30 January 2024


Last autumn Enedis erected several new tall pylons along our road.  It looks like they are poised to replace the hotch potch of old pylons that litter the roadside and fields around us.  The wires are in place but not connected up yet.  We had a planned power cut in the middle of this month when we assumed that might happen but they are still not connected to anything.

Earlier this month we had a problem with a dead live box and Orange came and fixed it straight away.  Not long afterwards one of the new wires connected to our new pylon broke off, was dangling in mid air and resting on top of our telephone cable.  We reported this fault to EDF but other than getting a reference number nothing was done about it.  All was fine until a storm that had the cables swaying around and bouncing off each other.  Lo and behold we lost our telephone service again.  We reported this to Orange who sent someone out the next day.

The telephone engineer took one look at the rogue cable and got straight on the phone to EDF.  Moments later they cut the electricity off.  Which was rather disconcerting as we were expecting five people to arrive for a Burns Night Supper that evening and I was busy baking Scotch pies.  Luckily I had in fact just taken them out of the oven as the power went off but there were other things to cook that needed electricity.  French cream is hard enough to whip up using an electric whisk so to try to do it by hand would have taken a month of Sundays!

I set about laying the table and fortunately the power was switched back on about an hour later so all was well.  The new pylons are still not connected to any live wires.

However, with only two days to go before the deadline of the end of January, we received a text from Orange to say that fibre was now available.  We had been checking every day and up to the weekend we were still in the category "working on it".  We immediately dashed up to the Orange shop in Loches to put in our order for it.  The earliest that an engineer could come and connect us up is 26th February!  Still, if we hadn't gone straight away who knows how much longer we might have had to wait as the service is now available to scores of extra outlying households.  For once we seem to be near the front of the queue!

In "other news" the weather has made a definite change for the better, frequent sunny days and temperatures in double figures.  We have been out and about enjoying the sunshine.

We have had some gorgeous sunsets.

Yvonne has settled in extremely well!!

17 January 2024


Just like in the UK, there isn't much going on in France during January so it's a good time to catch up jobs and tackle paperwork.

It's time for us to apply for a "carte de séjour" (CDS) which is a residency permit.  This involves spending ages uploading documents onto a French government website.  We thought it would be a miracle if it went smoothly and we were right!

The problem probably has a lot to do with our dodgy internet.  At the moment we are using 4G as that's somewhat better than the ADSL we had until last summer, but it's not always reliable and we frequently get "timed out".  

Fibre is coming though.  The wires for it have run past our house since September 2022 but ended in a large reel of cable parked at the end of the road!  There is a website we can look at which tells us how soon we can hope to be connected and we have moved up the scale a bit from "no chance" (red) through to "we're working on it" (orange).  

At a meeting in the village hall last November we were told that even the most outlying farms (meaning people like us) should have the service by the end of January.  True, the reel of cable has disappeared but we have yet to move from orange to "you can apply for it" (yellow).  Looking at the website we are frustratingly surrounded by farms and hamlets that are already yellow or even green - which means they are actually using it!  There are still two weeks left of this month but I'm not holding my breath!

Another job we are tackling is having the chimneys swept (called ramonage cheminée).  It is a requirement of house insurance so last November we called on a local firm to do the two wood burners.  When the man turned up he declared he couldn't do the stove in the kitchen because you can't access the chimney part from inside.  You have to go up on the roof.  He dealt with the living room fire but offered no solution to getting the kitchen one done.

Someone recommended a different firm of plumbers so I went into their office a month ago and explained about the kitchen stove.  I wafted the instruction book (which is in French) at the very helpful lady on the desk and stressed that the chimney had to be cleaned from above, i.e. from the roof.  She reassured me that it was no problem and an appointment was made for the ramonage and also servicing of our gas boiler at the same time.

We were once again up early but when the van rolled into the drive with no ladders on the roof I knew we were in trouble.  There were two occupants; a young man to do the boiler and an older man in sooty clothes to do the wood burner.  He declared he was unable to do it as he didn't have insurance for working on the roof.

We didn't argue with him as our French isn't good enough to have the kind of conversation that begins with "but we told the office you would need to go on the roof!"

His solution was to take a photo of the stove and show it to the boss who might think of a way of modifying the smoke pipe to enable access from inside.  He would then send us an estimate (devis) for the work.  Hmmmm........it will be a miracle if that ever happens!

Once the plumbers had left we were able to light the fires and turn on the heating.  It was well below freezing and our little electric heaters had not made much headway in warming the house.  I took Hugo for his morning walk while Nick settled down once more in front of his laptop for another session of "beat the clock" on our CDS application!

15 January 2024


This is the first time that we have spent anything other than a few days of January in France.  When we were working we sometimes arrived on Boxing Day for a holiday until soon after New Year but otherwise the earliest in the year we have been here was the middle of February.  In recent years we have spent the whole winter in the UK but the pandemic had a lot to do with that.  Having arrived this time on 30th December, keeping ourselves warm has proved to be a challenge and both log fires have to be kept alight all day.

One day last week we had a scheduled power cut, which is not really what you want on a freezing cold January day!  We had had a month's notice from the electricity people that the power would be off from 9am to 12.00.

We were up early, got showered, breakfasted, changed and fires lit well before 9.00 which is, frankly, quite an achievement these days.  After forty years of early mornings when working, retirement gives us the opportunity to ease back a little and we no longer do much before 9.00 unless we're forced to!

The question was, what to do on a perishingly cold, frosty morning when we have no power?  It was way too cold for gardening!  So, we decided to go out for the day, to the city of Tours.  Shops and  restaurants would be nice and warm, we thought.

We arrived in time for a warming café au lait before heading off to Place Plumereau in search of somewhere for lunch.  Quite a few places were closed but we had plenty of choice and settled on this restaurant called Le Bouchon.  A bouchon is a cork (also a traffic jam).

It's a traditional, old fashioned place serving traditional French food.

The place was stuffed with old fashioned knick-knacks.

Like so many places they no longer accept cheques but did have the facility to pay by cash or card.  (I always worry that if a place can only accept cash it's because it might not doing well and the bank has pulled the "bouchon".)

The waiter was an older gentleman who installed us at a table by the window.
Fortunately it was right by a large concertina style radiator so not as chilly as it might have been.
Seating people in the window tells passers by that the restaurant is open for business and might help to attract other diners when there are not many punters around.

Our table was in prime position for people watching.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to hand when a young woman wearing a witch's hat walked by with a huge German shepherd.
City life, eh?

We both chose the same from the menu du jour, starting with "deep fried fish".
It never occurred to either of us that it meant whitebait!
We were expecting mini fish nuggets in batter or something like that.
Whitebait is not my favourite - it's the eyes you see!
We managed but I didn't eat any of the heads.

For main course we both chose boeuf bourgignon.  It was delicious.

We then had tarte tatin and an espresso.

Amongst the knick-knacks was this giant stuffed fish hanging from the ceiling.
According to the manager/owner (I don't know which) it's the actual barracuda caught by the original owner when he was fishing somewhere off the coast of America.

We didn't know if that was true or just a story.  It sounds a bit fishy to me!

It was good to see a traditional French restaurant still going in a very popular touristy place.
To me it seemed ripe for a makeover and I wonder how long it will be before it is transformed into something more modern.  Several of the traditional restaurants we used to visit have become smart but bland pizza places, serving snacky food that turns the tables over quickly.

12 January 2024


Our first week of 2024 was meant to be a quiet one.
On New Year's Day we went to Chinon in search of a nice coffee and a walk in the sunshine.

We were disappointed on the coffee front.
Everywhere was closed except for two bars that were very busy.
We didn't venture inside.

We were not disappointed on the walk front.
Chinon is always a good town to stroll around, possibly even more so in winter when there are few tourists.

We brought with us the jigsaw puzzle started on Christmas Day.
It was very challenging.
I had swooped on a jigsaw board at half price during my last visit to the UK prior to Christmas.  I had spotted a young man walking through town with one under his arm and asked him where he got it.

We adopted a different approach to Christmas presents this year.
Maximum spend £7 on each person from charity shops or charities online.
It was a great success.  Jigsaw puzzles and books proved to be popular presents.

Yvonne is settling in well.  She barely gives Hugo a second glance now.
He would like to be more friendly but is, like a real gentleman, giving her some space.

On arriving back in France our Orange live box that serves the landline was not working.  We reported it to Orange and less than 24 hours later the engineer came to fix it.
Excellent service.

It was fixed within 30 minutes of his arrival.
The live box is upstairs and he took his boots off to go up and check all was ok.
He wasn't wearing any socks!

We called at the PreHisto bar for an apéritif before moving on for dinner.

One of the bars in the village has changed hands again and reopened as a pizza place just before Christmas.  The place has had a little redecoration but the lovely old floors and other features have been kept.

We felt duty bound to go and check it out.
When we first came to the village it was literally just a bar called the Jean Bart and didn't serve any food.
After the owner retired it carried on as the Jean Bart and the new couple running it started serving a few snacks.
They moved on and it became Lisa's where Lisa served excellent food.
Sadly it closed during the pandemic but soon reopened as Le Comptoir.
It was very successful, serving delicious pizzas and burgers, but the manager found the hours too restrictive and it closed again after a couple of years.
Last year someone took it on and turned it into a creperie, serving only galettes.
It didn't work.  We never ate there while she owned it.
Now that it's in new hands things are looking very promising.

We have had some lovely sunsets but it's turned very cold.

We took down our Christmas decorations only a day late.

Nick tackled a job that's been on the back burner for a while, fixing the draughts in the bathroom.

The boxing in where the roof meets the wall was not sealed well.
It is now and the bathroom is draught free.

We finally managed to complete the jigsaw puzzle.
For a quiet week it turned out to be quite busy!

1 January 2024


Well our Christmas visit to the UK didn’t quite go to plan!

We arrived about midnight on 17th December after an uneventful journey and spent the next few days sorting three domestic disasters.  Things always seem to come in threes! The Rattly Old Peugeot (ROP) wouldn’t start.  Halfords came out with a new battery the next day, the two lads that fitted it looked about twelve years old!

Two fence panels had blown down in the strong winds and B&Q delivered replacements, their van full of fence panels!  We were not the only ones with that problem!  Fitting them was not going to be straightforward as the posts are not square so Nick had to modify them.

And, last but not least, the six year old AEG dishwasher had gone for a burton (a phrase often used by my dad).  We were not impressed at having to do the washing up by hand over Christmas!

The only person we were to be entertaining on Christmas Day was to be my brother, who was coming on Christmas Eve and staying for as long as he liked.  We had planned a light midday meal in case he arrived in time for lunch and a nice lazy dinner for the evening.  His son usually came too but was to be spending Christmas with his mum, my brother’s ex wife.  We had various other social visits organised from 27th onwards, including lunch out for our wedding anniversary on 28th.  Twenty nine years!

As is often the case, plans changed last minute when our nephew decided he would like to join us for lunch on Christmas Eve, arriving with my brother in the car and getting the last afternoon train south to Leicester where his mum would pick him up.  The catering was hastily rearranged and Nick volunteered to stay sober and do the run to the station.  
We had a nice, relaxed Christmas Day with just the three of us then early on Boxing Day our nephew sent a text to say he had tested positive for covid and hoped it hadn’t been passed on.  With us all being so close on Christmas Eve, both in the house and the car, we thought it unlikely that it hadn’t.

I googled it.  Guidelines are vague and essentially advise avoiding "vulnerable people " if you have it.  At our age that includes a lot of our friends and family who are not young any more, or coping with a variety of chronic diseases.  Research also said that people who have covid are most contagious 1-2 days before symptoms appear and a positive test.

So that was our Christmas over. We cancelled all of our socialising and my brother left before lunch on Boxing Day.  He tested positive the day after.  Ordinarily we would have hunkered down and sat it out, delaying our travel back to France for as long as needed, rearranging our socialising with friends and relatives for later.  (Meeting up with them was, after all, why we were in the UK in the first place.)  You can still change bookings with a standard Eurotunnel ticket - for a fee, of course.  But we had Yvonne to consider.  Our newly rescued cat was languishing in the cattery in France and the cost was not inconsiderable!

The only thing we didn’t cancel was our anniversary lunch, testing negative that morning.  Although we needn’t have worried as we were almost the only diners there. We spent the rest of the day erecting the new fence panels and taking delivery of a new dishwasher.  

So, with a fridge full of uneaten food, we packed up in a hurry and made a run for it on the 30th.  The journey back was long and hard work but straightforward, arriving home just before midnight.  Interestingly, most of the other cars on the train were non UK registered; French (as is ours), German, Belgian, Dutch and Spanish.

Our first job was to collect Yvonne from the cattery.  I had all sorts of fears about putting her in a cattery so soon after she had been rehomed; that she might not recognise me, might be stressed and think she'd been abandoned again, or that she might react badly to Hugo again after they had been beginning to get along much better.

I needn’t have worried about that either.  She meowed all the way home but instantly settled back into her routine, picking up where she left off two weeks before. The four of us; me and him, Hugo and Yvonne, spent a cosy New Year’s Eve together and retired early after a nice dinner of what we brought with us and what was in the freezer.

We haven’t done another covid test as there doesn’t seem much point.  We’re both suffering mild but annoying symptoms and can keep ourselves to ourselves until they pass.