30 September 2021



The boulangerie in Angles-sur-l'Anglin at night.

We are back in the UK.  Our Schengen allowance of 90 days has been and gone and we will be here until our next Schengen period clocks over in another 90 days.  There is much unpacking, sorting and catching up to do as we settle back into our English life.  The 90 days we spent in France already seem like a dream.  It's a different world and there's much to tell.

17 September 2021



A few days ago I had a party chez nous.

Over the years I have been invited to numerous parties of various kinds in France and have been very envious of those people with summer birthdays.  Mine is just before Christmas.

I'm sure that anyone who has a birthday at around that time will agree with me that it's a rubbish time of year for it.  The nearer to Christmas you get, the more other people are preoccupied with the shopping and the office parties.  Then there's the weather to contend with.  I remember that for my fortieth I booked a themed restaurant for twenty people for a rock and roll kind of evening and only about six turned up.  The rest couldn't get there due to the thick fog.  And don't start me on the "joint present" - the ultimate disappointment for any kid unfortunate enough to be born in the second half of December.   

These days if we celebrate by going out to eat we will usually be knee deep in tinsel and surrounded by groups of people getting sloshed at the boss's expense.  The menu would usually be the Christmas menu of turkey and sprouts (a choice of salmon if you're lucky) and the music "seasonal".

So this year I thought that if it's good enough for Her Majesty, it's good enough for me and decided to have an "official" birthday and a party three months early - while the sun was still shining and it was still light at four o'clock in the afternoon!

So last weekend, as I turned 69¾, I had my own little birthday party in the garden.  The weather was perfect - warm and sunny but not too hot.  Friends loaned us a pair of gazebos to house the buffet table and the bar.  Bunting was strung up, music was played and we had a thoroughly good time.  After dark the deer entertained us with their calls to each other from one bit of the surrounding forest to another, the foxes joined in and, as people drifted away, I thought this had been the best party I had ever been to in my whole life.

4 September 2021


When we arrived chez nous after ten months' absence unwanted visitors had moved in. Mice had eaten the covers on our sofa and there were mouse droppings in the cupboard under the sink and the water tank cupboard. Our cat Daisy is, thankfully, a good mouser.

One morning soon after our arrival she was to be found camped out in the living room, motionless and staring at the corner behind the sideboard, a sure sign that that's where she last saw a mouse. Nick gathered his mouse catching kit which consists of an old towel and a long pair of plastic tweezers (actually a pair of food tongs that came with a cheap set of kitchen tools and prove invaluable for grabbing a mouse. I can reassure you that this is now their only purpose!).  The sideboard had to be moved which meant it had to be emptied first, a huge task in itself.  (Goodness only knows why we kept some of the stuff that was in it so it was an opportunity for a good clear out.)  While Nick and Daisy, on their knees and poised for action, were bearing down on the offending mouse a second one fell down from the beam above and narrowly missed landing on his head. The fact that none of us screamed shows how blasée we have become in dealing with our unwanted guests.

Daisy's efficiency at catching mice does have its disadvantages though. Every other night she will bring one into the house and upstairs to the bedroom as a trophy or present.  The other night she exceeded her hunting target by bringing us two presents. The first she let go and chased around the room for a bit while we nonchalantly pretended to be asleep. Thankfully she caught it again but we then had the pleasure of listening to her eat it, head first and with a sound not unlike someone chomping their way through a bag of crisps.  The fact that I can even write about this without a shudder tells how used we have become to the presence of mice in our house.

She then went out and fetched us another one. We were woken by the sound of her chasing it round the room for a while but drifted off to sleep again when all went quiet. We assumed that this mouse had met the same fate as the first and were surprised to see Daisy in a typical position of vigil at seven o'clock the next morning, staring at the blanket box.  The hunting kit of towel and tweezers was fetched again (we now keep it handy in the bedroom) and the hunt was on. This little blighter led us a merry dance and took some catching.  Nick sustained a hunting injury - a graze to the knee as he hurled himself to the ground and lunged with his tweezers. He missed. 

Twenty minutes later, the bedroom looking like a war zone with furniture all over the place, the mouse was caught and ejected from the house. Daisy had by then lost interest and wandered off to enjoy more reliable fodder from her bowl of kibble. A different chomping noise, thankfully, and one that has never caused me to cringe!