Wednesday, 29 October 2008
Stephane and Stephanie are the sort of people that enjoy and appreciate every moment of their lives! They are always smiling and always welcoming and make such an effort to understand my poor French. They both have that special spark of passion for life inside them and you can see it in their eyes.
Monday, 27 October 2008
Ian, Mike and Bill (another neighbour and owner of the gite where we stayed), managed to finish the mobile field shelter in the time available although it was close and they were working up to dusk on the last day. There are one or two finishing touches to add but basically the construction was a success, although we had several discussions as to whether the llamas would actually appreciate it! Here is a picture of the finished item!
Below is a close up of the towing mechanism which was custom designed and hand welded by the man down the road. Its capacity to withstand towing has not yet been tested!
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Having decided to forgo the joys of Eurotunnel for our return trip, due to the fact that the only available crossing was at 6.00 a.m. on Monday, we booked onto the last crossing with Speed Ferries expecting to depart at 9.45p.m. Well, here we are sitting in a line, in the van, in the rain at Boulogne with a one and a half hour delay. Ian has just said that he now remembers why we don't travel this way normally! All the white vans are in one line next to the line with all the Range Rovers! Not a good choice. Mr Range Rover driver has just slammed his door open into Ian's van almost causing a violent incident!On a more positive note, we took Mike out for lunch to thank him for his hard word this week. He suggested a restaurant in a nearby village called La Taverne Du Cochon Sale (the salted pig). We had to book and the restaurant was full. The food was definitely not for vegetarians but really excellent local recipes, well cooked and beautifully presented. I had scallops (cooked beautifully) to start followed by a stuffed quail, a selection of local cheeses and a desert called the Paris-Brest (maybe after the famous bike race!). It consisted of choux pastry, praline, chocolate sauce and a sort of local bread pudding. We arrived a 12.30 and left at 3.45! A proper French lunch at under 90 euros for three! I can recommend it if you ever find yourself in the Somme.
Saturday, 25 October 2008
We have brought Ian's friend Mike with us to assist with the arduous jobs, such as sawing, cutting and lugging wood and to assist with the technical aspects of the design, thus giving Ian someone to talk with and leave me free to be a 'domestique'; fetching the refreshments! Mike lives in Albert. Albert is in the middle of the Somme a few kilometres from the front line and after the first world war all but one building remained and a handful of people, living in cellars. Mike bought a house on the main road opposite the aerospace factory, in an area that was once a casualty clearing station for the French. The house was formerly a hotel and at one time a brothel and a bar. It was in pretty poor condition and Mike is painstakingly restoring and renovating it; turning it into flats and bed-sitters.
The history of the area is fascinating and depressing. Mike has found human bones when digging but unless they can be linked to a person by other artifacts no one is interested as there are so many to be found. On the first day of the battle of the Somme 60,000 young men were killed or fatally injured. That is more than 20 times the number killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.Here in the Dordogne the history is not quite so tragic although during the second world war the border dividing occupied France from free France was a only a few kilometres away. Apparently the area where the land is was occupied and the older locals remember stories of villagers being taken to the woods and shot. There is still some animosity towards the Germans (although at the same time a gay German couple lived happily in the village for many years).
Yesterday we had an early start as we were putting in or les bourns cadastral or boundary stones. This is not just a case of bashing in a few rocks but involves the local geometre, (official surveyor) an array of complicated and highly technical measuring equipment and the presence of all concerned parties. Thus a strange bunch of people assembled at 9.00 am at the land. We were there together with Herman (the herb farmer at the bottom of the field), Madame Delgrano's brother, who owns a neighbouring field, and Madame Fleurre, a smart and sprightly seventy something lady who owns another of the fields.
The French contingent were in good spirits; it was sunny and they were enjoying the outdoors! They told stories of their youth. Madame Delgrano's brother started life picking grapes for Madame Fleurre's father and then should have been a baker, in the family tradition. However he rejected that plan as he felt that all he would do was to make things that disappeared with nothing to show for it. He decided to be builder; something he found much more enjoyable as his buildings were there to stay and he could still look at them. Madame Fleurre and her friend went off to look for mushrooms in the wood but the dry autumn meant there were none.
All seemed to proceed amicably. The plans for the fields were originally drawn up in Napoleonic times and hence there was some discrepancy about the exact dimensions which did not stand up to the robust measuring tools of today. However, all was agreed and all seemed happy except for Herman (who had been convinced that he owned all of the wooded area around the boundary - we suspect because he has let much of his land get very overgrown and if he cannot freely access the edge of the woods he will have a lot of clearing to do to make it possible for him to access all of his land!) Herman stormed off at one point (to the amusement of the French) and although he parted in a seemingly good humour in the afternoon we saw him marching back and forth around the boundaries of his land. No doubt we will hear more from him! The boundaries were officially marked with all due ceremony! The man in the photo placed the original stones 40 years ago. He is retiring next year!
Saturday, 18 October 2008
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Conversely I am not that interested in the American election, even though the staged debates do have the air of a Judge Judy court room about them. When I first heard that Sarah Palin's 17 year old daughter was pregnant I didn't immediately make the connection but when I read that she was accused of abusing her power by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper because he was going through a bitter divorce and custody battle with her sister I began to see that Judge Judy really does represent all walks of life.
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Monday, 13 October 2008
This is the kind of shelter Ian wants to build when we are in France. I have persuaded him to make the doorway bigger and we are going to put in 2 windows to allow the air to pass through in the summer and to give the llamas something to look at! Who knows whether they will like it or not! We are picking up the wood on Saturday morning from Kent and driving it down to the Dordogne. I will post pictures of the work in progress. (The picture is from here.)
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Ian and I talked about it on the phone tonight, (the closest we get to an intimate relationship on weekdays). We both agreed that having been in the position when one day we thought we had it all and then seemingly a day or so later realising that we probably had nothing, that all this about the economy was relatively minor.
Interestingly I can remember discussing with my brother how the trading floor worked a few years ago. It seemed to be run mainly on suspicion and something akin to witchcraft. Most market crashes happen in Autumn because that's when everything happens in the city and every autumn they get jittery (Halloween also happens about then). When my brother was a trader he would only open his book at a time with a number 7 in it (IE. 8:07, 7.57) as he liked the number 7. He was not alone in having these various superstitions and beliefs. Most people that are traders are basically gamblers and if they weren't employed gambling with the banks' money would be down the betting shop. We all know the downside of addiction!
NB: My brother seems to have come out the other side and is now the most cautious person I know when it comes to money"!
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Talking of llamas, Matthew Parris (a part time llama farmer himself) wrote a funny piece in the Spectator about the economy and the bottom dropping out of the Llama market. Good news for us as by the time they are at rock bottom we may be ready to buy!
Saturday, 4 October 2008
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
Roasted Butternut, aubergine, tomato and feta couscous.
I small butternut squash (I used a large one)
1 small aubergine (I used a medium)
2 tablespoons of olive oil (I didn't measure)
10 cherry tomatoes (thereabouts)
2 tablespoons of pine nuts (used what I had left in the packet)
150 gm couscous (I used 204gm..what was left in box)
250ml boiling water (I used about 320ml)
150 gm feta cheese (I used a packet of low fat feta)
a handful of mint leaves (didn't have so didn't use)
2 red chillies (I used one hot one)
(I also used a small green pepper and ground mixed pepper)
Preheat oven to 180 (fan) 200 electric or gas 6.
Peel de-seed and chop squash into chunks (assisted by colleague). Chop aubergine into chunks. Toss in oil and roast on baking tray for 20 minutes. Scatter tomatoes and chopped pepper among the vegetables and roast for a further 10 minutes. Tip pine nuts into a small tin and roast in oven at the same time. Place couscous in bowl and pour on boiling water. Cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
De-seed and finely chop chili. Chop mint. Mix chili, vegetables, salt, pepper, pine nuts and crumbled feta cheese into the couscous.
Serve with salad and garlic bread.
We talked about a lot of things including health and safety man's latest escapades which will be the subject of a future post!