Sunday, December 18, 2011


Typical! One minute I'm saying the weather's fab for mid-December (see previous posting), and the next, the clouds move in and dump mega-gallons of rain for an entire week. And yesterday it turned noticeably chillier. No surprise that it started snowing in the evening. Not a lot, but enough to turn the landscape white. It's that breadcrumbs on the window sill time of year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The calm before the storm

This is getting silly. Mid-December and it's still sunny. Bit weird doing Chrissy cards in bright sunshine. Mind you, I read that snow's recently fallen in Val d'Isère. And not a moment too soon according to the hoteliers and ski-ing instructors etc. Personally, I'm quite happy without the stuff. Think I'll go and Dubbin my boots, just in case.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Presbyterie renovation

Popped into the 'presbyterie' across the lane a couple of days ago (nosey!) to see how the renovations were coming along. Last visited there way back in July (see posting 1st July '11) when they'd just started work on rejuvenating this historic old building. The place has now been transformed and will presumably soon be ready for occupancy. Haven't a clue who's going to live there though rumour has it that a young couple with kids might move in - an effort to considerably lower the average age of the hamlet's few inhabitants. All I know is that the house won't be sold; it'll remain a state asset, which is a good thing.

It's been interesting watching from a distance as work has slowly progressed. Obvious changes include a new roof, new window frames, a new west-facing side window (kitchen) to catch the evening sun, a new front door, re-pointed external walls and structural renovation of the attached barn which, presumably, will become a garage with a storeroom above. All very impressive. But, knowing how the French generally love all things modern when it comes to house renovating, I've been long concerned that the original character may have been gutted from the interior - hence my 'nosey' visit.

Armed with my camera I explained to the workers that I was a nosey neighbour who just wanted to see how work was progressing. Luckily they didn't tell me to get lost so I had a quick look round saying "wow" and "cor, splendide" each time I visited a new room. However, my apparent enthusiasm hid a slight disappointment that, as suspected, the original character had been ripped out. All the internal walls had been plaster-boarded over, the old doors had gone and the original floorboards had been replaced by prefabricated cement blocks. The only original feature remaining appeared to be the fine old stone kitchen fireplace in the new lounge. I then checked the window frames, thinking them to be plastic. Interestingly, they're wooden, despite everyone round these parts reckoning (wrongly?) that plastic lasts longer.

Having said all that, I have to admit the house will be absolutely fab when it's finished. Perhaps a little too moderne pour moi, but a highly des res for a young family (or whoever). I was particularly impressed with the newly installed staircase. A brilliant piece of carpentry. Perhaps lacks the character of our squeaky old woodwormy item but will no doubt stand up to the pitter patter of tiny (and grown-up) feet for many years to come.


Bleu et orange

Crikey..., December already. Almost at the shortest day and it still hasn't snowed. Or rained. Still quite warm with that gentle southerly breeze. Bit cloudy today though, unlike last Friday when I nipped down to Felletin for market day. Blistering sunshine. Sat outside the caff with a coffee and a fag (table on the left). Chatted to a couple of anglais couples. So hot I took off my sweater. Teeshirt weather in November? Very odd. (Click pics to enlarge.)

Knock on the door in the afternoon. Guy (pronounced 'Gie'), the ex-mayor, clutching his mobile and a chimney sweep's business card. Asked me to phone the number 'cos the sweep's an anglais who's not exactly fluent in frog lingo and Guy doesn't parlez-vous anglais. Rang the chap and arranged for him to visit Guy's gaff on the following Wednesday at 10.30. Come the appointed hour, I popped round there just in case there was a communication problem. Sweep had already started cleaning the chimney and all was well. Guy offered me a scotch (!) which I politely declined. Sweep had recently retired after a heart attack and moved to France a few months back (heart attack had convinced him to emigrate while he still could). Fell in love with the place on his first visit last year. He'll probably get stacks of work now 'cos Guy knows everyone and he'll put the word out. And I loved the trading name on his business card - Toute Sweep!

Anyways..., having done the market, the sun continued to blaze. Perfect weather for doing some washing. Did a load and hung it out to dry. Had to keep reminding myself it was late November. Felt more like summer. But despite the heat, I wheel-barrowed some logs in for the evening stove. Seemed a strange thing to do in all that sunshine. But as soon as that sun goes down it gets really chilly. Could be frosty so brought the flowery things in that had spent all summer on the outdoor window ledges. Then went for a dogwalk out the back. Bright orange leaves against a clear blue sky. And the orange became deeper as the sun slowly set. Wonderful colours.

But, of course, that was a week ago. Today's dawned grey and damp. Not exactly perfect weather for visiting the market and sitting outside the caff in a teeshirt. Just spoken to Georgie on the phone. Apparently sunny in London. Ah well, there you go. C'est la vie.     

Thursday, November 24, 2011


A couple of photos I rather like but didn't put in my last posting...

Another week flies by


Just returned from a week in London. Popped over there to do a bit of work stuff and renew my passport. Would have stayed for less than a week (dogs are the problem) but there are fewer flights at this time of year. And, for some strange reason, our winter flights take off ridiculously early. Going there, 10am; coming back, 7am. This meant I had to drop the dogs off at the kennel a day early in order to be at the airport by 8am (9.30 would have been okay but I like to get there early). Which meant I had to get up at 5am. As it turned out, I got up at 4, left the house at 5.30 (I thought it might be foggy as well as dark) and arrived at the airport at 7.20. I then killed a couple of hours by sitting in the car playing I-Spy, watching the sunrise, noshing a couple of sarnies I'd knocked-up the previous night, swigging coffee from my battered Thermos and attempting to get some kip (failed miserably). Amazing how slowly time drags by in that sort of situation.

Anyways..., arrived Stansted at mid-day (French time) or 11am (UK time), hopped on a coach and arrived at Victoria around 1.30. As Georgie was working (Covent Garden), I thought it'd be a wizard wheeze to meet her after work. This meant I had to kill four hours. Having just finished reading 'Tinker, Tailor' on the plane, I decided to see the film. Tracked it down in Leicester Square, watched it, met Georgie after work and together we ambled off to Putney.

The following day I had to report at the passport office at 10.45am (Ecclestone Square, Victoria). Arrived there early (as usual), killed some time at the caff opposite, reported bang on time, presented documents and photos expecting to be issued with a new passport there and then. Wrong. Had to come back at 3pm to collect. More time to kill. Had arranged to see Georgie for lunch at 1.45 (after her dental appt.) outside the National Portrait Gallery. Arrived there at 1.40. She still hadn't arrived by 2.15. Then remembered I had a mobile phone in my rucksack. Rang her up. Asked where she was and if she had a problem. "No," she said, "all's fine. I'll be there at 1.45." This confused me 'til I suddenly realised I was still on French time. Doh! Half an hour later we went up to the best bar in London (top floor of NPG) and were told we could only enter at lunchtime if we were eating. Well bugger that, so we had a lunchtime drink in the National Gallery restaurant instead. Then Georgie went back to work, I killed an afternoon by picking up my passport and wandering around Covent Garden being a Christmassy tourist, taking a few snaps and downing a couple of halves. Rendezvoused with Georgie after work, ambled across Waterloo Bridge, strolled around the  Christmassy riverside hutshops and a bookshop under the Festival Hall (Foyles?), took a few more snaps and eventually headed for home (well, Putney) via Waterloo.

The following day (Friday) was workday at Quadrangle by Tower Bridge (see Saw the big tower thing being built by London Bridge station - couldn't see the top though as it was hidden in mist. Didn't get it all done so went in again on Monday after a very lazy week-end doing nothing (well, did a bit of shopping in Putney with Georgie on Saturday - always rather jolly). 

Then, Monday soirée, saw Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler at Hammersmith Odeon (now called the Apollo?) as the guest of the Quadrangle boss (an old mate from way back). Despite my mate reckoning Knopfler was uninspiring (just 'going through the motions' and 'painting by numbers'), I thought he was pretty good, in a laid back sorta way.

But the main event was Dylan. And on his last night of the European tour. Just to be there was a thrill. Hadn't seen him since his famous gig at Earls Court many moons ago. He's older now, of course, and his voice has changed. Some say he sounded bad to start with and he's even worse now. Some say his voice has gone completely. Some say he never had one to start with. But, as Dylan said recently "I now have the voice I always wanted." It's somewhere between gravel and a drain. Like an old blues singer. Rough. Suits me fine. And his band - brilliant! Trouble was, I didn't recognise half the songs 'til about halfway through. Thought they must have been new. But then realised they weren't. Just new interpretations of old faves. But the main thing was, he looked like he was enjoying himself. Ended as usual with 'Forever Young'. A great night.

Tuesday, killed time shopping. Early night. Cab Wednesday 3.30am, flight 7.10, delayed due to technical malfunction, swapped planes, took off late (8.15ish?), arrived Limoges 11ish (10 UK time), picked up dogs, drove home via supermarché, walked dogs up the Lightning Tree (they loved being back in the old routine),  lit kitchen stove, knocked up egg and chips, watched Chelsea v some German team, fell asleep on the sofa before the match ended, woken by phone call from Georgie, yes got back okay thanks, went to bed. 

Monday, November 14, 2011


Rather splendid sunrise ce matin. Reminded moi of that saying 'red sky at night, shepherds' delight; red sky in the morning, barn on fire.' Actually, this could be a warning that the weather's about to change. Which is a shame because it's been absolutely brilliant lately. 21 degrees a couple of days ago (11.11.11). Quite amazing for mid November. Flung the windows open and aired the duvet. Been quite warm at night too. Very clear with a full moon. Marvellous stuff. Clouded over a bit now though. Maybe winter's about to arrive. Mind you, I've been saying that for weeks.


When Georgie was over here a couple of weeks ago, we bought a whole load of plants and shrubs from three local jardineries (is that what they're called?). She then spent most of the week weeding the flower bed down the side wall and planting the new stuff. As she didn't get around to taking any photos as a reminder of where the new additions were planted, I've been asked to do so. Trouble is, I don't know which plants are new and which aren't. So I've snapped the lot. And here they are...


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Never enough time

Haven't blogged for a whole month. Don't know why. Been distracted by other things I suppose. Like building a website (not that I'm computer literate). And Georgie coming over for one of her ten day visits (she went back a couple of days ago). And sorting out all this pension nonsense (with Georgie's help of course - couldn't have done it on my own). And doing a tax return (nightmare for anyone as disorganised as moi). And getting a plumber to sort out the leaking hot water tank (easier said than done - they all seemed to be too busy). And getting Jock to the vet to clear up his gammy ear (seemed to be blocked with matted fur - vet said it was puss and gave me some tablets and stuff to squirt down his lug'ole - again, easier said than done;  Westies can be hugely stubborn, uncooperative and downright aggressive sometimes, even to their owner - luckily Georgie was here for the ten day 'squirting' period). Then there are the numerous everyday chores like getting the wood in, lighting fires, cooking, washing up, clothes washing, shopping and dogwalking. All takes time. And even though I'm sort of retired, time is something I rarely seem to have. 

Anyways..., have just returned from the vet. Had to take Jock there to check that his (attempted) medication had worked. Although there's been an improvement, the vet gave me some more pills and said I had to continue the 'squirting' for another week, only this time to make sure the stuff's squirted deep into his ear (again, easier said than done - shall have to bribe the brute with bigger sausages). Bit of a problem there as I have to go to Londres next Wednesday for a week. Hopefully his ear will be okay by then.

Am going to Londres to do a day's 'creative consulting' with one of my long-standing clients. I presume this will involve a headbanging session with a few directors in order to plan next year's promotional strategy etc. Should be fun. Then, on the Monday soir, he's very kindly taking me to see Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler at Hammersmith Odeon(?). Should be more fun. Really looking forward to it.

Er..., what else has happened? Not a lot, but to state the glaringly obvious, the days are getting shorter and the mornings and nights are becoming chillier. Not yet cold though. Been remarkably warm for the time of year. Wind still gently blowing from the south. Am expecting it to change soon though. Had snow last November. Could be the same again this year.

Right, better stop this rabbiting and get back to doing my website. It's not quite finished yet, there are still a few more things to add. Don't know why I'm doing it really. Maybe because I've always fancied having one and if I don't do it now, I probably never will.

In the unlikely event of anyone being interested, it's at 



Sunday, October 9, 2011


As I mentioned in a previous posting, the purpose of my recent trip to London was to get some help and advice about my teeny-weeny pension 'pot' thingies.

Georgie, bless her, has been a real star in keeping tabs on these pensions, writing to and phoning people at the various pension companies and contacting a local independent financial adviser lady (IFA) for help in sorting the whole caboodle out now that I've hit the geriatric age of soixante-cinq. Without Georgie's help I'd have been up poo creek without a paddle. As it is, like thousands of other baby-boomers, looks like I'm up poo creek anyway...

Over the last few weeks, Georgie and the IFA lady have been slaving away at digging out all the info necessary to reach the stage where decisions can finally be made about getting my hands on the dosh. The three of us got together for about an hour last Monday. During this meeting I suddenly realised how luck can hugely affect the amount of pension dosh one receives each month. That amount is dictated by, as I understand it, the state of the stock market at the time one chooses to 'activate' one's pension.

Typically, as luck would have it, come the time for me to activate my pensions, the stock market has bombed dramatically due to financiers getting jittery over an impending collapse of the euro as a result of Greece being hopelessly in debt and unable to honour its repayment agreements. Plus, of course, other factors largely associated with the balance of financial power gradually shifting east from west.

However, just as I was preparing to slit my wrists and leap head first out of the third floor window, the IFA lady explained that only about 45% of my pension pot is subject to the fluctuations of the financial markets; the other 55% being apparently immune (or whatever the official term may be) to the crazy actions and decisions of international finance nutters and insane politicians. 

Then came the crunch question: what do you want to do about the unprotected 45%? - cash in now or wait for about five weeks (the length of time pension companies apparently allow for a decision to be made about 'activating') in the hope that the stock market improves...? OR... call the whole thing off and do it in a year or two's time, or perhaps longer, when you think the global finance markets might have risen from their current low?

Er..., um...

At this point, I asked the IFA lady for advice about what she thought the stock market might do in the following days or weeks. After all, I understood her to be a financial adviser. Bless her, she replied in the only way possible: "I'm afraid I don't have a crystal ball." Hmm..., okay. I then signed various forms that allowed her to act on my behalf in dealing with the pension companies and said I'd phone her tomorrow about deciding whether or not to activate the pensions or, indeed, cancel the whole thing until a later date, perhaps years from now.

Spent that evening mulling over the question of what direction the UK stock market is likely to go in both the immediate and distant future. Daft question really, seeing as I know as much about stock markets as I do about nuclear physics, brain surgery, hip-hop music and the theory of relativity. However, a decision had to be made. And a quick one too. But the really worrying thing was that, even though Georgie and I are totally clueless about money markets, whatever decision we made would affect us for the rest of our lives. Scary. Really scary.

In the end I phoned the IFA lady that evening and told her to 'plug in' now rather than wait the stipulated five weeks, or maybe years. My thinking was that by the time the pensions in question were activated (about five days after giving the go-ahead), the stock market should have stabilised, and maybe risen, after crashing as a result of Greece's inability to pay back their full loan thingy. Also, I decided, guessed rather, that the stock market is unlikely to change much during the next five weeks, so it seemed pointless delaying a decision for that length of time and then getting excited or suicidal about every little stock market fluctuation between then and now. As my dad used to say "never be scared of making a decision, even though it's the wrong one." Fine in war maybe (he was military) but perhaps a bit rash in a situation about which you know nothing. 

The other factor that influenced my decision to go-ahead now rather than later, was my utter and total conviction that the UK is doomed. For the life of me, I just can't see things improving. Certainly not over the next decade or, perhaps, ever. The whole country's in debt. So much so that it's become accepted as just the way things are. Bankers and financiers are overpaid money-grabbers without an ounce of guilt or feelings of responsibility to society. And as for politicians, well, most of them are equally obnoxious. Manufacturing's had its day and very little's being done to encourage new businesses or growth. Hate to say it but, as I told myself before I jumped the channel, the country's gone to the dogs.

Nah, try as I may, I can't see things improving. Which is why I made my decision to cash in now before things get worse. Hope I'm right. But, there again, I hope I'm wrong about the UK going into decline. Hah, time will tell.    


Fall. Also known as autumn. The time of year when trees dump their leaves and shut up shop 'til spring. Arrived suddenly last week when I was away in London. Left here on the Saturday in blistering sunshine and temperatures of up to 33°. Returned on the Wednesday to cloudy skies and noticeably lower temperatures (11° yesterday according to the flashing neon sign outside the chemist's in Felletin). Bought a few logs in from the woodshed and lit the kitchen stove on Thursday for the first time in ages. Amazing how many apples had fallen (I presume that's why the Yanks call autumn 'fall') off the tree by the woodshed during the four days I was away. Same down by the apple tree at the bottom of the garden. And the lawn's now covered with leaves blown down from next door's poplars. Yup, autumn's here. Soon be spring.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

In the dead of night

Had a quick look at the outdoor thermometer yesterday. 33 degrees. 33! Amazingly hot for the last day of September. And I gather it's unseasonably hot back in the UK too. Saw people sunbathing and swimming at the seaside on the news. Lucky them.

I, however, spent most of the day stuck indoors rummaging through attic boxes searching for pension papers. Or, more specifically, highly elusive pension policy certificates. Might seem a rather odd thing to do when it's gloriously sunny outside but I need to show them to a financial adviser on Monday or Tuesday in London and I'm flying out tomorrow.

Well, I say 'tomorrow' but, as it's now 3.45am, I should have said 'today'. So what am I doing up at this ridiculously early hour? Good question. Well, quite simply, I went to bed early and woke up early. Then the dogs demanded a walk round the garden. Then I made a cuppa. Now, if I go back to bed I probably won't get to sleep (don't feel particularly tired) or, if I do eventually get to sleep, I'll probably wake up late and miss the flight.

There again, I might miss the flight anyway due to the fact that I've just realised the French bank card expired at midnight and I won't be able to use it to buy petrol to get to the airport (75 miles away). The new card is awaiting collection at our bank on t'other side of Limoges, about 120 miles away. Tried to change banks to the local one here but I got the impression it wasn't the done thing. So, my only hope is that I can get some cash out of the local bank machine using my UK bank card in a few hours time. Then pick up the new card after the flight back on Wednesday. If they're open. And if I get the flight(s).

Right; am now on my second cuppa, second fag, have just done some washing up and it's still only 4.30ish. Could have sworn it was later. Time really drags in the dead of night. There must be something really useful I could be doing to kill a bit of time..., but I can't think of anything. And now (oops!) I'm feeling a bit tired. Might go back to bed and set the alarm. Big risk though 'cos I have been known to sleep through. Maybe the dogs will wake me up. I think I'll risk it. But before I potter off to my pit, I'll load up a couple of snaps from yesterday's dogwalk. Up the lightning tree area. Bright sunshine and a clear blue sky. And, as I said, around 33°. Amazing for the time of year.


P.S. - The 7am church bells rescued moi from slumbers. Clock alarms not needed.
P.P.S. - Made it to sunny Londres.