Saturday 27 October 2012

More news of the staircase

The staircase saga started so long ago it has disappeared into the mists of time!

Three and a half years ago we ordered a staircase from someone who said that it could be delivered when we wanted it. It was delivered about 3 months late and very badly put in. Big argument in the hall.

We offered to pay half. He sent the bailiffs in to collect his money. Didn't realise at the time that in France you pay for the bad work and then go to court to get it back. Fortunately we had ticked an insurance box that meant that our insurance agent would pay for any court cases resulting from bad work - bet he wishes he hadn't.

So he took us to court. We had an expert come to look at the stairs, he wrote a report. He had an expert in to look at the stairs, he wrote a report. The court sent an expert in to look at the stairs he wrote a pre pre report, a pre report and a report. He held a court case in the kitchen with legal representation from us and them and the stair man came to that.

Judge wanted a quote for removing staircase, making good stairwell and putting in new stairs - after a delay of years that had to be within the week.

Judge ruled that the staircase was indeed badly done and we should be refunded.

Our solicitor claims the money. Stair man doesn't pay. So now we are sending the bailiffs after him..............................

Monday 22 October 2012


Well all seems to be well.

We have just returned from a second visit - who knew that the house was quite that wonky, definitely a rhombus not an oblong.

We went to see the notaire to see if there was anything that we could sign that would agree the house sale to us and his advice was to send a letter outlining our position and telling the owner how easy it would be to sell the house and that he would do everything - for the fat fee that we pay him. Leave a paper trail.

We have rushed around getting a letter written in a suitably french flowery style to say that we loved the house and were so sorry that the owner had such difficulties etc etc.

Cousin seemed to be falling over himself to say that everything would be well, much more concerned that we wouldn't wait until the new year when we return to France to buy the house.

Such a relief to have a house that we really like at a sensible price. And such a relief not to have to keep looking.

Monday 15 October 2012

Yay it's brilliant

We took a posse of friends to view the house. Turns out that the french guy knows the guy showing us round. Both rugby players. Phew.

Great house. Just as good as we could expect. Lots of original features, lovely garden, all wood floors left. A complete tip (I'll get the pictures sorted later) but in a sorting stuff way not a neglected sort of way. All good.

Ended up by offering the asking price and the guy showing us round said he would tell the owner that it was sold and he took down the sign.

Much relief on our part. A house at last. Lots of discussion and planning.

Then tonight. Phone call from the guy who had shown us round. Had we rung the owner? No I thought you were doing that but no worries we will.

Rang the owner. Somehow it turned into a conversation of other people viewing, more money, nothing happening until January.....................................

So, yet again, from delight to What the Hell????????????

Rang and explained to french guy and he has rung the guy who showed us round and all is well with him. So what is going on?

And there was us thinking that the roller coaster was over.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Shirt ironing

As a teenager we all had to take turns at washing up after the evening meal. At the time, it seemed to me a better option to do the ironing in front of the telly even though it took longer and my brothers would be gloating about how they had finished.
Dad was in the RAF and there were always at least 5 uniform shirts each week and sometimes dress shirts and others. I was told it was very important to do these right otherwise he might get into trouble on parade. Looking back now, I wonder again at the gullibility of children that it was a privilege to iron his shirts (and polish his shoes) - clever Mum.
A few weeks ago, I was discussing ironing shirts with my brother-in-law and discovered that we ironed them in completely opposite order.
For me it is collar from the back, shoulders from the inside, sleeve, cuff, sleeve, cuff then right front round to left front. Then lay it on its front on the ironing board, fold in sides and sleeves, tuck in tails (yes they had tails) and fold comme ca.
Fortunately the days of endless work shirts are over and I haven't managed to pass on an ability to iron to any of my children. They all seem to work on the basis that the creases will come out while you wear it and the most they get is the front ironed for interviews. Ho hum, failed again.

Thursday 11 October 2012

OK This is exciting

The lady from Bordeaux has just rung to say that we can see this on Sunday. A second/half cousin has turned up with the key.

On edge of town. Large garden, lovely views, potential garage down chemin rurale at side and..............................70,000 euros. Even though I know it can be complete rubbish inside I don't care I'M EXCITED.

Monday 8 October 2012

Houses, houses, houses

A miserable, grey start to the day. Took some effort to get started this morning. Come on, let's do something. Let's go and find some of these left overs. Bit of phoning and emailing to try and locate some of the houses that are for sale privately.

First one was too suburban. Second one:

we visited a long time ago. Him Outdoors didn't like it much but it has a good position, good land, near the town we like. And it's been on a long time so therefore cheaper.

This one:

is much more expensive - you can tell can't you. But again been on a long time. Owned by a friend of a friend so no agents' fees (which on this house would be 24,000 euros (!) are a consideration) Maybe they are desperate enough to come down to something we can consider. Still nothing much to do but a much nicer place to do nothing in and again near the town.
In the back of our minds we have had a couple of houses in the town that were for sale years ago but the sign was no longer on them. Good position, lovely mature garden and fruit trees, bit derelict (if you can be a bit derelict surely it either is or it isn't).  Let's go and check the numbers and then go to the Mairie and they will tell us the owners and a contact address.
And look, there's a new sign (with telephone number) on one down the same road. Lots of peering over the fence and it seems to be ok with a good garden. And so it seems from the Maire.
So now we have two people to ring and two possible back ups. Definitely a day that is improving.

Saturday 6 October 2012

Peach jam

This morning a lovely box of tiny peaches was left on our front door step. I think it was Madeleine, the farmer's wife from up the road, who probably left them. She will have dropped them off en route to one of her many cleaning jobs. I'll try and catch her when she flies by at midday to prepare George's lunch.
Lovely. Let's make jam.
Recipe first. As usual, all the right recipe books are in the other house. Google Jane Grigson, she'll know. And found (a direct but acknowledged crib from
Peche de vigne conserve
1 kg vineyard peaches weighed without stones and peel
400g sugar (or more if the peaches are not very ripe)
juice from 1 lemon
40g pectin in powder (not necessary if you like a runny jam or if you cook it long enough to be dense)
200 – 300 ml crème de cassis
Put the peaches in boiling water for two minutes. Take them away with a slotted spoon and place immediately in cold water. After a couple of minutes the peel will come off easily with fingers.
Remove the stones and cut the fruit into small pieces (do not throw away the juice!). Weigh it.
Put the fruit, the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of water into a non reactive pan and cook on a rather high heat until the peaches become soft. Stir it often and watch the pan constantly (if there is not enough liquid they will burn). Add the sugar and simmer on a low heat for ten more minutes.
Add the pectin and more sugar if the jam is not sweet enough, stir it and cook for another ten minutes. Put aside.
At the end, before filling the jars, pour the crème de cassis and stir the jam once more.
Spoon hot jam into sterilised jars, cover with lids.
Leave the jars to cool.
Not sure mine are vineyard peaches but hey, and you only add the cassis at the end so I can see how I get on.
Then the big saucepan and jars..............................hmm
Somewhere in amongst this lot, Him Outdoors has hidden them. You can just see him behind the water tank and look what he found, bless him.
And a couple of hours later, interrupted with more house discussions, washing and general Saturday morning stuff, I have this and Him Outdoors has gone off to get bread for lunch and lemons and sugar.

Well, it worked. Not hugely tasty jam I don't think and when you add cassis to it, it tastes like jam with ribena to me. Maybe it will mellow into something spectacular?
It was Madeleine that left the peaches. She called in at 5 pm and I was able to give her a jar of jam. Domestic Goddess moi? She said they were peches de vigne and I was also able to talk knowledgeably about them and discuss jam with cassis which Madeleine knew well and if she hadn't spent all day (and all week) cleaning she would have made. Georges is also growing us some walnut trees in case we might need some in a new house. I didn't like to tell her that Jackie is currently minding a couple of mine for us. Incidentally I have also managed to grow two pots of Indian Bean Tree seedlings by scattering a seed pod behind the geraniums. There is a sprouting of baby trees. Green fingers too eh!
(Later -  I have done some internet searching for peche de vigne and most of the pictures seem to be of a much redder flesh than these. The peche de vigne were planted at the end of the rows of vines because they are very susceptible to mildew (roses were also planted in the same way) and if they get mildew then watch out for your vines. My peaches are pale and not really very full of flavour - maybe not ripe enough? Adding as much cassis as the recipe says makes a very over cassised flavour to my taste. I have only tasted the leftovers this morning and not the un cassised so I will open a jar of that later.)

Thursday 4 October 2012

Maybe Plan B

Found a new agent today. Usually rents properties and has some for sale as well. The first one
looks pretty, good position and worth a look. Just on market at too much money but what's new. It's ok but it's a holiday home done on the cheap. No insulation, no heating, needs new bathrooms and kitchen, pool is above ground. So needs too much money spent on it and you'd still get a very bitty house with difficult spaces. But this, on the other hand.............................

This was une maison de tolerance (brothel to you and me!) right next to the church. Faded grandeur but not huge. With added single bedroom house next door for visitors or added income. Small but not tiny garden. All well done with dated but expensive fittings. Good white bathrooms, dated kitchen but paintable units. Bit of a worry as to what Him Outdoors would do with himself and also, even when you are waiting for the church bells, they are VERY loud but it felt good.
Positive end to the day.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

The house we've been waiting for

Well we've been to see it at last. And really it's as we were expecting. Which is a good thing :-)
This (on the right, not the bit with the fence on the top) is the roadside view. You come in at upstairs level. Nobody uses the big door with the steps, just the little one with little panes. Underneath the grey crepi (plaster) is beautiful yellow stone and probably more openings just filled in.
Then, through the paned door you descend down newish stone and wrought iron stairs (bit disappointing, hoping for old oak) into a hall. The doors to the left are the sitting room and straight on is the kitchen. (Here's where we find out that the camera has run out of battery!)

If you don't go downstairs, to your left is a series of little rooms like this off a corridor. All rooms have polystyrene ceilings and some have added cork tiles. Oh joy.

Oh and pine panelling is rife too. But each of the little rooms have this view. Surprisingly none of the rooms have the view down the valley we were expecting but have a view of some of the rest of the town (a part called Au Bout du Monde!)
And the garden is spectacular. (I promise to have pictures when we go back Sue.) In the house is an aerial shot of the garden in its prime. Palm trees, ornate balustrades down three terraces, immaculate potager, superb. 
And the piece de resistance is the immaculate stoneclad fireplace. Why, you may well ask, in a house of such beautiful local stone do they need to clad a fireplace in slate??

On this level there is an enormous plastic conservatory that extends all along the house about 3 metres wide. It can just be seen on this photo. Halfway down the left hand side about an inch in with row of brown windows (ground level on the other side) and conservatory below. Full of an ancient prickly pear whose trunk is too wide to get my hands round, whose roots must be somewhere?? What it covers up is the fact that all the rooms on this level have lovely double arched doors.
What a lot of work. Everything to rip out. But not too scarey. Yay let's give it a go.  Just have to agree a price......................

Friday 21 September 2012

The roller coaster continues

Well what a heap of termite ridden rubbish that was. Ho hum.

Whole hamlet of impossible combinations of barns/piggeries/land.


We have an appointment to view the original house in Belves on Wednesday. Yay!


The family want 70,000 more euros than their father did.


We have a letter from our solicitor to say that the stair case has been settled in our favour and they will pay us over 3,000 euros!!!!

Roll up roll up all the fun of the fair........................................

Thursday 20 September 2012

Fingers crossed people

After a night of 'well is it sold or not?' Definitely now returned to other websites but not on the agent's website.

This picture doesn't look very good does it. Tiny and clear or bigger and blurry

Appointment to view inside tomorrow afternoon with agent. Decided that the seller has a whole hamlet of various plots to sell and he is not going to do it without an agent. Too complicated.
Already has going for it that it is a lived in til fairly recently house (the two bits with white paint) with attached barn. This face of the house faces south west and has steps up to first floor level balcony/terrace. View this way is down a huge field to a very quiet road. Church with bells in the distance. Only 5 minutes from the town we want. Although the plastic windows are not to our taste, it does have new windows. New central heating boiler and immersion. And the fireplaces you can peer at through the windows are lovely. Eeek how much can they have ripped out when they put in the new windows. Oh and redid the roof.
The tree at the front is a peach and at the back is a walled garden! The cave that you can see is full of boxes of jamjars so some grandmere had a very productive thing going on here. Yay.
Moi excited??

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Keep up, keep up

On with the emotional roller coaster.

We saw a house today that we both liked! A whole hamlet is recently on the market. We went to the local maire and found where it was, happened upon the owner there. Took the friend we were lunching with. All good. She's going to contact owner to see if we can avoid the agent.

Just sat down to put a picture on here and the bloody house has gone from every website. All the rest of the hamlet is there but the house is gone.

Oh for heaven's sake. If it's sold that is less than a week.

Have also seen:

looks like nothing much but is medieval wondrousness with higgledy piggledy garden. Done up with style. Very much an inward looking house, this side has its back to the world.

And this:

which is a nothing house. Seventies, dull, but the view is spectacular.

Onward and upward

There's always this one:

Tuesday 18 September 2012

I think we know too much

We have been looking at houses for a year now. Seen dozens, driven by dozens more.

Whenever we watch one of the endless reruns of Location, location, location or similar, the presenters are always saying you must make compromises, you must decide what you want.

I agree. We have a long list of things that make an ideal house and quite accept that it will be a selection of these that we end up with and if that one falls through there is always another house that has a different selection. So why is it so hard.

My good friend said last night that we know too much. When we first came we had no idea really of the area, had no friends to be near, no favourite places. Had a much firmer idea of what we wanted and a much more definite budget.

Now, we are looking at a huge range of possibles:

This house has lovely land, lots of mature fruit trees, free wood for ever, agricultural water but it's a very germanic/teutonic house of huge beams and stone with no views much, no neighbours and as far as we've looked away from our friends.


We didn't want a village house without a garden but last night we saw that this garden was for sale just behind this village house, so there's another plan.
This is a tiny modern house but with a lovely mature garden down by the river. Huge plot and SOIL rather than chalk that you have to drill a hole in to plant a tree. Owned by friends of friends so avoid 8% fees, could extend.....................

While we were wandering around the countryside we found this

which is a group of buildings with views and land all round on the edge of a hamlet. On the market with bitch Bridget who is the agent who says we are not proper buyers so we'll have to approach it another way to see it. But then around the corner is this. Work all done. Nothing to write home about but has the most a....may.....zing view of a chateau. Nowhere is that written or shown on the particulars but hey this is France.

Oh and the notaire of the original house says that it is for sale and she will contact the family.

OK you decide.

Thursday 13 September 2012

For you vicarious househunters

We've put in an offer of half the asking price, to include all the land, for the concrete house. Can't get away from the fact that it is a superb set of 16th century stone buildings. And they are so proud that they have built concrete shells inside the original stone walls so presumably (!) they are all still behind the concrete. But apparently it has been on the market for at least 8 years! At that price I'm not surprised. No great hopes there.

Still haven't seen the other ancient one. Dutch agent is taking her father back to Holland.

Tomorrow we are going to see the inside of
which is good from the outside but a bit far from everyone and everything we know.

And where we found the hamlet it's in which is very pretty but there is a potential of major road noise if it's the wrong side of the hill. Couldn't match any of the houses to the pictures.

And this one that the agent talked us into because it has a lovely view - but not from the house, just the garden. She says it's way over priced and she also mentioned that the last house she had sold was sold at about 75% of the asking price.

BUT the current plan that is keeping Him Outdoors sane is to buy this: which we can buy privately because it belongs to a friend of a friend. We have already seen it but couldn't buy it because it's lovely view is owned by the house below. But we have since discovered that the house below is now for sale

If you're still with this you have more patience than I have!

So Him Outdoors is pounding up and down the garden behind the lawn mower trying to decide the negotiating plans of trying to buy just the field not the whole house. What would be the disadvantages of having two houses if we had to buy two. Whether we could rent out the house below........................ As if buying one house wasn't bad enough and all the taxes involved in having two!

Oh and meanwhile we have got the agent we are going out with tomorrow badgering the notaire that was selling the house in Belves that started this whole saga off to see if now that the poor old man that owned it has died they might want to sell that.

I can see that a whole lot of houses are all going to come together at once.

Tuesday 11 September 2012


Oh the house hunting. (I hope these copies of links work)

First of all we had a pastry beside the Dordogne with this one:

Glorious peaceful September morning. So beautiful.

At lunchtime I rang this one:

and we went at 3pm. Oh this is the one as we drove out of the town in the right direction, oh he's indicating in the right way, OMG it's stunning. Such a sweet group of buildings. Him Outdoors had already walked there and loved it. OMG OMG. Lovely man full of how this was a 16th century house lived in by local monks and they had instructed the farmers in how to farm, showed us his pigsties where he had kept all the ancient pieces of wood to use the ancient holes in the stone OMG OMG. And then we enter the house........................................

They are so proud of the fact that the national group of country houses had told them that they had kept everything original perfect. And that is because they have built  layers of concrete and insulation between the walls and the rooms. Everywhere. Oh and by the way there's no bathroom, no heating, no land because they're keeping for their daughter. Oh and the land opposite is constructable and they want 325,00 euros.

OK onward and upward. THE one that Him Outdoors has set his heart on:

Arguments by email about how we couldn't see it for a fortnight. Eventually got the address and went over at 6pm. OMG OMG OMG Him Outdoors is in love again (he's a complete property tart). Absolutely gobsmacking views. Really beauiful. Tiny but lovely house and glorious barn. Him Outdoors completely over the moon............................. Somehow hadn't noticed that behind the garden was a heap of silage that fed the enormous herd of cows that were milked twice a day every day with a really noisy machine. 8 - 11 am and 6 til 9 pm. And somehow this didn't matter !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lovely people. Lovely place. Oh and the cow farmer had also poisoned their well that made the water not only undrinkable but also totally unsuitable for watering plants................................

On the way to the 3pm house we had popped into the local agent because she had a house that we wanted to see. That was sold but she has given us another that on the way home we also went to see the outside of that looks possible

So nothing much happening here really.

Monday 10 September 2012

French style

A friend of mine has a shop in the UK that specialises in french country style. Lots of pale washed wood, silvery grey and blue. Lots of distressed/aged fabric and wood. Lovely looking stuff with stencilled french words.

I think there must be another country called France where this stuff exists. We live in rural france and are househunting. In my head, french country style is mostly dark brown and shiny with orange flowery accents. Older french style here has golden exposed stone, dark brown beams, old oak staircases. Then in what must have been the seventies, dark brown comes in. Shiny brown tiles, cover up the old stone with plaster and wallpaper it in bright swirly paper. Fortunately not a lot of carpet but what there is will be swirly too - and probably orange. Any bathrooms will be coloured.

We saw this house on the internet today (sorry picture's a bit small) right place, old house with garden in the town, original state so lots of brown but still with original features - stone sinks, beams, original windows. We wandered around the town this afternoon and found it. Yay, it's in a good position, big garden..............................................oh what the hell have 'they' done to it.
The pictures shown are no longer what it is. 'They' have got their hands on it. Great lumps of new plastic windows and doors. Huge slabs of plastic patio doors across the back. New shutters all painted a lovely shade of shiny brown. Inside I just know that they will have plastered over every square inch of old stone, boxed in the beams, covered up the old fireplaces, put in corner shower units and then added lots of curly wrought iron light fittings to encourage the buyers.
I haven't the heart to rip out all their work it is too much of a waste but I do wish we'd got our hands on it first.

Friday 7 September 2012

What's occurring?

What's occurring (as per Gavin and Stacey which has become a phrase between us).

We have just arrived back in France.  Very long day with an alarm at 3 am in England, tunnel crossing at 6.00 and then 80 mph on motorways for 8 hours.

Back to our little rented house in Dordogneshire. It is completely still and quiet. Our landlord is watering his trees which he fears are dying of drought. The campsite opposite is completely quiet apart from M Fardet who is polishing his pool. The season must be over, we missed it. The village was full of tourists as we came through but up here it is silent. Cicadas, swallows. So lovely after such a hectic day.

Monday 20 August 2012

Colour names

I have been learning crochet over the last few weeks. Well relearning. I could do some but never got into anything clever. I found Lucy at attic24 and loved what she had done and have taught myself how to do ripple blankets and a bag.

Today I got a delivery of some yarn that said it was recommended by Lucy for her granny blanket. It turned out to be acrylic which was a bit of a surprise and not the brand of wool as specified in the pattern I have ended up doing. But hey, never one to be felled at the first hurdle I wrote down the colours required and looked them up on the internet.

OK The colours required are:
eucalyptus, mermaid, sprout, beach glass, periwinkle, twilight, grape, lipstick, geranium, snapdragon, buttercup

and my matching colours are called:
turquoise, cloud blue, spring green, sherbert, lavender, aster, plum, pomegranate, shrimp, fondant and saffron

I'm glad I'm not having to chose the names!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Arts Autobiographical

A fellow blogger has set up an Art Is Autobiographical shop on etsy and is trying to raise awareness of it's existence. Here's the link, why not have a look?

Good luck Carol

Sunday 8 July 2012

The one that got away

Before we came back to England this time, we put an offer in on this house. It's actually two semi-detached cottages, each big enough to live in while you do the other bit and then knock through. The location is lovely which after looking at dozens has become the most important thing.

It is only just on the market and about 50,000 euros over priced.

We decided to put in an offer of about 40,000 under the asking price as a first offer. We then had to come back to England and left wonderful Sally (WS) in charge of the negotiations. She is a fluent french speaking ex estate agent so we felt happy to leave it in her hands.

A few days later we got an email that basically said 'non'. And since then - for the best part of a month - the agent has been avoiding any contact with WS. Always out or unavailable or on holiday or whatever.

On Friday said agent eventually deigns to speak to WS. It's sold. They signed on Monday. Your friends are not in France, they are not real buyers.


Now this is from the agent that we are renting through. Who knows that we are renting because we have sold our house and are looking for somewhere to buy.

Is there not something called negotiating in France? Is it not better to have two people interested in a house and get them all competing?

Well, dear agent, you aint getting a look at our money now

Friday 29 June 2012

How doing your best gets you into trouble

Him Outdoors has taken on most of the outside jobs in our rented house in England, including cutting the grass. He's always liked lawns and is happy to walk up and down behind a mower. Here there is a ride on so he can play on a machine too.

The disadvantage of a ride on is that if you leave it too long between cuts (due to the horrible wet weather) then you get left with a cut hay field. We have a private lawn which we have kept raked up but the main grass was a hay field. Eventually his tidiness and boredom got the better of him and he raked it up by the barrowload and dumped it around the property in hidden corners.


Letter from neighbour asking him to pick it up again from their edge of the bridleway. Visit from landlady asking him to move the pile he had made.

Apparently the neighbour had had a goat eat cut laurel from the bridleway and died and the landlady says that horses die if they eat cut grass. The grass dies if you leave the cut grass on it so could he please spread it out again.................................

My main horror is that I had no idea that horses died of eating cut grass - apparently it ferments in their stomachs - and might easily have given it to them. I know they break their legs just running along which seems daft enough but to not be able to eat grass????

Sunday 10 June 2012

Sunday Rain

Tomorrow we have to spend all day in the car driving up France.

Today we have woken to stillness with steady, pouring rain. Just birds, drips and a cup of tea. We have all day to gather ourselves and nothing particular to do, so just peaceful gazing out at the rain.

Counting my blessings.

Saturday 9 June 2012


Yesterday we found out that the man who owns the house we sold our house to buy, had died.

In the local town they post the deaths of locals on notice boards around the town, and the friend who lived opposite one of the notice boards said that people had been slowing down their cars all day to check out who it was.

A glimmer of hope.

Co-incidentally my twin brother emailed last night to say that they had at last managed to buy a house they have been waiting for for months in the States..................................


Friday 8 June 2012

The Lavender Man

Up early this morning for the fosse septique man. Huge tractor and pooh tank arrive at 8am as expected.

The toilet in our little rented house has been doing the 'flush, fill, fill, fill, fill, fill, OMG it's going to go over the top, slow down, slow down, stop, stop, slowly, slowly empty' thing. So lets divert the disaster by getting a man in.

The appointment had been arranged by our letting agent but last night we found a letter in our letterbox from the owners asking if we could get an estimate for spreading the contents of the tanks on the land! Not on my garden thank you, not with children coming to hunt out all the tiny wild strawberries hiding under the trees. But, in France, c'est normale.

Lots more teeth sucking

Much interest in the holes uncovered, something completely interesting about huge vats of pooh and other waste. Lots of shrugging and teeth sucking and mention of problems 4 years ago.

And..................... the whole drainage system is blocked. Fortunately after the tank which is now empty so we are ok until we leave on Monday and then they have 3 months to fix it. Thank heavens we are renting.

PS My parents always used to call the septic tank man The Lavender Man is that familiar to anyone else?

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Return visit

Last night we went for a drink at our old house. We were both more than a bit wary of returning and seeing all our hard work in other peoples' hands.

She's a lovely house but now we know what a rare thing she is. How rare is the glorious view over your own fields, peace and quiet. How well done up she is.

We sat in the garden and insisted that it was fine, she was too big for us, we wished we had found somewhere else but hey. Of course it didn't matter that the garden was full of weeds, how could it not be when they weren't there most (or any) of the time. A lot of the gaps were because of the extreme cold in the winter. (And the french gardener who has pulled out every self seeding cosmos, cornflower, nasturtium, forget me not and left gaps he will be paid to keep clear.)

The thing that really got me was the spotless white downstairs loo - that worked perfectly with toilet paper,basin, soap, towel - I could have sat there for days.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Our little rented house

We have been house hunting again on this trip. Another dozen to add to the dozens we have already seen.

Lovely houses blighted by some unbelieveable monstrosity, lovely houses way over priced, lovely houses where you don't own the view and another little white box (like our rented house) might be built in it, houses so weird you and the agent laugh outloud, houses that make you shake your head that someone could have done that to such a lovely looking house and just plain dull houses.

The original house we sold up for, we have given up on, and if it isn't an ancient house with a garden in the medieval hill top town, we don't want just any house in the town.

The 'what we had before but in its original state' was sold before we could get a second look. Yes I know the idea was to downsize but the location was spectacular.

We are going to look at a house being sold privately in a local village this morning. And keep coming back to one we saw last November which has come down lots in price.

But meanwhile we are renting a tiny house on a hill with the most glorious view, shaded by lovely trees, with wonderful birds all around.

Kind friends are composing a letter to the ageing Parisian owners to see if they will sell. You never know, maybe this is the year when they decide that the 6 hour drive is just too much and none of the children really want it..................................

And it is all about location, location, location.

Friday 18 May 2012

La Belle France

I have been trying to recap on life this year in a couple of paragraphs and I give up. I'll just jump back in again and you'll have to pick up the pieces as we go along.

We arrived back in our little rented house back in France on Tuesday. It is soooo green and lush everywhere. When we left we were just sliding out of being snowed in and now it's summer.

We collapsed in a heap after a 14 hour trip in the same weather that M Hollande was in in Paris and in the morning woke to clear blue skies and sunshine. Bliss, it has been so rainy in England. On throwing open the back door there were 2 geraniums and half a dozen eggs on the table. Oh how kind. We are really living the cliche.

A bit later on the lady who had delivered them dropped in to tell us that her husband had cut the lawn twice - to discourage the burglars - and while he was there she had aired the house and cleaned the windows. She was very sniffy that she couldn't find the hoover (we had taken it back to England) so had shaken out the carpets as best she could.

Right, urgent shopping required for flowers and whisky.

Yesterday was a public holiday - one of many in May - and there are loads of tourists, and houses that are all closed up in the winter had shutters thrown open and voices calling. It's the first time since we moved here that I have felt like a tourist and not one of the locals. It felt very strange.

Thursday 10 May 2012


Well, here we are, middle of May and it has taken until now to get internet access in jolly old blighty! And we're back to France on Tuesday.

New computer, new blogger layout, new google layout, new new new new new

I will get back on line and my head back in gear, honest.

Friday 17 February 2012


The good news is that he is found. The not knowing had been horrible.

BUT the poor cat has been in the wars. The sweet man who brought him back said that his injuries were due to a trap. Totally illegal but used by some (I hesitate to call them people) to protect their hen houses.

After another trip to the vet where she operated he has had to have one back leg amputated and lost a toe from the other back leg. The vet says he'll be fine on three if he survives the infection in the other which he seems to be fighting well.

We have also had a visit from the countryside police - I can't remember the long french name - who were also appalled and strode off to locate the nearest hen houses.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

And now the cat's disappeared

As we struggled to get the car out on Saturday morning, Arthur the cat shot out from underneath and disappeared into the wild blue yonder. He had just returned from too long away and then got a big shock. And we haven't seen him since.

What an empty house this seems.

The good side of this is that we went around the neighbourhood asking if anyone had seen him and met the nearest neighbours. And they were all delightful. The farmer's wife up the hill cleans for a friend of ours and had already popped in to say that her doors were wide open if we needed anything. Seems like she cleans for everybody around and knows everyone. Their house is a..may..zing, ancient and full of huge old furniture and the most wonderful french grandfather clock big enough to hide in. The view is breathtaking. Opposite us is a campsite and we were warmly welcomed into the kitchen by a couple and their son. Full of helpfulness and trying out their few words of english - were sure we would know one of their regulars who came from England and rushed off to find their address.

No luck with Arthur but lovely people.

Saturday 11 February 2012


Poor old Sweety. Our lovely old rescue dog had to be put down this morning. She was a real Sweety. Very lovely to everyone (except small children and chickens).

She had had a tumour in her neck diagnosed at the beginning of December but up until yesterday she hadn't paid any attention to it at all. On Thursday she had a lovely two hour run in the snow, galloping along like a two year old and then gulping down her supper. But yesterday something changed and she didn't want to go out, couldn't get comfortable and then didn't want to eat either. Her head seemed too heavy to hold up.

We went to the vet (an event in itself with the snow) and she was put to sleep peacefully in the sunshine. The house seems very empty without her.

Friday 10 February 2012

Walk in the Snow

Lovely walk this morning in the snow. I wish the snow would go but it sure is pretty and everywhere is so quiet.

Our new little house is nearly at the top of a hill out of a medieval village which used to be a port on the river with chateau overlooking. All extremely beautiful. Only cars with chains or snow tyres can get up past our house and it's not on the way to anywhere so very little traffic passes.

This morning we walked around the top of the hills surrounding the village with fantastic views over the valleys and into the village through one of the ancient gates. I love it in the winter. There are loads of summer houses that are all shut up and the only people about are local french or the odd all year rounder like us. We slithered our way through the silent village down to the bar at the bottom of the hill.

Couple of guys downing a quick apero before going home to lunch. Fancied a nibble of something on the tourist snack menu but impossible apparently in this weather. Chatted a bit to the bar woman who (when she discovered that we lived there) offered us a taste of something she was planning for her summer menu. Walnut gateau with white chocolate icing served with caramel sauce and (in the summer) with some nougat icecream. To be honest it was a bit dried up but we made all the appropriate noises and it certainly hit the spot after our walk and sustained us up the hill home again. We met an oil delivery man who was asking if the roads were clear to the next village along the river. We thought yes (we had seen a snow plough) and he went off but we met him a bit further on coming back. J'ai capitule. Lot of chat about how it was much clearer on the Lot and what were they playing at here.

Trudged our way onwards up the hill and home to soup. Makes sitting doing nothing for the rest of the afternoon seem like a reward for something.

Thursday 9 February 2012

I may be gone some time

I'm tired of cold now. We are stuck on the top of our hill. There hasn't been any more snow since the first fall of 4 inches but it has been below freezing since (and sometimes way below, -14C this morning). Him Outdoors went off to battle the elements yesterday afternoon. All equipped with shovel, rope, backpack, walking boots he disappeared down the hill in the car.

Phoned from the supermarket to say that all was well and he had got there safely. Phoned again from the car park at the bottom of the hill (base camp) to say that he had got there but no further.

Eventually appeared with backpack of groceries. Yay.

Monday 6 February 2012


We have had some dealings with Orange whilst moving from one house to the other and every single thing we have been told as fact is rubbish.

If you use a 3G cle (dongle) attached to your computer in the UK it will incur no extra charges. (It incurs vast roaming charges.)

If you wish to cancel your telephone/internet on your old line write to an address in Lille. (You need to write one letter to an address in Lille to cancel your internet and a separate letter to the address on your bill to cancel your telephone line. It was only Elder Son ringing the old number and getting my answer machine message that alerted us to the fact that they haven't cancelled it.)

You cannot cancel your new account for 12 months. (Yes you can, if you are moving to a place that Orange doesn't cover.)

Oh and if you do send a letter, make sure it is recorded delivery or they won't acknowledge that it exists.


Yesterday we woke to snow and by the end of the morning we had about 4 inches. This morning it is lovely bright sunshine on sparkly white snow. Absolutely beautiful but very very cold.

Dear little house is all electric. (Well it shouldn't be, there is an open fire but you have to leave a window/door open to provide enough draught to get the smoke to go up the chimney which kind of defeats the object of the exercise.) Oh and the cooker is bottled gas.

In the last house Him Outdoors could have walked to the nearest shop to get emergency supplies, so the difference in our situation here hadn't really occurred to me. It's 7km to the nearest shop. Looking at the stores we have available for what looks like a week of snow is interesting to say the least.

Years ago we went on a sailing holiday for a week. We had spent a couple of weeks visiting friends and touring around before we got there so I decided to spend the money to get a box of supplies delivered to the boat for the week. On our arrival, there were two cardboard boxes on the table with all we would need. My first reaction was relief that this had worked and just ticking a box on a booking form had resulted in all this carefully chosen food.

BUT there was no indication at all of what someone had planned to do with all this food. No idea of the meals that this was supposed to make. By the end of the week the meals were getting more and more interesting!

Sunday 22 January 2012

Learning a new house

All the little things that become automatic very quickly

where the light switch is in the bedroom
which way to put the showerhead so you don't flood the bathroom
to turn the tap off firmly because it drips
which windows the cat can get out of/in to (vet said that the cat should stay in for 4 days. He escaped the first night and has continued as usual!)

and all the repositioning of things in the kitchen so that they are at hand

like being on holiday

Saturday 21 January 2012

Is it really only the 21st?

If I believed in star signs then this must be a year for change not just the year of the dragon. Although how all the different star signs involved could foretell the same thing is beyond me.

We have left the house in the photo and set up home in our sweet little rented place which has all gone pretty much as planned. There is sooooooooooooo much stuff, but we are in and I am writing this because I am tired of sorting boxes in the new place.

In between the last blog and now, we spent ten days in England (drove 2,500 miles) and have decided that we need to be there for the foreseeable future. After endless, endless discussions about whether to rent or buy in which place, to keep french residency or not, to move our euros or not, we have (for the moment anyway, reached some sort of decisions).

We will keep this rented place for the time being - can't face a total remove and we have to give 3 months notice anyway. In England, we hope to move into a little house owned by a very kind friend who will let us have it very reasonably in exchange for work from Him Outdoors. Yay, keeping him busy and less money, perfect. This will provide a bolthole for Dear Daughter and make us nearer most of the family (sorry Michael but at least we are in the same country). We just have to get rid of the nasty tenants who are in it at the moment who promised to be out by Christmas and now promise 5th Feb.

So nothing much happening then...............................

Monday 2 January 2012

New note book

I have been given a beautiful new notebook for Christmas. Moleskin with elastic to keep it closed and bookmark. Beautifully decorated with special chosen pictures stuck on the front.

But starting it is really hard. What can I possibly write that is worthy of such a lovely thing. All that crisp new paper just waiting for profound words. Do I have a pen special enough?

Writing this down makes me realise how absolutely ridiculous this is.

Doesn't help though. I can't bear to spoil it's newness. What if I start a subject and then change my mind............

Oh for heavens sake.