Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shrinking violet

Been a bit lazy on the bloggeauing front lately. Had a few weeks when nothing much happened (apart from the weather and dogwalking, and I'm sure my reader/s out there is/are bored rigid with all that kinda stuff), followed by a week when Georgie popped over. As my main reason for writing this drivel is to keep her informed of what's going on, there's not much point in scribing stuff when she's out here. Besides that, as I often think when I haven't blogged for a bit, it seems daft to expose one's own private little world to the scrutiny of a global audience who may not have the slightest interest in what one gets up to. Mind you, by 'global audience' I probably mean a couple of old chums who very kindly 'pop in' to check how I'm getting on from time to time. I really haven't a clue who (if anyone) reads this stuff. Which is why it's always most encouraging when someone is kind enough to leave a message. Makes all the effort worthwhile (well, almost). And I'm sure it's the same for all us bloggeauers.

So..., what's new? Well, I think last time I bloggeaued I was toying with the idea of buying a Mercedes Benz 190 as a replacement for my old Golf GTi. Glad to say I'm now the proud owner of said vehicle. (Click photos to enlarge.)

It really is a belter: a 1991 model with a 1.8 litre petrol engine (twin chain cam, not single) that's only done 60,000 miles (if my maths is correct, that averages only 3,000 miles per year) by two previous owners, and all for the very reasonable price of 2,600 euros (about 2,300 quid?). No service history unfortunately, but the chap I bought it from (an elderly farmer who kept it as his 'second' car) assured me it had always been properly serviced. Being somewhat cynical, one of the first things I did was to drop it off at my local mechanic's for a checkover and replacement of plugs and air filter plus an oil change. Mechanic said the plugs and air filter were new so didn't need replacing, and the oil and filter looked newish but he changed them anyway. Apparently my cynicism regarding servicing had been misplaced. Reassuringly, the mechanic said the underside was in superb condition with not a sign of rust or corrosion anywhere. I'm left with the impression that many people in France (and perhaps the UK too) are unloading cars that don't fall into the 'economy' class due to recent hikes in petrol prices - out here a litre of 95 octane costs between 1.50 and 1.75 euros (that's about 1.40 to 1.50 quidish) depending where you buy (1.52 euros at our local supermarshay, spelt rong on poipose 'cos I dunno where these stupid accents are, - maybe 1.80 or more on motorways). Having said that, I was somewhat surprised yesterday when I did 150 miles (drove Georgie to Limoges airport) on a quarter tankful (according to the fuel gauge) which works out at about 50mpg (not exactly an accurate assessment but, nevertheless, looks promising). A lot to be said for cruising at 60mph (French limit on ordinary roads), in top gear, with a light throttle foot, on open roads with hardly any traffic.

Anyways..., back to Georgie's visit. Picked her up from Limoges airport a week ago last Saturday (the 12th?) at about 9.15am (French time) after the poor wee thing had endured a night of wandering around Stansted airport (she worked late so was unable to grab a couch) in order to catch an early morning flight (6am ish, UK time). Had a morning stroll around Limoges (bit dull and rainy) searching for a dressing gown (my old one was a shadow of its former self - huge holes in the elbows etc.), looking in shoe shops (what is it with girls and shoes?), grabbing a coffee (sat outside, under a canopy, so I could have a quick fag - windy and rainy) and caught up on news. Then drove home via the supermarshay. Still drizzly.

Stayed dull and drizzly for most of the week, which was a bit of a shame. However, Georgie, being a keen gardener, saw this as an ideal opportunity to do a bit of weeding, pruning, digging and planting. Dragged her away from her labours a couple of times - once to visit Aubusson to whip the battery out of my garaged and slumbering camper, and once to whizz down to Beaulieu to check if the barn had collapsed and to see if the ruined cottage had disappeared under brambles.

Luckily the barn seemed to be holding up, although we noticed a bit more movement over a door archway, and the brambles definitely need attention soon before they really let rip in spring. Shall have to go down there again p.d.q. armed to the teeth with chainsaw, axe, cutters and, possibly, weed killer. Trouble is, it's about 75 miles away. That's a total of four hours' driving. Which doesn't leave long for actual work. Then there's the question of whether to take the dogs or not. Without them, I could have a three day session down there staying in a cheap hotel. With them, I have to get back each day. Other things I have to do are to arrange short meetings (or phone chats) with the mayor and the road digger man just to inform them that we haven't forgotten about the barn and to find out if we still have permission to go ahead with whatever, should we decide to do so. Then, of course, there's costings. Ooh, too much to think about.

Barn visit done, we then nipped into Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne for a quick wander round and a coffee. Out of season, Beaulieu seems a lot less 'poncy' and so, perhaps for the first time, Georgie seemed to warm to the place, which I found rather encouraging. Add that to the fact that she didn't seem to be totally against the barn (she isn't totally for it either) and maybe there's a glimmer of hope that its purchase wasn't entirely bonkeurs (pretty close though). The only problem is... we're skint. Still, c'est la vie. The dream (or is it nightmare?) continues.

Typically, on her last day the weather improved. Bright sunshine and a clear blue sky. Spent most of the day in the garden again, transplanting a few bushes and chucking a thorny one out (big trubs with big roots). Then I decided to dig up a damp spot that we thought might be a drain off point of the fosse septique (cesspit). Discovered what appears to be a hole in the top of the tank or inspection box thingy. Water (grey?) draining straight out. Shoved a tile on the hole and replaced the damp earth. Now have to get a specialist in. Asked Christian if he knows anyone. Said he'll give it some thought. Disastrous as this leak may be, it could mean we'll soon discover the exact whereabouts of the mysterious (and, no doubt, antiquated) fosse septique that the neighbours have assured us exists somewhere out front (no sign of any inspection covers or ventilation shafts).

Finished off the afternoon with a leisurely dogwalk up the cemetery run. Showed Georgie the violets and periwinkles that I'd discovered up there. She seemed rather impressed. Then spotted a pink primrose. Didn't have my camera so Georgie took some shots. Then ambled up to the hillside field across the valley from our hamlet. Sun low, directly to the west at this time of year. Spring equinox, or whatever it's called.

Went up there again, late yesterday afternoon, after I'd returned from seeing off Georgie at Limoges airport. This time with my camera. Another wonderfully sunny evening. Walked the same route. Sad not having the full team there. Just me and the dogs. Stood and looked across the valley as we had done the day before. At that moment, looking north, way beyond the hamlet, somewhere over the horizon, I suddenly thought of Georgie sitting in a coach, on the outskirts of London, maybe stuck in a rush-hour traffic jam. And here I am with not a car in sight, standing in the shadow of a circling hawk, lazily cadging a lift on whatever you call those warm, rising winds (ah, 'thermals'). Felt very guilty.

Went home and knocked up cabbage, mash and a pork chop. Georgie rang about halfway through to say she'd arrived safely. She'll be out again in a month. By which time I have to plant a blackberry bush and a raspberry that she didn't quite manage to get around to. And I have to make sure all the things she did manage to plant get watered and don't die. Big responsibility. Especially for someone who hasn't a clue about gardening. Ah well, better get digging.

1 comment:

  1. I would have felt guilty, too. Such tranquility is priceless.