Georgie's birthday yesterday. Hot and sunny (in mid October?!) so set off for a couple of places she wanted to visit. Boogied across the plateau de Millevaches (splendid area and a well kept secret) without a cloud in the sky. Got stopped by the cops in the middle of nowhere but allowed to continue when they discovered I was anglais - weird. Stopped off at Egletons for a coffee. Next stop, Curemont. Apparently it's one of France's famous historical villages (typically, I'd never heard of it but Georgie had) with the added attraction of having magical healing properties (hence 'cure' in the name). Being on the tourist map, visitor parking was somewhere outside the village, with (surprise, surprise) a very modern ticket machine that gobbled cash. While Georgie marched off to inspect the village, I gently strolled with Hamish up the adjacent ridge. Great views.
Half an hour later, cultural visit over, Georgie returned and we hit the road for Turenne. Again, I'd never heard of it but Georgie had. And again Georgie marched off, this time to the hilltop castle and garden (garden photo nicked from web) while I gently strolled around the lower regions of the touristy village with Hamish (advancing age and physical decline dictate that extreme exercise be kept to a minimum). Killing time, I found a glass of rosé and a fig tree interesting (hence boring photos). About an hour or so later, Georgie returned from up high and joined me outside a pretty café where I was leaking coffee from every pore. She then demolished a lethal looking ice cream while Hamish was busy leaving his calling card on a wide variety of vertical thingies much to the disapproval of la madame propriètaire.
Next, head for home via Collanges La Rouge (yes, it's a red village - photo nicked from web) and a hillside road near Serilhac where we stopped to view our distant barn which, surprisingly, still seemed to be standing, then motorway to Ussel (in a 3.0 V6 Alfa one has to keep eyes peeled for cops) where we lashed out on a McDonald's each, then dogwalk, home and a glass or deux of champers.
P.S. Photo of barn from years back plus photo of impressive view:
Where do butterflies go when there's a howling gale with torrential rain and a hailstorm with hail the size of marbles? Good question. Anyways..., so, after yesterday's glorious weather I was looking forward to more of the same today. Sure enough, all went well 'til mid-afternoon when a few clouds sneaked in from the west. I didn't notice at first 'cos I was wasting time surfing the internet. Then I twigged that the sun had disappeared from the wall behind my laptop. Opened the window and felt a few raindrops. Then a gust of wind heralded a bit more rain. Nothing serious, just a quick shower. Wrong. Thunder. More rain. Torrential. Howling gale. Shut window. Hailstones. Noisy. I could hear them battering the car port roof. Big buggers. None of your cissy little jobbies. These ones were causing bedlam to the cattle in the distant field. Serious stuff. Lasted for a good twenty minutes. Then it calmed down a bit as the storm moved east. Eventually emerged from the house for a check up. No obvious damage but next door's veg patch had taken a hammering. Spuds had been flattened. Crunched over the hail-splattered lawn to view the distant cattle. They seem to have survived, even the tiny calves. Then noticed Georgie's bins were full. They were empty this morning. Gave Hamish a quick walk out the back, then dished out his grub. Poured myself a vin rosé and sat in the evening sun. A couple of butterflies fluttered by. Which reminds me, where do they go when...?
Sweaty old day yesterday. Must have been way up in the 30's. Spent most of the day indoors. Late afternoon ventured down the supermarché to stock up on vital necessities: vin rosé, chocolate and half a dozen bouteilles d'eau. Took a bit of time to get into the car though. Steering wheel and seat were way too hot to touch and Hamish had jammed himself under the car in the cool grass and wouldn't budge. Eventually set off and parked up. Left three windows wide open for His Lordship - couldn't do that back in Blighty but it's fairly normal out here. Did a quick lap of the supermarché while enjoying the cool air conditioning then wobbled back to the car. Gave His Nibs a short meander in the shade of the car park then bundled him into the dogwagon (much against his will) and set off for the hills and home. Arrived back at HQ where the rabid mutt immediately headed for the shade under the Alfa while I lugged the goodies indoors. Made a cuppa, did a bit of this and that, then realised it was after six. Didn't feel like it though - that's what happens around the longest day. Time for walkies. Dragged the grumpy dawg from his shady refuge under the Alfa and flung him into the smelly and very hot Citroen dogwagon. Set off for Sprocket Hill then remembered that the entrance was fenced off so the farmer's cattle could munch that field's grass - at this time of year some fields are for munching while others are for cutting and haybaling. So, plan B: the Cemetery Run. Parked up in the shade of tall fir hedge and set off. Still very hot with the sun nowhere near the horizon. Welcome shade of the track by the old orchard. Loads of flies. Onwards past the tall trees to where the trees end and the sky opens up. Into the field dotted with new hay bales. A couple of hawks flew off their distant bales to return later for mice spotting. Hamish gave chase but ended up weeing on a bale or four. Then got bored, or maybe too hot, so we headed back, passing a field of very hot cattle. Maybe they were too hot to check out Hammy, and maybe he was too hot to give 'em a woof, so nowt happened. Returned to the car a wee bit hot and bothered and headed for home. Hamish immediately sprawled in the cool grass outside the front door - the sun was now around the back, while I prepared his grub and poured myself a cool rosé. Sat outside while the farmer loaded haybales in the barn by the church using his elderly diesel tractor. Can't beat the sound of an old tractor with the waft of diesel and freshly cut straw while viewing a clear blue summer's sky through a glass of chilled rosé. Then felt a bit guilty 'cos Georgie's over in London 'til Wednesday and I'd been tasked with watering some plants. Did three can's full then sat back fattygayed. Nice flowers though, whatever they are. Took a few snaps. Then went indoors and boiled some spuds. Ooh, it's all go.
Bought a 1995 BMW F650 Funduro motorcycle about a year ago and used it just once to go about five minutes down the road where the back brake locked on. So I stopped. Brake caliper smoking hot. Let it cool down. Neighbour Christian stopped to help with his massive lorry. Helped me get it back home on a trailer. Took it to the local bikeshop for repair. Didn't try it out to see if the fault persisted. Didn't trust the damned thing. So the bike stayed in the shed.
Spotted an ad for a top notch, recently serviced, low kilometrage, 1999 Funduro with new tyres and BMW top case and panniers, down south in a village near St. Emilion, about a month ago. Immediately emailed the seller with a few questions. His answers and tone assured me that he and the bike were good 'uns so we struck a deal. Unfortunately he was just about to go away on business or a holiday (I wasn't sure which) so the sale would have to wait for a few weeks.
Drove down there last Sunday with the bike trailer hitched to the dogwagon. Set off before dawn at 6.30, which was 5.30 in old time (clocks went forward that night) with Georgie, Hamish and a load of extras such as Thermos of coffee, croissants, water, belts (to tie the bike down on the trailer), assorted cds, hi-viz vests, warning triangle, car documents, cash to buy bike, trailer spare wheel, a day's worth of medication (three pills and one powder), maps, tyre pressure gauge, dog water bowl, and a load of other stuff that I can't remember (it's surprising what you need to pack in if you're off for the day). Headed to Ussel, turned right onto the motorway (A89 autoroute to Bordeaux), bypassed Brive, turned off at Montpon, then south on a little road to Chatillon-la-Bataille, then right to 33350 Sainte Magne de Castillon. Arrived at about 11.30, signed the papers, paid the dosh, loaded up the bike and drove off about an hour later.
Headed back to Montpon via the St. Emilion vine country. Very picturesque, especially on a sunny Sunday as it was that day. Interesting to see the vines in March before the leaves appear. Row upon row of gnarled stumps. Come September and October it'll all be different. Lovely bit of countryside. Did a tiny bit of research when I returned home and apparently this little area is perfect for wine-making with an ideal climate and humidity and a soil that's rich in limestone and fossils. And although it's a tiny area, it's home to loads of different wine chateaux each with their own wine label. Foreign buyers are moving in, investing in wine chateaux for ludicrous sums. And there are different levels of wine quality. Grand Cru, or summink. Unfortunately I'm a novice in this subject. To become an expert takes a lifetime. Fascinating study though. (Vine photos nicked from the internet.)
All went well on the homeward trail 'til I made the decision to go through Brive instead of taking the bypass (the bypass route includes a long, steep uphill section which would be a nightmare in an underpowered, 1.4 litre, Citroen ZX dogwagon pulling a trailer and bike). Sunday in Brive, no problemo thought I. However, unbeknown to moi, that afternoon Brive rugby team were hosting a match against Montpellier. TV cameras, the lot. Premier league rugby is hugely popular in France so you can imagine the traffic chaos, especially when one arrives about forty minutes before kick off. Then, to make matters worse, roadworks meant a diversion. Traffic jams with a bike trailer. Oh, joy.
Somehow, I know not how, we escaped the bedlam and found ourselves back on the right road. Stopped off at the service area just east of Tulle for a welcome break in the sun. We'd stopped here about nine hours earlier for coffee and a croissant when there was frost on the grass. Not there now though. Gave Hamish a quick walk then slung him back in the back and headed off again. Well, when I say 'walk', we tried to give him a walk but he insists on stopping and sniffing all the doggy smells at a ridiculously slow pace so 'drag' would be more accurate than 'walk'.
Arrived home safe and sound at around 7.30, unloaded the bike, unhitched the trailer, unpacked the car and took Hamish for an evening stroll up Sprocket Hill. Job done. Bought four bottles of different St. Emilion wines the next day from an Aubusson supermarché. Pricey stuff compared to my usual cheapo rosé. Good though. Almost polished off a bouteille last night with supper. Shall sample another ce soir.
Impressive full moon last night. Looked very big, even bigger than the one a few weeks back (or was it months?) which was supposed to be the biggest for ages. Apparently it's known as the 'Snow Moon' because the full moon of February generally occurs when we're up to our necks in that white stuff. And, according to the internet, there was a lunar eclipse yesterday too. So, full moon, Snow Moon and lunar eclipse - the moon certainly had his hat on last night.
Naturally, being a hermit recluse, I hadn't the foggiest idea about all this, so when I drove up to Sprocket Hill with Hamish and Georgie for our evening stroll, the big moon came as a big surprise. As is usual when something's worth photographing, the camera was miles away, perched on the desk back home. But, nae bother, one has one's trendy mobile smartphone with its thoroughly modern built-in camera. Nowhere near as good as a proper digital camera, but better than nowt, even though the pictures are a bit fuzzy and the shutter has this maddening tendency to operate at the merest hint of body movement, resulting in an abundance of unwanted snaps including feet, out of focus sky and blurred treetops.
Anyways, we legged it up Sprocket Hill for a good view of the moon and the surrounding countryside and it was well worth the effort. A truly cosmic experience. Mind you, it was a bit slippy underfoot due to recent muckspreading. Luckily this was at the tail end of a sunny day so the muck had sort of dried out. Had it still been of its liquid or damp consistency, Hamish would have been rolling left, right and centre, thus preparing himself for an unwanted shower when he returned home, not to mention his generous adding of perfumery (his opinion) to the stinking dogwagon's interior.
When I downloaded the moon snaps, there were some other photos as well which I'd forgotten about. These included some snaps of a snowy soirée dogwalk at the same location a few days back, plus a photo of the view out front taken this afternoon - very foggy, and chilly.
Bohemian hermit recluse hiding in the mist-shrouded hills and backwoods of central France; went to art school in the mid-Sixties and never really left; masochistic supporter of Aldershotnil FC; fascinated by the mystery of disappearing odd socks; follically, cosmetically and vertically challenged but horizontally unchallenged, otherwise perfect (it says here); probably one of the luckiest geezers in the whole wide world.