Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Well, THAT was a busy summer!!

I don't think I've ever missed an entire month since I started writing this blog yet I sit here at the beginning of September having done just that.  I knew it had been a while but now I see that the last time I posted was on 31st July!

As the title suggests though, I do have good reason! 

As well as a number of guests, we also squeezed in a visit to the UK ourselves.  Originally intended as a surprise visit, we had given in and told people that we were going to drive back in our VW camper to attend a Volkswagen show called "Sweetcorn" held near our old home in Essex.  As well as being able to camp with Paul and Joe, two of Danny's sons, and their families, we would be able to meet up with some old camping buddies plus give the camper a good airing!

In the "old days" when we lived in England and went camping regularly, the camper was always equipped with basic essentials and we pretty much just had to add the food and drink and go!  Although we have used the camper since we came to France, we were well out of the practice of regular camping.  Not only that, we put a lot of thought into taking only what we really needed so we could travel light.  Finally, we were ready; a friend of ours was housesitting for us and we set off for the port of Caen for the afternoon crossing to Portsmouth.

Alas, the camper developed problems and around 20kms from Caen, with smoke billowing out of the back, we had to pull off the road.  This was the first time we had ever broken down over here and although I knew our insurance included 'vehicle recovery' I had no idea what I should do, who I should call, etc.  I just froze in panic (so much so I even forgot the basic rules of donning our hi-viz jackets and putting out the warning cone!)  Fortunately, the security guys who patrol the motorways stopped and helped us.  It was they who called a recovery truck and ensured we were taken safely from the side of the motorway.  This is the sad picture of us being loaded onto the recovery truck!

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say, we paid the recovery driver to take us to the ferry port (where we had to go on a later - and overnight - ferry) and we were met by another recovery vehicle which took us to Essex.  The camper was driveable but sounded horrendous and was clearly in need of first aid! 

Luckily, none of this spoilt our camping weekend and we had a fabulous time.  Although the weather wasn't too kind to us, we had a lot of fun and the weekend was everything we always loved about camping.  Like doing silly things......
                                                  buying a silly hat! 
Or having a ride on the back of a VW pick up truck!

Even the little 'uns had things to do!  They too had rides on the pick up but also got the opportunity to make things at craft stalls at the show....

We stayed in the UK for a couple of days after the show but had to fly back to France, leaving the camper which was still being repaired.  Now we are preparing to return to the UK to collect it and bring it back home - hopefully incident free!

Within a couple of days of getting back to France, our friends Caroline and Paul, with their two children, Cara and Reuben (my godson) arrived for what has become their 'annual visit'.  This year they spent about three days with us before they travelled southwards.  Here are pictures of us all - eating as usual! - on their first and last nights with us..  As you can see, they are a departure from our usual, conventional photos and we have come bang up to date with "selfies"!!

This first picture is, of course, at our new table on the terrace by the pool!
The second one was at a lovely restaurant we were introduced to a few months ago.  Called Le Rabelais, it is in a hotel in Fontenay le Comte, about 45 minutes drive away in the departement de la Vendée.  If you want to see more about it, click here.
In between these particular (and other!) meals, we had some nice warm weather and the children were able to enjoy our pool.  And enjoy Danny being in there with them!

A few days after we said our farewells to Caroline, Paul, Cara and Reuben we were on our way to Nantes Airport to pick up our next guests!  I can confess now to having been a little apprehensive about how this next visit was going to be.  You see, our next guests were Estelle and Rosie - two of my 'old' school friends and I hadn't seen them since I left school in the autumn of 1969!   But I needn't have worried as we started chatting from the minute they came through into the arrivals hall until the time they went back several days later! And in between all the chatting, we ate! And drank!  Here are a few photos from what turned out to be an enjoyable and memorable trip...

We have a few weeks' breather now until our next, and probably last, guests of the year come.  This is Ron and Barbara, our neighbours in Essex who are coming for what is also now an annual visit!  They are keen gardeners and always give us lots of help while they're here - and I have a number of tasks in mind for them already!

This is not to say that Danny and I have been idle in that department!  It has been a difficult year as we endured the months of building work followed by the whirlwind of visitors.  And I have to admit, in all that, the garden had become quite neglected.  But in the last few weeks we have started to get on top of the jobs that needed doing.  While Estelle and Rosie were here they helped me to tidy up the potager and since they left, we - and especially Danny - have been getting stuck into some big and much needed jobs.  In particular, Danny has done loads of hedge trimming and all around the garden it has opened up the wonderful views we are blessed with.

For my part, I have been concentrating on clearing flower beds.  I have made the decision to stop tinkering about and working around the stuff we inherited from the previous owners and to start making the beds "my own".  This won't mean getting rid of everything but I have decided to make some changes and to plant the beds the way I want them.  Although I hate getting rid of live plants, I have realised that I don't have to do that - there are always friends who are happy to have new things in their gardens!  So I have taken lots of "before" photos and hope to show you the changes over the coming months.

Well, that's about it for news.  I want to just leave you with two more, unrelated, photos.  The first is of a moth!  Yes! A moth.  It appeared on the door to the pool house and stayed for a couple of days.  It was so unusual that I had to take this photo.  Don't you think it looks like he's wearing a toupee?!

And finally.... I think I have talked in previous posts about Danny's hobby of model-making and that he was making a replica of Joe's VW Beetle.  Well, he finally finished it and we were able to take it with us when we went to England in the camper.  Joe took this rather remarkable photo of the model with his actual car and I happen to think it's an amazing photo (not to mention, an amazing model!)
Well, I hope not to leave it so long before the next update so until then, à bientôt!


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