Merry Christmas, everyone !! And a very happy New Year, too.
Keep well, keep warm, enjoy your celebrations and I’ll be back in the new year.
I remember being so thrilled to be back in Le Grand-Pressigny in April, after an absence of sixteen weeks. They were very long weeks. ~ it was a very bad winter last year.
I just can’t wait to see those Loire Valley blue skies and fluffy clouds again.
I am happy that the shortest day is now behind us ~ although I usually notice very little improvement in the length of the days until well into January. I always feel we have turned the corner once I am driving home from work in daylight, some time in the middle of February.
One of our favourite views in the village ~ always pretty at any time of year but especially nice in spring.
With the worst of the winter weather yet to come, I find great pleasure in reminding myself of what it was like in our little corner of France last spring.
The village square looks so inviting in the spring sunshine.
Curiously, today it is unbelievably mild ~ 13°C according to my car dashboard. It certainly felt like it ~ 12° warmer than it was only three days ago !! Long may the mild spell continue ~ any day without snow is very welcome at this time of year.
Lulu foraging amongst the spring flowers in our little garden.
All I can say is “so far, so good”. We haven’t been snowed in yet this winter. Christmas looks like being a mild one rather than a white one. That’s fine by me. It’s after Christmas that winter really starts to bite, I think.
Looking back at our photo album, our stay in Le Grand-Pressigny in April this year was very floral. The weather was exceptionally good, if I remember, too.
Dinner on our little terrace, just an hour or so after we arrived for the first visit since the dark days of winter.
Our Judas trees were in full bloom in April. Such pretty flowers ~ it’s a shame they make so much mess later on.
Flowers in a container in the village square.
And last but not least, the climbing rose on our front wall was in full bloom to welcome us back to our little holiday home.
The only thing that really cheers me up in winter is looking forward to spring, summer and autumn.
OK, it’s nice to get cosy with the fire going in the hearth, the Christmas tree twinkling away, a glass of mulled wine and the Strictly final on the telly. All three of us, me, Nick and the dog, getting comfy on the sofa – Lulu stretched out in the middle and us squashed in at each end, a large ginger fluffy tail wafting across our eyes as she turns round and obscures the view of the best quickstep ever seen in the competition.
It’s even nice to get togged up really warm and go for an occasional long walk, noses glowing, then come back to a lovely warm house and a comforting cup of tea.
But the reality of winter is cold, cold and more cold, mixed with grey, damp and dark. And of course the dreaded snow. Once Christmas is over, for us it’s batten down the hatches, and keep going until spring. What a pity we can’t just hibernate.
So I have been looking back at our photos for this last year and realise that we have so far spent the equivalent of eight wonderful weeks in Le Grand-Pressigny and for most of the time the sun shone beautifully.
The photos fall into a few obvious themes : flowers, friends, food and sunshine. It’s great to have all that under our belts and to look forward to more of the same.
I’m going to post some of my favourite photos while we busy ourselves with Christmas – I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
This little girl was born in January 1928. She was a shy country girl with a mischievous sense of humour, the youngest of eight children.
She married a handsome sailor, had two children herself and worked in a knitwear factory where she once mended King Farouk’s underpants. Not many people know that. She rode pillion all over England, Scotland and Ireland on the back of a BSA motorcycle. She loved her home in the country and enjoyed holidays in Cornwall and Scotland with her sailor. She once went to France but didn’t reckon much to it. She died four days before Christmas in 2002.
This little girl was born on the 11th December 1951. She was a bit of a tomboy and spent most of her spare time climbing trees, collecting tadpoles and playing cricket with her male cousins. She seemed to spend a lot of time in a sidecar attached to her dad’s motorcycle. She went to university, has skied down mountains, dived the ocean, sailed, windsurfed, canoed, ridden a Harley-Davidson all over Europe with her husband Nick, and once drove a steam engine. Not many people know that. She has a little house in France and almost as many friends there as she does at home and is really looking forward to her next visit.
She misses her mum on the day she turns sixty but she is looking forward to her family coming over for her birthday. It’s roast lamb and tiramisu for lunch, two of her favourites. Happy days.
At the beginning of October there is a festival in the next village, Le Petit-Pressigny, called “L’Art et Lard”. It’s a mixture of food stalls selling all kinds of interesting local produce, and all manner of artwork, displayed here and there all over the village.
This year it was a miserable day weather-wise but we had fun, bumping into friends old and new and seeing what was on display. These two are some of my favourites.
The artwork that was for sale was generally quite pricey but we could easily have bought lots of it – if we had the wall space. In the end the only thing we bought was a small bottle of locally made walnut oil !! Happy days.
Winter has arrived in Derbyshire. It was only 1°C at 11pm last night and we had a slight snowfall overnight. Nothing much, just a sprinkling.
Lulu met up with her friend Jack in the field and had a good run around. You can see Jack’s owner all muffled up in scarf, hat and gloves. Me too.
However, we are much happier than we were this time last year.
This has been a normal autumn so far. A bit milder and drier than usual perhaps, but we normally get a slight fall of snow at this time of year, then it disappears and we get some more in January and February.
This time last year we were under three feet of snow already and clearing the drive was a mammoth task – we had huge piles of snow everywhere, as did everyone else.
I am keeping my fingers crossed that we continue as we are. The forecast is for light snow on and off this week, which is normal.
We have come across similar things to this many times in our wanderings around the Touraine, and in fact in other parts of France.
Any ideas what it is or the purpose of it ?
This one is in Le Petit-Pressigny.
Bon weekend !!
When we were chez nous in October, we were expecting visitors mid-morning for coffee and I decided to bake a little something to go with it.
Usually I would nip down to the boulangerie and get a little selection of treats from there but I had an urge to make something myself. So I made a small batch of madeleines.
They are very easy to make and take no time at all. I use a madeleine tin from Lakeland that I got as the freebie in a “3 for 2” offer last Christmas. The recipe is a Waitrose recipe that makes just the right amount of mixture for one tin.
I also used my icing sugar sifter that I bought in France and is absolutely brilliant – gone are the days of icing sugar fog in the kitchen as you sift it over a cake – this pack of icing sugar with its own sifter puts just the right amount on the cake instead of all over the place. I bought it in Auchan I think, or maybe Intermarché.
They were absolutely scrummy and you can see the recipe here.
When we furnished our little house we did it mostly in one go three years ago, bringing all the furniture in a large transit van from England, all in one weekend. You can read about that here.
This year we decided we needed another piece of furniture, some kind of large glass fronted cupboard to store our crockery and glassware. This was so that we could have it all nearer to the kitchen, saving having to walk across the living room with trays precariously piled up with stuff after each washing up session. Plus the fact that the little sideboard was crammed full and getting down on our hands and knees to winkle things out at every mealtime was becoming annoying.
Just like before, we spent some time searching furniture shops, vide-greniers and second-hand shops in France and found nothing that was even remotely the right size to fit where we wanted it to go, not to mention affordable. So we came to the conclusion again that if we were to avoid spending a lot of our precious holiday time shopping for furniture, we should have to buy it in the UK and somehow get it over to France.
The furniture we bought only three years ago is now discontinued. We were rather disappointed about this, as they did have the perfect cupboard in the range. We considered buying it at the time but thought we would never need it. Now we know we should have bought it in the first place.
However, the store we got it from had a cupboard made for us to our own specification for about the same price as we would have paid for the original.
You can see how we got it to France. The wrapping started to unravel half way down the M1 but we bodged it back together and the cupboard arrived in perfect condition. Much easier than hiring a van or towing a trailer.
We’re very pleased with the new cupboard and it’s full already.
Strictly Come Dancing is one of those shows that you either love or hate. We love it !!
This year we feel that the contestants haven’t quite come up to the standard of previous years. They have plenty of enthusiasm but not quite the sparkle.
These two videos show one of the best contestants ever, I think, Rachel Stevens. I don’t think there has ever been a better Argentine tango or Rumba since.
I decided to look them up on You Tube to remind us how it should be done in advance of Saturday’s competition !!
It is now just over a month since we returned from our last holiday in Le Grand-Pressigny.
In a few weeks’ time we will be heading back to France again. It can’t come too soon.
The weather here in Derbyshire has turned into November all of a sudden. Yesterday it was cold, misty and miserable all day. Until now it has been unusually mild, and dry.
We did a few last tidying-up jobs in the garden – our green bin recycling service is being cut between now and March – part of the local council’s economy measures. The last collection is this week so we crammed as much into it as possible. The rest will have to sit in the emptied bin until March. It rankles that we pay huge council tax for a service that they have decided to cut. The bigger your house, the bigger your garden, the more you pay in council tax and the more you need your green bin.
The next few weeks will fly by as we drag ourselves to work in the ever-darkening mornings. I can no longer ignore the fact that we are hurtling towards Christmas once again and with all of that we will soon be on our way back to France.
Last year it was touch and go whether or not we made the trip. Tons of snow fell overnight on the 25th November and we were snowed in for a week. More snow fell throughout December and travelling was difficult to say the least. I am sincerely hoping that last year was one of those winters that we only get about every ten years.
I think I must be suffering from half time blues !!
When we were chez nous in October, we went for a walk along the track that goes behind the ruined château at Etableau.
It was a mild but overcast day but we had a lovely walk and there were some surprises along the way.
Nick and Lulu spent ages searching for arrowheads in the fields next to the track.
Then we came across this huge pile of silex that had obviously been picked out of the earth by someone.
There were all kinds of fascinating things in it, including these old bones. We wondered what animal they came from. Any suggestions ??
But we didn’t find any iphones !!
Have a bonne weekend !!
On our last Sunday in Le Grand-Pessigny I heard a familiar roaring sound outside. It was quite early in the morning, probably about 8.30am.
I was still in my dressing gown when I dashed outside with my camera, just in time to see a hot air balloon drifting towards our terrace. I waved to the people in the basket and Lulu barked.
It passed low over the house and seemed to barely clear the château. I scrambled into my jeans and dashed up the hill to see if it had landed behind the château but it drifted off into the distance, quite low over the fields. In the quiet of a beautiful sunny Sunday morning, you could still hear the roar of the burners as it disappeared over the horizon.