27 February 2024


In the middle of December last year Enedis (the infrastructure division of EDF)  came and installed several new pylons along our road, one directly outside our house.

We think that the idea is to replace the hotch-potch of existing old pylons that litter the roadside and fields around us with a better integrated system, although that's just a guess based on where they have put the new ones.  None of the new ones are connected to live electricity as yet.

We were not too chuffed when in January one of the wires from "our" pylon broke away and dangled in mid-air, resting on our telephone wire.  We reported it to EDF but they didn't do anything about it until a storm caused the offending wire to take out our telephone line.  When Orange came to fix it they got straight onto EDF who immediately switched off our electricity supply - which wasn't necessary because the offending wire was not live!  

Nick phoned EDF and was transferred to an English speaking agent who found out what was going on.  So while he had his chance, Nick thought he might as well mention another problem.  The dangerous holes.

To erect the huge pylons Enedis had used a machine that made huge holes in the grass verge and these holes have not been repaired.  "So what" I can hear you thinking!

Out in the sticks of rural France the roads are not very busy and in remarkably good fettle but they are very narrow.  Definitely not wide enough for two cars to pass with all wheels on the tarmac.  Consequently the custom is for both vehicles, as they approach each other, to move over a bit and drive with two wheels on the grass verge.  It's a system that works perfectly well.

However, some of the holes left by Enedis are at least 50cm deep and not visible from the road.  It's perfectly possible that if a car wheel dropped into one of these holes the car would at best swerve a bit or at worst end up in the ditch.  This is what Nick pointed out to the English speaking agent a month ago.  Nothing has happened since and luckily no accidents - but it's only a matter of time.

Nick went along and marked the holes outside our house by putting a stake in each one so that drivers would avoid them.  At some point someone else has been along and put official metal poles next to one of them - of the kind used to indicate unsafe ground after roadworks.  We don't know who that was.

So.........yesterday I needed to go to the Mairie and thought I might as well mention the holes while I was there.  The lady on the desk was very interested and asked me to write a formal email including photos.  Sure enough, by 10.00am this morning none other than the Maire himself had been to inspect the holes and said he was extremely grateful for us pointing this out.  Sooner or later there is bound to be an accident and what we didn't realise is that the holes are not just along our bit of road, they go the whole way to the next hamlet, which increases the possibility of that sooner or later accident.

The Maire was not happy.  Very happy that we had pointed out the problem but extremely miffed with Enedis.  I felt bound to wonder if he had had run-ins with them before!

We are wondering how many days it will be before Enedis, having had their bottoms kicked by the local Maire, come out and fill in the holes.  Watch this space!

26 February 2024


Well, the day of our fibre installation came and went.  The engineer turned up two hours early but fortunately I had made the shifting of furniture out of the way my first job of the morning while Nick was out walking Hugo.

It did not go well.  First of all the engineer turned too sharply into our drive (which was widened last year) and dropped his back wheel into the ditch.  For some reason he took his ladder out of the van and placed it across the bucket attachment before he tried to drive the van out.  Luckily he managed to get enough grip with the remaining three wheels to drive it back onto terra firma.  Nick stood by to make sure he didn't do any damage to our new gates.

Then the engineer looked at where the unit was to be installed and immediately declared he couldn't do the job because he didn't have drill long enough to go through the wall.  He suggested we get an electrician to drill the hole and he will come back on Friday.

Considering that three quarters of the houses around us all have walls at least as thick as ours, and have fibre already, I find it hard to believe that he didn't have the right kind of drill.  Nick suggested several ways he could get the job done using a drill we have for our walls but he rejected all of them.

He made another appointment for Friday then drove off, almost dropping in the ditch again, with his ladder still perched across the bucket thing.

We look forward to Friday.  He phoned to confirm the time but we think he said it would be someone else.  We rather hope it is!  Watch this space!

23 February 2024


Last weekend we were fooled into thinking Spring had arrived!  We got the outdoor tables out and I oiled the wooden chairs and benches.  We went to the garden centre for some new plants and even had a barbecue!

This week we’re back to winter.  Yesterday it rained all day and was blowing a hoolie. Our lovely daffodils are blasted to bits and the wind even blew a whole mistletoe plant out of a tree.

Still, Yvonne was very happy to lend a hand with a jigsaw puzzle!

Today I have made a "school cake" and poached some chicken ready for making six litres of cock-a-leekie soup for an event in the village tomorrow.  Time passes pleasantly, in spite of the 'orrible weather!

21 February 2024

GETTING THE CHIMNEY SWEPT third time not so lucky after all and awkward confrontations.

Well, it turns out that the chimney sweeping was not such a good job after all!  Due to the mild weather we didn't light the kitchen fire for several days after having it swept and when we did...............disaster!

On the front of the wood burner there is a lever that sends the heat to mainly the hot plates or around the oven.  When we don't want to use the oven we pull the lever out so that the hot plates heat the room better.

When Nick lit the fire and pulled out the lever smoke was coming out of everywhere, into the room and clearly not going up the chimney!  There was obviously a blockage somewhere.  A hard packed clump of soot can catch fire.

Fortunately Nick had only just put a couple of logs in the fire to get it going and not yet built it up so we decided to just let it go out, keeping an eye on it.

The next morning, when the fire was completely cold, we investigated.  On lifting the largest hotplate we could see that that chamber had not been cleaned out but that would not explain the blockage.  We had no option but to contact the ramonage company and get them back.  

This is something we always find so difficult.  

Normally we are determined to manage by ourselves but we had doubts about being able to get our problem across well enough to get it resolved.  Usually we make sure we are armed with the right terms to explain things but we can easily be bamboozled by someone who does not want to admit they are in the wrong, taking advantage of our limited grasp of the language.  This has happened before.  We called for help! 

Nick spoke to our lovely builder's wife, who had recommended the company as they use them frequently for other customers.  She phoned them and explained the problem and they said they would come the next day which was a relief.  We just had to get through one whole night of worrying about it!

This time just one van arrived with the most charming young man to do the job.  We managed to explain what had happened and what we thought the problem was.  

He got on the phone to the person that had been in charge of cleaning the fire last time and, with the speaker on we could hear that "words" were exchanged, even if we only understood half of them!  My French was good enough to say that the company had been recommended by a friend that uses them for all their clients and that we were very disappointed.  He got the gist!

After a good deal of poking, prodding and serious hoovering the problem was resolved.  A huge amount of extra soot and cinders dropped down the chimney from where they had stuck.   By the time the young man had finished the whole thing was so clean you could have eaten your dinner off it!   He stayed for long enough for us to get the fire going and demonstrate that all was well.  As indeed it was.  Fourth time lucky!!

On our way to the shops the other day, we passed a house that had had a serious fire within the last few days.  The roof was completely gone and burnt belongings including children's toys were scattered all over the garden.  We have no idea what had happened.  It might have been a chimney fire or an electrical fault but we hope that the family and their pets are all safe.  You can't be too careful with fires.

19 February 2024

MOVING TO FRANCE getting the right visa

A display of tulips in our village.

At the beginning of 2023 we started the process of moving to France properly.  To do this we had to get the right kind of visa.  This is a long stay visa that lasts for one year and is called a VLS.

This visa allows the holder to stay in France for one whole year, during which time we could come and go as we please (no complicated Schengen calculations needed) and is the first step to an application for residency.  Getting it was a similar tedious process to getting the VLST the previous year, compiling numerous documents and personal information including evidence of income, of having somewhere to stay and having health cover, then taking them to an appointment at the visa centre.

Regarding health cover, for the previous six month visa (VLST), the UK GHIC card (used to be the EHIC card), is sufficient.  It entitles the holder to basic emergency treatment in other EU countries.  We also bought a private annual health insurance to cover the things that the GHIC doesn't, such as repatriation.  The situation is different when applying for a one year visa.

For people like us who are in receipt of a UK state pension, cover is provided in a form called an S1, which is obtained from the Dept of Work and Pensions (DWP) usually requiring just a phone call.  This is a document that effectively transfers health care from the UK to France.  (France provides the health care to UK citizens living in France and the UK pays for it). To get it we had to give the date of moving to France so we chose a date that coincided with when we wanted the visa to start and about a month after our appointment at the visa centre.

(The health cover situation is different for people who are not in receipt of a state pension or wish to work in France.)

As with the previous temporary six month visa (VLST) we had to compile all the documents and apply online for an appointment with TLS (the agency that handles all applications).  There are only three TLS centres in the UK that do this; in London, Manchester (Salford) and Edinburgh.  On the day we went along for our appointments, the centre in Manchester was crammed with young Chinese people who were all holding UK passports but mostly ill prepared for the process.  Consequently the centre was running very late and - the toilets were closed!

All in all it was a miserable, tedious and expensive exercise, although made easier by the fact that we had been through a similar process the previous year and had much of the information readily to hand.  We had all our documents in order - actually compiled in the correct order for handing over - as per the instructions on the French Government website, including having a set of the right kind of photos.  

As the hours ticked away we sat with head in hands thinking thank goodness we would not have to do this again!  We were full of admiration for the staff handling the applications for their immense patience in dealing with so many people who were not well prepared, short of documents and photos.

Once we finally got to the front of the queue the young woman who dealt with us whistled through the process in under ten minutes.  Then we had to go for "biometrics" - the taking of fingerprints and more photos and then finally, several hours after we arrived there, we emerged into the pouring rain in Salford to search for a public toilet!  The total cost on that day was, from memory, around £300 as we had paid extra for our passports to be delivered to our home by courier rather than have to go all the way back to collect them.

Salford is a devil of a place to get to from where we live but I have read that TLS have moved premises to an address not far from Manchester rail station, which will make life a lot easier for most people needing to go there.  (Assuming of course that there is no rail strike on the day of your appointment!)

Our passports with visas attached were delivered to our house about two weeks later.  They came by Royal Mail.  They also included instructions for the next step in the process which was to validate the visas within three months of arriving to live in France.  This we did a couple of weeks after we got here.  It involved logging onto the French government website and paying a fee of 200€ each.


Next time..........compiling an inventory.

16 February 2024


Back in November we arranged for someone to come and sweep our chimney.

In French this is called "ramonage".

The central chimney serves two fires which are back to back either side of a stone wall. One is in the kitchen and one in the living room.  The tubage from each fire shares the same space. 

Tubage (pronounced "tewbarge") is the actual flue.  It’s a solid metal structure at the fireplace end but once into the actual chimney it becomes a more flexible metal hose.  

We spent much of the winter of 2014/15 in the house and came to the conclusion that neither of the wood burners was ideal for the room.  

The original Godin fire in the kitchen.
It had a very fat flue.

In the kitchen there was a very handsome Godin which threw out way too much heat for that size of room.  

The original living room fire that came with the house.

It's an insert that is designed to be fitted flush into a wall.

In the living room was an unbranded "insert" - the kind of fire that is meant to be recessed into a wall with just the door showing.  This one was perched on the hearth with all its fixings on show so it was rather ugly and not very efficient either.  

At the time we thought it would work if we moved the Godin into the living room and got a smaller wood burner for the kitchen so we invited the local plumbers round to look at the possibility.  They discovered that the tubage for both fires ended about a metre into the chimney and above that there was nothing, just an empty stone chimney with no lining.  

An unlined chimney is fine for an open fire (assuming the stonework is in good condition) but woodburning stoves are meant to have tubage (a flue pipe) that carries smoke to the top of the chimney.  When we lit the Godin in the kitchen we could smell smoke in the bathroom and the previous owners had said that they never had both fires burning at the same time although they didn’t say why that was.  We found out for ourselves that this produced a lot of smoke upstairs. 

After a lot of head scratching the plumbers decided that the main obstacle to reusing the Godin was that it had a very wide flue.  There simply was not the space in the chimney for its tubage and another one.  This is probably why the previous fires were installed as they were - with no tubage because the chimney space was not big enough.  There then followed a nervous discussion when the plumbers thought it might actually not be possible to have two tubages in the same chimney space because it wasn’t big enough.  

However, with much investigation, crawling on the roof and prodding with tape measures, they decided it could be possible but we would have to change both of the fires.  We could not reuse the Godin from the kitchen because of the size of its flue.

We sold the handsome Godin for a reasonable price on Le Bon Coin and gave the other one away.  We ordered two brand new wood burners from the plumber’s catalogue and are very happy with both of them.

Since then we have only had the chimney swept once, by the company that installed the new fires.  They did the kitchen one from the roof.  During the covid years the fires were hardly used and in fact they had little use at all until this winter and we decided to get them done.  

We tried to contact the company that installed the fires and did the last ramonage but their old business premises is empty and the phone number doesn't work.  We asked around and a friend gave us the number of the plumber they used to sweep their chimney.

This person came to sweep the chimneys in November but declared he was unable to do the kitchen fire because it couldn’t be done from inside the house.  We asked around again and another friend recommended a firm that they use for chimney sweeping and gas boiler servicing.

Those people came in January but declared they couldn't do the kitchen fire either, despite the fact that I had been into the office, shown the woman the instruction manual for the kitchen fire and been reassured that they would do it from the roof.  One the day they said they couldn’t do it because the sweep wasn’t insured for roof work. 

We asked our lovely builder's wife if she had any suggestions and she gave us the name of a company that only does ramonage - chimney sweeping - and that they always use for any clients that need it doing.  Just to be sure we sent them photos to show exactly what sweeping the chimney for the kitchen fire involves.  

Third time lucky!  They turned up on the day and got the job done.

There was a moment of concern when I thought he was doing the wrong chimney!

But all was well, the job was done in very little time at all.

Were most impressed but less so when they told us we are legally supposed to have both fires swept twice a year, before and after use!   

Well, we shall see about that!  There is never a dull moment when you own an old house in France!

12 February 2024

MOVING TO FRANCE in the beginning.....

We first decided to move to France in 2014, seeing it as maybe a ten year adventure.  We already had a small holiday home in Touraine so we downsized in the UK so that we could upsize in France and spend more time there.  Life and its ups and downs got in the way and instead here we are beginning the process just at the time (and the age) when we thought we would be thinking about moving back to the UK!

It’s a funny old world and it’s probably for the best that we can’t see what’s around the corner.  However I thought it time I posted about how we're getting on with the process.  Just in case anyone is interested.

The agent's photo of our house as it was in 2014.

This is not meant to be a guide for others or a handbook on how to do it. 


Brexit really threw the cat among the pigeons for British people who owned a holiday home in France.  We were previously entitled to spend up to six months a year in France in any way we liked but leaving the EU changed all that.  The Schengen 90/180 rule basically meant that although we could still spend up to 180 days in France we had to exchange three summer months for three winter ones.  The only way around this was to get the right sort of visa.

In 2022 we got a temporary long stay visa (VLST) from the French Embassy.  This gives the holder the right to stay in France for six months continuously and overrides the Schengen 90/180 rule.  Once the visa has expired any unused days out of the 180 can then be taken under the Schengen rules until all are used up - bearing in mind that you have to actually leave France on or before the date that the visa expires before the Schengen period can start!

Getting that visa was an expensive and time consuming palaver.  The instructions on the French government website are quite clear but it involves compiling a large number of documents and personal information, and getting an appointment with the agency that handles applications (TLS) to hand them over.

This worked well for us that year but we had made our minds up that we wanted to be able to divide our time between the UK and France in such a way that we could spend more time in France and come and go without constantly having to make calculations about how many days we had left.  By becoming French residents we can spend as much time as we like in France and up to six months in the UK.  There are no Schengen-like restrictions on how we spend our time in the UK so no complicated calculations needed.

Getting that VLST was a worthwhile exercise in that the next step, getting the right visa to enable us to move to France, was familiar and part done.  

Next time...........getting the right visa!

6 February 2024


Winters in our part of France are slightly better than winters in our part of the UK, the weather frequently being drier, less cold and without the risk of snow.

It's a time for taking stock, doing a few repairs and a bit of gardening if weather permits.

There is stuff going on.  We had friends round for a Burns Night Supper at the end of January for example.  When two Australians, a bemused American lady, two English (us), a Dutch/American and the one Scots person get together for a bit of a do it's bound to be a good laugh!
There's a Mardi Gras evening at a friend's house coming up next week.
Curry night at the new bistrot in the village later this week.

In fact, realistically, there is more going on here than we would find in the UK.

A few months ago I was introduced to an elderly Englishman who has lived around here for decades.  I had never seen him before even though we have by now had a house in the area for seventeen years.

Seventeen years !!

The person who introduced us said the man was a bit of a hermit and didn't get out much.  The man himself said he didn't like that all the expats go round to each other's houses all the time.  He thought it too stereotypical expat behaviour and wondered why we do it.

I said it was just because we can!

We are slightly envious of friends who have decamped to warmer climes for the months of January and February.  Some to Portugal, some to Hawaii.  

But we do what we can.
We invite people round to our house and we get invited round to theirs!

The weather has been rather dull lately so I've resorted to posting more pictures of our trip to the beautiful city of Tours a few weeks ago.

We are so lucky to have such a place on our doorstep, only a shortish drive or bus ride away.

A day out in Tours, especially if it includes a bit of shopping and a good lunch, always cheers us up in winter.  Or any other time of year.
We go there every so often, whether we need to or not, just because we can.

It's nice to see a bit of colour, a bit of human activity.

A change of scenery.  Even if it's city life not actual scenery.

Tours has a tram system to carry people into the city centre.
In reality, the city centre is very easy to access by car, train or bus.
But one day we will take a ride on the tram, just because we can.

Yvonne continues to settle in, daring me to turf her off the bed so I can make it.

The other evening when it was very still, not a breath of wind, but cold, we fished the fire pit out of the barn, lit it and sat out for a while, in the dark.
Just because we can.
The French passers by in their cars must by now be thoroughly convinced that their English neighbours are, in fact, completely nuts !!