21 July 2024


A friend asked if we had ever seen Tia Maria or other coffee liqueurs in France.  She is on holiday and wanted to make a coffee flavoured tiramisu.
I wasn't sure so we looked and yes you can.  We might try this one ourselves, it looks like a sensible price.

We found out only recently that since March this year motorcycles have to have the French equivalent of an MOT test by early August.  It's called a CT test and previously motorcycles in France were exempt from needing one.  Goodness only knows how this morsel of information had passed us by until now and we only have a few weeks to get it done!  

There's allus summat, as my mother used to say!
We have been debating whether or not to keep the Harleys as we don't ride them very often any more and it costs a small fortune to keep them insured.  The weather this year has not been great for motorcycling and when it was we always had other things we had to do or visitors.  
This has rather focussed our minds on the issue.  In order to sell them or ride them they will need a CT and we need to get on with it sharpish!  The person who has done work on them for us before moved premises a while ago and we took a photo of the note on the door for in case we needed him again.  We need him now but couldn't remember when we took the photo and therefore where to look for it.  We have thousands of photos on our phones.

I decided to do a search and tried various things.  Only when I put "handwriting" into the search bar did his note turn up.  Clever stuff.  The photo was taken in 2022 so not that long ago.  We have arranged to take the bikes to his new workshop next week.  Progress.

A friend took this picture of a swallowtail butterfly when she and her husband came to dinner one evening.  We were sitting outside with our apéros and it flitted about on our lavender bushes.  It's the first one we have seen so far this year.

We didn't have to go and get our phones or cameras as she always has hers to hand.  Personally I don't normally keep my phone with me unless I'm using it.  If you see what I mean.

We have been to several musical evenings this year.  The opera performance in the church at Le Grand-Pressigny was pretty special.  I don't think I could sit through a whole opera these days but an hour of selected arias was a delight.  Apparently the singers are all on holiday in the area and agreed to perform for free (although a hat was passed round at the end of the performance).

All of these musical events were free.  We didn't pay an entry fee, or to park the car, or anything other than normal prices for drinks and snacks at any of them.  Welcome to France!

We are enjoying another watercolour painting course.

We have had three lots of visitors.  Our former neighbours from the UK came on their way home from a three month tour of France in their mobile home.  They have been to stay with us before when we had the little house in the village and love the area.

I did a quick trip back to the UK earlier in the month.  It was one of our regular scheduled visits to keep and eye on the place and fix any problems that have occurred during our absence.

This time, the ROP (rattly old Peugeot) was showing a warning light which said "engine fault, repair needed".  I have no idea what the problem is this time but it was running fine.  My visit had to be short because of the arrival of visitors in France so I didn't have time to do anything about it.  I parked it up on the drive as usual (battery disconnected) and Nick will take it for its MOT and find out what needs fixing next time.

Our first visitors this year were my cousin and his wife.  He has done a lot of work on our family tree.  His mother and mine were sisters so to have the information on my mother's side of the family is really good.  After she died my father researched the family tree on his parents' side and wrote a memoir about his life, which is fascinating, but contains very little in the way of information of my mother's family.

Before I went on my brief trip back to the UK I mentioned to my cousin that I have a large suitcase full of family photos and other documents that came from my dad.  I had never really looked at the contents although I had put a few other items into it just so that they were all safely in the same place.

We spent an afternoon looking through it and sharing childhood memories, something that definitely required a few pots of tea and a slice of cake, so I made a Victoria sponge.

One of the photos that my cousin brought with him was this picture of my grandmother.  He has discovered that she came from Irish parents and spent some time in Wales working in service.  She was born in Nottingham so it's a mystery how she ended up in Wales at a time when the only way to get there was probably by horse and cart.

I would guess from the photo that she was a parlour maid or something like that to a wealthy family but I don't remember her, or my mother, or my aunt, ever mentioning it.  Maybe they did and it didn't register when I was a little girl, even though I spent many a happy hour listening to them talking about "the olden days".

7 July 2024


 Light at the end of the tunnel.

This picture was taken at the Abbeye de Bois Aubray on an unusually hot day in June. More about that later.  It was taken just before I returned to the UK for one of our regular customary checks on the house and catch up with family.  I had timed the visit so that I could vote in person for myself and as proxy for Nick.  This election was too important to risk a postal vote.

I will soon be on my way back to France with a lighter heart and a sense of hope.  The feelings of impending disaster, frustration and helplessness have lifted.  I feel Britain is now in safe hands and not those of a bunch of self serving elitist incompetents.
Read Tom Stephenson's blog.    His last sentence on 6th July says it best.

We are now entertaining our third set of visitors.  Normal service will be resumed once we’re back on an even keel, beds changed, washing dried on the line….

17 June 2024


We've had visitors for the last week and been very busy.  Just before they arrived we did a bit of crisis gardening and tidied up the BBQ area, just in case.  
At the garden centre these hanging baskets were reduced to 10€, a bargain, so we got three of them.  They really cheered the area up and made up for the fact that we hadn't yet got all our outdoor decorative stuff out of the barn because of the disappointing weather.  
We did brave the cool breeze and manage just one BBQ while they were here!

While Nick was on his way to the airport I did a quick swoop on the local brocante shop and spotted something we have been hankering after - a couple of small stone urns.  I think the shopkeeper said that in France they are called a "medicin", which to my mind means doctor, but maybe I misheard.

She had another two on display, planted with geraniums, so I knew they were exactly what I was looking for.  Our own geraniums are not at all happy with the weather and look rather miserable, so we got two more for the urns.  They are looking equally glum!

My cousin Melvyn and I were very close as children, being virtually the same age and living only a few hundred yards apart.  Once we left school we have kept in touch but our lives diverged.  He and his wife Lynda had children and now have grandchildren which keep them very busy. 

This was their very first stay with us in France and we did our best to wear them out.  They had more stamina than we expected and we went all over the place.  When the visit was planned I asked him what they would like to see and he said a medieval village and a château, preferably one that's not a wedding venue (they are fans of the TV programme "Château DIY").  

A quick nip into the village ticked both of those off the list in one morning!

We did however go to many more places and it's good to see the area where we live through someone else's eyes.  We do rather take it for granted.

Even a visit to the local park in Descartes was a delight.  The plants are not as luxurious as they normally are, partly because of the unusually cool, wet and gloomy weather, but I wonder if it's  because much of the park would have been under water for a day or two during the floods in late April.  I was sorry to see that the little zoo in the park no longer had a wild boar and hope it didn't meet a horrible end in the flooding.

They were very lucky with the weather and in spite of the occasional light shower they had a good week.  The weather didn't stop us getting about and seeing lots of different places, some on our doorstep and some further afield.  

To round off their holiday, we booked a table at a local restaurant for the evening. Because of the cool breeze the outdoor tables were not in use so the restaurant was completely rammed with people indoors and we didn't get a table until well after 9pm, which was less than ideal but all in all they had a wonderful time.

Nick dropped them off at the airport and picked my brother up who came in on the flight that took them home.  So we'll be busy, busy again for another couple of weeks.  I hope the weather perks up.  We're nearly half way through the year and apart from the last week the sun has been rather elusive!

1 June 2024


Our French house is a modified single story house, a longère.   At first glance it looks bigger than it really is because although it's a long building it’s only one room deep and you have to go through one room to get to the next.  There is no hallway or corridor downstairs.  It was probably two dwellings with bits added on; an extension at one end, a bread oven at the other and last but not least a roof or house built over the well.

One of the reasons we bought it was that the space upstairs and downstairs made sense. It had been divided into sensible areas by successive previous occupants and its renovation evolved into a very workable house.  Many of the other houses we had looked at had rooms that were an awkward shape, ridiculously small kitchens and other rooms that seemed to have no purpose at all.

The common problem with a longère is that the upstairs is created in the roof space so has no walls except at each end. Extra walls can be created as the length of the building is divided into rooms but there is little opportunity to put in tall items of furniture such as a wardrobe.  We ended up with a lot of chests of drawers.

Our house does however have a wardrobe of sorts.  At one end of the long bedroom the chimney from the bread oven below comes up through the middle of the room dividing that end into two halves.  The previous owners had created a triangular shaped walk in wardrobe, dressing room, or closet, whatever you want to call it, by boxing in around the back of the chimney and adding a door.

A triangle is not an easy space to fit out in such a way as to make the best use of it.  When we bought the house it had a couple of droopy clothes rails and random shelves plus a door that opened inwards.  It’s been through several incarnations since then.  Fitting a new door that opens outwards made access much easier.  Better shelving where things didn’t fall through the gap also helped. But the major problem was how to use the long, low triangular space behind the long rail on the left side of the room.  For the first few years we stacked plastic boxes of clothes and other belongings in there but it’s not an idea solution.

Two years ago we had new velux windows in the room, and a new carpet plus decoration.  The project required the whole room including the wardrobe to be emptied and was very disruptive.  It was completed just as we reached the end of our 180 days that year so in order to get the room functional we simply put a few freestanding rails and all the plastic boxes back in, just to get stuff off the floors and out of the way.

Then, last year, everything had to come out yet again for the installation of the air conditioning.  The fitter decided that the best place to run the pipework to the outside wall was through the wardrobe.  Hence the diagonal line across the back wall.  That would have been another opportunity to refit the room but we were already up to our neck in other building work, and expecting visitors, so far the umpteenth time the temporary rails and boxes got put back in.  With each successive shuffle in and out the space became more crowded and disorganised.

It’s been driving us, especially me, mad ever since!  Especially now that we live here full time and need more of our stuff to be accessible and in circulation.

With the hope that the weather must improve sometime soon I wrestled the boxes of summer clothes out from behind the one long droopy rail and we did some head scratching as to how to make better use of the space.  It helped that we sorted out a lot of clothes that we will never wear again and put them in the Red Cross charity boxes.

The final solution was to create two rails properly supported along the long wall, one behind and lower than the other.  The back rail now holds out of season clothes which are much easier to access than having to drag out huge boxes just to find one jumper. (And inevitably it was nearly always the wrong box.)  A second short rail and a load of sturdy shelves on the opposite side complete the job.

Nick has painted the walls and the door and we’re thrilled with the whole job.  It’s only taken us ten years to get around to it……but then there have been other projects higher up the priority list.  The completion of this project is bringing us much more satisfaction than many of those!  We repurposed some of the original shelves, already had the paint, added a new Ikea box unit and shelf unit and new rails.  With a few extra fittings and other bits and pieces the total cost was 350€.

On a rare fine day when it was warm enough to sit out we had lunch at Chez Grandma in the village.  The proprietors Henri and Julie have had more than their fair share of trials and tribulations this year and the restaurant has been closed for some time.  The good news is that the restaurant is open again for business with help from a most charming young man called Thomas.

Grandma's is where we celebrated getting the key to our first house in 2007 and has been part of our village life ever since.  Other establishments have changed hands numerous times and been closed for long periods but Henri has always been there to open for dinner on a cold, miserable winter night after a day’s hard work on the house.  The courtyard has been a delight to dine in for locals and holidaymakers over the years.

We wish him, Julie and Thomas all the best and a successful summer season.

If only the sun would stay shining for a little longer!

14 May 2024


Nick returned from a scheduled visit to our UK house a little while ago.  While he was there he did a lot of gardening, replaced and repainted some damaged fence panels and replumbed the downstairs toilet.  He was kept very busy and the weather was mostly very good.

While he was away the weather here in France was mostly miserable!

While he was away I tackled some of these little blighters.  We had noticed that one of the bushes in our hedge had developed loops of webbing full of clusters of small green caterpillars.  Within days there were virtually no leaves left on the bush and the critters were spreading to the next one along of the same variety of plant.  In a rare interval between rain showers I hacked away all the affected branches, which was not a pleasant job, but too late to save the bushes I fear.

Our journeys to and from Limoges airport used to always be entirely uneventful but lately there have been numerous incidents.  I wrote last year about the wild boar that wandered into the road in front of us, which was after the journey where the tree fell into the road and before the (suspected) ambush.  This year has been just as exciting.  So far we have had the incident with the three cows in the road as we rounded a bend hotly followed by the one with the farmer attempting to recover three huge round bales of hay that had clearly fallen off his trailer minutes before.  This trip, when I went to fetch Nick from the airport, there was a car in the ditch and people all over the road looking at it.  It was, amazingly, the right way up and facing in the right direction, which is not normally how it turns out.  It looked for all the world as if someone had parked it there - usually they end up in the ditch upside down and pointing the wrong way!

Then, when I got to the airport, there was a thunder storm of biblical proportions.  As I pulled into the car park the heavens opened and unleashed a huge amount of rain, hail, thunder and lightning.  There was an enormous thunderclap and flash right overhead and I stayed in the car for a while, hoping the storm would end.  It didn't.  Well, not for a long time anyway.  I finally decided to make a run for it, arriving in "arrivals" like a drowned rat.  I found Nick (Limoges airport is not really big enough to actually lose anyone) and we stayed in the café for a while until the rain eased off.  The lightning had taken out the traffic lights and presumably everything else in the village.  

As we drove through Le Blanc on the way home the river was just inches below the level of the road.

Since Nick's return we have been preoccupied with completing our very first French tax return.  I shall write more about it later but believe me, it's a mammoth task.  We had guidance from a lady who does this kind of work for numerous bemused expats faced with the mountain of forms and without her help we would have been completely lost.  Apparently the very first tax return has to be on paper but subsequent ones online.  Something to look forward to!  This exercise has so far cost us about 50€ in printer ink!!

Frustratingly, the day we spent filling in and signing over and over the vast pile of forms, the weather was very pleasant.  With our paperwork finished and lulled into a false sense of security, we headed for the picnic shelter and finally got round to putting up our new fairly lights.

It was nice to be able to sit out until after dusk, to watch the swallows performing their merry dance followed by the bat formation team.  But it was not to last and after a couple of days the miserable, damp and grey weather has returned once again.  We headed off to Loches n the rain this morning to hand in our tax return at the tax office only to be met with a long queue of people waiting to be seen.  We gave up and shoved the well stuffed envelope in the letter box instead, denied the satisfaction of handing the weighty fruits of our labour to an actual person.

Not to be defeated by the miserable weather, this afternoon we headed north away from the rain showers and went for a walk along the "voie verte".  This is a converted railway track that runs from Descartes to Tournon and is well used by cyclists and walkers.  We frequently do bits of it with Hugo as in wet weather at least we don't all come home covered in mud.  Today we did the bit just north of Abilly but wherever you start along the track there are interesting features.

We passed the site of the old chocolate factory in Abilly, which burned down in 1927.

I'm always amazed at how many decent looking properties seem to be unused all over the region.
This one may of course be a holiday home and buzzing with life later in the year.

Flowering plants were enjoying the strange spring weather, even if we weren't.

Every few hundred metres along the voie verte there are old railway buildings, stations or signal houses that have been converted into homes.

The horrid clusters of green caterpillars were also at work.

 And these things are cropping up in every village.

We dodged the rain and got back home just in time.

The weather has been decidedly iffy for us but clearly our garden is loving it.

You can't beat a bit of colour in the garden to brighten any dull and rainy day.

And to round the evening off, we spent some time watching a HUGE wild boar, all by itself, foraging in the field behind the house.  We have never seen one so close before and it's hard to grasp how enormous they are.  About the size of one of our sofas I reckon!