Thursday, February 23, 2012


Even though we've had a welcome spot of sunshine over the last few days, the snow and ice hasn't completely disappeared. Indeed, in those areas away from direct sunlight, there's hardly been any difference. Like the 'cemetery run' for instance, which the mutts and I skated along late yesterday afternoon. Really slippery with a surface of solid ice. But where the track opened up into sunlight, there was no sign of snow and ice. Just watery mud. Took a few snaps of the sunlight on the trees and the view towards our hamlet - our house is just visible above the second post on the left. While taking these snaps I noticed the mutts had disappeared. Found 'em a couple of minutes later just inside the woods. They'd found a recently dug pit (a bit like a grave) which contained a few bits of skinned deer, probably discarded after the 'chasse' of a fortnight ago. Gave 'em a right bollocking and shoo-ed Jock out of the pit while Sprock ran past me with a shinbone and trotter clenched between his fangs. Eventually caught up with the little blighter and managed to prise the bone from his gob, but ended up with a hand soaked in smelly old blood, or it may have been mud. Did a bit of a clean up in the frozen snow and headed back along the frozen track, slipping and sliding as Sprock dragged me along with his lead. Forgot to take some photos 'cos I was too busy ranting. Ah well, ç'est la vie.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I hesitate to say it but maybe that freezing cold spell might be over. And about time too.

After what seemed like weeks of snow and ice with temperatures hovering around minus 10, it came as a welcome surprise to see sunshine and blue skies on Saturday. Immediately put the washing machine on and rattled off three loads. Then gave Jock a much needed shampoo (can't really do it indoors and it's been far too cold outdoors recently). He could do with a haircut too, but I think I'll wait 'til it gets a bit warmer.

 Whilst hanging the rags on the line, I noticed a couple of daffs beginning to poke through the grass. Then some snowdrops and a crocus and a white flower with a yellow centre (haven't a clue what it is but it's rather pretty). Encouraging signs of early spring. Or maybe I'm speaking too soon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Neighbours Isabelle and Christian often suggest it's about time I invited them round for one of my cordon bleu dinners in return for the hundreds of nosh-ups they've given me over the years - it's one of their little jokes because they know I can't cook and the house is unfit for human habitation. However, Isabelle suggested I could repay their hospitality by taking them out to Aubusson's Lion d'Or restaurant which is reckoned to be one of the finest in the area. Seemed like an excellent idea. Also, it would be an ideal opportunity to repay Elizabeth and Jean-Marc for inviting me to dinner a couple of times with Izzy and Chrissy. So Isabelle made the booking and the five of us went along for 8pm last Saturday.

Next day, Georgie phoned (from London) and asked what we'd had to eat (she likes to know these things, especially the puddings). Couldn't really remember but I did have photographic evidence which I shall attempt to load up. As I was paying for our jolly soirée, I half expected my hungry chums to go for the most expensive stuff on the menu. But, of course, they're all far too polite to do such a dastardly thing. So we went for the 35 euro set menu (very reasonable price, as it transpired). Naturally, the mineral waters and slimline tonics bumped up the bill a tad, but hang the expense.

Starter was a foie gras. Then a sort of crab soup with chewy (octopus?) bits (?) - I've no idea, but it was delicious. Then a main course of Limousin beef (I think), followed by a goat's cheese in pastry thingy (could be wrong, I'd had a couple of slimline tonics by then). Next, er, pudding? I may have missed out a course (too many mineral waters). If it was the pudding, I've completely forgotten what sort it was. Luckily, the photo reminds me it was a, er, dunno actually, but it did have a tasty orange peel bit on top. Then coffee and biccies with a refreshing glass of Lucozade (looks remarkably like brandy but don't be fooled).

A splendid soirée. Many thanks to our 'maitre de' for saving me the embarrassment of entertaining my chums 'chez moi'. If ever you're in Aubusson visit the Lion d'Or. It's a real treat.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Nice and sunny outside. Well, when I say 'nice' I really mean 'freezing cold'. Minus 8 according to the thermometer. And that was when the sun was at its highest. Still, not as bad as the minus 13 the other day. And nowhere near as bad as the minus 20 (whaaaat?!) that neighbour Hadrien claimed was flashing on the neon sign when he arrived for work at the La Courtine furniture factory at 7am yesterday morning. Yup, sure is chilly. Trouble is, when the sun shines the snow starts melting and then the water turns to ice at sundown. Makes for some interesting icicles, such as those on my car yesterday afternoon. Had to chip them off with a broom handle before driving down to Felletin. Going downhill through the foresty section was a bit tricky. Solid ice on the road in the shadow of the trees. Took it really steady. Eventually hit the main road which was clear as a bell. No ice to be seen. Probably because the lads who grit and salt the roads had been working overtime. Stocked up with more bread and stuff at the supermarket then headed back home. Wheelbarrowed some more logs indoors and gave full throttle to the kitchen stove. Knocked up a spag Bol. Dogs in pole position in front of the fire. Then they'd start panting due to the intense heat and demand to be let out for a cool down. Then, after a quick wee, they'd get a bit chilly and demand to go back indoors, where they'd overheat in front of the fire again. So out they'd go again. And in they'd come again. Drives me bonkers all this inning and outing.

Had a wee visitor this morning. A vole. Searching for bits of grub around the dogs' bowls. Seemed completely oblivious to my presence. Or maybe he (or she) just couldn't give a monkey's 'cos he (or she) hadn't seen a humanoid before. Had the dogs been in they'd have gone bananas. But they were outside at the time. Watched the vole scurrying around for a few minutes, totally entranced. Got a bit worried when it balanced precariously on the lip of the dogs' water bowl. Sniffed the water but luckily didn't fall in (had a few voles last year that dropped in and, er, dropped in and drowned). Then Sprocket barked. One of his 'help!' barks. Nipped outside and, sure enough, he'd wrapped his rope around the granite water trough and got stuck. So I freed the blighter and dragged him indoors. Then spotted a very sad sight...


Friday, February 3, 2012

Bit chilly

So..., this Siberian weather continues. Best to stay indoors. Trouble is, the dogs need walking and wood needs to be brought in from the shrinking woodpile, both of which mean shivery forays into the grey and freezing not-so-great outdoors. Preparations for leaving the house currently take a bit longer than usual. Military Gore-Tex boots have to be warmed before being dragged onto freezing feet, laces have to be pulled and tied with numb fingers, then a second sweater has to be donned before squeezing into a thick fleece topped off with a woolly scarf and, finally, a comical fur-lined hat with ear flaps. It's a look that's unlikely to gain applause on the catwalks of London or Paris fashion houses, but out here in these conditions it's compulsory attire.

Dressed thus, I drove down to Felletin yesterday to stock up with a few provisions and noticed the flashing sign outside the chemist's indicating minus 8 degrees. Drove back home and had a quick look at the thermometer nailed to the shed. Minus 13. Hah! Cissy townies don't know the meaning of the word 'cold'. Warmed up a bit by wheelbarrowing some wood indoors and chainsawing some other logs in half  for the smaller upstairs stove (stock of original smaller logs already exhausted). Then prepared for an evening in. Shoved some chicken bits in the oven and poured a medicinal scotch. Phone rang. Dammit. Isabelle demanded I come down for crepes (apparently yesterday was France's equivalent of Shrove Tuesday, despite being Thursday). Turned the oven right down, donned my fur hat and legged it down there in slippers (couldn't be arsed to don shoes), clutching my scotch. Had a very pleasant nosh-up and returned home. Checked the chicken and luckily it seemed fine. Might re-heat and nosh ce soir, but Georgie said something about re-heating meat can result in death so I might give it to the dogs. Went to bed at around midnight, mighty grateful to whoever invented the 'leccy blanket.

Woke this morning to a welcome bit of sunshine. Still chilly out though. Chopped up some bread for the birds. Then some more. Tough time for those poor little buggers out there. Shall now get dressed and get some more wood in. Definitely need stacks tonight. Clear skies mean even chillier nights. Hah! Bring 'em on!