Monday, 29 April 2013

Garden update!

As one hole opens....another one closes! 

This is the current state of play as far as the 'pool hole' is concerned!  I think it's going to continue later this week but we have a Bank Holiday this Wednesday so that might slow things down a bit!  We have now ordered the pool "kit" - and a number of extras like a heat pump, summer and winter covers etc.  We also have to have an alarm - this is required by French law.

Although nothing is happening with the pool itself right now, our "digger man" has not been idle!  Today he removed a hedge which we have always felt to be superfluous in the garden.  It's the one you can see in the pictures above.

Early this morning, work on digging out the hedge started...

....and it continued for pretty much most of the day.  Finally, by early evening, it had all been lifted out.  The downside is going to be getting rid of it.  We're going to just have to load up the truck over and over and take it all to the déchetterie (tip).  But take a look at what it's like now and the massive pile of cuttings we've got to get rid of!

For us, it's worth it.  The garden has been 'opened up' now and from the house we can see for miles (or should I say, kilometres!).

While all this was going on, Danny was doing a lot of tidying up of the front garden which is all neatly mowed and edge-strimmed again!  It's been another hot day here so he was rather weary by the end of the day.  Here he is, walking back after emptying the last of the grass cuttings on our compost heap at the bottom of the garden!!

A bientôt!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Finishing the fosse and starting the pool.....

Well, here it is.... over 4,000 Euros worth of fosse septique......

Actually it's a 'microstation' - the most modern form of a septic tank.  It took most of yesterday to install and also had to be inspected by SVL - our version of the Water Board.

By the end of the day, yesterday, all of the trenches had been filled in and the area smoothed out...

As you can see from this last picture, a bit of the microstation will always protrude from the ground but I shall disguise it with a cunning and strategic placing of potted plants!!

Also by the close of play yesterday, we had marked out the digging area for the swimming pool -

Not only that, but Danny (with the help of two strapping friends) had brought home the new fireplace!  You may recall we'd arranged to buy this fireplace a couple of months ago but obviously the people were still using it at the time.  I had visualised the homecoming of a "fireplace"  but obviously, it is currently just a pile of granite blocks!  So here it is..... our new fireplace!

Today dawned, a beautiful sunny and warm morning.  The men arrived, as usual, around 8am and pretty soon they started digging the hole for the swimming pool....

It was all going.... you might say "swimmingly" and then disaster struck!  They hit a water main!  I didn't see it but Danny said there was about a 30ft jet of water.  (He said it was a shame it wasn't oil!!).  You can see the 'pool' of water still in the hole tonight....

The workmen had to call SVL who came out about 2 hours later to sort it out.  The guy didn't quite finish the repair before lunchtime but he did come straight back after lunch - and finished the job in about 5 minutes....Grrrrr!

He also told us the pool had to be no nearer than 5 metres from this mains water pipe which means we have had to not just reposition the pool itself but we've also had to rethink the whole area around the pool.  So the men have got to fill in the hole and start again in a different place tomorrow.  It's not the end of the world; and the up-side is we get a bigger grass area near the pool where we can have a gazebo, table and chairs etc.  And we are so lucky to have a large garden that gives us alternatives and options. 

One day, when it's all finished, we will forget today's aggravations and just enjoy what we've been lucky enough to achieve.  I have this vision of the family, sitting around the pool, the grandchildren jumping in and out of the pool, me serving up another table full of lovely food, glasses brimming with wine....... yes, I think we'll get over this hiccup!

Monday, 22 April 2013

The fosse installation begins! Today in pictures......

They turned up, men and machines, just after 8am this morning and very quickly work began...

The gravel was skimmed off first
and the hole digging commenced....
.....the earth piled up....

(I took the first picture at 14.20 and the second at 16.55!)
Work continued throughout the day (with the normal long lunch break of course!) and gradually the holes for the fosse and pipes were dug...

This is what it looked like when the guys left at 18.45!
(How anyone can have a problem with the workmen having a long lunch break when they work this long and this hard beats me)
As with everything, there is a down side.... those of you who have already visited in the summer months, might remember the beautiful red-leafed shrub between the bathroom and kitchen windows.  Well this is how it is at the moment....

The guys have offered to dig a hole so I can replant it and I'll just have to see if it can survive!
And finally, look at this lovely dumper truck..... I'd just LOVE to have a go on it!!

and actually, I'd like to try the digger too!  Do you think they'll let me???
A bientôt!


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Back in France!

We had a lovely trip to the UK but I have to admit I'm glad to be back in France!  No sooner was Calais behind us and we were driving through the open countryside, the feeling of peace and space overwhelmed us. 

We stayed with Danny's youngest son and his family when we were in the UK and these pictures may give you a flavour of what life is like with them! 

The "upside down" one on the swing is our daughter-in-law so it's easy to see where the children get there dare devil characters!!

One day, (while I was chin wagging the day away with an old friend!), Danny went to Duxford with his son and two granddaughters.  They obviously enjoyed it!

There's never enough time to see everybody that we'd like to see and I have to apologise to all of those we missed this time.  We've no idea when we might make another trip back but when we do, we'll hopefully see some of those we missed this time.

Anyway, we are back "home" in France now and life quickly resumes its normal routines, starting with the collection of our animals from their second home at Saint Pardoux Pension Pour Chiens (and now Chats!)  All of them were perfectly happy there - well maybe not our old girly cat, Whisper, who likes to be in her own home and away from all the others except Finn! 

We've been especially lucky to have come back to some glorious weather and everyone I speak to is hoping that this is 'IT' now...... a long hot summer!  Danny and I have been able to get out in the garden and do some much needed work out there.  All of the grass has now been cut and is starting to look better - even though it is still quite boggy underfoot, thanks to the incessant rain over the winter.  I am doing some general tidying up; weeding and pruning etc.

The big event this weekend has been our acquisition of Dog Number 3 - Bertie.  His foster parents live near Limoges, some 3 or 4 hours away from us.  So we arranged to meet them in Verteuil-sur-Charente, where we would have some lunch and the Bertie handover would be made.  You might remember that when we first came to France in January 2012 we rented a cottage in that village and going over there yesterday gave us the chance to look in on our lovely landlords. 

So, after lunch in the Dixieland Café we said our goodbyes to Bertie's foster mum and dad (with promises to keep in touch), loaded Bertie in the car and set off back home.  When we got here about an hour and a half later, we let Finn and Liam loose to play with their new 'brother'.  They all had great fun running around in the garden.  Unfortunately, Bertie forgot he's nearly 10 years old and can't really keep up the pace of the much younger Finn and Liam.  So later on, this was him - worn out on the sofa! 

This coming week is an exciting one for us because at long last, some major work is starting on the house. Or rather the garden!  Have I told you before that we are not connected to the mains drainage where we live?  It's very common in these rural areas to have a septic tank (or, in French, a fosse septique).  A few years ago there was a massive review of these fosses and standards were uprated.  It means that virtually everyone was supposed to upgrade their fosse but naturally, France being France, it's almost impossible to police and very few people have done it.  The main time that it becomes relevant is when a house is sold; by law the new owner has a year in which to upgrade their fosse.  Again, no one I know has ever been checked but it does make a great bargaining point when you're buying the property.  We were no exception and we got the house at a much reduced price because the existing fosse was below the recommended standard.  We decided that we would actually get a new one - for a number of reasons - and this coming week, it's being installed.

Now, on its own, that's not terribly exciting is it?  But Phil, the guy who is going to install the new fosse, is also going to dig out the ground for our swimming pool!  Plus remove a row of superfluous hedging.  This picture then is going to be my "before photo" and I shall keep you updated as we go along!!

For me, this is also the start of a domino effect of work we've been waiting for.  Phil is also going to put in a soak away pipe behind the barn as Danny has noticed he has some damp in there.  Once that is done, we can fence off the area and after that I'll be able to start my potager (kitchen or vegetable garden).  It has to be fenced off to keep the dogs away from it!  I have been buying some plants ready to start that but again, they have to be dog-proofed.  This is my collection of plants ready for the potager -

It's probably not obvious but under all this is our garden table!! 

So far I have raspberry, blackberry, apricot, lemon and tomato plants.  I also have some strawberry plants in another (safe) area!  Plus, I have various seeds to sow - mainly salads and herbs - but they will have to wait a bit longer until I can sow them safely!

Anyway, once the pool is in, the builder will pave around it and will then put in double doors at the back of my kitchen, replacing the existing window, and these will lead out on to the terrasse.  And then... then... maybe just maybe, I'll be able to have my kitchen remodelled so it's exactly how I want it!  Ah well, all in good time.  For now, let's just see how the installation of the new fosse progresses!

Au revoir for now!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

What season is this???

The weather here has gone mad!  In my last post I included pictures of Danny and I with our visitors enjoying the sunshine and we've continued having some lovely warm and sunny weather.  In fact I took this picture of our Camelia shrub in all its glory, on 27th March...

Two days later, we awoke to this scene instead...

It only lasted a few hours and we got rain again (I can't believe there's any more rain left to fall!).  Then we've gone back to Spring weather again.... until today when it's been freezing cold again, due to the very cold wind (didn't we used to get March winds and April showers??)

Anyway, enough of the weather - after all, there's nothing we can do about it after all!

Other news from the Cleavely household is that we have fallen for another hard luck story and have rescued a beautiful English Setter dog called Bertie.  Isn't he cute?

He'll be 10 years old in May and he was left at a pound run by the French equivalent of the RSPCA.  There was no explanation; he was just abandoned with his vaccination card (which was up to date to 2012).  People go along to choose and rescue a dog - like at Battersea for example - but it's not easy to be picked when you're an old dog.  Bertie became so depressed he hardly ate and wouldn't come to the front of his pen, even when people came to look.  We have a charity organisation here which tries to help abandoned animals - click here to read all about it - and they figured Bertie's best hope was with them.  He was put with wonderful foster parents who have worked wonders with him.  But he needed a "forever home" and when we saw his photo we knew that we could give him a wonderful home for the rest of his days.

His foster parents brought him over to us last Sunday to see how he got along with Finn, Liam and the cats.  He and the cats ignored each other but Finn and Liam were very happy to play and run with Bertie.  How they'll react when they realise he's moving in, remains to be seen!!

Here are some pictures from that afternoon....

 As you can see, Bertie has made himself pretty much at home.... and has given Finn a run for his money!!

 (By the way, we'll be getting Bertie when we return from our trip to the UK later this month)

Talking of the cats and dogs, most of the time they ignore each other.  Finn and Liam obviously play together and are often found lying around together.  And the same goes for the kittens Mo and Cali.  But you might be surprised to learn that Finn and our cat Whisper (who's around 12 years old) are very fond of each other and often have what Danny and I call a 'love fest'!  The other evening, Finn was on the couch and Whisper jumped up to sit with him.  Finn then proceeded to wash her and she clearly loved every minute of it!  We tried to get a video clip of it but we weren't quick enough.  Hopefully, you'll see what we mean from these pictures....

And finally, a shoulder update!  I saw the orthopaedic surgeon yesterday and he confirmed that I need an operation to repair the ruptured tendon.  He said it wasn't urgent and he could do it June/July time.  Well, it might not be urgent to him but I really want it over and done with so I asked if he could do it sooner.  He got his diary out of his pocket, flicked through it and said, "Well, I can do it on 14th May..".  It felt like I was making a hairdresser appointment!  Anyway, we booked it there and then!  I'll be in hospital for two days; the operation will be keyhole surgery but I'll be having both a general and a local anaesthetic.  The worst bit?  I have to have another one of those ghastly arthrography scans after the operation (I guess to check that the tendon is fixed).  The second worst thing was that I had to ring the hospital this morning to make my own appointment with the anaesthetist.  As I've said before, using the telephone is the hardest bit when your French is limited but I have to say, I managed it okay and will be seeing him on 3rd May. 
Well, we are off to the UK next Tuesday for just over a week.  It's never long enough to see everyone that I'd like to see but hopefully I will be able to catch up with some of my readers!  And of course, we are always happy to have visitors here!  It's unlikely that I'll be updating the blog for a couple of weeks but you never know so watch this space!!!
Keep warm everyone and bye for now!