28 January 2017



We had thought originally that once we came back to the UK for Christmas, we might well stay until the end of February, or the middle of the month at the earliest, returning to France once Spring was just around the corner and we could see the end of winter.  Both of us would really like to up sticks and set off back to France but we really have to stay until Nick has finished his rehabilitation course at the hospital.


Feeling stuck and that we have no choice is unsettling.  I thought I would console myself with looking through old photos, possibly having a bit of a tidy up of my huge photo files.  In the years when we had the little holiday house in the village this would cheer me up no end, remind me of how lucky we were and give me something positive to look forward to. 


Without a doubt I now feel that France is where we live and that the UK is where we run to when there is a problem to deal with, family illness and for the occasional holiday.


Living in two countries is a very strange business.  Once we are back in the UK we soon settle back into the old routines, battling with the manic traffic, turning a blind eye to the litter, turning a deaf ear to the noise, not noticing the loudness of people and the crowds.  The differences between the two countries seem so startling when we first arrive at either home but we soon slip into the two ways of life.


All these photos were taken in the last week of January and first of February last year.  What a great time we had.  The bright but cold winter weather was wonderful, the crazy lunch in the village hall was huge fun and we enjoyed ourselves.  Here in the UK we are just……….waiting.


We never tire of one of our favourite towns, Chinon.  On a cold winter’s day last year it was beautiful, as always, possibly even more beautiful than when there are crowds of tourist.  There were really only locals out and about on the Sunday that we took these photos.


One of the most difficult things about looking back through my photos is that it reminds me of losing Lulu and how much we miss her.  We took hundreds of photos of her every year and it’s impossible to avoid them.


Getting used to visiting our old haunts without her is very hard.  We are no closer to taking a decision on whether we will have another dog if ever.


We have taken many pictures of the statue of the famous monk, Rabelais, over the years, in hot sunshine, pouring rain, all weathers, all months of the year.  What would he have have done in our situation?


Poor Lulu.  Looking back at photos of her I try to look for any sign of when she first became ill.  There were clues, in her eating and drinking habits I think, but we really had no idea of what was looming.  I would never want another dog to go through what she suffered, nor indeed us. 


In the series of photos in this file the weather suddenly changed.  The bright sunny weather ended and the rain came, followed by terrible flooding.  I wouldn’t want to see that again either.  But I still would rather be there than here, whatever the weather.

26 January 2017


Burns supper1

Last night was Burns Night and for the first time ever I went to a Burns Supper.  I was very much in need of the entertainment as my life seems to have been completely dominated by illness this last few weeks.  On top of Nick’s problems, I developed a stinking cold and then my dad had a slight stroke.  So with Nick back home, back to driving and doing well on his rehabilitation course, I was dragging myself back to the hospital again every day to visit my dad.  It never rains but what it pours!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Dad is doing fine, having apparently had a minor subdural haematoma and is back home and even back to driving himself at the time of writing this.  Please let this be the end of all our troubles.

Burns supper 9

Anyway, I never thought I would grateful to Robbie Burns for coming to the rescue, but the evening was indeed just what I needed and great fun.  It was fairly low key compared to many Burns Suppers held up and down the country I’m sure but it was just right for us.  I’m not sure we could cope with too much excitement at the moment.

It was held in a very old hotel in Matlock, one dating back to the early days of coaching inns.  When I was young it was called The Old English and had a bit of a reputation for being rather a dive.  I haven’t been in it for probably forty years or more and during that time it has been through several incarnations, possibly even being closed for a while I think.  Anyway, it is now known as The Remarkable Hare and the new owners are doing a great job of putting on a programme of musical evenings and other entertainment, having done the place up and turned it into a very pleasant place in a rustic sort of way.

Burns supper

Burns supper3

For our first course we chose cullen skink, a soup made from cream and smoked fish.  Absolutely delicious it was too.  After that the Haggis was piped in and addressed in the traditional fashion by a local gent who allegedly goes by the name of Hamish McGregor.  Personally I didn’t believe that for a minute but he did indeed have a wonderful Scottish accent which lent authenticity to the mystery of the almost unintelligible verse. 

Burns supper4

We had the traditional dish of haggis, neeps and tatties for main course – no choice was offered and none was necessary or expected.  Personally I enjoy haggis and remember buying and cooking it for the very first time in my little bedsit in Leeds in the 70’s.  I bought it from the food hall of Lewis’s in Leeds, which was on the lower ground floor of their building and was old fashioned in the extreme with a black and white tiled floor.  It’s funny the things you remember especially when food brings it all back.

Burns supper 3a

Before the dessert of cranachan, Mr McGregor read out another poem by Robbie Burns called “To a mouse”.  I had quite forgotten that Scottish is almost a foreign language.  I used to live in Scotland, for a couple of years, as a youngster.  My parents told me that I had trouble understanding Scottish in the local school and that when we returned to Derbyshire and I went to school here, the other kids had difficulty understanding me as I spoke with a Scottish accent.

Burns supper5

Burns supper6

After dessert there was singing, ending up with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne in the original version as written by the baird himself. 

We had a wonderful time.  Well done to the Remarkable Hare for pitching the whole evening just right and I’m sure we’ll be going back for more of their food and special evenings.

Burns supper8

Now for something completely different.  A conundrum.  These wineglasses had been for sale in a local charity shop since before Christmas.  I looked at them several times but if anything is certain, one thing we do not need is more wine glasses.  But in the end I weakened and could resist them no longer. At £2 for four of them it was hardly a big deal, space to keep them is more of a problem.  BUT……what does the logo “GENETE” mean?  It’s presumably some kind of drink and a bit of Googling suggests a mixture of champagne perry and gin but nothing specific.  Also possibly dating back to the 1960’s .

The only champagne perry I have ever heard of is Babycham, which seems, as far as I know, uniquely sold in the UK, especially in the 60’s and 70’s.  Because the glasses have the logo “Genete” I think that suggests a ready made apéritif or cocktail of some kind, rather than one you would mix yourself.

If anyone has any idea what Genete is or was, I would love to hear about it!

14 January 2017


wild boar

Living in the middle of a field can sometimes be interesting, especially when it’s deep in the French countryside and there is plenty of wildlife about.  The driver of the car in this picture had a very close encounter with a wild boar and a lucky escape.

This all happened the weekend before we set off back to the UK for Christmas.  It was after dark and as I was walking up the drive towards the car port I became aware of car headlights and voices just along the road from our gate.  There is very little traffic along our road but voices are not that unusual as passing neighbours sometimes stop their cars for a chat in the road.

As I pulled out of the drive I looked to my right and realised that one pair of car headlights was one above the other not side by side.  This could only mean one thing.  Something very wrong.

I reversed smartly back into the drive and fetched Nick and we both went to investigate.  The blue car was at that time on its side in the ditch, the driver was a middle aged lady who had been hauled out of it by a passing neighbour and his son. 

It appears that she was driving past our house (in the opposite direction to the way the car was now facing) and as she rounded the slight bend a wild boar stepped into the road in front of her.  She braked and swerved, causing the car to hit the opposite side of the ditch and it then spun round and ended up on its side with the driver’s door underneath.  She was very lucky that the passing neighbour turned up only five minutes later.  From inside our house we had no idea that a crash had happened as we heard and saw nothing at all.  She could easily have been there for hours as apparently she was totally unable to get out of the car without help.

The lady was remarkably calm about it.  She was a bit battered and bruised but otherwise not seriously hurt, in spite of having had to be dragged over the seats and out of the back door of her car.  The neighbour had already called for the help of another neighbour who soon arrived with his tractor, hauled the car back onto its wheels and pushed it out of the way on the grass verge.  After that, the neighbours disappeared and we took the lady home to the other side of Le Grand-Pressigny in our car.  Her car was badly damaged and was towed away two days later.

We knew that wild boar were around near our house.  A visitor had seen a family of them in the field at the side early one morning in the summer and we had seen footprints for ourselves.  Nick had seen them a few kilometres further along the lane, sauntering across the road in front of him at dusk, although that was many months ago.  I found it fascinating that this one was crossing the road right by our house but that I had never, ever seen one myself.

Then, as we drove north through France three days later on our way to Calais, we encountered another one.  We were on a stretch of fairly busy normal road (not motorway) in broad daylight and one stepped out from the forest.  It was just behind the car in front and fairly close to us.  It trotted swiftly across the road and disappeared into the forest on the other side.  Luckily we were far enough away that we could brake calmly and were in no real danger of hitting it.  Otherwise, who knows, we might have ended up in the ditch ourselves.  When faced with the choice of hitting a 200 kilo lump of solid muscle or a soft grassy bank, would one’s instincts make the right choice?