Eventually everyone had had their say and the expert said that there would now be his report in about a week for all our approval and a final decision (possibly) in another 3 months or so.

'How do you think it went Madame'. 'They are not wide enough, that will be all it takes'.