27 June 2023



I seem to have been to a lot of picnics lately.  Last Monday the weekly walk was to have started and finished at the picnic place in Chaumussay, finishing with a picnic lunch (bring your own sandwiches) at the very convenient picnic shelter down by the old station.  Unfortunately the weather forecast was for heavy showers so the walk was cancelled but instead walkers were invited to take the picnic lunch to enjoy in the shelter of some friends' barn.  A very convivial picnic it turned out to be as the rain poured down outside.  We definitely needed the rain!

Nick was back in the UK last week, which was "fête de la musique" week in France.  Numerous events were taking place all over the place.  On Saturday there was a musical picnic back at the same picnic place at Chaumussay.  As Nick was battling his way back to the south coast of England on the UK's hectic motorway network I was enjoying music provided by a string quartet in the company of friends who contributed to the picnic and in glorious sunshine.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven (if heaven is like this I really want to go there) (when the time comes) while poor old Nick was on what Chris Rea called the "road to hell" - the M25.  Except of course that at the end of the "road to hell" was a ferry to bring him back to our own little heaven on earth - chez nous.

As always, we had paid nothing to park the car, no entry fee to the event, nothing for the entertainment and the food was lovely.  This part of life in France I love most.

However, life in France is not always one long and lazy picnic.

Soon after we got the Peugeot in April it started intermittently displaying an "engine repair needed" icon along with an accompanying and very annoying noise.  The display (and noise) were random and brief but we took it back to the dealer as it has a twelve month guarantee.

A technician came toute suite to look at it, plugged in his computer and declared a faulty sensor that was not serious (which is what we thought).  He fiddled with it and said if that didn't fix it, phone to book the car in to have it changed.  The fault soon recurred.

Our French is improving but we both find telephone conversations difficult so we went there in person to make the arrangement.  We understand what is being said much better when face to face.  We explained the problem in our best French to the receptionist who then consulted with the attending technician and an appointment was made for two weeks later.  This was subsequently cancelled due to the relevant part not having arrived.

Things went downhill thereafter and each visit to the dealership has been an increasingly unhappy experience.  

In the meantime, we have been looking for a second secondhand French car.  We are looking in a price range where suitable cars are more scarce than either old bangers or decent ones like the Peugeot.  While Nick was away I test drove another Peugeot only to find that it would barely go up hills and rejected it.  Good job I took it up a hill as it was fine on the flat!  

Then yesterday afternoon, safely back in France, Nick spotted online a Renault for sale at a small garage in Châtellerault that looked like it would do us fine so we dashed down there, arriving thirty minutes before the garage was due to close.  A lovely, friendly man who is the garage owner gave us the keys and sent us off for a test drive.  I'm happy to report that it went uphill like stink and we decided to buy it.  

He was a very nice man and it's highly likely that we will use his garage for servicing and repairs when the time comes.

18 June 2023



Can you spot the difference between the above two photos?
No prizes will be given for the correct answer.

When the builders came to order the balustrade for the roof terrace the one we chose (last October) was no longer available but they found us a similar one on the Leroy Merlin website.  In order to save time we offered to go and fetch it from the branch in Tours ourselves and the builder said if we got it that  weekend he would fit it on the following Monday.  

We ordered it using the click and collect service and went to fetch on the Saturday, which turned out to be a challenge in itself.  When you turn up to collect you have to speak into a microphone and give your order number.  A voice then tells you which numbered parking space to park in, the barrier goes up and you line up to receive your items, bought out to you from the store.

As we headed for space number seven a woman in a grey car drove into it from the opposite direction.  She had bypassed the system by entering the enclosed compound via the exit and just plonked herself in the nearest space. What a cheek!

We were pondering what to do next when the person behind the voice appeared, gave the woman short shrift and directed us to the adjacent parking space.  I said to Nick that I hoped this didn’t mean our order would be given to her instead and we come away with some paint, or cushions, while she got our balustrade, but all was well.  The voice person sorted it all out and we wrestled the boxes into our car.

We then popped into the store for a few other bits and pieces.  At the checkout we were asked if we would like to use our "remise".  That’s how we discovered we had a credit of almost six hundred euros on our account, to be taken against goods by the end of October.  

What?!  If we had know this before we ordered our balustrade it would have more or less paid for it!

Apparently when we took out the loyalty card offer, which costs 15€, we spent so much on the air conditioning system that it was definitely worthwhile.

Back home we unloaded the boxes into the barn and realised there were brackets we should also have bought. Thinking we would have to dash back first thing on Monday before the builders got too far with the assembly of the components we started another click and collect order and discovered that Leroy's (as we affectionately refer to the store) is open on Sundays.  Crikey!  Could this be progress?  I felt slightly disappointed that one of the charms of life in France (that shops all close for two hours at lunchtime and on Sundays) had gone.  Yet it was very handy!

However, we couldn’t find a way to use our huge "remise" on an internet order.  Well never mind, the shop is full of plenty of stuff we will need before the end of October anyway.

So off we went to Tours again on a sunny Sunday morning, calling at a huge brocante at Veigné on the way back.  (More about that another time.)

On the Monday morning the builder and two of his team turned up bright and early and set to assembling the jigsaw puzzle of pieces that was to be our balustrade.  I went shopping while Nick got on with cutting the hedge.  Apparently, just before lunch time a barrage of yells and expletives was heard coming from above.

Thinking someone might have fallen off into the field or the pig sheds below, Nick dropped his hedge trimmer and dashed upstairs to find out what the problem was.  It seems that one of the boxes we had collected was clearly a returned item with some bits missing.  

Hence the difference between photos one and two.

The builder offered to take the offending box back to Leroy's and change it at the weekend.  And so another week was to go by with the job unfinished.

I would have dearly liked to be a fly on the wall when he turned up at the shop.  He said they argued the toss at first and he had to "stare at them".  They fetched two more boxes of the same thing from inside the store and lo and behold, both also had been opened and had bits missing.  They had to order one from another store.

This was very disheartening in many ways.  It’s the kind of thing we have come to expect from the UK DIY stores - we never buy anything in a box that has clearly been previously opened there - but somehow I found it more disappointing that the French customers would be so mean as to do the same thing and that their staff so inefficient as not to check before putting them back on the shelf.  Progress, I suppose, also has a down side.

And so, with another delay of ten days, and three months after it was started, the roof terrace itself is finally finished.  We can safely admire the views without feeling wobbly near the edge.  We can even lean on the balustrade as we watch the wildlife.

It's not exactly a view of distant mountains, or the ocean, but we like it.

Some may think it a hugely expensive white elephant.  For one thing you can only access it through the bedroom window!

It has certainly been an expensive project, and of limited use.  If you look carefully at the picture above there is a clue as to why the terrace is there in the first place.  I shall write more in detail another time.  In the end, we had no choice but to do it - to fix the dangerously crumbling structure and in such a way as it would be safe.  To have anything done properly costs a lot of money these days.

There is however, still work to be done.  At the back of the house, tacked onto the wellerie that's below the roof terrace, are two concrete sheds that were probably built some time in the 20th century to house animals.  We call them the pig sheds but apart from there being feeding troughs in them we have no real idea of what hapless animals had been kept in there.

The tiled roof over them needed a lot of repairs and the builder suggested he took the whole thing off and replaced it with a modern corrugated roof.  It wouldn't be as pretty but is not in view from anywhere except the field at the back.  It would be cheaper to do, watertight and require less maintenance.

Another option would have been to demolish the pig sheds and create an access to the roof terrace so that we could take visitors up there without them having to go through the bedroom.  That would have added another few thousand euros to the cost of the project so we decided to go with the corrugated roof option.  Enough is enough!  If we ever sell the house it's an option future occupants might decided is worth doing but in some ways we quite like the idea that it's our own, private space.

The shed roof work has yet to start but we are keeping fingers crossed that it will begin in the next few days.

During the heat of this last week we took a day out from all the gardening, housework and other jobs, heading to Montrésor for an ice cream.  As it happens, all but one of the cafés were closed but we got our ice cream at the village shop.  I also got to indulge in my passion for photographing doors and windows in one of the prettiest villages in France.

In the evening we ate outdoors.

Moules et frites maison.

One of the great joys of living in France.  At the supermarket (sadly there is no longer a fish stall on the village market) they had piles of lovely fresh moules.  They were small and sweet and Nick cooked them perfectly to our favourite recipe.

Yum !!

3 June 2023


We went to an art exhibition recently where paintings by a local artist were on display.  The theme of the exhibition was "femme" and the artist used a variety of techniques and styles, paintings large and small and at very affordable prices.  I bought this one of three ladies in red dresses because it makes me smile!

On the 29th May we went to a vineyard for a picnic. This is the third time I’ve done this myself; the fourth for Nick who went to one last year while I was back in the UK.  They are great fun.  Friends, food and wine are the perfect mix.

There was a tour of the vineyard before lunch and a tour of the wine making areas after.  As it happens, the wine itself was not really to our taste but it was a great day out and, at last, in gorgeous (if slightly breezy) weather.

And last but definitely not least, the roof terrace is nearly finished!  I shall feel more comfortable up there when we have a guard rail at the front edge but we couldn’t wait to try it out.  The weather has at last turned summery and we haven’t needed to light the fire in the evenings for about a week.


On a more sombre note, this day last year was when my father was admitted to hospital, the beginning and cause of his rapid demise.  It was an awful time for him and for me, Nick and my brother, and it could have, and should have, been so much better.  One year on the memories and images still haunt me and I still struggling to come to terms with how badly he was let down by doctors, nurses, social workers and carers. Inevitably I find myself, even after all this time, wondering where we went wrong and if we could have done better for him.  In reality we did everything we could; it was the callousness of the system that failed him and worked against us.  The signs are that the way our old folk are treated in the UK is getting worse, not better, and that the situation is way down the list of the government’s priorities.  Well bellow saving their own skins and trousering public money.

It’s all behind us now and we are in a much better place in so very many ways.