And about time too!

     

 

 

Delia is delighted to announce a new arrival… a hedgehog. A damn sight smaller than an echidna which is the nearest she might see in Aus! I heard a scratching at the catflap which I thought was the cat who hates opening the flap himself so I went to open the door for him and who should try to get in instead? – this hedgehog. I used to see quite a few in the UK but they were getting less frequent, to the extent that they are an endangered species in certain areas now

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes this blog is a bit late. I have no real excuse except being a bit busy at the weekend finishing the living room (well… nearly). The skirting is nearly done, just the awkward bits left to do last night. Its lovely to start with nice 2.5M lengths but then the awkward in and outy bits without right angles intervene! I still have to finish off my desk though, so perhaps this weekend will see the final touches. But the shelves are mostly full and furniture installed.

Last week we had been invited to a dégustation or tasting. The host was an acquaintance from my “Franco-Brittanique Rencontre” group. Fifteen of us mostly English but for 2 French and the guest presenter of the wines. French was the main language but it was relaxed and everyone dropped into English where necessary. The table accommodated us and the spread of food we had all brought (it was a temporarily re-purposed snooker table, as Delia illustrated by rattling the balls she had found in a corner pocket beneath the table cloth. The vendor gave us his background of working for small wine distributors and eventually setting up on his own enterprise utilising his contacts and specialising in small independent wine-makers. We had dozens of wines to taste (and I had to sip carefully as I was driving!). Eventually we selected 12 bottles, not the cheapest (normally we tend to favour supermarket wine boxes which are still good quality but cheaper). The bottles on offer here ranged from about 5€ to 15€ but the quality was excellent. Many were sulphite free which makes laying them down for years a bit hit and miss… we’ll have to drink those first then!

The day of the tasting was a busy one for me, an early start to drive an hour to a committee meeting of the most recent website I have completed. Looks like that’s a responsibility for me as “webmaster” that will continue but possibly diminish with time. It’s a group (CLE) we joined a while back but they were centred more to the north of us and being mostly retired members, events were usually during the week. I then had a two hour drive to my language lesson – the teacher had just come out of convalescence and had rung us all to see that we were coming. Then the hours back home for an hour break before heading out to the degustation (a mere 20 minutes away).

There is another nearer group centred around language lessons in nearby Rochechouart. Some younger members too. They had a meal yesterday (Monday) that we went to and enjoyed. We usually sit with a couple for whom I did a web site for but we know several others there – Delia through her art class and me through the photoclub. The food was excellent though with (I would guess) about 35 people, service was not the speediest and we had to leave before the lunch hour reached 3 hours.

The weather has been colder and often grey but a few blue sky days too. Here’s some shots from an Autumn photowalk our group took recently.

We do like to be beside the seaside

We do indeed, like the beach that is. Delia was brought up in a small seaside town on the Indian Ocean and she misses the sea especially. So our anniversary present to ourselves was to stay near the sea, in fact the Atlantic Ocean. We found a lovely pet friendly holiday home near the coast half way between Biarritz and Bordeaux. Google earth show the almost the entire length of this coast as beach and this was what it felt like. Contis, was the beach town (though we stayed a few kilometres inland on the edge of St Julien en Born.

The weather improved as we headed west and by the time we arrived the sky was a cloudless blue and 23°C. We settled in, and after quickly exploring the back patio and forest behind made the 5 minute drive to the ocean. Storm David had apparently passed by recently and the waves were boisterous. We had taken Siena to a small lakeside beach so we knew that she loved the sand between her pads already… and we weren’t disappointed – she bounded about like a puppy. After walking up the beach for a while went back to Contis and enjoyed a drink at one of the few bars open at this point of the season.

Deciding not to hang around for sunset we went back to the house to enjoy our Friday champagne (real champagne not just sparkling! A birthday present for Delia).  We spent most of the weekend walking on the beach or along forest tracks to get to the beach. We did walk in St Julien but it was mostly closed. The beach did seem to go on forever, though we never quite made it to Biarritz.

Back home and the lounge work continues. Doors being made and painted. It’ll be done before Xmas! By special request here is a sequence up to having the stitches taken out. I already could raise this eyebrow but now it’s a bit wonky.

 

Whoops!

Autumn is cold and damp. But as the dawn gets later each morning, my morning do walk gets closer to sunrise each day.  Often the misty walk is quite magical.  The sun shining down a tunnel of trees, softly filtered by the mist with Sienna treading very carefully through the carpet of fallen chestnuts. Through the fence a soft snuffle and Sienna raises her hackles in surprise and a small bark – a cow (a calf really but still twenty times her size) stares at her in the dull bovine way only cows can. Looking out, across that same field I can see a few other calves munching away at the dew laden grass. In the distance through the trees beyond the thinning mist curling around the bushes I see a fog bank sitting behind our little hamlet of Beaulieu. The Tardoire valley, normally with nothing to show its presence, from here is now picked out by a winding line of fog, looking as clouds do when viewed from an aircraft. Walking on, and a few minutes later, coming to the other side of the woods the fog in the valley has vanished and the low dawn sun illuminates the just harvested wheat field, stalks casting long shadows. Sienna blunders her way chasing birds she is destined to never catch and the moment is gone. They’ll be others though, perhaps tomorrow.

 

So why whoops? Well, the living room shelves and all are progressing, and Friday morning I was up a ladder attaching one of the book shelf units. I hit my head against the ladder when it slipped on the laminate. To my surprise and Delia’s consternation it was bleeding copiously and Delia got very squeamish about cleaning it up and dressing it. Not surprising since when I took it to the doctor it needed 4 stitches and my eye is now blackening “nicely”.

Interestingly, the Maison de Santé was being inaugurated that very day by the French Prime Minister and the Minister of Health. Apparently in a France with particular problems of “medical deserts” this new clinic in Chalus is (for the moment) on of the best in France – or so my doctor told me whilst stitching my head back together.

The PM and Minister had left by the time I got there, but the doctor, having been there for the formalities, had stayed behind a little while so I was lucky to catch him before he vanished on the legendary long French lunch break

Car and canine capers

I guess the highlight of this week is that we have our car back. It’s only been 5 days short of 4 months too!

It’s good to have it back, I actually prefer the right hand drive, I can see right into the roadside ditches.  We haven’t had the invoice yet (they probably have to order in extra paper because it’s so long!). So we still need to deal with the insurance claim. That side of things has been a nightmare – after writing and complaining, things did improve a bit but communication is still minimal, we are not impressed.

Work is progressing on the lounge woodwork. All the base cupboards are installed with a stained surface which closely matches the floor (surprisingly since it was me and my flawed colour vision that made the selection of stain). I have got a long way with the upper bookshelf units too, one complete the others all routed and cut to size. The weather being a bit unpredictable meant I had to clear enough space in the garage to work when I can’t sand and saw outside – as cupboards and shelves get built it all gets a bit cramped.  Delia also has to spray paint outside but I can’t sand at the same time so there’s some complex logistics involved. I’m really quite enjoying  the 3 days a week doing the diy, very different from hacking away at websites and trying not to get annoyed at customers who want to tell me what popped up in the bottom corner of their screen 10 minutes ago instead of pulling down the selection list like I told them… I’m also enjoying listen to music while I work – I’m shuffling my entire ipod and the variety from Bruckner to blues, Dvorak to dance and Einaudi to Eagles is good fun, I can’t concentrate too well with music whilst computing but music with diy seems to work well.

Siena has been enjoying having me lying on the floor for those hard to get at bits of the cupboards. Having me at her level seems to be an invitation to drop her rope on my head to play.

I hope to continue to enjoy the intermittent days of warmth and sunshine. The morning walks with Siena are around dawn which with the mist and all can be magical. Not so much this morning when I encountered four camo-wearing shotgun-carrying hunters and their dogs but that did mean that to avoid them I took a different walk around the lake, Siena walking carefully to avoid the fallen chestnuts and me enjoying the mist drifting across the lake surface.

Websites, work and weather

It’s been a busy week for me. The week before I was mostly finalising and fixing last minute bugs on my new member website for Charente Limousine Exchange – an expat association.  Monday the committee meeting, to finalise things, however there are still things to do and bugs to work out but, at least as far as the members are concerned it is now ‘out there’. Wednesday  – the seminar to explain the new website to the membership,  the main feature I was highlighting was their new communication” hub”. Essentially a whole bunch of different online discussion groups, events and classified adverts. I enjoyed doing it and I hope there may be more membership sites to come, since I have now worked out many of the wrinkles.

The living room is progressing, I have now done three of the five base cupboards but it is a long process. Delia is happily painting skirting boards, door frames and doors her favourite grey and the black door furniture does look good against the light grey.

The car is still being repaired. Today I got the official notification that I’d need to get the repair certified because I was not accepting the “writing off”. Something I knew two months ago!

The weather has definitely become autumnal. Though this happened last year (and before) and we still had some warmth even up to the end of November.  As we have a weekend away planned to a dog friendly Atlantic coast holiday home mid October I am hoping for a late summer interlude of good weather (but then I am the optimist).  Delia did surprise me with an early anniversary present today with the a pernod glass  which did contain pernod, thankfully after I had finished using the circular saw!  No new photos this week but here’s our current one from our calendar as a lovely reminder of summer in Limousin.

 

Bordeaux, burgers and a belvedere

Delia’s dad visited this week. Last Monday morning we drove to Bordeaux where after checking in to our hotel we wandered along the waterfront enjoying the ambiance.

We met up with Bill (Delia’s dad) at his hotel in the heart of Bordeaux. We were staying a bit further out at an Ibis but from what he says about the competence of the reception staff I think we were much better off. He was sharing with two friends who had toured with him after the water polo masters competition they’d been at in Budapest. One of them had last seen Delia, when she was about 8, so calling him Wayne didn’t come easily for her but they were all a jolly crew. That evening we had a meal at a nearby square, company good but food somewhat mediocre.

The next day,  a simple breakfast at a market place café, of bread, jam, homemade lemonade and , of course, coffee.  Delia and I were visiting the Musée d’Aquitaine, whilst team Aussie got day tickets on the tram and explored the limits of the tram routes. I must admit to being disappointed with the museum, the prehistoric section was very extensive and I think the most recently updated,  but there seemed to be major gaps in the continuity of the displays. I think it was trying to be especially Bordeaux-centric which meant little about the period between the Romans and the Plantagenets. Eleanor of Aquitaine got much mention but Charlemagne was notably absent. Even Napoleon was scarcely mentioned. One large set of displays of Bordeaux as a port, of course, another of the slave trade.

Afterwards a delicious burger for lunch in a Bordeaux bistro then a revisit to le Miroir which was much more active during the day, a real playground for adults and children alike.

Wandering along the waterfront again, Bill rang to suggest some eateries for that evening, coincidentally, exactly where we happened to be enjoying an afternoon drink ourselves. And yes, that evening we had a  very enjoyable meal at a Catalan themed waterfront restaurant.

Yesterday, Saturday, we went the the “Hanging Gardens of Maqueyras”. Quite a drive into the Dordogne. A spectacular landscape with viewpoints overlooking the Dordogne valley. The gardens themselves were almost completely box hedge topiary, organically reflecting the surrounding landscape (well that was what the tour guide said). Shaded walks with spectacular panoramas peeking through trees and from limestone cliffs. Definitely worth a revisit, next time with Siena who would have been perfectly at home.

Old and New

Apparently the repairs on our car have started. Well, at least once August is over and the bodywork bloke returns. Not a lot happens in France during August,  July isn’t especially productive either. They have a term to describe the large proportion of the population who disappear on their holidays for August – Aoutiens (there is also Juilliens for those vanishing during July). Either way its two months of excuses and delays.  Its crazy by our standards, restaurants and artisans whose services would be in demand during this period, just shut up shop for the duration! As for the car though, the garage admin woman talks about a bigger courtesy car (its currently a Ka with a boot that has to be held open by a stick) – we desperately need one for when we pick up Delia’s Dad in Bordeaux in a week – fingers crossed.

Our living room progresses, Delia finished the ceiling and second under coat of the newly plastered walls. 40 four metre planks delivered Friday means I can now start the woodwork needed for the “library” shelving and spent most of today sawing pieces to size.  If the painting get finished during the week though,  I’ll try to get the laminate laid this weekend. Its all a matter of doing things in the right order!

 

We have a summer visitor to Beaulieu who apparently used to live in our house back in the fifties and sixties. She now lives in the northern suburbs of Paris. She had often mentioned photos but finally yesterday she produced them and we had a chance to scan them. Much has changed and much hasn’t. Apparently the room we are working so hard on was her parent’s bedroom back in the day. Other photos of the hamlet she showed us told us how most of the roads were just dirt tracks and also how some houses we had though were relatively new, were not so much. Don’t see cows pulling a haywain so much now.

Tomorrow Delia has her checkup with her Thyroid surgeon. She’s feeling better than she has for many months, so it seems the treatment was very necessary. Kind of by way of celebration, we’ve booked a weekend in a dog-friendly holiday home near the Atlantic coast for the weekend of Delia’s birthday.

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.