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.