Sunday 27 September 2009

Splashing about in the river

In the fast flowing winter waters, large tree trunks ended up parked on the parapet of the bridge at the front of our property.

Snippet from my blog entitled: Watering, logs and bees. (March 3, 2009)
"Already Hubs is eyeing up the pile of logs captured by the bridge support and is making plans as to how he can retrieve them, one of which is wading across to them and manhandling them back to dry land. I smile and say "What a good idea, but wouldn't it be better to get a blow-up boat or something so you can row across", not wanting to put him off his gung-ho, 'man-provider' mode while all the while secretly hoping that the French will come and tidy up the bridge themselves. Only Lester rarely does anything at Labartere without needing my help, so it is a distinct possibility that moi will be captured into a retrieval of logs adventure sometime during 2009, hopefully when the Adour is in her sleepy state of summertime laziness. Or perhaps he might drop the idea all together, which will be even better!"

The idea did not become 'dropped'. But the river did, oozing away into a shallowness I would not have thought possible during the winter flow.

And thus it was that it came to be the time of 'Gathering of the logs' project, kicked into being woken up by Bruno strolling in a couple of days ago, with his chain saw dangling casually from one hand, and a can of petrol in the other, announcing grandly that he was off down to our beach to cut up one of our trees which had fallen down during the winter storms. This had a galvanising effect on Hubs, such that the pair of them headed off to the river. The 'Gathering of the logs' project was underway!

Not wanting to be left out of the adventure, I put my old faithful leather boots on, called Bools and Gus, and off we went as well. And there ensued the grandest of fun afternoons. In bright sunshine, we hauled the logs from the bridge to the beach, which is not quite as far as it looks here because the beach is considerably larger now because of the reduction in the volume of river water:

We got soaked. Bruno took it upon himself to do 'boss-man'. Stood on the parapet and shouted instructions as to which direction to float the logs. Not easy when the logs were being pulled against the flow of the water. Not easy when Bools and Gus kept on getting onto the logs for a ride."Go left" Bruno shouted out to me. "No, not that way, it's too shallow". Not for me it wasn't, the water already being well above my knees. Responding to the 'Go left' instruction would have had me in deeper water. Not for me, thankyou!

Splash! Into the water rolled another log, manhandled into the water by boss-man. And another. And another. Finally, all logs were in the water. Now boss-man Bruno had to come into the water as well, and we all towed the logs back to the beach. It was a rollicking wet funsome frolic, interspersed with fractions of seconds of worry as the insect population of the once dry wood took it upon themselves to try and rehome themselves on us. Not to worry, though, none of us were harmed, or bitten, and no part of us was eaten.

And here I must stop and mention that I have a vigourous imagination when it comes to an expanse of water. That I have an irrational expectation that a crocodile or somesuch creature is going to erupt from the depths of the water and eat me. This is a secret I have now shared with you, my reader. Why is this? Why do I have this thought in my head? This is France, not Africa. Totally irrational, as I have said. But.....bless me! Since I am of a 'certain age', (60+) and since I expected to get ever so slightly dottier as I get older, do you think this 'dottiness' has come sooner than I expected? And what would a sixty-plusser be doing messing about in the river with her boots on anyway! Having a bloody good time, that's what!

And the good news is: that all the logs are now on the beach. That no sharks, crocodiles or any other man eating thingys came and ate us all up. That Bools and Gus had a super duper time. And Hubs. And Bruno. And me. We all did.

Laughter is magic to the soul. Hubs and I feel boosted up again, as if we have been plugged into a petrol pump and been refuelled.

And it is the end of September, and we are still in summer clothes and can still go into the river without getting cold.

All in all, we have a mound of blessings that the log project reminded us that we had, which I think had slipped our minds in the general busyness of our days here. And the logs? Well they are beached now. Apparently Hubs and Bruno are supposed to cut them up next weekend. But if they don't, then the river will take care of them for us, probably putting them back onto the parapet when the river next rises! Then we can have the same adventure all over again! Wahoooooo!

Friday 25 September 2009

On the subject of the mouse

Now I might have seemed a bit of a wooz when I evacuated the Hutto (Hut Office) the other night at such speed, and I need to explain what had happened. Now I am not afraid of mice, after all they are God's creatures, but when one is concentrating very hard on finding the words of inspiration for one's blog, and as you other bloggers will know, sometimes it can be quite hard work, and out of the corner of one's eye one sees a big grey mouse having a walk up the wall beside one, just an arms length away and at head height.....well, I defy anyone not to have let out a squeal. Or two. So I did.

Which upset Hubs, who had his headphones on and was deep into a game of Internet Chess, such that he lost the game which didn't please him at all. So he had a grumble at me about 'Not being silly'. But he did act on the second sighting of the mouse, because it took the same walk up the wall a few minutes later, just as I was trying to finish off the blog sensibly. Off he went to find the broom so he could 'Shoo it out'. Meanwhile Gus and Bools had woken up from the doggy sleeps, and were pacing about restlessly. What had been quietness and calm and now become the reverse.

Hubs realised that it was really no use to try to 'Shoo the mouse out' because the Hutto is so cluttered up with stuff at the moment. 'You'll have to get a mouse trap tomorrow' he said.
And with that we all exit the Hutto, except Gus who has to stay behind in his kennel.

Cup of Ovaltine in the kitchen caravan. "I'll just take this bowl of veg peelings out to the compost heap" says Hubs. Comes back a few minutes later fuming. "Toto (Bruno's shetland pony) is grazing on our grass by the veg plot. If that ******** horse eats my fruit trees I'm gonna ********* that ********* horse!"
And to fill you in here with a bit of info: Bruno, our neighbour across the road, has decided not to keep his litte horse penned in by an electric fence any more, but to let it wander where it will. It was, apparently, having a wander out into his field, having a nibble of grass, and then happily wandering back to his stable behind the house. But it would seem that now Toto had decided to expand his horizons by popping over the road to have a look at what he could eat here.

Hubs was not best pleased. His fruit trees are precious to him, having watered them from the river over the long months of summer. "I'm going to have a word with Bruno about that horse" he said.
"Why didn't you chase him off?" I said.
"Because I don't want him to get run over" he said. "But if he eats my fruit trees....."

And so to bed. Lights out. BBbbbbzzzzzz. Hubs leaps out of bed, crashing over me as he did so. (We are sleeping in a caravan so sleeping room is minimal but cosy.) 'There's a mosquito in here' he said.
'Oh crikey' I thought, 'This could take ages'. Once Hubs goes on a midge hunt no-one is going to get any sleep until it is caught. Me and Bools are frequently trampled over as he lunges for the mosquito if it is in flight, or if he sees it parked up somewhere, normally out of easy range.

"There it is" he yells triumphantly, walloping the ceiling of the caravan with a hefty thump, and examining his palm to see if indeed there is the squashed remains of the mozzie. Yes!

Now we can get some sleep.

Just drifting off: From the vicinity of the Hutto comes a cacophony of noise: squeals, yelps, howls, whines, barks, yaps, thumps. Thumps?

Hubs springs out of bed, crashes himself over me ( he can't get out his side because he sleeps against the window) and Bools (who sleeps in the gangway beside me). On go the lights. Thump. And again. Thump. Hubs grabs some clothes and hurtles out of the door. All goes quiet. I feel anxious. Was Toto in the courtyard bashing things up? Was the tall barn roof finally collapsing? Or worst still, the walls of the house? The quiet lengthens. Should I go out to investigate? Perhaps Hubs has been knocked over the head by An Intruder. Still I wait.

Not to worry though. In through the door comes Hubs. "You won't believe this, but Gus has only gone and unhooked the latches on his kennel door. ******* ** ****** ********." He says. "That door (the door of the Hutto) what I paid a lot of money for, that ****** dog has gone and chewed a hole in it"

The night is flowing majestically on. Tick Tock, the clock says. 'Sleep', my head says in response, 'I need sleep'. Hubs lurches his way over me to get to his side of the bed. Zooom! A big, well more 'huge' really, flying thing swoops between Hubs and me in the middle of his lurching. And here I must say that sometimes Hubs does have a tendency to linger in mid lurch. Sort of not out of bed and not on his side of the bed, but parked up over me. Which he was doing when the flying thingy zoomed through. "Oh what was that now" Hubs said with resignation. But since it wasn't a mosquito and wasn't going to bite him, he finished his lurching movement and collapsed onto his side of the bed.

All quiet. "Let's have a snuggle" Hubs says. Ah but not before I have had that final loo run of the night. Which requires of me a careful feel round as I head toward the caravan loo area, in case I trip up on Bools.

Eventually we are settled. We are heading towards dawn at a cracking pace now. Bools sighs, no doubt wondering about the sanity of his owners, Hubs rolls over and sighs, no doubt worrying about whether he is going to have any fruit trees left in the morning, and I am asleep now too. But the tick tock of the clock seems very loud suddenly. Makes me stop my drifting off to sleep moment. Up I get again. There! It can sleep in the cupboard tonight.

Things I have learnt: That if one sees a mouse and it is getting late in the evening, and the other family members are quiet and dozy, then it is best not to make a huge hullabaloo because it only wakes everyone up and delays the joyous moment of falling to sleep for ages, or hours as what happened on this night.

The mouse is still loose. I did get a mouse trap but I have forgotten to give it to Hubs, and a few minutes ago I did hear a bit of a scrabbling about, or I thought I did, so if I see a mouse I am going to gently and silently evacuate the space so the males of the family are not woken up!

And at sixty plus, I am not frightened of mice, it is just that they make me jump. Frogs do the same. Only frogs are normally at ground level and not at head height. Toto is banned from visiting and is being kept within electric fencing again. The Big Thingy which flew across Hubs I think was a moth: it hasn't been seen since so is probably happily munching its way through my clothes in the nearby cupboard. The 'hole' in the door is more a chunk taken out of the wood: with a bit of a rub down with sand paper and some wood stain applied, it will act character to the door and lend itself to the general beaten up appearance that the Hutto has anyway. After all, it is an old place, and a pristine door did look out of place. And my camera has become deceased so no photos today. Otherwise, all is well.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

How to put a roof beam on.....

First of all you get a big beast of a machine. Then you go pick up a huge beam of wood. Meanwhile your team members are up on the roof itself playing goats. Fleet of foot they have to be, plus sure of foot as well. Because that beam is going to get lifted up onto the roof:

...and it is really better not to get in the way.

So you lift the beam up with your machine but have to swivel it round so that it can be in line with the roof beam that is supposed to be laying dead square on the wall that has just been built but isn't because the wall has fetched up not in the right line. Not to worry. At least a bit of it is perched on the wall: a bit like sitting half a buttock on the seat of a chair.

Now you have to be careful to do this action slowly so your fellow team members can get out of the way of the beam. This might require a bit of French vocals, but all is said in the spirit of comradery. I think.

So then you notice that the beam, which is now parallel to the other beams, is at the wrong angle on the lifting arm thingy. So you have to stop your big machine, dismount, and go do some arm waving and French talking to your team member up on the walls, to tell him to turn the beam over.

This he doesn't seem to want to do. And says so, as can be seem by the graphic arm movements he is making. However, even sterner sounding words are emitted from the man on the ground, and since he is the one who pays the wages, the man on the wall walks onto the the middle of the wall, and turns the beam over. Then ducks, as the beam is brought into a better alignment. The other team member does a nimble step over the beam as it heads in his direction, then the beam is dropped into place, but only after some frantic chipping away of the walls is done because the original placement wasn't quite right.

And that is how you put a roof beam up. So now we have the right hand side of the house all beamed out. Not only that, but today saw the cross beams put on. Every single one of these rafters was personally man handled up onto the roof by the two team members of yesterday. No big machine today.

I think the house looks a bit odd at the moment: very new and very old. It will take a long time before the old and the new will sit comfortably together. SHRRRRRREEEAAAAKKKKKSSSSS. HORRORRRRRRRSSSSS!!!!! Oh you wouldn't believe this but a flipping mouse has just walked up the stone wall beside my PC. Half way up it got. I have put up with all sorts of insect life coming out of the walls, (they are cob walls by the way, made up of river stones, uneven and full of little hidey holes) but ...oh dear. And now Lester wants to go off to bed so I am going to have to shut down as well, because I am not afraid of a mouse, but I don't want to be in the Hutto (Hut Office)......crikey, oh crikey, its just gone up the wall again. And now Hubs has gone to get a broom to 'shoo' it out. Bye for now. I'm off somewhere else.

Oh this is the roof from inside the kitchen. Ooops. I'm gone!

Tuesday 22 September 2009

With a bang and a clatter

With a bang and a clatter and a squeal of brakes and a plethora of French words shouted up to the Heavens, our top beams arrived.

Coughing its way across our back field came Dani's lorry, supposedly having been mended but whatever was wrong was nothing to do with the engine or exhaust because that was still as was: fuming and smelly.

Reversing, the lorry arrived at our back entrance, stopped, then upended its back and shed these huge long planks of wood, but in separate piles. Et voila! Our roof beams are here! But hope the wood will be OK. It send up a hell of a moan as it slithered off the lorry.

Message from Gus: Bonjour et bienvenue à mon blog. Je suis resté ici pendant trois jours, mais je n'ai dormi pas pendant la nuit avec Monsieur, Madame, et le grande chien dans l'autre caravane. Mois, j'ai dormi dans le Hut. Ce ne'est pas desiable pour moi. Je suis un chien francais, et je pense que je doit dormi dans l'autre caravane parceque je suis très malheureux ....

Now what's this! What is this dog doing! Saying that this is his blog, and then going on to complain that he has to sleep in the Hut while the rest of us sleep in the other caravan! Enough!

You will probably have to enlarge this photo, but in the middle is one of the huge number of wall lizards which share our home. When we arrived there weren't too many around, and they were very nervous and most times could only be seen from a distance. This was probably because of the large population of feral cats which inhabited the house before we arrived. Now they have fled, the wall lizards have started coming to life, and can be seen everywhere. Still shy, they scuttle away slower than what they once did, and take longer to do so: I think they are relaxing now they aren't being hunted by the cats. It's nice to see them around, the same as the bird population which is increasing, and is very good for the soul. Watching the lizards and birds go about the doings of their day is very calming.
"Et pour moi aussi. J'aime les lizards voudrais jouer avec les lizards...." Gus, get off my blog!

Talking of birds, out front this morning, and there was hundreds of swifts parked up on the electric cables and in the nearby trees. It was heavy mist, so I think they weren't able to feed. An Internet search posted up the info that they normally sleep on the wing, and hardly ever 'park up'. Perhaps their sat-navs were confused by the weather, after all they have a long way to go - down to Africa which is thousands of miles away and they have to cross the Sahara, so perhaps they were taking time out. They normally fly at night apparently, so were either regrouping, or even perhaps wanting to come visit with us!

I feel very humbled by the swifts. Such small birds, and to travel so far, well.... I find them inspiring. They can live for up to sixteen years, and that is a huge amount of commuting to do between Africa and Europe. What courage for such small creatures.

Et voila! Mon photo!

Merci pour visiter mon blog, et au revoir pour le moment.

And with that, I think I will give in and say bye for now. Obviously Gus is settling in and Lester's hand has been patched and is now mending. Bools and Gus continue to argue, as any males together will do whether they be humans or doggies, especially when Fleur comes to visit. Both of them, it would seem, have the hots for her.

The rain has stopped, the main roof beams are here, and we are now four.

Saturday 19 September 2009

The rain arrives and so does Gus

So last night a phone from Jonathen: "Are you still looking for a spaniel friend for Bools?" he said.
I handed the phone over to Head Man Hubs. This was a follow on conversation that the two of them had been having recently while J worked on the halfbarn.

The rains have come. The summer is now done. Farmer Foch, the farmer who has been farming our fields and who Head Gardener Hubs wants off the fields because "This is my land and I want to farm it myself", called the other day. He has been asked to plough the two fields and then sow them with grass.

Since we don't really do French, and Farmer Foch doesn't really do English, well let's just say that wires can get crossed! Hence HG Hubs fetching up red faced with frustration, and Farmer Foch kind of cross eyed with trying to make himself understood.

And, yet again, God bless the Internet. Onto Babel Translation HG and Farmer Foch went. Ah. An even redder faced HG. For it transpired that Farmer Foch was saying that because we have had no rain since April, it is not advisable to put grass seed down because it won't have enough time to flourish before next summer arrives. Therefore, a 'meanwhile' idea from Farmer Foch: "Why don't I plant another winter cereal crop in December. Then we can have a go at getting the grass planted this time next year." He went on, "But if it rains in the next three weeks, then we might get the grass in this year". What he meant was: Can I use your fields for another nine months? Lets not do the grass because that won't make me any money. Or at least, that is what HG thought he meant.

So: a conundrum: pray for rain so we can get the grass growing which means we can get the animals who will eat the grass in two years time. Or pray for no rain so the roof can be put on. Delays with that, yet again, as the wood is delayed because the mill is still getting over the August holiday shut down and there is a back log which was supposed to have been cleared but hasn't. We have managed most of last week with no rain. Some roof-work done, and a grand plan made because left and right hand internal walls didn't meet in the centre of the house properly. Thursday. Friday. Sunny weather. No wood arrived. So no builders did either.

Friday afternoon, the weather turned. Down came the rain, and we knew the rainy season had probably started. And at night-fall, as the rain exhuberantly kept us company, Gus arrived.

Living in caravans is not an extremely roomy experience. OK when the sun shines because then all the outside becomes available as extra living accomodation. But not when it rains. It was raining with Gus arrived. Gus is a cocker spaniel boy-dog of two years old. And he is homeless. Jonathen found out about him, remembered the chat with HG, and brought him to us.

Bools is a boy dog. 1 boy dog + 1 boy dog = doggy scraps. So Gus has to stay in a kennel in the office while we wait for the rain to ease, so the two of them can be allowed to get to know each other in the more open space of the courtyard. There is no room in either of the two caravans for two boy dogs to get to know each other. Bedlam would result if it was even tried.

Message from Gus: (Translated from the French because Gus us a French cocker spaniel).
"Bonjour. I would like to say hello to you, but I am put in this cage-thing, and I don't like it. I keep on trying to tell Him and Her that I don't like it, but all they do is make strange sounds at me which I don't understand. Her and Him left me in this room last night (The Hut/Office) and I called and called out to them to come and fetch me but they didn't. So I chewed up my bed instead. Her has taken me out today. Went with Big Dog (Bools) who keeps bullying me. Big Dog could run all over the place. I had to stay tied to Her. Still, I did get into the ditches, would have chased a little creature (mouse?) if I had been able to, and went into the river for a swim. Then I was put back into that cagey-thing. Which I hate. So I said so, but Her didn't seem to care. Him came in ages afterwards. Dried me off. Gave me a nice lovies. So I said thankyou and can I come out now? But Him said no. So I sat and shivered to make them feel sorry for me. I am still in this cagey-thing, but I am all toasty-warm because Him has put the fire on for me. So I am going to try 'fluffy dog cute' to see if that gets me some attention. I will smile into a photo for you next time. But I don't want to say hello to you while I am still in this cagey-thing. Au revoir!"

Things I have learnt today: that when the Universe decides to send you an animal to look after, just say 'thankyou' even if the arrival of that animal couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time.

So now the roof could be delayed although the half barn work continues on at a goodly pace, but the grass might be planted if Farmer Foch decides to oblige and it continues to rain. And we have a new addition to our menagerie, which is a gorgeous cocker spaniel who hopefully has found a new home with us, which might be up for debate if he bites Lester's hand again, which he has just done! Another Oooooops, I think!

Tuesday 15 September 2009


And on a lighter note from yesterday.... So we have a left hand interior wall gone up:

......and a right hand interior wall gone up:

....and the walls are there to support the top wooden beams of the roof. Now if the walls are supposed to do that, then it is reasonable to suppose that the walls should line up so that the wooden beams can go across the roof in a straight line, like this:

_______________ ________________

Unfortunately, this is not so. Because one wall is lining up to the left of the other, like this:


Oh dear!!!!!

So Lester has gone for a walk.

I'm going to go and put the kettle on.

And the builders are having a pow-wow.

A while later:

Not to worry, a plan has been made, and here is the drawing of that plan (to be found on the wall of the lounge curtesy of our roofer).

There! All fixed!

Apparently the beams will only lay on the walls on the far left and far right. In between, they won't rest on anything. However, some strong support beams will be used, and the main secondary beams will lay parallel to the wall on the right hand side of the roof, while the main secondary beams will lay parallel to the side walls of the house on the left hand side. There! That's all there is too it.

So, on the left hand roof (diagram to show the layout of those beams, not to scale):


Main beam


And, on the right hand roof:


Main beam

So, fixed!

Now would you please join me in a sing-song. Singing as sweetly as you can, with no shouting or any touch of hysterics, to the tune of 'We are sailing' ......Pas probleme (no problem for those with minimal French), pas probleme, pas probleme.....come on now, I can hear you fading away!

Another cup of tea I think.....

Monday 14 September 2009

Epitaph for a 'friend'

It's been a strange couple of weeks. Everything has kept ticking along in regards to building our new life here, but in myself I have had to let go. I suppose it was time. I was reflecting on these thoughts out on our beach on the Adour river this morning, and I thought of how all the plants which have arrived and grown on the beach. Sometime soon it will rain, and the river waters will flow. Perhaps the plants will survive. Perhaps they won't. But their seeds will flow on to other places, the same as the original plants fetched up here. So there is continuation of sorts.

Last week someone I thought of as a friend detached themselves from me. Without cause. Without reason. For years I have known this person. We have a history. But several times this has happened before. And several times I have taken that person back into my life.

I suppose in the scheme of things, that a friendship is not really very important. But it is. Because you let someone into your life and when they leave a gap appears. Especially if there is no valid reason as to their leaving.

I cannot be bothered to question the person as to their actions: after all, they have the right to do what they must. But there has to come a time when the door has to be closed for good. So I went through all my files and deleted any reference to that person. And when it came to my phone book, I did the same, but carried on and deleted all phone numbers relevant to the last ten years of my life. I made a new phone book on my PC. One page for family contacts in the UK. Another for other phone numbers, of which the majority are French.

And so, last week, not only did I close a door on a 'friendship' which had become lop-sided, I also closed the door on my old life. We have been here for one year and three months, it's about time. Moving forward, that's what I am doing.

Surprisingly, it was quite hard getting rid of that old phone book. Even though I never contacted any of the people whose numbers were noted in it, and they never contacted me, I think I still needed the security of having those people in my life, in the background. Now I don't. I guess that I really am ready to build a new life here.

Although I have no friendship networks here as yet, I look forward to new people coming into my life and getting to know them in the years ahead. I am not in a hurry. Like our river beach, I will wait and let people take root in my life who are right to be there. And not bend myself to fit another person's view of me which makes me feel diminished in myself.

Thankyou for sharing these musings, and ending with the early morning tranquility of the Adour.

Saturday 12 September 2009

And Up Some More!

Sorry for not putting up a blog up for a few days, but it turned out to be one of those weeks which seemed to keep galloping along too fast for me to catch up. You know, when you feel as if you are still somewhere on Monday, but land up somehow on Friday!

Been a good week. Apart from a trot off to the vets with Bools, who has developed a lump in his throat. He romped about with great glee in the river on Tuesday, then Wednesday morning started getting a lump. Waited until Thursday, then off to the vets we went. He doesn't seem to have anything dreadfully wrong, but visiting the vets daily so they can keep an eye on him.

The builders have been here all week, bless them, working in temperatures which have been high again. Four months without rain! Crikey, it has been the best of summers for living in caravans and having a house rebuilt. We consider ourselves to be very lucky in regards the weather.

But onwards the roof build proceeds. Photo up top: Interior wall is up to top beam, and now finished.

Interior wall to the right needs finishing off but is mostly done.

And come inside for a quick visit to our hallway, which at the moment doubles up as a parking lot for wheelbarrows and other buildery detritus.

Before you go, here is the half barn with its side walls now clad in plasterboard. We are not in favour of too much of this boarding, but we felt the ceiling needed to be matched up with, hence the side wall. The room looks a bit like a long tunnel at the moment, but every time something is done to the space, then the shape of the space changes. Hubs keeps asking me where I am going to put the furniture, and all I can say is "Wait and see" because the space will tell me where everything is to go. I envisage quite a lot of shunting, pushing and shoving of the furniture before I am satisfied that it looks OK, but then women do like to do this sort of thing when putting together a home. Hubs said to me ages ago, that if a woman is not interested in her home then she is not interested in the relationship.

I have often times repeated this to him when I have purchased an item for the home which he considers useless and I find it a useful turn of phrase for explaining myself on these occasions.

Yippeee! Have finally caught up with the piles of tomatoes that we have been privileged to harvest this year, with the last bowl being turned into Tomato and Sweetcorn soup, but by accident rather than design! I relate my souping experience over on Foody-ing:Tomato and Sweetcorn soup (by accident!): 13th Sept 2009.

Message From Bools which I will have to translate for you: "I've been a bit sick. Got a lump in my throat and couldn't breath properly. I am being fussed over, but not today because my lump has gone down a bit. Do you have nice girl-dog who can come and stay with me for some fun and frolics. This would cheer me up. I would like to be a dad before I get much older....". That's enough of that! He can't be that ill if he can think of having a girfriend!

So signing off for the moment. Thanks for visiting, and see you soon.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Up she goes!

And this is Bools racing over our brand new step into and out of the half barn, so instead of a huge 'step up/ step down' which is good for the thighs but difficult when one is carrying a tray of tea and biscuits for the builders, I can now manage this task with a degree of dignity! Bools would have stopped and said 'hello' to you but he was in a rush. I'll see if he will spare the time for a photo-shoot next time.

And today the builders knocked down the bits of wall which were inconvenient to them and covered the exposed nudity of the top of the wall by a layer of concrete.

And continuing your tour of our house, we are now in the lounge and you are looking up at the bedroom wall with the doorway into the second room whose use is as yet undefined. They built this today. Instead of biscuits this morning, I gave them some homemade cake. Actually I had to use the figs up and made a fig-tart thingy. Perhaps it was the figs that got them moving today. I believe that they are good for the food transit system of our bods, and perhaps added extra zest to the lads endeavours.

And now we are in the food storage room, or 'cave' as in 'carv'. Bedroom door to the left, top roof beam at the top, planks of wood nothing to do with the roof so are only in situ while the builders need them to be, chimney pot in the middle, and hey presto! We are heading up to the sky!

More divi's (quotes) on the way: for tall barn roof, for fosse (for the loo), and tiling the floor of the half barn. We haven't got an endless pot of money, but we seem to have done very well on what we have got.

Things I have learnt today: that no matter how busy one is, one should make time for 'time-out'. Being head down with PC work, and veg-gardening, and domestic duties, while enjoyable and good for keeping the halo bright and shiny, it is ultimately tiring for my soul. This is what I learnt today after half an hour of fun-play with Bools down by the river.

And wishing my Mum well in her recovery from her hip operation, and my daughter well in her move from her old life into her new one. Blessings to them both, and to you too.

Sunday 6 September 2009

What are we doing today?

Kept on making out adjustments from our old UK lifestyle, that's what we are doing.

At this moment I am having a go at preserving tomatoes, which seems a lot of effort what with it involving kilner jars and steaming and oh, grumbly, grumbly, more mess. I am sitting outside the awning, the sun is shining, and you know what? I have the smidgeon of a one-ness with what I am doing, which means me and my head are engaged in the same task. Most often, when I am doing a task, my head is off doing its own thing, thoughts rolling round my head hither and thither while I carry on doing what I am doing. Today, we seem to be all together as I sit with legs akimbo prepping the tomatoes on the grass (? well there would be grass if it were to rain: just now the grass is hay. And dust.) in between my feet.

Hubs is tinkering about behind me in the tall barn. His Project Of The Day is to put a blade sharpener onto an old cutting bench. My idea. Last time he used the sharpener it was on the floor of the awning. He wouldn't let me post those photos, but now he has put the sharpener into a safer position, I'm going to slip this one in:

I have just had a sip of tomato pulp, the recipe as given to be my friend, Val. Not much of a recipe really, just 1Kg tomatoes, 1 spoonful of sugar, 1 spoonful of salt. And so why does it taste so much better that the tinned tomatoes bought from the supermarket. Hence: another small step in our desensitization from supermarket food to home-grown. Really, really, food really, really tastes so much better when it is grown and harvested from fresh, that is what I am discovering.

"That's bad luck. I've broken my drill." Hubs yells out. "I've got the bit stuck in it."
"Try some oil" I say.
"Can't. Haven't got any."
"Try some Olive Oil".
"Where is it?"
"In the kitchen caravan".
Where in the 'van?"
"In the cupboard".
"Where in the cupboard?"
So I have just gone and got it for him, which seemed the best thing to do. And now Hubs must be a happy chappy because I can hear the drill working. Must go and rescue my bottle of olive oil otherwise that will be lost forever. He has a tendency to put things away in odd places. Bless.
"I've mounted my gear!" Hubs yells out. Imagination does a quick flash, but sensibility returns. Project Sharpener has been a succeess. Now I can hear him sharpening up something. Hang on a minute while I go and do a photo shoot for you.

"Vera, I did a big boys job" he said, pride oozing from the top of his head down to his toes: better than spending all day playing games on the PC which is what the usual Sunday acivity consisted of back in the UK. Living life, that is what Hubs is doing now.

Now it is later on in the day, and I have a confession to make: my Preserving Tomatoes didn't get very far, just down into our tums. The tomatoes were just too tasty to boil up in a kilner jar, so I added a few bits of this and we had them for lunch! Methinks that the Preserving Tomatoes Project might fetch up as a 2010 project. I am a little nervous about handling hot kilner jars, especially in the close confines of the caravan. I can manage jam jars, but kilner jars seem beyond my handling skills at the moment. But there is always next year. And I should be in the kitchen in the house. Whooppeeee! More space. Less cluttered. More tidy? Probably not!

Family pow-wow sitting on the floor of the half barn this afternoon: we have decided to save money by filling in the holes in the wall of the half barn ourselves, and also tiling the floor. The money saved can go to the fosse. Now the veg growing season is slowing up we needed a project to carry us through to the end of the year, so this will be it. A bit of dissent amongst the pow-wow members over the colour of the tiles, but that was soon fixed by a cup of tea and a biscuit. There was a plate of biscuits but the pow-wow member with four legs decided to grab a couple before they were shared out. Said member was sent away in disgrace, leaving the other pow-wow members with less to nibble with their tea, but bonhommie restored. Third member made a return soon afterwards, so all in all it became a productive pow-wow meet although the colour of the tiles is still up for discussion.

Now we have come to the end of the day. Soon time for bed. It has been a grand day, with lots of activities which are good for the soul. And here is my desk:

....which is awash with pots of chutney and jam waiting to be found a home. Plus the desk itself is sticky, and the computer keyboard and the mouse, and everything else! The kitchen caravan is just as sticky. Which means that I, of course, am sticky as well!

Hope your Sunday was a good and productive day as well, and that you laughed as much as we did.

Friday 4 September 2009

Making friends with the Wind

I could here the wind rocking the tree tops out by our river. My pinafore flapped over the bowl of figs hiding them from view: goodbye for the moment. Jamming prep put on hold.

Along my spine there came a shiver as I heard the sound of the wind ratchet up another notch. I stood and watched my pinafore. "Do you want to come play with me?" the wind said as it tussled the fabric playfully.

But in my mind I was not here. I had backtracked in memory to late January: to the day, the longest day, of the Tempest. Oh fearsome strong was the wind on that day. Not a wind but a raging, roaring surge of air that was supreme in its arrogance. "You are all smaller than me" was it's message. And we were.

I suppose, in the scale of things, that it was not perhaps as fierce as the fiercest of hurricanes or tornadoes. But it was a big wind nevertheless. Big enough to blow trees over: loads of trees. Big enough to carry gallons and gallons of water which fell onto the land which fed it into the water and made our river big and full of an energy which was sufficient enough to carry away in its surge the trees which had fallen down into it.

We laid all day in the caravan, tucked under blankets, freezing, wet, mentally blitzed, hearing the wind roar its way towards us as if it was an army marching as to war. Phone lines were cut, electricity was cut. The outside world seemed miles away.

For hours the wind made its surges. We dozed. But in our minds we still heard the roar of the wind-fronts approaching us through the trees. From all sides it came. We seemed to be surrounded by an army of wind fronts. It was the tramping sound which was the worst. How can a wind sound like it has feet, but this one did. Big booted feet. Stomping towards us. Coupled with the sound of the wood of the house, what was left of it, moaning its anxiety about being moved about so forcefully, the elderly gate of the front porch mooing like a cow as it was bashed about against the side of our campervan, and the tarpaulins on the roof beams, what was left of them, flapping angrily with whip-cracks of temper, as the wind tore at them and eventually did them unto death.

And the legacy of that long day was that I flinch when I hear the wind, any wind, play amongst the treetops. Breezes I am OK with. Not so good with windier winds.

Today, I made a grand flinch. Along my spine it ran. For today the wind was a tad on the wild side. Not naughty, just frisky. Sufficient to blow my pinny across the figs I was prepping for jam. Sufficient to lock my mind back to the day when we almost became passengers of the wind.

'Twas no good. For this fear was starting to feed itself into a bigger fear, and that was of being outside in the wind. So I took a deep breath, and reduced this fear by telling it that today's wind was a gentler wind not an angry wind. Stimulating, not destructive.

My eyes caught and held Hubs's eyes as he crossed with the tray of tea for the builders, who were even then up high, working on our roof. Unspoken memories flooded between us: it is surprising how much can be said in a glance.

Things I have learnt today: That when one has had the hugest of huge experiences, which has shaken one to the very root of one's being, that sometimes it can take a while to get over the shock of that experience.
That one has to careful not to let that shock build on the original memory and make it more that what it actually was.
That sometimes smaller triggers can spark those heftier memories into life.
That it is better to cloak that original memory in loving memories rather than let the more difficult memories have the upper hand.

So: In January last, the biggest of big winds blew our way. With great teamwork Hubs and me battled our way through. Wow! How exciting it was! This I will have to work on, but at least its a start! And if you have had a horrendous experience which sometimes pops to the surface of your mind and looks like spoiling your day: Wrap that memory round with lovingness and find something good within that experience.

I carried on with my task, the wind continued to blow and got stronger, but I concentrated on my task and didn't scuttle away inside out of its way. That, I think, will soften that other memory so that in time every time a strong wind blows I do not automatically click on to that day in January when a Tempest blew our way. Rearranging my mental filing cabinet containing the Tempest Memory is what I am doing.

Plus I made four pots of marrow and ginger jam, eight pots of fig, jam and six pots of tomato chutney. Crikey my halo is shining bright!

Sending you pot-fulls of blessings.....

(January 2009: A Big Wind: Part One, part Two, and part Three.)

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Drowning in veggies.

What is it with me! I seem to have the knack of opening things upside down! Of late it has been the box of matches which is opened loads of times during the day to light our camping stove in the kitchen caravan. So just now, I was thinking that we would have scones for breakfast since we are minus any bread because I haven't made any as yet today and we gobbled up the last of the loaf last night with some spoonfuls of the first batch of this season's home-made fig jam, (gorgeous!!!). Anyway, scones. Baking Powder needed. Mmmm, not much left. Not sure if our French supermarket sells it. If they do, it will be labelled in French (of course!) which will require of me some researching. Therefore need to use the remainder of the contents sparingly.

So then why do I open it upside down, sending all the contents everywhere! Fortunately some could be scooped up from the handily place recipe book over which it had fallen, just sufficient for today's needs. The rest fell over Bools, our Springer Spaniel. And how could I have opened the container upside down! That is what I am now asking myself!

And so my day makes its progression.......

I photo-shot myself by mistake and was going to delete the picture but stopped and mused about how this is actually what I am doing for a lot of my day - busy doing this, busy doing that....

And the reason why I am so busy is this lot:


So I have a problem. I have been removed from the half barn, or rather the produce has: three bags potatoes, loads of onions, wheelbarrow full of courgettes and squashes. The builders required that I remove it all because they wanted to do the floor. All is now squeezed into the awning. And it is very untidy, and not really a good platform on which to shout 'We are being self sufficient' because to be quite honest with you, it is all a muddle. The onions have been dumped on top of the piles of tomatoes, the figs are being harvested as well, and to be quite frank with you, I am getting a tad fed up with this feeling of being drowned in veggies.

I have pots and pots of chutney and jam and no where to keep them apart from The Hut which is now crammed full of food. In the middle of it all we sit working away on our computers. Hubs began complaining about an odd odour the other day. A hunt around and he found a box of six eggs which had somehow managed to fidget their way behind some paperwork and were now well past their sell-by date. Not to worry though. The temperatures are starting to slide down a bit, so I will be able to keep some of the food in the kitchen caravan soon.

And that is why I put that top photo in, because of my commute between this area, that area, and everywhere in between just to cook lunch. I tell you what, though, it is getting me fitter, and I noticed the other day that my thighs have got some emerging muscles on them! Wow! From out of the cellulite, muscle is appearing! Crikey! Never thought that would happen again in this lifetime!

And so now: lessons I have learnt: That I am a messy so and so, but that I have an excellent excuse not to fret about that at the moment because of being drowned in veggies.
That I have picked up foot speed since arriving here just over a year ago.
That I have found a new love in my life, and that is my husband as I keep on discovering new facets of him which were submerged beneath our UK lifestyle.
That I am continually discovering new facets of myself, and that's not a bad statement to make when one is sixty-two.
That I will never have the svelte shape of my sixteen year old self again, but for my age, year, and model number, I am doing OK. Hope you are to.

Tuesday 1 September 2009


And so we meander along the days of our lives, having quiet days, busy days, no-builders-here-today days, 'am I ever going to get on top of these harvest-time' days, 'when will it rain so we don't have to water' days, 'where has the French gone which was in my head but is no-where to be found' days, and most of all, fun days: because we laugh a lot despite the ups and downs that accompany relocating to a new land and learning new ways of living. Laughter is precious. Laughter is priceless. Better to have laughter lines on one's face rather than frown lines. Better to wear a 'happy' face when one is of an age when one's attitude to life has become stamped on one's face, rather than a 'snappy, irritated, miserable' face which carries a downward turning mouth and dull eyes.

And so we meander through the days of our lives, still 'pinching' ourselves in disbelief that we are actually living in France. We have been here just over a year. It feels like always, yet still feels as if we have just arrived.

The swifts are marshalling their forces. Round and round they are flying, zooming here, there, some just above our heads, some high up in the sky. They are not aimlessly doing birdy-things whatever it is that birds do when on the wing, neither does it seem like they are feeding on other things which fly through the air as well. They just seem to be very busy, excited almost. Well I suppose we all would be, if we were about to depart south to Africa sometime soon, like they are. And just now they have assembled into a flock and are flying en masse. Wow! I have high regard for those little creatures who fly for so long and for such a great distance. Bon courage for them as they go on their way.

We had drop of rain today. Well not so much of a 'drop' rather it was a light drizzle for all of an hour. However, soon the builders will be up on the roof beams and Sod's Law says that then the Heavens will decide to give us a thorough watering! Oh well, c'est la vie! AND the builders managed to be here for half a day, which is better than not being here at all.

Things I probably never will learn to do:
Open a box of matches the right way up so the contents do not spill out all over the floor when the box is opened.
Wash up more frequently: That when one is busy trying to keep up with jam and chutney making, that it is best to wash up first so the surfaces are less cluttered. Otherwise the mess is, quite frankly, horrendous!
Keep off the Internet when I have reams of writing to do and then get cross at myself because of the guilty feeling of having wasted good writing time.
Be cold and unfeeling towards people who are less than what they should be towards us.
Water the veggies as regularly they need thereby not doing the plants justice.
Be totally and ruthlessly organised.
Get into bed at a reasonable hour at night, and deny the creative flow which seems to start streaming in just as I am thinking that I ought to get off to bed.

Hoping that laughter is not too far away from you, I wish you happy travellings through your days as well.