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.

 

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.