Thursday, 31 March 2011

Culture shock 2

Just back from week in UK and never thought that I would feel so pleased to be back here so early on in our adventure; although when you think about it, if we are not enjoying it now then there is no hope! So, UK seemed frantic, stressed, expensive, the supermarkets were packed, we spent a lot of time in traffic, people had no time for anything. Even Eastbourne, known as God's waiting room, seemed busy and crowded. What has happened to this former vegetarian Londoner!

Of course it was lovely to see everyone but all in all we decided that next time we will do it a bit more slowly!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Culture shock

My week ended with two more days of teaching. I have got a little more accustomed to the commuting and the contrast between Bordeaux and our quiet hamlet and a bit more familiar with the French students. I had an enjoyable session on Thursday but on Friday they all seemed remarkably quiet! Turns out they all had a major hangover from St Patricks day celebrations! I had noticed when I went for a walk that evening that the pubs and bars were full of people dressed in green. 'The Irish in France' I thought; but no, they were all native Frenchmen. As one of the students said to me, in Bordeaux we like any excuse for a party!

Last night, amidst our preparations for a week back in UK, we went with our neighbours to a small village about 35 miles away, where their friends were playing in a celtic band. The location was a village hall and the cause of the celebration was St Patrick. The music consisted of Irish jigs and reels (diddley dee music), there was food, wine, beer and dancing. One thing that struck me was that there were all ages there, from infants to old people, including some teenagers, who spent most of the time in a small room upstairs, presumably playing video games and smoking dope that had probably been grown on their parents' farm; but at least they were safe and not causing problems to the rest of the world! The children danced, played and came to look at us (as we were strangers) and we commented on how wonderful for them to feel that they could do this in safetly. All in all a pleasant time and we are not particulary exited about the prospect of UK, although to see friends and family will be nice.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Gaining confidence

Fortunately I did not overturn the trailer or damage the car in my two hour lesson on 'how to drive with a trailer'. My instructor was called Pascal and despite the fact that he spoke no English and my French is limited I still managed to understand the complexities of driving backwards with a tall box fixed to back end! The worst of it was that the lesson started at 8.00 a.m. so we had to leave at 7.15. By 10.00 I was finished, we went and had a coffee, went shopping, stopped in and booked a doctor’s appointment on the way back and were done by mid-day in time for lunch. We almost felt French! I am, however, spared the joys of driving the van complete with trailer just yet as Ian discovered that one brake had gone and the bearings need changing; making it unsafe to take it back to the UK with us next week. I remarked at how I am developing a strange vocabulary in French. I know all the words for most things on a building site, am learning the words for many medical terms through my work and know the names of all sorts of strange wildlife that appear in the field. What I don't know is how to have a conversation with the check-out girl in the supermarket. (Mind you, that is difficult in the UK !).
Talking of strange wildlife, we have a mad March hare in our field, running hundreds of miles in frantic circles in search of sex. Spring is definitely sprung!

So, another two days in Bordeaux and then next week we are off to see friends and family and to buy more materials for the house. It will be a busy week and today I wondered how I ever found time for work and holidays.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Awaiting news

Apparently the romantic liaison between our puppy parents went well over the weekend and a good time was had by all. We won't know for a month whether it has resulted in puppies so I feel the closest I will ever get to being an expectant parent! Here is a picture of the handsome happy couple!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

An unusual gift

Today Ian bought me a present. It's not my birthday but Ian must have felt particularly romantic today when we walked into the HGV training centre just outside of Bergerac. So.. next Tuesday I have a 2 hour lesson with a French HGV instructor who is hopefully going to show me how to drive a van and trailer.  I have a UK licence that enables me to drive a vehicle up to 7.5 tons but I have never been particularly comfortable in anything more than a Ford Fiesta so when we drive back to the UK towing a trailer Ian is on his own all the way which as well as being a lot of driving, means that if he ever felt unwell, we would just have to wait until he got better before we could continue.

The one problem I can see is that I don't know left from right in English, let alone in French, and it is a long time since I drove a left hand drive vehicle!

Monday, 7 March 2011


Today was warm and sunny and a perfect temperature for a short bike ride. The bike ride itself was perfect for working off the slight hangover that I still had this morning. Yesterday lunchtime we had lunch with our neighbours and other friends to celebrate the fact that they have finished building their new roof. This was quite an achievement and has meant that for most of the winter they have been living under a tarpaulin, in fear of a storm. We celebrated from lunchtime until early evening.

The bike ride took me around the lake. There were two vehicles there; a couple taking their dog for a walk and a minibus with some of the monks from Plum Village, who were lying in the sun. It was a truly peaceful scene and when I told Ian later he comented that a lake like that in the UK would probably be packed and would charge £5 a day for parking.

We are still progressing with the house. The kitchen is now completely wired, the wall in the hallway closed off and the ceiling frame in the sitting room in place. In the meantime we are planning a trip back to the UK at the end of the month and our shopping list is growing! I am looking forward to seeing friends and family but I can't say that I am missing my homeland at the moment.

We may be getting the first two of our livery horses in May from Ian's friend but before we can do that we have to get some fencing in place so that may be the first job to do when we return. The other animal we hope to get soon is our dog. I will write more on that on another occasion but for now I will say that if all went to plan our new dog was conceived this weekend!