22 March 2018


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Tomorrow is our last day in the UK for a while.  We have a huge pile of stuff to cram into the car, along with the dog and cat and of course the bicycles on the cycle rack which perches on the tow bar.  We never used them.  When we had a minute to spare the weather was awful.  When the weather was better we were frantically working to a deadline to get something finished in the house.

I’m so excited.  Part of me is in panic in case I forget anything important because we will be in France for a long time.  Another part is irritated that we haven’t finished the project we started last October – to renovate our 1960’s old folks’ bungalow.  A third part reminds me that we are going to a civilised country where we can get everything we could possibly need and as long as we don’t forget the cat, the dog, our passports and theirs, there is nothing we can’t manage without.  A fourth part tells me that we’ve achieved an awful lot in the last six months, transforming a tired old person’s house into a nice modern home, and what hasn’t been done already will still be there in the autumn and give us something to do over next winter.

This winter has been a trial, that’s for sure.  The last time we had such a long, wet, cold and unpleasant winter was in 2012/13 and that was so awful that I decided I could no longer face battling my way to work in the snow and packed it in – retired before I got my pension because I couldn’t stand it any longer.  What a good decision that was!


This winter has been slightly less snowy but incredibly wet, cold and grey.  Not ideal for getting and training a new puppy, but what a joy he has been.  With the renovations and the endless work on the house I feel that my lasting memories of this winter will be of mess, muck and mud.  The mess and muck coming from the building work on the house and the constant shuffling of our belongings from one room to another.  The mud coming from the inevitable ingress of the stuff into the house when you have a puppy that needs to “go” so often and the garden and all the local footpaths are ankle deep in slippery, slimy mud.  Not to mention having a puppy that has learned pretty quickly that if he persuades us that he needs to “go” he gets a chance to chase the cat around the muddy garden whether he actually needs to go or not!

I can’t wait to get to France and put it all well and truly behind me.  Only two more sleeps!

10 March 2018


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Time to look back at the photos again and the joy of the familiar suddenly made me smile.  Events that come round every year and that we never get fed up with.  One of them is the annual garden event at Château de la Bourdaisiere near Montlouis. 

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It’s a lovely day out at a time of year when you really need to see that kind of thing, beautiful flowers and plants full of colour and promise of the good weather that will inevitably arrive.  Not to mention the food producers, craft stalls and the fluffy chicken exhibition.

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We don’t necessarily go to it every year, but we never tire of it.  The château and grounds are beautiful and in fact it is now a hotel.  The garden event is huge and we usually buy something.  Last time it was a gorgeous dark purple lily, this time one of the cute bird baths.

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And of course we enjoyed a delicious cake and coffee in the tearoom. 

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Another event we went to last April was the open day, “portes ouvertes”, of the local potter in the village.  She lives just outside Le Grand Pressigny and produces beautiful decorative and useful pottery in a studio at her home.

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We have bought quite a few pieces over the years, either for ourselves or as presents.  She now has a shop in the village where you can buy her pottery and her partner’s gorgeous leather work.

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Her old bread oven had been lit and used that morning.  There was still plenty of bread for sale when we turned up after lunch so we treated ourselves to a loaf.  Very good it was too.

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There was something immensely charming and fascinating about seeing the old oven in use.  So many people would have relied on the regular production of bread in that very oven, food to keep them alive probably, and very hard work it would have been to produce it.  What a joy it was to see (and eat) real, rather misshapen and very rustic loaves, so different from the stuff on the supermarket shelves and even the local bakery, where it’s all so uniformly shaped.

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Speaking of regular events, I suppose you would count a birthday as one of those.  For a friend’s 70th birthday and a surprise party I was asked to make a novelty cake in the shape of his favourite English food – fish and chips.  It was a bit of a challenge but I managed it, including sugar salt, apple juice vinegar and green marzipan peas!

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Along with the comfort of the familiar comes the joy of a new discovery.  For us anyway.  In a shop in Descartes we discovered a cheese we had never seen before, made just up the road from us in Neuilly-le-Brignon.  It’s called Bourdel and is not cheap but utterly delicious with an interesting rind, strong flavour and a firm texture.  Since we bought our first one last spring it has made a regular appearance at our cheese course.  You can read all about it here.