27 August 2023


It has been a strange summer, weatherwise.

Temperatures have been up and down.  Most of the entertaining we have done has ended up indoors because of rain showers.  The grass is still green(ish) whereas normally by this time of year everything is crozzled and brown.

Thankfully we have not had the prolonged heat waves of previous years and summer seemed to take a while to get going.  Then last week we had temperatures in the mid 30's but along with that came a humidity that made it seem hotter.  And of course the biting insects arrived with the humidity.  They had been mercifully largely absent so far but they arrived with a vengeance.  We had not missed them!

A constant all year has been the wind.  Even the warm sunny days had a brisk breeze.  Good for drying the washing!  

Now the heatwave has gone and temperatures are comfortable again.  September is just around the corner, my favourite month.  We have visitors coming and we hope to enjoy some late summer sunshine.

18 August 2023


Our house in France is essentially in the middle of a field.  The front part is our own bit of field; the garden and drive between the house and the road.  The rest of the field was sold off to a nearby farmer who knows how many decades ago.  His land effectively comes right up to the walls of the house along the back and the two sides but he leaves us a walkway when he cultivates it.  He also owns and cultivates an enormous field across the road so our own little bit of paradise is basically an island in the middle of a huge plot of land owned by one farmer.  This year he has grown nothing on any of this land.

Back in April he spread weed killer on all of it then over the following few weeks he created three huge piles of dung (cow manure).  Since then we have been surrounded by dung heaps!

They ponged for a few days after each truckload of dung was added to a pile, and for several weeks we were inundated with flies inside and outside the house.  Living in the countryside has its challenges!

We knew that sooner or later he would do something with this dung and sure enough, yesterday morning he turned up with his digger and tractor with the muck spreader attached.  Of all the agricultural processes we have to live with, muck spreading is the one I dread the most!

Unfortunately he picked a time when we had visitors.  However, they are young and fairly laid back about most things so we still barbecued and sat out late.  

He parked his muckspreader in the gateway directly opposite the house as he left to go home late in the evening, gave us a cheery wave and wished us a pleasant evening!  

I am a bit concerned about one of our new air conditioning units.  The one that serves our bedroom is perched well above ground but the engineers put the other one actually on the ground because the wall of the house just there was too uneven to mount it higher up.

Most agricultural processes result in some kind of stuff being flung about and I'm worried that the lower one might get damaged.  Nick thinks it will be fine but I'm not so sure so I have placed a sheet of old cardboard over it for when he spreads the muck on the back field.  If the cardboard remains untouched all will be well but if it ends up splattered we will have to either build some kind of screen around it or get the engineers back to try harder to mount it higher up.  

Still speaking of dung, yesterday some unwelcome post arrived.

Our lovely neighbours in the UK keep an eye on our house there and once a week check the post.  We usually decide what is worth sending on to us here and decided that an unfamiliar looking letter was worth a look.

It was a parking fine for me from my visit in July.

On my last day there I had arranged to meet a former work colleague at a Starbucks cafe which was on her way home from work and convenient to both of us.  The restaurant is in a small retail park just off the M1 and serves as a motorway services.  She was held up at work and a bit late arriving but we had a nice long catch up over a couple of coffees.

The fine is because I stayed ten minutes longer than the time allowed for free.  The parking spaces right outside the door of the cafe are owned by someone who employs a car parking company to collect ludicrously high charges for people who stay too long.  £60 if I pay within fourteen days and £100 if not.

They turned out to be expensive cups of coffee and illustrate one of the saddest things about what is happening in the UK.  There are rip off schemes and scams in everything.

While our young visitors have been here we have taken them all over this part of France and parked in plentiful car parks entirely for free.  

16 August 2023

LE QUINZE AOÛT a nice day out and another picnic.

The 15th August is a popular bank holiday in France and in our area people make the most of it.  This year it fell on a Tuesday and it definitely looked like plenty of people did just that by taking the Monday off work and having a lovely long weekend.  This is called to "faire le pont" or bridge the gap between the weekend and the bank holiday by using a day's leave.

There are many events going on around us, undoubtedly the biggest being the brocante and display of old cars at Lesigny.  

How many can you identify and which would be your favourite?
I'm torn between the red Renault 4 and the E-type!

We rounded the day off with a picnic with live music at a friend’s house and were rewarded with a fabulous sunset.  Happy days!

11 August 2023

SUMMER HAS RETURNED with a trio of incidents

The warm weather has returned and although temperatures have been in the low 30’s we have yet to experience the debilitating heatwaves of previous years.  It’s rather pleasant in fact.

Yesterday was a day of incidents.  Number one was some other poor soul’s incident.  I took Hugo for his morning walk around the château while Nick cut the grass.  On our way back to the car I heard the siren of an ambulance followed a few minutes later by the buzz of a helicopter.  As we turned the corner by the drawbridge I saw the air ambulance set down in a field at the other side of the village.  How grateful we are to have such things out in the sticks.  

By the time I got back home Nick had finished the mowing so I gave Hugo his breakfast then helped to load the trailer.  We always seem to have a pile of cardboard and other stuff waiting to go and the déchèterie is now only open four half days a week.  Also we are allowed only twenty visits a year and have to present our little "credit card" each time so that the number of visits is recorded.  Hence there is little point in going without a trailer full.

I do wonder what we are expected to do with our rubbish if we run out of visits.  Mind you, the system clearly works as it’s rare to see rubbish dumped in farm gateways here, something that’s commonplace around where we live in the UK, even though there is no limit to the number of visits you are allowed to make to our local council waste and recycling centre, which is open for long hours seven days a week.  Why some English people will drive out into the countryside to dump huge quantities of rubbish rather than to the tip is baffling, a very peculiar mindset.

We got back from the déchèterie as the day was warming up and fancied going out for lunch.  We quickly showered and I phoned a nearby restaurant, one we hadn’t been to for a while, to book a table for 12.30.  The man who answered the phone said it was noted but didn’t take my name.  When we got there the place was "complet" and there was no trace of my booking.  Very odd.

Thinking there was still time to slip in elsewhere for lunch we dashed to the next village to another favourite restaurant only to be turned away from there because it was also "complet ".  That was incident number two.

The villages around here are all a good distance apart and getting anywhere else in time for lunch was looking risky so we gave up on the idea and Nick rustled up a ham and egg salad.  Which is probably not too far different from what we might have chosen in a restaurant given the warm weather!

I looked up the number I had phoned to book the restaurant and it turned out to be one with the same name several hundred kilometres away!  A silly mistake!

After lunch we went shopping.  First we stocked up with wine at one of our favourite suppliers, La Tour Beaumont, just south of Chatellerault. Then we called into Lidl for some other provisions and, inevitably, a few tempting items not on the shopping list.  This included a twin pack of croutons at 1.07€.

We have only this year become fans of Lidl.  They do excellent bread (the walnut loaf is delicious) and the produce is always plentiful and fresh.  But I find there are always a few items on the list that I can’t get so we nipped back onto the ring road for a couple of roundabouts (Chatellerault has a lot of roundabouts) and headed for the Le Clerc supermarket which is also handily next door to another of our favourite shops, Picard.  Picard is a frozen food store but forget Iceland and think Waitrose but all frozen!

It was hot by now and it makes sense to get the frozen stuff last of all so I suggested to Nick that he filled up the car while I popped into Le Clerc for the few remaining items then I would meet him at Picard.

Then incident number three evolved.

All the shops here have, since the beginning of the year I suppose, started asking whether or not you want a receipt at the checkout.  I always say yes.  Whilst waiting for me in the Picard car park Nick had cast an eye over the receipt from Lidl and discovered that we had been overcharged by more than 50€.  We had allegedly bought fifty four packs of croutons, not just the one!

A good half hour had elapsed so we thought we had better abandon the visit to Picard and go straight back to Lidl to sort it out and get a refund.  I was not looking forward to it one bit.  Dealing with things like this with our limited command of French is never easy but needs must.

By now it was after 5pm and there were few cars in the car park at Lidl.  It’s a good time of day to shop in order to get round the store but there is always still the lengthy queue at the checkout.  This practice of having only one or two checkouts working if the shop is quiet so that you still have to queue for ages seems to be the norm.  We picked the shortest queue (we thought) and I stopped there while Nick went around the store to see if there was any other member of staff who might be able to help with our little problem.  There wasn’t.  The only two staff that appeared to be on duty were the two on the checkouts and there was nothing resembling a customer service desk.

However, we needn’t have worried.  When we got to the front of the queue the young girl on the till  dealt with it calmly and professionally.  She asked me to show her the item so I dashed out to the car to fetch the pack while she served another customer.   As soon as I got back she gave us a refund for fifty three packs of croutons.  

So the morale of the story is firstly to always phone ahead and reserve a table if you want any chance of getting lunch in August, preferably the right number, and secondly always ask for your receipt in supermarkets.  I don’t know how we would have sorted that problem out if we hadn’t!

After that we hadn’t the energy to drive the two roundabouts back to Picard so headed home instead.  There we passed a very pleasant hour sipping apéros in the evening sunshine on our deck, and I took a few pictures.  


Looking rather more wonky but still gorgeous, little Daisy soldiers on.  

7 August 2023


Last weekend was a good one for brocantes.
The ones at Barrou and Paulmy are two of my favourites.

Both are in lovely settings and a good mix of stuff.
Not just kids' clothes, toys and worn out old boots.
Although if you need toys and kids clothes it's a very good way to shop.

The weather is usually blisteringly hot but this time it was perfect.
If it's too hot I usually leave early.  The cooler weather meant that I could linger for longer.
Good for browsers and brocanteurs.
(Although one lady said she had lost a lot of her customers since Brexit as stuff can no longer be taken back to the UK without a load of paperwork.)

At Barrou I bought this lovely serving plate and some Weck jars.
The jars are good for individual baked puddings (I have a recipe in mind).
The lids also make good wine bottle coasters.

In Paulmy I bought this cute set of weights for my outdoor table cloth.
To stop it blowing away in the breeze.

Total spend for the whole lot 7€.

This morning it was nice to see the sun again and to feel a little of its warmth on my back.
Hugo enjoyed his walk around the lake at La Celle Guenand.

On our return I glanced at the veg plot as I pulled into the drive and saw a flash of red.
A 520g tomato.