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!