Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas (and what on an earth happened to 2011!)

It's Christmas Eve and all is quiet! Well not really but I decided that I really must try and make a quietish few minutes to update my blog just in case anyone wants to read it after receiving my Christmas card. As you can see from the more limited number of entries this year I have rather got out the habit of regular posting. As usual there is much I could say but somehow the urgency or the need to say it passes as I get absorbed in the many and varied things that make up my life. I think that has been the biggest change since making the move here; and that is that although we do have a routine, each day is different.

So we have been here over a year. You would think that would be long enough to get settled and feel part of the furniture, but no, I feel like we have only just arrived. We still have both vehicles on UK number plates, my French is a little better but we still watch mainly UK TV (although we do actually have a French TV arial but realised that there is just as much cr*p on French TV as there is in the UK). However I can now spend a whole day in the company of French people, listening to and speaking some French, without getting the headache from hell.

In order to improve my French and maybe to see if I can get some work as an Occupational Therapist, I have been spending one day a week at the local nursing home as a volunteer come student. Sometimes I am not sure that I want to bother, but what it has done is to help me feel more part of French life rather than the ex-pat community. I have also done some occasional work in Bordeaux, helping occupational therapy students evaluate research papers in English. It has been a very steep learning curve and I am not sure that I have really got the hand of it, but spending the odd day in Bordeaux is a nice change from the country from time to time.

Apart from these activities most of our time has been taken up with trying to make progress on the house. We have worked hard but these things take time, and we are still semi-camping in two rooms. However we now have the basics of  a swimming pool, the foundations for the garage, a half a front garden, a drive and are making progress with the plumbing and electrics. Next job is to build the garage so we can decant our things there and then finish off the final floor in the house.

The other thing I have done this year is get a dog. It was something I always wanted to do but could never even think about when I lived and worked in the UK. So, now we have a Gremlin, a 7 month old Australian Cattle dog, who as I write is chewing his tail to pieces in an attempt to alleviate the frustration of flea bites, a short attention span, exitability and rageing hormones! I am now a member of the Club Canine de Bergerac, where Gremlin continues to embarrass me by being a b*gger with me but behaving himself when anyone else takes his lead!

So now I am off to prepare a shrimp pasta thingy and drink some wine to celebrate our second Christmas in France.

Happy Christmas to you all.
 get relief from hi

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Building the yellow brick road

I noticed today that the vines are suddenly bare; almost overnight the yellow leaves fell to the ground. Winter is approaching. It gets light at about 8.00 and is dark by 5.45 in the evening, so less than 12 hours of daylight. However, the temperatures have still been mild enough to sit on the terrace in a T-shirt during the day. As dawn breaks, if it has been clear, a morning mist emerges, edging up the land from the river. Most mornings it clears up, but some days it lingers almost all day, making it feel cold.

We have been focussing on finishing the driveway. It sounds like a luxury but the downside of having an unfinished drive is that as soon as it rains the ground turns to muck and sludge and we tread it all into the house. Worse still, it sticks to all our shoes and if you don't remove it whilst wet, attempts to chip it off when dry usually end up removing the sole of the shoe as well. The other problem is that if we need to have anything delivered, without a solid driveway it can only be delivered to the edge of the land.

before

So last week Ian marked out the drive and we put down some geotextile. Monday morning a large lorry arrived full of yellow gravel, hence the yellow brick road. Yellow gravel is important because the white stuff disintegrates and gets sticky, whereas the yellow stuff packs down nicely.

We eventually needed 4 lorry loads as the drive is about 100 metres in total; and rather than the two days Ian had estimated it took more than a week to finally get it all down and spread out. This was mostly due to the fact that the lorry couldn't drive down there without getting stuck and so we had to have it delivered to the car park and then Ian had to transport it down to where it was needed in a dumper truck. The result was very pleasing and I now feel a little more ready to brave the winter knowing I might be able to keep at least one pair of shoes free from mud.
stuck lorry being towed out by tractor

After

The other job we have been doing is planting some fruit trees in the front garden. 24th November is the day they should be planted, so on Saturday we to a tree show in the Lot et Garonne, where we were spoilt for choice with varieties of apples, pears, apricots etc. In the end we bought 6 tress and 6 fruit bushes. Planting them required the digger and buckets of horse manure and lots of hard work, but we eventually managed.