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.