Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Sawed some logs and wheelbarrowed them indoors yesterday afternoon. Good job too because we had a bit of snow last night. Both stoves currently on the go. Broke up some stale bread and put it out on the kitchen window sill. Birds were getting stuck in until a stray dog appeared, put his front paws on the sill and started noshing. Poured water on him front the upstairs window. Yelped and ran off. Our dogs, of course, were going ballistic inside the front door. Barking, jumping, circling and weeing like mad. Have just cleared up the mess. Shall nip downtown this afternoon for more bread and milk. Might have to get stocked up on other stuff as well, just in case we get snowed in. Fun and games. Roll on spring.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


In the middle of the field out the back there's a little area about 10x6 feet that's riddled with holes and small surface 'runs'. I presume it's the habitat of a field mouse or vole community. The dogs always have a good old sniff down some of the holes when we pass but I move them on before they get digging. I once caught a millisecond sight of an inhabitant as it whizzed back down a hole but that's about it. Not wishing to disturb them for any longer than necessary I took a quick look at some of the holes and, interestingly, spotted a couple that were obviously toilet areas. Strange: one thinks of rodents as being filthy vermin yet these toilet areas were evidence that they have standards of hygiene that defy their reputation. I suddenly thought of parents dragging their offspring up a toilet hole for a bit of potty training. Had to laugh. Funny stuff, nature.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No comment

Don't know what's happened but there appears to be a technical malfunction in this blog's comment response mechanism. This means I'm unable to read, or respond to, any comments that people have kindly posted. Seems every time I click on 'comments', all that shows up is a blank screen. Computers - hate the things. Fine when they're behaving, but infuriating when they're not. Grr...

Another very odd thing: according to the visitor counter thingy, I normally get about half a dozen or so page views a day (thanks readers, whoever you are!), but yesterday, apparently, this number rocketed to 228. Can't be right. Surely shome mishtook. Odd. Very odd.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Bought another trials bike. This may seem a grossly irresponsible, excessive and downright frivolous act considering I have a couple of trials bikes already - three if you include the non-functioning 250 JCM that I keep forgetting about in the back of the shed. But there's logic to this apparent madness. My two main trials irons (a pristine '57 350 Ariel HT3 and a '62 'works' 250 Greeves TES) were bought as 'keepers', not to ride and bash about in mud and rocks. Which meant that, prior to this recent purchase, I was without competitive machinery. Not good for a doddery old mudplugger comme moi. Despite the fact that I haven't ridden in a trial for around seven years, I still hanker after giving it another go. Sometime. Somewhere. Hence my recent search for a possible steed. Gave myself a budget of £1500 max for one of these here 'modern' bikes (i.e. post mid-Nineties - modern to me but probably ancient to others), ideally a UK registered Dougie Lampkin replica '04 Montesa 315 in good nick, preferably with full lighting kit, speedo and all the original extras. Rare as hens' gnashers and highly sought after. My thinking was that, if I could find one, I'd get it 'vanned' out here, use it a bit, maybe attempt to get it French registered (hence the need for lights, kms speedo etc.) and then maybe sell it for a vast profit (bikes are far more expensive out here, compared to those in the UK). So, as I said, method to my madness - otherwise known as a futile attempt to justify a thoroughly irresponsible and unnecessary expense.

Spotted the bike that matched my brief on eBay. Snapped it up for £1450. Seller had a mate (Tom) who lives in the Dordogne who could 'van' it over on his next trip to France for £150 (transportation couriers charge around £500 or more). Brought it over a couple of weeks ago. Now all I had to do was to nip down to the Dordogne with my trailer and pick it up.

Arranged with Tom to go down there last Saturday. Set off at sparrow's fart on a cold and frosty morning. Bit worried about a possible snowstorm but the day eventually dawned bright and sunny. Felt a bit guilty leaving the dogs at home but they were better there than cooped up in a car for nine hours. Stopped a couple of times for a fag and a swig of Thermos coffee. Then hit the usual wall of mist as I descended into the Brive valley. Whizzed past the Brive airport turning and hammered south, turning off the motorway at Souillac. Hit the road towards Sarlat and trundled alongside the Dordogne river. All very pretty down there with the palm trees and honey-coloured stone houses, but a bit too twee pour moi. Then hung a left over the river, a few miles east of Domme. Arrived at Tom's gaff at St. Cirq Medelon(?) around 1pm, as arranged.

'Gaff', in this instance, gives a misleading impression. It's actually a mightily impressive renovation of the village chapel. And all done in just over a year. Did most of the renovation work himself, aided by some helpful chums, relatives and an enthusiastic wife. Glanced through a book they'd made showing all the stages of renovation. Wonderful stuff. Told him I once put up a shelf, which is about the limit of my DIY skills. Anyways, loaded up the bike and headed back home.

Stopped off just outside Souillac by an impressive viaduct where I had another swig of coffee and a fag, checked the bike over (seemed as described) and took a couple of snaps. Then motorwayed north through the Brive mists, eventually climbing uphill onto the Clermont-Ferrand motorway where the mists cleared to reveal blue skys and bright sunshine. Days that clear are few and far between. Indeed, approaching the turn off to Ussel, the snow-capped peaks of the distant Central Massif were clearly visible, so I took a few snaps while still driving. Turned out okay. Then, about an hour later, I took a few more snaps on the uphill stretch to home. Arrived at about fiveish. Been a long drive. Stretched my legs with a dogwalk then shoved the bike in the indoor shed. Lovely looking thing. No regrets.

It's probably of no interest to anyone but I keep humming this:

Monday, January 16, 2012


Must have been about six months ago. Driving my old VW camper back home from somewhere. Struggling uphill she seemed down on power. And the interior started filling with smoke. Not a lot but enough to cause concern. Made it to the top of the hill, parked up, hopped out and checked the engine bay for signs of fire. All seemed well. Couldn't figure out what the problem was. Dropped it off with the old mechanic in Aubusson. Picked it up a couple of weeks later. Mechanic said all seemed fine and he couldn't find a problem. Drove home (uphill) and once again the interior became a bit smoky and the engine seemed down on power. Took it back to the mechanic. Went through the same routine a few more times over the following months. By the fourth or fifth time I returned to the garage (around the end of November), the mechanic was almost ripping his hair out in total frustration at not being able to solve the problem. Went there in the week after Christmas to see if he'd fixed it. Garage shut 'til the New Year. Went again a couple of weeks ago. Mechanic again said it all seemed fine. Refused to take any money for his efforts. Drove home. Problem still there. Did an internet search for a local mechanic who specialised in classic air-cooled VWs. No luck. Then posted a 'help!' plea on the Creuse website for Brits. Luckily someone recommended a chap about twenty miles away. Gave him a ring and explained the problem. Told me to drive round there if I reckoned the VW would manage it. Luckily the old gal managed to get there without too much trouble and the mechanic (a northern, retired, classic VW fiend who knows VeeDubs inside out and who makes a fine cup of tea) set to work. Couple of seconds later, he'd found the problem. Air filter housing swimming in oil. Blocked air filter. Hence no power. And oil probably getting onto exhaust and burning - hence smoke in cabin. Removed air filter and took it for a spin. Noticeable increase in power. Complete mystery though how oil gets into the air filter box. Next job for my miracle-worker mechanic is to borrow a mate's cylinder compression tester and see if any of the cylinders is down on power. Will hopefully be sometime this week. Still haven't sourced a replacement air filter yet but hope to do so soon.

Then there's the Greeves trials bike. Bought it about four years ago(?) on eBay from a chap in Scotland. Had it delivered to a specialist trials mechanic in Devon for a checkover. He fitted a new clutch and said all seemed fine. Crated it up on a pallet and 'white-vanned' it over to France. In a rare bout of mechanical enthusiasm, I then started reassembling the bike (wheels and forks had been taken off) and immediately hit a problem: the two bolts at the top of the fork legs wouldn't turn freely, so the forks wouldn't tighten. No, I forgot: Hadrien gave me a hand - fitting forks to a frame is a two-man op. Cleaned up the offending bolts and tried it again (with Hadrien) about a year later (that's how long it took to get Hadrien to give me a hand). Failed again. Decided to give the bolts a proper wire brushing with WD40 and grease, then see if they'd thread into the clamps more easily. Seemed a bit better so told Hadrien his lifting services were required again. Took a couple of years before we once again attempted the fork fitting op. That was over Christmas, a couple of weeks ago. Failed again. Then last week Christian turned up with Hadrien and the three of us had another bash at fork fitting. No luck. Bolts just wouldn't grip. Luckily, Christian likes a mechanical problem so he took the offending bolts and collars away with him for a darned good spanking. Returned a couple of evenings back. He'd fitted a couple of 'superior' French bolts which, somewhat surprisingly, fitted, despite being metric. Anyway, thanks to Christian, the front forks and wheel are now, once more, attached to the frame. Only taken four years to get that far. Now I can start stripping off some of that stupid aluminium paint which the previous owner painted over various rusty bolts etc. (why do people do this?!). Could take years. Anyway, progress at last.


So..., another Christmas fades away. First one with Georgie since being exiled in Frogland. She normally stays in the UK to make sure her mum's okay and not left on her own. But this year Donnie assumed mum-minding duties, thus allowing Georgie to fly out loaded with prezzies. Felt a bit guilty 'cos I don't really do the prezzy bit. Much prefer spending on grub'n'booze rather than 'stuff'. Picked her up on the Friday(?) before Christmas at Brive airport, not the usual Limoges. First time either of us have used the London City airport to Brive flight. Much more convenient (for Londoners) than bussing up to Stansted and being treated like cattle by RyanAir. Bit pricier too, but worth it. Plane arrived a bit late due to the usual morning mists of the Dordogne valleys region. Apparently the flight captain circled over Brive for half an hour waiting for the mist to clear and announced that they might have to divert (presumably to Limoges). But eventually it cleared a bit and the plane landed. Lovely little airport. Only recently opened. Not exactly as husting and bustling as Limoges (no newsagent, tobacconist or grub restaurant) but, nevertheless, does the job.

Christmas day kicked off with tea and chocolates in bed as I unwrapped loads of presents from Georgie, Donnie and my sister, Jean. As I said, I felt a bit guilty about not buying presents in return. However, I did buy Georgie a small box of chocolates (hang the expense) - unsportingly, I ate most of 'em later that evening in front of the telly. Jean's present was a complete surprise - an iPod thingy loaded with millions of music stuff, complete with an impressive speaker unit. Apparently she'd driven down to Putney from Lincolnshire to drop it off at Georgie and Don's, and then driven back. Brilliant! She's only recently got into Apple computers and stuff. And when she gets into stuff, she really gets into it. Asked me a couple of weeks ago for a list of my fave music albums and tracks. Little did I know that this was a leading question. Thought she just wanted to broaden her musical horizons. Surprisingly, she'd never heard of Little Feat. Plays 'em all the time now. Can't get her into country though. And..., Don's present was a pair of fab Bose headphones. Work splendidly. I really am a spoilt brat.

Anyways, presents done, it was suddenly time to leg it down to Isabelle and Christian's for Christmas lunch. Turned up with a bagful of alcoholic beverages, chocolates and a surprise present for Christian, all hurriedly (and amateurishly) wrapped. As Isabelle is a huge fan of Robbie Williams (sad, but true), I gave Christian a Robbie Williams mask (hang the expense again). Thought it might add a bit of spice to the boudoir. I think he was amused, but not really sure. Anyway, he did appreciate the bottle of Ricard.

Lunch was a splendid affair (it always is when Isabelle 'does' Christmas) which lasted well into the evening. Table was set for eleven people - Isabelle, Christian, son Hadrien, mother Janette, friends Elizabeth and Jean-marc plus kids Anthony and Sèverine, neighbour Frederic, plus Georgie and me. Eleven in all. A mammoth undertaking but Isabelle loves having people round. Very French y'know. Can't remember exactly what we noshed but it included king prawns, salmon, chicken, various veggies, spuds, cheeses, sorbet (with a lethal alcoholic pear juice), plus lashings of pricey vinos (including a tasty pudding wine from the Alsace region), then Christmas cake and meringues. Luvly jubbly. Luckily, Georgie and I escaped at about 6ish, just after Isabelle's brother and tribe arrived for the evening session with family members. We were ordered to visit again later that evening for supper. Didn't quite manage it. Got stuck in front of the telly with a cosy fire. Dunno how they managed to nosh a supper after that massive lunch. Scary.

The following week sped by in a flash. Can't remember exactly what Georgie and I did but I do recall a bit of garden pruning, a bonfire and much lazing around while Georgie gardened and delved through old packing boxes in the loft. But before I'm accused of being a lazy good-fer-nothing waster, I hasten to add that I prepared most of the soirée meals. And I made the morning teas.

Then it was suddenly New Year's Eve and almost time for Georgie to return back to Blighty. Had an invite to dinner at Elizabeth and Jean-Marc's with Isabelle and Christian to celebrate New Year but politely declined. Had a lazy evening in. Just Georgie et moi in front of the telly with a bit of champagne, a snug fire and two snoozing terriers. Parfait. Next day, Georgie prepared for the return flight and on 2 Jan we set off for Brive airport again. Saw her off then drove home, passing through one helluva thunderstorm around Tulle. Roads like rivers. Windscreen wipers could hardly cope. Bit concerned about Georgie's plane taking off and flying into that black hell. Phoned her later and apprently all was well. They'd taken off before the storm arrived and simply flew above it in sunny, blue skies.

Yup, so that was Christmas. Seems a long time ago already.