Monday, June 25, 2012

Making hay, sun shining

Stepped out yesterday morning with the rabids just as a massive tractor thundered past towing a trailer that was carrying about a dozen haybale rolls. Set off up the back lane and, sure enough, the field on the left that had been full of cut grass was now full of bales, all waiting to be carted off to various barns as winter cattle feed. However, the field on the right had no bales, just cut grass drying in the sun.

Turned right at the granite cross and ambled along the tree tunnel towards the mushroom forest, passing a field on the right where the farmer and one of his sons were busy with their tractors. The farmer's tractor had a massive circular rake thing on either side which piled the cut grass (had been drying in the sun for a couple of days) into neat rows. The son's tractor then followed up behind with a big boxy trailer thingy which scooped up the grass and then spat it out the rear as rolls wrapped in clear plastic. Then the other son followed up with the trailer and carted them off. Wonderful to watch.

Stopped for a quick chat with the farmer. As usual, I stated the glaringly obvious. Told him they all looked very busy. He replied by saying that they were trying to get all the grass baled up, and some of it stored, before nightfall because he reckoned it might rain tomorrow (wet grass is not good for storing - the thin plastic wrapper provides short-term waterproofing). As I stood there in shorts and teeshirt, sweating buckets in the hot sunshine, I found it hard to believe that rain was coming. Still, these farmer lads know their weather a lot better than Michel Poisson. (Bit of rain this morning, not a lot, so the farmer was right.) Thought it best to keep out of their way, so pottered off back home.

Wandered off up the back lane again in late afternoon. In the field on the left, only a few bales remained, while the field on the right was now dotted with rolls. Great! This meant we now had our 'back fields circuit' walk back again - haven't been able to walk there recently due to the long grass. Set off up the top of the hill, taking a few snaps on the way, and admired the view that I'd been  missing for a couple of months. On a sunny evening like this, at this time of year with bales dotting the landscape, it really is a splendid experience.

Ducking under a barbed wire fence, we then entered the field at the back. The morning's cut grass was now baled up and the field was dotted with rolls. Spotted a few hawks perched on distant rolls, presumably searching for fieldmice or voles darting along tracks that had, until recently, been hidden from view. Then Sprocket spotted the hawks and he was off - he chases hawks and rooks, never catches them of course, just ends up jumping at the sky. Jock too. Bonkers. Bit further on, we entered the field in which I'd earlier been chatting to the farmer. The bales had gone and it was now deserted apart from a lone tractor, its engine silent but crackling as it cooled.

Then on past the granite cross and down the back lane for home. Heard a tractor rumble behind so put the dogs on the leads and stood to the side. That lone tractor in the deserted field was back in action. Didn't come along the lane though, went instead into the low field where it speared a couple of bales back and front then headed off to the village barn. Then, presumably, back into whichever field his dad and brother were working.

Just before home, we had a final look into the top field where rooks were feeding. Sprock spotted them and assumed battle stations, pulling at his lead. Managed a quick snap before he pulled me over - rook just to the right of nearest bale, but hardly visible! Then home. The distant rumble of tractors continued well after sundown. Busy time of year for the lads.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The longest day

21st June. Last Thursday. The longest day of the year. I spend months looking forward to it, all through the grey depths of winter, and then it finally arrives. Trouble is, it's over in the blink of an eye and then the evenings start creeping in again - always a disheartening thought - and before you know it, it's winter. Ah well, ç'est la vie.

One of the joys of the longest day is watching the sun setting at its most northerly point. Missed it this year due to watching the Portugal/Sweden Euros quarter final on telly. However, before the match, I enjoyed a quick dogwalk up the back lane to the granite cross and beyond when the sun was still fairly high on the left even though it must have been about 8.15pm.

In the fields on either side of the lane, the farmers had been out cutting the tall grasses with their tractors and mowers, and the air was dusty with pollen. Took a few photos of the freshly cut grass which will be left to dry in the sun for a few days before being rolled into bales and stacked in barns, or wrapped in plastic and stacked in fields, in readiness for cattle feed in winter. Then, when it's all been baled up and carted off, we'll have our top fields back again for dogwalks; the grass has been too long for walking in lately - the dogs get ticks and there's a danger of snakes.

Ambling back home I took a snap of the tree shadow hitting the side of the house. Took one last year at sunset when the shadow was bang in the middle of the wall. Would have been there this year about halfway through the Portugal/Sweden match when I was curled up in front of the telly. Then took a snap of the house shadow hitting the churchyard tree. Seems strange to think that in just six months' time that shadow will be way up to the left at about 4pm - that's in the unlikely event of there being sunshine on the shortest day. Strange too that on the longest day of the year I should be thinking of being snowed-in in winter. Very odd.


Georgie's asked if the 'whatever-it's-called' (can't remember the name) has come out yet. "What's a 'whatever-it's-called' (still can't remember the name)?" I asked. "It's a blue flower, down on the bottom right," she informed. Looked out the window (the phone's upstairs, which is why I rarely get to answer the damned thing when it rings - usually stops ringing just as I've run up the stairs and am about to breathlessly pick up the receiver) and spotted a bit of blue. "Yup, there's something a bit bluey down there," I muttered.  A photo was inevitably demanded so I've taken a few snaps of it and some other things. These include the couple of (out-of-focus) gooseberries that the beetles haven't yet noshed, some promising looking raspberries, some lupins (a rarity among flowers in that I actually know what they're called) and a few other flowery things. Have also included a photo of wee Jocky enjoying the delights of our garden at this wonderful time of year. Note the recently mowed lawn - sweated buckets doing that in blazing sunshine at a time when, as I understand it, the UK is beset by torrential rain and serious flooding. Tee-hee, tough luck chaps.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


June. Hah! Crap weather. Raining. Too wet to mow the lawn. Lazy Sunday. Might as well waste a bit of time doing a bloggeau posting. So here goes...

As mentioned in my recent post 'You Okay?', I cancelled a bike service appointment at BMW Limoges due to awful weather and getting up late. Re-arranged the service for 8th June - that's last Friday, a couple of days ago.

Woke up at 5.30 which, I thought, allowed plenty of time to prepare for a getaway at 7. Eventually left at 8. Things always take longer than I imagine. Then the bike wouldn't start. Flattery battery. Luckily I live at the top of a hill. Bump-started the blighter going downhill, took it easy 'til the engine was warmed up then let rip. Appointment was for 9am. Gave me an hour to do a 75 mile trip that normally takes two hours by car ('B' roads littered with speed limits). Arrived at 9.20. Not bad considering there was an 8 mile detour through country lanes due to a road closure. Summonses for speeding haven't arrived yet but are half expected.

Dropped the bike off. Told to return at 3 for collection. Asked if they had a 'courtesy' bike spare. Apparently not. The two customers who'd arrived on time had nabbed 'em. Dammit, was now marooned in the suburb of Nowheresville on the edge of town with six hours to kill. Left my crash helmet and waterproofs behind the reception desk and waddled off in the general direction of Limoges, not really knowing how to get there. Maybe a taxi, if such things exist in Nowheresville. Ambling along in the dandelions and discarded fag packets of a dusty roadside edge in the shadows of lorries thundering outa town while breathing diesel fumes and wearing full leathers and bike boots in sunshine ain't funny. Soon gets sweaty. And mind-numbingly boring.

Half a mile up the road I spotted a distant tram turning left at a roundabout. Right, follow its route and there should be bus stop. Somewhere. Maybe. Found one and then tried to make sense of the timetable and map. Seemed a number 4 went to the city centre. Could be a long wait up here in Nowheresville. Wrong. A number 4 turned up almost immediately. 1.30 euros to Limoges. Brill. About twenty minutes later I sat outside a city centre caff swigging a grand crème and smoking a rollie, idly watching the world go by.

Killed a bit of time just drifting around unknown alleys and lanes. Then ones I'd walked before with Georgie. The same cat sat in the same scruffy gallery window. Remembered I had my camera in the rucksack. Snapped a snap as the cat napped. Then drifted on, wobbling up cobbled streets without a plan or aim, other than to kill a bit more time. Ended up in the covered market at the centre of town. Little old ladies nattered and eyed up wares while their little old men gathered at the bar chewing the fat and chattering while swigging morning vinos and espressos with liquorice Ricard chasers. Veg stalls, cheese stalls, meat stalls, fish stalls, all busy doing business. Loads of colours, smells and noises. Took a few more snaps then back into the outdoor sunshine. Took a snap of the impressive trompe-l'oeil artwork on the side of the building opposite, overlooking the popular outdoor café terrace. A great way to make a uninteresting wall interesting.

The cool of a church provided welcome relief from the heat of the street and the busy comings and goings of people doing this and that. It's a favourite church of mine simply because it's so different to the hustle and bustle of the streets outside. And it has a remarkable architectural feature: its supporting columns have been forced outwards under the weight of the roof over the centuries. Verticals ain't vertical no more. Bit worrying. The roof could come crashing down anytime. Or maybe sometime. Or maybe never. Ignoring the possibility of bringing the house down, a small but enthusiastic congregation of oldies belted out a hymn as I quietly headed for the exit not wishing to interrupt their adoration of the Lady Mary with the attention-diverting presence of a biker dressed in sweaty old leathers brandishing a camera.

Outside, an old boy lazily played an accordian under a street lamp on a corner. An upturned cap at his feet. A couple of coins showed it wasn't his day. I chucked in a few more and asked if I could take his photo. He smiled and nodded. I took three. Deleted 'em later 'cos the light was wrong. Still, such things happen when you're killing time.

By now it was around 11.30ish. Half an hour before the workers burst onto the scene for lunch. Half an hour of peace and quiet and another coffee at a café where there was the certainty that I'd have an outside table to myself. Chose one underneath the trompe-l'oeil painting. Sat in the shade of the entrance while others chose to sit in the blazing sun. Fine if you're not balding or wearing clothing designed for warmth while doing the ton on a greasy old bike. Not so fine if you are.

The church bells clanged twelve. Offices emptied. Streets filled. Seats and tables grabbed at a thousand restaurants and bistros across town. Menus scanned. Friends met. Drinks ordered. Lovers re-united. Lunchtime in France. Everything stops for a couple of hours. But not for the cooks and waiters. Now they get busy.

Time to eat. Time for that lunchtime snack. But where? Being attired in clothing that featured an interesting selection of squashed bugs, and reeking of an odour that definitely wouldn't remind anyone of Chanel Pour Hommes or the perfume houses of Givenchy, Christian Dior or Paco Rabanne, meant that I was unlikely to be welcomed with open arms at the best restaurants in town. Or even those considered average by comparison. So, cheap and cheerful pour moi. And definitely at an outside table with an ashtray and a bit of shade.

Set off in search of a grubshop that met my low standards. Twenty minutes later I arrived at the conclusion that this search was destined to failure. Eventually remembered a little square I'd walked through a few years back. Seem to recall it having a couple of touristy-type nosh-houses with outside tables under Coca Cola parasols. Think it was down this alley on the left. Bingeau! Found it! At the main restaurant the outside tables were already full so that was a no-no. Then spotted an African place in the corner. No outside tables so that was a no-no too. Shame, 'cos I'm sure their menu would have been fun. That left one, the restaurant down the end. Looked perfect. Had outside tables, ashtrays and parasols, but no sign of any customers. Maybe it was shut. Nah, can't be. Peered through the serving hatch, spotted a bloke and asked if he was open. Looked a bit miffed at the stupidity of my question, though it could have been the realisation that my presence at one of his tables might make his business less attractive to passing trade. Either way, I was allowed a choice of tables and given a menu with a smile. Great. Chose a 12 euro 'plat de jour' menu from the blackboard instead. Plus a glass of cool vin rosé. And added a Moroccan side salad to my order. Moroccan? Hey, maybe this ain't a French caff. Maybe I'm the only customer 'cos the Frogs don't like Moroccans. Or their grub. Nah, can't be. Mind you, I've never had Moroccan grub before. Maybe it's a bit, er..., challenging. No worries. Bring it on.

The Moroccan side salad bore no resemblance to any salad I've ever seen. The olives were about the only things I recognised. The rest of it looked like a dark grey squidgy mess. Tasted fine though. Forgot to take a photo. Then the main course. Chicken with prunes and pears apparently, according to my rubbish translation of the menu. Didn't taste any pears but it had quite a few peach slices, plus prunes, egg, carrots, spud slices and greasy chicken all swimming in a scorching hot soup of various herbs and spices. Yummy. Just like being abroad. Then pud. Looked like a dwarf banana with a block of damp cake but was actually a crisp pastry thing with a tasty cake cube dripping in honey that, again, tasted deliciously herby and spicy. This was served with a glass of some liquid that smelt of herby peppermint which accompanied the pud perfectly. Then coffee. Having been first to arrive, I was last to leave. It was a thoroughly enjoyable nosh-up and I'm glad to say that I didn't eat alone - there were quite a few other customers too who, I think, all enjoyed the novelty of an extraordinary menu.

With time killed, I headed back to the bus stop opposite the big town hall and joined the line for the number four. A digital screen on the wall informed that the number four would be along in five minutes. Very hi-tech. Turned up in three. Hopped on, paid 1.30 and then had to try and remember where to get off. Luckily I recognised a few landmarks and alighted at the right stop. Arrived back at the BMW dealership at around 3. Left there at 4. Took it easy on the way home and arrived at around 6. Dogs pleased to see me back. Gave 'em a walk in sweaty leathers. Then washed and changed. Phone rang. Supper with the neighbours.

A good day. I rather like Limoges. Especially the old sector.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Visited the vet earlier this week because Sprocket was poo-ing yellow liquid with loads of compressed air. Clearly, all was not well with the poor blighter's innards. Firstly though, I checked the internet for probable causes. Seems he might be suffering from Guardia Canis (or some such title) which meant he might have drunk from a puddle containing flies' eggs, or eaten 'bad' cow poo, or, more likely, both. Ooh, he's a lad!

At the vet's, I explained the problem then hauled him onto the operating table. The vet then shoved a gloved hand up his arse (Sprock's, not the vet's) and inspected the yellow liquid. Sprock was not best pleased. Then the vet gave him an injection (ever tried holding a feisty terrier still when all he wants to do is escape or sink his fangs into whoever's trying to attack him with a sharp needle?!) and issued us with some tablets and white liquid stuff which I've been adding to his grub for the last three days. Things appear to have improved; his poos are now the correct colour and consistency, and are delivered without the previous, er, releasing of compressed air. He's well down the road to recovery.

As if one sick animal in the house wasn't enough, I then developed toothache. Nothing serious at first, but it soon got worse. Hardly slept on Tuesday night. I kept waking up every couple of hours. Found an out-of-date pack of paracetamol in the cupboard and downed three in one go. By morning, I'd developed a painful and worrying lump (an abcess perhaps?) on the side of my jaw and I felt as though I had a temperature. Not good. Spent the day on the sofa, under a blanket, watching crap telly. In mid-afternoon I forced myself up and gave the dogs a quick stroll, then headed down to the doc's.

Hadn't made an appointment but, luckily, he squeezed me in after the last patient. Strangely, he took one look at me and immediately took my blood pressure. Said it was 18 over 10 (whatever that means). Apparently somewhere below 15 over 9 is considered normal. Then he asked my weight. Didn't know, so he stuck me one the scales. I now know I'm 105 clothed and probably 100 naked. I presume that's 100 kilos, though it might be just 10. Then, even though it might be a complete waste of time because I'm obviously about to die due to lethal blood pressure and horrendous over-weightedness, the doc finally got round to inspecting my lump. Told him I'd been to the dentist a few weeks back and, possibly, that was one of the teeth he'd operated on - I think he may have replaced the filling because it may have gone a bit rotten. Prodded my lump and shone a torch in my gob. Then issued me with a prescription for two different tablets. Advised that I go to the dentist again if the problem persists.

Dropped in at the pharmacie on my way home and picked up the pills. At home, I prepared the dogs' grub and added a tablet and the white liquid to Sprock's nosh. Then I downed the two 'big-hitter' tablets that the doc had prescribed, plus a single white one from t'other box. Thought about having my customary evening scotch but vaguely remembered being informed that alcohol can reduce or negate the effects of medication. Sat down outside with a cranberry juice. Three minutes later I'd swapped it for a scotch and was somewhat gloomily pondering the likelihood of snuffing it at any moment due to heart attack caused by sky-high blood pressure. Give up smoking, give up alcohol, get more exercise. Pah, rubbish!

Took a snap of the lump yesterday. Tweaked it a bit to show how it felt, not how it was. Seems to have gone down a bit today. Maybe all those druggy things are working.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Greenery and redery

A few more snaps from the garden. The big poppies appear to be doing well and four of them have now exploded. At the bottom of the garden, I couldn't resist the temptation to take yet another photo of the house. Looks at its best at this time of year with all that greenery and the pretty irises under the kitchen window. However, Denis (pronounced 'Deni') strimmed neighbour Alain's tall grasses down our dividing line and then thought he'd do us a favour by strimming our tall grasses as well. Ah well, very kind of him but I think I preferred it as it was. I rather like the contrast between tall grass and trimmed lawn. Adds a bit of interest. Luckily he didn't strim the odd few plants that were hidden in the jungle.

Friday, June 1, 2012

June jardin

June already. Amazing how tempus fugits. Amazing too how quickly stuff grows at this time of year. Just a week away and the jardin's transformed. Flowery jobbies popping up everywhere. Took a few snaps ce matin for Georgie. She likes to see that her hard work gardening has paid off. Shame you can't be here to see it all dearie. Looks splendid. And the neighbours think so too.

Blighty and back

Dropped the mutts off at the kennels last Thursday afternoon then dashed back home to prepare for Friday's bike trip to Blighty to renew the bike's MoT. Preparations went well. Maybe too well. Had a nagging doubt that I'd forgotten something but couldn't think what. Went to bed running through my mental checklist of a million items that included oddities like earplugs, tyre inflator adaptor and tissues to clean visor, as well as more obvious items like passport and ferry ticket print-out.

Woke up at about seven. Had three hours before hit the road time. Did the washing up, pulled the duvet off my pit, unplugged telly and computer, cleared the fridge of perishables, emptied the rubbish and took the sack down the to the hamlet bins, laid out my riding gear, loaded the panniers, then sat down with a cuppa and a fag with about an hour to spare. All was going well. Maybe too well. I still had that nagging doubt that I'd forgotten something. Turned out I hadn't but there's always that chance.

Donned riding gear, departed maison and locked the front door. What to do with the key - take it or leave it in the hiding place that neighbour Hadrien knows, just in case someone needs to get into the house for whatever reason? Always a tricky decision to make. Decided to leave it in the hiding place.

Hit the road at ten. Quite misty when I woke up but now the skies were clear. Perfect biking weather, especially heading north with the sun behind. Boring motorways for 95% of the journey. Stopped off about every hundred miles or so for petrol, coffees, loos, sarnies, fags and a bit of leg stretching. French motorway stations provide a welcome break from the monotony of trundling along at 75 to 80mph on roads that all look the same after a while. Turned left before Vierzon by mistake and hit a minor road instead of the motorway to Tours. Very pretty though following the canal and river Cher for about ten miles, then hung a right and picked up the motorway again. Tours came and went, as did Le Mans. Now it was a straight run up to Caen and I was way ahead of schedule. Rather than spend four hours or so killing time in the Ouistehem ferry port, I decided to kill time by hanging around in service areas, just watching people, cars, bikes and lorries.

Hit the ferry port at eight after exactly 400 miles. Had a beer in the lowering sun, a bit of grub in the newspaper caff, then joined the ferry queue. Ship left port at about eleven. Phoned Georgie twice 'cos I knew she'd be worrying. Both times engaged.

Arrived Portsmouth at around 6.30. Another sunny day. Lucky with the weather. Stopped off at Petersfield McDonald's for a bacon butty and cuppa at around 7.15, then stopped off again for another cuppa at Liphook service station.

Then onwards through the Hindhead tunnel (for the first time!) at around 8.30, bang on time for Guildford at 9 where the MoT was booked. Halfway through the MoT test, Scott came running out with his mobile phone - Georgie, worried sick, wanted to know if I'd appeared there yet. Oops, should have rung her a third time last night.

Bike passed the test with no advisories, so I continued on my merry way to Putney. Did a bit of shopping with Georgie in Putney. Then had a couple of late afternoon beers by the river at the ever-popular Duke's Head pub where we were joined by Don. Very pleasant, especially in the sunshine.

On Sunday Georgie had a previously arranged get-together with her old work chums in West Hampstead. She tried to get me to go but, as I didn't know any of the people and I just fancied an easy day, I said I'd stay put, watch the Monaco Grand Prix and collect the shelves from Cargo with Don (Georgie had bought them on yesterday's shopping trip). Collected them and somehow squeezed the flat-packs into Don's tiny Peugeot 107 and spent a few hours assembling and clearing the required space in Georgie's boudoir (easier said than done). Both Don and I gained a few brownie points when Georgie returned from her 'party', somewhat hottish (it had been a very hot day) and a tiddly bit wibbly (the vino goes straight to her little head).

On Monday Georgie had the day off so the world was our lobster. Typically, we didn't know what to do or where to go. Rhododendrons were top of Georgie's list with Rampster(?) Gardens a strong possibility, despite having been there a number of times before. In the end we sort of headed towards Frensham Ponds - an area where we used to live. Stopped off at the Hog's Back caff, thinking we could have a cuppa whilst enjoying the splendid views, but the views were obscured by trees - typical! Then stopped off at Farnham Honda to look at bikes - silly not to. Then, as we were in our old stamping ground, I thought we'd drive past our old house on the way to Frensham and the ponds. That's drive past, not stop - I wasn't as curious as Georgie to know how the old place was looking. Anyways, we stopped. And we snooped. Just a bit. Looked like the original windows had been replaced with those plastic jobbies. And a modern front door had replaced the original. All seemed a bit too twee (maybe I've been in France too long!). But each to his, or her, own. C'est la vie. Whilst there, we bumped into one of our old neighbours, had a quick chat and caught up with the news.

Then onwards to Frensham Little Pond and the sculpture show. No sign of a sculpture show so we headed off for the caff at Frensham Great (or Big) Pond. Had a most enjoyable tea and a lemon ice-cream, followed by a quick look at the little beach.

Caff lady said that they'd had about four thousand visitors yesterday (Sunday). Eee, when I were a lad, there wasn't a caff here, there were hardly any visitors, the car park was tiny and you could access any part of the pond for a swim, unlike now - most of it's fenced off. Ah well, that's progress I guess. Very pleasant day out though.

On Tuesday, Georgie and Don had to go to work so I just pottered about the flat, taking things easy and sort of preparing for an 8pm departure for the Portsmouth ferry at 11pm. Girls arrived home at about 7pm. Had a quick nosh-up then hit the homeward trail. Boat crossing went smoothly, like crossing a pond. Not that I'd know 'cos I slept most of the way. Not in one of those seats that you have to book with your ticket, but on the carpeted floor. Comfier that way. Strange though, when I nodded off I'm sure there were quite a few people kipping near me, but when I awoke there were hardly any. They all seemed to be over the other end of the dorm. Maybe I'd been snoring. Or inadvertently trouser coughing. Or maybe both. Anyways, I awoke early and killed a bit of time before the self-serve restaurant opened by having a fag and watching the sunrise on deck. Very impressive.

Then breakfast just before we docked in port, followed by disembarkation and the open road.

Arrived home at 4.30. Knackered. Must have been a storm when I was away 'cos the electricity had clicked off and various items in the fridge and freezer had de-frosted. Also, there was water on the floor of the downstairs loo area. Damn, no ice for my much-needed scotch and dry! Emergency! Visited Isabelle and Christian. They said there'd been a storm on Saturday night. So, no electricity for four or five days. No wonder the fridge stuff had melted. Returned home after a couple of scotches (with ice!) and a bit of dinner, then kipped. Picked up the dogs on Thursday (yesterday). Cut the lawn (gosh, amazing how much it grows in a week at this time of year) and shall strim out the back just as soon as I finish writing this rubbish. Or maybe not 'cos it's a bit hot out there. Maybe this evening when it cools down.

Hah! Back in the old routine.