Posted by: kathandroger | September 15, 2019

Cats and the Russian Vine.

When I was a nipper in London, we were not allowed a cat. I wasn’t even allowed a budgie, but did have a couple of goldfish, so I can’t pretend to be deprived. One bonus of adulthood was the ability to have any animal we could look after, hence a grand menagerie over the years. Now, some animals need looking after and tending to a couple of times a day, such as the greedy pig. Others can be left to manage themselves for a few days like the silly sheep. Some crave attention, like the adorable dog, and others can be used for pleasure, such as the horse.

Cats are different. They seem to regard us as an intermittent convenience; to provide them with food, although they can slaughter the local wildlife for nutrition if they need to, and to occasionally pet them, but only when they decide it is needed. The cat is the boss of the household, a supreme being who lives an independent life and uses humans only when he feels like it. Manipulative, especially when their food is late, intermittently aggressive, when their food is late, and sometimes loud, when their food is late. We are here to serve the cat, and the cat serves himself.

Our cat is called Dennis. It should have been called Una, after the friend who found him abandoned on a local track. He was a few weeks old, and still trying to suckle. It was only after a few weeks, that our little girl kitten was identified as a boy, so the name had to be changed to Una’s husbands’! Our dog hated cats, and we put the little mite in between its legs and expected it to be eaten. After a short pause, Boudie started licking the kitten, and that was the start of our cat being raised by a dog. Suckling was a problem, but the little thing was soon drinking milk and now, after six years, has grown into the matriarch of the menagerie. Dennis is very independent, and can be left for a couple of weeks when we go away, being fed by a clever machine which dispenses his food, and being able to jump into the back kitchen for shelter through a little hole we have made. On our return we just get a dirty look and life goes on as normal.

Dennis has a bad paw at the moment, but is generally very fit, and likes to be carried about sitting on my shoulders but only when it suits him of course. And he does like his comforts. My hammock has been chosen as the suitable site for his convalescence, so I have had to move elsewhere to relax.IMG_1017 (2)How can these animals control the household so easily?

 

Russian Vine, Mile a Minute, and lots of other names in Latin which I will never remember. A bloody great beast of a plant, which is used to cover unsightly buildings, and which can cover virtually anything near it in next to no time. Not very pretty, but apparently the bees like it, so it is not a real menace to everything. I have never needed to plant it, and never really noticed many round here, but this specimenIMG_1015 (2)in a local village just could not be ignored. Yes, it is just one plant, and has been cut back several times over the years, but has had its revenge and covered all these trees and buildings. It must be thirty feet high in the background, and over an area of at least a tennis court. I wonder if it is a Russian plot to cover the world in vegetation?

Posted by: kathandroger | September 8, 2019

It’s time again!

The hunting season starts here tomorrow. No more quiet Sunday mornings, the local killers will be about at 8am blasting anything that moves. I am staying still. It really does seem too early for what should be a winter pursuit, but the hunters have been waiting for tomorrow for weeks. I badly blotted my copybook with the locals this morning. Having taken Polly for her early morning walk, we came back via the big field behind our property. The oil seed rape had long been harvested, and the vast area had been sprayed with some noxious chemical the week beforehand. Polly was interested to see a van and a couple of chaps with boxes, releasing something into the vast emptiness of the field. It was the target for tomorrow, dozens of almost tame pheasants and partridge.IMG_1010

The dog thought it was great fun, and all for her, these multiple running and flying things all over her local walking spot. She gave chase with very great enthusiasm, which was matched by the very great anger of the two chaps. My frantic whistling to the dog had no effect whatsoever, and she only came back, reluctantly, when the birds had all been chased to far off parts. My apologies were not readily received, and I was told that it is illegal to not have my dog on the lead in the hunting season. My remonstration that the season did not start til tomorrow did not have a calming effect on the chaps. I have to admit that I was secretly delighted; poor little birds, just out of the rearing pens and almost tame, put down to be blasted within one day. I don’t think I will be given a brace as a present!

But I do like and admire the local Gamekeeper. John Claude looks after a local shoot, and is a very knowledgeable chap about all things natural. I first came across him when again my dog was not on the lead, and was gently admonished. Since then we have become friends, and he has brought us local mushrooms and information about the local animals. He is assisted in his work by several hidden cameras in the woods, which enable him to see what is going on using his smartphone monitor. He stopped this week to ask if we knew a couple who had spent some hours in the private woods he looks after; he had their photographs from his hidden camera! No, we did not know them, but did find it disturbing that an innocent foray into the woods, possibly with amorous intent, could be filmed and viewed by someone miles away. I guess that is progress.

I visited one of our local villages for a brocante (selling any old rubbish from stalls, which the French love), last week. I had been there very many times, but rarely on foot, and a wander around the place really illustrated how the small villages have lost their independence. The several shops had long been closed, and only the facades remain.IMG_0999 (2)This was a shoe shop amongst other things, but has been closed for many years. The buildings themselves are often in poor repair, as is the church, and this sign amused me greatly.IMG_1002 (2)In fairly small writing, it explains that bits of the building may fall off and that pedestrians should walk on the other side of the road. Very sensible, but the sign is only legible when standing in the position of danger! Nothing fell on me.

Finally, our tomatoes are wonderful at the moment. A salad with lots of them and the local cheeses, with leftover stirfry and chicory is just wonderful, especially with a glass of chilled Pinot Gris, my favourite wine of the moment.IMG_1006 (2)Please don’t let the summer end.

 

Posted by: kathandroger | September 1, 2019

Is our dog Chicken?

Well it is raining at last. Not real proper rain, but faint drops falling from the sky and enough to make Polly the dog drip all over the kitchen floor. I have not seen the countryside so dry in the ten years we have lived here. The reservoirs are very low and the rivers have little flow. In fact the rivers have affected the fish to the extent that I can no longer catch them, and a little expedition of fly fishing this week only saw shoals of grinning chub and barbel avoiding my inexpertly placed lures. Never mind, this rain may remind them that their duty is to be impaled on a concealed hook!

The last week has been hot again, in the low 30’s, and the trees are beginning to show the first signs of autumn. The chicks are growing fast and Flappy Wings, the mother, has nothing to do with them now, in fact she shoos them off any food we throw to them. Flappy is a very stout character, who raised her brood with great efficiency and then disowned them completely when they were big enough to fend for themselves. Maybe there are a few lessons there. Anyway, one thing she can do is compete with great success with the dog for any morsels of food. Polly is quite greedy herself, but a peck on the nose from Flappy is enough to send her into an instant retreat.IMG_0997

The poor dog has to wait until the chicken has finished! We often say that nervous people are “chicken”, so I guess poor old Polly fits the bill!

And talking of birds, our swallows have been flocking more and more recently. From our little farm buildings, where nearly every outhouse has a nest or two, I have counted over 60 birds on the wires. It is a lovely sight given that they are apparently less common now in the UK. But for some reason, they love to spend a few seconds on the barn roof opposite our house, and there they are joined by flocks of House Martins.IMG_0992 The latter for some reason do not nest here, although I have seen a pair trying to build a nest on one of our barns. Why they should all flock together I have no idea. Maybe the enhanced warmth of the roof is pleasurable, or maybe they just like a cross breed chat.

I was visiting a friend this week in a village a few miles away, and was surprised to find the normally deserted roads full of people and cars, with lots of chaps waving batons about. It was a local professional bike race, the “Tour de Poitou Charentes”, which was taking place over several days in the region. Like a mini Tour de France, with less attention, but still enough to get the French out of their houses and to stand on the roadside to see the fleeting passage of the riders. Lots of local roads were closed, and plenty of tempers raised when workers had to wait until the riders have passed.

There are still lots of old houses which are falling down and neglected in this part of France. Perhaps the most extreme example is this one just across the fields from us.IMG_0987

Yes it really was a nice house some time ago, and has wonderful views over the valley below. I am not sure whether it had a water supply, and there is no sign of electricity, and I think renovation is a bit ambitious. What a pity.

Posted by: kathandroger | August 25, 2019

La Rentree…but not for me!

Well, it is nearly the end of August, and the schools go back tomorrow. It is a strange time here; all the collective energies of the French seem to be concentrated on getting the kids back into the classrooms. The Supermarkets are full of school stuff, and the news is all about the end of the holidays. But much more surprising to me is that the families seem to have gone indoors for the preparation; very few children are about, all doing their preparations for the new term I guess. My son and his family visited this week from Germany, and we cycled to the local “Beach”-in fact the mown bit of river bank at Leugny, expecting it to be a bit crowded with merrymakers, and I was astonished that we were the only ones there!

What a joy are grandchildren; all the pleasure and none of the responsibility! Aged two and four it is a delightful age, even though communication is sometimes difficult with them speaking German. In fact my son speaks only English to the children, and they understand the language well, but speaking has to be coaxed out of them. IMG_0985And when the English does come out it is always perfect and without any trace of accent. I love to hear truly bilingual children, but it does make me feel very inadequate. And I do remember the potty training days, but sometimes two year olds can be a bit too enthusiastic!IMG_0978He was supposed to be playing stones with his bucket!

We tend to forget that we live in a very pretty part of France where people want to come to walk or bike the local trails. There have been a few of these recently, and this morning my usually solitary walk with the dog was joined by hoards of “foreigners” taking part in an organised event from the village. The only problem is that the way marking is becoming a bit complicated, with arrows on the ground all over the place.IMG_0986 I guess they will all be gone when and if we get some rain.

A good friend of mine helped me with some plans I have for building in the future. He has renovated an old property locally, and being an Architect, has done a wonderful job over a couple of years. His wife has a white van. Yes I know that is nothing unusual, but she has come up with a good way of recognising her vehicle amongst all the other hoards of white vans locally.IMG_0960There is a large frog on the other side!

Having a dog is good for knowing when there are people about, much louder and more persistent than a door bell. Perhaps even better than that is a flock of geese. I used to keep some in the UK, but they are not friendly animals, and are the only beast which can poo more than it ingests! Anyway, a local chap has installed a flock in his front garden, presumably as a deterrent to burglars.IMG_0955They are certainly very noisy, and after I went closer to say hello, a very large and fierce looking dog ran out and barked at me…. belt and braces or what?

Posted by: kathandroger | August 18, 2019

A Year already?

It is true that the years get shorter. They seem to last a couple of months nowadays, and the annual car rally at Lesigny was on us again on the public holiday last Thursday. Where did that last year go to? Anyway, the pilgrimage was made in the old banger, with Polly the dog at my side as usual. We did not want to go on the rally with all the other old cars, because mine tends to overheat when the line of old vehicles slows and often stops, so we arrived a bit late and apologised for missing the start. A few others stayed behind as well. I loved this old 2CV.IMG_0941I don’t know if it was a standard model, or had been converted as a mini camping car. And I used to have one of thesesIMG_0942The year on the number plate is about right too! I sold mine for £320, and thought I had done a good deal. Nowadays a good example will sell for nearer £32,000!! A lovely looking car, but no proper windows and a bit draughty in the winter.

But this year we decided to look at the accompanying Brocante in the village.IMG_0947 This is now a huge affair, with hundreds of stalls, and in the good weather everyone seemed to be doing a decent trade. Most of the stuff is pure tat, but there are always some little trinkets to buy, this year some old door fittings and locks. The atmosphere is always pleasant, the prices low, and lots of fun is had by both sellers and buyers. The dog felt a little upstaged however, when this little thing appeared in front of her.IMG_0946 (2)It seemed quite happy and made no attempt to get rid of the encumbrances, and I guess it is not the first time it has performed. A good day, and later enriched by a drive to the other rally at Le Grand Pressigny, where there were lots of old tractors and bits and pieces for cars, as well as a craft fair in the Chateau. It is always a pleasure to see the diversity of talent in the area, but I did baulk at the prices for old lamps made out of bits of old metal. I made one last week, it cost next to nothing, and was at least as good as some on sale for a hundred euros. Maybe I should sell some myself, but the pleasure would have gone from the making.

Lots of good hay was made this year, particularly at the start of the heatwave. But lots of fields were left uncut. This was particularly thoughtless when it involved some of our walking routes. The tracks are in some places shoulder high in grass even now, and it must feel like a jungle to Polly.IMG_0940

The harvesting of the onions and shallots has been completed. What an embarrassment! Usually I reckon to have three or four long strings of fat onions which last all through the year. Not foreseeing the canicule, and thinking that everyone starts too early in the planting season, the sets were planted at precisely the wrong time, and fried in the sun! My neighbour Claude, who put his in early, had a good crop, but this is the entire produce from our garden.IMG_0950 (2)How pathetic! Still, there are enough little onions and shallots to make one bowl of soup I reckon, and I will know better next year. We live and learn!

Posted by: kathandroger | August 11, 2019

English weather at last!

We have had some rain after seemingly endless weeks of hot sun. 15 degrees this morning on the regular trip to Descartes market, and only a few pairs of shorts to be seen. Great news for the garden, and the last desperate attempt I made at sowing some seeds seems to be working, with carrots, turnips and even some late onions showing signs of life.IMG_0927As always, there are some crops which seem to like the heat: here are our squash, which are doing well, and behind them the courgettes and cucumbers, which are in their usual abundance. The tomatoes are only average, but as we have so many plants there will be no shortage, and I hope Kath will make more of her lovely ratatouille this year. Some fruits show signs of sunburn, IMG_0932but the majority are in good condition. Incidentally, I found a dead weasel in the garden a few days ago, killed, I think by our cat Dennis. He was certainly looking very proud of himself, as I understand that weasels can be a very aggressive foe. Anyway, it crossed my mind that my artist friend may want the skeleton of the little beast for one of his creations. Preparing the corpse would be a problem I thought, but the next day the problem was resolving, with hundreds of tiny maggots doing a super job of cleaning flesh from the bone. What a wonder is nature!

I tend to forget a bit about the sheep at this time of the year. Their pasture has been mown to try and reduce the thistles for next year. This is done with an Allen Scythe, which is an attachment to my big rotavator, and I was very pleased with myself to be able to do it in third gear, reducing the time it normally takes as the ground was so dry. Our field of about an acre is next to a huge one of many hundred acres, and whilst I was making my way up and down, with a cutting width of about a metre, my friend and neighbour Emilion was topping his great field with a huge tractor. We smiled and waved at each other, then laughed, but I was finished before him! The flock tend to spend most of the day in their cave, where it is cooler, and feed in the early morning and evening.IMG_0923The four lambs are almost as big as the parents now, but were not sheared, and their coats are a much duller colour. I still occasionally feed them some “sheepnuts” to keep them tame. I have no idea what they contain, but it must be delicious, and they run over to the feeding area as fast as they can when I call them.

The calm of our little road was pleasantly shattered by the sound of horses hooves this morning. IMG_0936I had noticed a vast new congregation of tents, bikes and horses in a local village a couple of days ago, and the roads and tracks have been adorned with arrows in various colours and pointing in various directions. It appears that this is an annual event, held at differing venues and attraction several hundred participants, in carriages, on horseback, on bicycles, and on foot. This year the participants came from 27 different French departments (counties), all intent on enjoying the delights of our little remote area. What a pity it rained! It has stopped now, so I hope everyone has dried out and is no doubt drowning their sorrows at the celebratory meal.

Posted by: kathandroger | August 4, 2019

Just rambling on.

In fact our rambling with one group has stopped for the summer break, a good thing as midday temperatures have been around 30 degrees still. Early morning is the best time for walking at present, with the sun just enough to dispel the cool from the shaded areas. The corn has all been harvested, and only the sunflowers and maize remain. Polly the dog loves rampaging through the tall plants, which seem to be planted with just enough gap between them for dogs to chase whatever they can. Today it was an artful moggie that sent Polly the wrong way on our walk; it makes a change from the hares, which give her no chance whatsoever, and even pause to look back and admire their cunning when she has been left miles behind. Having lost my loud whistle with stitches in my upper lip after the bike accident, the facility has now been regained, in fact even improved, and the dog must be able to hear from the next department, and she comes back looking very pleased with herself, just as I am!

It is still dry as a bone here. The local reservoir, which doubles as Polly’s swimming pool, has never been as low.IMG_0913The carp are all around the edges in the early morning, and delight in swimming away from the dog when she tries to chase them.

De Gaulle has been installed on the edge of the goldfish pond. It was only after taking this photo that I noticed I have put his left ear on the wrong way round!IMG_0917I mentioned my latest game to a friend last night, explaining it was mad out of an old stone. “Oh yes,” he exclaimed, “it must be a gallstone!” Clever bugger.

Talking of making sculptures out of rubbish, I visited a French neighbour locally who has been rebuilding an old family house on the banks of the river. I had given him some old oak door fittings a few months ago, and I reckon he was trying to pay me back. Anyway he proudly announced that he had collected a “few things” for me, and proceeded to load my little car with what felt like tons of old twisted bit of metal, including tools, old saw blades and various unidentifiable lumps of metal. I had to look grateful, and took it all away, but have no idea what to do with it…. actually, I have, and am starting to make a huge metal bird that he can have back in his garden!

Another chum, who has become a respected local artist with his varied creations, asked me if I had any owl droppings in our big barn. He wanted to dissect out the tiny bones they contain to use in a very delicate piece he is working on. In fact I didn’t find any for him, but mentioned a dead long eared bat that I found in my workshop.IMG_0912Apparently, the skull will be exactly the right size for his masterpiece, and he will dissect it out and clean it. Nowt as strange as folk!

It was the final performance last evening for the Black Prince in a local production. Again we had a good attendance of several hundred, but again my own participation did not start until about 11.30pm! And I buggered up some of my lines about numbers, but that only seemed to add to the amusement. A good enjoyable local event, and I was pleased to have done it, but feel it may be my last performance.

And finally we were just saying that we hadn’t seen any wild boar for months, although their damage is all around. Today at 10 30 this morning a family of them crossed the road in front of me; daddy and mummy pigs and several little ones. It was lovely to see, especially as the local hunt had been out after them yesterday!

Posted by: kathandroger | July 28, 2019

General de Gaulle and the garden disaster.

In our field there are lots of stones. Some of them are fossils, which I collect from time to time, and others flint or just funny shaped stones. One of these, which may itself be an old fossil of some sort, seemed to have a familiarity about it. Soon the penny dropped, it was a likeness of General de Gaulle! In fact it was not really like him at all, but a bit like some of the cartoon images of him. There was no choice but to bring it back to the workshop and make a better likeness. But then disaster! My precious stone fell and the Generals’ huge nose was broken off. To discard or not to discard, that was the question. I chose the latter option, and with some difficulty and some good glue, the offending proboscis was realigned. After welding his cap from some metal, and some wire wool for eyebrows and moustache, he is coming on well, but not yet the finished masterpiece. It took a long time to find a flat stone that looked like an ear, and even more difficult to find another one which matched for the other side!IMG_0905 (2) I am expecting to be offered huge amounts of cash for the finished article to be displayed in the finest museums in Paris. Yes, the canicule has sent me a bit mad!

At last the canicule has left us. I even put some long trousers on last evening for the first time in weeks. But the poor old vegetable garden is a disaster, the worst we have had since being here. Despite watering every night, the brassicas have wilted and been eaten by little flies.IMG_0904Usually these plants would be supplying us with big fresh cauliflowers, but fat chance of that now. No parsnips, radishes or turnips, with the seeds just being killed off by the fierce heat. The tomatoes seem OK, and some of the early sowed perpetual spinach is providing good meals, but the French beans are very slow and small, and we have not been able to eat any yet. With the few centimetres of rain we had over the past few days, and the drop in temperature, I have resown lots of roots, and we may be lucky and have a late crop. At least the cucumbers, peppers, aubergines and most of all the courgettes have not minded the heat, and are doing well.

But what of the poor farmers? Actually, they have done rather well. The wheat and barley harvests have been good, the oil seed rape not bad, and the maize is doing well in the heat with the profuse watering going on. And that bugs me not a little. The rivers are very low, water is in short supply, we are not supposed to wash our cars, and any watering of the gardens has to be done in the evenings or overnight. But this does not seem to apply to the farmers! In the heat of the day, the great water shoots are all over the maize. I don’t really mind that too much, but it would be better if it went onto the crops, and not over the roads and tracks!IMG_0896There must be better ways of aiming this precious liquid, and preventing losses due to the inevitable leaks I see everywhere.IMG_0899

Anyway, that’s enough whingeing from me, and I do really like the local farmers, honestly!

But another disaster today, the Tour de France finishes, so what to do in the late afternoons, other than watch those magnificent athletes exhaust themselves riding up mountains? I am particularly poor at riding up hills, and even looking at some of the climbs makes me feel weak. I have immense respect for all the riders, drugs or no drugs, to be able to push themselves as they do. And it is good to see a young Colombian win for the first time; I would love to see the parties in his home town tonight!

Posted by: kathandroger | July 21, 2019

Bats, Music and Physiotherapy!

I like bats. We have lots around here, almost exclusively the little Pipistrelle, who flits about the buildings in the early evening and sometimes shares the sky with the last swooping swallows. But again this year there seems to be a death wish for bats in our boiler room.IMG_0880I found this clump of animals in the sink the other day. They looked dead, but on separating them, only one had left this world, possibly suffocated by the others.IMG_0881Carefully carrying them out on a sheet of paper-I am a bit scared of being bitten- I released them in one of our out houses, and they were gone the next day. The same procedure was used for the several more we found over the next few days. This event has happened over the past few years, so I thought I had better investigate.

Interesting little things are bats. They hibernate in big colonies in winter, then in spring the females form large maternity colonies together, the chaps being banished from the area. Sounds like a good idea to me. Usually only one “pup” is born, and the nursing mothers send their offspring to the outside world in late July, and follow them to join the chaps. I reckon our bats are mostly mature females, but I am not good at sexing bats, and that they have left their maternity ward in the roof about the boiler room. But why they should target the sink in the room I have no idea. I have found others scattered about the place, but maybe the white sink reflects the light from the nearby window and it looks like an escape route. Anyway, the chaps by this time are flitting around elsewhere in their own little areas near the hibernation sites, and puffing their little chests out to attract a now available female. They emit low pitched calls, allegedly audible to humans. I don’t think I have heard mating male bats calling, but maybe I am a little deaf. Any way that is not all; the chaps modify their flight pattern to attract the girls, who have a vast choice of mates. Their testes enlarge during this time, and the demand for a mate apparently gets earlier and earlier each evening. I vaguely remember those day. And after the deed is done, those clever girls store the sperm until fertilisation in the Spring, individually and within that is, not in a huge vat!

I hope I have saved some of those struggling little females, and that the local bat population will survive and flourish.

 

My physiotherapy for the broken shoulder has nearly finished. I must have had about 30 sessions of half an hour or so. Here in France the system is excellent. Instead of being in a hospital, the therapists set up their own enterprises in their own buildings.IMG_0882Our local establishment is a converted residential bungalow, run by a husband and wife team, and crammed with all the required kit. They have too many patients, they tell me, and certainly there are usually four or five of us in there at the same time, with taxi ambulances arriving and departing continuously. For me it has been good fun and certainly effective, although I have learnt not to try to do too much during a session as the pain from overusing withered muscles was worse that the injury itself! What a pity the same system does not exist in the UK; it is effective, free, and fun!

Finally, with the long warm evenings, it has been a pleasure to attend outdoor musical evenings, which seem to be everywhere at the moment. Yesterday it was in a local restaurant with a performance of Celtic music from a group of friends.IMG_0886The venue was full, the ambiance good, and the meal a bit disappointing! But a nice evening with chums and a good celebration of summer.

Posted by: kathandroger | July 14, 2019

The Black Prince….and Harvest Time.

Life is pretty easy here. The days are long, we are not constrained by the hackles of employment, and  there is a temptation to do little and fall into a rut of routine. So when several months ago a friend was looking for someone who could speak a little French to take part in a local play, it was time to get out of the comfort zone and do something different. The event was a “Visite Nocturne” at Preuilly sur Claise, a dusk presentation in the little town half an hour away, and consisted of several scenes depicting life there at differing times over the past several hundred years. I was to play the Black Prince during the Hundred Years War in France.

I hated history at school, but now find it fascinating. Especially concerning the relationship between our adopted country and the land of our birth. The Hundred Years War lasted longer than that, and was very intermittent, but at one stage there was a conflict between the King of England’s son and the leader of the French Army, the “Connetable de France”. His name was Bertrand de Guesclin, and he and I , the Black Prince, have a contretemps about the probabilities of our forthcoming combats. All this with me in full costume, including crown and big sword, standing high above the audience on the ramparts of an old castle in the town, and shouting at my adversary below. I stood there before the performance thinking how the hell did I end up doing this in a foreign country, not really knowing what I was saying, with a crowd of several hundred below me. Anyway all went well apart from some microphone malfunction, and although our performance did not start until about 11.30pm, the audience remained, perhaps transfixed by the strange Englishman shouting his accented threats from above them!

Ours was only a one of several performance we had been rehearsing over some weeks. There were also some very good Medieval musicians,IMG_0867 and the locations included the magnificent church in the town,IMG_0869 the entrance guarded by make believe ancient gendarmes; and they were fairly ancient! IMG_0866All in all a lot of fun, and I look forward to the next performance in August.

Sadly, this event contrasted badly with out little production in the local grottoes in St Remy. Our play here had been rehearsed, and was due to open a couple of days ago. It was cancelled due to lack of an audience! A lesson in the fact that any play needs to be well publicised beforehand.

Back to real life, and the Harvest here is in full swing.IMG_0870 It always amazes me at how quickly the fields are cleared of the crops, and the long hours the farmers spend in their labours. The air is full of the scent of harvested wheat and barely, and the combine harvesters throwing out clouds of dust behind them. The Maize remains, of course,  being irrigated by these great big reels of hose which seem to be everywhere.IMG_0871 Water is in short supply here, and it annoys me when most of it seems to be sprayed onto the roads between the crops, especially when I am in my open top car and have to wait for the storm to pass!

Wimbledon tennis is almost done, but we are still in the throes of the Tour de France. Today a Frenchman is in the lead, a rare event, but I would love to see him win. It still means a lot to the French, and will do wonders for morale if he can hold on. Time will tell.

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