26 September 2022



There certainly has been a change in the weather.  The raging heat of summer gave way to about a week of pleasantly warm temperatures then.....soup weather is upon us!  This soup was made from leftover roasted spaghetti squash, carrots and my home made chicken stock.  That was made using an "ugly bag" - something I spotted on t'internet and sounded like a good idea.  You put all your trimmings of onion, celery, leek, tomato, chicken bones etc from food prep into a poly bag in the freezer and when the bag is full you make it into stock, which you then bag and store in convenient quantities in the freezer.  I can't think why I never thought of that before.

I couldn't resist the paper napkins - "ca roule" is what I take to mean "how's it going?"

So far we still have just two of our five velux windows fitted.  The next job in this room is to rebuild the boxing in underneath it.  This was built by the previous owners to form a kind of headboard and mount the bedside lights.  It had to be modified to allow for the new window to open freely so we decided to bite the bullet and remodel it completely and rewire it while we were at it.  One job always leads to another when you get the builders in!

The roof repairs at the back of the house are complete but the scaffolding remains in place for now.  The two new velux windows are the bigger ones on the right and the left.  The one in the middle is the one above the stairwell which is so far above the stairs that it's impossible to open or close it.  That's the next one to be replaced.  All the new ones can be opened by remote control, much easier than grappling with a boat hook!

We took a walk down to the water tower behind the house yesterday.  It's the landmark we always give to new visitors - if they go past the water tower they've gone a bit too far.  We wanted to see what was going on there.

One day last week I got back from my morning walk with Hugo to find the water had been turned off.  It seems that new pipework was being laid between the fire hydrant on the roadside and the water tower.  I asked the workmen how long my water would be off for and they said "normalement" until midday.  Previous experience of the word "normalement" means that they didn't really have any idea and couldn't guarantee when it would be turned back on!  Luckily I was reconnected by mid afternoon.

Hugo enjoyed the walk and we found huge reels of cable lurking behind the copse out of sight, one already empty.  We therefore take it that the cable is being buried below ground along with the water pipe.  Maybe.

Our walk took us past the neighbour's property, which has been empty since he died four years ago.  We heard a rumour that it has been sold to someone for "doing up".  It's in a lovely spot but will take a lot of work to do the house up into anything that I would want to live in.

From the lane to his house we got a different view of our place, complete with scaffolding, that we don't usually see.  Thinking back to how he used to spy on us and start yelling at us as soon as we emerged from our house still sends shudders down my spine.  Plus all his walking backwards and forwards past our front hedge and gate, staring in.  Not to mention the time that he kidnapped our cat and kept her captive in his bedroom for two weeks.  We do not miss having him as a neighbour at all. 

Now that the old carpet is doomed we no longer worry about making a mess and finally tackled a job that's been niggling us ever since we moved in.  The chimney breast from the bread oven downstairs comes up through the bedroom but had some strange looking stains on it.  We worked out that it was probably resin, varnish or something similar from the beams above, which had dripped down the stonework when the roof leaked, leaving an unsightly dribble.  A bit of elbow grease and a good scrub was all it took to clean it off.  

Outdoors the garden is hanging on to summer for as long as it can and we still have plenty of colour dotted about.

The best news of all is that my brother has finally left the intensive care unit.  He's still in hospital, but on a normal ward.  He's still on oxygen but they are working at getting him walking again.  It's going to be a long haul before he can be allowed home but at least he's now on the mend.  It was touch and go for a while.

21 September 2022



I was due to return to France on 10th September with my brother, Hugo and Daisy.  He was to be staying with me for ten days for a holiday while Nick remained in the UK.  As I have spent many more weeks in the UK than Nick this year we are significantly out of step in how many of our 180 days in France we have left this year.  He decided to remain in the UK to catch up with me a bit so we can both stay here until the end of October.  Life is so much more complicated since Brexit.

Sadly, my brother is still in intensive care in hospital so was unable to join me.  I ended up making the journey by myself, with the cat and dog for company. 

When I booked the journey with my brother we opted for an overnight stay in Calais where I booked two rooms at the B&B hotel.  With only a few days to go before we were to make the trip I had a phone call from the hotel which I didn't quite understand.  This was followed up with an email telling me that the hotel had been "requistioned" for the night and one of the rooms, the one reserved in my brother's name, had been cancelled.  They offered instead the convenience of a room at another of their hotels several km away!  Not very convenient at all!

By then it was clear that his room was not needed anyway so I had a rethink and decided I would make the journey in our usual way - all in one go.  It would be hard work driving all the way here by myself but probably easier than managing the logistics of settling a cat and a dog into a hotel room on my own, where I would likely get very little sleep anyway.

To be honest, I was dreading it.  After the last two awful journeys involving huge delays at Eurotunnel I was expecting the worst.

I set off at 5am and the journey down to Folkestone was easy.  Early on a Sunday morning is definitely the way forward in the future if we are to continue doing this.  The journey down through France was even easier (it always is).  I managed the péages well, having to stop the car each time, get out and go round the front to take a ticket or pay the charge - apart from one, where a gallant motorcyclist, the first in the long queue forming behind me, came to my rescue.  The machine would not take any of my cards or even cash but as he approached the kiosk the barrier went up due to the telepéage card he carried in his jacket pocket.  I thanked him and sped off as fast as I could, not realising that (a) he had paid my fee (only a couple of euros) and (b) he then had to pay again for himself as he wouldn't have been able to use his telepéage card twice.  Oops !!

We arrived just before 8pm while it was still daylight.  My biggest worry had been that I might get very tired and nod off while driving but I somehow managed to avoid that and made good time.

Hugo and Daisy were excellent travellers and good company.  They settled in within minutes and when the next morning dawned bright and sunny Hugo was very keen to go on one of his favourite walks.


The lake at La Çelle Guenand was at its most beautiful the next morning but my joy at being back was marred by a huge sadness that my brother was not here with me.  Instead he was languishing in a hospital bed doing his best to hang on to life itself.

Since then his condition has improved a little but if I tell you that yesterday his major achievement was to be able to stand up on his own, still attached to multiple tubes and wires, for a full thirty seconds before having to sit down, that gives you an idea of how poorly he still is.  He has a long way to go before he becomes anything like well again. 

When we got back from our walk to the house there was a man up the telegraph pole attaching new wires.  I expected the worst - that our electricity would be off - but all was fine.  Someone told me today that he might have been installing cable internet cables to the nearby hamlet and that soon we might be invited to subscribe.  That would be a huge blessing as our internet supply is slow and dodgy to say the least.

One week after I arrived, work has started on the roof and our new windows.  Once that work is done we can decorate the main bedroom (paint the walls and varnish the beams) having three weeks to get that done before the carpet is fitted.  One window in, four to go.  The weather is perfect for it.

9 September 2022


The Queen visited the John Smedley factory at Lea Bridge in Derbyshire, famous for its quality knitwear supplied to many royal households, in May 1968.  We lived in the village at that time and there was much excitement.  That afternoon I was taking my little brother for a walk and as we walked along the footpath I heard a car approaching.  I turned to see a big black car drive by and waved.  The Queen was in the back seat and she smiled and waved back.    There was nobody else around and I shall never forget that moment - when the Queen waved just to me and my brother.

She has been a constant presence throughout my life, always dignified and above all the in fighting of politicians, the vulgarity of celebrity, royal or otherwise.  She lived her life with honour and compassion, both unfashionable qualities amongst our most recent leaders.  We will miss her.

5 September 2022


…..but what it pours……

One of our favourite Derbyshire walks.

Last night’s thunderstorm here in the UK woke me up at two in the morning.  It was a French style storm, the like of which we rarely see in our part of the UK nowadays.  It somehow reminded me that I haven’t posted anything for a while.

The weather in Derbyshire has been very pleasant since we got back and we have been enjoying our favourite walks.

The heat wave continued in France until a few days before we returned, en famille, on our planned trip back to the UK.  It was thankfully a little cooler but even so there was only the occasional light shower and in fact there had been hardly any rain at all since April.

We have to physically be out of France on the day our VLST (visa de longue séjour temporaire) expires so we planned for our exit to last a couple of weeks.  Time to catch up with family, friends and chores, not to mention paperwork following my dad’s funeral.

About a week before we returned my brother (in the UK) began with a set of symptoms that we all thought sounded very much like Covid but he kept testing negative.  We persuaded him to see a doctor and it turned out to be a pulmonary embolism.  He was admitted to hospital for treatment.

Our journey back was a nightmare, even worse than on our way to France only four weeks before.  We arrived at Eurotunnel in Calais two hours early, as they suggested, passed through the pet check in then were sent to a holding area.  After two hours we moved to the car park which, along with the overflow car park, was rammed with vehicles, and by then stories were circulating about a train stuck in the tunnel.  I say stories because the information process was hap hazard to say the least.

The outside information boards gave different information from the inside ones; staff gave different information from each other.  The only thing certain was that we were in for a long wait.  Our departure time of 19.40 came and went.  Delays of two, then three, then four hours were announced.  Then they gave up and the outside information boards were switched off.

Around 23.00 hundreds of cars started leaving as rumour had it that you could exchange your train ticket for a ferry ticket.  Their exit was chaotic and disorganised and tempers flared.  We decided to stick it out.

We finally got on a train at 2.30 the next morning, after a seven hour delay which, to add insult to injury, meant the whole thing cost us one of our 180 days as we passed through French customs after midnight!  There were only two cars behind us at the back of the train, the next one being two hours later.  We got home at 6.00am and at 8.30 the phone rang.  It was a doctor at the hospital telling me that my brother had been admitted to intensive care.  He’s very poorly indeed.

To have this happen only six weeks after our father died is very hard.  It never rains but what it pours.