December 24, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS !!

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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.

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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 !!

December 15, 2013

THE AERIAL MAN COMETH (at last)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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………….

December 5, 2013

STORM DAMAGE

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 !!

December 4, 2013

CHAUMONT-SUR-LOIRE part two

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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.

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December 1, 2013

CHAUMONT-SUR-LOIRE

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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 !!

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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 !!

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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.

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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 !!