Friday, 27 August 2010

Time to go already

All to soon our three weeks are coming to an end and we are, as usual, rushing around trying to finish off things before we return home. The weather has continued to be hot, which has been a problem for working. Yesterday the temperature reached 39 degrees again but this was accompanied by a strong wind that was so warm it took my breath away as soon as I stepped into it. Last night the temperature didn't drop below 29 degrees in the room and neither of us slept that well. However, today the cloud came in, the wind increased again, the temperature dropped slowly and by afternoon we watched as brief but heavy rain storm raced across the land towards the house. When it hit us it blew down the ladder that Ian had used to get onto the roof! Just as well I was there and not too p*ssed off with him as I was able to put it back and enable him to get down. He has been trying to finish the soffits. This was a job we started last year but could not finish as we couldn't access one side of the house and ran out time with the tower. The disadvantage of not having soffits is that Renata redstart and her family now think that the roof is the perfect place to raise a family and have moved in; covering everything with bird sh*t. We are on course to finish all but the front of the tower, for which we need to build some scaffolding to reach. Hence I fear we will not deter Renata this time round.

We spent a day in Bordeaux this week and I have provisionally agreed some dates with the school to do some teaching. It is not brilliantly paid but is a start and will certainly help me to settle into my new life.

The local Mayor (think Vicar of Dibley) owns a airstrip that he uses for microlights. They had an open afternoon and we dropped in briefly to see what was going on at the same time as group of monks from Plum Village, mindfully watching the scene! The whole thing was quite bizarre!

We asked the Mayor if the Russians were landing on his airstrip. He didn't laugh at all but said that the Gendarme had asked him the same question a few weeks ago!

We had a full moon at the beginning of the week. When the moon is full you don't need any lights to see outside.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A second French wedding

When we arrived the temperature was comfortable, reaching 22-25 degrees during the day and 12-13 at night. This was just right for working in. However, for the last few days the temperature has crept up into the mid 30s, reaching 39 degrees yesterday afternoon and not going down much below 26 at night. This has been pretty uncomfortable and made us reassess the need for some portable air conditioning for the bedroom!

Yesterday we went to the wedding of the farmer's son. Ian visits the farmer (M Mulatier) often and talks about tractors and machines. His son has two children and he and his partner were not married so I guess eventually the presuure to conform got to them, or it felt like now or never in terms of timing! In fact, it was a double ceremony with their wedding and the baptism of their second child. I hope it was a buy one, get one free deal!

This was the second French wedding that I have been two. As France is a secular state everyone must marry first at the Marie. So, following the trail of hedge clippings laid that morning (a tradition) we headed up to the Marie in Thenac in our Tranist van, with the air conditioning on full blast. In due course, the procession of cars arrived, with lights flashing and horns blaring. Following up behind was this tractor, decked in flowers and various banners!

The banner reads " convoy of happy angels".

Nothing was quiet about the arrival; there was lots of shouting and cheering and the wedding was conducted by the local Mayor. The bride and groom say "oui" and then the Mayor reads out a long list of relevant French legislation and law, things are signed and everyone leaves, heading for the proper ceremony in the church.

The church in Puyguihelm is spectacular in that it is perched right on top of the hill, with the doors opening onto the most wonderful panorama over the vineyards of the Duras region.
The searing heat make it look more washed out than it actually is.

Fortunately the ceremony was not a full Mass. As in the UK no one but the priest knew the words or the tune of the hymn but at least he had a wonderful voice! Being a dual event the service was still quite long and by the time it finished I was soaked in perspiration and longing for a cool drink.

As the couple left the church for the obligatory photos their friends had a special guard of honour with hard hats for her (she is the manager of a building site) and toy tractors for him. This was accompanied by heart shaped confetti (with no one complaining about who was going to sweep it up, the priest just being relieved that he had managed to save two more souls!).

The day finished with a 'Vin d'honor' in our village hall where I thought I was drinking grapefruit juice but alas it was a local cocktail containing something very alcoholic! I was served in a refridgerated fountain which meant that we all drank more than we should. However, I noted again the phenomenon that alcohol improves my French!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Russians are coming

Our three weeks seems to be racing by and already I can tell that we will not get all the things done that we had on the list, but that is what usually happens. We are aiming to finish off some more wiring and to plasterboard the rest of the ceiling in the kitchen. Ian intersperses this less interesting activity with sojourns on the digger! I can hear it whirring in the background!

On Saturday evening we went to the soiree jambon braise in the village. The committee de fetes in the various communes usually organise an event each year to  raise money for local projects ets. I suppose it is a bit like the English village fair. Tickets are 18 euros and you turn up with your own place setting (knife, fork, plate, bowl etc). There were about 100 people there; a mixture of locals, French, English and tourists. The food consisted of an apperative, tomato soup with tapioca, barbecued pork with pepper sauce, braised haricot beans with garlic and pig skin, cheese, cider and dessert of cherries soaked in alcohol and ice cream. This was all accompanied by wine, music, etc. and I must say was enjoyable enough to justify the hangover the following day.

On Monday night we went to our neighbours to finally eat the leg of venison that as been in their freezer since February and was given to us by le Chasse as it was shot on the land. I must confess it was very tasty and I only had a slight pang of guilt when I thought about the four lovely deer that have been running across the field all week.

We caught up on some local news. Now France has become too expensive for most English people the Russians are arriving. In the nearby village of Thenac the Chateau has been bought and beautifully restored by a mate of Abramovich and the rumour is  Abramovich himself has bought the neighbouring hilltop! The reaction of the locals has been mixed but I am not going tho say anything bad at all!!

Saturday, 14 August 2010


We have had  a few visitors chez-nous over the last few days. On Thursday Julie from my French class came for lunch. We sat in the sun on the terrace and looked out into the field while her partner and Ian discussed the problems of building in France and the UK. It was very pleasant. Just as they were leaving Ian's friend from the north of France arrived. He is staying with us for a few days to help Ian and also for a change of scene for him. He arrived complete with his pop-up caravan. This was a bargain Ebay purchase as it cost him all of £200 and as it folds into a trailer, means he does not have to pay the higher tolls on  the motorways. It comes with all its original fittings and is now parked under the trees.

Yesterday morning we were looking out of the window just as a hot air ballon glided into view. At first we thought it was going to put down in the field, but it managed to stay aloft for another kilometre or so and we saw it ditch in a nearby farm.
The final group of visitors have been of the wild variety. We have seen several deer and hare but the most frequent visitors have been the praying manitis (is the plural mantii or mantises?). There are lots in the many that I abandoned my strimming so that I didn't kill any more. One in particular has taken a likeing to the house, despite all our attempts to rehome her in the field, she keeps coming back!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Connected to the rest of the world

I haven't minded the fact that we have had to get all the hot water from the shower , or that I have been cooking on a camping stove, or that the toilet has until recently flushed directly into the field, or that we have no TV.. However, I have missed the Internet. When we were here last we signed up to a new WiMax service. "It will be installed within two months" said the girl, from the comfort of her Parisien office. Two months came and went and still no sign. Ian called once, and then again and then eventually, 4 weeks ago, got through to the installer who came out with the age old excuse ,'sorry, my van broke down'. He agreed to put us in his diary for first thing Monday. By 10.00 o'clock on Monday, when there was so sign, Ian called him. "Sorry, I forgot. I've just got back from holiday". (In France the customer is always wrong!) We agreed to reschedule until today. At 9.30 there was no sign and a call confirmed that the installer was lost! Eventually, however, at 11.00, he found us and started his work installing an arial pointing at the only transmitter that was not obscured by a hill. As you can see we now have Internet access. It is a little slow for uploading things and at times has been a bit hesitant, but at least we can now stay in touch with our virtual lives and virtual friends!

The dumper truck made it down in once piece without any more problems. However, getting it off the trailer and into the field was another matter as it starts with a starting handle. Two grown men could not get it to fire so ended up bump starting it down the field. In the end there was a puff of white smoke and it coughed into life and trundled around the field with Ian cheerfully in command!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Fly free water butt! Fly free!

Tonight we are staying in the Premiere Classe hotel in Rouen, which is neither premiere or classy but does have free Internet. The dumper is still attached to the trailer although the water butt that Ian fixed on to it with straps managed to disconnect itself and fly free somewhere south of Calais. The first we knew of it was when we were stopped by a 'securitie civile' man who told us he had been driving behind us as it launched itself into the air! We said sorry, decided the water butt was not worth rescuing, and continued on our journey. Later on we heard a traffic announcement saying that there was an object on the road south  of Calais and to take care. We suspected the water butt!

We ate in the only restaurant in the area, the Campanille. Campanille and Premiere Classe are operated by the same group. The meal was expensive and just ahout edible but being English we didn't complain!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

All aboard

We are off to France tomorrow for three weeks and I am feeling a bit stressed as I still haven't finished the packing! I am quite good at last minute packing, but I need to be totally focused and alone. This time I had Ian looking over my shoulder so I am convinced that I have forgotten something very important. Ian arrived mid-day with a dumper truck on his trailer. When I got home at 3.00 it was covered in small boys, staring at various mechanical bits!
We now start the slow and tedious journey to the Dordogne; never going above 90 km an hour! We should arrive some time on Sunday, stopping overnight in Rouen tomorrow. The good news is we should be getting our WiMax on Monday so I may manage blogging on the go!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Happy Birthday

Despite her protests to the contrary I think my mother quite enjoyed her 80th birthday party. We had tea, wine, sandwiches and cake in the company of the other residents. We didn't stay late and we cleared up afterwards and my mother even managed a smile for the camera! This is all of us! (Photo by Ian).

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Some you win and some you loose

I have been trying to buy an ice cream maker for ages. I started by scouring eBay, but missed out on a few bargains. I bought a Magimix one from John Lewis but decided that it was rubbish (and it didn't work properly) so I sent it back and today I saw quite a nice one on eBay that was local, so would save me the £8.00 postage normally quoted. Ian  suggested I bid with 20 seconds to go with the maximum price I was prepared to pay. With 6 seconds to go I was the highest bidder, but in the end I lost out!  Never mind! I'll get the ice cream machine one day!

In the meantime Ian bid on a second hand dumper truck somewhere up near Birmingham and he won it, so is driving up on Tuesday with the trailer and then we are taking it down to France on Friday. That marks the start of our three week trip. I no longer call it a holiday since we spend most of the time working. The good news is that we should be getting our WiMax connected on the 9th August so no more walking up to the neighbours' garden to use their wireless network!