31 March 2022



We went to Loches for a garage visit yesterday teatime, did a spot of shopping and called for a pizza at our favourite troglodyte restaurant.  I took this picture of the sun setting above the clouds over Ciran on the way home.

Our back garden in the UK this morning*.

Incredibly, earlier in the week snow was forecast for here tomorrow.  That forecast has been moderated to freezing temperatures overnight rising to 5°C during the day.

Last weekend we were basking in 23° and having our first bbq of the year!

*My brother is currently staying in our house in the UK for much of the week while ever we're away so that he can be nearer to my dad to keep an eye on him.  His house is 60 miles away, a motorway journey that can vary in time from one to three hours depending on volume of traffic and, more than anything, diversions for road works and crashes.  Such is route planning in the UK.  

Our house is normally a five minute drive from Dad's flat.  When the road becomes blocked by traffic we have discovered ways around it, often a detour of several miles that can take much longer but better than just sitting in a queue.

Interestingly, my brother said the other day that he now understands why we grumble so much about the traffic in Derbyshire.  Apparently he used to think we were exaggerating, but now that he is living there for most of the week he gets it.  Living on the outskirts of a heavily populated area with a major motorway going through the middle of it is a recipe for travel misery.  Every time there is a crash traffic gets diverted right through the outer small towns and villages, through the middle of the main town and out through the smaller towns and villages on the other side, causing huge traffic jams and choked roads everywhere as people try to find other ways to get where they're going.  Much of this motorway is "smart motorway", where the hard shoulder has been sacrificed to create a fourth lane to ease the congestion.  They are death traps and we feel we are taking our life in our hands every time we use one.  Most of the fatal crashes involving breakdowns occur on these motorways and they're still being built.

What's also being built is thousands of new houses on huge housing estates all around the outskirts of the town.  Thousands of acres of farmland are being developed and as these houses gradually become occupied it's already noticeable that all the roads in the area are getting busier and busier and the system fails completely when there is a problem such as a road blocked by a breakdown.  It only takes the road to be blocked in one direction because of a broken down bus or lorry for traffic flow to come to a stop and cause chaos.  Frustration causes angry drivers to drive badly and more accidents follow.

The road outside our French house has been busy this morning.  At least four cars and a tractor have passed in the last half hour!  And we're expecting the bin lorry any minute now!

17 March 2022


On Sunday we left home in the UK at 4.45am and arrived chez nous in France just after 6pm, a straightforward journey of just over twelve hours.  We even stopped for a burger and chips at Burger King in Yvetot on the way.

All seemed good when we arrived, the heating on and the house nice and warm.  Our house guardians had told us there was a problem with the basin tap in the ensuite so we were prepared for that.  What we weren't prepared for was this:

The living room had had an invasion of mice.  The little bar stewards had nibbled the covers on all three sofas and excavated a hole in a seat cushion to extract nesting material.  They had also eaten a path up both of a pair of curtains  and consumed a whole 5kg bag of Hugo's dog food.  We think that was probably the cause of the trouble, leaving plenty of food for them to eat.

After last year’s experience we had stored all the scatter cushions in big plastic crates so they were not damaged.  Unfortunately the mouse activity also included upstairs.  There were mouse droppings all over the house, two bedspreads had holes in them and they had attacked the duvet on the spare bed.

This was not the welcome we had been hoping for!

However, after the winter we had had we were not to be ground down by the activity of a few pesky mice!  More like an army of mice as it turns out, but we set to and hoovered up as much debris as we could, remade the bed with fresh linen just in case and retired for the night.

On Monday the weather was glorious so we sorted through the damage, washed everything we could and got it on the line to dry in the sunshine and light breeze.  We dusted, cleaned and hoovered everywhere until there was no trace of the invaders, Nick cut the grass while the weather was fine, and at half past four the elusive gardener turned up to discuss our gardening requirements.  We said that now we were here we could manage the grass and hedges ourselves so all we wanted him to do was trim the lime tree.  After he’d gone we dashed up to Loches to buy a new tap for the en-suite wash basin.

On Tuesday I went to Ikea in Tours to buy new covers for all three sofas while Nick fixed the tap and by Wednesday evening peace was restored in the house and all was calm!

Well, almost as there are a few places where evidence of the invasion still lurk but they will be dealt with by lunchtime today!

10 March 2022


With only three more sleeps to go we are in a more well prepared state than usual for our long drive to our house in France.

We have a very early start on Sunday, so early that it hardly seems worth going to bed on Saturday night.  Still, some rest will help to steel us for the road, even if we don't actually get any sleep.  We have to be at the tunnel in Folkestone by 9.20am to get our train.  That means leaving home at silly o'clock because, even though it's a Sunday, we still have to leave extra time for hold ups on the motorways - crashes or long diversions for road works.  In the past we have missed the train for both of those reasons.  With a bit of luck and a smooth journey we will arrive at the tunnel early and get on an earlier train.  

The photo above was taken in early spring three years ago and the lime tree is much bigger now.  It desperately needs trimming - pollarding.  There has been no sign of the new gardener.  We had asked him to do the tree plus a final cut of the grass and hedges last autumn.  We have periodically reminded him that the work needs doing and he has replied to say that the weather has been unsuitable.  Hmmmmm........  We were beginning to think that maybe he doesn't really want the job and that if it hasn't been done by the time we arrive we should look for someone else.  Then, out of the blue, he has arranged to come and discuss our requirements when we get back.  So we're meeting up with him the day after we arrive.

For the future we think that as long as we can get to France in early March each year, and do a late autumn visit to put the garden to bed, we can probably manage the garden without any help.  The tree is of course a different matter but at least it's only once every five years or so.

Our friend Susan told us that the fungus growing rather attractively on the tree is honey fungus which is bad news and will kill the tree eventually.  Sure enough I heard a Gardener's Question Time programme recently where this was one of the topics of discussion and it really is destructive to many plants in any garden.  Susan's advice was to plant another tree and get it going in readiness for the demise of the existing one and we think we know where we would put it.  The lime tree gives essential shade to the house during the hottest part of the year when it is in full leaf so we can't contemplate not having one at all, aside from the fact that it's such a beautiful thing.  So one of our first jobs will be to look into the planting of a new lime tree.  

As always we are leaving the UK just as the garden here begins to get some colour but we know that when we arrive in France there should already be plenty of daffodils in flower and the tulips not far behind them.  We have missed all that for two years and this time we are really looking forward to it.

Reading Susan's post about hares today (see here) has reminded me that another of the many, many things we're looking forward to is leaning over the back fence with our binoculars to see the antics of the wildlife.  There will no doubt be hares, deer, foxes and, if we're very lucky, wild boar.  Add to that the owls, the swallows and the bat formation team in our own garden that entertain us every night, it's a busy place to be!

8 March 2022

I WAS DOING OK UNTIL.............

The news from Ukraine is so awful that I can't bear to watch the TV.  Facebook is full of it too.  I don't really understand what's happening except that a lot of people are being driven from their homes or killed by Russian missiles.

The feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it is almost unbearable.  My usual strategy of coping with crises far away is to operate a "close to home" philosophy.  Because there is nothing I can do to improve the plight of these poor people, I can do the best I can to improve life for those around me.  A kind of "charity begins at home" concept.  Being miserable because of the plight of others achieves nothing.  Staying cheerful and considerate of nearest and dearest, friends and neighbours, fellow shoppers and motorists, is all I can do to save the world.  I can't save the rest of it all by myself.

I was doing ok with this until this morning when my eyes fell upon on an image online.  A group of people were lying in the gutter, some dead, some injured I presume.  Ukranian soldiers were bending over one of the bodies.  The image was almost in monochrome except for one item.  A bright green cat basket on the ground in the middle of the carnage**.

These people, possibly a family, but a group of people anyway, were fleeing their home on foot, carrying as many of their belongings as they could, including their cat.  They were attacked by the Russians as they fled.

My first thought was "what about the cat?".  Was it still alive in its cage?  Would somebody check if it was ok, take it home, look after it?  Or at least let it out of its cage and allow it the chance to find safety somewhere and fend for itself?  Or would it be left in its cage to starve to death?

I was doing ok until the cat basket image.  Now I will be haunted by the image of the bright green cat basket, waking me in the middle of the night.  It took something like the plight of a family who cared about what happened to their cat to bring home the horror of what is going on in Ukraine.

Please, someone wake up to the evil that is Putin and shoot him.  How else will the misery end for these poor people and their pets?

** Someone told me today that the basket contained a small dog.  The family comprised a mother and two children who were all killed, the father who was injured and taken to hospital, and the dog who ran away when the cage was opened.  All of which is just too inhumane to contemplate.

7 March 2022



Only six more sleeps and we'll be in France !!

It will have been a full six months since we were there.  It's been a torrid winter, one way or another, but Dad is settled and we're keeping fingers crossed that he stays that way.

We have discovered that Ryanair fly from Limoges to three UK airports reasonably close to home, with flights to one or the other every day of the week.  That means if there's a crisis I can be back very quickly, which is very reassuring.

This time next week we'll be waking up in France.  I'm making a list of first jobs to do when we get there and it's getting very long!

À bientôt !!

2 March 2022


For my Big Birthday last year our friends Gaynor and Tim gave me a gift voucher for afternoon tea for two.

There were dozens of places to choose from to take the afternoon tea but one stood out from the crowd.  It's local and I have known it all my life.
The New Bath Hotel at Matlock Bath.
It was built in the late eighteenth century and the exterior is little changed.

The hotel pool, known as the Matlock Bath Lido, is where I learned to swim.  My school took coaches of children to the pool each week for swimming lessons in the unheated outdoor pool.  Brrrr......!!

As soon as I was old enough to work I got a job at the New Bath Hotel, working weekends and school holidays.  My very first job at the age of fifteen was to sell entrance tickets and ice creams from this kiosk to visitors who came to swim in the hotel's pool.

Many years later I became a regular user of the pool as a member of the local sub aqua club.  Matlock is about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK but the depth of the pool and its cold water were ideal for training in diving skills wearing a wetsuit.

Overlooking the pool was a building called the "new wing".  It was built in the 1960's to provide more bedrooms, each one with its own bathroom which, in those days, was a very new idea!

The back of the original part of the building shows how the earlier rooms were arranged.  Bars, restaurant and lounges on the ground floor, bedrooms and separate bathrooms on the two upper floors.

The job I did most often at the hotel was as a chambermaid.  I loved it.

One of my tasks was to serve "early morning tea" to the guests who wanted an early start.  It was my job to get them all to the rooms on this floor, the first floor, between 6.30 and 8 am.

Early morning teas done, I would then begin the work of the chambermaid.
This corridor had more bedrooms in the 1960's and just two bathrooms!

The room at the end of the corridor was where I had an encounter with the hotel ghost.  The corridor is much brighter and lighter now.  
I wonder if the ghost is still there!

The hotel closed and remained empty and unloved for a few years but has been given a new lease of life by new owners.  It's stylish and comfortable now.

The tea was lovely.  No crusts!

A huge thank you to Gaynor and Tim for my birthday present and for the afternoon spent in a place where I have so many happy memories.  

1 March 2022


Is it just me or do others find adverts splattered all over blog posts annoying?  Especially over blogs dedicated to cooking?  Some really nice blogs are blighted by adverts.

This advert appeared in a blog post with a recipe I was interested in.
I didn't get past the advert to look at the recipe.
(I used my new skill at taking screenshots for this picture !!)

It’s especially annoying if an advert obscures part of the text, which seems to happen frequently.  In one of the blogs I try to read an advert is always placed over the list of ingredients.  I can get round this by using the "reader view" on my iPad but on other blogs the reader view omits either the ingredients or the method, so that I’m obliged to battle through all the adverts for ear wax removal or oven cleaners to see them.  No thanks!

It’s really annoying if I’m reading on my iPad and accidentally click on an advert which loads something that I have no interest in whatsoever and then have to go about getting rid of it.  More often than not I give up on the blog as well.  Those jumping images and mini video clips are too distracting.

The economics of it are curious.  I wonder how many sales results from these annoying adverts and how much income for the blog?  Presumably quite a lot or nobody would risk losing frustrated readers like me by doing it! 

Oh for the days when if I wanted to buy anything I would get the bus into town and walk down the high street to find it.  Window shopping along the way, popping into the café to enjoy a coffee and an eccles cake before getting the bus back home.  Being constantly bombarded with adverts for stuff I'm never going to need will never compare to that!  Hey ho!