29 May 2020

GIVING IN

 
With the easing of lockdown restrictions even further I have allowed myself to hope that we will, maybe, get to France this summer after all.
 
Having spent months believing that to hope for something that might not happen is a recipe for disappointment, I have finally realised that having something to look forward to is more important. 
 
We were pleased when Eurotunnel announced that they will honour pre-paid crossings for a further twelve months because that meant that we would not be out of pocket by four crossings.  We had made a booking for late July because that was the last date we could travel in our twelve months of pre-payment.  Now I am allowing myself to think that we might actually be on that train, giving in to hope over expectation, and I feel better for it.

26 May 2020

WIERD TIMES


Our cherry tree in France has died. It suffered in the heatwaves last year although not until after it had  given us some nice plump cherries for a clafoutis or two. Nicole sent us a picture of it and it's just dry twigs now.


I finished the painting project. The 1990's telephone table is now a plant stand with a shabby chic look.


I made a black pudding quiche. Some leftover pieces of grilled black pudding, some wild garlic leaves and mushrooms, all made for a tasty lunch.


I took Hugo for his morning walk yesterday. Nick wanted to be home to receive a delivery of plasterboard, the essential item that will enable him to get on with the abandoned bathroom project.

Half way round our walk in the woods I tripped on a tree root and fell, doing a face plant into the undergrowth. The result is not pretty. Nothing broken, but battered and bruised. I spent yesterday nursing my wounds. I made a necklace and some earrings, promised to a friend weeks ago, while listening to the Prime Minister's chief advisor explain, in great detail, why he had felt it perfectly reasonable to defy the lockdown rules for family issues at the time of the peak of the infections.

It was like listening to a not very bright schoolkid trying to justify all the misdemeanours that have been found out. He worked out how much we knew and thought of a good reason for everything.  Wierd.
The bruises hurt more today than they did yesterday, as is always the case, and other bits that didn't hurt before now do. I'll take it easy for a day or two while Nick takes the bathroom to pieces. 

18 May 2020

A FAMILIAR WALK

A carpet of buttercups and the village of Ashover in the distance.
 
We have been taking our dog for the same walks for twenty five years.  Not the same dog of course, as we now have our fourth standard poodle.  If you count the very first standard poodle, which I had before Nick and I met, that would mean I have been doing the same walks for thirty five years and am on my fifth standard poodle.
 
A carpet of wild garlic in flower.
 
Whilst being confined to home we have been using the walks close to home.  With the dry spring weather the paths through the woods have been nice to walk.  They're not so good in the winter when their muddiness makes them dangerously slippery.
 
 
We usually meet the same people on our walks.  Many of the dog walkers that we bump into have, like us, been doing the same walks for as long as we have, with their own succession of dogs.  Mostly we don't know the names of the people, just of the dogs.
 
A carpet of bluebells.
 
For the last eight weeks things have been different.  There was much more walking traffic in the woods close to home.  It was often really busy, making it hard to keep social distancing at times as walkers, dogs, horse riders and joggers tried to pass on the narrow paths.  There were a lot of people we had never seen before and some dogs who were not very friendly.  There were several incidents where unfamiliar dogs were in attack rather than play mode.
 
An old disused stocking factory.  Manufacturing downstairs and living accommodation upstairs.
 
Then last weekend it all changed.  As if someone had flipped a switch the traffic in the woods returned to normal.  Most of the unfamiliar people, joggers and dogs disappeared and we had the woods all to ourselves again.  Us and the regular band of dog walkers that is.  Presumably with the easing of the lockdown people have gone back to wherever they went before for their exercise. 
 
Possibly my favourite house in the whole of Derbyshire.  Apart from Chatsworth that is.
 
With the lockdown eased we can now travel further afield for our walks and are no longer restricted to where we can reach on foot from home.  These pictures are of one of our favourite walks which is a five minute drive from home.
 
The walk starts at a local pub.
 
It takes about 45 minutes or so to complete the walk at a steady dog walking pace.  At this time of year the scent of the wild garlic is very strong as the woods behind the pub, where the walk starts, are full of it.  It's a very familiar walk and it's so good to be able to do it again.  We are not normally here to do it at this time of year.  It's good to see it in Spring when everything is fresh and green, reminding us that if and when the day comes that we finally stop sharing our time between here and France, it's not a bad place at all to live.
 
Sadly the pub is closed but they are doing take away meals.  Very good they are too.
 
On Saturday afternoon it was busyish, just like a normal Saturday afternoon.  People were out and about, friendly, considerate and helpful.  Most seemed to be familiar with the paths, just one or two asked directions.  It was good to see normal activity on a favourite walk.  A sense that we are getting back to normal is just what we need after all this time.

16 May 2020

HAPPY MILK DAY!

 Saturday.
 
In this strange kind of Groundhog Day existence we find it more difficult than ever to work out what day of the week it is.
 
Tuesday.
 
Milkman to the rescue!
When we moved to this house we were pleased to discover that there is a local milkman and signed up for milk and eggs asap.
 
.
Thursday.
 
He delivers three days a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, bringing the eggs on Thursdays.
If there are eggs on the doorstep as well as the milk it must be Thursday.
 
No eggs today and there are still some in the bowl so it must be Saturday today.
 
Have a good weekend!

12 May 2020

2020 A BIT FURTHER ON.

The old house in the middle of the field has a lovely big sitting room.  It had the kind of wood burning stove that was meant to be inserted into a wall, perched in the fireplace.


There is much confusion over Boris Johnson's plan for getting us out of the lockdown.  He calls it a roadmap.  People are supposed to go to work if they can't work from home but to travel on foot or bicycle and avoid public transport.  If they have to use public transport they are advised, but not obliged, to wear a mask.


We replaced the wood burner for a better one and it's a nice, airy room for summer, cosy for winter.


People can now travel freely as far from home as they like, and go out for exercise for as long as they like.  They can have picnics and sunbathe in the park.  They can meet up with one other person from another household as long as it's just one on one.


The master bedroom is a lovely, big, light airy room with exposed beams and stonework.  It had one end fitted as an office and an enormous television.  It had a walk in wardrobe with a door that opened into it.


There are plans to reopen schools next month.  Shops and restaurants the month after that.


We removed the office and rehung the wardrobe door to open outwards as is traditional (and much more convenient).


Some people are worried that it's too much too soon.  After a lockdown that was too little too late.
 

The master bedroom had an open plan ensuite shower room.  Ideal for holding a conversation with the person in bed while using the loo.



Other people are overjoyed.  These are the people who were fed up with the lockdown, some not paying too much attention to it in the first place, and had already started to breach the rules on social distancing, non essential travel and exercise.


We added some curtains to enclose the shower room as a temporary measure.  Building walls was meant to be a project for this year.


The slogan has changed from "Stay at home" to "Stay alert".  The police have said the new regime is unenforceable because nobody knows what it means.  We are worried that the new measures will lead to spreading of the disease, a second wave of infections and more deaths.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are doing it differently.  People there have been told to carry on as before, stay home, save lives.  We're with them until we see what happens.

10 May 2020

2020 THE STORY SO FAR. How we got to where we are now.


In August 2007 we were thinking of buying a caravan.  Instead, we looked at a tiny cottage in a small medieval French village.  It was probably built some time in the 1700's.


December 31st 2019 China alerts WHO to new virus.

January 23rd Study reveals a third of China’s patients require intensive care.

January 24th Boris Johnson misses first Cobra meeting. 
(A Cobra meeting is one where the government discusses how it should respond to a national or international crisis, named after the Cabinet Office Meeting Rooms where they take place.)

January 29th Boris Johnson misses second Cobra meeting.

We bought it.  We had nowhere to keep the motorcycles other than in the cellar, backing them very gingerly through the old oak door and down a very steep ramp.


January 31st The NHS declares first ever ‘Level 4 critical incident’ Meanwhile, the government declines to join European scheme to source PPE.

February 5th Boris Johnson misses third Cobra meeting.

February 12th Boris Johnson misses fourth Cobra meeting. Exeter University published study warning Coronavirus could infect 45 million people in the UK if left unchallenged.

February 13th Boris Johnson misses conference call with European leaders.

This was the picture of the house in the agent's details.  Although we searched the village we never found it because it's the back of the house.  That's the way French estate agents do things.


February 14th Boris Johnson goes away on holiday. Aides are told to keep Johnson’s briefing notes short or he will not read them.

February 18th Johnson misses fifth cobra meeting.

February 26th Boris Johnson announces ‘Herd Immunity’ strategy, announcing some people will lose loved ones. Government document is leaked, predicting half a million Brits could die in ‘worse case scenario’

February 29th Boris Johnson retreats to his country manor. NHS warns of ‘PPE shortage nightmare’ Stockpiles have dwindled or expired after years of austerity cuts.


We loved the terrace overlooking the rooftops of the village but changed the tiles for ones that weren't lethal when wet.

March 2nd Boris Johnson attends his first Cobra meeting, declining another opportunity to join European PPE scheme. Government’s own scientists say over half a million Brit’s could die if virus left unrestrained. Johnson tells country “We are very, very well prepared.”

March 3rd Scientists urge Government to advise public not to shake hands. Boris Johnson brags about shaking hands of Coronavirus patients.

March 4th Government stops providing daily updates on virus following a 70% spike in UK cases. They will later U-turn on this amid accusations they are withholding vital information.

March 5th Boris Johnson tells public to ‘wash their hands and business as usual’

The bedrooms were crammed with old furniture when we first saw the house.  There were spare mattresses parked on the landing, ready for the Parisian family to use during the summer holidays.

March 7th Boris Johnson joins 82,000 people at Six Nations match.

March 9th After Ireland cancels St Patrick’s day parades, the government says there’s “No Rationale” for cancelling sporting events.

March 10th - 13th Cheltenham takes place, more than a quarter of a million people attend.

March 11th 3,000 Atletico Madrid fans fly to Liverpool.

Without all the heavy furniture (and spare mattresses) there was plenty of room upstairs.

March 12th Boris Johnson states banning events such as Cheltenham will have little effect. The Imperial College study finds the government’s plan is projected to kill half a million people.

March 13th The FA suspends the Premier League, citing an absence of Government guidance. Britain is invited to join European scheme for joint purchase of ventilators, and refuses. Boris Johnson lifts restrictions of those arriving from Coronavirus hot spots.

March 14th Government is still allowing mass gatherings, as Stereophonics play to 5,000 people in Cardiff.

March 16th Boris Johnson asks Britons not to go to pubs, but allows them to stay open. During a conference call, Johnson jokes that push to build new ventilators should be called ‘Operation Last Gasp’


The living room had a lovely fireplace.  Plus lots of ornaments and old, dark furniture.

March 19th Hospital patients with Coronavirus are returned to care homes in a bid to free up hospital space. What follows is a boom of virus cases in care homes.

March 20th The Government states that PPE shortage crisis is “Completely resolved” Less than two weeks later, the British Medical Association reports an acute shortage in PPE.

March 23rd UK goes into lockdown.

March 26th Boris Johnson is accused of putting ‘Brexit over Breathing’ by not joining EU ventilator scheme. The government then state they had not joined the scheme because they had ‘missed the email’

With some new furniture it was nice and airy for summer holidays.  A new wood burning stove made it cosy and comfortable on cooler days.

April 1st The Evening Standard publishes that just 0.17% of NHS staff have been tested for the virus.

April 3rd The UK death toll overtakes China.

April 5th 17.5 million Antibody tests, ordered by the government and described by Boris Johnson as a ‘game changer’ are found to be a failure.

April 7th Boris Johnson is moved to intensive care with Coronavirus.

In 2014 we thought we would like to spend more time in France and decided to look for something a bit bigger.  We found this.  It was also probably built some time in the 1700's and was once part of a small hamlet.  Now it stands by itself in the middle of a field.

April 16th Flights bring 15,000 people a day into the UK - without virus testing.

April 17th Health Secretary Matt Hancock says “I would love to be able to wave a magic wand and have PPE fall from the sky.” The UK has now missed four opportunities to join the EU’s PPE scheme.

April 21st The Government fails to reach its target of face masks for the NHS, as it is revealed manufactures offers of help were met with silence. Instead millions of pieces of PPE are being shipped from the UK to Europe.

April 23rd - 24th Government announces testing kits for 10 million key workers. Orders run out within minutes as only 5,000 are made available.

We downsized in the UK in order to upsize in France, re-rendered the walls and planted roses.

April 25th UK death toll from Coronavirus overtakes that of The Blitz.

April 30th Boris Johnson announces the UK has succeeded in avoiding a tragedy that had engulfed other parts of the world - At this point, The UK has the 3rd highest death toll in the world.

May 1st The Government announces it has reached its target of 100,000 tests - They haven’t conducted the tests, but posted the testing kits.

May 4th The number of NHS staff that have died from Coronavirus overtakes the number of British Military personnel that died during the Iraq War.

It had a lovely big kitchen but the floor tiles were breaking up, the oven door fell off, the dishwasher didn't work and we thought we could improve the layout.


May 5th The UK death toll becomes the highest in Europe.

May 6th Boris Johnson announces the UK could start to lift lockdown restrictions by next week.


Having a new floor meant having a new kitchen.  We thought we might as well have a new staircase at the same time.

This evening, Boris Johnson will tell us the government's plan for getting us out of the lockdown.  Looking at how we got to where we are now, I think we will be making up our own minds about how we will be going about it.

(The above calendar of events comes from https://appeasement.org/.)

7 May 2020

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?


It only dawned on me recently that the reason (we) I feel so out of sorts and unsettled is that deep down I still regard our house in France as our real house.  The one we have in the UK is just somewhere we stay for the winter until we can go back to France in the spring.


This is in contrast to most of the friends who have second homes in France.  Although they spend much of the summer there and absolutely love it, where they live in the UK is their real home.
In 2014 we downsized in the UK in order to upsize in France, taking most of our treasured possessions to France.  Long time followers of the blog will remember that our plans to live full time in France were thwarted and we back pedalled, settling for the 50/50 solution, with which we have been perfectly happy - as long as we could get back there when spring arrived.


So with rumours of the easing of the lockdown after this weekend I should be thrilled, or so you would think.  But (I) we feel very, very nervous.

We don't watch the news on TV very often but with all that's happening have felt the need to, in order to keep up with what the hell is going on.  We especially don't watch PMQ very often but we caught a snippet of it on last night's news, when the new leader of the Labour party challenged Boris Johnson on his handling of the crisis in the UK.  For the first time I felt that Boris actually knew he was completely out of his depth.  He had no answers, only bluster, political bullshit and more promises that he has no idea whether or not he can keep.  The Labour leader asked the questions to which we all want the answers - and Boris the clown had nothing to give in reply.  He looked totally lost without the rest of his circus there to back him up.

There are big hints that the lockdown will be eased very soon, bit by bit, and we find the very idea terrifying.  Much as I hate being confined to home (albeit a perfectly nice home with a garden and, now, regular click and collect supermarket supplies) and would dearly love to go to France as soon as possible, I have this underlying dread of venturing out amongst other people.  This virus is not going to go away that soon.  It will still be lurking and as people younger than us return to work, college and school, the potential for its spread is still very much there.  At our age we are vulnerable and much as I feel life is passing me by, hanging on to life itself has become the all important goal.

Goodness only knows what will happen next.  I have no faith whatsoever in the government to look after us, to act in our interest.  On the day when the UK fatalities pass 30,000 and become the highest in Europe, the PM suggests that we shouldn't pay too much heed to the figures and the press is more preoccupied with the love life of one of the government's most respected scientific advisors.  The man who back in March pointed out that we could end up with half a million deaths if they didn't act soon. 

It's every man for himself now.  Look after number one, stay home and let others gamble with their own lives as the press cheer the restoring of our freedom.  We'll wait for a bit and see what happens next.