31 July 2016

Car Boot Horrors

This morning we went to a vide grenier (car boot).  This particular local event used to be a favourite of mine but it doesn’t seem to be so good these days – too many dealers selling absolute tat. Or perhaps I’m getting older and more discerning. 

It was fun to wander around but some of the wares on offer would give me nightmares.

Non, je ne regrette rien

I thought this guy would look good on my terrace

looks better than I did at 49 years old

words fail me


time to go home

30 July 2016


We had thunder and rain early this morning so we waited until the storm clouds had disappeared before setting off on our bikes.  The sun was shining again and it felt very hot and steamy.  Paul was looking to break some records so I had to work hard to keep up with him.  Eventually I rebelled and slowed down to a more leisurely pace as we cycled back up donkey valley.

At this time of year wildlife sightings are rare unless we get out very, very early.  By mid morning all the bigger animals have gone to ground to escape the heat of the day before re-appearing at dusk. There is a small stream that runs down this valley with pockets of bright yellow flag irises along its length. The road runs adjacent to it  and I suddenly noticed movement in the tall reeds.  At first glance I thought it was a pine marten but as it bounded towards the water I could see clearly it was quite a large animal.  It was an otter.  I was so excited I almost fell off my bike.  I have never seen an otter in the wild before.  At one time otters were almost at the point of extinction in this area of France and I believe it is still quite rare to see them around here.

29 July 2016

The Wood Man Cometh

We are surrounded by oak and chestnut woods and stacks of felled timber are everywhere, waiting for the massive lorries to come along and take the wood to the wholesalers.  However, buying a small amount of wood locally for our wood burner is a not as easy as you would think.  Once upon a time a local farmer would sell us a few stères (cubic metre); he would load the wood onto his trailer, fire up his tractor and deliver it straight into our courtyard, helping Paul to stack it neatly.  Then his supply of wood ran out. 

Paul asked our neighbour Philippe if he would sell us some of his wood.  Mais non, he needed all the wood for himself but his cousins had some seasoned chestnut for sale.  One evening Paul and Philippe set off to the other side of town to arrange the transaction.  Several hours later Paul returned home with a distinct flush to his face.  The meeting with the cousins had clearly involved a lot of pastis.  They had then visited the wood stack, inspected and carefully measured four stères and then marked it with bright yellow paint.  The following day we hitched the trailer to the car and went to collect the wood. It took four trips and lots of log chucking.  Never again I said.

That load of wood has lasted almost four years as we only usually have the wood burner running during April and May.  This year was unseasonably cold and we burnt more than usual.  Time to stock up with more wood.

This afternoon we had four stères of chestnut delivered.  A massive shiny red truck slowly made its way down our narrow lane, gingerly easing its way past Monique's house, before neatly depositing a huge pile of logs onto the grass. Paul will cut the logs to size and stack them in the grange.  I will supply refreshments.

a big lorry negotiating the narrow lane

shiny red lorry parked on my 'lawn'

unloading logs the easy way

Paul and Diane inspecting the log pile

28 July 2016

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Today Paul and I went to the dechetterie.  (When  I first visited France I was sure this must be a tourist site as there were signs everywhere.)  It’s the local recycling dump.  We took the broken dish washer, an ancient Dyson vacuum cleaner and a pile of other junk that had been accumulating in the barn.

When we arrived there was one other vehicle being emptied of its contents.  I nearly cried out loud when I saw an antique bedroom chair being thrown into the large rubbish container.  It was in a bad state but looked like the real article complete with brass castors on the feet.

“No,” said Paul firmly, “you can’t have it.”  

 A couple of winters ago I persuaded Paul to accompany me to upholstery classes.  I thought it would be a fairly gentle, undemanding course -  choose some nice fabric and tap a few tacks in.   
We arrived at the classroom clutching our old Victorian chairs acquired cheaply from an auction.  Straightaway we started stripping away the old fabric and stuffing, right back to bare wood.  Paul’s springs were broken (I’ve been telling him that for years) so he had the added struggle of replacing them with new ones. 

shiny new springs
 I soon discovered that I am not very handy with a hammer and the tacks would invariably fly around the classroom or end up in the wrong place.  Bringing chairs back to life the traditional way with tacks and webbing is hard work. 

stripping back
All the original, manky horsehair was removed from the chairs, placed in a pillow case, and put in the washing machine. It came out beautifully clean and fluffy.  I had piles of the stuff all over the house drying out.

It was a tough, back breaking (all that bending over) and sometimes exasperating task but we were very proud of the finished articles. The trouble is upholstery can become terribly addictive and there are only so many chairs that my house can accommodate.


27 July 2016

You Only Live Once

Today my youngest daughter, Kat, is taking the first steps towards a daunting new career.  After a decade of working as a business systems analyst she has decided she wants to do something completely different.

Eight years ago my eldest daughter, Sarah, left the British shores with her partner for a new life on the other side of the world in Australia.

I applaud them both.  I think everyone, to the best of their ability, should grab every opportunity that comes their way.  Sometimes it may seem selfish but at the end of the day you only live once.

I may not be the most outgoing, gregarious type of person but I do like to think that I have made the most of any challenges or opportunities that came my way.  I tried to be true to myself and if I was unhappy in a role I would do something to change the situation.  Life is too short to be miserable. My weakness was not really knowing what I wanted to do career wise and so I ended up doing lots of different things.  But I do know that if you really want something and have a goal in sight then why not go all out to achieve it?

Don't worry, normal service will resume tomorrow when I shall no doubt be blogging about cycling, the garden or food.