23 October 2022


I decided to create a post using my iPad today.  Blogger has put the pictures where it thinks best!

They are of a lovely walk around the lake at La Celle-Guenand with Hugo one morning last week and our lunch.  A sabayon is usually a dessert but these were a delicious savoury version.  In a week or so we'll be on our way back to the UK for the winter, hopefully having restored the house to a normality of sorts and made it more mouse proof.  We will probably arrange for an Ocado delivery for the day after we arrive and if they have these delicious little Picard items they will be on our order!

Talking of order, the political chaos that engulfs our nation is unbelievable and unforgivable.  The Conservative party are more interested in saving their own skins than looking after the country.

During the 2019 general election campaign Boris clearly said he had a plan to fix social care.  Last week the Care Quality Commission reported that of all the hospital patients that are ready to be discharged 50% have nowhere to go so they have to stay in hospital - they are "bed blockers".  They no longer need hospital treatment but are not sufficiently independent to go home.  They need a rehabilitation facility, a care home, or care at home, and the crisis in social care is that there are not enough places or carers.  My brother is one of them.  

He's occupying a hospital bed for the simple reason that the government has left social care on the back burner year after year with the subsequent effects on the NHS.  The bed occupied by him could be given to someone who needs treatment, who may be on a trolley, in a queue in A&E until a bed becomes available.  Then there are those who wait hours and hours for the ambulance to come to their aid - the ambulances that are queued up outside A&E waiting to discharge their patients when a trolley becomes available, which is after a bed becomes available.  

What an awful, unbelievable mess.

18 October 2022



In our garden we have a tree which is an absolute delight at this time of year.  Before the leaves fall they turn the brightest red and last for ages like this, bringing a very welcome splash of colour when the weather becomes, as it inevitably has, more autumnal. 

It is three years since we saw the tree like this.  In 2020 we only spent eight weeks during the summer here, in 2021 only twelve, dashing back to the UK in mid September both times because of the pandemic, so we missed seeing the tree in all its glory.

It's called a "rhus typhinia" or "staghorn sumac" tree and it almost glows a glorious red.  We have a sapling growing in the grass that Nick has avoided mowing over and are tempted to plant it elsewhere in the garden.  You can never have too much colour.

Our geraniums, dahlias, roses and petunias are hanging on well and also provide splashes of colour around the place.  Or at least they were until the last rains gave them a bit of a battering.

I had forgotten how much of a trial it is having work done on the house.  The fitting of the smaller windows was delayed because of the weather - we had a brief rainy period - and the fact that the builder had not received the windows from the suppliers.  Luckily they turned up a week later which was a huge "phew" moment as a huge amount of work needed to be done after they were fitted and before the carpet arrived.

During the weekend of relative inactivity while the builders were waiting for the windows we had guests for probably the last lunch of moules et frites.  We ate in the kitchen as there was a cool wind outdoors and the dining table was inaccessible due to the whole house being piled up with stuff from the bedroom.  It took longer to clean the kitchen down to make it acceptable for visitors than to cook the food.

It's great to have a window in the bathroom!

The week of delay in getting the windows in meant the decorating of the bedroom had to be done rapidly.  I don't like that kind of pressure, it's hard enough work as it is.  Still, the preparation of the room is complete except for a problem with the paint.  The wall paint is fine and we painted it a similar colour to what was there before because we liked it.  It just looks cleaner and fresher.  The beams are nicely varnished too.  

When it came to the skirting board (much of it newly fitted) we fell at the last hurdle as the paint was awful, like trying to paint with treacle.  I started the job and declared that I couldn't get a decent finish.  Nick had a go and he couldn't either.

French paint is a mystery to us even after all these years and of course, since Brexit, we are not allowed to bring such things from the UK*.  It wasn't until the middle of Sunday afternoon that we discovered that we needed different paint but no DIY shops are open on Sundays in France so we had to abandon the painting of the skirting board and leave it until after the carpet was fitted.

*Following Colin's comment below,  I have looked it up and it seems that you can bring paint to France up to a limit in value and presumably as part of your maximum allowance for personal items:
I was following the rule that only personal items can be brought and didn't think paint was typically personal!
This will be very handy if we ever want to paint anything again.

On Monday we dodged the rain and used some of our precious petrol (there are fuel shortages in France due to industrial action by the tanker drivers) to go and fetch different paint and a large quantity of frog tape!

The weather has been decidedly peculiar.  Saturday it poured with rain all day but was warm.  Sunday was very warm and sunny, as good as an English summer's day at 23°C.  Yesterday, Monday it rained all day and in the early evening we had a huge thunderstorm and, according to our trusty rain guage, 4.5cm of rain.

Today is carpet fitting day and the weather is glorious.  The nice young man turned up at 9.00 with his young daughter which suggests it might be half term.  As a teenager (I think) she is probably too young to be his paid assistant or apprentice.  Reassuring scuffling noises are emerging from the room above as I type this, suggesting that he's getting on with it.  Once he's done we will have the house to ourselves again, thank goodness.

We have, however, added another DIY job to our list.  The carpet will extend into the walk-in wardrobe/dressing room which is triangular in shape.  When we moved it it had a few wonky shelves with unfortunate gaps at the back and Nick improved it no end by levelling the shelves and making them fit all the way to the walls.  (He also rehung the door so that it opened out of the room, not into it, making access much easier.  Although we had to buy a new door as in France they come with a frame and the old one could not be re-used.)

Once the room was emptied we decided that now (or maybe next year) is the time to do something with it that makes better use of the space, more hanging rails, better shelving and some drawers.  Another project!  

We can research the possibilities while in the UK over the winter, no doubt requiring several visits to our local Ikea (and hopefully some of their meatballs and chips in the restaurant) and do the job next spring.

One day in the distant future we should have actually finished tinkering with this house and just be able to enjoy it!  Considering that when we first saw it and bought it we thought it was a "move straight in" we have changed an awful lot of things!


Good news from the UK:  my brother is much better and is now at the stage where he could be discharged from hospital.  Except that he can't because he can't walk more than a few steps, can't sit up or get out of bed by himself.  There is talk of transferring him to a nursing home of some kind where he can continue to get physiotherapy and build up his physical strength before he returns home.  There is also talk of putting a single bed downstairs for him as the bathroom is also downstairs and stairs are beyond him and no doubt will be for some time.  

The worrying thing is that because he is now what is known as a "bed blocker" - occupying a hospital bed when he is no longer actually ill and in need of active treatment - the hospital discharge team in league with Social Services might under pressure to send him home with visits from carers and physiotherapists.  My experience of carers in dealing with my father's care is not good.  The service was shambolic and unreliable and some of the carers he had were lazy, dishonest and untrustworthy.  A frail and elderly person with dementia is easy to take advantage of.  The good ones were lovely people that deserve a medal for doing such work but were often rushed off their feet.  Fortunately, unlike my poor father, my brother is completely compos mentis.  He is perfectly capable of making it clear that his needs can't be met at home if he can't actually look after himself and that relying on unreliable carers is not the best way forward.  Not to mention the problem of how to ensure that he does actually get daily physio sessions like he does in hospital.  If he's going to recover completely and get back to work half an hour a week of physio will not be sufficient.

10 October 2022



Our builder has been making the most of the recent fine weather which has been perfect for outdoor work.  All of the new velux windows are now in, including the one in the bathroom which wasn't there before.  What a difference that has made and I can hardly believe that we have put up with a windowless bathroom for eight years.

The new windows open and close by remote control, powered by solar power.  They're wonderful.

When I took Hugo to La Celle-Guenand the other day for his morning walk I was reminded of why I find the months of September and October so enjoyable.  As long as it's not pouring with rain of course.  The fine and mild weather and the autumn colours are lovely.  The cooler evenings create a background smell of woodsmoke from all the log burning fires in people's houses.

I like April and May just as much for similar reasons.  The only months I don't enjoy quite as much are July and August because of the all too frequent heatwaves.

What I'm not too keen on at this time of year is that the hunting season is in full swing.  This bloke has started turning up at the back of our house on several evenings with his gun.

He parks his white van at the end of the late neighbour's lane and walks down to the abandoned house.  He lurks amongst the empty tumbledown buildings presumably to hide from the deer and hare that roam the field behind.  So far we have not heard a shot being fired.

I'm not sure if this is legal or not.  I have no idea if he has permission from the current owner to use the property as a hide for shooting animals, or even if he needs it.  We never saw anything like this when the neighbour was alive and the property occupied.  Equally I don't know if the neighbour's brother who inherited it, or the new owner who is rumoured to have bought it, know what he's up to.  The law relating to hunting in rural France is a mystery to me.  All I do know is that I don't feel comfortable about having a bloke with a gun only about 250 metres from our house.  

When the hunters are all in a line at the edge of the trees, wearing fluorescent jackets and pointing their guns towards the depths of the wood I don't feel so vulnerable.  One man on his own, heavily camouflaged, close to our house in the fading light and trigger happy does not seem safe to me.  He usually disappears to whence he came once it's too dark to see anything in the field.  Hunting "accidents" are not uncommon in these parts.

6 October 2022


The new windows are nearly all in place, 4/5 of them.  On removing the old one in the en suite bathroom upstairs the builders said it had been held in place with only two nails and a screw (or was it the other way round?).  Any road, Duck (as they would say in my part of Derbyshire) they said it's a miracle the thing stayed in for so long and didn't leak.  The one above the stairs had about four screws apparently, so a better job.

I am happy to report that the new ones are now fixed in place with a more adequate quantity of both nails and screws and, as the builder said, when Putin's bomb goes off the house might fall down but the new windows will still be attached.

We need to have the windows in place well before the fitting of the new carpet to allow a big clean up of the upstairs and painting of the walls.  Nick has already varnished most of the beams.  The carpet is being delivered tomorrow, which in itself is a miracle as when I first phoned to arrange the date there was no sign of it, it had vanished.  However, it miraculously appeared overnight and with a bit of luck the builder's big tool, which we have affectionately called the company car, will be available to lift the three huge and no doubt very heavy rolls (or is it four, I can't remember) up into the bedroom via the window at the far end of the house.  Much easier than struggling to get them up a narrow, winding staircase.  I'm sure the delivery guy will be grateful for that.  The carpet fitting is booked for the 18th and in French this is called la pose.  The carpet fitter is called le poseur.

So, with all my ducks in a row it looks like we could be on schedule to get the bedroom decorated and carpeted, the house cleaned and put to bed for the winter, mouse proof measures in place, before we have to leave on 31st October.  That's the day that Nick runs out of days, the fiasco at Eurotunnel in August having cost him one that he could have done with keeping.  (Due to the problems we have had this year I have spent more days back in the UK than him so could stay on for another week, but it's not really practical to do so.)

The builders are a great team, thoughtful and considerate than most by far, but I still feel like the house is not my own when they're in residence.  I've reached the "I'm never having anything done to the house ever again" stage of weariness.  We've also been lucky with the weather, it being fine and not too windy at the right time for the window work.  Rain is a no-no for putting in new velux windows, apparently.  I shall be mighty glad, however, when it's all done, nice as these people are, so that we can get our house back and get on with the cleaning, decorating and generally putting the house back together in a normal state.  It will be great for once to be able to leave it clean and properly closed up for the winter so that next year we don't arrive to a huge amount of mess and work before we even start.

Talking of mess, I will have a little rant about NatWest Bank.  Their bereavement website that we were obliged to use to notify them of my father's death, close his accounts and transfer the money to the executor of his will (me) is absolute rubbish.  For nearly three months they didn't inform me that one of the documents I had uploaded was not acceptable and needed to be redone - in fact their last message to me said they had everything they need to process the transfer.  

Only when I inquired using their online chat service as to where the money was did it come to light.  Then they wanted me to give feedback "so they could improve their service for customers in future".  Never mind the other sodding customers, where's the grovelling apology, the bunch of flowers, the bottle of champagne or M&S vouchers to compensate THIS customer for a huge amount of worry, extra work and aggravation?  Bereavement is hard enough to deal with without having to use a website that simply doesn't work.  I definitely have better things to do with my time than struggle with all this ****. 

Oh for the days when all you had to do was gather all the paperwork and take it into the local branch, where someone who knew what they were doing would look at it all, offer their condolences and a box of tissues and process it properly.

Whilst waiting for the second phase of the window work to start we took a day off to go to the market at La Roche-Posay and have lunch there.  It being breast cancer awareness month the market place was decorated accordingly and very jolly it all looked too.

We like LRP (as we call it) as a town and the market is a delight.  There were fewer stalls than in the summer, the tourist and seasonal trade having gone until next year; the seller of brightly coloured linen clothes had swapped them for woolly jumpers, but there was still everything you could need.

Interestingly, the cost of veg on the market stalls was pretty much the same as in the local supermarkets, although they looked much fresher.  Food has become an expensive item in France in recent years and one of the few things I miss about life in the UK is that you can still get a bag of leeks, carrots, turnips or parsnips, a cauliflower or a head of broccoli for less than £1 each or thereabouts in Tesco or Sainsburys.  (Unless they have also gone up since I was last there.)  In SuperU these leeks were 85c each in and the turnips 74c each.

There are a number of bars and restaurants in town and they all look fairly ordinary and unprepossessing but we have eaten several times at "Le Dug" and always had a good meal there.  Which goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover or a restaurant by its décor.  Tasty, well cooked food does not necessarily come only on designer plates.

Last but not least, my brother is definitely on the mend.  Most of the tubes and wires attached to his anatomy have been removed, there is no sign of the kidney machine, he breathes and eats by himself without assistance and he's regained his sense of humour; hospital food offering many opportunities for a good laugh.  However, he can still only walk a few steps so is a long way off being able to be independent at home.  Still, it's good to know the worst is well behind him.