There are, inevitably, problems with the house due to our prolonged absence. One is that mice have been busy making a mess of our big sofa.
It's an Ikea sofa, at least ten years old but fortunately a design that they still make. That means we can still get new loose covers for it. The offending mouse seems to have gone for anything vaguely velvety - the loose covers, velvet cushions and the slightly woolly chain-stitch embroidery on a throw that Nick brought back from India many moons ago. Everything can be replaced except for the throw but I reckon I can repair that, patching the holes and refreshing my chain-stitch skills.
We knew that the electric gates had stopped working as our gardening friends who keep an eye on the place had secured it with a chain and padlock several months ago. Nick's first task was to fix it and get it working the day after we arrived.
Other than that, there is plenty of cleaning to do. We hadn't exactly been model housekeepers during the eight weeks chez nous last year, preferring instead to enjoy ourselves. That, followed by our unexpected rapid exit due to the Covid situation on both sides of the channel, has resulted in a build up of grime, plus the usual crop of dead insects and gritty dust that falls from the unplastered stone walls. Our friends that stayed in the house for a while last autumn had very kindly been in and hoovered up the carpet of dead flies that otherwise would have greeted our arrival, but there are still corpses lurking on the shelves and in the corners - added to daily now we are in residence.
Our gardening friends have done a great job of keeping the grass cut and the hedges trimmed but the flower beds are, as we expected, in need of some TLC. We are grateful that the weather is, for many, disappointingly English, being cool and showery - much better for tackling the cleaning and gardening jobs than the usual heat of July.
While Nick was busy repairing the gate, I did our big shop at the supermarket, bearing in mind that we are no longer allowed to bring much of the food that we usually do, and that usually keeps us going for a couple of days. I spent enough in SuperU to qualify for a free gift - a set of a small paring knife, cheese knife and vegetable peeler. They're quite good quality too, if a rather lurid colour!
We have a lot of work to do to bring the house up to scratch but we don't intend to skimp on the fun side of things. While we're here, however long that might be, we fully intend to get out and about as much as we can and just before we came an email arrived from this vineyard. It's an invitation to a picnic where you can have a free winetasting and then lunch. It's a "bring your own food" kind of event where they provide the tables, chairs, wine and BBQ for the use of. We've done this before at another vineyard and it was great fun.
To book our places we simply had to reply to the email, so I did. Since then we've heard nothing. This is not an uncommon scenario in France! Does the lack of response mean we're booked and needn't worry about it? Or that they didn't get the email? It's hard to tell! Maybe we'll turn up on Saturday and find our table reserved or maybe we'll find it isn't - the question is, can I resist the temptation to be very English and phone up to check? In which case I'll either be met with an indignant "of course you're booked - you sent the email!" or I'll have to hope they can fit us in!