30 May 2021



I confess that with a glass of chilled rosé in our hands we did not drink a toast to the happy couple who married in secret yesterday.  The sky was blue and the sun shone brightly as we ate our wholemeal wraps (we ordered plain but they were substituted) of smoked salmon and cream cheese in the garden today.

Instead we drank a toast to all those thousands of couples whose plans may or may not come about this year.  Those with cancelled holidays, postponed weddings, the lost celebrations.  Last but not least the many people who died unnecessarily and alone.

28 May 2021


 The former statue at Chatellerault, the tribute to car manufacturing in the city.

Destroyed during the gilets jaunes demonstrations in 2018.

It looks like our plans to travel to France in July are dashed already.  I booked the crossing just four days ago - two days before France has pulled up the drawbridge due the proliferation of the "Indian variant" in the UK.

Although deaths and hospitalisations are still very low in the UK, infections are on the rise in some areas.  Largely because our own government left the gates open for travellers from India to bring the virus with them long after India should have been put on the red list, then a failure in the test and trace system which didn't notify hundreds of people that they needed to self isolate.  Another example of the elitist incompetents that run our country failing to keep us safe and a disaster for the people of the affected towns.  They have admitted that probably two thirds of new infections are of this variant.

Another blow for us and everyone else who was hoping to travel to France (or Germany) this summer.


25 May 2021


I mentioned in a comment on Tom Stephenson's blog here, that my mum's great claim to fame is that she once mended King Farouk's underpants.  Tom thought there must be a good story behind that so here it is.

For most of my childhood our family lived just along the road from this factory.

It was only a few years ago that I learned that this John Smedley factory is the oldest working knitwear factory in the world*.  It was always part of village life, the machines clattering away day and night.

My mum and her family were the very first occupants of one of the small cluster of semi detached houses, built between the wars, that housed many of the workers in the factory.  That in itself is an interesting aspect of social history.  Many thousands of small family homes, the typical red brick "semis" that you see everywhere, were built between 1918 and 1939 to replace poor quality terraced houses and give ordinary working folk somewhere decent to live.  Most of them were "council houses".  And we're not talking grim and grimy cities like Bradford or Manchester here.  This factory is in a beautiful part of Derbyshire, the Amber Valley.  Slums were not just a city thing, they were everywhere including rural England.  Just imagine the thrill of being one of the first families to have a bathroom instead of a tin bath hanging on the outside wall and an actual, flushing toilet instead of the wooden seated "thunderbox" housed in a brick privy at the top of the garden.  That would be my mum, her parents and siblings when she was about four years old.

Inevitably, Mum and her two sisters, Rene and Vera, worked at some time or other at the John Smedley factory.  It made fine knitwear and underwear for the well-to-do.  Buses were laid on to bring workers to the factory from nearby towns and villages. 

Mum worked there, on and off, part time or full time, from leaving school at the age of fourteen until she retired at sixty five.  She was one of the longest serving factory workers, and there were many who had been there all their working lives.  She began as a cleaner, sweeping up the fluff under the machines and gradually worked her way through every department.  She worked for a long time in the mending department.

Mending a fine garment so that it looks as good as new is a serious skill.  It would be unheard of nowadays but it seems that in decades gone by the well heeled, having spent a small fortune on their underclothes, would have them repaired rather than throw them away and buy new.  King Farouk of Egypt was only one of many Royal and illustrious households that were clothed in vests and knickers from John Smedley.  These garments were sold in shops like Harrods and came with a hefty price tag.  When the underpants developed a few holes, they sent them back for mending.

I remember the day very well.  My cousin and I had come home from school and were watching something like "Crackerjack" on the telly.  As mum brought our tea to the table she just mentioned it.  "I mended King Farouk's underpants today."  It was probably about 1960 and I had a vague idea that King Farouk was someone quite important.

*The factory is still making knitwear and you can read more about it here.

23 May 2021



The festival of roses at Chédigny, May 2014.

And in May 2016.

Barrie's rose.
My retirement gift from Barrie and Edith in 2013, fragrant and beautiful.  Still going strong?.......we hope so, and hope to find out soon.
If we hadn't met Barrie, we may never have bought our little house in the village.
You can read about it here.

21 May 2021


When Daisy became an indoor cat with outdoor options (after she had been kidnapped by our neighbour, which you can read about here) we got her a cat flap.  (Actually it was kindly donated by our friends Tim and Pauline as they had it as a spare.)  We fitted it into a small window in the utility room as that was the easiest and quickest option. Otherwise we would have had to fit it somehow into a glass door panel, which seemed rather too tricky.  To exit the house she jumps up onto the work top  then the window sill.

On the outside we put a kind of ladder for her to access the window.  The ladder is actually part of a staircase kit on which we display pots of geraniums.  (Curiously, very few people have ever commented on us having a cat flap in a window.)

There has been much excitement among the members of a facebook group that I follow, one that is dedicated to people who, like us, have a second home in France.  Yes, some people have made a run for it and made it across!!  Even with France in the "orange zone".

It seems that the EHIC (now GHIC) card is an acceptable form of travel insurance for the VLST (long stay visa) and an EU pet passport is being accepted instead of the AHC (animal health certificate) for pets who have a French passport like Daisy.  Apparently, as long as all the paperwork is in order, the i's dotted and t's crossed, it's a smooth process - even for those towing a trailer.  We will still have to get our covid tests and an AHC for Hugo but as long as all the ducks are in a row things are looking hopeful.  (Never as straightforward as pre-Brexit - and a lot more expensive - but doable.)

The situation seems to be changing rapidly.  On the one hand Spain is allowing visitors from the UK from next week without a covid test.  Many seem to think that France will soon follow suit. That would save us a lot of money and faffing about - one of the hiccups I have read of is some travellers' PCR test results not arriving in time for their crossing - wouldn't that be a nightmare?  On the other hand, Germany has now banned visitors from the UK entering the country due to the India variant that is running riot in certain towns.  (Another blunder by the clowns who pass as our government, allowing flights from India to continue to arrive long after the variant was known to be a problem.)  Let's hope that France does not follow that lead!  

In the meantime, we have just spent a wet week in Norfolk, more about that later, but until then....

Bon weekend !!

11 May 2021


Our little house in the village "au pied du château".  We kept the motorcycles in the cellar.

We check regularly the status of France on the government's "traffic light" system for travel abroad.  At the moment France is "orange" which means travel is possible but there are onerous and expensive conditions.  So we await it "turning green".

We have now been away from our House In France for eight months.  That's the longest period ever that we have been in the UK, ever since we first bought the little house "au pied du château" in the village fourteen years ago.  Even when we were both still working full time and we only spent our holidays there, the longest time we were away was five months.  I remember it feeling like an eternity and being desperate to get back.

We downsized in the UK so we could upsize in France to this.

Now that there are rumblings that travel to France on sensible terms might return, the longing to be there has also returned. 

The re-opening of the "Jean Bart" last August.

Soon after we arrived there last summer (after seven months' absence), the bar in the village that had been closed all year re-opened and there was an opening party.  There were a lot of people there, faces we didn't recognise, people from other villages and holiday makers from other countries.  This was pre-vaccine and it felt very uncomfortable. 

As I understand it, the vaccine has three advantages; #one is that you are less likely to get the virus, #two is that if you get it you are less likely to be very ill with it and, last but not least; #three is that if you are unlucky enough to get it, because you don't develop the severe respiratory symptoms you are less likely to pass it on.  A triple whammy and all good.

There are a few "what ifs" to get out of the way before we can make realistic plans.

One thing is certain, getting there is never going to be as straightforward as it was in the past.  Thanks to Brexit we have the punishing Schengen 90/180 rule so we can only stay for a maximum of ninety days unless we get a six month visa.  It hardly seems worth getting a visa for this year - which involves an interview at the French Embassy, lots of documentation (no surprise there), proof of having somewhere to stay and costly insurance.  Then there's the Animal Health Certificates, which can cost £150 per pet, per trip, thanks to Brexit and the loss of the Pet Travel Scheme.  What if Covid tests are still required by the time we're able to travel (at around £100 each!)?

However, as soon as France "goes green" we'll be off.  No iffs about that!   We are at a time of life when we were hoping life would become easier and less complicated.  The double whammy of Brexit and Covid has put the kibosh on that but it will take more than a bit of extra paperwork (and some of our hard earned dosh) to keep us away!

9 May 2021



Chinon remains our favourite town in France.

For anyone that likes a photo of doors, windows or door knockers, it is Paradise.

7 May 2021



It has been a trying week here in Derbyshire.

The weather has been cold, much colder than this time last year.  We've had rain, snow, hail and thunder.  However not as much rain as in Le Grand-Pressigny in May 2016 when these photos were taken.  The old disused furniture factory was flooded.  It was repurposed as a self storage facility a few years later.

The River Claise had burst its banks in May 2016.

We have been grappling with paperwork, documents and doctor's appointments for my dad, struggling with staggering incompetence indifference and ageism.  Old people, especially very old people, seem to be shoved from pillar to post, further and further down the list of priority.  He had to wait two weeks for a routine GP appointment for some form filling.  The appointment had to be by telephone and was for between 8.30 am and 12.30 pm.  A four hour slot.  The call finally came in at 4.30 in the afternoon.  Everyone else was more important than him, it seems.

The river at Abilly was in full flood down by the mill.

After all that, they got the paperwork wrong.  It's no fun being very old and it's not much fun being the bossy daughter who has to sort it all out either.

Bon weekend !!

4 May 2021



This shop premises in the village is now something else, a reading room and research centre.  The lovely old signs are gone and its original purpose a dim and distant memory.

Luckily a local photographer captured how it was before the change and had postcards made so that we can all see how it used to be.

3 May 2021


 The Château at Azay-le-Rideau.
The English translation of rideaux is "curtains".

Very topical, at the moment.

1 May 2021



Angus of the lovely blog "Sophie's French Adventure" recently posted this map of Europe showing how densely populated (or not) the various regions are.

One of the things I love about the part of France where we live is that it's so quiet - and yet it doesn't seem deserted.  Looking at this map, our French house is in an area with the lowest density of population.  This is very noticeable when driving around and means that you can drive for miles and barely see another vehicle.  Journeys usually take exactly the amount of time you think they will take, every time, and there is hardly ever any litter anywhere.

In the UK we live in an area which is roughly ten times as busy, where there is the second highest density of population and we are very close to areas where it is the highest.  This means that we don't have to go very far before we are surrounded by people.  Even in the countryside, there are always other vehicles on the road and at weekends the traffic can be nose to tail through the pretty villages, all jockeying for position with walkers, horse riders and cyclists.  Journeys have to be planned according to the time and day of travel, sometimes allowing a lot of extra time for hold-ups or taking a different route if you have an appointment to keep.  Living near to a busy motorway, the area is frequently gridlocked when there is a major accident and traffic is diverted through the town.  The amount of litter everywhere, even in the countryside, is depressing.

How busy is your part of the world?
Bon weekend!!