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Category Entries for France

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Friday September 14, 2018

Frelons Asiatique

This isn't so much a pretentious title for the entry as an indication that I had to go to the dictionary and the web to find our how to report to the local Mairie that Asian hornets have moved into the roof space in our new conservatory. Even then he had to check to see if it were true (ie really Asian and not just European).
So we had a visit from the man himself at our humble property, closely followed by exterminators. The Mayor told us that they have already had 6 reports of them in the locality this year.

I was surprised at how easy it was to see they were not "normal" hornets - the difference in general appearance was obvious even at a distance - having had plenty of opportunity to observe the normal ones nesting in our chimney and ceiling in the bakehouse. Any closer views and the predominantly blacker markings are all too obvious.

If you want to frighten yourself, go look on the internet for the differences. However, don't mistake the loose terminology - this is not the "giant" Asian hornet - in fact, these hornets are smaller than European ones, they are not active at night (so I'm not in danger of finding them swarming around the light at the front door at night), and their sting is apparently not as fierce (not something I plan to test). They are reportable in France and in the UK as they actively destroy bees and hives - as if they did not have enough to contend with.

Posted on September 14, 2018 at 8:47 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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Saturday April 15, 2017

France at Easter


A lovely Easter in France - and the last opportunity to see the Wisteria rampant all over the front of the cottage.
The cherry blossom as lovely as ever at this time of year.


Posted on April 15, 2017 at 8:16 AM

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Thursday March 30, 2017

A short break


Over to France for a few days prior to the planned commencement of the "great works". Our planning permission has now been accepted so hopefully we can soon start a foundation for the small glass room to replace the workman's shelter seen on the right of the cottage.
A cheering patch of honesty - which grows just anywhere and everywhere - next to our newly-created "Back Door" step.


Posted on March 30, 2017 at 8:15 AM

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Sunday November 13, 2016

Small person gansey


I delivered the completed sweater to Penelope who obligingly seems to fit into it quite well.

It's a fishing smock from the vintage Debbie Bliss book "Nautical Knits for Kids" . Originally designed for Rowan Denim, I used some vintage Sirdar Tropicana "cotton effect" 4 ply - which is acrylic, and much finer than Denim but I wanted the result to be smaller, and luckily it seems to have kept its proportions and looks right.

Posted on November 13, 2016 at 5:10 PM

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Sunday August 28, 2016

More partying


We are in France for the Bank Holiday weekend, and it was Lloyd's birthday. I seemed unable to take any decent photos (everyone would keep moving around!) so here he is sharing a joke with his Mother-in-Law while his sister brings a suitably large cake.


Later on Lisa and I set the world to rights by the pond - the reason for the looks of consternation is we were watching the kids ("young adults" - an in fact also some rather older adults) swimming and horsing around. Drowning seemed a real possibility....


And a couple of other views while we were there. The mackerel sky about sums up the weather we experienced - and I weeded, dug out, and replaced the edging around, what is left of the flower bed in front of the kitchen (where the door used to be).


Posted on August 28, 2016 at 7:21 PM

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Monday October 5, 2015



It's that time of year again... and for the tail end of the Indian Summer, we have escaped to France for a few days - which have been filled with making plum jam, pressing apples, and bottling the juice.

[Home again on the night ferry...]

Posted on October 5, 2015 at 2:01 PM

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Sunday August 30, 2015

As high as an elephant's eye...


Perhaps not quite that high but we have been unable to do much to the grass on this trip as the weather has been uncooperative. Overall not too bad but continual showers ensuring everything is too wet to cut. Notice that the tree outside the bakehouse has keeled over - poor thing - we plan to try and prop it up again - just too heavy with the fruit and soggy soil.
On the plus side, I made a lot of headway in the house itself, hanging the mirror, and getting the bathroom lights installed - and the usual painting jobs - the scope of which seems to be endless.


Posted on August 30, 2015 at 7:55 AM

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Monday August 24, 2015

Cleaning and Creativity


Apparently not much happened this month - mostly because I was doing rather than writing about it.

I finally finished off an "artisan" mirror to match the tiling in our new French bathroom. This project turned out to be an incredible palava - reminding me yet again of my Father's quote "you do like to enjoy yourself don't you?". I bought a reduced price beaten up mirror from B&Q - and then proceeded to beat it up even more. It already had the basic structure I wanted, being inset, and framed with a plain white surround. I removed the latter to replace with mosaic tiles - I then had to route out the surround further to accommodate the depth of the tiles, repair the wood to make up for my very poor routing (!), cut the mosaics to make them fit the shape, stick the tiles down with two types of glue, paint the frame a dark brown to match the bathroom, and finally grout the tiles.... I then had to repaint the surround as the grouting process pulled off the paint.... the whole project has been plagued with so many similar small difficulties that I should not have been surprised by any of this.
I have now created a mirror which is so heavy that I am not even sure how to fix it to the wall as the frame is not robust enough to support the increased weight. I feel with the cost of the mosaic panel and the epoxy glue, I would have done better to start from scratch...

In addition, a lot of August was taken up with preparing for the rebuild (or new build) of our utility area on the side of the house. George has managed a lot of the reorganisation on his own, and as of the day we left for France, we had no hot water or central heating , and our washing machine is resident outside the front door of the house, (a very attractive feature), in the hope that during the 10 week build we can use it in that position.

Spurred on by all this activity (and an apparent moth infestation) I cleared out a lot of old clothes and cleaned and sprayed the bedroom. I took the opportunity to install new blinds and curtains - with 5 double windows in the room that took a lot of time and effort, even though it was a budget solution from IKEA.

After all this there is a plus side - by October we will at last have a proper weather-proof room to the side of the house instead of the shack of the last 15 years. The kitchen and bathroom in France are to all intents and purposes up and running - even with lots of finishing detail still to be done inside - and the outside rendering needs to get going while there is still a chance if some good weather (as I sit here the rain is beating against the window...). However we have tried out both dishwasher and washing machine, the cooker is back in position, and we have moved our "stuff" back in - leaving loads of scope for yet more cleaning in the living room (groan...).

Posted on August 24, 2015 at 9:21 AM

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Sunday May 24, 2015



This is a pretty pink rose in France that I have been trying to propagate - I am fearful for its future with all the building work.
I took 5 cuttings following advice on the web (and I can tell you they have subsequently all expired!). Last year, I took about 8 cuttings from various French roses, which included the pink one. Of those cuttings, two plants have survived - and I was absolutely convinced they are the robust red rose at the front of the cottage. Thus, I planted one in the garden in England and gave one to Rob. And now, after all, I am completely astonished to see a distinctly pink bud making an appearance in my garden.
So... result! I suppose...
[I have yet to find out what colour Rob's rose is].


Later news from June: both Rob's and my rose cuttings have turned out to be pink after all that. Pretty amusing as I was so convinced they were the large red one...

Posted on May 24, 2015 at 9:23 AM

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Wednesday May 20, 2015



The men from EDF came and moved our electricity box to the outside of the house. I think we can safely say it was a success as we still seem to have power. [Peter did lots of preparation inside, and then swapped some cables etc - so well done him].



Posted on May 20, 2015 at 9:04 AM

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Monday May 4, 2015



Baby Scott arrived 3 weeks early - so she is 2 weeks old already (and impossibly cute). Her parents are .... well.... thrilled, delighted, proud... all that stuff.

[I feel more knitting coming on - in my bumper wool frenzy before Christmas, I acquired (accidentally) quite a lot of white 3ply...]

Posted on May 4, 2015 at 6:16 PM

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Sunday May 3, 2015



The wisteria in France was positively overwhelming - in both colour, size of blooms, and perfume. I saw the sun glinting through the branches overhanging the door - it's a nice enough photo but does not quite capture the moment.
I am pleased that my cutting the poor thing back to the wood does not seem to have slowed it down much - that part is in full leaf now and the section I left alone has burst into these heavy blossoms - it's always been a lovely plant but this year seems exceptional. [... and by the time we left a couple of days later, the strong winds had blown huge amounts of petals clean away...].


Posted on May 3, 2015 at 6:23 PM

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Sunday April 5, 2015

Easter Egg Hunt


Well - maybe not so much of a hunt...

Posted on April 5, 2015 at 3:42 PM

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Wednesday September 3, 2014



We have a nest of them in the chimney in France, and not much of a plan as to what to do about it - other than hope they die off in the winter. From time to time one of them falls down the inside of the chimney and much to his surprise (as well as ours) pops out in the living room through a crack in the register plate. This has led to puzzling phemonema for much of the later summer - apparent materialisations in the living room from nowhere, disturbing the calm of the evenings TV entertainment - but now all is explained, even if not to a very satisfactory conclusion

Other entertainments of our little weekend: now he is essentially back on form healthwise, George dashed off to hire the brush cutter from "lawn-mower-man" in the village, only to find it has been sold and is thus no longer to be hired... This was followed by a trek out to hire one elsewhere, and his coming back with a very ordinary looking mower on a trailer, which to our surprise was more than man enough for the 3 foot high grass. Now he has dreams and longings of owning one of his very own.

Plums abound but greengages have not been so good this year and we are running out of jam - I rather rely on their fruiting well every 2 years. I managed to put together enough fruit and set up the cooker in the living room (to date we have not bothered since the kitchen was closed) to make a few pots of jam.

Finally I decided it was time to "deal" with the pigs heads that have been languishing in the freezer - part of our pig-purchase from Lloyd. Mother used to make brawn, and though not a pleasant task, I have made one lot myself many years ago. Usually, you have half a head to deal with, but to my dismay, when defrosted, it turned out to be a whole head in 2 halves. Luckily these were piglets, so I was able to fit both halves in one cauldron, (and that is what it's like - a three-hour witches brew).
I would like to say it was all worth it with a delicious result, but that would not be entirely true. Still - next up - a set of trotters...

Posted on September 3, 2014 at 2:18 PM

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Saturday July 26, 2014

Le Weekend


We have escaped for another weekend in France. George is still very thin and I managed to encourage him to spend a lot of time relaxing out of the intense heat. I cut the wisteria back completely away from the rebuilt extension walls preparing to enable Peter to render it later on without hindrance. I also cut the other side of it right back to bare wood, debating whether it would ever truly recover - although I remember doing that once before without lasting ill effects. I left the middle part with leaves to try and support it until next spring when I will cut that part hard back.

I also took half a dozen more cuttings of the hydrangea (second attempt) and some of the roses whose future is in doubt due to the building work.


This picture of the bakehouse may look the same as ever - but it now has a nice cream rendering all over - just looks better and better. [Managed to again weed out a load of nesting material from the extractor fan pipe, and block it up temporarily with newspaper, much to the annoyance of the great tits who were sitting outside with beaks full of moss ready to carry on....!]

In respect of other wildlife - I think the mice were none too pleased about the wisteria disappearing. They use it as a regular route across the front of the house - I could often see them in silhouette outside the window while I was sitting in the living room in the evening. Now of course the route is very exposed. I think maybe as a result of this we found a small mouse popping in and out of a mouse-hole right by the main doorstep (hole's been there all the time but never saw any mice using it before). The mouse seemed to be a bit groggy and not bothered by our stepping over it all the time; however, it must just have been the weather - which was unbearably hot - because eventually George put a blueberry down in front of it and it instantly stuffed into it and then disappeared. Ironic given that most of the time we are murdering the mice if we can catch them....


Finally below - the skeletal form of new walls have appeared in the kitchen.


Posted on July 26, 2014 at 7:44 AM

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Thursday June 19, 2014

Sunny Cuves


As George seems much better in health, we dashed over to France to deliver tiles for the new bathrrom and to try and tackle the garden a little. The weather was lovely, and Peter had cut a few paths through the mile high grass, and we were able to clear up some of the resulting hay.


I cleared the weeds from the raspberry bed, and planted up one of the island beds with a few plants that tolerate being left without water for long periods (!), plus some geraniums.


We ate raspberries every day - as you do - and froze some. The cherries were wonderful - I don't remember eating any from this tree before - the others are a red and yellow variety (equally delicious).


And finally - the progress in the kitchen - a window where the door used to be - plus the French doors are in, and there is a back door - and yes that is our washing up on the drainer.....


Posted on June 19, 2014 at 4:10 PM

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Thursday April 17, 2014

Cat Bricks


Peter is rebuilding our kitchen extension. He seems to have purchased cat themed breeze blocks.

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 12:36 PM

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Sunday April 13, 2014

Vide Grenier Arm Chairs


So we braved the showery weather and went to the Vide Grenier.
And I found these beautiful chairs (two of them).
They were a bargain.
Need I say more?

I spent the afternoon removing the balding crushed velveteen covering. And George spent the afternoon working out somewhere he could put them where he "would not have to sit on them".

Posted on April 13, 2014 at 12:36 PM

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Friday April 11, 2014

Chair seats


I finally got round to renewing the seat pads for the ""dining chairs" in France. Someone had ripped one of the covers with a jeans stud I suspect.
The new covers are from a rather pleasing sage green textured fabric which is a remnant from another re-covering job in France - and will do well enough until I get round to the work of lifetime making cross stitch seat covers. [A nice idea but will I live that long?]

The fabric I removed was of great interest to me. It was a "leatherette" type - I would guess original with the chairs - branded LIONIDE. It seems you can still obtain this (so I could have gone for a proper restoration... Spanish Brown I think...) - looks to me like a faux leather fabric used (today) as a specialist vintage car seat covering.

Posted on April 11, 2014 at 12:35 PM

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Sunday March 9, 2014



The weather has been fine - quite a contrast to this time last year when we were here in March - and I took some photos as we left port - George took such ghastly (though sadly accurate) views of me being blown about on deck that you are left with a more photogenic yacht with wind surfers in the background (click on the picture for a closer view of the surfers).

Posted on March 9, 2014 at 6:37 PM

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Saturday March 8, 2014



We managed to squeeze in another weekend in France - lots to discuss about refurbishing the kitchen there. [Yes .... the final straw was that not only had the shower tray broken but some undefined animal - larger than a mouse (so logic suggests a rat) with very tidy habits - has taken to using our kitchen cupboard as a lavatory].
The interior has now been gutted [revealing how all the local wildlife were able to wander in with such facility] and Peter has finished removing the corrugated asbestos roofing [yes you heard right] and almost finished slating the roof. This has become a sufficiently urgent project now that we cannot follow through on the plan for a 2 storey rebuild which would involve planning permission and new foundations.


Posted on March 8, 2014 at 12:54 PM

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Thursday October 3, 2013



George bought a new gadget - though to be fair, it hardly qualifies as the (in my book) derogatory term "gadget", since it is based firmly in the local farming tradition around here.


George drinks a lot of fruit juices - and apple is a favourite - and we do seem to own an apple orchard** - so - obvious really.
** Actually we also own a GIANT apple press as well (in one of the buildings), but I fear it would take more than a couple of puny office workers to get it working again.


We experimented with different mixes of apples from different trees. I always imagined that the famous Normandy cider would be fermented from specific varieties like a vintage wine, but the French say that the best cider comes from a complete mix of varieties, which is why you find all kinds of different trees in the orchards. Our conclusion from tasting the juice is that they are (as you would expect) completely right - some of our juice was overly sweet and the finest was definitely one with a sharp undertone alongside the sweetness. And can we remember which mix that was? ....


We were able to make slightly over 8 pints per pressing. We froze it in re-purposed plastic milk bottles - but you can pasteurise it and then bottle it if you don't have enough room in the freezer.

I suspect there will have been some kind of run on these less industrial "home" versions of apple presses, because Monty Don featured them on Gardeners World recently and exhorted everyone to use up their windfalls by making juice. I hasten to add we are no middle class victims of mass marketing - at least not by the BBC(!) - as we ordered ours long before Monty featured them
- so there -
we are avant-garde.

Posted on October 3, 2013 at 6:57 PM

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Monday August 26, 2013



This is just impossibly cute isn't it?
It appeared on the bakehouse doorstep just after George stepped inside. It was totally mesmerised and appeared to be unable to move to the degree it seemed to us that it might have fallen out of a nest - however, I think it was in the process of fledging. We stepped back and forth over it, and when we were away from it, it cried pitifully - and we could hear again what seemed to be responses from possibly its parents. But they never appeared.

I can't really identify it but on thinking about the birds we see around, I am wondering if it's a baby spotted flycatcher. It's the beak that gives it away a bit. Having looked at the web I find it looks just like this little chap captured on You tube - and the description of the robust flying sounds very similar.


Finally, it fluttered straight up from the step into the nearby apple tree - quite a tough call. There, we watched it sitting and moving - calling all the time. On this basis I think it has probably made it through OK.

Posted on August 26, 2013 at 5:53 PM

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Sunday August 25, 2013

Top Cat


Our second week in France and the weather just as promising as our last visit. Again I spent most of my time in the Bakehouse, painting - and <drum roll and excitement> putting the doors on the kitchen wall cupboards.
However, before all that - we arrived on the overnight ferry, and on our way through one of the local villages at the crack of dawn, we saw a sign advertising a vide grenier - so we went. And I found this wonderful cat - he's a wooden money box, which is not obvious. He looks a bit grubby in the photo but he cleaned up well. I love him.


Here is more of Peter's handiwork - and these shelves and their background is mainly what will occupy me in the Bakehouse this week.


Posted on August 25, 2013 at 10:14 AM

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Sunday August 11, 2013

Faking it

We've managed two stays in France this August and I spent most of the time working on the bakehouse, where is was lovely and cool despite the humidity.


Here's the progress upstairs, where I have completed the painting and laid most of the floor - with some help from Peter. The flooring is a laminate (sorry) in "rustic oak" - it met the criteria of being robust and not costing an arm and a leg - I also painted the pine beams in "chêne classique" - a very light varnish/stain which proved surprisingly easy to use, and produced a good result - the beams are now also rustic oak....


Peter has subsequently completed the job, doing the tricky bit under the boiler and making a splendid edging for around the trap door. This last part was a pretty awkward space to work in - no mean feat for a chap of normal size, so I am particularly grateful.


The weather has been a delight this summer so when I was not working I was in the garden soaking up the sun (well - in a hammock in the shade of the trees). This has been a bumper year for currants so we spent a good few hours picking, cleaning, eating, and storing. (Blackcurrant fool made with Greek yoghurt.... mmmmmm)


Posted on August 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM

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Saturday April 6, 2013

Sheep .... in the garden

Our final day in France - and a small flock of sheep came trotting down the drive with a shepherdess in hot pursuit. The were quite purposeful - as well as charming - but I was only able to catch a photo when they had panicked and escaped into the adjacent field. I'm not sure how the adventure ended......

Posted on April 6, 2013 at 1:28 PM

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Wednesday April 3, 2013

Big Friendly Giants



Today we went on a little tour in the car. Very 1960s. Very "My Mother".

The planned invasion of the lignes tres haute tension with pylons stomping along the edge of our property (like the community waste dump before it) is now complete. So to celebrate (obviously) our tour was based around following the lines, which actually - if you had no sat nav - do provide an excellent set of landmarks for finding your way home.


Above we have the lines stretching forth into the distance - sometimes following the road, and sometime not - while we zig-zag back and forth under them - never quite losing sight. Below we have come to the end of the tour, reaching our own road, and the closest pylon to it.


The obligatory anarchistic graffiti (someone has to do it) says "LA THT NE PASSERA PAS!" - but I'm afraid it did, (and it's female.....?).
Our house is across the fields to the right so we have wonderful views of this pylon - framed by the bedroom window - and the one in the distance behind it - framed by the bakehouse French windows at the back (and from the planned conservatory).
You can see the bedroom view of the pylon in the snow picture - along with a buzzard, out hunting early, who was presumably as mystified by the weather as we were.


I can quite candidly say that I definitely wish the pylon thing had not happened, and there really are no compensating factors* - except perhaps for the Spanish (recipients) and EDF (profiteers). However, there is some element of these constructions that is quite majestic, and rather jolly - in some cases, the insulator "arms" are set at different angles which give them a sense of movement and a definite jaunty air.
But.... I am not living here permanently or bringing up small children to be concerned about purported negative effects of "waves" - but even if I were I don't think I would be feeling the need to construct bacofoil hats.

[* at least with the land fill there is some vague suggestion that it is planned for a finite time and then will be filled back in.... I am fully expecting a wind farm project to be next on the list of environmental tragedies for this property]

Posted on April 3, 2013 at 9:07 AM

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Monday April 1, 2013

Beating the Bounds


By Saturday afternoon the snow had vanished - despite laying moderately thickly, the temperatures were quite high enough to cause an immediate thaw to set in.
We did a tour of the boundary checking up on the horse chestnut tree, which seems to be showing signs of being a real tree now, growing strong and straight since it was released from its pot. Only 40 years until it flowers - though I have had it since 1997, so - not long to go! [George obligingly providing scale].
Perhaps when it reaches maturity it will obscure the splendid view of the newly erected electricity pylons - more of this later.


The rhubarb seems to have survived the winter, though the spring seems to be pretty challenging. Every time the plants give it a go, there is a sudden frost.


The latest addition to the Bakehouse - shutters to stop the rain pouring in the "French" windows. Here it is in the sunshine - looking like butter wouldn't melt in it's mouth.

Posted on April 1, 2013 at 4:41 PM

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Saturday March 30, 2013

Snow in Summer

It's Easter Saturday in France.
I repeat EASTER Saturday,
and this is the scene that greeted me on awakening.
[OK I suppose technically it's Spring].

Posted on March 30, 2013 at 7:56 AM

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Sunday August 12, 2012

Painting the Parlour

So we went to France for the week - and what a fabulous week it has been - hot and lovely. And I don't have any pictures barring these....


And that's because I spent my time tiling and grouting in the Bakehouse - which is - sadly - my idea of fun. It's not quite a bad as it sounds, as it was cool (weather really was very hot) and airy with all the many doors open. In addition, I really like the space we have created, so it was like having a preview of the living experience.

I also painted the undercoat all over white upstairs, and finished painting the downstairs walls, which are a nicely retro shade of sage green*.


* Having recently seen a set of TV programmes about how everything changed in the 1950s, I am slightly less certain about saying that. I do feel I lived through the era, however, I learned a lot - especially about how much paint changed post-war, and how that had such a dramatic effect interior decor, (I thought people actually liked dark green and brown...).
I was very keen on the insights offered in the series but the comments lead me to add - I think it is a mistake to infer (or imagine they imply) that everything applied to everyone in the 1950s. The reason it was all so familiar to me is that we still had the post-war house in about 1964. [We had no fridge until the mid-sixties though that was by no means usual among our peers.]

Posted on August 12, 2012 at 8:11 AM

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Sunday June 3, 2012

Jubilee in France

We had a very satisfying Jubilee weekend in France.
When we arrived (forewarned) the garden was totally out of control -


I always like to leave incidental plants and the stachys is delightful growing between the cracks in the granite paving - when it is small. This variety, (I rescued half dead from a garden shop), grows up to produce brilliant almost fluorescent flower heads and it's huge. Every year it reseeds itself all over the place. In addition here you can see foxgloves, chives, and tansy - all growing in the cracks.

The main thing however was that the grass was waist high. George spent most of the time fixing that with the stalwart new mower (plus it's new add-on gadget which we picked up on our way to Cuves). It hardly complained at all despite the fact that the grass was far too long for it and a little damp. So George mowed and strimmed in rotation in between the showers - and, as usual, once the grass was shorter, the whole garden was transformed.


You may think this is not an improvement - but we can't just leave it as a meadow.


I spent the time working on the bakehouse, and had great fun tiling and painting - even George joined in painting the ceiling with me - and it's all coming on pretty well.....
... and in addition to all this activity, we were able to watch the Queen (on TV) making her fantastic and rather surreal voyage down the Thames.

Posted on June 3, 2012 at 6:56 PM

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Friday April 6, 2012

Vide Grenier à Saint Laurent de Cuves

A bit late setting off but we managed to get to a "boot sale" - it was very local and we had a bit of trouble locating it despite the fact that the village is tiny and the sale took over the whole of it, since they had closed all roads in.


Anyway we came away with wonderful treasures! (Each at only 50 centimes). This jug (you can see how lovely it is) will join my interesting cat collection, and below we found a pin badge (St Pois is next to Cuves) to join a secret collection of George's - I particularly like its reference to the Tour de France which passed the area last year and granite, as George is so fond of the Granite Museum.


Sadly I did not take a picture of the loveliest treasure which was an apple fork - a farming implement for picking up apples - a bit like a pitchfork. A real bargain, though probably just for show as we use the amazing Apple Wizard - no orchard should be without one.

Posted on April 6, 2012 at 4:56 PM

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Thursday April 5, 2012

... et la bête


When we got back, the weather was delightful again, so George was straight out on the mower.... for about half an hour. Then I had to go out and help him investigate why the engine cut out every time he lowered the cutting blades. We spent ages looking at the automatic cut out switches and finally jacked it up to look at the blades, finding that one was totally seized up - and the cause was trivial: a sizeable chunk of wood was firmly wedged in it.

Posted on April 5, 2012 at 3:34 PM


Im glad to see that George looks like he's wearing a nice warm sweater to work outside!

Posted by: Alison on April 5, 2012 7:06 PM

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Le Beau...


We dropped in on Ava and Peter to see the grandchildren who are there "en masse" for the Easter holiday (that is Jacob and Isobel). I had finished the little sailor outfit so took it with me and within minutes Jacob was wearing it. The beret - as George (who knows a thing or two) had predicted - was too small - so I was forced to perform open-hat surgery on the kitchen table using only wooden barbecue skewers. [I really find it hard to believe that there is someone who has no knitting needles whatever... made mental note to never leave home without knitting bag ever again].
Here Jacob is obligingly posing for his public with Gemma.

Posted on April 5, 2012 at 2:00 PM


Well the little hat looks very jaunty! I like the whole outfit.

Posted by: Alison on April 5, 2012 7:05 PM

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Tuesday April 3, 2012

La Tondeuse arrive sur la remorque


George nursed the old lawnmower through most of last season - it had lost some vital parts on its way round the field. We waited until the new season to purchase a replacement. This is not a brand new machine but pretty solid with some nice features, and also picks the grass up - this is both an advantage and a disadvantage - most of our land is field rather than lawn so we need to leave the cut grass where it falls; we have a widget on order which will give us that option. As things stand currently, George has created a grass mountain in a single (late) afternoon's mowing.


Posted on April 3, 2012 at 5:36 PM

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Wednesday April 27, 2011

La Pharmacie d'Autrefois


The chemist in St Pois has a lovely display of "old stuff".

Posted on April 27, 2011 at 9:41 AM

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Friday April 22, 2011



I did not know rhubarb could do this. It's hard to see but it has shot up a flower spike and is now about 6 feet tall. I read now that you should (as I suspected) cut this off if you plan to crop it. As we have not eaten any of it yet - waiting for the poor neglected thing to get established - I hope it makes it feel good.

Posted on April 22, 2011 at 9:36 AM

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Sunday April 10, 2011

Sheep to shawl

OK - I admit - not a shawl.


Some time ago, I was tempted by Lloyd and Marie to pick up a bundle of fleece which they had hand-clipped from the small flock (which came free with their rented house!). Heavy hints - or direct instructions - were given to produce something " a hat or scarf" as it would be much appreciated.

The fleece - although not in a complete fleece shape, but rather an untidy mixed up mess on the barn floor - was exceedingly soft in places, but unfortunately I had "help" picking it up so I got a very mixed bag. It washed to a lovely white colour, and spun up well. I was pleased to be able to make 2 hats and a scarf. The latter I did not think much of - it just used the left overs, but the hats based on my apparently popular fisherman's rib hats were pretty good.
But as is the way of things, I'm not certain that the gifts were in fact much appreciated - I think I am viewed as just a bit of an elderly eccentric and this is just what I "do". My view of myself of course is an artistic artisan in the prime of life. Like Miss jean Brodie, I had hoped my prime would last the rest of my life.

Posted on April 10, 2011 at 9:06 AM

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Sunday August 15, 2010


We are on another short break in France - the weather is pretty terrible - however, during one less ferocious interlude, George managed to snap this "little fella".


This is a fouine which is a stone or beech marten - relatively common in France apparently.
It's hard to see the scale of the beast - smaller than a cat - but we think he (or she)'s a youngster - very curious - popped its head out every time George approached the woodpile.

Posted on August 15, 2010 at 9:07 AM

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Sunday April 4, 2010


The weather has been pretty bad all week - but today we are due to leave and it is quite lovely. I took a few photos - this is the progress on the bakehouse since I was last here - small doors on the back of the building.


The progress inside is more interesting but it is a very small space to try and photograph. It now has a ceiling - which is a floor of what is a surprisingly large airy space above (bedroom) - I was expecting a hayloft and I have a reasonable room. The bathroom has skeletal walls.

All the flowers are late in blooming as it has been so cold.



The baby strawberry plants seem to have survived well. Lloyd really put the major effort into these so I hope he gets to eat them before the birds do so.


Posted on April 4, 2010 at 1:38 PM

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Tuesday October 27, 2009

En automne

We managed one final trip to France for the year. This lovely photo of a giant pumpkin best represents the time of year - it is one of Lloyd's super squash crop - we had slightly less success with ours!


Peter, having recovered from his work-related injury, was back at work on the bakehouse - laying the concrete floor. I stopped him trying to get out of my shot to which he responded, not a little ironically: I know - 'just look like you're working!'. (I should mention that shifting concrete is back-breaking work).


George also put in some work on creating a strawberry bed using the many baby plants our strawberries produced this summer. Despite all the effort we left a lot for Lloyd to tidy up for us.


And my contribution to all this activity? More soda bread.


Posted on October 27, 2009 at 3:55 PM

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Sunday April 19, 2009


I took these views of the garden while it was still sunny in the evening.
The wisteria which just popped out during our stay:

The raspberry bed, still looking good. I weeded out a couple of nettles and buttercups, and George, having cut them back last year, contained the canes with some poles and twine:

Finally - the pieris forestii, of which I am not so very fond, it being more Surrey than Normandy - but - what a fabulous example, and especially splendid right now.

I always thought they were little shrubs, but now I read that they can reach over 5metres!

Posted on April 19, 2009 at 10:04 AM


That wisteria looks lovely.

Posted by: Alison on April 24, 2009 12:56 AM

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Tuesday April 14, 2009


One man's rubbish is another man's (toad's) wildlife sanctuary.
Yesterday (at last) we started to bag up the rubbish evicted from the bakehouse. The lovely damp plasterboard (which helpfully disintegrated as we picked it up) had become home to a number of toads - sorry about that chaps. I carefully moved them to another suitably damp abode. No toads were harmed in the making of this blog entry.

(We also found a nest of shrews, which unavoidably had a slightly sadder outcome.)
Here is the bakehouse without rubbish pile, and showing the trench that Lloyd has dug to carry electrics, water etc from the main house. (Currently the electrical cable is strung through the apple trees!).

Today, Peter arrived at 9:30 with a trailer to help us move the rubbish to the déschetterie in Brécey. Unfortunately he did not realise the déschetterie is not open in the mornings so he was compelled to spend longer in our company than he had planned. We padded out the time until 2 pm with coffee and cake, and also lunch. But it wasn't long before I had inveigled him into moving our fridge and exploring the subsidence of our kitchen floor - which is such a disaster area of apparent dry rot that I don't want to dwell on it.

After he had gone, we went to buy new flooring, and later still, Lloyd came round bearing a circular saw, and set about cutting the wood to shape. Tomorrow we plan to soak everything in wood preservative/anti-fungus, and reassemble the floor.

Late in the evening I found one of the toads had decamped into our kitchen, imagining that under the cooker was a good place to set up a new house - even though it is not at all damp on top of the vinyl flooring as far as I know. I removed him back outside - explaining about the anti-fungus etc.

Posted on April 14, 2009 at 11:12 PM

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Thursday February 5, 2009

Rural Renewal

We spent this week in France, although I seemed to spend all week working. I managed to walk around the garden a couple of times and took these pictures of Bakehouse progress. Peter has installed a new (plastic..) door and window at the front of the house; this caused him more trouble than he expected as the door was taller than the little building really accommodates, so he had to remove a tier of bricks and put in a new lintel.


Here's a view of the back of the house bathed in wintry sunshine, where we expect soon to add a door ("French window"), which will eventually give access to a tiny conservatory.


Here is the interior view of the southern wall with the front door and "kitchen area" (use your imagination). The new French door is leaning against the wall here - we brought it with us strapped firmly to the car roof.


Here is the north wall with the oven and chimney. The space is very restricted and I had to inexpertly stitch a few shots together to give an idea of how it looks so forgive the weird perspective. You can see Lloyd's newly pointed chimney breast.


Posted on February 5, 2009 at 12:30 PM


The bakehouse looks fab - I can just see you in there with your wheel. :-)

Actually that really makes you sound like Rumpelstiltskin...alone in a garret...just let me know when you master straw-into-gold!

Posted by: Alison on February 15, 2009 8:26 PM

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Wednesday August 6, 2008

La Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel

We went for a walk on the coast and a pleasant lunch at Saint Léonard







Posted on August 6, 2008 at 5:29 PM

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Sunday August 3, 2008

La Colombe

We attended another fête and demonstration of les vieux métiers. The weather was (sadly) poor - but we ate sausages and crêpes and watched the dancing.


Here is a nice view of the pretty Normandie bonnets.


There was also spinning on display but the ladies seemed to be having more trouble than I do with their old traditional wheel, so eventually we went home so I could have a go on my own...

Posted on August 3, 2008 at 4:33 PM

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Friday August 1, 2008

Dogs and Knitting

They don't exactly go together like a horse and carriage, but they do go together a lot better than cats and knitting. However, the cats are not very interested in much except food - whereas the dogs sit faithfully at my feet as I knit. They are in a permanent state of alert in case there is any sign of a game happening; periodically they lose patience and come over and prod me with a frisbee.


Our holiday weather has been excellent so far. We picked more cherries, but they are not as wonderful as they were a couple of weeks ago, and the raspberries have mostly gone now.

I have spent my time preparing - that is flick carding to remove the vegetable matter and remaining dirt - and then dyeing some of my fleece. [I know this looks in rather intimate proximity to my cooking facilities but I was very careful to keep the dying equipment quite separate.]


Perversely, I am interested in dying some fleece black, and it has been a moderate success. As expected, it is grey, or a charcoal black, but it has rather good blue/black overtones, which may work out as I want.


It did take an awfully long time to comb through 200g, though - and I need 600g of the black colour and more of other colours.

Posted on August 1, 2008 at 3:27 PM

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Monday July 7, 2008

Life is...

We have been having a great time at La Gonfrairie. I have spent a lot of time gardening as the weather has been good (for gardening) - warm but not too hot. The wind has been moderate to high; I had to effect repairs to the sun shade - and then we had to take it down altogether as the flimsy little guy ropes kept breaking. However, a lot of our time has been taken with fruit - July being the season.

These were the most surprising of all. I mean, we did know we had cherry trees - and I have seen one or two cherries on them (literally one - or two - we assumed the birds got them).
But this year several of the trees are simply bursting with fruit. [And, one or two have no fruit at all. Our neighbour explained this - and possibly the issue in previous years - that the success depends on the weather when the tree is in blossom - and, of course, they do not all flower at exactly the same time.]
The issue was actually getting to the fruit; there is a lot but way up high, well out of reach, even with a ladder. I asked George if we had "some kind of hook - like an umberella", and he said "yes but ..." - and then produced a really ancient home-made implement that we had inherited with the property; with hindsight it was obviously intended for this very purpose.

So... George wobbled around on top of our ladder while I dangled on a long hooked pole pulling the branches into reach. We dropped the cherries on to a tarpaulin and in no time we had picked 10lbs. I admit a photo of this would have been more fun but it took both of us to complete the manoeuvres.
We were going to pick more cherries, but at the moment I am not sure what to do with them. We have eaten a lot ... but there are also lots of other fruits.

My raspberry bed has developed in leaps and bounds - and has no nasty stinging nettles to deter would-be pickers any more. Day one, I cleared the bed as much as I could - such a shame, as a lot of fruit was already rotting on the canes.

No problem in deciding what to do with these - I immediately made jam - but then I ran out of containers there was so much!
We have also been picking and eating raspberries each day, as every day a new lot ripen...

Prior to finding so much fruit on our own land, (spurred on by Alison's blog), I bought apricots in the market in Brécey, where we went on our way here from the ferry. So I was also bound to make some jam from these... It is such a pretty colour... like the fruit.

Finally, we found that the red and white currants in the goat field were also ripe. I cleared the red currants (about 1lb), and rendered them down to make red currant jelly. The white currants - will have to wait. I am all fruited out. George wants me to make cherry jam. I will think about that today - I have never had sufficient cherries to try that before.

Another excitement yesterday was George and Lloyd seeing a "big white bird" in the garden; I managed to see the last of it flying around the far side of the barn - and it was a barn owl. Lloyd seems to think we do have owls in the barn but I have not seen any sign of them in residence before this.

So today we are preparing to go home - and the rain has finally started - not a bad thing for the garden when we are not actually in residence...

Posted on July 7, 2008 at 10:11 AM

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Monday June 2, 2008


The apparent "roadway" in the grassy wilderness that was our garden, was made in desperation by Peter who has been needing to get materials in and out of the place, as he's working on the bakehouse.

bakehouse1.jpg bakehouse2.jpg
bakehouse3.jpg bakehouse4.jpg

He has made great headway, and he actually finished the roof today. The rain was quite heavy at times but brightened up enough to let Peter complete the work. The interior now needs to be gutted - most of the interior beams are rotten - Peter actually fell through one of them, which had every appearance of being sound. Here are some of the useful items removed so far - that lino looks good doesn't it? I'm sure I can reuse that ....


Meanwhile - our last day and the pixie workers carried on.

pixies5.jpg pixies6.jpg

It's Sheila's birthday today, so we managed to make her take it easy - we went to the shops for those last little items to take back home - on the way I was stopped by a group of policemen and had to go back and fetch all my "papers" - passport, car documents etc. Even worse I had failed to bring my driving license to France with me, which was very embarrassing as it is illegal not to have it - I was very lucky that they chose not to fine me.

Posted on June 2, 2008 at 7:01 PM

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Saturday May 31, 2008


Easter was early, we missed coming over on the May Bank holidays, and the weather has been effectively tropical. Net result: we arrived yesterday to be faced with the result of choosing to leave the French house on its own for so long. All the grass is a good 3 feet high, and the weeds growing through the paved area in front of the house made it look derelict.

Wilderness1.jpg Wilderness2.jpg
Wilderness3.jpg Wilderness4.jpg

However we had brought with us a couple of pensioned off pixies who seemed to effect a magic transformation in no time at all. They always remind me of clockwork toys in that they are methodical, steady and utterly relentless workers.

pixies1.jpg pixies2.jpg
pixies3.jpg pixies4.jpg

Finally a bit of a sit down (see the director of operations was keeping a low profile under the hedge).

sitdown1.jpg sitdown2.jpg

Posted on May 31, 2008 at 8:43 PM

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Friday March 28, 2008

Sunshine and Showers

Just about the definition of the weather in the UK, and Normandy tends to join in with the UK in this respect. If anything it tends to be wetter, and it has been pretty dismal for most of the 2 weeks we've been here. However, yesterday it was quite sunny and warm - we even had tea in the garden. I collected some wood in the wheelbarrow early in the morning and then later on discovered we weren't the only ones to notice how nice and warm it was.

Today we are back to torrential downpours - though the temperature is definitely on the up and spring is with us.

Last year we missed these beauties - we saw instead the red tulips that you can see, still in bud, in the background of this shot.

These are such a beautiful colour that they inspire me to copy them in some way.
Flowers always encourage me towards needlepoint though, not knitting.

Posted on March 28, 2008 at 10:03 AM


The tulips look beautiful - very Kaffe!

Little cat looks very happy - some days you just want to lie in the sun - although in my case not usually in a wheelbarrow.

Posted by: Alison on April 1, 2008 5:28 PM

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Friday March 21, 2008

March Winds

When we arrived on Sunday, some pieces of the barn roof had blown off; luckily Lloyd was able to borrow a really long ladder and he and George effected repairs on Wednesday, when the weather was at least tolerable. It was mostly Lloyd actually up the ladder - though it was sufficiently dangerous that it needed the two of them on two ladders to control the corrugated iron.

Throughout the week, the weathermen have been stoically predicting bad weather - even snow - over the Easter weekend, and although it seemed very unlikely as the week commmenced in bright warm sunshine - the cold snap has arrived! It is alternately very bright, then dark, with sudden heavy showers of hail. The wind is really strong and bitterly cold - even when it's sunny.

Meanwhile, I am having a great time curled up by the fire with my knitting. George is the beneficiary, as I have already knitted one of the next pair of "Vintage Socks" - these also in vintage wool - Patons Nylox in a manly shade of grey/green.

Posted on March 21, 2008 at 12:00 PM

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Friday January 4, 2008

Honfleur in winter

On our way back to Boulogne, we stopped for lunch in Honfleur and I took a few more pictures - compare with the summer pictures from last June. The "snow" scenes are Honfleur's (fake) decorations - but very seasonal and pretty.

Honfleur_Me_winter.jpg Honfleur_Me_summer.jpg



Posted on January 4, 2008 at 8:13 AM

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Tuesday January 1, 2008

Mont Buon

Lovely weather for our New Year Day outing to Mont Buon. George went there with Lloyd while I was in the US in October and wanted to show it to me. It's very local to our house, and among the beautiful views I am sure our property is visible, though perhaps not the house itself due to the lie of the land. Use the pop-up to see the map of the route more clearly.

Here I am, dressed for the day in my new Wellingtons, and thermal socks.


We followed the gently climbing path around the "mountain" through beautiful autumnal (or should I say wintry?) woods...

...until we reached the summit - a staggering 209m.

MontBuon.jpg MontBuon_George.jpg

Points of interest were marked along the way, including a trench, used by the Resistance**. The right hand photo shows the view of the trench at 90 degrees, a little downhill; the trench is quite invisible.
[On re-reading this I realise that perhaps I should now - some 60 years on - say "used by the French Resistance during the Second World War"!]. MontBuonTrench1.jpg MontBuonTrench2.jpg

And here is the rolling stone and "chaos" as marked on the map.


I took a few more pictures of wildlife and views which are in the extended entry.

Some surprising gorse bushes:


Slightly more seasonal puffballs:


The familiar, almost luminous, moss:


A weird tree - it pops up for a closer view [I thought it looked like a rabbit - ok?]:

And those lovely views along the way...

and at the end of the walk.

Posted on January 1, 2008 at 3:57 PM

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Sunday September 9, 2007


About 11pm last night we heard a clanking noise outside the kitchen door. I had been forced to commandeer some porcelain bowls for use by the cat (due to large number of kittens - other bowls in the kitten shed...). To my delight I found a new pet tucking into the cat food (I had heard they do this but never experienced it before). We captured him on camera - the cat also came to investigate (cautiously...) and then he obviously thought discretion was the better part of valour and made a bid for freedom - they move pretty fast - no rolling up into a ball.

After the excitement had died down, and we had retreated back into the house, we heard the clanking yet again, so I quietly opened the door to check - and he was back, noisily snorfling down the crunchy dried cat food. I closed the door and left him in peace this time - not that he seemed at all put out - most determined to tuck in.
Note his sleek fur and bristles - that will be all the healthy vitamins in Hills Science Diet.


Posted on September 9, 2007 at 11:45 AM

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Saturday September 8, 2007


The weather over the last couple of days has been fantastic.

We chose the hottest day to rip ivy away from the bakehouse. It's been dusty hot work, and the result is never wholly satisfactory. However it was more than necessary to make a start. The ivy is a variegated domesticised variety which is much more tenacious than the wild variety (both were present so we had a chance to compare the two).

After this we joined Lloyd to share tea and banana bread.
I mean: parfait.

Posted on September 8, 2007 at 6:20 PM

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Friday September 7, 2007

Friendly Tortoise

I finished my woolly tortoise and he is now safely written up as pattern of the month.

As a kid, I had a number of tortoises, and funnily enough they all seemed to run away - I remember I acquired my first one as it was "on the run" and we could not find the original owner. They would just launch themselves into mid air down the steps from our garden - sometimes we would find them at the bottom, stuck with their legs waving uselessly in the air, but sooner or later (law of averages) they would land the right way up - and they were off...

Anyway the woolly one made it in and out of my life in record time. We went to Moulin de Jean this evening with Ava and Peter, and they dropped in to collect a Gnome (don't ask). Ava spotted the tortoise (Terence apparently) and said "I always wanted a tortoise" and to my amazement when I offered him to her she joyfully took him home. I do hope she wasn't just being polite. I know he's friendly and everything but....

Posted on September 7, 2007 at 11:19 PM

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Wednesday September 5, 2007

Maiden Over

Now the cricket season is safely over, and after several false starts, I finally completed the cricket pullover. Here is Lloyd being measured up one evening at the end of June - he doesn't look too optimistic at this point - and I must say, it's the first time I have been tempted to stand on a box in order to reach a bloke's chest.

Lloyd2.jpg Lloyd3.jpg

And here is the final result - tantara:

Posted on September 5, 2007 at 6:18 PM


Good work - I thought you said you had made no progress...must have been knitting like a demon.

Posted by: Alison on September 8, 2007 8:24 PM

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Sunday September 2, 2007

La Fermette - un siècle de la vie rurale

We saw a fête at Bellefontaine advertised on a poster, so, having missed the (similar) annual festivities at St Martin le Bouillant this year, we decided to give it a go. The poster said "rôtisserie à midi" but we failed to appreciate that the meal was the start of it all, and thus we arrived a bit early. However, we bought our tickets (repas compris), and headed off to kill some time, deciding to take a stroll around the now familiar Cascades at nearby Mortain.

We parked in the town this time and took a different walk altogether to get to the Petite Cascade. We walked through Place des Aiguilles - which I can easily translate due to my excellent knitting vocabulary, if not due to the obviously eponymous rocks.


Me_cascades.jpg G_cascades.jpg

We reached the Cascade from exactly the opposite direction from last time. This enabled me to actually see and experience the tranquility, take the picture, get the T-shirt etc.


La Fermette

We arrived back at the fête promptly at midday, briefly toured the fields - and then went to eat:


After this we had a great afternoon: there was a parade of rural workers in costume, and various demonstrations of old farming methods, including different techniques for harvesting, threshing, bailing, and also pressing apples for cider.

There were a number of stalls with people selling their craft wares. I fell in love with this lady's stall. She obviously takes old objects, and then paints them. I could not resist purchasing the colander.


Another rural craft item that interested me a lot was the making of rope using a slightly Heath-Robinson like machine. This is exactly the process used to prepare your threads for ply-split braiding - but on a much grander scale. [The contruction of the machine is like the advice given for making your own automatic winder using some cup hooks and an electric drill]. Note also the eccentric well in the background... seems to have gladioli growing out of the ridge....



The final item was very interesting for us to see: the cider pressing - especially since we have all this equipment rotting away in one of the out buildings at La Gonfrairie. (The building is a little odd since the boundary between our land and our neighbours cuts right through this building - it is half on our side and half on his!).
Back to the cider.
The apples are first minced in a machine....


....then packed into shape with straw bundles ready for pressing:



Posted on September 2, 2007 at 6:16 PM


When you come to visit please bring me one of the nice grey tabby kittens. They are the best sort you know.

Posted by: Alison on September 8, 2007 8:25 PM

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Saturday September 1, 2007

J'ai faim

Heard George call me from the bottom of the garden and on joining him, he pointed out that his Mother had been wrong and that there were three kittens with our little cat, not just two, as she had reported when visiting a few weeks ago.

A moment or two later, one detached itself and it became clear there were in fact four kittens.


I watched for a while then went back in the house.

A while later I heard George chuckling away, still watching the kittens.

This was why.


Kittens1.jpg Kittens2.jpg

Posted on September 1, 2007 at 11:14 AM

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Sunday August 19, 2007


I have had a rather more exciting 2 days than I planned. On our way back to Boulogne to catch the ferry on Friday, we got about half way to Caen when George was finally overcome by fearsome pains in his stomach. He had slight indigestion since about mid morning and we had left at about 3:30pm with me in the driving seat - but an hour later he was screaming in pain and (thank heaven for sat nav) I drove to the nearest hospital which turned out to be about 10 km away at Aunay sur Odon.

He was in such distress that they immediately whacked in a drip and did a cardiogram - which was fine - and then went on to X-rays and ultra sound. Fortunately during the X-rays his spasms abated and the pain with them. Despite our limitations in language we managed to communicate and they managed to convey all the information. They could see he had some blockage in his intestine and called an ambulance to take him to CHU in Caen (with a view to maybe having to operate!) I pottered after him with the car.

At Caen he was admitted through A&E again. What a difference at Caen - it was very busy with trollies stacked up all over the place - amazing at how they dealt steadily with it all. Lots of foreigners, lots of youthful people having limbs Xrayed, one amusing drunk strapped down in an examination room determinedly calling for another drink....

  smileyinbed.gif   [There would be a picture here of George on his A&E trolley but he made it plain that I might be the one needing surgery if I tried taking one at this point]

George saw a surgeon pretty quickly - lots of amusement with our pocket dictionary and the doctor looking up words like pee, poo, and fart, none of which appeared either in that form or more polite versions. Finally he had another X-ray, and they decided he had to be admitted, but had to wait for a bed. By this time it was about 1am. I hung on there until 4am, and then went to sleep in the car for a few hours. At 8am, they moved him to a bed in the main hospital and I joined him there. By this time he felt fine and, in rebellious mood, just wanted to leave. The doctors again arrived quite quickly and told him relatively good news. He would have another X-ray, and if all was still well with him (no more pain) he would have a light lunch, and if he kept all that down for 4 hours, we could go. Hurrah - no surgery.

This all panned out as hoped and we left at about 5:30. We managed to book the Fast Cat from Cherbourg for expediency (costing lots as it's summer of course) and were home again by midnight...


Every moment I was left to my own devices I fell asleep, and still slept for about 8 hours once I got home. George is also very tired as, although in a bed all the time, it was hard for him to sleep properly. He seems pretty fit at the moment and eating normally.

I missed my workshop on Saturday but we made it to the family party at Lyn's today. My cousin Jenny and her family are off to stay at La Gonfrairie and we had to issue them with the keys and reams of instructions, which I'm sure they don't need. I hope the weather is good for them and they have a lovely time - Jenny is so excited.

Posted on August 19, 2007 at 9:01 PM

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Thursday August 16, 2007

Wool gathering

Went out with Ava and Peter this evening and was given two fleeces (from Willow and Parsnip I think). They are economically squashed into one plastic sack for travel. The sheep are Suffolks; I am making a note of it here as I keep forgetting.

Posted on August 16, 2007 at 10:55 PM

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Les Cascades de Mortain

On advice, (from the relatives), we went to see the waterfalls at Mortain. They are in full flow this summer because of the unusually high rainfall (have I mentioned that before?!). And jolly splendid they were too.

We parked the car on the road at the head of the Grande Cascade and walked alongside them down the river. It is well-known for its rhododendrons - but they are more in evidence earlier in the year.


We then followed the pedestrian route through Neufbourg to the Petite Cascade, (noting the enticing petition on the gate and in the window of one house in the town of "CHATONS A DONNER" - then swiftly moving on). My photo is not so good as I stayed at the top of the "small" waterfall - you can see the intrepid explorer - a tiny speck in yellow in the bottom the left corner of the picture - who went to look but failed to tell me how pretty the view from below was - more of a waterfall than the raging torrent of the "big" one. It is part of the River Cançon, a tributary of the Cance, and is renowned for its peace and tranquility. Here is my rubbish view from the top:


Here is the lovely view taken by the intrepid explorer at the base of the fall:


Somewhere George said that the river Cance gets its name from its golden colour. I can find no other reference to this but include the evidence here, just in case its true. The water was very churned up due to the fast flow of the water.




Posted on August 16, 2007 at 7:49 PM

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Tuesday August 14, 2007


Life here is the same as ever - which is Good.

Here we see stick-obsessed Tilly. She is so keen to play this game that immediately she spots a likely playmate (any human with a pulse), she searches for some kind of stick. The "stick" is sometimes a blade of grass, and sometimes an apple.... here, though, she has really excelled herself.


I finally remembered to take a picture of the raspberry bed to show you how much they have grown since April:


There has not been such a bumper crop of raspberries this year, though. This may have been our pruning at the wrong time, or it may have been the weather, which seems to have suited some fruits but not others; there is another set of canes elsewhere in the garden which seem equally fruit-free. Here are a few - you can see I ate the ripe one!


And the very last of the foxgloves:


Posted on August 14, 2007 at 1:12 PM

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Sunday August 12, 2007


We arrived at La Gonfrairie at about 4am Saturday morning. There was some sleeping, and then some shopping, but no cooking, as Lloyd asked us to join him for a Barbecue.

His sister is staying with her two boys, (who are 4 and 8, and pretty cute if a little boisterous - like the dogs...), and he invited a few more people, most of whom are common acquaintances. Raoul, the local vet, joined us for a short while, but, before he could eat, he was called away to do his duty by a sick cow. We saved him some food.... the moules and mackerel were ....mmmmm....

Posted on August 12, 2007 at 11:06 AM

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Friday July 27, 2007

Prétentieuse? Moi?

The past couple of days has provided some excellent opportunities for eating, which, as usual for business trips, plays havoc with any high-minded ideals about restraining one's eating.

On Wednesday night we went as a group to La Diligence where the food was already ordered for us so we didn't even have to try and translate a menu.... and jolly good it was too. We tried sitting at the largest table to contradict the idea that the English are insular, but it didn't quite work out as we were tucked into our own little space. The restaurant was very atmospheric as you can see from the photo - I decided to post the fuzzy photo as it shows the environment more clearly than the version with flash.


Yesterday, we went with a recommendation and visited Cellier & Morel: la Maison de la Lozère.
My colleagues thought the food was excellent, and while I don't disagree it was by no means inexpensive (although I am being very unfair as it was probably far better value as well as lower cost than an equivalent meal in the UK - also I should say I did not have to foot the bill myself). Throughout, we were treated to little extra tasters from the chef, some more welcome than others for me. The main course was accompanied by what I now know to be Aligots - a regional speciality of mashed potato, Tomme cheese, and garlic. It was again excellent but we had to endure the ostentatious serving technique à table (shown right).

Posted on July 27, 2007 at 8:42 AM

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Tuesday July 24, 2007

Graceful city.

I have come to Montpellier for a couple of days of business meetings. It is remarkably hot in comparison to where I have come from and yesterday I seemed to have brought entirely the wrong clothes; however our offices are severely air conditioned and the cardigans and jackets are quite welcome there. I have not been here before, but as I have been led to believe, it is a delightful city with a small centre where you can easily walk around. We did just that on arrival yesterday afternoon, walking from the Antigone right on through the centre, past the Préfecture, up Rue Foch past the Porte du Peyrou


and as far as the St-Clément Aqueduct.


The Place de la Comédie is just outside the old town centre and provides a main focus point in the city It is a popular meeting place and tourist site, containing the "Trois Graces" statue. Here they are: Beauty, Mirth, and Good Cheer:


We all stayed in various hotels in the Antigone district. Antigone is newly-built and (without previously knowing anything about it) seemed a very strange though impressive area of interconnected pedestrian squares or plazas enclosed by apartment buildings. Each square has a central focus of fountains or statues and it is all very airy in a neo-classical style. We walked through the Antigone every day on our way in and out of the centre. Here is my favourite fountain in the Place du Nombre d'Or; the construction of Antigone was started at this end in 1981, but the fountain was added here in 2000. There is a central (Greek type) figure, whose identity I never discovered, with water jets issuing directly from the paving around him.


The jet spouts vary in degree and vigour (0 to 15m) to the delight of dogs and small children.


It is also very beautiful at night when the jets are illuminated.

In the Place de Peyrou (the end of our walk by the aqueduct) was an 18th century water tower. The photo I took had some rather strange lighting and it reminds me very much of Magritte and also his painting (or paintings I should say) Empire of Lights. Mostly it's the clouds and the symmetry of the trees I think - as well as the day combined with night effect.


Posted on July 24, 2007 at 6:29 PM

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Monday June 25, 2007

Whether there will be any weather... The Phantom Tollbooth

We spent the last couple of days trying to work in the garden. It looks pretty awful (if you count stuff growing like mad as "awful") but we have been severely hampered by continual sudden and torrential downpours. We managed to weed the paths and beds - pretty well I thought as we had to keep scampering for cover - but when we scampered so did the entire complement of household pets, (OK, just a cat and a dog), pell-mell into the house - mud and all.

Mowing such wet grass was just impossible, and then made absolutely impossible by the lawnmower exploding a number of springs and wires into the undergrowth, never to be recovered. [Monsieur Lawnmower Man has agreed to remove the beast and mend it while we are away.]

The good news is that the raspberry bed has also exploded (within the strict confines of its wooden border) - but alas I forgot to snap it for the record, (the little cat will be mortified as she spent hours working on it). Many nettles have appeared in the grass (which will be mown!) but none has dared to appear in the bed itself. The raspberries are fruiting already and we ate them every day - and even better we find that our numerous cherry trees have decided to produce this year - but tantalisingly, most of the fruit is way, way out of reach! The ones we managed to gather were excellent.

Posted on June 25, 2007 at 6:43 PM

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Sunday June 24, 2007

Debout, debout, debout!

And so we come to the main event for the weekend - Peter turned 50 in April and he and Ava organised a splendid party to celebrate. The food was fantastic and all produced by Ava and friends.


As cool as you can look with an "air" guitar:



And the memorable "chanson paillarde", which seems designed to slaughter the celebrant in the shortest possible time.

debout.jpg Ceux qui sont nés aus mois d'avril
Debout, debout, debout!
Prenez votre verre à la main
Et buvez le jusqu'à la fin.

La fin, la fin, la fin, la fin.....

Ceux qui sont nés aus mois de juin....
You get the idea?

[This was Janvier - to which Ava admitted but I am ashamed to say I did not.... ]

Posted on June 24, 2007 at 10:03 AM

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Friday June 22, 2007


We set off on a very early ferry and in consequence we hit Honfleur at just the right time for lunch; I had been meaning to stop there after my friend Peter recommended it, and it was just as lovely as he had described. Given the terrible rain storms of late we were lucky to be able to sit outside for lunch - I had the Soup de Poisson and George a sort of regional crostade. This is a view of the harbour, showing the restaurants on the far side:


So picturesque it will have to speak for itself:

MeinHonfleur.jpg GeorgeinHonfleur.jpg


Local inhabitant shares our lunch:


Posted on June 22, 2007 at 4:12 PM


Yes, Honfleur is lovely. You could also try the other side of the Carenten peninsular: St Vaast La Houge is a favourite of mine. Glad to see Marble getting an outing.

Posted by: Alison on June 29, 2007 7:34 PM

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Sunday April 15, 2007

"Plus je vois l'homme, plus j'aimie mon chien" Pascal

I realised the dogs hadn't got many column inches so far, so here is a charming sequence which is fully representative of any interaction with them. Tilly (whom you know already) is in her prime - bonkers, lovable, charming, anxious to please, and moves like lightening. Borg (Lloyd's dog) is also in his prime, but, shall we say, not quite as fast as he used to be; however he has an excellent eye for the ball, and a lot of grey cells up top where it counts.

Loading image. Please wait
Pick up the ball...
["What's he up to?"]
Pay attention... ["Is he talking to us?"]
Pay close attention... ["What's he saying?"]
Wait for it... ["No idea"]
Fetch! ["What? Good grief, I think he's dropped that ball"]
["It's OK, Tilly, I've got it"]
["OK, now don't lose it again..."]

Posted on April 15, 2007 at 3:33 PM

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Saturday April 14, 2007

"And it soft as silk remains"

So here is the state of play at the Raspberry Bed. George has finished digging in the retaining boards (all his own invention), and I have removed the weeds.


You were quite right about the helpfulness of that Little Cat. She was utterly exhausted after all that effort with those weeds. Even this morning she was out there, scraping away around the edges of the bed, not content that I had completely uprooted all those nettles. [At least I think that's what she was doing...]


Later on in the afternoon she felt up to a little bird-watching.


Posted on April 14, 2007 at 6:51 PM

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Monday April 9, 2007

"Grasp it like a man of mettle"

I spent an idyllic Easter Monday, knitting another pair of fetching mittens.

These are for Ava. I have used a Rowan tweed aran wool in grey - not exactly funky but she did express a liking for "grey and earth tones" - and I thought it might be a practical colour for one who works on the land, as opposed to the eau de nil colour, in which I knitted a pair for Diane.

The weather has been simply fabulous since we've been here and there has been lots of gardening. I am pleased to note that it took me no time at all to weed the beds and generally tidy the garden. I am hoping this is a sign of persistence rewarded (previous bouts of weeding, I mean).

My current task is pulling all the nettles out of the raspberry canes. It's very satisfying work; the nettles are very old with huge thick roots, so you just have to loosen the soil and carefully tug them up, but you get stung a lot as well (despite leather gauntlets, thick trousers, and Wellington boots). The roots go for yards - right out into the grass - and of course, there is no hope of removing every last piece, which is really what's required, but I have had a lot of success with another area of the garden and expect to be able to eradicate them from the raspberries as well. It is hopeless leaving them, as it makes picking the raspberries impossible without serious nettle rash. As a Desk Johnny I find this exercise back breaking so am doing a little at a time; however I may need to accelerate my timetable as I think the weather is turning. The nettle story so far:

The scrapings are where I have removed nettles. The very pale green bits nearest the camera are the raspberries - the rest is still nettles.

Posted on April 9, 2007 at 9:25 PM


Glad to see the little cat helping. I'm sure that she did most of the work (well the most important part: directing your efforts). The lavenders look lovely against the stone of the cottage.

Posted by: Alison on April 14, 2007 4:55 PM

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Sunday April 8, 2007

Easter Day

We ate eggs and enjoyed the garden. The weather is lovely and I am delighted that we are here in time to appreciate the tulips - some of which I planted.

Little Cat is doing well - more kittens on the way I'm afraid - Lloyd, our new neighbour is feeding her along with his two cats. In fact, with the two dogs, we are "all animalled out" as George puts it.
Here she is, on the left, having chased Tuna up a tree; all three cats share Lloyd's garden just fine but our garden is apparently Little Cat territory and Tuna is not allowed.
"The Cat with No Name".

Here are the tulips:

Posted on April 8, 2007 at 9:32 PM

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Saturday April 7, 2007


We went to Avranches to the market to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables....

..and some Teurgeule (rice pudding)...

....and here is "Chicken Man" - but we did not buy anything from him today...
(who is that handsome chap in the background?).

So we went to Avranches for the market....

...and so that I could visit the Phildar wool shop and buy some Coton No 4 to make another "Short and Sweet" shrug from the Happy Hooker. In fact, I went to get some for George's Mother to make her said shrug for her birthday in June, (she was very keen on it when we were at the Alexandra Palace show in October last year); however, they did not have any of the yarn in red (the colour in the book) - but they did have it in the most lovely gentian blue - so I am having one as well.
It will be fine as long as Alison, Sheila, and I do not have any common social events in our calendars this season.

Posted on April 7, 2007 at 8:22 PM


In fact Sheila and I are in the process of forming a club for the specific purpose of appearing together in our matching crochet garments. Ha!

Posted by: Alison on April 14, 2007 4:49 PM

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Monday March 19, 2007

The north wind, and snow.

I’m not sure what the “poor robin” was doing but we returned home last night to a very cold England. Unsurprisingly, everyone here enjoyed a lovely sunny week just as we did in France. It was truly spring, if not summer weather, but suddenly today the wind has switched round to the north and we have low temperatures again. It was snowing, sleeting and hailing today - all in brilliant sunshine - very odd. I was able to use my newly created "hottie" for real (I took it to France but it was surplus to requirements; look out for the pattern in "Pattern of the Month" in the autumn).

My living room was in a bit of a turmoil as I had used up the hour or so spare before leaving for the ferry in beginning to unpack “Pete's box of doll parts”. Well... more of this later, with pictures....

Owing to the rapid weather change I was unable to finish the minor (and hopefully temporary) repairs to the windows in the cottage. I had quite a successful time though, repainting the french window on the outside, and repainting the main bedroom walls, as they had become a bit shabby. I repainted the latter with an attempt at the same colour ("Mellow Sage"), which as usual turned out darker than the original - but a nice tone, matching the rest of the room well. Peter Bridges is due to replace the dormer window within the next month or so, as we suddenly realised the whole thing was totally rotten, and water pours in when it rains. We are hoping he will also address the main window downstairs - I have abandoned all hope of getting replacements that look like the originals, and am having to content myself with the knowledge that they will at least be wooden.

The cat has developed a cough, which I treated but hope to fix properly when I return at Easter (not long now) - as far as I can gather she should be OK until then, but you never know.... she is, after all, a "wild" cat.

Posted on March 19, 2007 at 9:44 PM

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Saturday March 17, 2007

That hard work.

George made up for the meal yesterday by lots of activity in the garden.

There is a rather unpleasant enclosure of an evergreen hedge around the side of the house; it is not altogether clear what its purpose is. It may be that it offers some privacy from the neighbouring house, but there may be a better way to achieve this. It also shields a view of the back of the house where the fosse used to be; however the fosse is now replaced and the area grassed over, so again it is not necessary. It may be some kind of wind break, but it is not between the house and the prevailing wind. So we decided that we would like to remove it, but have decided to do it cautiously in stages in a pincer movement from each end of the L-shaped hedge.

George began by removing the first tree. Click on the thumbnails to view the album.

Posted on March 17, 2007 at 6:14 PM

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Friday March 16, 2007

Good food, hard work, and cheerful company.

I am not sure we qualify on the hard work front but Ava and Peter, certainly do, and we spent the evening with them. Peter was late home as he is frantically trying to finish two house refurbishments to a March deadline. Ava as been managing the small holding alone for a few days, while Peter was in England; she had a disappointing time with her tiny flock of lambs, only one surviving out of the 5 born. After that it was continuous antibiotic injections for the ewes, to deal with infections ensuing from difficult labours. [Bruno, our French gardener, says that there have been a lot of lambs lost this year, although he himself was lucky, with his 5 lambs all surviving]. Ava's sheep are Suffolk, and, taking care of my own interests, despite my friend's troubles, I have placed the order for my fleece when shearing time comes.

My sister has sadly had to have her Jacob ram put down as he has now fully matured and was dangerously aggressive. He did his duty this year, though, and sired several chocolate brown lambs, so I have also placed an order for one of those fleeces as well. I think Jacob was a cross, and apparently these usually produce chocolate fleece rather than the usual mixed. So now I can spin all shades of brown and make arty lopi (or lumpy) sweaters....

Ava had booked us into a great restaurant, Les Martinaises, just outside Ducey, which is their nearest "proper" town. I ate warm oysters, lamb cutlets, and then finished with delices de pommes. [George ate my cheese course]. We are now both so stuffed, it's hard to even contemplate getting up the stairs to bed.

Posted on March 16, 2007 at 11:08 PM

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Monday March 12, 2007

Precocious primrose

We arrived on the overnight ferry yesterday and the weather is just lovely. George has already mowed the grass, and the garden looks great. I am feeling very complacent about the garden as there are hardly any weeds at all in the beds; I am not sure if this is due to hard work eliminating them over the past few years, or if we have just not been over here at this time of year before, and it's always like this prior to the full growing season!





Perfect primrose
Then bloom profusely
When winter's done
Like city faces lifted to the sun.

Shirley Billing "November Primrose"

Posted on March 12, 2007 at 9:18 AM

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Friday March 2, 2007


The conference ended today, and Mickey finally put in an appearance at breakfast. Here he is Meeting and Greeting:

Mickey1.jpg Mickey2.jpg Mickey3.jpg

Strangely (to me) he is much more popular than Mini - kids queuing up to see him. Some of them were too scared to go up to him when it was their turn - which is quite understandable - faced with a huge mouse twice their size at least - he looks so tiny on the cartoons.

Anyway, here I am at home now - safe from six-foot mice, and his friends. And - what a civilised way to travel that Eurostar is; I don't think I've ever felt so relaxed on company business. On the way over I completed a bit of work left over from last week; on the way back,I listened to my talking book and completed a pair of socks. Now I am going to retire with said book - it's "Remote Control" by Andy McNabb (not usually my sort of thing but he is an excellent writer and I was very interested to hear him talking about his life on Desert Island Discs once....) - just the last few tracks to go....

Posted on March 2, 2007 at 10:05 PM

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Thursday March 1, 2007

You wanna take my picture..?


Mini posing for me at breakfast time; sadly I did not do her justice, (camera-shake sans-flash as usual).

Posted on March 1, 2007 at 8:20 AM

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Grog, anybody?

The night of the Great Gala Dinner
They kept the park open late for us, and we managed 3 rides within the hour before we were forced to go to dinner (!).

Fliss_Joe.jpg Accompanied by Fliss and Joe - and the other 3000 participants - we went on "Haunted House", "Thunder Mountain" (Fliss was very brave about this one), and "Pirates of the Carribean". Joe and I did try for "Space Tours", as Joe was enthusing about the virtual software being done by my company; however, it was firmly "fermé" by the time we got there - and I think I had a narrow escape as I was assured by several veterans that it makes you feel quite groggy.
I had a great time - but Joe explained that you haven't really had the true experience unless you have spent an hour in a queue for a ride with 2 small kids in tow.

Mini-Pete.jpg The dinner was fun - as usual they are never too good about dietary exceptions but that's usually because the organisers fail to relate the "do you have any special dietary needs?" adequately to the restaurants. Fliss, yet again, got a vegetarian meal while protesting "but it's not meat I'm allergic to!". Glad I have no problems in this area, as I would not have the endless patience she seems to have to deal with it all.

After dinner, we were treated to some excellent entertainment, (besides the "entertainment" in the photo), which was pretty high quality but a bit loud for me, and I have now retired back to the hotel, so I can get up tomorrow for the 8:30 start. I wonder how many colleagues will make it tomorrow (today!)?


Posted on March 1, 2007 at 12:12 AM

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Monday February 26, 2007

I love Paris when it's raining


It is raining but not sure if it is Paris.
The hotel staff are surly enough but.... you might otherwise hardly guess.
Yesterday we were ruminating on the fact we were in France, in an American theme park, eating in a pseudo German beer keller.

So now you have guessed it - I am at at Eurodisney attending our annual business conference. It's not always here of course - I think the weirdest was in Crete where we appeared to have been booked into some kind of zoo. Everyone thought it was the drink causing them to see Emus and Ostriches roaming around as they returned to their chalets after hours.
However.... that was in another country....


I bought my Ears as soon as I arrived and wore them to the introductory drinks reception yesterday evening.
Most disconcertingly no-one mentioned them at all. Like having spinach on your teeth.
And I looked so cute in them - even though they are made to fit the under tens; an American colleague was just telling me that in Disneyworld they have Ears with a veil and Ears with a top hat for weddings - that's the spirit!
Anway I plan to give them another outing when we are let into the park on Wednesday - I was assured by another colleague that they will not only be acceptable at the gala dinner but de rigeur on the rides.


Posted on February 26, 2007 at 11:00 PM

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Monday January 1, 2007

Parcours Santé

How better to start the new year than fresh air and exercise? We found an Arboretum in the Forest of St Sever, at La Vierge à la Vilaine ["the Virgin with the naughty one"? - it might make sense except Vilaine is feminine - so - she's a bad girl or what?].


But then we found the perfect entertainment to maintain our healthy bodies. [Click on the thumbnails to open the album].

Do not try this at home (so much for the healthy exercise): George severely strained a muscle on the parallel bars (luckily too high for me try it), and although I could hang from the monkey bars, I could not actually move my hands from one bar to another....!

Posted on January 1, 2007 at 8:42 PM


Lovely pictures of the forest, looks like you had a good time. S

Posted by: Sheila on January 30, 2007 4:56 PM