Posted by: kathandroger | August 19, 2018

All along the River.

We live near to the river Creuse. There are lots of villages along the river, and events happen in each of them during the summer. There are firework displays, car boot sales, various exhibitions and general fun and games.
Last week we went to Lesigny, a few villages upriver, for the annual old car rally. Kath and I had spent the morning cycling with the club for four hours, so were a bit late, her in the old 2CV, and me in my old kit car. What a lovely event. In the middle of nowhere there were over 300 old cars, of all shapes, sizes and nationality, and loads of general eating and merrymaking.IMG_1736 The French have a natural talent for setting up tables and having a full on party lasting all day!IMG_1737 We only stayed for an hour or so, with the dog being admired sitting like lady muck in my car, and her smiling for photographers. Then it was off to another two exhibitions in Grand Pressigny, on the river Claise, a tributary of the Creuse. Lots of old car bits and rusting tractors. The wife was not amused, and decided to leave me and the dog to inspect the craft exhibition in the Chateau. She toured our lovely countryside in the little 435cc car on what was a most perfect summer day, and we met later at home.

In our own village the annual play in the troglodite caves has been running over the past few weeks. My thespian capabilities, having been displayed last year with another group, were called into service, and I have been playing the
Count of Belardy in a murder mystery. All in French, of course, and some of it in patois, so it has not been easy. At one stage I have to talk about a mortal attack with a pitchfork, a “coup de forche”. The problem is that “coup” in French is very like “cul” to the English ear, but the latter means arse! You can imagine which word came out this week! Much merriment for the French. But the play has gone well, with all the writing being done by the troupe, and the costumes all being specially made by the cast.IMG_0123 This is Guy, the President of the group, who works tirelessly for the Ethni Cite village troglodite Assosiation. We fear that he may retire from his post and that the organisation, which is mainly run on a voluntary basis, may be closed. It will be a great pity.

But the river has other charms. Having bought an expensive fishing permit at the start of the year, my first sortie was made this week. A friend has a lovely summer house on the banks of the Claise at nearby Chaumassay, and encouraged me to use it. Why is it that I specialise in catching what must be the smallest fish in every river I fish in? Within moments, the maggots which, against the wife’s wishes, had been kept in the fridge, proved their worth with a bleak of at least six centimetres in length. Easy fishing, I thought, I will put this little one back, then catch another to use on a big hook and catch a Zander-a fish I have never caught, but which taste delicious and are found locally in this river. I reckon that Mr Bleak rushed back and told all his mates about the dangerous Englishman and his intentions. No more fish, but a lovely afternoon on a lovely river.IMG_0124 As I have to say, it is not just about catching fish. I did see my first Hoopoe of the year on the way to the river, and a Kingfisher rushed by and laughed at my ineptitude!

Posted by: kathandroger | August 12, 2018

La Chasse.

Hunting is very popular here. The season is mainly in the winter, and is strictly controlled. But exceptionally permits are granted for hunting the wild boar in summer. There are lots of them in the area, and we have often seen families of pigs crossing the woodland roads at night. They do cause some damage to the crops, particularly the maize, and nearby there are signs of grazing on the now ripe cobs. So the hunters have an excuse for summer slaughter.
Yesterday morning we were woken by the sounds of baying hounds. I had been told that the hunt would be nearby, so went to investigate. “Bloody ell”, I thought, the whole of the district had invaded our little tracks.IMG_0116 There were cars and vans everywhere, especially the little white vans that every self respecting hunter must have. And there were rows and rows of chaps in their fluorescent red jackets lining the edges of the maize.IMG_0117
I had arrived by bicycle, a bit puffed, and bid “Bonjour!” to the nearest warrior. “Ssh” was the reply, and he gave me a fierce look. I guessed I was not his favourite observer, so cycled a bit down the lane and found my chum John Claude. He is a lovely chap and was very happy to chat. Apparently there were about sixty hunters that lovely summer morning, who had all started at about 7am, had been assigned their positions and were waiting for the wild animals to emerge from the cover of the crop to be greeted by a bullet in the head. The flushing out was done by our local hounds,kept just up the road at the goat farm. Some of them must have been in the maize, but the only one I saw only wanted IMG_0119to have a pee on one of the vans!
Lots of dog noise, lots of chaps standing around with guns and very little else. But it was a glorious morning and a pleasure to be outside. Bored after the several seconds of observation, I made my way home and took the dog for a walk-in the opposite direction to the hunt but up the hill so that we could monitor any action. There was none. After a couple of hours there was lots of hoots from the hunting horns and red clad chaps meandered off with hanging heads. No slaughter today.
I used to hunt in the UK. Mainly on expensive Pheasant shoots which rich patients had invited me to, and occasionally on the local fox hunt when the horse was in good enough condition. I loved it, but now don’t want to kill wild animals any more. Here in France hunting is done for the pot mainly, and the huge number of birds killed as in the UK, does not happen. Our local chaps may kill the odd brace of birds and even the many deer found locally, but it is all divided up and eaten by the hunters and their families. The boar shoots are different with powerful rifles needed, and sometimes they are done in the many large estates, in which animals are released and prevented from escape by the wire enclosures. The hunters just have to wait for the zoo animals to appear and slaughter them from their elevated platforms. Horrible.
I guess the summer boar hunts give the chaps an excuse for a gathering of like minded hunters, and probably a few drinks afterwards. As for preventing crop damage it really is like farting against thunder-boar can travel 50 km a night and I bet there were none in that maize to begin with. Sanglier 1 Hunters 0!

Posted by: kathandroger | August 5, 2018

High Summer.

The canicule continues. Hovering around 37 degrees and making the countryside look brown and parched. I am brown and parched as well, but have to admit the heat is too much for me. All energy seems to be sapped by the weather, and after midday the only thing to do is relax in the hammock. Kath’s cousin and his wife stayed with us last week and Martin has just retired as a very hardworking head teacher. He managed to relax.IMG_0097. They have gone back now so I have my hammock back!

We have had fun and games with the gites as well. One guest managed to lock himself in his room and had to be rescued by ladder.IMG_0104 The fault lay in a defective lock mechanism which had jammed, leaving no alternative to hacking through the oak door to relieve the blockage. Then I replaced the mechanism with another I found in the workshop. The same thing happened the next day and the poor lad was trapped again. Much cussing from him and me. Even more hacking of door frame was needed this time but all now seems well although I am not sure he shuts his door now!

The heat means energy is lacking, but jobs still need to be done. The fishpond has been leaking more and more. I had hoped to put off the repairs until the autumn, but the flooding of the courtyard indicated more urgent measures were needed. Two days emptying the pool, of water, fish, plants and mud was not fun, but did keep the temperature down when I was covered in mud and slime! The dog thought it all great fun.IMG_0111, but she was not the one in the muck!IMG_0112 The cleaned pond then needed painting with a special two pack preparation which was very sticky and difficult to put on. Much of it somehow got onto my bare feet and legs, and has taken hours to get off! But hopefully the fish will have a watertight home when the paint is finally cured in a few days time.

The huge field behind our land has now been harvested. The wheat was good this year, but it is lovely to see the remnants of the previous crop still trying to hang on to existence.IMG_0106 The day after I took the photo the farmer sprayed the land to kill off all the unwanted growth. What a pity.

We went to Chatellerault last evening to see the balloon festival. It was the European Championships and a spectacle was promised. The event was due to start at 7pm, and the roads to the airfield duly jammed. After parking randomly in an adjoining field, we were told that the start had to be postponed because the air was too hot! The food available did not look interesting so we decided to pop back into the town because it would take hours before activities commenced. Duly we had a nice Italian meal, only to see all the balloons in the air before we made it back!IMG_1717. Never mind, we did see one being inflatedIMG_1730 and the band was good afterwards. It looks exciting, but I have to say my one trip in a balloon in Dorset was a bit of a disappointment. Up high, the ground looks flat, and the lovely silence is interrupted by the blasts of heated air needed to keep the thing flying. I shall stick to appreciating the countryside on foot!

Posted by: kathandroger | July 29, 2018

Animals.

We are surrounded by animals here in rural France. Both domestic and wild, they provide us with great entertainment. Not so much last week though, when the sheep, probably led by the goat, found that they could push their way through the gate from the field, trespass into out neighbours field and eat a new and interesting menu. If they did not express their delight by continuous baaing, they could have stayed the night, but the escape was soon discovered and they were shepherded home, and the old gate made more secure. Gates don’t deter dog and mog, who continue to play together, with the dog not realizing that she is larger than the cat and unable to get through the same size holes. Several high speed chasing incidents have resulted in a concertinerd Polly.
But a couple of days ago we had a glut of wild animal incidents.
On coming home in the car, we noticed five storks in our friend Manus’ field. We sometimes see them flying over, but rarely on the ground and never so many together. It is not the season for migration, so I guess they may be a family with young from a nest nearby. The birds have been different this year; we have more and more swallows, but I have only seen one Bee Eater and only a glimpse of a Hoopoe.
Polly the Airedale is great for demonstrating the local wildlife. She has yet to catch anything other than her squeaky bunny toy, but she does enable us to view the animal and bird population. I took her out the other evening, and first call was a family of wild partridge, Grey I think, and she had great fun chasing them though the sunflowers. We then came to a field of mowed wheat. Hares seem to be everywhere at the moment, and they are lovely creatures, with fur nicely coloured to match the corn, but a mistake has been made with those great big black ears! They often crouch down when spotted, but the ears are a giveaway. Anyway there were two in the one field, and for once our intelligent dog spotted them both. They were about fifty metres apart, probably in courtship, and the poor dog did not know which to chase first. Needless to say the chase ended with no hare being caught, and a confused dog wanting to understand where the second animal had gone. Hares have a wonderful way of running in a straight line and then when in cover changing direction completely. The poor dog always goes straight on and returns at last panting, confused and frustrated. But this evening another bonus was in store. No sooner had we entered a local secluded wood than she took off at top speed through the undergrowth. I heard lots of rustling and twigs being broken, and after a few moments a family of Red Deer careered across the path just in front of me. Two adults and two well grown youngsters, and then an outclassed terrier in pursuit. The Red Deer are so much larger an more impressive than the little Roe Deer that are more common, and it was a delight to see them. Dog exhausted again!
On returning home we passed through the sweetcorn fields by the house and noticed lots of plants near the path had been bashed down and the cobs eaten.
I guess it is the work of the wild boar, and would explain why there have been lots of extra hunts in the area recently to try to keep the numbers down. Apparently they can travel many kilometres each night, so it must be a fairly futile measure, but it keeps the hunters happy!
And finally a visit was made to our local famous Zoo at Beauval. The celebrity panda cub is rapidly growing and showing off to the world.IMG_1674 Wonderful to see, but I prefer our local fauna!

Posted by: kathandroger | July 22, 2018

The pigs playground and my French wife.

We have lots of dense woods around our house. The whole area is a bit of a mystery to me, because I am convinced that our grounds were once a fortress, perhaps of the same time as the fort in nearby St Remy sur Creuse which was built by Richard Lionheart. Only one tower remains of that great building, and our grounds certainly contain walls built of the same, non local, stone. The land opposite ours was once cultivated parcels of land which have now become overgrown into woods. The dug out edges of the plots can still be seen, and there are several small ponds which I guess were used for irrigation. Polly and I love to make our way through the dense undergrowth-there are no paths, and she loves to chase any of the small animals she finds there. One small pond, now a mud hole, has been used by some of the local wild boar.IMG_0080 Their footprints and rolling area are easy to see, and I hope our scent hasn’t put them off visiting their beauty centre.

I now have a French wife. She is the same one as before, but after the long and laborious process of application, she has been accepted as a French citizen. Her English learning students put on a reception for her a couple of weeks ago, and she was presented with the traditional French offerings of cheese, wine, a bagette and beret, and a strange certificate.IMG_1666
I am not sure what effect it will have on our lives, but she will probably get though the queues at airports in Europe quicker than me! Nationalism is a concept I have yet to appreciate, to me we are all the same whatever country we are born in, but I do recognise her desire to vote in the country in which we live.

One of the lovely things about France is the money and energy spent in making the local towns look good. In our local town of Chatellerault, huge amounts of money has been spent on the approaches to the town, with new avenues lined with flowers and newly planted trees. And in the village centre this huge creature made entirely of flowers on a frame has been constructed.IMG_1652
This photo was taken a month or so ago, and now it looks even more magnificent. The only problem with it is the number of motorists hanging out of the windows of their cars to gawp or to take pictures! There is some austerity in France, as in UK, but money always seems to be available to make our environment a more pleasurable place to be in. Adornments in a little town like Chatellerault add a smile to our lives.
And as for the garden at the moment, we have never had so much fruit. The larger apple tree has split in two with the weight of pommes, and the plums are arriving by the ton. I shall have to buy a fruit press.

Posted by: kathandroger | July 15, 2018

Football fever….and Hay fever.

I don’t really like football. Although I played the game for many years, and loved it, the modern professional game is spoiled by too much money and too much cheating for me. It seems that exaggerating injury and playing for penalties is as important as trying to win a game legally. However. the World Cup competition has been wonderful. Well done Russia, for putting on a great show, and well done the supporters for getting to that far off land, and for the real joy you have shown in following your team. Here, with France in the final, the excitement is at fever pitch.IMG_4008
With Kath having gained her French passport, the Union Jack has given way to the Tricolour, and our giraffe has been flying it for the past fortnight. We originally had a larger flag draped around its neck, but that one was stolen within days. The latter was stolen last night, so someone possibly thinks we should not be French supporters! They would have had to climb onto the wall and use some snippers to cut the flag free, and it is all a bit of a mystery. But the mood in the village is one of great optimism for the final this afternoon, and even the flowers are coming out in support of “Les Bleus”IMG_4001This lovely Chicory is from over the road, and even the vegetable patch has shown its support.IMG_4009The Globe artichokes have been rather neglected this year. A very different vegetable, but a real pain to prepare, and in out opinion not really worth the effort. But they look nice, and are a bit rough to handle, a bit like some of the French footballers. But what about Croatia, the opponents? Chapeau to a small country with only an indigenous population to choose from. They have some very good players, and I for one would like to see them win. Footy has become so international now, and it seems strange that I can remember the famous Celtic team of many years ago who won the European Cup with players all born withing 30 miles of Glasgow. So for me I would like the Croats to win a good fair and fast game. We will see later this afternoon, when the majority of the country will be inside watching their televisions.

Hay fever has been another feature of the past week or so. Not in the medical sense, but that every available field seems to have been mown for hay. Even long neglected pastures have been given the short back and sides treatment, and the balers have been everywhere. Having lost our first cutting to the storms, Manu, our local farming friend, has made some lovely small bales for me and we now have enough for the sheep and goat for the winter. All stacked in the new barn and looking good.IMG_4006
Polly has had her stitches out after her sterilisation and is back on top form again. She has even been forgiven for pinching the little one legged chick from its mother and playing with it like a toy. The chick succumbed, but its mother didn’t seem perturbed and is back in the flock as if it was the best outcome. She is probably right.

Posted by: kathandroger | July 8, 2018

Audrey, Villandry, and the one legged chick.

About a year ago we went to a party for a friends’ birthday. It was held in a smallish hall in one of our local villages, and a band performed. The singer was a lady called Audrey. She was not glamorous, she did not have an impressive voice, she was in her mid thirties and was very rotund. And she was wonderful, as were her fellow musicians. Audrey has a special charm about her, and her jazz songs were sung with impressive vocal timing in a manner very different from the usual raucous outpourings we have been used to. After that good evening we forgot about her, until one evening she was on the French TV competition “Ze Voice”, which is a well known national talent show for aspiring artists. Lots of razzmatazz and a big thing here. Audrey got to the semi finals and really made her mark. She now has bookings all over the country, and rather than singing part time, is now in the job she loves. Luckily for us, she is still a friend of our friend, and agreed to perform for us, this time outside in a much larger venue in Grand Pressigny.IMG_1678And this time the audience was packed.IMG_1680
Well done Audrey, we look forward to having known a star!

We were sitting under the stars last night at Villandry, one of the lovely Chateaux on the Loire. It was for the night of a thousand lights, an annual display which we have not seen before, and which half of France seemed to have attended when we finally managed to park the car.IMG_1692 The event allegedly began at about 9pm, but, as is typical in France, eventually started soon after 11pm. Just as well, though, as it was a firework display(which I don’t really care for) with well known classic music(which I love). The setting, around a large ornamental lake, was stunning, and the spectacle hugely impressive. It was ironic, thousands of us sitting on the banks of an ancient hand dug lake, checking I phones for the soccer scores before watching a computer controlled display of the latest incendiaries. What would the labourers of five hundred years ago thought if they had been there?

Back at home, Amber the chicken has finished sitting on her dozen eggs. Final score, several broken, one dead chick and one live chick. A poor show, but it was her first go at it, and sitting doing nothing for three weeks, other than to get off the nest for an impressive bowel evacuation, must be really boring.IMG_4004We only lifted her off the nest this morning and a few moments ago Kath informed me that the new chick has only got one leg. Now one of us can’t count. I reckon it has two, and if it walks rather than hops, I think my diagnosis will be confirmed. Anyway one is enough for us, as there is not enough room in the chicken house for more inhabitants. Amber has been sharing the her private room in the log store with a baby swallow which has clearly fallen from the nest before it could fly. Usually the babies just succumb, but this one has taken to perching on the logs, and is obviously still being fed by the parents. It has now progressed to hanging onto the wall, so flying may commence soon.IMG_4005This is the first time we have had swallows in the wood store, and they seem to be even more plentiful this year; sadly against the general trend.

Posted by: kathandroger | July 1, 2018

Canicular activities.

We are in the middle of the first canicule (heatwave) of the summer. Approaching the mid thirties and full sun. That is until last night, when having left all the soft outdoor furnishings uncovered because of the rainless forecast, we had a thunderstorm this morning! Still I guess the sun we are promised today will dry everything out.
But just because it is hot and difficult to work, tasks still have to be done. The sheep needed shearing and a French pal had promised to help me as he has two of his own sheep to deal with and wanted some lessons! The only problem was that he did not turn up. Luckily we have had some delightful Australians staying and Max, a ready for everything schoolteacher was willing to help. First lesson of sheep shearing is to catch the sheep before starting. Having set up all the kit, with a long electricity lead from the house, the bloody animals escaped from the little holding trap I had made for them. Rosemary, the one who has had 13 babies, is always a bugger to catch, and she knew something was up and was off under the fence like a greyhound from the trap! Only big heavy Hercules, the ram, was left. I am beginning to think he is a bit like myself, older and slower and less inclined to vigorous escapades. The old fella didn’t even mind when I started the shears and, with him still standing, started giving his big head a crewcut. He seemed to be thinking that the haircut was inevitable and as long as he stood still and upright then the torture could be endured. And that’s what happened, for the first time ever I sheared a sheep who remained upright and mainly motionless throughout the procedure! I think Max was impressed, especially as it only took about half an hour when the professionals do one sheep every minute. I left the others for another day, but to my surprise caught them in the trap with a bait of bits of old bread, and was able to shear the girls as well. No staying still for them, though, and the old trick of tying the legs together had to be employed. Flossie, became quite happy after she was released and even stayed resting in the comfort of her lightweight summer coat.IMG_3995
Yesterday was changeover day in the gites. For some strange reason I have been promoted to helping in the washing routine, namely carrying out and hanging up the washed bed linen. How can women do it so well and I struggle so helplessly to get big sheets to fit onto the washing line? This is yesterday’s sample, with Kath’s on the right and mine on the left.IMG_4000Maybe I will improve, or maybe I will be relegated to former tasks; I hope it is the latter!
Poor old Polly. After long discussions, we decided to have her sterilized. I had wanted to have a litter from her, but the Boss was quite right in saying it was not practical and would be too much trouble to look after a big litter of pups. So there she is IMG_3999all her womanly organs have been ripped asunder and she is no longer whole. We can console ourselves that nasty future illnesses have been prevented, but I am sad that her breeding potential has been curtailed purely for our convenience. Polly has expressed no opinion, but we hope she will soon be back to her hugely entertaining naughty self!

Posted by: kathandroger | June 24, 2018

Hammocks and Triathlons.

We have six hammocks here. All but one are for the guests, and they are well used. What a lovely bit of kit a hammock is! If only I had more time to use them. There is something super relaxing about the gentle swinging from side to side, especially in the hot weather we have been having recently. A couple of glasses of the local rose wine with a good lunch and then an hour or so of gently swinging recumbency is a pleasure beyond compare. We have a hanging cradle type of hammock which is my favorite. The wife spends most of the day in it whilst I get on with the daily tasks.IMG_3994
Actually that last statement is a complete porky, and she will kill me if I don’t explain that I asked her get in it for the first time today for a photo! The advantage of having only one suspending rope is that the view can be constantly changing, and the increased freedom of swing adds to the experience. But recently I have had a problem in using our own private hammock. As with everything, the dog wants to be involved. After showing her how the device should be used, she has decided that it is for her use only, and barks endlessly unless she is gently swinging as well!IMG_3992
She hasn’t yet managed a glass of wine whilst swinging though.

Friends Paul and Clare arrived this weekend from Luxembourg for the local Nouatre Triathlon. Only the lady of the party was competing, with her husband being the team backup man. Triathlon is a sport which has blossomed over the past twenty or so years, and consists of a swim, then a bike ride and then a run. Distances vary, from the short “sprint” distance of 400 metres swim, 20km ride and then 5km run, to the “ironman” distance of 2.4miles(4km) swim, 112 miles(180km) on the bike, and then a full marathon (42km)! Yesterday it was the Olympic distance of 1500m swim, 40km on the bike and 10km run. It was hot and windy, but the swim down the river Vienne was aided by a good current so time in the water was shorter than normal. The little village of Nouatre comes alive for this one day a year, with competitors coming from all over France and Europe. This was the 35th running of the event, and one which the wife would still be doing if she wasn’t hampered by not being able to run anymore. I would have done it myself if I had been twenty years younger, fitter, and more inclined to self torture. But Clare done good!triathlon Second in class and fourth veteran lady and very pleased with her time of under three hours. Chapeau.

Posted by: kathandroger | June 17, 2018

Eating Pigs nostrils at the village fete.

We have just come back from the village fete. This annual event is the only one which reliably brings most of our neighbours together, and is often cancelled for inclement weather. Not this year though, with some unusual sunshine and fairly warm weather and a good turnout. At our first event, nine years ago, I was subjected to an alcoholic assault from our friend Guy, which resulted in my legs not working when we tried to walk on the candle lit procession around the village. My frequent stumblings were noted by our new French friends, and each year I am reminded of my failings. It meant we made our mark though, and at least most of the local residents know who we are! This evenings’ event was as usual, a short speech from the mayor, and then some complementary drinks before supper.IMG_1626
Everyone brings their own meal, but these are inevitably shared around the table. Ours was fairly mainstream, with melon and ham and then some local quiche and couscous, but we were pleased to be offered some pigs nostrils from some other diners.IMG_1622
I have to admit that a pigs’ nose is not on the top of my culinary wish list, but they were quite tasty if a little unremarkable. Still, it is another French delicacy which can be added to the “have eaten* dishes. And I have to add that despite the flow of aperitifs and wines, my legs were still in working order after the meal.
But that was yesterday. Today was the annual cycling club picnic. And all this after a rain affected barbeque for our friend Pauls’ birthday on Friday night. Life is difficult here with all this eating we have to do. Anyway, at the crack of dawn we were off to a local town leisure centre to begin our ride at 8am.IMG_1642 Needless to say, everyone was there on time-the French do love their regimented regimes-and we began our 80 kilometre spin around the surrounding countryside. I have to say that it did make me puff a bit, but it was the ideal way to work up an appetite. Aperitifs were started at about noon, mainly sparkly wine to celebrate John-Claudes’ 70th birthday, but these had to be taken with nibbles of all sorts, which really was a meal in itself. The now showered and refreshed party installed themselves in a pretty corner of the park in readiness for the real meal to begin.IMG_1650 Exactly at the arranged hour, the “Traiteurs” van arrived and all the prepared delicacies were beautifully arranged. I always find it a little confusing with all the different traditional courses, but an suffice to say that their were six dishes, all washed down with the appropriate wine of course. The meat did not include any noses, but did have some lovely rare beef,which the French do so well.IMG_1648 Polly the dog did well also, with all the tough bits being donated surreptitiously under the tables. The meal finished at about 4.30. Incidentally, it is interesting that the dog will only eat her own food when nothing more interesting is available, and even then she doesn’t mind sharing it with Dennis the cat!IMG_1603

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