Morning routine in Nouvelle Aquitaine

After more than two years in France, yes… days do have a routine. Newcomers to French life fondly imagine the regular morning visit to the Boulangerie for breakfast croissants, followed by the morning coffee hit in the local bar. Lunch is a long lingering over the menu du jour, a basket of sliced baguette accompanying something du terroire, perhaps smoked venison liver or a goose gizzard salad (ok perhaps that last bit, whilst real, is possibly not fondly imagined, let’s say instead, duck breast cassoulet or just steak frites then).

But we aren’t newcomers, nor did we ever manage that daily routine except perhaps on a few vacation days. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things do happen, and quite often (even the goose gizzards) but just not routinely.  A routine work day will start with me rising between 7.30 to 8am a quick shower, downstairs to greet a somnolent dog who stays on the couch watching me make Delia her decaff coffee to be drunk as she gets out of her shower (except for Saturday when she sits in bed with it) and a carry-mug of tea for me to drink as I walk the now awakened Siena. The morning-walk varies; at the moment I favour a route that does not involve Siena rushing to greet the summer-time jogger who is somewhat less enthusiastic. This morning, which being a Saturday that I plan to do some building work, did not start with a shower but also started a bit later at about 8.30.

The walk started by greeting our neighbour, Jean-Claude who, being ex-army (albeit supplies rather than combat), starts his day an hour or two earlier. I seldom see anyone else, passing Benoit’s place – the largest house of the hamlet, past the vet’s and the Englishman’s holiday home on my left (both of whom I might occasionally see depending upon exact time of year and day), following the worn tarmac road with grass sprouting along the middle. On the right further along is the home of the mother-in-law of Mme Ratier (who lives in the next house on the left) usually we are greeted by her dogs, Douggie – the very waggy, curly terrier and the older, grumpy and vaguely corgi-like Daphne. The walk then veers right onto an earthen track, through woods, down and over a small stream, past a gite in the process of intermittent renovation and back into woods again. At the moment there are cows in a field here but not always. Sometimes there’stouching-00201 a pair of horses who have known Siena since she was found.

not the actul deer, nor my photo but very similar

not the actual deer, nor my photo but very similar to the ones I saw

 

 

A couple of days ago there was a pair of deer on the track, Siena chased them off the track but (unlike when she has encountered one when running in a field) stopped chasing once they had left the track. They weren’t especially troubled by her, although they are hunted here, it isn’t the season and it would take two or three more clever hounds to corner one of them.

I will revisit the topic of my daily routine since I feel I am waxing too lyrical and not even got home with the dog!

 

 

 

 

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And “Nouvelle Aquitaine”, officially still Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes, is a region of southwestern France, created by the territorial reform of French Regions in 2014 by the merger of Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes.  The new region came into existence on 1 January 2016. Wikipedia entry aside, this newly gathered region includes us in our corner of Haute Vienne, itself a department of Limousin, itself now part of the new region, somehow Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue so Nouvelle Aquitaine might be adopted. There are layers upon layers of differing borders though, scratch the map and you’ll uncover Quercy, Perigord, Berry and all sorts of older and older areas that are still referred to today. Interestingly the new region more closely matches the ancient borders of 11th and 12th century when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Plantagenet. Bringing it under English rule. Perhaps I haven’t so much come home, as home has come to me.

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Repointing regalia and scones

DSC02749Weekends are now being spent doing the repointing (finally) of the back wall to the house. Hammer, chisel, pick and angle grinder for the first phase of getting the old crumbling stuff out. That’s a pretty cruddy job, I particular enjoy the plastic shower cap, which, in the hot weather, holds the sweat in nicely albeit keeping the dust out. Then its two and a half buckets of sand to one bucket of lime (nasty stuff, burns your skin and unpleasant to breathe in, though ok when mixed). I tried an applicator that squirts the mortar if it’s the consistency of toothpaste. The problem is that it doesn’t stay in the cracks when it’s that sloppy, and any thicker and the applicator bungs up. So it’s back to small trowel which works well enough especially if I can catch most of the mortar I drop.  Two of us now though tackling the mortar removal makes for much quicker work.

It’s been an eventful week world-wise though hasn’t it? A new science-ignorant Prime Minister in the UK . One of the bills she is supporting requires that internet providers can produce decrypted content of their users despite their not having the decrypting keys. She’s also somewhat into climate change denial (or at least past comments and her record suggest that). She is also backtracking from her previous statement on the rights of immigrant workers (which could backlash onto us migrant workers in France).

Of course there’s the Nice incident. Everyone’s calling it terrorism but it seems to me more like a single unbalanced person who happens to be a muslem going off the rails. Not meaning to diminish the terrible consequences of course, and hoping that it doesn’t give ideas to actual terrorists about how difficult such a method is to prevent. The news now though says that more people have been arrested and that ISI_DSC2779S is claiming responsibility so perhaps I’m wrong. Life here in rural Limousin is unaffected mostly though, even the heightened state of awareness over the past few months have been scarcely noticeable to us.

Last weekend we enjoyed that most splendid of ex-pat occupations, a garden party with cream tea (actual scones, only when the English gather). We happened to sit next to someone who attends the same art school as Delia, but attends a different session. We met again this Friday at the vernissage of a student exhibition where Delia and he were exhibiting.

During the week, amongst other things, I have been creating another new website. I really must find a way to jumpstart the initial stage in creation where I try to get a feel for the required style.It seems the longest and most difficult stage. The site style needs to be unique and not just based on a formulaic template.  For me the front page is the most important, and I really want to try and catch the spirit of the business. This one was particularly interesting as there had been an existing business in the UK but with the spread-out clientele in rural France there is a need to diversify so two other facets are now involved. Anyway it’s ongoing and will give me the chance for a bit of tourism west of here to take some local scenery for their web site.

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Bremoaning and tippexing mice

It would be hard to avoid mentioning Brexit and its implications for us. Not a day has gone by without some nasty racist act being reported from the UK, probably subject to the usual bias of the British tabloids but nevertheless unpleasant. Although we have several friends scattered around the UK, still, politically and otherwise socially, a return for us to the UK is unpalatable. We have looked at options open to us; French nationality (we need another two and a half years for naturalisation), Irish nationality (apparently having a parent born on the island of Ireland, not necessarily Eire, qualifies me for an Irish passport)  – fine for being able to work here but not effective for any benefits for health and pension. The key for us will be what gets negotiated in terms of membership of the European Economic Area. It seems that non-EU countries such as Norway and Switzerland maintain mobility of labour and reciprocal pension and health agreements which are our three main issues.

Anyhoo, all this gets discussed whenever two or more expats are together, most of whom voted to remain (Bremainers) and are now Bremoaners. But the only real answer is “wait and see” – to the point if irritation. It’s not as if we can put everything on hold; Delia’s clients will be wary of spending when there is such uncertainty. And who will want a web site when they might have to go back to the UK within a couple of years? Anyway I have been raising my web profile by attempting a business blog (patbell.co.uk/blog), and am now in the process of updating mine and Delia’s websites too. My advert will become more encouraging to those who are “keeping calm and carrying on”.

For the past few months we have been battling with sitting tenants – mice. Wallace the cat keeps the living areas clear (mostly passively, the only mice I have seen him catch were outside). But our loft and cave (basement) remain problem areas. We use humane traps which means I can’t just wait for the smell of rotting mouse but have to proactively check for captives. In the loft we can usually hear the mice scurrying around and sometimes the snap of the mouse trap door shutting followed by frantic rattling about. All this usually just as we are about to go to sleep. So our neighbours, should they be looking, would be treated to the vision of a be-slippered and dressing gowned Patrick sneaking out into the darkness to dispose of the captive mouse.  If I have the luxury of being able to do the job during the day I would take it out on my morning dog walk and release it in the woods. At night however, not wanting to trek too far in my slippers, I had taken to chucking the mice over the high wall opposite. Usually we worked our way through the family of mice with the adults usually last and then have a hiatus of a week or so before the next lodgers moved in. I began to suspect that I was seeing the same mice so, of course, I started tippexing their tails (yes I need to get out more) and true enough one or two returned. So now it’s a further trek to the nearest field (50m or so) for the night-time releases at least. This is far enough to be out away from any street lights and I dread the time when I might be met by a neighbour as I emerge from the pitch black, apparently from nowhere in my dressing gown and slippers.  Early onset or what?

Here’s the offering from me in the current month’s competition.

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