Saturday, July 30, 2011

Looks fine to me

When Georgie and I natter on the phone, she often asks how the garden's coming along. My usual response of "looks fine to me" leaves her none the wiser, so she asks me to be a bit more specific. Not being a gardener, I then get a bit lost for words and usually mutter something like "well, I mowed the lawn and there's a sort of orangey flower that's recently appeared by those tall yellowy flowers." Further info is required which I'm sadly ill-equipped to deliver. So, moving swiftly on, she then might ask "and how is the petuniatum raptimosa coming on that I planted on my last visit?" Being somewhat less than fluent in Swahili and not having the foggiest idea of what she's on about, my hasty response of "looks fine to me" once again leaves her none the wiser. And so it goes. By this time the phone bill's rocketed and so, to save further confusion and unnecessary expense, she might ask to see a few photos - as she did yesterday. So, without further ado...


Monday, July 18, 2011


Weather changed about ten days ago. Turned windy, then storm clouds moved in. Gave the dogs a quick walk out back before the rain started. Big flash of lightning, then thunder. Dogs panicked. Managed a quick snap of Jock running for cover. Took 'em home just as the rain started. Really needed that rain. Saves the effort (and expense - we're on water meters out here) of watering the plants. Always feel a bit guilty chucking buckets of water on plants when there's a bit of a drought on. Valley stream was down to a trickle. And I imagine the local reservoir was spookily low. Been a lot cooler since that storm. Looks like high summer's over. Bit of a shame because Alain and Colette's two sons and various grand-kids (Christopher's about my height now, which ain't saying much but there you go) have just arrived from Paris for their six week summer break, along with a few relatives of other neighbours from our hamlet. Hopefully for them, the weather will improve soon.

The rose plant that Georgie bought on a recent visit, which I planted after she left, seems to be surviving. Always gave it top priority when the drought was on. Chucked the dishwater on it every evening while the other plants went without. And the apple tree outside the front door is doing equally well. Maybe because I always slung the dishwater and washing machine water on it in the weeks before we had the septic tank emptied. Georgie heard (probably on one of her gardening progs) that a good apple tree should have apples spaced about four inches apart. Well, as the photo shows, it doesn't seem to work that way out here. Ate one the other day. Bit acidic but very refreshing. Whilst on the subject of le jardin, spotted a wasps' nest in a hole in the ground. Wasps coming and going at an alarming rate. Thought about emptying a kettle of boiling water down the hole and then running like mad, but decided against it. Live and let live. They'll be gone by winter. And there's another nest in the shed, hanging from the ceiling. About the size of a small football. Looks like it's made from off-white tissue paper. Fascinating thing. Bit nervy taking the lawnmower in and out of the shed but, so far, no problem. And..., Georgie said she spotted a bees' nest in the compost heap. Haven't investigated that one. I tend to keep clear.

Haven't been doing much lately. Mainly due to following the Tour de France on telly. I'm absolutely addicted. Been watching it for about fifteen years. Ever since the days of Greg Lemond. This year's tour isn't a classic though. But maybe it'll liven up when they hit the Alps tomorrow (Tuesday). Nobody's yet grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and gone for broke. It's all a bit cat and mouse. However, the British sprinter Mark Cavendish has been performing brilliantly and currently holds the green jersey. Surely a contender for BBC's Sports Person of the Year (or whatever it's called). Trouble is, cycling's a bit low profile in the UK. Incidentally, great shame Wiggins dropped out with a broken collar bone. He was in with a great chance of winning. My personal hero so far is that chap (Hoogaloogen? Goolahoogen?) who was knocked off his bike by a car (French camera crew) and flung onto a barbed wire fence which ripped his bum and thighs and required 33 stitches. Rode the next day and, I think, is still going strong. Can't wait for the next bit of action (today's a rest day).

What else? Ah yes, my on-going cold. Had it ever since the weather changed. Getting a bit bored with the damned thing now. Raided the medicine cupboard last night for some aspirin or cold cure stuff. Lots in there but all the 'use by' dates seem to be around four or five years ago. Must chuck 'em out. I always reckon the best cure for a cold is fresh air. Loads of it. So, recently, I've been dogwalking with a sweater, fleece, rainmac and pockets stuffed with paper hankies. Not exactly yer usual attire for July. Thus dressed, I went up the Lightning Tree hill yesterday with the mutts. Raining when we left home but cleared up at the top of the hill. View splendid as ever. Took a few snaps. Well, silly not to.

Being a lazy burger rendered even lazier by a man-cold, I've been occupying my spare time by surfing the net. Fantasising about buying a UK gaff is a favourite game. However, the enjoyment factor is always considerably lessened by a budgetary constraint of around £140k. Spotted a rather nice place just outside Louth (sis's town) in Manby, Lincolnshire, for only £130k (semi-detached with garden and west-facing open fields to rear). And another one in Gosport for £145k (close to sea, needs modernising, with garage but north-facing garden; pricey compared to oop north but cheap for daan saarf due to relatively close links to London). Have also been fantasising about living on a narrowboat (website: Apollo Duck - but don't look, you'll get hooked) and cruising Britain's canals. Completely impractical of course (no room for cars or bikes) but rather fun. I get the impression many old gits of my age have had the same idea so I presume the inland waterways are getting more crowded than ever. Cost of a newish liveaboard narrowboat? About £80k. Then there's the mooring fees, licences, depreciation, upkeep (boats have to be taken out of the water, painted and fitted with new anodes - whatever they are - every five minutes) plus other costs. Nightmare. Forget it. Mind you, it's fun looking at the flashy interiors. Big question though: how do meandering boat people get their post?

And while I'm rambling on, what a joy to hear of that portly Scottish couple winning £161million on the lottery. Bless 'em. Reminds me of a couple of years ago when I fantasised about spending the paltry £90million(?) that another couple won. Am tempted to repeat the exercise by surfing the net once more for French chateaux, Porsches, holiday homes, etc. But that'll be a complete waste of time. Far better to get dressed, walk the dogs, hop in the car to Aubusson and buy some paint to re-do the front door and shutters. And maybe get some cold cure stuff.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Birthday boy. Wee Jockie. Ten today. That's seventy in doggy years. Knocking on a bit but still powering those short, stumpy legs over daily marathon runs (for a Westie). Seems only yesterday that he was just a little white ball of mischievous fluff. My, how tempus fugits. Bon anniversaire laddie. Extra grub treat tonight.

Sneezy wheezy

Ah, summer. Sunny and warm with really long evenings. Marvellous time of year. Especially when the air is heavy with the wonderful aroma of freshly cut hay and the sound of distant tractors. Local farmers have been out 'til all hours cutting the tall, golden grasses, then stacking the bales in barns. Or wrapping them in shiny plastic and leaving them piled in fields ready for winter.

Went up the 'lightning tree' area for a dogwalk with Georgie when she was here a week ago. Farmer and his lads were cutting their fields on the hottest day of the year. Then loading the bales on an old trailer and chugging them off down to their barns. Watched from the top of the hill. Gave us a cheery wave. All very 'Cider With Rosie'.

Went up there again on Saturday evening, on my own (Georgie's returned to the UK), but with the dogs. All very peaceful. The tractors have done their stuff, the grass is cut and two rows of shiny, black bales now await winter; one in the top field and the other under trees down below. Did the same walk we'd done a week previously. Noticed the wild flowers that Georgie had pointed out. Bees and butterflys still as busy as ever. Then sneezed. Didn't feel like hay fever, felt more like a cold. Probably the one Georgie had when she came over. Brilliant. High summer and I catch a cold. After living out here for six years I suppose my resistance ain't what it used to be.

Woke up Sunday with all the symptoms of a proper cold, despite the gloriously sunny weather. No problem, just take it easy and spend the day in front of the telly watching MotoGP from Mugello, Tour de France, men's final from Wimbledon, then maybe get dressed for a leisurely early evening's dogwalk before a medicinal scotch in the evening sun, a quick spag bol and an early night.

Phone rang at about 11am. Thought it was Georgie so I answered. Isabelle. Come round and join us for lunch, loads of people coming. Er..., I'm watching MotoGP (amazing how some women just don't understand that bikes can sometimes be far more important than lunch). Well, come round when it's over (bless her, she said this thinking it'd be over by about 1.30 - it actually finished at around 3, well into their lunchtime extravaganza). In all the nervous excitement of explaining my need to watch MotoGP, I'd completely forgotten to mention the fact that I was at death's door with a vicious cold. And had I mentioned that fact, she probably wouldn't have believed me - it being high summer and all.

At about 1.30, Isabelle's son Hadrien turned up. I opened the window (first floor), dressed in my dressing gown. He asked when I was coming round. Told him the bikes wouldn't finish 'til about 3. Told me to come round after for a late afternoon aperitif. Said okay and went back to my MotoGP. Watched the bikes, then le Tour and Wimbledon. Reluctantly got dressed, walked the dogs, fed 'em and wandered down to Isabelle's. No-one there. Returned home, had sunny evening scotch on the front lawn, prepared spag bol, watched Top Gear and a couple of other progs then went to bed.

Am now probably in the doghouse with Isabelle. Suppose I'll have to go round there and apologise for no-show with excuse of bad cold. Didn't want to give it to all your guests. I shall now practice that line in French. It'll probably come out as 'I not want to give you, your mother, your friends and all the other warthogs, a dose of the clap' (as she raises an eyebrow and tries to work out what her lunatic neighbour is on about). Ooh, life does get complicated at times.

Anyway, on a brighter side, some snaps from Saturday's dogwalk, if only to remind me of high summer when I'm freezing in the depths of winter...


Friday, July 1, 2011

Funny goings-on next door

Friday is market day in Felletin. I often think about going down there and buying a few bits of stuff but usually leave it too late (they pack up around mid-day). However, as I fell out my pit early ├že matin, I thought I'd make a determined effort to get down there well before the Felletin church bells clanged twelve. Walked the dogs, had a wash, shave and cuppa, then set off reeking of some hideous after-shave that's obviously well past its 'use by' date. Arrived about 11.30. Gloriously sunny. Bought a baguette, two mini quiches, strawberries, cherries, carrots, some tiny tomatoes and two cheeses, then grabbed a coffee at my fave caff where I lashed out on a packet of Golden Virginia and Rizlas then headed back home (though quite why I mention all that, I really don't know - it's of no interest to anyone).

Arriving in our hamlet, I turned left at the church and passed by the old presbytery which is currently being renovated. As the builders were at lunch (lunch hour in France is from 12 'til 2!) I thought I'd nip in there and take some snaps.

Interesting story about the renovation project (well, it's interesting to me anyway)... When we first came here the house was occupied by the (then) mayor. Presumed he owned it. Turned out he didn't. He actually lives down in Felletin but, by virtue of his position as mayor, (I presume) he was able to reside there due to it being owned by the state. Lovely old house with original features but a bit run down. An estate agent would describe it as having 'loads of potential' (i.e. it's a wreck).

Anyway, just after the new mayor (local farmer) took over, the old mayor moved back to Felletin and the house was left empty. Then all us locals were invited to a meeting at the local Mairie for the official announcement of the renovation plans by various high-ranking big-wigs. I went along out of curiosity. Discovered that the house was to be 'sympathetically' renovated at a cost of 350,000 euros (about £320,000) and project managed by a team of proper architects and specialist builders, all of whom were noted for their expertise in renovating old buildings. At the end of the meeting it was announced that the state would be grateful for donations towards the building costs. Quite surprised me as most of the locals (indeed, most of the inhabitants of the entire Limousin region) are, like me, completely skint. Georgie reckons we should donate about 250 euros. I reckon zero. Led to a lively discussion when she was over here last week.

Anyway (no, I've used that intro already)... Furthermore (that's better), when the house is eventually finished, I understand it will be rented out (presumably at a discounted rate) to a local young family. Great idea as the hamlet could do with some younger faces. That's what I like about rural France: proper socialism. Wouldn't get that in the UK. Come to think of it, the UK government wouldn't dream of spending 320k on a wreck of an old house that'll only be worth around 250k when renovated. And if they did, you can bet your boots the new occupier would be an upper crust politician or council executive, not some penniless mob of peasants. I await further developments with interest, as they say. In the meantime, a few snaps...


Woke up early this morning. About 5.30am (4.30 in the UK). Just getting light. Staggered downstairs and made a cuppa. Dogs bleary-eyed at the top of the stairs wondering why I'd got out of bed way before getting-up time. With curiosity getting the better of them, they slowly descended the stairs while the kettle was boiling. Stood by their bowls. Gave 'em fresh water and a few dog bics. Then they stood by the door. Let 'em out for a morning breather. Lovely fresh air before sunrise. Had a quiet wander round in my dressing gown then we all went back indoors. Dogs went back to bed, but I didn't. Once I'm up, I'm up. Switched on the laptop with the intention of replying to various chums' emails. Bean (bean? - er, 'beeeen') meaning to reply for ages. But, once again, didn't quite get around to it. Attention diverted by BBC news and sports websites. Then transferred some donkeys out of my Daily Telegraph fantasy cricket team (currently languishing in 5825th position) and replaced them with some proper players; an exercise that involved much studying of statistics and form. Such things keep an old man amused. Then decided to do a list of all the things I have to do. There are loads of 'em. Trouble is, I keep forgetting what they are. Hence the need for a list. Dug out a Biro and an old envelope and was just about to scrawl 'check dogs vet dates etc' when I suddenly realised I wasn't alone. A visitor had dropped in. Boris I call him. And he's a rather splendid chap. 'Course, if he's a her, she's Doris not Boris...