Monday, 28 February 2011


Spring continues to approach but is not quite here yet. We have just had a wet spell which has enabled us to test out the drainage system properly, and so far we are pleased to report the cellar and underneath the house has remained bone dry. I am reluctant to cheer too loudly as we have yet to see what happens after a heavy storm, but so far it looks to be working. We have moved inside to work this week and Ian has been concentrating on the wiring. We now have functioning light switches in the kitchen, wired in plug sockets, and are close to being able to close off the dividing wall between the kitchen and the hall. This has the added advantage of using up six sheets of plasterboard that are currently taking up space.

Today we prepared the heap of carcass that was donated to us by the hunt at New Year and learnt our first lesson about game; you should hang it before sticking it in the freezer to drain all the blood away. We also realised that we had been given the piece that suffered the fatal blow; as we removed the lead shot from inbetween the broken ribs! To think I was once a non meat eater! After the carnage the kitchen looked like a scene from a masacre but bambi is now in bits in the slow cooker and will be served tomorrow night when our non vegetarian neighbours come for dinner.

On a totally different note, my friend who lives in  Christchurch, New Zealand has had her house turned upside down for the second time in a few months with the latest earthquake. Fortunately her family were safe although her husband works just round the corner from one of the buildings that was completely flattened. I spent a great holiday there several years ago, and have some other friends from there that I have not kept in touch with. I am hoping that they are all safe and okay. My friend described it as their 9/11 but they have no one to blame.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A definitive sign of spring

Various people have been posting on their blogs about the first signs of spring (including me). Well two days ago we saw the strongest evidence yet; the cranes migrating north to their breeding grounds in Scandanavia.

I have never seen this before. They passed overhead at about 5.30 in the evening. We first noticed these black lines in the distance, and then before we could really make out what they were heard this squawking sound, getting louder and louder as the flock got nearer.

And then they were overhead. We could hear the sound of their wings beating together and the sounds as they called to each other. Within 5 minutes they had passed over, heading North, their dark line contrasted with the vapour trails from the jet planes high above them.

It was an  amazing sight and my only sadness was that I have had to wait 52 years to see it. I shall be looking out closely for them next year.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A country life

The weeks progress and spring seems almost here. We have learnt to ignore the weather forecast since it is almost always wrong. It is supposed to rain at some point, and we have had a few light showers, but not the day-long rain that was predicted. Most days we have not needed more than a light fleece or jumper over a t shirt and at lunch time on the terrace it is possible to sit out in shirt sleeves.

I survived two days in Bordeaux last week and now have a bit of a break until March. For the first time I was not exhausted by 8.00 pm and so walked around the city in the evening. I was surprised at how lively it was; and as the temperature was mild, the restaurants’ outside tables were full. I asked the students if this was usual for February in Bordeaux and they assured me it was!

On my return to the house however, I got back to basics. Herman had ploughed up the square that has been identified as my vegetable patch (note that things to do with cooking and growing food are mine and things to do with diggers and machines are Ian’s). I am more familiar with a little hand digging in the back garden and a quick half hour with the rake whereas this is digging on a more serious scale!

Well, the digging was easy enough but then the job was to spread the pile of sh*t that the farmer kindly donated! This was hard work and took me two days with a wheelbarrow and pitch fork!

The wildlife is begging to re-surface after winter. We have three young deer that run across the field in the morning and various birds that appear. One of them looked bigger than average and when I looked closer we could see it was a heron; obviously trying to supplement his normal fish diet with a few field mice! Then, on Monday (Valentine ’s Day) we woke to see this just outside the bedroom window. He looked like a baby buzzard (although I am not sure what a fully grown one would look like). He sat looking at the rain until the sound of the electric tea-maker finishing brewing scared him off.

There is a little bit of shaking at the start of the video while Ian bounced up and down on the bed !

Thursday, 10 February 2011

No sooner had I started writing about grey, damp days the weather improved dramatically and we have been basking in 18 degrees centigrade in the afternoons (warm enough to sit out on the terrace for a while). Mandi the cat has now woken to the delights of spring and is beginning to get his small head around the fact that his world has grown beyond his wildest dreams. For the first time in his life there are no walls, roads, other cats or buildings within his sight and now that he is beginning to get it, he has been driving us mad by wanting to go in and out and in and out in as many different compilations as he can manage. He is most active during the night, preferring to sleep it off during the morning. I think his days of sleeping at then end of the bed may be coming to an end!

Ian has spent more time working on the outside of the house. We dug out for the second Canadian drain. These are air vents in the form of plastic pipes that are buried into the ground and have an inlet above the ground to draw in air and an outlet in a vent in the floor. As they pass underground the theory is that the air is slightly warmed  in the winter and slightly cooled in the summer; well that is the theory! We thought it sounded a good idea and better than having vents in the windows. However, as we investigated it further we found out that it was rather more complicated than we thought and actually would make very little difference in terms of heat in our part of France as it is not cold enough (or hot enough) for long enough for it to be effective. We also did not have the 1.5 metres of top soil necessary so put it deep enough. So, in the end we have compromsied and made an air inlet pipe that goes underground a little! The run in the ditch by the side of the house and in digging it out Ian managed to break the sewage outlet pipe with the digger! As it was sunny he took it in his stride and promptly fixed it!

I am currently in Bordeaux. I am only working a day and half this time which meant that I didn't have to get up too early! However, I still had to get the 9.12 train, and as we drove to Ste Foye le Grande we passed the monks and followers from Plum Village on their morning walk. I smiled to myself as over their sackcloth dress they were wearing hi-visibility vests. Even the budhists are not exempt from health and safety!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Second of February

The grey weather has continued; leading to a lack of motivation and energy and a feeling that maybe we are back in the UK! Today we took a trip in the car to look at stones for the driveway; as we are fed up of our boots and shoes getting covered in sticky, gloopy mush everytime it rains.

According to one of my former colleagues today is " ‘Imbolc’ on the pagan calendar and represents the flowing of new life with the growing daylight hours and the retreat of winter and darkness – but a warning that winter hasn’t completely gone. " He then added  "So let’s hope that you two country folk are beginning to feel that spring is on its way.  I can see you and Ian sniffing the misty air each morning and communing with nature with sage -like astute nods".  Don't think we are quite there yet, but on our way over to look at stone we saw at least six buzzards out hunting. We have seen them before but not so many and not so close to the road. They obviously no something that we don't!

We dropped something into the farmer on the way and his wife told us that if the weather is good today then it means we are going to have a second winter. According to Wikipedia it is Groundhog day and
"According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks"
The second of February is also
Pancake day in France
Bun day in Iceland