16 October 2019

FRIENDS AND ART and you just never know what's round the corner.

Hugo with his Auntie Jane.
The weather picked up again for this last weekend, just in time for an annual event that takes place in the next village - L'Art et Lard in Le Petit-Pressigny.  We're glad it did for a number of reasons including the arrival of a visitor, a friend from years back who I haven't seen for twenty seven years. 
My friend Jane now lives in Provence and meeting up again was just as if we had last met only last year, not nearly three decades ago.  Off we went to L'Art et Lard on Sunday, stopping on the way for coffee at our friends Gaynor and Tim's house in the village.  We walked down to the village after coffee just as the local brass band was passing by.  Coming from the north of England it's a familiar and much loved sound, brass bands being ever present at all village events.

L'Art et Lard is a play on the words in French for art and bacon - "lar et lar".  It's a fair for lovers of art and food, the art being displayed in people's outbuildings and gardens around the village and the food in stalls in the village square.  There is a really good selection of both on display and for sale.
Some of the art is not to my taste but I was very taken with the little sculptures of black cats and the stylish figurines.  I would have bought the one of a person reclining in the moon if I had had anywhere to put it.

Most of the prices are not outrageous for good original art.  Our problem is that we are running out of space to put anything else on the walls or surfaces at home, both in France and England.

I really liked these two paintings and now, the weekend being over and the opportunity gone, I wish I had bought one of them.  As I get older I find I love colour, the brighter the better, and these were right up my street.
This fabulous door was in someone's courtyard. 
Don't look too closely at the artwork.
My friend Jane came up with an idea for my passion for doors and windows.  As well as the doors and windows themselves I also love taking pictures of knobs, knockers and, more recently, letter boxes.  I occasionally come across nice ones for sale at brocantes and vide greniers but so far have resisted buying any because I haven't got any nice wooden doors or windows to put them on.  (The house is nicely double glazed with modern doors and windows that let in plenty of light and keep the cold or heat out.)  While we were showing Jane around the house (the "estate" as we like to call it!) she spotted an old wooden door, not quite as nice as the one above (but not far off) lurking and completely forgotten  in our barn and she suggested I decorate it with a collection of knobs, knockers and so on and put it on display somewhere.  It is probably one of the original doors that were removed and discarded when the double glazing was done.  Great idea and one to get stuck into next year I think.

There is definitely something for everyone at L'Art et Lard.
Jane had a nice time with us and yesterday we put her on a train back to Provence, a very, very long journey.  Today it was back to normality beginning with a trip to the vet with Daisy.  About twice a year she gets dermatitis which presents as itchy patches on various parts of her body, this time her back legs.  The itching obviously annoys her, judging by the scratching, and occasionally she ends up with a nasty red raw patch somewhere.  Hence the visit to the vet for treatment.
While we were in the vet's waiting room a couple (mother in her fifties and son in his twenties I would guess) came rushing in carrying a pet wrapped in a towel.  This poor bundle of fluff looked like a small dog who was in a bad way and the receptionist reacted promptly to what was apparently an urgent problem they had phoned ahead.  Just as particulars were being taken, the poor little dog died.  The owners were ushered into the vet's room and came out a bit later tearful and empty handed.  The young man was on the phone to someone, saying "il est parti".  Me and another lady in the waiting room were also in tears.
It seems to me that no matter where you are, there are always people not far away having a worse time of things.  I still feel upset and unsettled having witnessed some people having one of the worst days of their lives, the day their little dog died, and I wish I hadn't had to see it.  On the other hand, it does make me realise how important it is to cherish those we love, each other, our pets, old friends and family.  You never know what's round the corner.
RIP a little dog who meant a great deal to someone.

2 October 2019

HORNETS, MONUMENTS AND WEATHER part three, the last part.

On leaving La Chartreuse du Liget we headed for another place on the list of châteaux and monuments open for the weekend of the Patrimoine.
We had never heard of it before:  the Château Saint-Jean Saint-Germain.
According to our map the village of Saint-Germain was off the the road from Loches to Perusson so off we went in search of the château.  We couldn't find it.  We drove up and down the same roads, round and round the village and nowhere could we find what we were looking for.  Just as we were about to give up and go home for a cup of tea, we turned around and went through the village the opposite way and there it was, behind a wall and a huge pair of gates.  We had driven past it several times already.
Then we couldn't get in.  The gates were firmly locked and there was no sound of life from inside.  They were too tall to see over so we went around the wall to see if there was another way in, which there wasn't.  Feeling miffed that we had found it at last but still couldn't get in to see it, we headed back to the car just as the gates opened silently and a small group of tourists stepped out.  The guide spotted us and ushered us in.  Hoorah!

According to the guide the château was bought only a few years ago by someone from Loches who originally comes from the village of Saint-Germain.  Bits of it date back to the eleventh century and when he bought it, it was in dire need of repair and renovation.  The new owner has made a good start and finished a few rooms on two floors.  I have to say it is really well done.  If I were ever to buy a château myself and do it up, this is how I would want it to look.  The stylish modern touches blend really well with the traditional stonework, fireplaces and other features.

Having had a brief look at the dining room the next room we were able to look at turned out to be a cloakroom / bathroom.
Then we were ushered rapidly upstairs.
By now we had got the message that although photography was permitted, the guide was keen to get us round the château and out again as soon as possible.  Most of the questions we asked she didn't know the answer to, which I thought was odd, but I suspect she just didn't want to spend the time explaining things.  Such a contrast to other guided tours where questions would lead to lengthy and tedious explanations going into enormous detail. 

Next stop on our whistlestop tour was the attic.  Before I realised what was happening we were heading up the rickety steps onto the roof.

This is most definitely not something I would normally do.  In recent years I have suffered more and more from vertigo and given the choice wild horses would not have got me up those steps.  Too often I have found my legs freezing up in similar situations but maybe this time, because it was all done so fast in a matter of fact kind of way, I somehow managed to launch myself up and out onto the roof.
The guide was busy pointing out interesting things to be seen from the roof when she suddenly said "mind the holes!".  Looking down I saw that there were gaps in the floor between me and the wall that I had not noticed.  I took a couple of steps backwards and stayed well clear of the parapet after that.
Having completed our visit to the roof we headed back down the rickety steps - possibly even faster than we went up.

The outside was just as gorgeous as the inside.
The guide pointed out a few outdoor features, then marched us back round to the front of the house and out we went.

She had no idea what the little tower in the courtyard was for and with a quick goodbye ushered us out into the road.  We stepped across the road to our car and as we looked back, the gates were already closing behind us.
We had seen all there was to be seen in about twenty minutes!
We headed home for that cup of tea and sat outside enjoying a lovely warm evening.  We then had a barbecue, just a simple affair using what we had in the house, but it seemed sensible to make the most of the late summer weather and outdoor dining.  We stayed out until well after dark, listening to the owls, the foxes, the deer and the crickets. 
At some point during the night someone flipped a switch and autumn arrived!
It was raining when I took this picture the next morning and the grass that you can see which is completely brown has by now turned green again.  The whole garden sighed with relief as the rain fell and many of the plants that were brown and droopy are now lush and thriving again.  Sadly, a fair number have given up completely, including the standard rose that was a gift from friends after Lulu died.  It was suffering in the heat but it was the activity of a mole around its roots while we were away that finally did for it.
For ten days now the weather has been mixed, much cooler with plenty of rain.  Part of me misses the warmth but the other part is glad to see normal weather return.

30 September 2019


After the excitement of dealing with the hornet's nest on the Friday, we treated ourselves to a day out on the Saturday.  It was the weekend of the "Patrimoine", the one weekend of the year when local monuments, chateaux and museums are open to the public admission free or at a discount.  Many of them are places that are not usually open to the public at all.  Some have special events and entertainments on. 

La Chartreuse du Liget.
This is one of the places we pass every so often when we're out and about and it was on the Patrimoine list for the area around Loches.  So off we toddled to have a look.

It's a Carthusian monastery first built in the twelfth century and you can read all about it here if you like.  The weather was very warm and sunny for a Saturday afternoon in mid September and we sported our sunhats as we shade hopped around the ruined cloisters.

It's a very photogenic place and there were hardly any other visitors so we were able to wander around looking for the best angle to take photos at our heart's content.

I was able to indulge in taking photos of doors and windows unhindered by tourists getting in the way wearing too bright clothes and exposing too many wobbly bits.  Taking photos in the winter is often easier on the eye in that respect except, of course for the lack of sun and poor light.  The light here was perfect.

The little chapel is still used and in good condition.  There I was able to indulge my fascination for floors.  (A more recent extension of my passion for doors and windows,)
Standing outside all by itself was an old refectory table.  It was beautiful, old and gnarled with the scars of centuries of monks' dinners.  Or so I imagine, as I presume it's the original table, or one of them.  I'm happy to believe that anyway, which is what counts.
Interestingly, admission was free for the weekend but the lady in reception told us we could make a donation of 2 euros each if we felt we would like - which is the normal admission price!  We did, of course!
Afterwards we went in search of another site listed in the Patrimoine leaflet which proved to be very interesting - more of that tomorrow when I conclude my post on hornets, monuments and weather.

29 September 2019


Only nine days ago, on a Friday, the weather was glorious, as it had been for weeks and weeks.  So you may wonder why smoke was coming out of our chimney. 
We had lit the kitchen fire because we suddenly realised that the reason we were bombarded with huge hornets every time we stepped out of the kitchen door after dark was because there was a hornet's nest in the chimney.  We thought that lighting the fire would smoke them out but of course it didn't - it just made them more active and rather cross.  All that lighting the fire achieved was to make the kitchen uncomfortably hot.
Nick enquired at the Mairie what to do about it - the Mairie being the first port of call in all crises like this.  To be accurate, he didn't get as far as the Mairie itself but instead collared the very nice man who looks after the commune's gardens and was busy watering the flower beds outside the Mairie.  The same young man said he would be round toute suite - which we took to mean he would come and deal with them.  Great service or what!
We were wrong.  He turned up in the commune van with a cardboard box containing a large spray can of insecticide, some sturdy gauntlets and what looked very much like a space suit.  He gave instructions on how to use all three and made suggestions about who we could borrow a roof ladder from.
As he drove away up the drive, job done he obviously thought, we looked at each other and whispered "no way" under our breath - as if he might be able to hear us let alone understand what we said.  Instead we called in the experts.
The person whose ladder it was suggested we borrow gave us the name of a local company who would come and do the job for us.  After one short phone call they promised to be round toute suite and sure enough, less than an hour later they turned up in the company van.  The company turned out to be a husband and wife team.  He went up the ladder with a long pole with an even longer extension tube on the end and she held the ladder while giving directions.  Left a bit, right a bit, and so on.
Half an hour and 138 euros later the job really was done and, as promised, within another two hours of the deadly powder being squirted into the chimney stack there was no sign of even a single hornet.  We had correctly identified them as European hornets which are, according to the website we saw, very likely to fly at night and get very nasty if you upset them.  That evening we were very pleased not to have to run the gauntlet of the things every time we stepped outside. 
The Saturday was equally glorious and was day 1 of the Patrimoine Weekend.  More of that tomorrow...….