26 February 2020


I like the way that I can tell when all of my photos were taken.  Thanks to my camera I know that on 14th May last year, at 5.35pm, we were enjoying an apéro in the evening sunshine when a lot of meowing started to come from somewhere about half way up our lime tree.

Click on the picture to enlarge and see exactly where the meowing was coming from.  Daisy is a very athletic cat and regularly goes up and down all of our trees almost effortlessly.

So we were a bit perturbed to hear her making a fuss when perched up in the lime tree on this day.
Normally her descent consists of literally walking head first down the tree trunk until she is three or four feet off the ground, then jumping down.  Occasionally she will use her claws to let herself down backwards very slowly until she gets to the three or four foot point. Then she turns upside down and jumps to the ground all in one smooth action. 
This time, the meowing made us wonder if there was a problem, a sore paw or something.  Nick and Hugo tried to encourage her down but she stayed put.

So Nick put a ramp up against the tree and we waited for her to come down by herself.
We all waited and waited.  Several glasses of rosé passed and finally, after a few false starts, she started to back carefully down the ramp.
The process seemed to take an age but slowly and steadily, under the careful watch of Hugo, she made her descent.  Once she was about three feet from the ground she turned and jumped off.  That was at 6.18pm.

19 February 2020


Just over the hill from us, beyond Descartes, is the gorgeous château at Les Ormes.

We have visited before, the first time being a few years ago, during one of the patrimoine weekends that occur each September.  On that occasion, the entrance fee was minimal and the place was heaving with visitors.  Last year we went in the middle of June when my brother was staying with us and had the place virtually to ourselves.
When we arrived there was only one other car outside in the car park which was probably owned by a member of staff.  The place seemed completely deserted.  We stood around in the fabulous entrance hall for a few minutes, wondering what to do, until a man appeared from a doorway.  He took our money, pointed us in the direction of the salon and disappeared again.

This is the kind of château visit that we like.  Free to roam by ourselves and better still, no other visitors to get in our way.  There are several lavishly appointed rooms to see on the ground floor.  Drop dead gorgeous yet cosy at the same time.

Mantlepieces are adorned with busts of previous owners, family members and other important people.

Even though the house was deserted, we were never far from the gaze of someone from days of yore keeping an eye on us.
The house is full of interesting doors, locks and windows.  For someone like me who is fascinated by such things it's pure delight. 
There is even a display of old knobs, locks and knockers from around the property.  The reflections from the glass case made it difficult to photograph but you get the idea.  Lovely!

And, not only that, but, joy of joy, it has two kitchens!  One a century or two newer than the other but still pretty ancient and therefore full of wonderful old equipment, the purpose of which can be debated for hours.

The kitchen is always a favourite part of any château visit for me.

All those lovely old pans, ancient pots and baskets.

I realise that life in these kitchens was probably pretty terrible for the people that worked there.   Hard graft, long hours and dangerous to boot.  Noisy too I expect.

Even something as mundane as a tap is fascinating.

There isn't much in terms of outdoor space to see at Les Ormes, especially compared to other châteaux a bit further away.  No elaborate gardens or ponds.  No tea room either.  But well worth setting aside a morning or afternoon for. 
Back here in the UK we find ourselves "orming about".  That's a north of England expression that means wandering aimlessly, killing time.  With February coming to an end and the worst of the winter hopefully behind us we can't wait to get back to France.  To the sunshine, the châteaux on our doorstep and the peace and quiet of country life.
It has been, yet again, a long and horrible winter here.  Rain upon rain and more rain.  A couple of weekends ago we had a deluge on a Sunday. The toilet and shower were gurgling, there was water gushing from our drains, a lake at the bottom of the garden and outside the front door.  The water was a couple of inches up the car wheels.  For more than a moment I wondered if we were in real trouble.  Luckily the rain stopped, the water drained away and all was well.  Many thousands of people in the UK have not been so lucky.  My heart goes out to them.  Dealing with the filth and stench that floodwater leaves behind must be heart-breaking, more so if your insurance company is tardy in responding to your claim.
Maybe we all have to endure winter every year so that we can really appreciate Spring when it finally, thankfully comes along.

3 February 2020


We have been to many outdoor summer events in France but in terms of the unusual this one is at the top of the list.  It seems that many years ago, some residents of the village of Boussay witnessed this kind of annual event taking place in the south of France, brought the idea back home and decided to hold something similar.  The popularity has grown with each year and we were very privileged to be invited to it last August.
Moules (mussels) are fixed to large boards by the villagers, laid out along the street and then cooked by setting fire to them.  The moules have to be placed endways in order for them to cook properly.  Then they are covered with dry pine needles.

They are set alight and allowed to burn for long enough for the moules to be cooked.  It's quite a spectacle. 

The boards of the cooked moules are placed on the tables so that they can be shared.  The portions are generous and it only dawned on me after a while that they were actually a starter, not a main course!  After that there was steak and chips, a cheese course and a dessert.
The moules would not be everybody's cup of tea.  They are more well cooked than you might get as say moules marinières and the shells crumble into ash when you pick them up.  This inevitably results in very black fingers and the eating of a certain amount of ash. 
There was a huge crowd of people.  Goodness knows how long it took the villagers to fix the thousands of moules to the boards but they deserve a medal for it.  As well as the food there was a raffle which seemed to go on all night.  Each person had a raffle ticket and there was a prize for everyone.  
It was one of those evenings when I had no idea what to expect and it was, in many ways, typical of life in rural France in summer.  I'm not sure we would rush to do it again for the food, but in terms of the richness of our life in France it was pretty special.