Tuesday, 30 August 2011

we really should be grateful…and we are.

Our gardening tasks are very much  a day on day event and we are really getting through our chores now that the white board is a large and blatant reminder of what needs doing  next. This job however was one of those that started as a thought and ended up as an epic, without getting anywhere near the white board.  On holiday in the South of France we noticed that many trees in gardens had high crowns which made space underneath and kept them neat and shaped.  When we got back I mentioned this to Mike and on a day when he could not face walking too far or digging too deep he set off with tools in hand to see what could be achieved, and I am really pleased with the result. We can now see across the pond into the allotment and when the willow was thinned as well the whole area was brighter and full of new colour and air. We now have hatched a plan to move the chickens to the pottager where the poly tunnel is and build a new patio so that we can sit out and look onto the garden without being too far from the house. Funny how a couple of hours in one area get you thinking about another.
The Consuel made another visit to look at Mike’s handy electrical work on the mobile homes and to our utter, and even more utter amazement they failed us again saying that the information the first inspector gave us did not comply to the regulations. Mike’s face was a picture, but my view was that we make this small yet annoying change and apply again just this one last time…..keep watching I really believe we have arrived.

Every 15th of the month I take a photograph from the window in the barn and this was August all looking jolly and tidy but sadly tinged with Autumn glum, and the sparkly and brightness  is already fading  from the flower beds, Mike and I are so amazed how quickly the seasons change and we are already thinking about our coal stocks and whether we move the chickens before the snow or leave it till after.

We had a fun filled weekend with my Mum and brother Billy with his new wife Maxine here for,  Du Vin Du pain et Du Bousin.  I have had a dodgy tum for a couple of weeks and I was so desperate to feel right  for their visit that I ended up eating porridge for three days and I am glad to say it did the trick and the last few days has been full on wine and food.
Mike and I laugh very easily but when you are remenising with your Brother who you haven’t actually sat down and got drunk with in a very long time then it just takes laughter and fun to another level.  Mum was in her element watching her two children and their life’s loves bantering over a table of booze and food. Ann and Graham popped  over to say hello and a good time was had by all.

Our visits are all too soon over and I felt more upset than I have done in a long time saying goodbye. Mike and I have recognised a melancholy that descends on us when family go home, I get a sad tug on my heart strings but we also realise that this is our home and we must not allow emotions to take over or  one day we just might will ourselves back to the UK and we are not ready for that yet.  So It is stiff upper lip and a melancholy activity to take your mind off things.  Billy and Maxine left their jackets behind so a mad dash to the post office so that the parcel will get there before next weekend put all our sadness to one side and at least the parcel is on the way back to them.

 Today was ‘knee operation day’ for Mike and this morning HOSS and I  took him  to the clinic St Jean in St Lo. We took the camper so that I did not need to come home and even if they did want to keep him in over night I could camp out in the car park and be there for him. It did occur to me how hard it must be not having a good handle on the language but as the day progressed I felt much more encouraged watching the neat young nurse popping in with the little English she knew and then with the  French Mike was confident with between them they did fine. The knee OP was a success and the consultant who speaks fantastic English was able to explain what had happened and what the prognosis was and although I engaged him in French to explain it again just in case he was avoiding some aspects he was unsure of linguistically we got a broad view of  the proceedings. I thanked him for being able to converse with us and he just said it is all part of his service, WOW. HOSS and I spent Mikes unconscious hours camping in the grounds of the clinic, and we took a walk down to the Nation Horse Stables in St Lo but HOSS was more worried about getting me back to the van. We gently walked all the way there but he pulled me all the way back  and sat waiting for his master.
The French Medical system does take a bit of getting used to because you can never sure what you are going to be charged for, so as the administrative work is done you need to keep a hand on your wallet just in case. When we went to the pharmacist to get dressings for the nurse to use when she comes we also had a prescription for painkillers and anti- inflammatory and because I speak French with an accent the pharmacists are also very keen to make sure that we understand the instructions. . The pharmacist said in the middle of all the what to do’s, that there would be a payment due on the ant inflammatory and my initial thought was to ask for a brand that fell inside the system pay structure but I was tired and needed egg and chips to get back on track. I got my bankcard out to pay for the drugs and she asked me for one euro ten cents. Trying to restrain myself from taking her into my arms for a big thank you  I quickly paid and flung boxes of stuff in a bag feeling that I had got away Scot free, then wondered if it was not perhaps a government ploy to make you feel grateful. We must admit that this bad knee event was caused, diagnosed and treated in six weeks so we really should be grateful…and we are.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

and sadly, I am very very excited…..

All of a sudden we seem more focussed on what needs to be done and who will do it. I put this all down to the fact that I have introduced the white board phenomenon, and each morning, at breakfast, we go through the list. There are however days when we set off to achieve something off the board, get distracted, and end up achieving something totally different. I have been known to go in and write the other achievement on the board as it has proven to be good for moral. We have taken a very conscious decision to go out less and do fewer kilometres to tighten our belts. If we stay in we tend to spend less on stuff, and we are so good and spending money on, stuff.

Having said that we are staying in more,  we did push the boat out with our friend Ann to  attend the Carentan Folk spectacle. Tri Yan are a very big and popular French folk group who put traditional tunes into a modern presentation and by golly it was spectacular. Big drums, big noise big lighting which even had Mike on his feet for an hour and a half whist they entertained us.  We sat in our picnic chairs listening to the support groups with beer and chips and watched  a  local shanty group and then Dirty Linen who are a traditional  Irish  band, whose performance was  made all the more enjoyable for us because they sang in English and we were sat behind these groupies dressed up for the occasion to make all the more traditional.

The spectacle ended at one in the morning and was a truly entertaining event. We did have a little chuckle when Tri Yan announced they were celebrating their fortieth year on the road and  made the observation that they were celebrating their quarant ans in Carentan and you need to read that with a French accent and it will make sense.

Ann and Anna bought Mike and I this rose for our coral wedding anniversary way back in February and here it is in full bloom, and blow me down it really is  the colour of coral. I was delighted.

Earlier this year I planted ten little home grown box plants in two rows and yesterday Mike got his hedge trimmer out and cut them to shape and I really do have a box of box, and sadly, I am very very excited…..

Sunday, 14 August 2011

“Camping chez nous”.

Forgive me…it has been days and days since my last blog.  Mike and I have been busy harvesting and dealing with our visitors, we have eaten far too much and today is our duvet day and I am back on the diet…booo hooo We had to wait for our money to come through this month and this kept us in and away from the shops so as soon as we were flush we were able to pay for the house insurance which reminded us that it is already our fourth moving-in  anniversary to Brevands. It hardly seems possible, when we arrived we thought we may stay for eight years and now we can’t imagine how we could leave the place.
The picture above is of a harvest which is now jarred up as passatta and stashed away with 2011 emblazoned on the label, looking forward to that in the winter months. The bowl however has another story. When Mim was in my kitchen a few weeks ago I explained how my daughter in law Sam loved my Breton bowl so when at a vide grenier my sister saw a similar one and jumped on it and said how great it would be to buy it for Sam, but I took one look at it and decided it had to be mine, it was too boat like, and so me. Sorry Sam,  I am still looking out for you,  but this one is mine, all mine.
I attended a funeral for one of our village folk who passed away last week and I was pleased I went as I was able to touch base with lots of our neighbours and friends around us. Mike stayed home alone with his crock knee so I hung out with Jacqueline and Genevievre and caught up with a load of gossip and news.

I met up with the former owners of our home who were keen to get an invite for coffee and asked when they could pop in so they came a few days later and we all sat in the garden ohhing and aahiing at our progress. M et Mm Leboulanger are kind and gentle folk and although Mike and I have no idea what monsieur is saying as he makes jokes in his Normandy drawl,  madam tries to keep up and translates into a more understandable French but we inevitably end up laughing with him not knowing what we are laughing for.

We had a caravan parked in the garden for a few nights and had the company of Gill Cook and her boys for evening meals and a competitive game of Boule. Gill adopted Debbie’s dog Kes  when she went to Australia so we had lots to talk about and we hope they enjoyed their   “Camping chez nous”.

Friday, 5 August 2011

everything is just dandy.

As a rule I sleep really well as unlike Mike who is a jumping jack all night. In recent years we have promised each other through times of insomnia that we will stay put to avoid wondering around the house playing with computers, watching television or doing the ironing, and the latter being one of my weaknesses.  It was with a bit of a surprise then that I found myself jolted out of sleep with a distant beep interrupting my dreams and as I became conscious I realized that the electricity had gone off and we had no way of knowing what the time was. It is deeply dark in Brevands, the solar garden lights are blinding in such blackness and as we peered out to see if the rest of Brevands was blacked out all we could see was the drive lit up like a fairy’s party and that meant it was middle of the night as these light exhaust themselves when dawn is about to break. The beep was my UPS saving my computer from a crash but by the time I got downstairs it sensed I was anxious and crashed the computer anyway so my careful walk down the stairs guided by the warm glow of the computer’s on off button which extingusished and both Mike and I were left in total darkness to make our way back to bed to sit the power cut out. I tossed and turned and was unhappy that the power had not magically come back on so in total darkness I made my way back down to check our main breaker and I was quite right it was us alone in power cut whist the rest of Brevands slept with alarms and clocks still ticking away. Mike tried to click us back on but it was having non of it so now suitably armed with torches we went around to all our appliances and when I unplugged the dishwasher the breaker jumped to life and the house was full of light and appliances resetting themselves. I dumped the awfull thought that the dishwasher was broken and went back to bed. In the morning Mike took a look and declared it out of bounds and I started the day with the prospect of clean hands and a wet floor around the sink area. The saddest part of this tale is that for the first time since we moved out of the UK we really miss the convenience of a quick trip into John Lewis to choose a new device, put it on the account and pay for it over a few months. Also for the first time since we left the UK we do not have the funds available to buy a new dishwasher, so it is clean hands wet floor, crystal clear glasses, because the washer was past it and sometimes performed badly.  And around every dark cloud there is a silver lining, I am now back in the habit of switching I-tunes on to listen to a classical piece of music whist I toil away at the sink..not all bad then.

The squashes and pumpkins are doing well and I have a healthy crop of 15, I have no idea what to do with them but they look fantastic and that is good enough at this point. I will use most of them as currency and swap veg with our friends. I have already sent one off to the UK with Linda on Wednesday. I will stuff one tomorrow and we will make a lantern for November 5th as we are doing the firework party this year. 

And finally,  what a lovely boy then…The hens are laying again and the swan is chilled out so all in all everything is just dandy.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

“bread and water for supper tonight dear”.

The joy of having people come to stay is that we spend all your time demonstrating what a great time we are having here. We manage to tell the same story with the exact amount of enthusiasm expounding the joys of  French life her in Brevands. There are moments of doubt when Mike gets off on one about the electrics on the vans but I have developed a polite way of getting him off his soap-box. Mike, needs to get it off his chest and  I wish we had access to the French version of the Jeremy Vine show where  we could lock Mike up in a studio for an hour or two, but needs be and our visitors and friends are his  only sounding board.  We are all happy to listen and sympathise then we can all rejoice together when the job is done. We have now sent off another one hundred and eleven Euros for a second inspection and HOSS and I wait with baited breath for the arrival of the post van, me, for the letter announcing the said inspection and HOSS because this confounded post woman keeps poking letters into the post box in his room and this amounts to a total invasion of his space.

An afternoon tea photograph with everyone absorbed in the act, just says it all. John and Linda came to visit on a day trip to France with Dee and Melvin. I made cakes and a large pot of tea and we wowed and whooped  about the garden and Dee sat in the shade of the parasol  and said, “I can really see why you are so happy here” she then wanted to know how easy it might be to buy out here and what our bills were. I was confident that I was able to cover all the aspects  and pondered if I should ask Mr Sarkosy if he needed a Minister to run a “bring the Brits back to France” campaign because it is only us who buy these places and carry on the heritage and history of these fabulous homesteads.

On the subject of culture and history I treated myself to a concert in the Abby at Lessay with my friend Ann. We sat for ninety minuets breathless with concentration and awe that a crowd of musicians can fill such a huge space with the most delicate and accurate interpretation of Vivaldi’s Gloria. I was absolutely shot through by the encores and then we gathered in the Abby gardens for a glass of cider and the opportunity to clap the conductor in and gaze as though some God like apparition was amongst us. It was all about  the emotion of live music and I am sure that as it is not a regular occurance for me was made all the more special and memorable. I then had to drive Mikes car home as we have decided to take the Mondeo off the road, three vehicles for two people just seems absurd so into moth balls she goes, until we can decide what to do with her.

And finally, why wouldn’t you want to spend your holiday here, We are soooo close to getting this project to a more positive stance and I for one can’t wait. We have missed this season and will have to tighten our belts until the 2012 season but now we have time to get the adverts right and be fully booked before we have to declare “bread and water for supper tonight dear”.

Monday, 1 August 2011

“the metal ball game”.

HOSS found his soul mate when Josh came to stay, they played in the garden chasing balls running from one end of the garden to the other. I caught them here taking time out just sitting together. For Mike and me  it was a good test of HOSS’s good temperament with a full-on energetic youngster around the house and we were full of  pride in the way HOSS behaved.  I took Mia, Kiera and Josh for a walk around the block and bumped into a number of neighbours who were keen to say hello so at least Mia and the kids got to hear a bit of French and HOSS showed off what a good boy he can be by just waiting for all the niceties to finish so he can get on with his walk.

As you have seen on previous blogs our sunflowers are a huge success this year.  I am determined to grow a square of them next year so I can walk through them. The arrival of a keen young family on site asking what they can help with was music to my ears and a morning de-seeding sunflower heads so that Mike can dry them and then add them to the menu for winter bird fat balls, went down a treat

Everyone got a head as big as your face, we all worked in silence and the concentration was palpable. Mia lives in London so the whole Brevands experience was just one big, WOW. Pulling thousands of seeds from sunflower heads with the prospect that each seed is potentially a plant as big as it’s mother was an amazing realisation. For me of cause it meant that I didn’t have to spend hours processing these giants myself, so good job done.. A gang like this at work is like a gift from heaven and it did not stop there. They all donned their gardening gloves and went right through the allotment on a weed hunt  and then I had three keen as mustard wheelbarrow drivers to take all the weeds to kitten corner where  the cuttings can rot down and not spread weed seeds around our precious cultivated areas.

Sadly it is all too soon over and we drove our happy and tired gang back to Cherbourg to catch the fast ferry back to the UK.   Both Mike and I were pleased to see the garden being used for play and fun, we sat and drew one of the gardens whilst Mike mowed around us  and then we played boules, or as Josh calls it “the metal ball game”.