Tuesday, 31 March 2009


The windows and exterior doors to the house in France were fitted today. They have been sitting in a warehouse for about 9 months so it is good that they are now in place and the house is sealed to the elements. We have not seen them but apparently they are looking good.

And about time too

When I first moved here over five years ago I was pleased to learn that they were planning to turn the South Downs into a national park since my house is about 50 meters from the edge. It came up when my solicitor did the local searches and we quickly agreed that these plans would not affect the value of my property negatively. In fact, the sooner it was declared the better. The final announcement was made today, after years of public enquiry. The local MP is not happy but as far as I can tell he is in a minority around here.

Help needed

I need some help! My sister has asked me to do a short reading at her wedding. It is a civil ceremony so whatever it is must be secular in nature. I don't know quite how this is decided. Is an Apache blessing secular? I guess it depends on your point of view! Having searched Google with terms like 'wedding readings'; poems for a wedding' etc to me it seems that the dividing line between spiritual and religious is quite wavy. Anyway, if any of you have any suggestions then do pass them on! I will then get them down to a short list and let my sister and her husband-to-be make the final choice.

She was quite exited today as she bought her dress; a Versace number. All I know is that she said it is so tight she won't be able to wear any knickers under it!

Monday, 30 March 2009


is something that I rarely suffer from these days. When I was unwell and taking 60mg of prednisolone a day it did rather play havoc with my sleep cycle and I found myself waking at 3.00 a. m. and doing the vacuuming or ironing, but since weaning myself off I mostly sleep quite well. However, tonight is an exception. The combination of a cold, the clocks going forward and hot flushes means that I am now wide awake at an hour that would normally see me comatose! Not wanting to disturb Ian any more with my tossing and turning I am now experiencing the benefits of blogging for insomniacs!

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Local news

Apparently the recession is causing lots of local newspapers to go out of business. I must admit I don't buy national papers anymore but I do sometimes buy our local paper as the mixture of slightly shocking scandal and quaintness makes me smile. These are some of this weeks headlines.

Trees suffer bark damage: the police are appealing for witnesses.

Dog owner criticises council over overflowing dog mess bins.

Garden party takes over whole village.

Study shows that living in West Eastbourne offers the longest life expectancy of any town in Britain.

Gang of six

The cottage smallholder commented about the jackdaws building a nest in her chimney and their cousins here are also doing the same. What is it about chimneys that attracts them? They also seem to operate as a gang at nest building and feeding times. We have about 6 of them. Two stay up in the trees and look out for any danger, two complete the ground lookout and two collect the nesting material or food. One of their favourites is the moss that I line the hanging baskets with. In fact, they like it so much that they will come right up to the house to take a bit from the wall baskets. I have often opened the back door to see the watchman on the wall looking out and just caught sight of the other flying off with half my basket in his beak!

At least once a year one falls out of the nest and down the chimney and I hear it tapping around in the chimney breast. I have learnt from bitter experience that the best way to get it out is to open up the chimney breast, open the window and leave the room. After about 20 minutes they normally work it out for themselves!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Lovely lusty ladies

I have just been having a look at my site feeds to see how people get to my page and I am pleased to report that nothing has changed and that I get the most hits from people trying to search for something vaguely pornographic. These are the top three search terms:

fanny farm
bissou (French word for kiss)
llama cake (maybe from people interested in cooking!)

You are a sad bunch of w*nkers!

(Maybe the title of this post will hook a few more!)

National pastime

I have made references before to the fact that most of my contacts with French people have involved a discussion about the Tour de France and that virtually all of the builders and other 'artisans' that we have hired have had some connection with cycling. On our most recent trip we met with our builder's father-in-law, Jean Martinez. Jean has been drafted in from his retirement to assist with some project management tasks (something our builder is not so good at). He is a sprightly looking man of 70+; much fitter than his son-in-law. He commented immediately on my 2004 Tour de France cap and pointed out that his Skoda sun hat was also a Tour souvenir (Skoda being one of the official sponsors). He was a keen cyclist and a member of a club and the following day was off on a 100km ride somewhere so needed to take it easy that day. He lamented the fact that his son-in-law no longer cycled and when I told him that in my younger days I had cycled from Bordeaux to Barcelona in two weeks he said that members of his club would do the trip in three days!

On our visits to France it is common to see one or two fairly portly men, clad in ill fitting Lycra, out for a 'spin' on the country roads. This is also a common sight in England but you can tell the French cyclists as many seem to have bikes that don't quite fit them and look a little awkward.

This year stage 17 of the Tour is a long mountain stage finishing in Le Grand Bornand, where my brother has his chalet. Stage 18 is a time trial in nearby Annecy. It is a Tour de France follower's dream and we have been invited to go (although we are not sure whether we will be able to fit it in with all the house building projects!

We are infamous again

It seems that Eastbourne is in the news again; in fact, twice in one evening. The first story is rather sad and concerns the murder of man in his yacht off Thailand when he disturbed three men trying to steal a dingy. His wife was tied up and then forced to help them sail the boat back to shore. Original reports said the couple were from Eastbourne, although it turns out they were actually from Hastings, down the coast a bit.

The second story, which also made national news, was that three people died in our local hospital of Clostridium Difficile. I had the dubious pleasure of being a guest in said hospital four years ago. Several patients in my ward had clostridium as I overheard the nurses talking about it. I remember only too well the sounds and smells and tried to remember not to let anyone touch me without first checking that they had washed their hands! I was then transfered to a renal unit which had all the modern infection control procedures and equipment and was quite reassured until I overheard the ambulance man (who had just transferred a rather mad patient onto the unit and placed him in the bed opposite me) telling the staff that the patient had MRSA. At this point he was picking up papers, cups, and anything else to hand and throwing them around the ward. I decided I was well enough to leave!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Walking bus

A quick comment tonight as my mind is befuddled after a day of pointless meetings (I must invest in a hologram of myself for such occasions as I am never expected to actually say anything) and an hour and a half of French classes.

I got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning and driving to work came across the 'walking bus'. This is an admirable venture where groups of children congregate to all walk to school together in 'safety' with the company of some responsible adults. But.. why oh why do they have to make them all wear those high visibility jackets! Thirty children walking in line (and there can't be more than thirty or the group is not covered by their risk assessment) are easily spotted without the need for a fluorescent yellow uniform. My concern is that it turns the simple task of walking to school into a monumental lesson in health and safety nonsense equivalent to working on a three lane motorway, and ensures that children never learn how to assess the risk of walking along a road and crossing in traffic on the occasions when they don't have the walking bus with them! Whatever happened to walking to school with your mates like I did (and no, the world wasn't safer, and there weren't less paedophiles and although there were considerably less cars I'm not convinced that the driving was any safer!)

That's my moan for the day!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Village death

As we arrived at the land on Sunday Madame Delgrano appeared in her car, smartly dressed as usual and on her way to Mass. She seemed pleased to see us and stopped the car to get out and have a chat; mostly with Ian as he speaks better French and it is less effort for her to talk with him than for her to try and work out what I am trying to say! She had watched the various stages of the build with interest (in between bouts of illness) and said she thought the house was très jolie, which is fortunate, since she has a full view of it from her house! She told us she was off to Mass and said that the following day there was a funeral in the village for a local man who had died quite suddenly.

The road up from the village gets maybe 2-3 cars an hour along it and very few stop. On Monday at about 2.30 more and more cars started to appear. They parked down by the church, up the side of the road almost up to our house and then down the chemin rurale (track). By 3.00 there were hoards of people down by the little church seemingly standing around. The gathering was still there as we drove off at 5.00.

Later we found out that the man who died was in his 70s and had gone to bed and not woken up the next morning. He had 10 children and everyone had arrived an hour before the funeral so that they could meet and chat first. It made me think about the few burials that I have attended in my life (most of my close family have preferred cremation). They have been for elderly patients where no relatives could be found and the social worker had to organise the burial. I sometimes went to keep the social worker company and there would usually be me, her, perhaps a carer or nurse and the priest! What a contrast to the scene in the village!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Finding the walls and cleaning the floor

One of the jobs we did in the house was to mark out the position of all the rooms. Ian then decided that he wanted to take a picture of where the walls are going to be, so I had to stand there holding up a metal bar in the place of the wall while he took a photo!

As you can see I looked particularly fetching in my Dickies work trousers (with knee pads), my steel toe capped boots and my Tour de France cap (more on that later). Ian meantime decided to sweep the dust out of the kitchen floor. Lets hope this is not the only picture I ever have of him doing that!

Seeing the reality

The trip was worth it despite the long drive. The weather was warm and we met with all the people that we wanted to, marked out the rooms complete with cupboards, toilets and baths and I got to actually see the house. The walls are finished and the roof is on although the windows have yet to be put in place. One thing that is amazing is that you can see the house from all around and it is quite striking. This view is from our neighbour's garden. I love the slightly excentric looking tower and the proportions. After seeing it Ian could not sleep all night because he was so excited! We have a lot of work to do but it is progressing at last.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The joys of travel

I am just back after a long journey! We left the Dordogne at 6.00 a.m. UK time, drove in the van to Calais, took the tunnel to Dover, arrived back at Ian's at 7.30p.m (with fish and chips for supper) and then I drove back here! There will be more posts over the next few days regarding the visit but in the meantime I must catch up with my sleep!

The new van was great. It is a brand new medium wheelbase Ford Transit with many features such as air conditioning , IPOD player, cruise control, luxury seats etc that make a long journey bearable. Even I managed to drive it in France much to the horror of the HGV drivers (of various nationalities) on the road! I couldn't quite bring myself to adopt their habit of p*ssing by the side of the road when there is a perfectly decent toilet a few metres away so I guess I could never be a proper lorry driver!

We were worried that we would be held up by Eurotunnel as when we phoned to check the new requirement to have no more than 3 cubic metres in the van we were told emphatically that all vans are checked before being allowed on and the officers were expert at judging the size of the load. We arrived promptly for our crossing, hoping that we had not exceeded our dimensions. The port was quiet and we managed to swap to an earlier shuttle. No one even looked up as we drove the van through and the French customs officer did not even look at our passports. We had a similar experience coming back. On the shuttle our van was next to an even bigger one that was stacked from top to bottom with old furniture (I suspect bought from a French Vide Grenier (car boot sale) to be sold off at a profit in a trendy antique store). We asked the driver and several others who were pretty obviously taking commercial goods across if they had ever been stopped and had their van checked and they all stated that they had never been stopped.

I must say the service on Eurotunnel was back to normal; frequent crossings, no queues, very quiet and all together stress free.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday 13th Part 1

As well as being Friday 13th today is comic relief day. This morning my brother, who works for the Royal Bank of Scotland, sent me this email.

There are rumours that there will only be 2 banks left once the credit crunch is over, the blood bank and the sperm bank, both will still be run by bl**dy wankers though.!!

I have managed to 'get' at least 7 people with this joke so I guess I need to put £7 into the comic relief pot!

We are now off to France until Wednesday.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

House naming

A few weeks ago I ordered a sign for the house in France and I was really pleased when it arrived today as we are going down there for five days at the end of the week and now we have a roof I think it would be nice to have a sign! The sign was hand made in oak by Rob from Woodcott signs, carved with black lettering. The 'lump' where the house is, is called la motte and that is name of the house next door. Herman lives in Moulin de la motte and so it seemed fitting that we should be called La ferme de la motte, which rather boringly means mount farm!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Conforming to stereotype

I have mentioned that I am trying to learn Tai Chi again and that I thought that age had given me a little more patience with myself. I have to say, however, that I am not sure that this rule is universal. Five of us started the class at the same time. One of them is possibly a little younger than me, one a little older and the other two past retirement. My perception is that those who are a little more mature in years are anxious to learn the whole form as quickly as possible.

As well as being targeted by over 50s dating on Facebook I also get emails for over 50s insurance. This turned out to save me over £100 when renewing my home insurance although I was a bit annoyed when the policy came through the letterbox with it's big red logo 'insurance services for the over 50s'. It was fun, however, to list my expensive mountain bike on the 'all risks' section of the policy!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Dreaming on a cold, wet night!

As I sit here there is a gale blowing outside and the the rain is lashing at the windows. The little weather icon on the side of the page does not do it justice I'm afraid as despite the heating it feels cold. On these type of evenings there is nothing nicer than sitting on the sofa with Norma and Mandi.

Meantime our discussions on what to buy to take to France are becoming a little surreal. We need a staircase to go up to the office in the tower and quotes from France have been around 6000 Euros (which seems to be the starting place for most things in France). Someone is selling a second hand complete oak staircase that was removed from a house after a month of use for £800. Ian is convinced it will fit and apart from the considerable saving it is a little better from an environmental point of view. However, the problem is that the staircase is complete and in a yard in Essex, we don't have a trailer or anywhere to store it and as yet are not sure how we could get it down to the Dordogne. Still, where there is a will there is a way so if you see a blue ford transit towing a staircase on your travels you will know it is us!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

It's all Chinese to me!

I mentioned the four toilets in the previous post. They are wall hung toilets and were purchased as a job lot from an e-bay seller for £80 each, which seemed quite reasonable (see picture).

The exact make and origin of the toilets are unclear but they look quite nice. However, Ian will need to go on a plumbing course to learn how to install them as the instructions are vague to say the least!

1. Install the toilet according to the height.
2. Make the position of the hole according to the dimension of the hole at the back side of the toilet.
3. Install the pipe of drainage and the pipe of water-in for the water tank.
4. Drill holes according to the position made before.
5. Install the pull-burst screws.
6. Install the toilet, fix the plastic stuff, and make it be level with the level ruler.
7. Install the screw nut to make the pull-burst screw firmly.
8. Cover the screw cover.
9. Install the toilet cover.

I suppose this is the inevitable consequence of programmes such as Google translate and Babel fish!

Spring is coming....

....And our thoughts turn to gardening and construction.

There are definite signs of spring everywhere. Yesterday was spent paying some attention to the much neglected garden. The plants that had been killed by frost were removed and others cut back and the lawn mowed for the first time. The crocuses that I planted a few years ago are in bloom and the daffodils will be open by next week. I also fished out a pile of decaying leaves and paper from the bottom of the pond, disturbing newt in the process!

Meantime evenings have been spent discussing the pros and cons of various types of plasterboard. The next stage of the house is the construction of the internal walls and ceilings. The quotes we have had from professionals are rather expensive and the plasterboard itself is twice as expensive in France, so the plan is to fill up the van and drive it down (at least it was until Eurotunnel decided to change the rules about how much we could put in the van). Our task in March is to mark out the walls and in April we are going down to build them with Ian's friend. Last weekend Ian visited his cousin (a plasterboard expert) to discuss the various construction techniques, how to get the walls strong enough to hang toilets off them and how to soundproof them, so now I am keeping my fingers crossed that a) he can remember the instructions and b) I don't have to spend my week lifting 6 foot sheets of board!

I should also add that in my loft we currently have two wall hung wash basins, four toilet frames and a two single beds. In the car are four toilets awaiting transfer to the loft! As Ian has just pointed out we have two toilets each. He also pointed out that by doing the walls ourselves we can save the cost of two llamas!