22 March 2023


We have been away from our house in France for four and a half months. We were thoroughly entrenched in our UK life but by the time our departure was getting near we were longing to get back there.

This kind of dual existence is both weird and fascinating.  Within a day of arriving back in either place we always slip effortlessly into the other pace of life, almost as if we had never been away.  Except that it takes a while to open the right drawer or cupboard in the kitchen before we find what we are looking for!  

The packing up process in the UK was made hard work by the weather.  It hailed while Nick was trying to pack the roofbox and a howling gale whipped things out of our hands as we placed them in the trailer.  The job was not made easier by the fact that we were both still very much under par having so recently had covid.

We set off at 3.20am.  To travel on the UK motorways during the night is the only way to make sure of getting anywhere within an hour or two of your intended time of arrival.  We had gone to bed very early the night before and got up at 2am.  It was -3°C outside and the car was covered in a thick layer of ice.

Daisy and Hugo travelled well and the first part of the journey was unusually straightforward, unless you count the two occasions when we had to take evasive action to avoid being killed by lorries swerving into our path, the drivers maybe nodding off, using the phone or just not paying attention.  At that time of night the traffic is 90% lorries, the cars and vans not appearing until we got nearer to the M25.  The twenty three mile long set of road works that has held us up in Northamptonshire the last few years had disappeared and we arrived at Folkestone in time to get the train one hour earlier than we had booked.

Having spent hours listing every item in the boxes of stuff we brought with us for customs, we were waved through as usual, nobody asking to see any paperwork at any point, even though the car, topbox and trailer were clearly stuffed to bursting.  At the French passport control our passports were stamped with barely a glance in our direction, the two occupants of the booth deep in conversation.

We lost fifteen minutes of the hour we gained once on the train due to a "technical problem" (which we think was a door being stuck) but we arrived in France at 10.10am and felt the usual sense of calm and relief as soon as we were on French roads.  The journey between Calais and home is long and tedious but rarely anything like as stressful as half that distance on UK roads.

It was not however entirely uneventful!  There was the petrol pump that would not accept our French bank card, then the ten minutes wait at a level crossing for a fast train near Yvetôt. This is where we break the journey by leaving the motorways to have a sandwich and a coffee, stretch all our legs (except for Daisy who hides in her cage) and fill the car up with cheap fuel at a supermarket, where we also pick up a bit of shopping.

The next bit of excitement was at a péage where all but two of the booths were closed with a long queue at both of them.  It wasn’t until we got near that we saw the customs police (douanes) stopping cars and lorries.  I was driving and as we pulled away from the booth a young female officer with a gun suddenly waved her baton that said "STOP" at us, as if she had only just noticed the bulging trailer.  I was a bit nervous about stopping suddenly as in the rear view mirror I could see an enormous lorry bearing down on us much too close to the trailer so came slowly to a halt, the young woman trotting along beside us.  

After a couple of simple questions she lost interest and waved us on.  Which was rather disappointing as I would have loved to show someone our endless lists of towels, books, pots, pans, and my collection of half knitted jumpers as they rummaged through the trailer looking for contraband!

The next incident was when Nick was driving and decided to clean the windscreen.  After two sweeps of the wipers one of the blades flew off, making a huge racket as it bounced off the car.  Consequently we had to make another detour to find a replacement, in case it started to rain.  Predictably, having this time gone to great lengths to pack the trailer in such a way as everything would stay dry, we had had little more than a light shower in the UK and nothing at all on the French side.

Once we left the motorway at St Maure we had that familiar "almost there" feeling but the excitement was not over yet.  We were very tired and overshot the turning for the road that bipasses Ligueil.  In the middle of the town we got stuck in a lengthy gridlock caused by ridiculously bad driving on the part of several car drivers.  The lack of road craft would have seemed hilarious if we were not so tired and desperate to get home!  Sounding the horn is no replacement for common sense!  However, we made it home by 6pm.  To our great relief there was not a single sign of mouse damage or even any droppings anywhere.  At least this year we have not had to fork out €1,500 for a new set of covers for our sofas!

It was sunny and 14°C when we arrived and the next day was even better.  20°C in the afternoon - a lovely welcome back to our French home.

And so we have now been back in our French house for almost a whole week.  We have fetched the garden furniture out of the barn and Nick has cut the grass, instantly making the place look more like home.  We have unloaded the top box and trailer, the unpacking of all the bags and boxes being a long job and still ongoing.  The new gates are installed and look wonderful although the electric opening mechanism has not been refitted as it was clearly on its way out and we have yet to get a new one.  We have paid the customary visits to most of the DIY shops within a thirty mile radius to acquire blinds for our new velux windows, and other essential bits and pieces for the various jobs left undone last autumn.

But mostly we have just been drinking it all in.  Enjoying the immense sense of peace and quiet of living in the countryside, the politeness of the ordinary people in the street, the lack of traffic on the roads and, so noticeable compared with the UK, the lack of potholes and litter.  Here we don’t have to dice with death to get out at a junction or swerve all over the place to avoid massive potholes and sunken manholes, turning a blind eye to the unkempt and filthy state of the pavements and grass verges.  The country roads in our part of France are looked after really well and in such good condition, even the bad ones we would think quite good by UK standards.

On the way here we passed many a team of road workers, mending, clearing and tidying.  My own personal sense of joy in being here makes me feel sad for how things have turned out in the UK.  Why are the roads so bad there?  I know that everything in France isn’t perfect and there are certainly things about living here that drive us mad but, on the whole, life feels so much better here.  Things seem to have gone so badly wrong in the UK, the state of the roads being only one symptom of a general sense of decline and decay.  It makes me very sad to think that British people are doomed to put up with all that, there being no sign that it will get better any time soon.

15 March 2023


 Home, sweet home.

14 March 2023

12 March 2023



Just popping out for a minute.

11 March 2023


News from chez nous is that our new gateposts are in, the hollow structures now filled with concrete that needs to go off before the lovely new gates can be hung.  They are also tied together with the footings between them so they should stay vertical!  I can't wait to see them.

Here in the UK there was a good 6" of snow overnight on Thursday.  The sky was a brilliant blue and the sun was out on Friday so some of it thawed.  Nick cleared the path around the house which became dry and stayed dry.  Late in the afternoon I spotted the patch of sunshine just in front of the garden shed so we decided to go with the flow and have our Fizzy Friday apéros with the sun still warm on our faces.  Too good an opportunity to miss.

We sat in the sunshine planning our trip.  Boxes are already packed with a detailed list of each one's contents.  We have to write an inventory of everything we intend to take to France now or within the next twelve months.  This is our one chance to take things that we can otherwise no longer take as visitors (post Brexit) because we are going to live there rather than just stay in our second home.  Things like furniture, household items other stuff that is over and above the modest value of "personal items".  Not that we need much as the house is already equipped with everything we need, but we might as well take the couple of bookcases that were my dad's as we can certainly find a place for them.  Plus all the spare bedding, linen and other bits and pieces.  We just need to list them.

10 March 2023


It’s mornings like this that I'm so glad to be retired.  I feel for my colleagues still grappling with a horrendous journey to work.  

We’re also glad that we were not booked to travel to France today either!

We haven’t had snow like this for a while in Derbyshire.  I feel sad for all those baby lambs.  A lot of them won’t make it.

9 March 2023

7 March 2023


We went out yesterday afternoon for essential supplies and when we got back this was in a parcel which was propped up against the front door.  (Right under the notice we had taped to the door asking for parcels to be left under the car port and out of sight!)   A kind and thoughtful gift from friends to keep us occupied until we get better.

We debated whether or not we should go out whilst having covid.  There are no restrictions, the only advice on the government website is to "try to stay at home".  We had run out of cough medicine and cat food so off we went to Tesco.  Nick donned his mask to go into the store whilst I waited in the car.

Afterwards we decided to go for a "run out".  This is what in our family we called a ride around in the car.  The weather was horrible but a change of scenery appealed.  Whilst we were a few miles from home Nick's phone rang.  It was the car auction people, a company called "carwow".  We would have to say that there is nothing particularly "wow" about this company.

We had been chasing them all morning to find out what had happened to our buyer.  They seemed not to be able to get a response from them either and were ringing back with a new offer from a different buyer.  A much lower offer which we declined.

When we got home we put our car details into the website of "Arnold Clark", a used car company with an outlet not far away.  They offered a much higher price so we booked an appointment for twenty minutes later.  Nick took the Mazda and I followed on behind in the rattly old Peugeot.  Nick donned his mask and got part way through the deal when their computer system crashed.

We brought both cars back home feeling rather dejected but as soon as we walked into the house his phone rang again.  They were back online.  He was back in the car like a rat up a drainpipe and thirty minutes later he phoned me to go and fetch him.  The deal was done, the car was sold.  We're sorry to see it go as it was a lovely car, the best we've ever had, but it is, after all, only a car, and selling it has taken away a level of worry and aggravation we can well do without.

Nick had spent some time in the morning trying to get a certificate of conformance to enable us to register the rattly old Peugeot in France, just in case we had to.  Let's call it the ROP from now on.  The link on the Peugeot website took us to an online form that said it would cost £220 which seemed rather a lot.  He contacted the local dealer who had no idea what he was talking about and referred him to the main dealer in the next town.  There he spoke to a woman who said we didn't need one because it had been manufactured in France before Brexit.  She knew this, apparently, because she used to live in France and had imported several Peugeots herself.  Nick didn't suggest that the rules might be different now we are post Brexit, just thanked her for her help.

One of the frustrations has been the plethora of conflicting advice online.  Every question asked of Mr Google results in a number of alternative solutions but which one is the right one?  It's hard to tell.  

Two days ago, to try to get to the bottom of things, I filled in an online form on the French Embassy website to ask if we were obliged to import the car we arrived in or if we could use it for a while before returning it to the UK, and if so, for how long.  A helpful reply has come back in mega quick time - two days being mega quick in my book - to say we can use whatever vehicle we arrive in on UK plates, without having to register it in France, for a maximum of six months, after which time we must return it to the UK.  That suits us very well.

We are very much of the mind to take the path of least resistance in everything as we navigate our way through this stage of our lives so we're going back to plan A.  Having got a sensible price for the Mazda we will buy a nice French car in France and, when we've got it, bring the ROP back to the UK and leave it here.  The reply from the French Embassy tells us that we have six months to do this.  If there is enough money left over we will buy a second French car, a little runabout, if we can find one.  You never know, I might achieve a longstanding ambition of owning another Renault 4TL, just to see if they really are as bad as I remember - my very first driving lessons were in a blue one in 1975!

Our twelve month visas actually start tomorrow, 8th March.  Our plan had been to go to France tomorrow, in the Mazda, with cat, dog and a trailer full of stuff, day one of our move to France.  It's lucky for us that we delayed it for a week to sell the car, not only because we are both rather poorly but also because we wouldn't have been able to get in!

Our builder has started the work on our new gates and poured the concrete footings last Friday, which take a week to harden and that isn't until two days after we would have arrived!  I can't wait to see our lovely new gates in situ (ones that don't need painting) and fab new gateposts (ones that don't lean at a jaunty angle).

As for the dreaded virus, for the first time this morning we both feel a bit better.  My painful sore throat has mercifully gone and I now feel like someone with a bad cold instead of some life threatening illness.  We both look dreadful but are definitely on the mend.  Hopefully we will be on our way to France in the ROP with the cat, the dog and the trailer full of stuff in a week's time.

6 March 2023


Needs a lick of paint. 

5 March 2023



I don't know where we got it or how.
Maybe shopping in Meadowhall on Tuesday when we went to M&S for new underwear. (His - worn out.  Mine - too big now.)
Or maybe at the car place on Wednesday when we thought we might buy a UK car with the proceeds from the sale of the Mazda, one that would be easier to convert to French plates, ie without the fancy headlights.
The buyer of the Mazda seems to have gone very quiet, which is worrying.  It’s a garage in Glasgow and they are not returning our calls.  We are bracing ourselves for the possibility that the sale might fall through, which will be a bugger, to say the least.  Scuse my French.
Further research tells us that buying a different UK car is a non starter, because we would be stung for the VAT and duty on a vehicle we had owned for less than six months before moving to France. So it looks like we might end up having to leave the Mazda in the UK while we take the Peugeot to France after all, unless we delay our travel again and have another go at selling it.
Nick has the symptoms of a mild cold.  I have the humdinger of a sore throat, can't speak or swallow. So much for those who said they don’t know what the fuss is all about, there’s nothing to it.  I haven’t been this poorly for years.  Goodness only knows what might have happened without the multiple vaccines and boosters.
Our original plan was that we would be going to France next week.  The car conundrum has delayed that for a week (could be more) which is just as well.  I am in no condition to do all the packing up required, or at least my share of it.
I wouldn’t want to catch this disease again.  It’s horrible.

3 March 2023


 Bridge over the river Creuse.

1 March 2023


In 2021 we traded in our old Mazda for a new one.  At the time we bought the car my dad was still hale and hearty so we thought the opportunity to spend more time in France was a long way off and having a decent, modern car that would last us a few years seemed like a good plan!  Now that we are seeking to become residents in France we would like to take it with us.  Unfortunately it turns out that registering this particular Mazda there would be rather tricky.  

Generally speaking, the process would begin with obtaining something called a "certificate of conformance" from the dealer/manufacturer, then to change the headlights to ones for a left hand drive version, take the car to a garage in France to have the equivalent of an MOT, present all the paperwork to the appropriate Préfecture, pay the fee and come away with a new registration number.  We have done this before with cars and motorcycles and know how it works.

Our trusted UK garage person told us that the replacement headlights would be expensive and he could not get hold of them.  We would have to get them in France and a French garage would have to fit them.  When we looked into it further it seems that changing them is no easy task and, according to Mazda, the French garage would have to get in touch with Mazda technical support and be "talked through" the process as it would involve reprogramming the car's electrics.

Alarm bells started ringing when we discovered this!  You can see how it could all go wrong, that it could cost a fortune and we could end up being without a car at all for weeks if it didn't go right first time.  Not to mention that messing with a modern car's electrics is rarely a good idea!  Just to be sure, I emailed the Mazda main dealership that's nearest to us in France and they said they could not do the work.

We have decided that a good solution is to sell the Mazda in the UK and buy a French car instead, using the ancient and rattly old Peugeot to get us to France in the short term.  As I write this we have the car up for sale in one of those online auctions you see advertised on TV so we are on tenterhooks to hear if it sells.  We're not prepared to let it go too cheap but........what to do if it doesn't sell?

We could leave it in the UK for use when one or other of us returns and take the old and rattly Peugeot to France instead - that one would migrate more easily (and cheaply).  That's not an ideal solution; having your best car stood doing nothing for most of the year while we rattle round in a scruffy old jalopy does not make sense.

We could trade it in for a different good car that would migrate more easily - one with headlights that switch to left hand drive!  Time is running out to get that organised. **

We could take it to France and use it there for a few months, returning to the UK with it sooner than we thought we would, and stay here until we've changed it.  Although are we allowed to do this - to turn up at the border with a visa that leads to French residency and a car that we are not importing?

Questions, questions, and the answers can be hard to find!

Well, one way or another we will find a solution and I expect this is only the first of many "challenges" that will crop up as we go through the migration process!


**This option is not really an option.  Further research tells us that if we import a car that we have owned for less than six months we will have a hefty bill for the VAT and duty.  The only viable option therefore is to use the proceeds from the Mazda to buy a French car.

28 February 2023

25 February 2023

22 February 2023

19 February 2023

16 February 2023

13 February 2023

10 February 2023


Knock, knock!


7 February 2023



Bathroom chic.

4 February 2023


 Burnt out.

1 February 2023


 A selfie.

Today we made the trip to Salford for our visas.
Two hours there.
Waited in the Matchstick Man pub car park for half an hour.
Queued outside the visa centre for half an hour in the rain until they allowed the dozens of people, mostly young Chinese on UK passports, all with the same appointment time as us, into the building, half an hour late.
Queued inside for two hours as each one took ages to compile the right information and get the right kind of photos.  The toilets were closed.
It took ten minutes to process our two applications.
Then another wait for the biometrics to be taken again.
Back home after an eight hour day.
All for a ten minute process.

29 January 2023


Winter is dragging on here in the UK.  It suddenly dawned on me that the reason why winters didn’t bother me quite so much in the past is because I was working.  When at work I didn’t notice how grim the weather was!  It’s unbelievably almost ten years since I retired and finding ways to enjoy the endless cold and grey days has become a challenge.

So I did something I've been intending to do for years and enrolled on a watercolour painting course.  In fact Nick also enrolled with me, the opportunities for playing golf being very limited due to the waterlogged golf course.  

This is my blue tit, painted from a photograph.  Each week we paint a specific object in a way suggested by the teacher.  It’s fun and I'm picking up techniques as we go along.  It’s definitely not as easy as it looks!  

This is my painting of an old medicine bottle, done as a still life.   Still life is harder than painting from a photo, I have found.  An interesting side effect of learning to paint is the way I now find myself looking at things and thinking "that would make a good picture".  It will clearly be some time before I understand how to control the paint and make it do what I want but there’s hours of endless fun to be had in the process.  

Over the winter I have been on a weight loss diet.  This is also something I have been meaning to do for years, having gradually gained almost three stone since I retired.  (A stone is fourteen pounds or roughly seven kilos.)  I’ve tried to lose the weight by myself several times and lost one stone over the winter of 2018/19 but soon put it back on, and more.  This winter, now that I no longer have the worry that came with organising my dad's care, the hours and hours spent on the phone or computer negotiating with carers, social workers and suchlike, I have been able to focus on the diet.  Until I had to look after the needs of a very old person I had no idea how all consuming it is in both time and energy.  I now feel I am able to spend that time and energy on tackling jobs that have been on the back burner for years.  

"Slimming" is such an old fashioned word for the task but still very apt, as is the term "fattening".  Understanding which foods are fattening is crucial to success.  In reality I already had a good idea of what does the damage to the waistline but I joined a slimming club and so far I have lost one and a half stone and feel much better for it, not least because my clothes now fit comfortably!  The discipline of the weekly meetings and weigh-ins works for me and I can honestly say that on this diet I haven’t once felt hungry or deprived of food.  The next problem will be to keep the pounds off once I'm happy with my new weight.

I feel slightly awkward about admitting that I am having to work at eating less properly while it’s clear that so many people are struggling to afford to eat enough, what with the cost of food going up quite noticeably.  The food bank trolley in our local Tesco is always overflowing; testament to the generosity of ordinary folk who themselves are also affected by the rising cost of living.

One of the things I have done over the winter is a good deal of decluttering and reorganising of my "stuff".  My bead stash is now organised and I have done some finishing off and repair jobs.  Some years ago when the bead stash was in France I did a few sessions where I showed some friends the basics of making beaded jewellery.  One friend made a nice pair of earrings then lost one.  The bead stash ended up back in the UK and this week I finally got around to making her another earring to replace the lost one!

A finishing off job. 

As well as organising my bead stash I hauled my boxes of knitting wool and the collection of half knitted jumpers out of the loft and organised those.  Not that we have an actual loft, just the triangular shaped space in the eaves that runs along the back and front of the dormer extension.  Also in there were boxes of old paperwork which too have been sorted, shredded or filed accordingly.  Something that has turned out to be well worthwhile now that the time has come to apply for another visa.

We're doing it differently this time and have taken the first step towards applying for French residency and a carte de séjour.  We don’t think we will live in France full time but it will give us back the freedom to move to and fro between here and there without the hassle of visas and Schengen calculations.  

It has been a very expensive winter.  On arrival back from France at the start of November Daisy and Hugo had costly operations.  Daisy’s facial surgery cost over £1,000 but she’s thriving, the scars are healing well and we love her to bits.  Hugo’s eye operations have not turned out to be as successful but we are coping with the daily care and attention he needs.  He’s a lovely dog and a joy to have around.  Although we can’t wait for the weather to dry up and there be less mud on his walks!

The roof before.

The roof after.

Another major expense has been the need to replace the flat roof on the dormer of our bungalow.  It’s been leaking on and off for years but this year more so.  Not sure if that’s because the roof or the weather has been worse this winter!  So we stumped up the cost of replacing it.  I actually found myself saying "well, that should see us out" when it was finished! It certainly should last a few decades before it needs doing again but did I really say that?!

On top of that has been the need to replace my trusty old sewing machine.  I got it out to do a few long needed sewing jobs and was dismayed to find that it would only sew backwards!  In fact it would intermittently sew forwards for long enough to make a start, then go off piste and sew whatever stitch it felt like doing!  I reckoned that it was probably about thirty five years old and the local repair shop said that it would need a new circuit board which are no longer available and in any case would cost nearly as much as a new machine.  So I have become the proud owner of a new Bernina and if it lasts as long as the other one that too will "see me out"!!

The other week the washing machine stopped working, full of wet washing, of course.  Thinking "oh no, not another thing" as it's at least ten years old, Nick managed to fix it.  The problem was a piece of cellophane blocking the outlet for the pump which caused "error E20".  Phew, another crisis averted but I'm not sure it will last another ten years and "see us out"!!


 Sunset at the château..

26 January 2023


 Misty reflection.

23 January 2023



Waiting for spring.

20 January 2023


A garden beckons.

17 January 2023


Al fresco dining.

14 January 2023


 Gone but not forgotten.

11 January 2023



The château at Bouges-le-Château.

8 January 2023



The very old château at Levroux.

5 January 2023



The village in winter.

Although it's in my archive I didn't take this picture myself.  It is dated 12th February 2012, which was a very cold winter.  As we didn’t use the little house in the village in winter, a friend sent us the picture so we could see what we were missing!

2 January 2023



Le château in winter.