Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Winters are boring. The days are short, the nights are long and the weather's rubbish. Outside, it's cold, grey and snowy. Inside, it's warm by the stove, but a bit chilly everywhere else (apart from when the oil heater's on in the telly room). The dirty washing pile has outgrown the basket and is waiting for a rare sunny day so it can all be shovelled into the washing machine. Winter is all about waiting. Waiting for spring. Waiting for sunshine. Waiting for the colour to return to the landscape. Waiting for an opportunity to get my paints out again so I can do something vaguely useful (not that painting's useful, it's just that it's much more interesting than putting up plaster boards in the bathroom or hacking off loose plaster in the indoor shed or kitchen). Meanwhile, the logpile gets smaller and I get smellier because I can't be arsed to get stripped off and shiver in the shower.

Like many animals, I'm a big fan of hibernating in winter. If it wasn't for Jock I'd probably stay in bed all day. But, as it is, the little bugger gets me up at around 6.30 (that's 5.30 UK time) by growling at the bedside. And if his growling doesn't wake me, he starts pawing the side of the mattress and growling foul dogbreath in my general direction. Slumbers rudely terminated, I then fall out of my pit wearing woolly socks, sweaty teeshirt and smelly knickers, don slippers, tracksuit bottoms and dressing gown, waddle downstairs, let the little git out, make a cuppa, check emails and news on the laptop, let the spoilt brat back in again, chuck some biscuits in his bowl and attempt to dry him off if it's been snowing, sleeting or raining (what's with the 'if'?), then back to bed 'til he wakes me up again just after mid-day when the process gets repeated. By this means I often get properly up at around 6pm when I give Jock a quick walk up the back lane to the old granite cross and back, sploshing our dreary way through snow, slush and muddy puddles before returning home to load up another wheelbarrowful of logs from the shed, re-lighting the stove if it's gone out (what's with the 'if'?), drying Jock off again, donning slippers, pouring a large scotch, doing something about preparing supper and getting stuck into whatever book I have on the go (recently finished Danny Baker's 'Going to Sea in a Seive' - an excellent read - and am currently halfway through Ernest Hemingway's 'Death in the Afternoon' - bit boring, but a logical choice having recently finished a book about the life of El Cordobes, the highly esteemed bullfighter of the early 'Sixties - and before that I attempted to get into Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road' but found it pretty boring, not the least bit amusing and, I'm afraid to say, highly over-rated, but that's just moi). Maybe two or three scotches later, it usually dawns on me that whatever grub's on the go on the stove has changed from a delicate shade of green (e.g. cabbage) or blonde (e.g. chips) or pink (e.g. chops) to a not so delicate shade of black or brown, at which point I may chuck it all in the bin, stick a packet of frozen paella in a pan, pour another scotch and get back to my book. Then, when the paella's caught fire and the room's full of smoke, I generally pick at whatever bits aren't black, make a cuppa, grab a biscuit and waddle upstairs to catch the 10 o'clock news on telly (11pm out here) before nodding off on the settee under a duvet and a couple of blankets to be rudely awoken at around 2am by Jock demanding to be let out for a wee. Then it's back to bed to be awoken by dogbreath about four hours later, then repeat all the above.

This dull routine was broken last Friday when Georgie flew out for a quick visit to check that I was okay (she's worried I might be poisoned by a tooth abcess which I'm ignoring 'til I can summon up the courage to visit the dentist). Her visit meant I had to brave a visit to the shower, followed by a shivering dry-off in front of the stove and a quick shave once I'd stopped shivering (wielding a sharp razor blade in such circumstances can be fatal). Anyways, bless the old trout, she survived the chilling conditions and insisted on clearing snow from the car area while I stayed indoors and watched the rugby. She also dug out the indoor shed door which we put back up and the kitchen's now noticeably less draughty. I have to say there's far more reason to get up when she's here. Things get done. Inertia no longer rules. Ah well, she flew back on Monday so I'm now back in my lazybones routine. Told me to get blogging again. Bit tricky when bugger all's happening. Roll on spring.    


Haven't blogged for ages. A month in fact. Been meaning to do a quick account of Christmas day, but couldn't be arsed. Now it's so long ago that I can hardly recall what happened. Mental block. Still, there's no going forward until I've got it out of the way so I'll have a bash.

If I remember correctly, Christmas day was on a Tuesday. Georgie flew out on the Sunday before, landing at Brive late afternoon, having flown from London City airport (not the usual Stansted to Limoges flight 'cos it was fully booked).

On the two hour drive down to Brive to collect her, I stopped at the service station midway between Brive and Ussel to give Jock a quick walk and to have a coffee and fag. As I was about to get back in the car there was a bit of a rumpus going on at a car parked nearby. Turned out that it had rammed a flying hawk doing about 70mph up the motorway (the car, not the hawk), resulting in one dead bird and a dented bonnet. Luckily, not a smashed radiator. Anyways, the driver freed the dead oiseau from the front of the car then his wife took some snaps for insurance purposes while his two daughters jumped up and down, waving their arms around and yelping "eugh!". Quite amazing how big that bird was. Must have been about six feet from wingtip to wingtip. Disposed of the body in a distant bin. Probably would have made a good meal for any passing foxes.

Georgie's plane landed at around sundown and luckily it wasn't snowing. Come to think of it, the snow didn't arrive until well after she'd gone back. Seems like it's been here months, but that's how it is in winter, especially up here in the hills. Anyways, we drove back, re-lit the stove, had a bit of grub and settled in. Next day we did some shopping at Aubusson's Christmassy supermarché and sort of mentally prepared ourselves for the following day's visit to Isabelle and Christian's for Christmas lunch. Personally, I'd have preferred to stay indoors glued to the telly while stuffing my face with chocolates and cake, but when Isabelle calls, you gotta go.

After the usual Christmas morning laze in bed while opening Chrissy cards and Chocolate Oranges, time was getting short. Typically, I couldn't remember if we had to report for duty at mid-day or 1pm. Settled on 1pm and to hell with the consequences. Then dug out the Sellotape and began wrapping presents for Isabelle and gang. Interesting how Georgie's presents are always meticulously wrapped while mine show obvious signs of Sellotape being stuck everywhere apart from where the damned stuff's supposed to be.

Arrived at 1.05 just as other guests were arriving, so, for once, Georgie and I were on time. Turned out there were fifteen people for lunch. Amazing how Isabelle manages to cope with that many noshers. Amazing too, the amount of preparation that goes into organising such a feast. Can't remember exactly what we had to eat and drink, but it was brilliant, if a little on the rich side. On the menu were oysters, foie-gras, chicken, salad, er..., I forget the rest, largely because I sat opposite Christian who kept topping me up with more whisky, more vin blanc, more vin rouge and more paint stripper (it's what I call a sort of lethal, clear, fruit flavoured, inflammable liquid which causes one to lose the powers of speech, balance, and all sense of time).

At around 6pm, just as we were getting stuck into the gateaux, Isabelle's brother's tribe arrived. Luckily, this gave us a good excuse to leave as there wasn't enough room to seat them. So we gave our thanks and bade our farewells. Miraculously, I somehow made it back to the house without falling over, re-lit the stove and gave Jock a quick walk. Can't remember what we did then. Watched telly I presume. But I do remember throwing up. I blame the paint stripper.

Took a couple of days to sober up.

Picked up Donnie (Georgie's twin sis) from Limoges airport who'd flown out to join us for Hogmanay. Shoved her in the loft with a couple of duvets and a 'leccy fan heater. Despite this, she seemed to have a relaxing time, dogwalking, telly watching and generally taking things easy. At least I think that's what we did. Can't remember for sure. Then I drove them both back to Limoges for the flight home. Then the snows arrived.

So that was Christmas.