Old friends new places

An old friend from my university days visited this week. Time and distance had lessened the contact we’d had over the years and it was lovely to see Sharon again and get to know Zofie, her 30 year old daughter, whom I remembered from the last time I had seen her as a surly teenager sprawled bored on the sofa – now an attractive, sparky and talkatively entertaining young woman. We both live in remote environs, them in a house in the dunes of Norfolk, a stone’s throw from the beach and us, of course, in deepest rural France perdu (lost France).

Walking into Châlus, poping up to Rochechouart, squeezing in as much as possible in the 3 days they were here for. Anyway, their visit had been timed to allow a visit to Christmas market. I have visited many of these Lubeck, Hamburg, Nottingham, Leicester, Rhayader, Haywards Heath etc and all had blurred into sameness (Nottingham seemed to actually be the same as Hamburg having been shipped across the North Sea in a container) with all the cabins and produce being identical.

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Pavillon du Verdurier, Limoges

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medieval limoges

So this time, since we had missed some of the allegedly good one day markets elsewhere, we went into Limoges. After a walk through bits of Limoges, ranging from medieval to art noveau then lunch in a creperie (courtesy of our visitors). We visited the first of the two markets, both running for the fortnight before Christmas . One in place de la republique had cabins (but that’s where the similarity with all the other markets ended) the produce was much more varied, different even from all the summer markets we have in this region for the tourists. There was an ice rink (not too unusual I guess) but there were also two ski runs, one downhill and another cross-country. Plenty of artisans purveying their wares, and our visitors caught up on their Christmas pressie shopping.


Smurf shopping


Then a short walk through medieval Limoges streets to place de la motte where there was a larger area, covered (it rained a bit but mostly blue skies) and even more crafts, art, food and drink. I have never been to a better Christmas market.


The next day it was just me as the tour guide. We were off to yet another market, Piegut, the best ‘general’ market in the region. Many more people than Limoges and at least a kilometre of stalls. On the way we had stopped at Châteaux Cromières and  Rocher (now with water and beautiful reflections but I had forgotten my camera). In Piegut itself, after a vietnamese samosa (again courtesy of our guests, from a food stand), we went behind the stalls to see something I had accidentally seen on Google earth when checking our route… an 11th century donjon, a stone tower built during the reign of Henry II in 1198.

Château Montbron, then Château de Brie and home for packing, a quick walk through the chestnut grove and off to the airport.





By the way, I have caught 4 mice so far, only one from the loft. A larger rat trap arrived via ebay but I guess its just mice (there’s another one up there I heard last night!). I think the cave (our basement) is clear now (nothing for a few days now so our spelt flour is safe (in a solid plastic sealed container anyway).

So far, an unseasonably warm and sunny December, magical thinkers telling me that means its going to be a hard winter (if it is they’ll be right, if not they’ll forget until their next negativity – you gotta love confirmation bias)…

From here in the middle of France – until next year…

There’s a hole in my bucket.

I guess a new bucket would have solved his problem but then he’d have had no song. Just as shutters would solve the problem of the window through which dawn shines and wakes us up (or did in summer). We can’t close the door or the cat scratches it. Put the cat downstairs? There’s a dog down there, put the cat out then…  Australians don’t do that, it protects the possums (but there aren’t any possums in France? The French let their cats out at night… need I say more).

It began with a birthday present. Wallace (and Grommet RIP) were given as kittens for Delia’s birthday. Then, in the windswept wilds of Worksop, it was a no-brainer to keep them in the kitchen at night. The same in suburban Worksop, then on to the leafy lanes of Lindfield (in Sussex not Sydney). Breaking the combined chains of commuting and the dragging debt of mortgage, moved cat and us to France. Initially all captive in a cave of a gîte but then to the delightful Chez Nous of Beaulieu the pattern of kitchen confinement for the cat was broken (singular now, via demise of two companion cats). And then along came dog and we had to institute apartheid, at least at night. Siena downstairs, Wallace upstairs.

All settled until we went on a short break and (dog in kennels) Wallace had the run of the house but not to the outside. This worked well, friend visited to feed him and he enjoyed sleeping in our bed (Wallace, not the friend… as far as we know that is). Coming home and Wallace now accustomed to greater comfort would scratch at the bedroom door. Now Wallace had been through the thick and thin of moving hither and thither with us and Delia felt he deserved consideration. So the bedroom door gets left open for him and, hence, with the unshuttered window, dawn wakes us.

Or it did in Summer. Now, dawn is a pleasant way of telling us (well, me at least as I blunder shut-eyed to the loo) that, there being a glimmer of light through my eyelids that it is 7.30 and so time to get up anyway.  This is of course getting later and before Christmas arrives I expect this glimmer will indicate 8am or even 8.30. I guess as spring arrives and dawn reverts to her habits of an annoyingly early morning nature something will have to be done. Shutters are possible, blinds are cheaper but difficult to fit with the way the window is, if it was straightforward, I’d already have done it!


Dawn through the window

Sitting here I can hear scuttling something(s) in the loft. A neighbour had talked of a problem with loirs (initially I heard loi which means law and led  me down a whole different conversation until I figured out he meant loirs- some kind of animal in his loft). Wikipaedia tells us that it is a dormouse (Gris Gris or Loir Gris, not sure which but since the first is an edible dormouse and is protected, lets assume Loir the ordinary dormouse). Anyway, mouse traps were triggered but nothing caught – these things are quite big nearly rat sized (incredibly cute with a squirrel like bushy tail but they do eat electrical wiring apparently).  So we have a rat trap on order from ebay (they are sold locally but are pretty expensive). There’s a whole different tale of folding loft ladder collapsing as I check the traps but, as I said that’s another story.

However as I sit here listening to the scuttling, there’s also a distinctive fluttering. It’s definitely a bird; either that of our loft is becoming a whole new ecosystem.  And I know what’s going through your minds kill two birds (or bird and dormouse?) with one cat? No, I am not putting Wallace in the loft at night!