Brico and baby donkey

It’s a slow process this living room! But it has to be plastered before we can paint, paint before laying the floor  and at some point building the bookcase (which was what started this all off after all). The local brico had a 15% discount (added to my loyalty card) and offers on stuff I wanted if I bought now. Plus I got all the sheets and planks I’ll be needing and getting them  delivered for half the price of hiring a van (even less since I won’t get the chance to damage it like last time).  To be honest, I am a bit bamboozled as to how the Bricomarché loyalty card works; Supermarkets such as  Intermarche and SuperU cards I use fine, points mean money – ask and they come off your bill. But I haven’t been able to make any use of the “euros” on my Bricomarché card. In fact I am not sure I even understand how the Bricomarché card works. As far as I can read on their site I accumulate “euros” and once I get over 500€ on the card I can get a discount voucher for 10% valid for 3 months. That isn’t especially wonderful or easy to use. I will do some more research.

I have been focussed on the Charente Limousine Exchange web site these past few weeks. It is so much more than I anticipated, or at least to get it right it is. WordPress is the website framework I use (27% of the internet can’t be wrong?). It is pretty hot on preventing hacking, so any changes I make to user details and the user get emailed. That’s OK when the user is me, but when I am importing 170 into the site and not all goes as planned  and I have to do it 3 times it is a bit embarrassing. It took me 3 import attempts to get all the details in the right places and unfortunately the first import got the email address correct so each time WordPress decided to email everybody, “new”, “changed” and “changed” spamming all the members who haven’t even been told the site is launched (which it isn’t yet). Perhaps not starting off on the right foot! Still I am very pleased with a lot of the new things I have been implementing in this site. There are several categories of discussion group, news and announcements all with their own special email format and separate subscribers lists as well as monthly news “digest”. There’s a classified advert section and an events system which gather bookings and payments too. My usual site has anything from 5 to 15 pages. This one has 40 not including the templates for showing different stuff in the same way. I keep thinking “next time, I’ll quote more realistically!”

The car saga is still going on. I actually wrote to the original agent I first met at the French Property Show back in 2013 complaining what a nightmare it had been and giving some of the details but not naming the girl who had been handling my claim (Delia commented that it could be his neice!). Anyway he arranged a telephone call and it seems that much  of the problem is that they have too many emails, so none get dealt with. Not very helpful, especially since their answer phone message says to email them. The girl rang me that evening to say that the “expert” had been to the garage but that they had told him they didn’t have the car and to please tell the agent to ask me to bring it in. The car being undriveable, made this nonsense laughable, or it would have if it hadn’t already been 8 weeks and several mistakes later. I actually went to the garage the next morning to find that, yes they had my car and that it was actually the “expert” who had the wrong “dossier” (the same expert who had valued the wrong model, 6 weeks earlier, and it now transpires, that same “expert” who converted the kilometres to miles in his valuation “because to was a right hand drive car” not checking that I had changed the units!). The latest is that next Wednesday I am to meet with the expert at the garage and he will confirm the kilometrage and revalue accordingly but also that the garage is to do a re-estimate of the repair costs! Watch this space, one day we’ll have our car back (we hope)

No pictures recently, so here’s some baby donkey photos from last years Fête des Ânes.

 

Walking the wife

Each evening, I’ve been walking the wife. Delia hasn’t been able to join Siena and me on our longer lunchtime walks (she’s never been awake enough for the morning one). She continues to get stronger after her operation but needs to be careful. So each evening we’ve been taking a stroll around the hamlet. I hold Siena’s lead and we go at Delia’s speed.  Early evening is a nice time to do this, its cooler and the views are better in that lower light. There is a particular spot with a view we love, I’ve never been able to do it justice with a photo… it’s a vista without a major focal point.

 

Earlier this year, there’d be a chorus of frogs coming up from the small lake or pond below.  Even now there’s a chance of seeing a couple of deer or perhaps a fox in the field leading down to the pond. Currently the foreground field is pasture, a few weeks ago it had been mown for hay and one of the hay bales had rolled into the pond. The view extends across two or three wooded ridges. On the most distant one we can see the top half of the aerial on La Grande Puyconnieux (from where we tried to watch the New Year day sunrise). The trees on the ridge in front of it block the view of the base (and hence when we stand at that base, we can’t see our hamlet either).

I especially like the glimpses we can get of patches of pasture with isolated trees in their middle. Pasture and woodland are the default land uses around here (rotating with different grains for cattle feed). Limousin beef being the main product (and wood for wood burners I guess), trees in the middle of pasture make for good shade for the cows in the heat of the day.  I showed a picture last February but I’ll try again this evening and add here if I can. Here it is.

There is a house upslope from where we always pause… we sometimes talk about how we could ruin their view by building a place just in front to take advantage of their vista ourselves. I think, though, if a million€ ever came our way we’d probably not waste it on building a house 200 metres away from our current one, it’s just talk anyway. After our 5 minute pause for the view we continue on past the bio-smallholding; more of a rural Steptoe with various old cars in use as greenhouses, some actually inside large poly-tunnels.  Piles of roof tiles and various building items for recycling (I guess). He sells his produce at local farmers’ markets and seems to make a living. His yard is a testimony to the 3 “r”s of reduce, recycle, reuse (not sure about reduce though). Heading home, we pass Siena’s favourite place if she is off lead – strangely enough – the vet’s house. She loves it because they are often sitting outside with an open gate and she loves to visit. So she is usually on lead. She loves everybody but it is not everyone loves her. 

As for other stuff… the car might start to be repaired this coming week, though the assessor has to follow the repairs so there is a delay waiting for his pre-repair inspection (though he must have done this when he valued it – on reflection however, since he got the model wrong then, perhaps “inspection” is too strong a word!). Then there’s the “during” inspection followed by the final one. In the meantime we continue driving the weeble of a Ka with its peeling roof, bits that come off inside and the stick to hold the boot open. We’ve stopped half filling the tank because its return could have been imminent.

The sub-floor of the living room is done. We now await plastering, so we can paint and finally lay the laminate (which having been in the sales was ordered early and is now sitting in a pile in the middle of the room being ‘conditioned’).

Delia’s fine!

After 30 mins of early morning small talk, Delia in her hospital gown and me… well, not, Delia was wheeled off on her hitherto bed to be prepared for her Thyroid operation. That was 7.15am and it wasn’t until 11.30am that she was wheeled back looking the worse for wear. Very pale and wan but smiling. She was pretty nauseous for an hour or so, and, though she’d been proud of the French she had managed during the lead up, the previous evening and the morning, she was not in much of a condition to switch into foreign language mode, so I came in quite handy. She slept on and off for the next few hours and waved me off at about 3pm with a promise to call me if she wanted me to come back in sooner than tomorrow after lunch.

They had said that they would carry out some tests and microscopy whilst she was still on the operating table. Still some more but I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, below is my recent vision of a very happy Delia at the “vernissage” on Friday.

 

Chateau, Motocross and Locale

I have had a couple of outings this last fortnight, motocross at the Sunday before last where some impressive riding produced some interesting photos.

 

A visit to Chateau Coussac Bonneval, where as well as having a guide with a lovely Irish brogue we were greeted by the Marquis and his Brazilian Marquise. Apart from a slip from childless Marquis to cousin in 1700 or so, this chateau had been in the same family since 12th century. We couldn’t take photos inside, so I have limited photos.

 

One sunny morning this week I walked out on one of the several routes I take for Siena’s morning walks. Down our little side road to the “main” road – where I might see one car during the 10 minutes I walk along it. The road winds along, flanked by shady chestnut groves. To my left I can catch a glimpse of the trees reflected in the lake and to my right and behind, the fields through which I will walk at the end of my circuit.

 

Continuing, I come to, what we refer to as, the muddy track (because in winter it takes only a little rain to turn it into a welly-boot-only-walk). The field on the left of the track here is now devoted to sweetcorn, but only this spring it had been fallow and a place Siena where as well as disturbubg clouds of crickets on warmer days, she would love to chase the occasional deer that she never even go close to catching. Sometimes they hardly bothered to run. All the land around here is farmed one way or another, to my right had been a dense copse of trees but is now being cleared and harvested for firewood. I wonder what crop will replace it.

Up a steepish bit at the end of the track I come to a T in the path. In the winter would turn left into the woods and eventually over a stream past a small usually overflowing pond and out of the woods to then cut across through a grove of chestnut saplings. But in summer the saplings are surrounded by shoulder high bracken; so it’s a right turn, pausing to enjoy the view across the pasture to a young oak and the hills in the distance beyond.

Following along the edge of the woods and to my left is another pasture (I am using pasture where I have not seen the field in any other use but I am sure it can change). Anyway at the moment are young bullocks or steers, I guess. They often line up and face Siena who is a bit daunted by them, neither they nor Siena know how neither could harm the other (though I suppose Siena could get trampled).

 

 

With dense trees to my right and left I arrive at a sharp turn in the track. Here I duck under a sometimes electrified fence to look out across pasture to a lake beyond and the first of two houses (this we call upper Garenne, since the other is calle La Garenne – which means rabbit warren). Siena often races around the other side of the house to see if there’s some unsuspecting workman she can greet effusively. Its not often occupied, though being a holiday house, I will put Siena back on lead if I see a car. Not everybody is as forgiving of a jumping dog as the workmen here who usually know her. As I duck under another fence to return to a metalled track, I get a little shock through my shirt. I used to unhook this but once, when the wire was slack Siena got tangled up in it. She took months to forget that. Anyway, on down the track and to the second house, La Garenne. Here someone is continuing the renovation and we exchange greetings as I retrieve Siena from their kitchen – perhaps on lead tomorrow? As I continue down the track, to my left is a wheat field and to my right fallow (last year it was wheat and before that sweetcorn). For now that field is a haven for Siena to chase the swallows that swoop and tease her in her total inability to catch them. In the distance is Beaulieu and I head home.

It’s Saturday and Delia’s recovering from a hangover (and me waking at 5am) after her “vernissage”. Not her, being varnished that is, it’s a term to describe the opening of an art exhibition. Delia’s teacher puts on annual exhibitions of her students’ work – all very impressive work.
For those who have been following our sagas, my foot is now mostly better. The car claim continues as a catalogue of non-returned calls and ignored emails, unanswered and wrongly answered questions! As to the living room, the beams are now being used for the process of sub-floor laying. This Monday Delia goes into hospital for her thyroid op on Tuesday, I will try to contact people directly but I will post an “extraordinary” update here on Wednesday.

Flat cat and hot dog

It’s been hot here. High 30’s – Hot enough to make even an aussie complain! Its also been pretty humid. Siena’s been sprawled flat out on the cool tiles, and the cat’s been pretty flat too. This means lovely cool evenings eating on the patio and enjoying the cloying scent of honeysuckle and watching the humming bird moths.  Poppies abound in our garden too especially since I haven’t been able to mow for a few weeks. Its cooled down to high 20’s now which makes the nights a bit easier.  Meanwhile other things have been ongoing since my last blog.

The beams are now levelled and awaiting final cementing. Its nice to be moving that project forward at last.

The car having been written off and undervalued, I was in dispute with the insurance assessor because he had cited the wrong model. Eventually I got a letter saying that they needed to re-inspect because they hadn’t had access to the correct documents and that I must send them within 7 days or be in violation (not quite sure of what) but they “needed” the log book (which was in the car anyway) and the original purchase invoice (heaven knows how I’d get hold of that – the original car showroom had changed its computer system twice apparently since I had bought it from them). Fortunately I had a some sort of credit agreement (not sure why since I paid cash but I think there was some new for old trade in involved). Anyhoo, they increased the valuation by a third and with some clause in my insurance called Capital Reparation we should be able to get it repaired. That’s good because the valuation is still 1500€ less than the equivalent that we could buy here.

After 3 years of photographing vital documents and fiddling around to get copies good enough to send off for various French bureaucracy (this is France so there have been a LOT). I finally bought a printer/scanner. It’s not that they are especially expensive it’s just that our existing printer works fine but isn’t a scanner/copier. Anyway the new one is now acting as a talisman against further bureaucracy.

So what else… my foot got worse, the swelling got as far as my ankle and above and blisters started to appear – despite the antibiotics. So finally the doctor not only admitted it was an infection but an antibiotic resistant one and sent me to a specialist in Limoges. That specialist wrote a lengthy prescription that fortunately revolved around 96 antibiotic tablets because the rest of the detail seemed to be all the paraphernalia around dressing the blisters which seemed to be being considered a cause rather than a side effect. Whatever… the referral to an “angio-embolisme” specialist I found disconcerting enough not to make much further small talk. Surprisingly though, I still had to drive myself across town to another clinic for another scan. This time the length of my leg proving that I did not in fact have a blockage caused by arterial blood clot. Nice to know. So I am now half way through the antibiotics (at 6 a day) the swelling is going down but its taking its sweet time. So the hot weather has been a blessing since it is only now that I can even think about not wearing open toed sandals.

A friend of Delia’s says she likes my photos and what a nice couple we made – I thought  she might be looking at a photo of our friends rather than us so, for anyone who’s forgotten what we look like here’s a gallery for you.

Beams, van hire, friends visiting? My foot!

The title is meant to be amusing, not complaining but its been a tough fortnight.

 

At last the beams are going in. After Delia and I had nearly given ourselves hernias just getting them out of the truck, we decided to put it out to tender. One of my web clients is doing it,  and he’s got a long way. Disturbingly it is just him and his very slight girlfriend – he says it’s just technique but I reckon she has steel cables for arm muscles. Once the beams are in I will enlist a friend’s help with the flooring, given Delia’s delicate situation (thyroid problems that is, in case you read something else into that comment).

 

We have a few other situations we are trying to deal with too: hiring the van involved one cancellation because it was going to be too small (they had given total length on the web rather than usable length) and an internet reservation that got totally lost. But both of these payments left my account so I am currently in dispute with one who says they have never received it and the other who says I have to wait until the end of the month for the refund.

Also, our car has been written off, if you have read Delia’s blog and seen the photo you probably won’t be surprised. But the offer they have given me is little more than half what I would need to buy the same model/mileage/age. I hope this is because they have used the wrong model in the documentation they have sent me, a much lower spec, smaller engine and two years older.

On the bright side, all of the above have given me good telephone and written French practice!

Not to be on too negative a jag here, but I have also done something to my foot. It is difficult to walk on, swollen and red. The doctor claims it is a bruised toe joint and ordered blood tests and a prescription for shoe inserts. I told him that the toes don’t hurt to move them but the swelling is very painful to touch – I had hoped for a dose of antibiotics to clear what I am convinced is cellulitis but he is emphatic it is not. So I have to wait a week for the blood tests (which I doubt will show an infection unless it has developed into blood poisoning!). In the meantime it is getting more painful and, possibly psychosomatic, granted, but I feel I have a raised temperature. On Monday back to the Doctor perhaps?

 

The weather here is lovely, we just had a long lovely weekend with T&R two friends from Leicester, we took some lovely photos and Siena had a great time being moithered by T who loves dogs but no longer has one herself.

Still no floor joists !

Yet another couple of days waiting in for the delivery. Last week it was the drying oven broken down. This week it’s the trailer. Allegedly, it will be Tuesday next week, but don’t hold your breath.  So what had been planned for a 4 day marathon of joist stuff has turned into a series of small jobs that have been put off (and off and off). I’d already repointed most of the walls in the cave (though despite waterproofing the cement, the back wall is still disturbingly moist, we have a 35°C canicule (heatwave) with threats of drought etc etc so it might dry out.

Anyway… little  jobs, finally fixed the sticking doors upstairs, turned 20m of armored cable into a garden extension lead, fitted a hook for guests in the bathroom, relaid a tile that had lifted on the unit beside the sink, fixed a kitchen cupboard door. That last was a pain! The unit is made of a 2x2cm batten framework with melamine panels – so very little room to attach hinges. Not enough for normal kitchen cupboard hinges and little for other kinds. Ended up using a bit from a left and a bit from a right hinge. I guess lawn mowing is next. All this while Delia was re-re-re-painting the kitchen doors losing her rag with the paint sprayer she’s learning how to use. The end result so far is looking great though.

Last night was BBQ weather. We had been looking for one to replace the one that had got bunged up and disintegrated (and taken to the dump). Because we already had a gas cylinder with its French attachments we were looking for a gas one.  Most of the ones I have seen over the past 12 months or so cost as much as my first car (not very much, but you get the idea). Anyway, when we finally saw a reasonably priced one (with an additional 20€ off, for Ascension weekend) we got it (last one in stock – the display model). Last night we BBQ’d basil and tomato sausages and some lamb chops (from the whole lamb we bought last week – don’t you love a chest freezer?). Lovely evening, lovely meal and a nice red (and a bargain too).

Today we’re just off to the local fête at Lageyrat (we can just see its village church from our bedroom window, so we’ll actually walk).  The previous two years the weather was terrible for it, last year in fact it rained so hard Siena was flinching and hiding between our legs. This year then will be a wonderful change, currently about 26°C in the shade with a light breeze. Photos below.

NF = National Front, No Fun and still no floor

President Macron! A new face, even less experience than Trump but at least it isn’t Front Nationale President Marine Le Pen.  On the eve of the second stage of the French Presidential elections there was a debate where, as my neighbour said, Marine was “méchant” as in “chien méchant”. Anti -immigration from all fronts, especially from the UK (though that would depopulate most of south west French countryside). Still it’s a relief, I hadn’t realised how concerned Delia was about it until she expressed such relief at the result.

On other non-national fronts – another busy week for us both. But workwise mostly since our beams (to return a floor to our living room) weren’t delivered on the 10th as expected (I think the sawmill just told me it might be the 10th when seeing my expression after they had said mi-Mai). There’s probably a euphemism for a “French Fib” but then there isn’t one for a “French Kiss” so who knows? And anyway is it one, two or three? (see a couple of blogs back).

So, busy… I’ve been trying to resolve an issue with a new website for batch emailing. Mailchimp turned out to be way too much work, but the much sexier (and professional) sounding Mailgun is just the job!  I have a new website for Charente Limousine Exchange – an expat group we have actually been members of.  Membership, events, special interest groups all need mailing lists. Anyway as well as that I had a laptop that the owner wanted cleaned and upgraded.

Delia’s work waxes and wanes and currently its waxing and she’s a bit pressured. A weekend away from work is relaxing but with no beams I am still trying to damp proof the walls but we can spare a bit of time to venture off for lunch at St Jean de Cole for a flower festival this morning. Pity we haven’t time for the camera club trip to St Junien vide grenier (like a car boot sale) but here’s some photos from St Jean de Cole this lunchtime.

Demolition day

Yesterday we removed the floor from our living room. Now when we enter our cave (basement) we have a seemingly vast cathedral-like interior with a ceiling stretching up nearly 5metres. The décor leaves a little to be desired and the ground floor entry is a little disturbing with its 1.5 metre straight drop.

We were adamant that this time (we treated 3 years ago) the woodworm will not be returning. We had our doubts, thinking totally removal might be overkill, but removing every piece of wood seemed best, including the wood panelling on the wall. As it turned out, some beams we had thought solid were anything but once we hacked them out. We had already cleared out most of the valuables (junk) – though I am still unsure what to do with the UK headlight units for my Fiesta and the crates of electronica. An unfortunate younger friend had casually offered to help when I met him at the dechetterie (dump) a few weeks back.  He arrived bright and early with his chain saw and the demolition commenced. Crowbars, hammers and cups of tea preceded the distinctive roar of the chain saw as it hacked through the first few beams. The original (probably 19th century) chestnut beams looked especially riddled but had a hard, steel-like core that is probably what had saved us from descending into the basement, sofa and all, whilst watching Gardener’s World one evening. The old beams saved us because the newer pine ones crumbled like meringue in places.

One of my initial concerns was that I knew we were supposed to burn the infected wood. Our neighbour, Benoit, had volunteered a patch on the edge of one of his chestnut groves that he uses himself for bonfires. Our other neighbour helpfully pointed out that it would, in fact, have been illegal to have any bonfire between March and September.  All concern was, in the end, unnecessary because our friend needs as much wood as he can get for his heating, the riddled pieces serve as good kindling and the solid chestnut hearts burn slowly and efficiently. His wife, at home to help unloading on each of his three return trailer trips, was unreasonably gleeful because in the cold snaps we have been having and lacking other heating, she gets very cold. When Delia met her for a morning coffee last weekend, her hands were blue! Not only the wood, but they also took our old (21st Century, non-chestnut J ) bookcases for their now vacated ground floor currently being converted into rental apartments.

So now our bedroom is somewhat chilly, underlain as it is by a cathedral space ventilated by open grills. Oh and we’re going to need a ladder to lock our shutters shut!

As to Delia’s health, she is feeling somewhat relieved at the moment, the specialist didn’t consider her swollen thyroid to be serious. Though there is still more investigation, and she has a CT scan booked for the end of May, it is a weight off our minds.

Look out for Delia’s blog next week (deliablog.patbell.co.uk).

Les Flicks, le medecin, le kine, et le dentiste

A busy fortnight!  Last week, a new client, wanting general Windows training, tuning her laptop and resolving some e-mail problems. Along with a new website for a local expat group who invited me to lunch to discuss their required revamp of an existing site. Also another person this time with a dead computer, the dead computer was resurrected and duly collected and the website is ongoing.

During the last fortnight I have been making good use of the French medical system. X-rays and echograms of my shoulder (hurt during the bathroom work) – a pinched intraclavicle tendon apparently.  We have a new medical centre in Chalûs and last week I opened three of the four doors (so I know where the jackpot is now!) Doctor in his new office, then the physio (or kinesiotherapist NOT kinetherapy which is a load of naturopathy BS and coloured plasters!). I also needed the dentist as I had an infected tooth. At the moment we pay 30% of our medical costs but in the UK dental and prescription charges are quite high I spent less than I would have oon the UK’s “free” NHS. Plus my waiting times were negligible. We must resolve our health top-up cover though just in case of hospitalisation and stuff; I mean, 30% of an air ambulance, such as we have actually seen pick someone up here in Beaulieu, would probably bankrupt us!

 

My trip to the dentist was made difficult by the monthly market blocking access but it seemed excessive even so. I found out the next day that Marine le Pen (the presidential candidate for the Front National) was campaigning in the area and there were lots of ‘flicks’ (otherwise known as police) as my neighbour told me. 

The weather has been great, over 30°C our max/min thermometer claims! House–wise we have restarted the re-pointing and hope to finish this weekend. Last weekend Delia was out of commission with a cold but she’s out there now hacking away whilst I exhaustingly type away indoors 🙂