24 December 2013


happy christmas

The tree is decorated and the presents are piled underneath.  Lulu has sniffed every one and is absolutely sure which ones are for her.

The cake is made and has its marzipan icing on, ready for the royal icing which will be applied lovingly this evening, or possibly on Christmas morning.  Last minute as always. A new mini herd of reindeer has been purchased to add to the forest of Christmas trees, the snowman and Santa Claus that adorn it every year.

happy christmas2

The mince pies are made and I tried a different recipe this year.  They look promising.  OK, I admit it, I felt obliged to try one and they taste good.  (Recipe here.)

The house is decorated beautifully and as minimally as I could get away with.  The tinsel factor is lower this year because I managed to hide some of it before Nick found it all.

All that remains is for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  I hope that Santa Claus visits your house, that the turkey is cooked through and that you have a truly wonderful time !!

15 December 2013



As soon as we spotted that the wind had blown our aerial down and while the storm was still raging on the 5th December we phoned a TV aerial company.  We got the number in the Thompson Local directory and thought we’d get in early and be at the front of the queue.  The operator booked us in for the engineer to come the next day, Friday.  Result!

He didn’t turn up.  He told a couple of fibs about having tried to phone us (which he hadn’t) and said he would come Saturday morning instead.  By 12.30pm he hadn’t turned up.  Waiting in on a Saturday morning is really frustrating, especially if the person doesn’t turn up.  Weekends are the only times we can get errands done together and with fence panels and greenhouse glass to sort out, as well as Christmas things get done, we could do without the aggravation.

We phoned and he said he would come about 3pm so we went out for lunch, then I went shopping while Nick waited at home.  By 3.30pm it was getting dark and he still hadn’t turned up.  We phoned him again and he just said he was still working on another job so Nick told him to get lost.

We phoned another company and arranged for them to come on Thursday morning between 8am and 1pm, as Nick was going to be away all week and that was the first day I could be in all day.

At 11.30am on Thursday I phoned to check they were coming and was told definitely by 1pm.  At 1.30pm I phoned to see what was happening and was told I was the next job on his list but he couldn’t say what time he would arrive.  I told him to get lost.  Another day wasted.

With two aerial companies sacked already I gambled on third time lucky and this time I phoned the local electrical appliance shop to see if they could recommend anyone.  I was given the number of a man called Brian who said he would come at about 3.30pm.  At 5pm when it had been dark for an hour or more I phoned him to make another arrangement but he did in fact turn up and look at the job in the dark, from the ground using my torch because he didn’t bring one.

He said he would come between 9.30 and 10am on Saturday morning to fix it.


At 8am on Saturday Nick made some tea and had just brought it upstairs when Lulu’s barking announced the arrival of a visitor.  I said not to worry, it would probably be the milk arriving but a man in a safety helmet perched a long ladder against the wall just as Nick peered through the curtains to see who it was.


Why does dealing with tradespeople have to be so difficult?  How can they sleep at night when they behave so unprofessionally?  Heaven help the poor souls who have had major damage to their property and have to go through all this with numerous different companies.  Project managing the simple repair of a TV aerial was exhausting and infuriating enough.


It was nice to end the week with a bit of normality.  Nick was glad to be home after a hectic week away.  Lulu was glad to have Nick back and I was glad to be able to watch Strictly on the TV instead of the computer.

All we have to do now is get the greenhouse, the fence and the car fixed!

We put up the Christmas tree this afternoon and guess what….the lights don’t work………….

5 December 2013


We have had incredibly strong winds in the UK today and it has certainly been a “Black Thursday” for us.

There were trees down everywhere and driving to an appointment this afternoon a branch was blown off a tree and landed on the car, making a series of dents in the bonnet and front wing.

At home the TV aerial was blown off.  From inside the roof and chimney seem ok but until the engineer comes tomorrow and gets up there with his ladder we won’t know for sure.

A fence panel blew over in the back garden, snapping off three stout fence posts.   Also a terracotta pot blew over and managed to smash two panes of glass in the greenhouse.

We managed to save the corrugated plastic roof of the neighbour’s lean-to conservatory while she was out by climbing up a ladder and putting some bricks on top before it blew off altogether.

All in all, there was nothing life threatening but a real nuisance.  The fence and greenhouse are not covered by our insurance policy.  Whether or not it is worth claiming on our house insurance for the aerial remains to be seen.  If we do it will be the first time in forty years of having a household policy.

As for the car, the damage is to our older car which isn’t worth a great deal but it spoils its looks and almost certainly makes it worth even less.  We will take it to the local body shop to see how much it will cost to repair but I expect it won’t be worth claiming on our motor policy.

So we are  probably around a thousand pounds worse off now than when we got out of bed this morning.  If anyone else tells me “it could have been worse” there’s a chance I could stamp on their foot !!

4 December 2013



This restaurant was closed when we were at Chaumont that day.  Luckily the little snack bar was open so we were at least able to have a coffee.

Here are more photos from our afternoon there.  I wonder if you can tell which displays are permanent and which were just for this year.




1 December 2013



During our October holiday Nick was “working at home” half the time and the rest was an actual holiday.  On his days off we decided to do some proper touristy, holiday activities, such as visiting a few châteaux.


The Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire was due to come to an end so we trotted off to see what was happening before it was too late.


It was one of those beautiful, sunny autumn days when the air is fresh but the sun quite warm.  There were lots of other visitors making the most of the good weather and the last chance to see the gardens in all their glory.


We found it all a bit peculiar, I must say.  There were huge, imaginative and elaborate garden displays that were apparently supposed to mean an awful lot to some people but we found them slightly crazy and obviously missed the point.




For example, I didn’t quite get the point of these artificial flowers, but can see that they had taken a lot of work!


I quite liked the quirkiness of this wardrobe front over a path.  In fact it would make an interesting feature in any garden.  Sans the lingerie, of course !!


There were displays with peep-holes that were most inviting.  This one caught us out.  Each peep-hole was a mirror so all I saw was……me !!


At the risk of sounding grumpy, we also felt the admission charge, €11 euros each for the gardens only, was a bit steep.  Many of the plants in the displays were well past their best.  As indeed most people’s gardens are by the end of October, but it looked like a lot of it had simply been left without any attention for quite some time and looked very sad.  It would have been fairer to charge slightly less than when the exhibits were obviously in their prime a couple of months before.


Having said all that, we would definitely go back another year and possibly splash out on the full tour of the house and garden, treating ourselves to a nice lunch in the grounds as well.  More photos soon. 

Bon Dimanche !!

21 November 2013

CHÂTEAU DE CANDÉ the final part


After our tour of the château interior we stepped outside to find that although it was dull, the drizzle had stopped, for a while anyway.


There were plenty of flowers, fruit and vegetables growing, but we weren’t sure whether they were just for display or for use by the château.  It was nice to see them anyway.


We were more fascinated by these pictures on display.  There was an area devoted to people, which we breezed past to get to the ones about food, which were much more interesting.


Each display board presented some aspect of the food of the Loire region, with an explanation of its origins in both French on one side and English on the other.  If the weather had been better I could have spent much longer reading each piece but one in particular caught my eye.


The plate of Cormery macaroons looked very tempting.  There are several stories as to how come they have a hole in the middle.  All the stories agree that it represents the belly button of a monk that originally made them many centuries ago, but there is no agreement as to how this happened.  You can read about one of the theories here.


I confess that the belly button imagery does nothing to make them seem more appetising, but I am won over by the ingredients ~ almonds, eggs, sugar and orange peel.  There are of course many different types of macaroon and this is just one of them.  Sooner or later I will just have to find a recipe for Cormery macaroons and try making them.  In which case I will let you know how I get on!

After our all too brief tour of the garden the drizzle returned so we headed back to the car.  As we turned to leave the car park a pair of young deer watched us from the edge of the wood, only a few metres away from the road.  We slowed down so that we could see them properly but by the time I had wrestled my new camera out of its bag on the back seat they had turned away and all I got was a picture of their bottoms.  Something in the timing made me think they were teasing us and that we were not the first to get such a photo!

Bon weekend !!

17 November 2013



Many of the Duchess of Windsor’s gowns are on display at Candé, including her wedding dress.  Some are originals but the wedding dress is, I think, a replica ~ I can’t remember exactly.  In any case, I was slightly disappointed when I saw it.  I had seen many photos of the wedding of course but the dress, although certainly tasteful and demure, was a bit dowdy I thought.


A lot of her other dresses would not look out of place if worn today.  Some styles never go out of fashion.  I have seen TV footage of coats just like that pink one being worn by our royals very recently.


The evening dresses were beautiful.


The hats were stylish.


I was especially interested to see the jewellery and I was not disappointed there.  Personally I can’t think I would ever wear stuff like this ~ it would look somewhat out of place walking the dog or doing the shopping!  In fact you very rarely see brooches being worn these days, maybe because most people wear anoraks of some kind rather than a formal coat or jacket, including me.


There was a definite animal theme going on ~ I liked the panther head necklace and flamingo brooch. 

Must go now……there’s a dog to walk and when I come back covered in mud I’ll have a rummage through the ironing basket to see if there’s a clean t-shirt to put on……the servants have been given the day off…..if only.


Changing the subject, I was contacted by my ex-colleagues who asked me if I would be able to bake some cakes for the usual Children in Need cake stall this year.  They particularly wanted two blackberry and apple crumble cakes, a coffee and walnut cake, a peanut butter cake and a pumpkin spice cake.  I was of course pleased to be asked and made a chocolate ginger cake as well. 

They were trying to beat last year’s total of £800 and were aiming for £1,000.  At the last count, so far they have made £1,100 and there’s still some to come in.  That’s an awful lot of cake !!

Bon Dimanche !!

13 November 2013



Candé has an elegant yet cosy feel to it.  The bedroom was charming, comfortable and very much like a grand hotel but without the Wi-Fi, television, tea tray and leaflets. 


It reminded me of when I was a teenager in the 1960’s and worked weekends and holidays at the New Bath Hotel at Matlock Bath.  That was fairly grand in its hey day.  Nothing like as grand as Candé of course, but a totally different world from normal life (especially to a fifteen year old who lived in a tiny three bedroomed council house).  The furnishings were sumptuous, the guests well heeled, well spoken and were regularly of the rich and famous type ~ the cast of the film “Women in Love” came to stay while I was there as some of the scenes were filmed on location in Derbyshire.

I worked in various parts of the hotel but mostly as a chambermaid.  The work was hard and the pay mediocre but I loved it.


The New Bath Hotel is closed and empty now.  It passed from one hotel chain to another, and Its former grandeur gradually disappeared as it became shabby and unloved.  The chambermaids, chefs and waiters arrived for work one July morning last year to find they couldn’t get in and bailiffs were taking away the furniture.  Very sad.


The most astonishing room in Candé is, I think, the bathroom.  Often châteaux have fairly utilitarian bathrooms, icy cold rooms with very little to make you want to linger there, even fully clothed.


Here the royal bathroom is nothing short of fabulous, with elaborate tiling, brass fittings, comfortable chairs, mirrors, mirrors and more mirrors.


In the middle of October the bathroom seemed rather too chilly for me but I suppose it would have been somewhat warmer in June 1937 when Edward and Wallis were celebrating their nuptials.


A glimpse of the royal throne perhaps?


The beautiful mosaics on the walls are works of art.  It’s something to bear in mind for the next time we have a bathroom refurbished perhaps.  On the other hand I think I will have…………a few more radiators !!