Thursday, 27 October 2011

look forward to doing all again soon….

We took a trip across the channel to be part of a huge conspiratorial event that worked a treat. There’s Mim thinking she was going out for a quiet tête-à-tête dinner with Dick to celebrate her 60th birthday and there we were, her complete set of siblings,  their partners,  her children and our Mum all sat at the table for two with great expectation of  birthday party celebrations. Needless to say Mim was speechless and then in the middle of it all made a lovely speech forgiving us all for telling lies  and making her think no one was  able to join her on her special day. I did not lie to her however, as I e-mailed to say we were going to the boat for the weekend but did not specify which boat, and we drove onto the Brittany Ferries boat with no guilt or bad feeling…Mike and I had a great weekend just doing family things and  a trip to Wicks to buy my birthday prezzie. I know you are asking yourself what would a woman of that certain age want for her birthday from Wicks…well I needed a new wheel barrow and I am going to call it Bara cause everything deserves a name.

Billy and Maxine were having dinner so we went along to see where the new love nest is. What a delight to see happiness oozing out of every moment those two are together.   We had a lovely meal and then drank the 40 40 40 liqueur  from the recipe that they persuaded my friend Ann to part with when  they were here in September. I must say it was rather good and I am tempted to make a bottle myself, but I still have a litre of slow gin to down so perhaps I will leave it until next year.

Chris and Sam came up from Southampton to see us so we made that into a family gathering too. Both Grand Mothers  there to oooh and aaah  at their little  boy. I gave Chris his part of the memory box hand out and he now owns his Cub cap and jumper, school reports, pictures of his sisters when they were little and a whole load of stuff that I kept for him to enjoy on this day. What a treat. I have promised to share all this memoirs stuff and it gives me so much pleasure.

Then it is all over, we pose for the pictures and all go home but thank goodness we do pose because this is the stuff for sharing. We had a great weekend away, enjoyed the company of our families and look forward to doing all again soon….

Monday, 17 October 2011

.Happy Birthday Mum.

Last year we converted our little duck egg blue cuissiniere from wood to coal. Sounds complicated, but not.  When we hauled her out of a barn covered in dust we saw that she came with a coal conversion kit in terms of plates and doors that slide into the wood burning box and when we decided that we could no longer keep her alight on little bits of wood we bought a bag of coal.  Our lives were transformed in terms of paying homage and falling to our knees in front of our kitchen heat source every time we forgot to shove another block of wood in. The coal burns longer and is much more forgiving if you forget to pay her a visit. This Summer we started to look for a reliable source of coal, cheap and in huge quantities and hit lucky after a plea for help  on the Anglo Info site which we expats moan about for it’s unbelievable moronic  following at times but always turn to when we need help. Gary and Rachel came to our help and said that they had a ton spare out of their prepaid co-operative and would be happy to sell us a ton with a view to us joining the club next year. Gary arrived bristling with muscle to shovel our ton into our coal stash. This coal is  off the coalface coal and Gary promised that we will never want to burn anything else when we see the economics and cleanness of this type of coal. So the fire is lit and in six days of day and night heat we have used just one buckets worth and we are not only warm and snug and cooking already, but smiley and smug that we just may have found the solution to what will be an annual problem…how to keep warm on the cheap.

It is that time of year again, and we five fell to our knees in Jacqueline’s orchard to pick up this huge pile of apples for the cider year of 2011. Jacqueline had to go away to Paris to see her children and I was put in charge of the baskets and bags and keeping count of the apples we put on the pile. We found it very hard this year firstly the joy of working with Jacqueline is no longer there as she has disappeared for the second year running now and hard because we are not getting any younger and if you are not bending, lifting and generally acting like farmers all year the two days that you enthusiastically devote to apple picking is hard, painful and after six hours starts to feel futile and the taste of the nectar of life in the guise of rough old cider starts to wear a little thin.  We did what was necessary and finished off in our orchard to add our apples to the pile.  We actually picked on my birthday yesterday so that we could be sure to beat any bad weather. We all knew that feeling the way we did a wet or cold day would just finish us off.
I did however have a good birthday and came home to a barrage of best wishes and love on face book and email. My pile of cards was more than I deserved and a line of love running long the length of the mantle piece is just great.  I spoke to Australia, Canada and Southampton and that gave me the greatest of pleasure that my kids are there, and for one moment in time all thinking the same thing….Happy Birthday Mum.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

why would you make green tomato jam…….!

We are off on the next project , and I have named this patch, Hens Terrace. Every cultivated or worked part of the garden has a name and as top terrace is already taken it seems fitting that we pay homage to the sacrifice my little girls and their noble cockerel have made to allow me to sit and eat with a view of the garden. As I mentioned in the last blog we are going to hold our bon fire party here and I have a pile of recycled paper bricks to burn and it appears an enthusiastic gang of mates prepared to face the cold and join us in this very British landmark celebration. I intend to eat and drink far too much and toast my toes on a bonfire till it is too cold to stay out and you can bet your bottom dollar that by the 5th of November it will be freezing.
We were going to put the van terraces and this Hens terrace  on hold for a while as we are short of dosh. We need a good lorry load of gravel to make the concrete but we emptied our jewellery box of broken rings and knotted chains today and took them to a gold buying day in Isigny-sur-mer and managed to sell enough to go a long way toward the gravel we need  and a few bags of cement, so, game on. As soon as the fire is dowsed the concrete laying begins, that’s if the frost keeps at bay because we all know that concrete does not set in frosty weather…well, we did all know that didn’t we!

I have been in a crazy propagation mode these past few weeks and have been tending these delicate little fragments of plant waiting and watching for signs of life and yesterday I lined up all my little babies that have been potted up and I am going to have a great selection of stock plants to cheer up the beds next spring. 


These are in the getting wet stage, just potted up from the dodgy life and death phase. Once they get to this size and are happy to sit in their own pots then you have plants, and when you look at the result of only a few hours of not very hard or taxing work it all makes perfect sense and is wildly satisfying.

I picked the last of the tomatoes and made my 66th jar of passata for this winter. The issue here is that I still have 33 jars from last year and as they are bottled are still good.  I had a basket of tomatoes looking at me on my kitchen counter for three days and I couldn’t find the courage to make another batch but my friend Anna turned up unexpectedly so I chucked them in a bag and sent her home with strict instructions to make passata with no need to share as has been her habit in the past. The tomato plants are now lifted and the tunnel is bare except for the winter crop of  maturing cuttings and the odd lettuce which I will try to keep going until winter forbids any more growth.  Last year I tried to make green tomato jam but frankly when you have twenty jars of the most delicious strawberry and black current jams why would you make green tomato jam…….!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Perfect, and I can’t wait

Just in case you were worried, I thought I would let you know that the chic-e-chicks are just fine in their new home. We have taken a lot of time to settle them in with all the knowledge we have gained over the past four years of keeping hens. One of our little secrets is to create a border of boulders so they can’t scratch their way out under the fence. Chickens are great escape artists and we have both double checked all possible exit plans and are quite sure they are secure. Whilst giving HOSS his Sunday run at the sea side  today we also stole sand and shell off our beach to put in the sand pit so short of a bit of grass they are, sorted. It did occur to me this morning as I lay in bed listening to the crooning tones of a our young cockerel that he is now much closer to our bedroom window so panic attacks at the sight of the alarm clock reading nine in the morning are all a thing of the past, probably a good thing. I have often thought about why a cockerel crows whilst it is still dark and Mike and I have, quite sadly, pondered the quandary and my favourite notion is that a cockerel in the deep south of France wakes up to the sun and his call starts them all off up and across the nation until it reaches us before the sun has actually risen. We have another notion about churches in France. Every village has a church and we have wondered where in France you could possibly be the furthest from a church. I recon you could  climb up to the top of every church tower in France and see the next one, it is on our walks on the beach that we start this talk of notions and theory but at least we are chatting and at least we are still capable of a notion or two.

So now the work begins on the new patio. Mike lifted some fence posts that were in place before we came and scoffed and poo poo’d the quality of the installation with remarks like “ how was that little amount of concrete going to keep a fence post up…..well it did, and has for as long as we have been here. Mike then needed to lift two posts that he had installed a couple of years ago and by ‘eck we were there for the morning digging and pushing and pulling  before the post gave way with a chunk of concrete that we could have built a house with. To be faire to Mike he did mention that he may have gone over board but I praise his belts and braces approach to anything he does and that is why stuff stays in place and we rarely get a fall-over disaster to deal with.
If you are a long term blogger you will know that we bought a pallet of coping stones a couple of years ago and have used them to make the surround to the Boule park and made paths and stuff around the garden. Today, however,  we decided that we had enough left to make a boarder around our new patio so all we now have to find is the dosh to buy a lorry full of gravel to finish the job. I love the way one job leads onto the next, we need gravel to finish the mobile home terraces and now we have the patio to do, so a lorry load will be plenty and more economical. We are having a bon fire party here on the 5th of November and I had decided that I wanted a fire in the garden but Mike was unsure about having people grovelling about in the dark and suggested a oil drum fire on the drive…I was not excited about that  but yesterday he announced that we could have a fire on the space that will be the new patio. There is light, space and it is closer to the house, ………Perfect, and I can’t wait

Friday, 7 October 2011

watching the sun go down.

What a treat we have had. The garden looks like it is entering a phase never seen before with belated flowing and the most unexpected revival of plants and bush growth that we thought we had seen the last of. Mike has managed to get a good all over cut on the lawn this week it was a bit touch and go what with his knee still playing up and his temper levels in the stratosphere but we are all much calmer now and the Autumn is welcome and we are ready for it.

The Walnut tree is not promising much this year but that is no shame as Genevieve’s tree is showing off again and I get a bag of nuts a week from her. I can’t wait for my Mum to come and crack them all open for me so it is now an annual in front of the TV job which I must say I do rather well and hardly look down to see what I am doing and don’t miss any programs.  The walnut tree is usually one of our last to come into leaf and the last to shed but this year she is well ahead and is looking very Novemberish in October.

What a smashing surprise we have had with all this warm weather and a late rally by the nasturtiums. They have bulked up and given us a show of colour and refuge for the black fly since June. I promised Mike I would not grow so many next year but for are such an easy plant to grow and never let you down.

And finally the chickens have moved. I was stood in the heneria some weeks back and mentioned to Mike that the chickens have got the best vantage point for enjoying the garden and we both looked at each other and said…’they’re chickens’ we decided we would move them and build ourselves a patio there instead of sitting in front of the house. Today, we had to draw up a precise and accurate action pan to get posts and fencing out of the old Heneriea and into the new without having the chickens and coq running amuck and taking over. So it was him in the pepper shed and the girls in their closed house in position whilst  Mike and I took the poles and wire from the old and built the new. I am delighted with the change, can’t say that for the chick e chicks though they have lost their view and romantic evenings watching the sun go down. 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

weirdo’s….well, yes I think so.

It does not seem possible that September came then went and here we are the 1st of October in a heat wave wondering as to what is going on.  This week Mike and I have been in stressful mode as the culmination of the past 3 weeks has kicked in. We took our lap top to Leclerc to have a pirated software problem sorted on the 13th September and now we have a returned a laptop with two years of work wiped off the hard drive and Mike is trying to piece it all together as I write..  On Monday this week I called the director of Leclerc to say we would be in at nine thirty to pick up our laptop and deal with the problem ourselves rather than pay them to do the job, but he turned on me and said that he would not release the laptop unless I wrote a statement in French as to why we had taken it to them in the first place. I argued in my very bestest French that I was not going to be part of a witch hunt against the sales assistant we dealt with in 2009, and besides a statement like that would need to be in English and translated in order to ensure we were not mis-understood. The Director said “no statement no laptop and by the way Monsieur Baker was not to come or he would call the gendarme”. I was so upset and worried about what we had got ourselves into, so whilst repeating the  simple chant…I am the customer… we went to the police station  to ask what right Leclerc had to hold our laptop to ransom, but they turned on us as well and said that the director had already called to say we would be in store at eleven that morning and that we were unreasonable and abusive people. I grabbed Mike and we slipped out of the police station as they had most definitely taken the Leclerc position and I felt like a player in a twist of fate movie where I knew I was innocent but the world was against me.
Long and the short was that we wrote a response to the letter saying that we wanted the laptop returned in the same state as when we left it and we would be in store on Thursday. We duly plucked up the courage to face yet another episode with the nasty director but this time he backed himself up with the accountant for the branch. We all four sat in the office and when I asked if we could please have our computer back they said no not until I write a statement in French and then I just went to jelly and cried and sobbed  to the point that Mike tried to drag me out, he must have felt like a complete idiot with a blubbering interpreter wife who couldn’t now even put two words together. I stood my ground and angrily said that I was going nowhere until I had the lap top back . The accountant was a much more people person and when I explained what had happened and after the director had tried to rip me off a strip or two in front of him he asked the director to back off and listened to what I had to say and volunteered to write the statement on our behalf making sure we did not incriminate our selves or anyone else. He  then read it to both Mike and I  before handing over the laptop. It was at this point that I realised that the request for money to change the software was not a quote but an invoice and all the work and downloads and files and pictures Mike had stored away over the past two years were gone.  Both Leclerc men were astonished at our looks of astonishment and all I wanted to do to punch their lights out because we had not given them permission to take the hard drive to pieces in order to cover up their mistake of installing pirated Windows Seven in 2009. So I realised we had no leg to stand on, I looked them both in the eye and mine were very red and blood shot and I swore to god that I would never set foot in their store again and I promised to tell a thousand people about this pathetic attempt at customer services.
Today however, we shopped in Carrefour,  I was dragging my heals, feeling like I had cut my nose off to spite my face and that I would hate having Carrefour as my main shop and as we went round we both realised that we had been missing out and this was actually an OK store. They gave me 4 € off my butchers bill and put 4.05€ on the fidelity card and we both came out feeling elated and up beat……is living in France turning us into a pair of weirdo’s….well,  yes I think so.