31 May 2013


smoke rings1 smoke rings2 

Now this is something you don’t see every day.  Oversized smoke rings drifting skywards in the village square.

smoke rings3 smoke rings4  smoke rings6 And this was the culprit.

Yes, those lovely people from the old car and tractor society had been out for a run and returned to line up in the sunshine for us all to admire.  This green one was left with the single cylinder engine running and was bobbing up and down merrily all by itself, producing smoke rings as the engine turned over.

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There were other examples of ancient tractors on display.  Two of them were driven by ladies.  Now there’s an idea, now that I have so much time on my hands…………

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It was nice to see the sun last weekend – we’re keeping our fingers crossed for this coming one, too.

30 May 2013


It is now exactly a week since I embarked upon the new adventure.  Being retired.  A lot has happened since then. 

We had an awful journey to France, largely because we chose to travel at the wrong time.  The Friday before a bank holiday is not a good time and we knew we were asking for trouble but had no idea how bad it would be.

cakefest9j A double rainbow on the M1 in Nottinghamshire.

My experience of Eurotunnel reminds me of the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  (I didn’t know who wrote the famous line until I just looked it up!)  “When she was good she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.”

Suffice it to say that the motorways were incredibly busy as we got further south on our way to Folkestone, and the driving really hard work around London.  The last thing we needed when we got to Eurotunnel was a THREE HOUR DELAY !!  This seems to have come about purely because of the volume of traffic.  The thing I find baffling is when they know how many people are booked onto trains, how does it come as a surprise when they all turn up?

I could rant for ages about where I think they are going wrong but I’m sure there are people much cleverer than me looking into it as we speak.  The upshot was that by the time they got us checked in the trains were running every hour instead of every ten minutes or so, and we arrived at our hotel in Calais at 5am French time – in fact we were checking into the hotel to get a few hours’ sleep at the same time as other people were checking out to set off on the next leg of their journey.

cakefest9k Hardly any traffic on the French side of the channel on Saturday morning.  Most of it had UK number plates.

As usual, driving on the French side of the English Channel was a breeze.  The traffic was light and well behaved – most of the cars and caravans in the north had UK number plates and lots of bicycles strapped to the back.

cakefest9 And then there were ten!

All our troubles melted away once we set foot through the door of our little house in Le Grand-Pressigny.  On Sunday we went to a “brocante” at Port-de-Piles near Descartes and I swooped upon this set of crockery.  A large cake plate and eleven small plates, perfect for serving cakes at a party.  And that’s just what I was going to have – a party in France to celebrate my freedom from the drudgery of work.

The plates were described as a “complete service” – the fact that there were only eleven plates means that it had once been a set of twelve where one had got broken – but for only four euros it was still a bargain.  Then I found one was cracked so in the end there were only ten !!

cakefest1 cakefest2 cakefest3 cakefest4  cakefest6 cakefest7 

The programme for our party was:

3pm – cakes and wine

5.30pm – apéros (apéritifs and nibbles)

7pm (or thereabouts) barbecue (food and more wine) (weather depending)

For the afternoon session I made, from top left, raspberry and lemon mini muffins, rustic apricot tart, lemon drizzle cake, coffee, almond and blackcurrant cake, chocolate Guinness cake and coconut macaroons.  If you click on the picture you will find a link to the recipe I used (some modified slightly).   A beautiful strawberry and rhubarb tart was also provided by Walt.

cakefest9a cakefest9b cakefest9c cakefest9d cakefest9e cakefest9f cakefest9g cakefest9h

We were incredibly lucky with the weather.  Not only did we have very little rain, but the sun actually came out and for all the afternoon and most of the evening we were able to sit outside.  We had planned the menu so that we could barbecue if the weather was good but cook it all indoors if it was raining.  We were very pleased to be able to barbecue outdoors after all.

It quite took me by surprise that so many people brought me lovely presents.  There were flowers, plants for the garden, chocolates, numerous bottles of  wine and a beautiful set of Portmeirion cake forks.  Our guests obviously know me rather too well !!

I was far too busy organising the food, chatting and generally thoroughly enjoying myself to take any photos of the “do”, but it was a very special day for me.  There were a few notable absences – it was impossible to time the party for a day when I could invite everyone I would have loved to have been there – but those people will be feeling the warmth of my friendship some time soon I hope.  It was lovely to see all those who were able to drop in, whether for just a few minutes until the bitter end.  One of the greatest joys of having found our little home in France is the number of friends we have also made and it was lovely to have so many of them around to help me celebrate.

Nick did a fantastic job with the cooking, producing a huge amount of stuff on our little barbecue as well as a very popular chicken curry (to a Hairy Bikers recipe which you can see here.)  Gaynor brought a platter of salad that was a work of art in itself, and other guests, large and small, chipped in with the serving of food and the washing up. I was also thrilled and rather proud that we could fit eighteen adults, four children and two dogs into our tiny house all at the same time and have somewhere for most of them to sit and a plate, fork and a glass each.  I do however apologise that in the end I was so “tired and emotional” that I completely forgot to serve the cheese !!

19 May 2013


When we were in Le Grand-Pressigny for two weeks at Easter the weather was not good.  After a few days of sunshine and a little warmth to lure us into a false sense of security, the weather turned decidedly chilly and then very wet.

Le Louroux walk1

However, when you have a dog you just have to go for regular walks, especially when you’re on holiday and the dog knows that there are good long walks to be had.  If only we can muster the energy and enthusiasm !!  This is helped along a bit by some determined nudging and pawing, not to mention grumbling and squeaking from Miss Lulu !!

Le Louroux walk2

One of our favourite places to walk is beside the lake at Le Louroux, just a few kilometres north of Ligueil.  It was a grey and chilly afternoon but we togged up in our warm clothes and off we set.

When we got there we found that there was no water in the lake!  Apparently draining the lake every few years is part of the routine management of the eco system.  The bed of the lake had become a large beach, which Lulu enjoyed – lots of new smells to sniff.

 Le Louroux walk3

There were tons of these empty mollusc shells, presumably a kind of fresh water mussel.  The emptying of the lake had not been good for them but would be quite a feast for the birds I expect.

Le Louroux walk4 Le Louroux walk5

The signs of spring were only just emerging, everything seemed much further behind than at previous Easter holidays.  By now it was getting towards the middle of April.

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Le Louroux walk7 Le Louroux walk8 

The rain held off that afternoon and we all enjoyed the exercise.  We are hoping to find everything much greener when we arrive again soon for our late spring holiday.

Le Louroux walk9

One of the nice things about our little of corner of France is that litter is not much of a problem compared to here in Derbyshire.  Even though this is a popular place for visitors, to come for a walk, to do a spot of birdwatching, or a picnic, there is very little rubbish.  The only litter we noticed that day was a discarded shopping list!

Jambon, toastinettes, chicken rillettes, chips (crisps), cheese and gateaux ….. it looks like someone was shopping for a party.  I only hope they dropped the list after they had been to the shops - unless they had a good memory !!

Le Louroux walk9a

On the day we set off back home to England the sun came out and the temperature soared – we had 26°C as we sat on our little terrace eating our last lunch before we hit the road.  We are very much hoping for more of the same when we go back again, very soon !!

Have a good week !!