Websites and wotnot

Ooops, just realised I hadnt published this one, let Delia proof it but forgot to do the final click.

I wondered about having that as my tagline, not sure what image it gives but it certainly describes what I’ve been doing over the past fortnight.
For the website bit I’ve been sorting out enabling paypal payments on some sites and starting the next one for a personal trainer. I also had a machine that wouldn’t connect to someone’s camera anymore and had Windows steadfastly stuck in French – the windows version was not updateable for language (though a bit of googling soon solved that with a small hack). I also had an old Core user (my system for ServiceMaster written about 15 years ago). As usual, a bit of database corruption, easily fixed over a remote connection. Allegedly it was caused by Windows 10 installing itself unbidden and then manually reverting to Win 7. Whatever… anyway after getting my bit fixed I then proceeded to try to fix the users problems with opening spreadsheets and pictures. To cut a long story short, he had been inflicted with “ransomware” ! There was a message saying that all his personal files had been encrypted and could only be decrypted by clicking on links an paying the ransom. I have heard of these and usually even paying the ransom does not mean a fix. Fortunately for him it wasn’t “good” ransomware, in that nothing was really encrypted just renamed. It does mean that he had hundreds of pictures, spreadsheets, documents and all that needed to be renamed one by one (or as I advised, just as needed) at least he could get at them.

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Just for colour here’s a photo from an outing to Espace Hermeline – on a lake nearby.

 

 

 

 

 

I also had an encounter with a new dentist which cost nothing (70% covered in any case and the rest by CMU-C which is the top up cover currently free by virtue of being under the tax threshold) Apparently even when I need a crown it will be covered (certainly better than NHS cover). I also went for a routine blood test which was a bit more complicated: the equivalent of the “practice nurse” is a whole different institution effectively called Red Cross. During my morning walk I see little white Renault clios with the red cross markings, every morning calling at the several aged residents in our hamlet. So with my pieces of paper with instructions and a comment “à domicile” I fully expected one of these to be calling upon me. But no, at face value obviously judged too fit for such a service, I was given a 7am appointment – still it didn’t cost me anything.

Beaulieu to Colditz

Perhaps overstating it as Colditz but we had to stop Siena from digging our neighbour’s vegetable patch. Delia’s off in Aberdeen (see her blog) so, whilst the cat’s away the pat will… build a fence.

I had thought to get larch lap panels but the cost of delivery more than doubles the price. I only needed to secure the corner where Siena can jump onto the compost bins and then over into the neighbour’s “potager”. We had tried a 1.5m straw mat thing, popular here for obscuring the view through chain link fencing, but in testing it she broke it down enough so she could get over with ease. So, after dropping Delia at the airport I was off to see one of our first friends in Limousin… Monsieur Merlin (Leroy to his friends I guess, pronounced le rwa). Leroy Merlin is the B&Q (Bunnings to you Antipodeans) of France. Although I had later been unfaithful with the more local Bricomarché in nearby Cussac, Leroy remains my best friend for DIY. After some of the usual aimless wandering I do when not constrained by Delia in such places, I eventually grabbed 4 fence posts, a dozen travers demi ronds – 2.5m cross pieces and then moved to the quincaillerie (quite a mouthful, meaning hardware) section for figuring out what to hold the bars on with. I decided some nice long screw bolts but they had no price, so I asked and was treated to the exaggerated patience of having the system of selecting my choice of bag size to fit whatever bolts would fit for a fixed price. Even in French the attitude is universal. It was only once on my way home that I realised I could have fitted even more bolts than I needed in the bag. A pity because it turned out that I would need more.

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Anyway, the next day was spent sledge-hammering in the posts, not by the existing posts for the low chain link where they would be the neatest because those existing post had great lumps of concrete at their bases but it worked. My plan was to just quarter off the bit reachable from the bins but Jean-Claude my neighbour thought it best to block the whole corner of in case she could do a standing jump over the chain link – he did supply the post but I needed to get some more cross bars. A trip to Bricomarché later with no cross bars so instead some posts I had to saw the points off (I knew Leroy was my favourite). Sunday morning finished that off and retiring to the kitchen for a cup of tea. Wondering where Siena had got to, back out and there she is in the vegetable patch! Jean-Claude comes along with a roll of “grillage” with which I extended the fence even higher. Apart from a brief sojourn into his orchard (helped by our ladder leaning against the fence) Siena seems confined to our side of the fence, for the moment!

 

From the mundane to the digital… and I need more space/speed/sites/domains from my web host. The three year deal expires in May and renewal limits me (or costs punitively, my choice) so I needed to find a better faster and unlimited host. Every host wanted to charge me to do the transfer for me but I figured it was DIYable. Backup and restore of gigabytes took a long time with many retries but eventually it was all in place and, to my surprise all working in test mode. My existing host had dropped the ball a few times lately with downtime and first line support that failed the Turing test (essentially if an artificial intelligence is indistinguishable from a human it passes said test; their support was human but might as well have robotic going in circles as they did). What I hadn’t quite fathomed was the break in functionality I would have when doing the live swap. I foolishly thought that whilst the changeover happened anybody accessing my sites would see the old one, until the change had “propagated” across the net whence they would see the new one. But no, 24 hours of hiatus, some puzzling over the different ways things need to be done and enough first line support to appreciate that the Turing Test should be applied to more hosts than just my old one, a few facebook pleadings along the lines of “where’s my email dude!” and I think we’re there.

So next week and can recommence one of the two further new web sites I need to do and further the existing ones with paypal and facebook links.

The week leading up to Delia being away, I had been asked to feed and water another neighbour’s geese. Now these are noisy beasts but we have grown fond of them, there is some two way communication. Siena and they certainly talk across the road to each other. He also told us to take any eggs they laid and we got 5 in total. They are big and have huge yolks. They make very good omelettes. I got to quite enjoy the morning and evening chats I’d have with the two birds ( “oi” in French for goose pronounced wa, and goslings are oisons). They’d honk as I arrived, quietening down to just look sideways at me and then honking as I left as if to say “come back!”.

A New Year resolution was to do more social stuff. Geese aside, socially I didn’t do much whilst Delia was away though I did go to a (more or less) local expats group to check it out. Where we live is kind of between regions, most of the Limousin goings on are north of us and Dordogne stuff south. Anyway St Yrieix la Perche is 30mins drive away, the “coffee morning” drop in event I attended turned out to be an AGM but with 70 people in attendance and lots of info about other stuff to do it looks promising. The other more northerly focussed group we had joined so far looks pretty pricey for some events (eg 65€ pp for a go-karting event, albeit local but too rich for our pockets). However with these two groups it looks like we’ll be having two pub quizzes in April and a drinks party next Saturday. So let the socialising begin.

Man sprain

You’ve heard of man-flu right? Well I twisted my ankle whilst walking the dog and it hurts. Especially if I catch it “just so” – so I’m trying not to catch it “just so” but I do feel a bit of a fraud, but if it get’s me out of the vacuuming then that’s a result!

[ezcol_1third]frosty stuff[/ezcol_1third] [ezcol_1third]

 

This fortnight has been wintry here, quite a bit of rain but interspersed with lovely clear crisp early mornings. I was lured over to the lake last week by its exceptional stillness and the reflection. The morning mist roiling on the surface was hypnotic and the rime frost everywhere looked quite magical. I don’t know how much these photos capture this sense but I try.[/ezcol_1third] [ezcol_1third_end]

Misty morning on the lake[/ezcol_1third_end]

The days have mostly been taken up with work, the Open University dissertations are in which take a day each; plus I’ve been working on several websites, one for a “Historic built environment specialist” friend of mine, another for a Chambre d’hote and restaurant, a holiday home and gite maintenance service and Spanish lessons in Sussex. I am just about to start one for a Cuban physical trainer (in Sussex, husband of the Spanish teacher, who’s a polylingual translator and I’ve done some other sites for her previously) and another for a cultural Italian group for whom she’s a trustee.

I’ve been trying to set aside the weekends from work otherwise I have found the days and weeks blur into one. Saturday has been diy stuff around the house – last week I raced through my list, adjusting the uneven floor in the lounge, cleaning up the mess I had made in Delia’s workshop whilst making the blanket box, 5 trips to the dump with boxes and garden waste. This week I can convalesce from my man sprain. Sundays I like to be free-er, if I have any photography stuff (photoclub web site etc) stuff to do that when I do it (and each fortnight there’s a meeting in the afternoon). I’ve been arranging a couple of field trips we talked about. We’ll meet up with our sister club “La Souterraine” in Bellac one day and another later in Montrol-Sénard (google the names and have a look at the pictures of them).

Delia had a 10am appointment at the hairdressers that, so she has just messaged me turned out to be really 11am and so she’s spending the entire morning out. Guess I’d better get on with that vacuuming then. At least then our friends visitng for dinner tomorrow will have a clean(ish) downstairs to visit.

Twice the value?

So this fortnight’s blog should by rights be twice the value, so no pressure then!

So what did you miss from the lost blog entry? Highlights follow: wildlife discovery drive home with a hare, a roe deer and an owl on the road eating the road kill that none of the aforementioned wildlife became as a result of our passing. OK that was such a long sentence, I blame the French keyboard and that fact that its so hard to get a full stop on it, its either shift-semicolon or bottom right of the numeric keypad. The latter is my “favourite” but because the internet is mostly English (ignoring the 2 billion chinese of course) some applications and web sites switch my setting from French to English and suddenly the full stop is now delete and… the other keys on the numeric keypad send me all over the place until I realise what going on. See how much of an adventure living in France still is?

I am typing this trying to fend off a toddler who wants to poke my numeric keypad (and doesn’t care whether the full stop works or not). That toddler is Dexter my (since yesterday’s Valentine’s day) one year old grandson and if I thought having a dog drop a tug toy on the keyboard was distracting enough, having a highly curious toddler’s prying fingers is a whole new ballpark.

When I left Limoges, the wind was gusting pretty high and whilst the takeoff was fine things got  bit bouncy.  The flight went as usual and upon arriving at the arrivals gate to see the shuttle driver clearly holding a sign for my hire car company. Waiting for the next two people was a while, and once the tanned and sombrero’ed tourists started exiting, we guessed the Limoges plane had finished debarking. Anyway, the other car hirees had snuck past us and were lurking in the hotel shuttle bay.  Finally I got the car. The hotel where the agency is sited is located at a difficult road connection so I added the hotel to my satnav favourites so that on my way back I wouldn’t miss it (as I had before). The satnav decided to take me through the confusing road interchange for 20 minutes and lo and behold back at the hotel via a different entrance! I had done an idiot check to ensure the satnav wasn’t taking me to Norwich rather than Llanelli but didn’t look closely enough at the double spiral it started off with.

Great cake, great buffet and we’re all stuffed but then its time to go to the swings.

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Early start tomorrow and back to Delia, hope she missed me.

Missing

Apologies for the last blog going missing, it seems I didn’t click publish and its gone.

 

Too busy to rewrite it now, but I’ll do another one this weekend and publish when I can (am in UK until Tuesday so it may not be until then, but I’ll try)

Tornado Way

Yes we had a mini tornado this week. Actually, we only experienced a hail storm that settled like snow for a few hours but on our way into conversation class on Tuesday we saw the devastation, the mini tornado had clearly passed across the road ripping the tops of trees and toppling some, as well as pulling tiles off barns (and peeling back iron roof sheeting). Apparently when it was happening, we were told that some chevreuil (roe deer) had actually been picked up and bounced around (we hope none the worse for their experience, it probably beats being shot and chased by hunters as is usual this time of year).

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We had a walk with Siena along the Voie Verte (“Green Way”), an old railway converted to a pleasant park-like walk, preferred by us at this time of year since it is relatively safe from hunters and mud. Now though there was a truck and digger removing the fallen trees and clearing the way. All quite exciting for us in the usually quiet rurality we have got used to.

I’ve had a sudden surge of work too, with three web sites to create and a computer to fix, and what with Delia virtual assisting and writing her 50,000 words this month too it’s all go. Also having hunted for a blanket box for several months, and after seeing a friend building one from floorboards; I am currently doing the same. It is sunny and dry, so sawing and drilling outside is possible, however it is currently zero degrees centigrade and I am writing this waiting for the sun to arrive on the piece of frosted lawn in front of the workshop (I can’t work inside it because it is full of garden furniture and cement mixer paraphernalia (for repointing the back wall this spring).

This is the first time this winter that the temperature has fallen below zero during the day. Although I think I would like a warmer climate, the contrast between here and the UK is that the blue sky returns much more frequently. Not necessarily warmer climes here, but definitely less cloudy and grey.

The morning walk with Siena has been frosty but clear, albeit marred by Siena getting tangled with a fallen piece of electric fence. The main effect has been an ongoing refusal to go within half a mile of the patch of field she had wandered into (where the wire had been). I’ll try and coax her in time… a healthy respect for electric fences is fine but a pathological fear would mean we’d never go anywhere since electric fences are the main way farmers contain their livestock here.

Talking of livestock – our neighbour Benoit has just got two geese. They are noisy and Siena barks a lot at them but they seem quite companionable. When we go out and come into their view they perk up and honk in a fairly friendly way. In fact it is possible to get a dialogue going with us and them honking back and forth. After their first night, I could only see one as I walked out in the dawn with Siena and when I found white feathers in the field I guessed that someone had had a foxy meal. Benoit bought another goose to keep the, now lonely, survivor company. Last week one escaped and, Benoit being away that day, Delia and I herded the escapee back into its enclosure. Benoit has now raised the fence a bit more with, yes, an electric fence – Siena hasn’t noticed it yet.

A week of Sundays

 

That’s what the post-Christmas week has been like. Working and living, as we do all chez nous, kind of blurs the distinction between days of the week and I like to demarcate Sunday at least by doing different “stuff”. This usually means, perhaps, reading, messing around with photos, maybe even, if the weather isn’t good, monging in front of the TV (or tablet if Delia is doing same and channel hopping, as is her wont). So we’ve had at least a week of “Sundays” and now today is actually Sunday it’s difficult to make it different. So I’ll write my blog.

We’ve spent the relatively balmy December days (mostly 12-15°c and fairly blue skies)  going for walks with Siena and even some gardening, making use of the compost at last. Today 2nd Jan is the first really wintry day this winter (unless you count the morning of sudden snow that, just as suddenly vanished before noon). Delia refused to go out in the cold driving rain so it’s just me and Siena (and she’s not overly keen).  Siena usually tugs on her way out but this time she was tugging to get home. Just the weather to binge watch a box set – Blacklist Series 2 I think!

I did spend quite some time sorting out my photos, as well as the web site for the photo club I belong to… photoclubmeteorite.patbell.co.uk on which I am currently running a vote for the best winners of last year’s monthly competition. You can look but if you want to vote, log in as “anon” with a password “tripe”, click on the right hand gallery to rate an image.

One special advantage to this time of year (and having a dog) is going out for the dawn walk. Here’s a shot of dawn the other day.

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So,  hope the coming year holds happiness and good fortune for you all.

Don’t forget deliablog.patbell.co.uk last week and next.

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

Smurf

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!

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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!

From 22°C to -1°C

autumn 2015 Beaulieu

Autumn dawn in the chestnut grove

 

From 22°C last week and glorious sunshine, through several days of grey to today… again glorious sunshine but -1°C.  Yesterday after a brief conversation with my neighbour which went along the lines of “Its cold today” “yes but at least it’s not raining”…  I carried on the morning walk with Siena to see a beautiful rainbow (ending at our house, but I still haven’t found the pot of gold) with a very dark backdrop and shortly followed by a deluge that had both myself and Siena sheltering in a woodshed. Deciding to carry on, Siena, who is usually busy chasing birds and the like just sat down and just looked at me with an expression that clearly said “Take me home, NOW”. Rain and wind meant a wintry return home – thank heaven winter is at least short.

autumn 2015 Beaulieu Rainbow

 

 

 

Some time ago I entered a photo competition with three themes; Scenes of Life, Countryside and Heritage. My heritage entry has been shortlisted (from over 200 down to 30), public voting will decide which three (one from each category) will win. As soon as voting starts I’ll let you know the link. There was an opening or “vernissage” (not that any photos were varnished!) that we went along to. The attenders were mostly the participants and all were French (ok this is France after all but at least 35% local residents are English, though no so much in large town I guess). The occasion of the competition was to mark the joining of two regions or “Pays” (Pays de la Meteorite, and Pays de Vienne-Glane). There was a meeting of some few hundred residents as far as I could count once they exited the meeting and joined us photographers. I think the French have a greater sense of civic duty than the British, I don’t remember anything like those numbers at similar meetings in the UK. Anyway they were looking and voting for the entries in the completion so I am going to need your support. This is the photo…

Rochechouart -  2014-04-21T10:46:36

Rochechouart – 2014-04-21T10:46:36