7 January 2020

THE SPY, THE OWL AND THE CHIMNEY

 
With fine weather chez nous the builder has been able to fix our chimney.
Hoorah!
 
 
It was in dire need of some pointing and the gap under the top bit is where the hornets got in to make their nest last year.
 
 
We are thrilled with what looks like a very fine job indeed.
 
Of course, we have yet to see it in person.  The work has been done in our absence, often a good way to get disruptive jobs done, and photos have been sent to update us with progress.
 
However, we are extremely envious of that blue sky.  We haven't seen anything like that in the UK since we got back over a month ago.  The occasional hint of blueish grey but otherwise endless grey, gloomy skies and drizzly weather.  Ugh.
 
Friends pop by every so often to check on the place, sending photos to reassure us that it's still standing (and not occupied by gypsies).  We also have a new gadget - a spy camera.  That's very exciting.  We spend hours watching the comings and goings of various creatures and birds, cars passing by on the lane and leaves blowing around.  It alerted us to the fact that chimney work was about to start by the arrival of a van and delivery of a cement mixer.
 
 
We are thrilled to see that the barn owl has moved back in.
 
He/she moved out last year when Daisy arrived for the summer, leaving behind much evidence of his/her inhabitation in the form of lots of owl poo and owl pellets.  In case you're wondering what the difference is, think fore and aft - well actually the other way round.
 
We have several minutes of video of the owl swooping around, here and there, or just sitting on the doorstep, waiting.  Who knows what for.  For several hours at a time it sits on the guttering right by the spy cam, the regular twizzling round of its head and flapping of wings triggering the camera to keep taking pictures.
 
The only problem with the spy cam is that it increases our yearning to be there but the time will pass quickly enough.  We have plenty to do here in the coming weeks and spring will arrive before we know it - although it's hard to believe that on looking through the window at the cold grey sky and skeletal trees swaying in the bitter wind.
 
Hey ho.

31 December 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR! and some best bits of 2019.

 
January
In a cold, miserable month in the UK and there's plenty of time to bake.
 
 
February
An unusually mild and sunny week sees us at the seaside with Hugo.
 
 
March
The winter is over at last and we return to Le Grand-Pressigny.
 
 
April
We eat outdoors at any and every opportunity.
 
 
May
We finally finish the alterations upstairs and our new bedroom is ready for visitors.
 
 
 
June
The garden is full of flowers and the gooseberries are looking promising.
 
 
July
A month of visitors, heatwave and sight seeing.
 
 
August
The brocante season is in full swing amid another heatwave.
 
 
September
More baking for our charity coffee morning.
 
 
October
Glorious autumn colours.
 
 
November
A last, stolen week chez nous to put the house and garden to bed for the winter.
 
 
December
An early December walk at Longshaw in Derbyshire to steel us for the winter.
It was the last we saw of the sun for quite some time.
 
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL AND I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU HERE AGAIN IN 2020!

26 December 2019

MERRY CHRISTMAS !!

 
Better late than never
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE !!

16 December 2019

A LICK OF PAINT

 
In the spring we went to a brocante at Leugny where Nick bought this standard lamp for 1€.
Actually, it cost him 2€ because although it had a 1€ label on it he only had a 2€ coin and the seller had no change.  (Or so she said!)  It also had a hideous broken shade which was soon despatched to the dechetterie.
 
 
We needed a lamp for a dark corner of the dining room but this wasn't really what I had in mind.  In fact I confess that I thought it was not very attractive at all and wondered what had possessed him to buy it.  Maybe because it was so cheap!  So I thought it would benefit from a lick of paint and decided to have a go at painting it.
 
 
Daisy has a thing about standard lamps.  So far she has trashed three of them.  Two of ours and one in a hotel bedroom.  Oops!  I think she thinks they are trees and doesn't expect them to fall over. 
 
Last year I went on a course on painting with chalk paint where I learned the basics of a number of painting techniques.  I had no idea you could have so much fun with a tin of paint!  Since then I have painted a few bits and pieces but not yet anything major that really matters.  Not that the standard lamp was expensive, just that if I messed it up it could be a while before we found another one that was such a bargain.
 

The first step (after rewiring the lamp) was to give it two coats of the main colour which was an ivory colour, then a coat of clear wax.  The next step would be to give it a wash of diluted dark wax which would settle into the grooves in the pattern to highlight them.  I had never done this before so I decided to practise on a table lamp first.
 

 
The table lamp was originally black and we'd had it a few years so I wasn't too worried if the paint didn't work.  It looks much better in the ivory colour I think. 
 

 
We are very pleased with the finished lamp.  For the cost of some paint and wax, a switch and bulb holder, some flex and a new shade, we have a "new" standard lamp which is unique.
 

 
In fact we're so pleased that my next project will be this side table.  We bought it in a UK charity shop for £30 and it fills the space where our small sideboard used to be perfectly.  (The sideboard was requisitioned for the space under the stairs in our UK home where it also fits perfectly.)
Nick sanded a couple of patches on the top to check what the wood was like underneath the dark brown stain.  We thought it looked rather nice, well used and battle scarred, so our plan is to sand and wax the top to produce a light oak kind of finish, then paint and wax the sides and legs the same colour as the standard lamp. 
 
Watch this space!

15 December 2019

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?



I have lived through many a general election that didn't go the way I wanted but never before have I felt such a total lack of respect for the incumbent of No 10 or such fear for the future.

It must only be that enough people believe that leaving the EU will solve their problems.  Problems that result from ten years of Tory government and have nothing to do with being in the EU.  So they have voted for more of the same.

Boris Johnson may well be grateful to his new found working class or jobless friends for electing him but they may soon be disappointed when they find he doesn't care a toss about them. They were conned.  All he cares about is his posh mates and being PM.

Sadly, the Labour party is unelectable.  They share the blame for the catastrophic mess we are in and what happens in the next few years.

("Halcyon Days" by Bruce Hornsby is one of my favourite CDs.)

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.