So, another winter week slides gently by. Started off chilly and ended up sunny. Quite a change. Even managed to do the washing yesterday and it dried within a couple of hours. Also hung the two duvets (yes two; as I said, it's been chilly) out the boudoir windows for a much needed airing. Amazing the difference a bit of proper sunshine makes, especially after enduring winter's freezing conditions for what seems like months. I didn't realise it before we moved here but the Creuse region is one of France's coldest during winter. When looking at the weather map of France, our area often has a minus figure with a snowflake symbol when all the others have plus figures with orange sun graphics. Still, we have cleaner air, prettier countryside and hardly any traffic, so can't complain.
Talking of traffic, I spent most of last week waiting for a phone call from the VW garage at Ussel to tell me that my Golf was ready for collection. Call never came so I rang them up. Turned out they were waiting for me to arrive and pick it up. Bit of a communication breakdown. Anyway, Saturday afternoon I drove down to Felletin in the dogwagon, parked up and jumped on the coach to Ussel. Extremely enjoyable trip through thirty miles of beautiful countryside on a bright, sunny day. Made a few detours to remote villages on the way to pick up passengers. There weren't any. So the coach arrived at Ussel having carried just two passengers: myself and another person from Felletin. Struck me that had this been the UK, the government would immediately discontinue this particular bus service. At least at week-ends (it's busier during the week with shoppers and schoolkids). So, well done France.
Arrived at the VW garage. Very apologetic mechanic explained that the replacement digital dashboard I'd sourced from eBay didn't work. So I now had two non-functioning 'Digifiz' thingies (Google it for details). Asked me which one I wanted him to fit. Told him he may as well fit the original as I had a potential buyer turning up next week who apparently had a functioning 'Digifiz' unit. Hung around for an hour reading car mags and scoffing a petit quiche. Then paid the bill - just 24 euros (about 21 quid) - expected it to be around 100 but I think they felt they couldn't charge the proper hourly rate because the problem hadn't been fixed through no fault of their own (unlikely to happen comme ca back in the UK!). Then drove home via the petrol station (with non-functioning Digifiz dashboard, I hadn't a clue how much petrol was in the tank, if any - turned out it was nearly full). Had to guess my speeds through the speed restricted areas. Guessing 50, 70 and 90 kilometres per hour can be rather fun..., until you get caught going over the limit or bashed up the rear for going too slowly.
Arrived home about sixish, walked and fed the dogs, got some more wood in and lit the fires. By now it was about sevenish and the match (France v. Scotland wugger) had already started. Christian and Isabelle had invited me round to watch the game and have some supper. As usual, I was late. Caught the second half though. Despite losing, Scotland played some good stuff and it was a fine game. Certainly far better than the drivel served up by England and Wales the previous evening (watched it round at C and I's - indeed, the match was so dreary that Christian fell asleep towards the end). During supper, Christian said he'd drive me down to Felletin on to pick up the dogwagon the following day (Sunday) on his way to the boulangerie (baker's) and chasse (hunt). Just turn up at 7.30 Sunday morning.
Wobbled off home and watched Match of the Day. Set the alarm for 6.45 (5.45 in Blighty). Gave the dogs a quick run up the old granite cross. Had been a clear night so there was a heavy frost. Reported at Christian's on the dot of 7.30 (I'm rarely on time). Chauffeured down to Felletin and began scraping the ice off the dogwagon. Christian told me to start the engine to get her warmed up (I think he thought it may not start due to the freezing cold). Once it started, he waved a cheery farewell and headed off to the boulangerie and chasse. Took me a good ten minutes to clear the ice off the windows. Then thought that while I'm in town I may as well go to the boulangerie and get some fresh bread. Or maybe Christian had been kidding - would the boulangerie be open at such an early hour on a Sunday morning? Most unlikely.
Arrived at the town square and the place was packed. Took ages to find a parking spot. Chasseurs and 4x4 vehicles everywhere. Queued for bread and croissants then nipped next door to the 'Huit a Huit' (8 'til 8) shop for a few provisions. Took a bit of mickey taking from a couple of the lads about Scotland losing to France. And all this at around 8am on a Sunday morn (7am back in Blighty). Everything in France happens earlier than in the UK. People go to bed earlier (generally around 9.30pm) and get up earlier (around 6.30am). I keep forgetting this. Trouble is, because I watch UK telly in the evenings, I sort of get fooled into UK time. So, after the news and Match of the Day, I think it's about midnight. But it's really an hour later. So, by the time I get to bed, the rest of France has already been asleep for three or four hours. No wonder I looked like a zombie as I wandered around the town square, surrounded by all these mickey-taking, bushy-tailed chasseurs, all ready for a full day's hunting and shooting out in the hills.
Drove back home just as the sun was hitting the hilltops. An hour later, all signs of frost had completely disappeared. Bright sunshine and a clear blue sky. Resisted the temptation to go back to bed and get some kip. Did afforementioned washing and a few other chores. Strung up an extra little washing line 'twixt apple tree and granite objet d'art poking out of the lawn. Noticed a few daffs appearing. And the first sign of a crocus bud. Woohoo! Maybe winter's over. Nah..., I remember it snowing last year in May. Yes, May. Apple blossom covered with snow. Quite extraordinaire.
Anyway, yesterday was definitely summery. Not springy, but summery (should seasons have caps?). So took the camera on the evening's dogwalk. Took a few snaps up at the Lightning Tree circuit (oh no! - not again!? - yes, again). They may bore everyone senseless but they keep me amused. Then went home, listened to the second half of Chelsea v. Liverpool, lit the kitchen stove, read a bit more of Keith Richards' brilliant book 'Life', knocked up egg and chips, nodded off in front of the telly, woke up at 6am with a scrunched-up moosh and went to bed, fattygayed. Up again now. Another sunny day.
Fish, milker, garlic......
3 days ago