When is a christmas party like a bus?

When they all come at once! Well, two in three days anyway.

My first one was for my language class in St Yrieix. Or so I thought but as it turned out it was for the french and english classes at the centre I go to. So I arrived, cake in hand, to find no-one I knew, and in fact only two english at first. I was also surprised to find it wasn’t a casual eat and chat kind of do, but a quiz, questions in English for the French to answer (with help from the token English person on each table) and different questions in french for the English. Essentially the French had to answer questions about the queen and about what the English ate at Christmas. The French questions were a little more specific such as what colour did Santa Claus before he wore red? (green… with the allegation that it was because of coca cola – I didn’t spoil the fun by pointing out this was an urban myth). Not a myth is that Provence have a tradition of 13 different desserts (to do with 12 apostles and Jesus but also that their department number is 13 or at least Bouches du Rhone is).The desserts include various nuts and dried fruits, hard black and soft white nougat, a marzipan sweet and a kind of flat bread flavoured with orange oil and served to be torn and dipped in cooked wine dregs. Interesting but I think I’ll stick with christmas pudding. Eventually some of my classmates turned up, annoyed at having missed all the fun. But in time for two of those who sing in a choir to give us a spirited rendition of Joy to the World.

I had organised my photoclub christmas meal, as turned out two days later. This was at a restaurant we had been to in November and just like then the food was lovely. Most of us had pheasant with chestnut purée but the choices were wide. The three piece (not 13!) dessert icluded a little piece of christmas pud and a tiny trifle just for us Brits.

Yesterday we popped into Delia’s art teacher’s gallery to buy a picture. We realised that we had souvenirs of various places we have visited whilst living here but nothing actually of here. So we will be soon taking possession of a watercolour of a Tardoire valley scene.

Below is a version christmas card that I sent out to family and friends.


Winter in Nouvelle Aquitaine

The sun always shines and it only rains at night – blah! It’s been raining for the past month, albeit with a few of the vaunted blue sky days, but way too few.  One of our friends commented that if they’d had a first winter like this they might not have decided to stay. Delia is escaping by looking for building plots in Crete and the cost of winter rents in Spain and Portugal. An acquaintance claims it’s cheaper to rent a place in Spain than to maintain their house through the winter – all I can say is they must have a much bigger !

We had a nice evening out at a quiz at a bar, where we had won before, but not his time. The food was nice though, a veal blanquette with pumpkin mash and a mango cream dessert.

So cosy times indoors then, mac’n’cheese (Delia’s favourite) and baguette and soup for lunch. Siena hates the rain, just sticks her head out of the dog flap to see if it’s stopped. Unless, it’s her morning walk, perhaps she thinks going with me will make it different. I know the cat thinks the weather will be different if he goes out the front rather than the back. Anyway Siena’s morning walk always happens (the lunchtime one less so) – being inspired by my friend Mike and all his family doing triathlons and everything (and Mike, 5 years older than me), I did a bit of jogging, just a few hundred metres, Sienna loved it and encouraged me to speed up… anyway after a few weeks of this, I did so and suddenly got something that felt like bad cramp in my thigh,  it was very painful to walk after though it’s much less so now, but there is now a real “good” bruise on the back of my leg. I reckon its God’s way of telling me I’m fit enough; though Delia says that jogging in wellies is stupid! Since I don’t believe in God…

Not much in the way of photography lately, but the club competition this month is perfect pets so here you are…

Here’s to 2018!

My first blog of 2018. Not on the newly combined deliaandpatblog you may notice but this will be rectified as soon as my host pulls their finger out and fixes the dns blah blah blah).

Retrospect or the future? Well 2017 has been a tough year: healthwise;  whilst I had a tooth abscess, an infected foot, damaged shoulder tendon and a face-plant off a ladder needing 4 stitches – Delia trumped me with having half her thyroid removed! Otherwise: the car being written-off (then progressively less so, using negotiation by argument with the assessor) ending up costing us only 250€ out of 4750€ damage and, of course, totally redoing the living room (literally, below floor to ceiling – the entire floor and supporting beams). Busy, very busy…  but at the end of it all it actually only meant using about 2,000€ of our savings. Delia lost some time convalescing but made up later, as did I with a big website, and we now have a lovely unique living room (with a solid floor!). The downstairs  toilet room is getting matching treatment with the same laminate floor but fortunately it rests on bedrock, so no beams to replace).

That being said we had some good times in 2017, it started foggily with a wonderful visit from Mike and Sandra our friends from Nottingham, a lovely time in Bordeaux to start a visit from Delia’s Dad, our friend Petra from Hamburg visited and we had a blustery autumn weekend on the Atlantic coast – a special treat to see Siena joyously running for all she was worth through the sand. Near the end of the year a couple of Xmas do’s in the UK to get us in the spirit for a quiet holiday season at home.

2018 started, back at work with a broken laptop for me (someone elses!) and a slow start for Delia. We’re looking forward to the coming year – another visit from Mike and Sandra in February (I did consider abbreviating to their initials but… well… M&S or S&M perhaps not), in April I get to walk my daughter Catherine down the aisle to marry her fiancé Chris.  Later in the year we will enjoy another visit from Delia’s mum Francis and Barb Delia’s aunt. At some point; perhaps overlapping, or not, a trip to Portugal is on the cards where we hope to do the zip line that spans the Spanish/Portuguese border. We have since discovered that there is a longer and faster zip line in Wales (perhaps another year).  We’ll try the one that crosses about 500m of lake nearby first, to make sure we don’t bottle out.  We are hoping for a different Xmas next year, if no-one is visiting us, we might perhaps go to Hamburg to visit Petra (if she was serious in her invite and it includes Siena J ).

Happy New Year everyone – here’s to a fantastic 2018.

Hopp Over

I don’t have an iPad and hate anything Apple (my problem, PCs and Windows let me fiddle a lot more). The iPad owner had lost his passwords and there was little to say it hadn’t been stolen – it hadn’t, I was even in contact with his daughter whose kids had changed passwords willy nilly but until the battery ran down they hadn’t needed one).  Anyway, multiple resets and support calls to Apple (they said “not a chance”), it was resurrected despite rather than because of Apple.

We had my photoclub’s Xmas lunch this week, 12 of us at an Auberge for the plat du jour. A fishy thing for entrée, veal filet for the main and passion fruit+ entremets (after Bake Off this year I know what an entremets is – a sponge and mouse multi-layered thingy). Back home and I had half and hour before my Franco/Brittanique Rencontre in St Laurent sur Gorre (every third Tuesday of the month) – I had to go this time in particular to pick up the wine we had ordered after the degustation (see http://patblog.patbell.co.uk/2017/11/14/and-about-time-too/). Just before I left home I rashly answered my phone – another client with a problem with the recent big Windows 10 update; it’s a long update and the woman, like many I think had shut down in the middle of it unaware what was happening in the background. I think this is where the problems happen. Anyway, it transpired that she lived opposite the place I was actually going to in St Laurent and since usually my clients are many kilometres away it seemed serendipitous. So I got to my “rencontre” a bit late but then called in to collect the problem laptop. Solved eventually, after several false starts, by stepping back to before the dreaded update.  A quick turnaround since usually a client has to bring the problem to me and leave it for a few days. She was so pleased she gave me another laptop to fix but less urgently fortunately, since my plan is not to work at all over Xmas week.

A couple of days later, another urgent issue with a laptop, this time a Norwegian woman with a failed laptop screen. The solution was simply a matter of connecting to another screen to get the stuff she needed. However the configured language was Norwegian and that is where I found that ‘skip’ in Norwegian is ‘Hopp Over’ – it wasn’t all that easy though!

This afternoon we have invited our neighbours for coffee and cake, and to view our living room. They’ve seen the progress all along (including the afternoon “cabaret” of Delia and me struggling to get 12 excessively heavy 4.5M oak beams off the hire truck – only ‘Madame’ so she only watched but seemed entertained!) Delia’s just finished a chocolate cake (thankfully with chocolate ganache rather than buttercream, which I detest – cream with melted chocolate is the only chocolate icing to have I think). Tomorrow (Xmas eve) we have the annual 30+ dog walk around a local lake followed by Xmas day – I will leave the remainder of our Xmas celebrations to Delia’s blog next week. By the way, we were considering  merging our blogs into one next year, what do you think?

Here’s a couple of snaps rom a Xmas market last year.


Snow, hangover and lots of food.

For once Delia and I weren’t joined at the hip this week. Delia flew off to Manchester and gave me a whole 4 hours to wrap her presents, go to bed ready for an early start for me to fly to Stansted to meet up with my brother, Richard. That morning though it had snowed and whilst Seina was imitating an energiser bunny, the snow had frozen to the car and as a result I forgot Siena’s food and bowl and left my carefully prepared coffee (for the journey) behind. Siena went to our helpful friend for a week of fun with her sheepdog friend Freya and Wallis the cat was free to come and go whilst our neighbour dropped in daily to feed him.

Richard’s son-in-law, Stephen’s mother from South Carolina was visiting and on Saturday they were to celebrate a late Thanksgiving. That evening we went to a local winebar, came home and drank some more, enough so I was dozing off with a slight headache by 11pm. Going to bed and my headache increased to the scale of a stroke! Seeing as no stroke lasts for hours I could guess that it was in fact a hangover. I must admit that the last time I had had such a hangover was also at Richard and Lyn’s so perhaps there’s a pattern forming.  Unable to get up that morning, Lyn was almost sympathetic and brought me some toast and telling Richard that “he’d broken his brother”. Eventually I made it downstairs but, rather than the family celebration I was expecting, 20 guests had arrived. Lots of great food (but just a single glass of prosecco for me!).

Delia arrived on the Sunday from York and from her first work ‘do.  And that night we played one of the most politically incorrect and inappropriate game I have ever encountered. “Cards against Humanity”.  One has 10 cards with random, sometimes obviously rude phrases but more oftent than not; just random, but which when combined in response to a question card can become outrageous. I can’t reproduce most here, but it was great fun. Stephen’s mum joined in with gusto adding a special slant with her strong South Caroline twang to the mix. I don’t think I have any other group I could possibly play this game with!

The next couple of days Delia and I needed to work but Monday evening was a delightful evening with my daughter and her fiancé at a restaurant in London’s Soho. On Tuesday Richard and Lyn treated us to a fantastic Indian meal at restaurant in Princes Risborough. Wednesday we were off again to London, Delia to Soho again and me left to my own devices.

That evening we went to her other work ‘do where I was the ‘plus one’ . It was good to see all the faces of names Delia had spoken about, the food was lovely and the champagne endless. We went back to the Ibis mostly sober.

The next day we were going home but, our flight being at 6pm, we met up with a friend in Nottingham and took him for a pub lunch and then a country walk. It was well-deserved for him since our last visit had involved an extra 6 days at his place due to an air traffic controllers’ strike. It was a lovely way to break up what would otherwise have been just a day of travelling.

Finally landing at about 9.30pm we headed through sleet to pick up a happy Siena and back home to our welcoming new living room.

The Living Room

Well, as Delia promised in her blog last week, I did finish my desk, which now slots into the bookcase with a leg that looks like a door and… well… below should tell it all. The living room is now suitable for… living (and, for me at least during the day, for working).  I have started insulating the ceiling of the cave (and floor of the living room, to keep my feet warm at my desk!) There’s still a bit of snagging and my desk to finish but I can almost tick it off the list.

Its been a bit frosty here overnight and the morning walk on the muddy track is even muddier after a lot of logging.


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.



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