Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Happy Christmas 2012

Hi friends and family and anyone else who happens to be passing by. I don't normally send out one of those Christmas letters with my cards, but if anyone is interested then I post a link to this page, where I summarise the year, thus saving on paper and postage and ensuring that only those who really want to know what we have been doing actually have to read it!

This year started with 'more of the same' I suppose. The building project continues. January saw us making progress with the garage. It was cold but sunny and we managed to get the wall structure built before February, when we were hit by the coldest winter in 45 years. Snow is pretty unusual here but we had up to a metre of snow and temperatures that never got above -8 for two weeks. Needless to say, everything ground to a halt and it became a full time job to keep warm on our 3 kw temporary electricity supply! It finally thawed in March and we were able to get the roof on, the windows in, the doors in and covered with a weatherproof membrane. Unfortunately that is as far as we have got as other things have taken priority! What we were able to do was to finally move all of our possessions here and on the same piece of land in the same country..Some day in the future we may actually be able to unpack them all!

Other progress has been opening up the kitchen and living room and completing the electrical work so that finally, as of 4 weeks ago we have had a proper electricity supply. Next job is to put in a proper hot water system so that we can have more than 15 litres of hot water at a time! It arrives next week!

Of course in all of this we have also had to earn some money and so my work has continued at Bordeaux and Ian(sic) has been starting up his handyman business with a few jobs for other people.

Just as we were in full flow over the summer, my mother had a stroke. I was summoned to UK and spent the period of the Olympic games by her bedside. She didn't really make much recovery and died 3 weeks later, so there has been a fair bit of going back and forth before and after and no doubt more to come next year as we get on with 'sorting' things. I am doing fine but obviously have my sad moments, particularly because she never got to see our house in its finished state. My brother was also just in the final stages of his mammoth building project as well and starting a new job, so it was a stressful time for us all.  Their project was featured on Grand Designs. You can see it here. Bear in mind it is carefully edited for TV!

The dog has been in our lives all year, going from being a complete and utter pain, to the best dog in the world on a regular basis. He learns quickly, but unfortunately he doesn't always learn the right things! He also proved to be an obnoxious teenager, constantly challenging for top position but also being nervous! In the end we decided to get him castrated, and that is beginning to prove to be the right decision, as the hormone levels have reduced and there are now channels of communication with him. I reckon another year and we may have cracked it! We are also considering getting another dog, as he is just one of those dogs that is so much better when he has a dog to relate to rather than a human.

Other tasks this year have included trying to get to grips with French bureaucracy, in that we registered the car, I changed my drivers licence to a French one, we filled in tax forms, and finally we both registered as small businesses. That in itself took several days of work, but stage one of our 'integration' has started.

On a less positive note my aatempts to improve my French have stagnated a bit. A summer of speaking English has not helped; so maybe that will be my New Years resolution and my goal for 2013. This, along with a list of jobs, that if we really started to think about them would make us panic, plus trying to earn the odd shilling to keep us going will no doubt keep me well and truly busy!

So, Happy Christmas to you all and best wishes for 2013. If anyone is around the aea do pop in!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Pictures with my new camera

Today we went for a walk around 'the lake'. I say 'lake' because it has been dry now for over a year and the recent rain hasn't really helped. We walked along the old river bed with the dog. As you can see it was a lovely day and I played with the camera!
The top lake

Dog playing in the puddle in the 'big lake'

Remains of trees along old river course

Man and dog

Drying off

Friday, 7 December 2012


There are quite a few deer around at the moment. I took this picture yesterday morning, just before we took the dog for a walk. There were five stopping off for a bite to eat in the field.

Yesterday, on my way to the shops, I had to brake suddenly to avoid hitting three that ran out in front of the car and this morning I was walking the dog in the bottom field and he suddenly caught sight of something in the distance. Before I could say "Gremlin come here you little sh*t" he had gone. In a flash he had crossed over the stream, through the field the other side and up into the woods. I saw his tail bobbing up and down a bit and then he disappeared from view. He has done this before but normally once the deer have run off he comes back. This time I was calling for 20 minutes, unable to cross the stream myself. Ian left his work to come and look for him the other side of the river. After about half an hour we caught sight of him following a scent home. He approached Ian, turned to look at him as if to say 'it's this way' and then carried on, appearing by my side 5 minutes later, exited, wet but rather tired. By this time Ian and I were soaked and not it in the best of moods. It was good to see that he came back eventually but worrying as once he catches sight of a deer no amount of recall training will break his focus and he can cover some distance in a matter of seconds!

Last night we ate venison casserole. The venison was a gift from the local hunt as we allow them to hunt on the land. It's arrival was not for the squeamish. The chairman of the hunt knocked on the door, plastic bag dripping in blood with a deer foot sticking out the top in one hand, and a fag in the other!  Ian cut it up and we kept some and gave some away. Normally we have been given a front leg, but this year we got a hind leg. The meat was beautifully tender.

Before I came to France I was determined to stop  hunting on the land as soon as possible, but after living here a while you see that there is a balance here that is perhaps best to accept. The deer have no natural predators and left alone the numbers would soon rise and they would become a pest, eating many of the crops. The hunt are allowed to kill a certain number each year. It is quite carefully controlled. (I say quite carefully because there are always one or two that will poach the odd one or two). Furthermore, as the hunting population is generally fairly elderly hunting day looks like an Age Concern outing with rifles, so I am not even sure whether they manage to get their targets every year. So, if we ever get llamas and horses on the land we will have to restrict it, but while it is prairie we don't rock the boat.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Get yourself something

'Get yourself something' was what my mother used to write in my birthday card each year. The card would contain a cheque and she would always say 'I never know what to get you so just yourself get whatever you want'. The first birthday without your mother is always a bit difficult. Mothers never forget their child's birthday and I wasn't really looking forward to being reminded of the fact that she is no longer here.

My mother's estate is still being sorted out, but what we do know is that after all the bills are paid and done and dusted there will be money left for each of us. I guess we will invest it wisely, but for my first birthday alone I decided that I wanted to 'get myself something' from my mother that was entirely for me. She always enjoyed reading the blog and liked looking at my rubbish photos. They have mostly been taken with a little 'happy snappy' type camera and hence a bit hit and miss. I have never had a proper grown up camera! So my birthday present from my mum was a brand new digital SLR with a proper grown up lens that comes off!

It arrived a couple of days ago and I have been playing with it ever since and amazed at how different it is. I have not gone beyond the automatic settings yet but these are a couple of my first attempts, taken from the patio.
The sunset looking like a forest fire

The sky making amazing colours
The camera is a Nikon 5100. Thanks mum!