Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Au revoir 2013..

I promised another blog before this year comes to an end and with only a few hours now remaining, I have the chance to write a few words.

We were invited round to French friends (Hélène and Pascal) one evening just before Christmas and it was nice to feel that we are "integrating".  It just takes a bit of getting used to because it's not always obvious what you're being invited to!  We were asked to come between 6pm and 6.30pm so I deduced that this was going to be for apéritifs.  Sure enough, when we got there we were offered a glass of mousseux which is a sparkling wine and a substitute for champagne. Then they brought out loads of plates of a variety of canapés, salad etc.  This even included some escargots (snails of course!!).  Now I haven't eaten snails since I tried them in Paris on our honeymoon so I decided to taste them again - mmmm délicieux!!  Anyway, we sat there drinking and eating our way through these delights and I kept thinking that we ought to make a move because they would be wanting to have their evening meal.  However, they showed no sign of wanting us to leave and indeed, when I said that we ought to be going, they brought out a bottle of bière rouge.  I don't remember what time we finally left but when we saw Hélène a few days later and I asked her about it, she said they were in no hurry at all for us to go and were happy to eat the snacks instead of a meal.  Go figure!

So, on a gloriously sunny morning Christmas arrived!  It was strange because this year, both Danny and I had been feeling a sense of what I can only describe as loneliness in the days leading up to Christmas.  I say it was strange because this is our second Christmas in France and we didn't feel like that last year.  As it turned out, when Christmas Day came, we were both fine and we had a lovely enjoyable day.  We exchanged presents; Danny spoke to all of his sons and I spoke to my brother.  Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, we were able to see the grandchildren enjoying all their presents too.  At lunchtime we went to one of our favourite restaurants, Vue du Chateau (all our summer visitors will know and remember it!) where we had a fabulous meal with excellent company and we had a thoroughly good afternoon.  There were maybe 16 guests and it felt like being in someone's home rather than in a restaurant.  We didn't get home until nearly 6pm, just in time to feed our poor animals!

Here's a photo of us at the table....

Since Christmas, it's been business as usual here although we haven't really done anything more than the 'essentials'.  We are both nursing colds at the moment so we have decided to stay in and have a quiet New Year's Eve tonight and tomorrow we have been invited to friends for lunch. 

So, that's the end of 2013  and I want to take this chance to wish everyone who takes the time to read this blog a very Happy New Year.  I hope that the year 2014 brings you all Peace, Happiness and most of all, good Health.

Bonne Année!

Monday, 23 December 2013

The run up to Christmas 2013.....

I was surprised to see that nearly three weeks have gone by since I last posted on here!  I know I've said it before but I really don't know where the time goes!  We have both been busy with various tasks; poor Danny has to devote a little time every day, come rain or shine, to chopping wood!  So imagine how worried he was when his chain saw stopped working one day!  A chainsaw is something we must have and we'd started to think about whether we ought to buy a cheap one (if there is such a thing!) to keep as a spare.  Anyway, we took our one to the local DIY type shop (Brico Pro) which has a workshop with it. 
Danny assumed they would just give us a receipt and tell us to come back when it was done BUT the man looked at it, tested it, adjusted various bits on it, cleaned it and hey presto! It worked! He asked if we wanted it sharpened while we were there and naturally we said "Oui, merci!" and after all that he charged us the princely sum of 8€50.  What amazing service!  But as I said to Danny, there's probably an appreciation that, at this time of year, people need their chainsaws to chop wood for their burners so they know that you want it sorted out straight away.  I'm sure if there had been a major fault, it would have to have stayed there but the willingness to sort it out straight away was very impressive.

I have finally finished unpacking all my kitchen equipment and we had a very therapeutic time taking what seemed like 100s of cardboard boxes to the déchetterie (tip) on Saturday.  We did this using Danny's truck and my car.  I mentioned last time that Danny's son Paul was here working on the truck, which has been off the road for some months now.  I don't think I explained that between the two of them they identified the problem as a faulty injector.  Well, Danny ordered a new one; it arrived and he has fitted it along with a new battery that the truck needed.  Aside from a small petrol leak to be resolved, the truck is now ready for its journey back to the UK.  Paul will be coming back in a few weeks' time and he will drive it back so that it can be put up for sale.  We never managed to get it registered over here and aside from that, it is so difficult and so costly to get parts for it as it is an American truck, so we really are going to have to say au revoir to it! 

But what to have instead?  Danny would have liked a Land Rover but it doesn't make sense to have yet another vehicle.  It's extremely common out here for people to have a trailer and that's what we have decided to do!  We didn't have a tow bar on the Mondeo so that was the first step!  I managed to convey to the local Ford dealer what we wanted and get it booked in to have the tow bar fitted.  We started looking around for suitable trailer and decided to get one at the local Brico Pro.  We thought we'd have another look at them while we were there having the chainsaw fixed and found out to our delight that there was a special offer for a few days whereby everything in the store had 10% off!  It was too good a bargain to miss so we went ahead and bought one, together with a tarpaulin cover and a spare wheel.

Here's the tow bar (not very exciting I know!) and the new trailer.  I don't think Danny actually needed help from Finn or Liam but they do like to be involved!

So what else have we been doing?  Well, for one thing, we had our annual blood tests!  We hadn't realised but it is the norm here to have such a thing.  I know it is common in other countries but, as far as I'm aware, not in England!  Neither of us likes blood tests so we were a very apprehensive pair as we waited in the waiting room of the local "Infirmières".  I guess the nearest UK equivalent to this is a district nurse's office.  There are no appointments; you just go along and wait your turn.  We were warned that it was best to get there early but even so we waited about 30 minutes.  However, it was a breeze!  The nurse was very nice and before we knew it, it was done.  Two days later, our results came in the post!  Incredible!  We're off to the doctor on Friday to discuss one or two of the results!

Christmas is nearly upon us and although we have been to another couple of Christmas markets, they were nothing very special.  I have to confess that we did most of our Christmas shopping online again this year but I'm determined to get out and about to discover more shops next year.  I think when my friend Anne returns in the Spring, we ought to make it our mission for the year!

Talking of Christmas, I must just tell you about how the streets and shops are decorated over here.  I regret I haven't remembered to take a picture of our nearby town of Moncoutant but from early December there have been festive lights up across the main street and lights in several of the trees that line the streets. Outside many shops are real Christmas trees, leaning up against the shop fronts, between shops (if that makes sense!)  The trees are decorated very simply with red ribbons and bows but look so effective in their simplicity.  It seems remarkable to me that the trees seem not to get stolen as I can't help wondering how long such a thing might last in Essex!!  Many shops have beautiful displays in their windows.  This is part of the window of our local newsagent.  The window is too big for me to have got all of it in one shot but I hope it gives you an idea of the nativity scene display.

Our local supermarket decorates its foyer with a special Christmas carpet and a lovely display.  Here they are...

Well, this is likely to be my last post before Christmas so I shall leave you with this picture of our own festive decorations - our new fireplace in action and decorated for Christmas....


 I plan to do at least one more post before 2013 draws to a close so all that remains for me now is to wish you all a good Christmas. I hope you all enjoy yourselves, however you are spending it, and that it brings you lots of happiness and good things.

Joyeux Noël!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Not so much a lot of news as a lot of photos!!

I can't believe another couple of weeks have nearly slipped by since my last post.  Doesn't time fly!  We have been quite busy so I suppose that's the reason.  The weather here has become quite cold, especially as evening draws in, and our wood burner is on every day from late afternoon.  Having said that, the days have been very sunny and bright and there's been no sign of rain lately.  I don't want to know the physics of it all but I suspect the beautiful red skies we've been having at night explain it all.  Here's an example...

We've awoken to frosts in the last few days which reminded me that we have been rather remiss with our bird feeding of late!  We have now stocked up on sunflower seeds (which our local birds seem to favour most of all!), filled up the feeders with the seeds, plus some other feeders with peanuts and yet others with fat balls!  Our reward came within hours when Danny spotted no less than four birds all chomping away at one feeder...

Our kitchen fitter returned last Friday to finish off some things he'd had to put off until Danny had done the painting.  And now I have a little shelf between the worktop  and the wall units on the two main walls!   I have made a start on unpacking the boxes of kitchen items but there's a way to go yet.  Still, I am making some hard decisions and am giving away some things that I know I won't be using again.  Nonetheless, I am keeping quite a lot of things which I hope to use again, like all my cake decorating equipment for example!

As I've said before, the end wall of the kitchen can't be finished until  the window is replaced with the new door.  And that's not going to happen before February.  It's a shame as it "spoils" the whole thing but this is what the rest now looks like....

I have to admit I am THRILLED to bits with my new kitchen! I just need to be patient now till the rest of it can be finished!

One of the lovely things about this time of year here is the start of all the Christmas markets.  The first one we've been to was last Saturday and it was an evening market at a most beautiful village called Saint Loup sur Thouet.  The village is dwarfed by its chateau, click here to read about and see pictures if you're interested.  It is a popular venue for weddings by the look of it!  But for us on the evening of the market, we just wanted to wander around the winding streets and look at all the fabulous things on the stalls.  We got there about 6.30pm and it was already full of people, who seemed to be out in large family groups.  The atmosphere was fantastic and although I've tried, I don't think my photos really capture that.  But hopefully, you'll get a flavour of the evening...

The fifth photo is the window of a boulangerie (baker's) and I think you'll agree it's just beautiful.

I expect we will be going to other Christmas markets over the next couple of weeks but I think this one will take some beating, certainly in terms of its ambience.

At the moment we have what is probably going to be our last visitor of the year!  Danny's son, Paul, is here for a few days.  He's been earning his keep, working on the truck and my car, shifting wooden beams and so on.  And of course, he couldn't resist getting out and chopping some wood....

I'm going to leave you with a picture of a little cardigan I recently knitted for my new baby cousin...only to give you an example of the other ways in which I occupy my time!  Here it is....

Till next time....à bientôt!