18 October 2022



In our garden we have a tree which is an absolute delight at this time of year.  Before the leaves fall they turn the brightest red and last for ages like this, bringing a very welcome splash of colour when the weather becomes, as it inevitably has, more autumnal. 

It is three years since we saw the tree like this.  In 2020 we only spent eight weeks during the summer here, in 2021 only twelve, dashing back to the UK in mid September both times because of the pandemic, so we missed seeing the tree in all its glory.

It's called a "rhus typhinia" or "staghorn sumac" tree and it almost glows a glorious red.  We have a sapling growing in the grass that Nick has avoided mowing over and are tempted to plant it elsewhere in the garden.  You can never have too much colour.

Our geraniums, dahlias, roses and petunias are hanging on well and also provide splashes of colour around the place.  Or at least they were until the last rains gave them a bit of a battering.

I had forgotten how much of a trial it is having work done on the house.  The fitting of the smaller windows was delayed because of the weather - we had a brief rainy period - and the fact that the builder had not received the windows from the suppliers.  Luckily they turned up a week later which was a huge "phew" moment as a huge amount of work needed to be done after they were fitted and before the carpet arrived.

During the weekend of relative inactivity while the builders were waiting for the windows we had guests for probably the last lunch of moules et frites.  We ate in the kitchen as there was a cool wind outdoors and the dining table was inaccessible due to the whole house being piled up with stuff from the bedroom.  It took longer to clean the kitchen down to make it acceptable for visitors than to cook the food.

It's great to have a window in the bathroom!

The week of delay in getting the windows in meant the decorating of the bedroom had to be done rapidly.  I don't like that kind of pressure, it's hard enough work as it is.  Still, the preparation of the room is complete except for a problem with the paint.  The wall paint is fine and we painted it a similar colour to what was there before because we liked it.  It just looks cleaner and fresher.  The beams are nicely varnished too.  

When it came to the skirting board (much of it newly fitted) we fell at the last hurdle as the paint was awful, like trying to paint with treacle.  I started the job and declared that I couldn't get a decent finish.  Nick had a go and he couldn't either.

French paint is a mystery to us even after all these years and of course, since Brexit, we are not allowed to bring such things from the UK*.  It wasn't until the middle of Sunday afternoon that we discovered that we needed different paint but no DIY shops are open on Sundays in France so we had to abandon the painting of the skirting board and leave it until after the carpet was fitted.

*Following Colin's comment below,  I have looked it up and it seems that you can bring paint to France up to a limit in value and presumably as part of your maximum allowance for personal items:
I was following the rule that only personal items can be brought and didn't think paint was typically personal!
This will be very handy if we ever want to paint anything again.

On Monday we dodged the rain and used some of our precious petrol (there are fuel shortages in France due to industrial action by the tanker drivers) to go and fetch different paint and a large quantity of frog tape!

The weather has been decidedly peculiar.  Saturday it poured with rain all day but was warm.  Sunday was very warm and sunny, as good as an English summer's day at 23°C.  Yesterday, Monday it rained all day and in the early evening we had a huge thunderstorm and, according to our trusty rain guage, 4.5cm of rain.

Today is carpet fitting day and the weather is glorious.  The nice young man turned up at 9.00 with his young daughter which suggests it might be half term.  As a teenager (I think) she is probably too young to be his paid assistant or apprentice.  Reassuring scuffling noises are emerging from the room above as I type this, suggesting that he's getting on with it.  Once he's done we will have the house to ourselves again, thank goodness.

We have, however, added another DIY job to our list.  The carpet will extend into the walk-in wardrobe/dressing room which is triangular in shape.  When we moved it it had a few wonky shelves with unfortunate gaps at the back and Nick improved it no end by levelling the shelves and making them fit all the way to the walls.  (He also rehung the door so that it opened out of the room, not into it, making access much easier.  Although we had to buy a new door as in France they come with a frame and the old one could not be re-used.)

Once the room was emptied we decided that now (or maybe next year) is the time to do something with it that makes better use of the space, more hanging rails, better shelving and some drawers.  Another project!  

We can research the possibilities while in the UK over the winter, no doubt requiring several visits to our local Ikea (and hopefully some of their meatballs and chips in the restaurant) and do the job next spring.

One day in the distant future we should have actually finished tinkering with this house and just be able to enjoy it!  Considering that when we first saw it and bought it we thought it was a "move straight in" we have changed an awful lot of things!


Good news from the UK:  my brother is much better and is now at the stage where he could be discharged from hospital.  Except that he can't because he can't walk more than a few steps, can't sit up or get out of bed by himself.  There is talk of transferring him to a nursing home of some kind where he can continue to get physiotherapy and build up his physical strength before he returns home.  There is also talk of putting a single bed downstairs for him as the bathroom is also downstairs and stairs are beyond him and no doubt will be for some time.  

The worrying thing is that because he is now what is known as a "bed blocker" - occupying a hospital bed when he is no longer actually ill and in need of active treatment - the hospital discharge team in league with Social Services might under pressure to send him home with visits from carers and physiotherapists.  My experience of carers in dealing with my father's care is not good.  The service was shambolic and unreliable and some of the carers he had were lazy, dishonest and untrustworthy.  A frail and elderly person with dementia is easy to take advantage of.  The good ones were lovely people that deserve a medal for doing such work but were often rushed off their feet.  Fortunately, unlike my poor father, my brother is completely compos mentis.  He is perfectly capable of making it clear that his needs can't be met at home if he can't actually look after himself and that relying on unreliable carers is not the best way forward.  Not to mention the problem of how to ensure that he does actually get daily physio sessions like he does in hospital.  If he's going to recover completely and get back to work half an hour a week of physio will not be sufficient.


  1. We had a sumac tree like that in the garden when I was growing up. My mother loved its autumnal foliage. But it is only in recent years that I have discovered the red sumac ground spice which I sprinkle on my salads etc [Thank you Yotam Ottolenghi!] Can you harvest the spice from your tree?
    I am glad your brother is making progress- but share your concern about his longer term care needs. As you say, he is 'compos mentis' and can argue his case for himself. All power to his elbow! [and other parts of his anatomy, as needed]

    1. I heard they were called a spice tree and can be edible. One day I will look into how to obtain the spice!
      Since I wrote the post we have heard that my brother will be discharged to some kind of rehabilitation centre before going home, which is reassuring. How soon depends on the availability of a bed of course.

  2. Jean... You are still allowed to bring paint into France for personal use...

    1. Yes, I have looked it up and it seems that you can:
      I was following the rule that only personal items can be brought and didn't think paint was typically personal!
      This will be very handy if we ever want to paint anything again.

  3. Sidney and Alison have a sumac tree and they harvest the spice from it. I’m sure they can tell you how it’s done.