Posted by: kathandroger | September 26, 2016

The laughing fish.

The lovely weather continues, and our very busy part of the season is over. Time for a day out. The wife is still largely out of commission with her broken arm, but that means she cannot drive her little 2CV and the chauffeur has to take over. I just love that little car. The engine is smaller than my lawn mower engine, it was designed in the 1930’s and driving it is a bit like floating along the road on a comfortable but noisy and windy sofa. The canvas roof fully unfurls and in the full autumn sunshine we made our way to the Brenne, our local wildlife waterland, and a national treasure. At this time of the year it is almost deserted; the French finish everything as the school term restarts, even though the weather may be glorious. The only visitors to the lakeside resort at Bellbouche were a company of less than normal left over hippies being taught to waft their ageing bodies around by a red silk clad would be monk with a magnificent beard. I guess they were happy in their own meditative world, but I felt they would do much better if they shifted their bums and got out to see a bit of the surrounding nature. We did. A brisk walk around the lake led by my one armed spouse was followed by a lovely lunch of eel and ratatouille on some sort of crust, sitting outside and watching the birds on the water. We then visited a local nature park and later sat by the road watching the fish jump.img_0379Now what is it about fish? I have been a lifelong angler, and still have no idea what it is all about. A few days ago I fished the Claise with an expert angler. We caught nothing all day, and did not even see a fish. But today, in full sun, every few seconds the water was disturbed by jumping carp and roach, and each of them was looking at me and giving that fishy smile as if to say “you may have a human brain, but you can’t catch us!”.

Still on the food scene, we do love to lunch on Boulots (whelks) and langoustines. The difficulty for the one armed one is that the shellfish have to be winkled out with a probe, and that is not easy with one hand. But with a lot of practice new skills can be learned, and if proof is needed…..img_3551What a clever girl!

Winter is coming and the log pile had diminished. Off I was sent to saw down some of our trees in the wood. I enjoy logging, and once started it just seemed to inspire me to do more and more.fullsizerender I will have a rest now.

Posted by: kathandroger | September 18, 2016

Pilfering.

I do not think it right to steal things. I am not a thief. But I do enjoy a bit of pilfering.Our neighbour opposite died over three years ago, and his house and outbuildings have been unoccupied since then. He was a sad drunkard who once had been a garage owner, and over the past several years had filled every square inch of his buildings with  car and motorbike parts. His ex-partner has been several times to do the initial removals of household items, and then a shady acquaintance has had all the keys and has removed, with the help of other shady gentlemen, all things of any worth. So there remains lots of rubbish that even the French have no use for, and the buildings will be sold at auction at some time in the future. Hence the recent pilfering, and my sense of innocence in the act because everything that is left is due for the local dump.What fun! I have lifted several old and rusty tools for use in my sculptures, and some old adverts from many years ago which I shall frame and put in our gites.I came across this old solid wood bowl, filled with nuts and bolts, cleaned it up and will use it for our walnuts.img_3548-2The old hammer may end up as a head in a sculpture, but it is in lovely condition so I may keep it in the workshop. The only trouble is that we have so much junk ourselves that there is not much room for any more!

The weather has changed at last and we have had some much needed rain. It may even save the local grape crop according to a local producer we met yesterday in Loches. And the tomatoes just get bigger and bigger!

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Dennis the cat owns our house. He bosses the dog around and is always the first in line for food. He is also very keen to have his own way.I was late returning from a rehearsal last night and the wife had ignored the feline demand for his supper. In a fit of pique, Dennis went upstairs to our bedroom, pooped profusely in the bath, and left dirty smelly footprints all the way downstairs. Her indoors was not amused. He has also taken a liking to drinking from a wineglass, much as we have. He refuses to touch the dogs water, and will only drink fresh water from the tap. It is a cats life!

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The local river has never been so low, and this after the floods of early summer. We swam in this water a couple of months ago but now even the geese are struggling!img_3544

Posted by: kathandroger | September 12, 2016

Autumn activities.

It is still hot. Over 30 today and no sign of rain.Our local river has never been so low and this after the floods of the springtime. Those fish have been very lucky in that I could not catch them in the high water and now I can’t find any water to catch them in! The last swallows have left the farmyard, always a sad day for me, and the final three fledglings only left the nest last week. But I did manage to count 71 on the telegraph wires a couple of weeks ago so breeding has gone well.

The invalid is making good progress, and she can now write with her left hand. Not so good at the ironing though, but is pleased to pose with the work her husband has to do!img_3541Actually I have to admit that ironing is not really the chore we are led to believe by the feminine fraternity (should that be sisterhood?). With a bit of nice music, benign thoughts and a gentle rhythm of movement it can even be a pleasure-apart from those bloody fitted sheets that is!  A full CD of classical music will see me through loads and loads of bed linen.img_3540An interesting feature of limb fractures is the slowed rate of growth in the affected nails of the limb. I had to cut Kath’s fingernails on her active hand whilst the other side is much shorter. Reading the medical reviews it is obvious that nobody really knows why, but says it is to do with altered blood circulation, whatever that means. My hair on top does not seem to grow very well nowadays, and I wonder whether it is because I have not been using my brain? All those elderly chaps with pony tails that I see in airports must be very intelligent.

The Rats season is upon us. Not the four legged kind, but the lovely Ratatouille that we put in the freezer for the winter. With huge tomatoes, courgettes, onions and our best aubergines, and other bits and pieces, the partner with two usable hands has made several trays of the stuff to sustain us in the cold of the coming months.img_3537The home brewed beer and the red wine are for inspiration and sustenance during kitchen duties.

We thanked our help for the big changeover last week by having a little drinks party for them and also invited our gite guests. A mixed bunch of French and English and lots of Pimms. The French have no idea about out favourite summer tipple but it all went well and it is strange how language ability improves in proportion to the amount of alcohol drunk!img_3536

Posted by: kathandroger | September 4, 2016

Garden tales, broken bones and boys.

This year our sweetcorn in the garden was looking lovely, almost ripe for eating. I was not pleased to find it looking like this.IMG_3511But who was the culprit? None of the other crops had been touched, and there were no footprints to be seen. The goat has never jumped the fence into the vegetable garden, and surely no birds could have done such damage. Deer were a possibility, but since the patch is well watered we would have expected to see some prints. The same thing happened the next night, although we did manage to rescue a few cobs for the barbeque-they were delicious! Our red squirrels were a possibility, and we have had the wild boar in the field, but the latter would surely have made even more mess. The next morning, before daylight, my daughter and her family left for the ferry. I took the opportunity to creep into the potager. Nothing, but then a snuffling sound from the bushes. The torch then lit up the guilty intruder, brock the Badger. He was soon off, but to this day I am not sure how he gets in; the sheep fencing all around does not look to have been breached, and maybe he gets in by pushing against the gate. Last night we found lots of these little holes in the grass paths.IMG_3534 (2)I suspect it is the same beast looking for worms. We do like old brock, and would do nothing to harm him. The badger is apparently a protected species in France. How different to the wholesale and probably senseless slaughter of the poor animals in the UK.

The grandsons and parents have left for home and the house is quieter. It was a bit hot for one year olds and they were only happy in the swimming pool. Their aquatic ability is not yet sufficient for independence however, and it was not until the last day that the solution was found-Ikea washing baskets filled with water.IMG_3515

But this last week has not all been fun. The wife, taking a short break in the Lake District, managed to fall off her mountain bike and broke her arm. Having driven herself back to Manchester Airport, she could not manage the gear change on the left hand drive car we have here (it is the right arm), and so I drove her back home via the local casualty department. The next day her break was fixed, and she will be in plaster for at least six weeks. Poor girl, but poor old fella also, with all that ironing and washing to do for the gites. No problem, an email to her English class and volunteers from the local community were soon on hand.IMG_3532I have always said that the best thing about France has been the French and this support shows what I mean. Not that Kath has been left off her duties, with the help of my old sack trucks and with one hand, the washing can still be done.IMG_3528 (2)You can’t stop a woman from doing the things she loves!

Posted by: kathandroger | August 29, 2016

The curious incident of the toad in the night.

I love toads. We have one living in our cellar, called Crappy by my granddaughter(the French for toad is “crapaud”). He is a lonely old thing who I occasionally feed with worms and who may be 30 years old-certainly there was a toad in the cellar when the property was a working farm. So I was delighted last week when another large toad appeared in our courtyard. I proudly showed him off to the guests, who showed the typical reaction of trepidation and alarm, but after some gentle stroking (of the toad that is), they gradually joined my admiration for the little animals.

“Dad, wake up” …..I was deep in a lovely slumber, fuelled by our home made liqueur and a huge barbeque that evening. Daughter Clare now in her early forties, had been staying and the long forgotten parental years seemed to return like an unwanted nightmare.”Dad, can you come and see my friend, she can’t swallow anything” I have not done any night calls for several years now, but collected my old medical bag to attend the patient in our larger gite. I had no time for my contact lenses, but the visit was soon completed and I made my way back to our house, over the courtyard, in deep darkness. Half way across, calamity struck. I stood on the toad and felt the soft flesh deflate beneath my clumsy left foot. Bugger bugger. Poor little thing, murdered for no good reason. Perhaps he would recover overnight, and I would check in the morning. Sleep after senseless murder is difficult, but it eventually arrived, although I awoke nervous and early the next morning. Our upstairs bedroom windows were wide open, and I peered anxiously outside. The dark shape was still there, a pitiful lump of lifeless flesh on the gravel. The contact lenses were still not in, so I picked up the nearby binoculars and peered out, aware that my nakedness would be an unwelcome start to the day if any of our guests were about. No signs of life in the little animal, he was surely dead. Dressing to retrieve a cold and lifeless corpse is a sad affair, but it had to be done. I grabbed an old trowel to put under the body and make some sort of burial tribute, then approached it slowly and grim faced. Life plays tricks sometimes, and sometimes they are good tricks. My toad was in fact the bountiful excretion of our dog Boudies’ bottom!! Never before has a pile of poo made me feel so good!

Posted by: kathandroger | August 23, 2016

Bicycles, Balloons and Boozing.

We have just had a lovely group of visitors. Happy, noisy and active. There are loads of things to do here for those interested, and bicycles were requested for ten! Cycling in this part of France is idyllic; not too many hills, lovely scenery and very little traffic, so the bike sheds had to be raided. Here is the result before the ride; all tyres pumped up, all lubricated and only the human motor required.IMG_3500Dennis the cat is not into exercise.

After the efforts of one day on two wheels, what better than a water fight in the orchard? I was amazed to see this new (to me) and ingenious way of filling balloons with water from the hosepipe.IMG_3495I think it is 50 balloons filled together, and with several different colours, the battle was soon underway. As often happens in good games, the children, for whom the kit was allegedly bought, were soon pushed back whilst the adults took over!

IMG_3497Each Sunday morning, we usually skip the club bike ride to go to the local market in Descartes. It is only a relatively small affair, with loads of tat and some decent food stalls, but it really functions as a social centre. Making the slow ascent up the hill to the butchers and cheese stalls, we usually meet lots of local friends all stopping for a chat. With the French it is all about how few medals they have won at the Olympics compared to us. and with the Brits about how the pound is falling after Brexit. But we all end up at the local bar, and the wrongs of the world are all sorted before going home for lunch. At this time of the year, sitting outside in the sun is a real delight, and it is hard to imagine the cold of February when we are sipping our vin chauds (mulled wine) inside. IMG_3508Grandsons Miller and Teddy are visiting at the moment, and we decided to see if they approved of the local brew.IMG_3509And that was only after one glass of Lager each!

Posted by: kathandroger | August 16, 2016

Car rally and lost eggs.

For the past few years we have intended to participate in the local old car rally in the nearby village of Lesigny. This year we made it! Friend Paul had finally managed to get his old Mercedes registered in France, so with Kath in her pristine 2CV4 and me in the old banger, we met up at what seemed like dawn, but was in fact 9am. I did have a problem finding my car in the garage though. The Ivy has grown like wildfire this summer and completely covered the gates-IMG_3488But I finally found the doors and the old girl. IMG_3489Kath had lovingly washed and brushed her pride and joy for the event, but my car is so battered and bruised now that it was not worth the effort. The dog is scared of the car because it is so noisy, but we managed to drag her into the photo.IMG_3491We had no idea what a huge event we were entering. The village is a typical small community of about 500 people, and normally  the streets are empty. Not today. The brocante attracted hundreds of stalls all selling the local bits and pieces, and we had entered the village on the wrong side and had to make our way through hoards of the early arriving buyers. Typically, the day started with the aperos and pate and we all wandered about admiring the old cars; about 250 turned up and the local drive around the countryside, which was planned for 10am finally took off about 11. It is amazing how what seems empty villages and countryside suddenly fills up with all and sundry when there is an event on. The procession was naturally hampered by the slow speed of the oldest cars, but it meant that all the hundreds of onlookers could be acknowledged and waved back to. Pal Ian, in the passenger seat, did a good impression of passing royalty in waving left and right, high and low, to villagers who seemed to be watching from every house we passed. A stop was made in the nearby village of Leugny where we had to have some more drinks and snacks and general car chat. Not too many cars broke down on the trip of about 40km. and we were back at the event in time for lunch. We didn’t meet any more Brits and the event, and it was only us and a few others who took advantage of the hot dog stall. The French had all brought their four course lunches with them and joined us under the shade of the trees in the dining area by the river. Altogether a lovely day in brilliant sunshine, and hats off to the organisers of the event. Apparently it had taken six of the ladies three days to make all the jars of pate!

The chickens have not been producing many eggs recently. I know most of them are old girls past their prime (no, I am not talking about my ladyfriends!), but we should have had more than one or two a day. I was watering our lovely Abutilon yesterday when I found the answer.IMG_3487

Posted by: kathandroger | August 8, 2016

High Summer.

The harvest is in. This year the yield of wheat is very poor due to the excess of rain in the spring and the grains not developing properly. The price of wheat is also very poor and the farmers are not happy; no doubt there will be a strike or protest of some sort. But the fields with the huge straw bales look lovely in the brilliant summer sun, and our neighbour has already ploughed one field after a nights rain. Our guests are enjoying the good weather and the noise from the pool area underlines their pleasure.

The second brood of swallows have learned to fly this past week. One family in the bike shed were particularly photogenic, watching the parental demonstration before setting out by themselves.P1000453Thanks to guest Becky for the photo.

There are some strange tricks of nature. I had to look twice on entering the field a couple of days ago: an apple growing on the top of a stinging nettle! Really, this was no “plant”! IMG_3482The top of the nettle had been eaten off by the goat I guess, and the apple had fallen from the tree above onto the rigid stalk. I hope their is no cross fertilization as the resulting apples may have more than a tangy flavour! Incidentally, nettles are not seemingly known to the antipodeans. We have had a couple of incidents of Australian guest walking through nettle patches, and being alarmed at the results.

The old sheep feeder had seen better days and a new one was required. This is one of the specialities of Roger the Bodger, and utilizing the packaging the lawn mower arrived in, and the remnants of a pool umbrella, a new one was made. It is designed to accommodate the small bales made by our farmer neighbour Manu, and the animals seem to approve although it is much too early in the season for hay.IMG_3484The orchard is at last showing some signs of fruition. The grapes look good, the figs are at last forming, and there are loads of apples and pears. Plums are a  less than last year and we have had no peaches or apricots and very few cherries. The present glut, as usual, is marrows and courgettes, and at last the outdoor tomatoes are ripening. We won’t go hungry for a few months yet.

Posted by: kathandroger | July 31, 2016

Coat hangers and over tall tomatoes.

We are well equipped with coat hangers in our gites. This is apparently quite rare, and when guest Michael arrived several weeks ago, he brought a dozen of his own, made of thin metal. I told him how useful they were for bits and pieces other than hanging clothes, and as a farewell gift I was presented with them. In times gone by they were useful for radio aerials in cars after the local hooligans had ripped the standard ones off, and the bendy metal is good for hooking bits out of drains. They had hung unused in the workshop for some time, but now they are all employed in holding up our over tall tomatoes! This year the early summer was wet and cool, and we got the dreaded mildew on several of our 40 tomato plants. We pulled several out and took the lower, affected, leaves off all the others. The weather has since turned hot and dry and the plants have shot up, some to over two metres tall, higher than the supports. Answer? those ever useful hangers.IMG_3474They are stapled to the supports and hopefully will be able to hold the weight of our forthcoming crop.

We have had a lovely week with Kath’s family staying in our big gite, and another Yorkshire group in the smaller one. Sporting competition has been very keen, climaxed by a table football competition, finally won by Derby County, represented by David from that town, and Rebecca from Bradford. The event was filmed on Go Pro, and interviews from the finalists will soon be available. It was not all fevered activity though, and the new hammock swing has been well received.IMG_3477 We had one baby in the family group. Little Holly was admired by all, and I fear for the parents when the attention of this week will be necessarily reduced on her return to the UK. Here is the doting father and the even more doting grandfather.IMG_3466 Our lizards seem to be even more numerous this year. The ones that have still got their tails have been amusing the younger guests, and one has even taken to sunning itself on the stone model of the dogs head which I made a few years ago. What lovely little things they are. I am surprised that the French don’t eat them!IMG_3458The only problem with having people staying is that the week passes so quickly. It is August tomorrow and before we know it the summer will be over. Time flies when we’re having fun!

Posted by: kathandroger | July 24, 2016

La Belardiere Oval.

IMG_3449 (1)We have lots of games at our gite. The grounds are large and safe, and children of all ages, including the adults, often join in. But this week we have had our first real game of cricket.Some guests from Yorkshire, father and four sons and partners, brought some stumps and in no time our orchard became the local bastion of our national game. We also had a lovely Dutch family staying, who had no idea about cricket, but who joined in nevertheless. The two young Dutch boys did not speak English, but understood about hitting the ball with the bat and loved every minute. Games went on until nightfall, and there seemed to be an expectation that floodlights would be installed for next year! There was some suggestion that the groundsman had not used the right roller on the pitch, but that did not prevent the ball being whacked into the neighbours field on several occasions. I will do better next year.

We have not seen many snakes this year. Usually in spring and early summer we see the very pretty large local grass snakes, and have even watched them mating, when their dance is a joy to watch and they take little notice of onlookers. This poor chap is one of the less coloured grass snakes and he had been run over just outside out house. IMG_3445 (1)I don’t think snakes here cause any problem; there is the odd viper about but I have never heard on anyone being bitten. They do no harm and are often, sadly, maligned.

The Tour de France has all but finished and Chris Froome has won easily. Hats off to him and his team who have completely dominated the race for the third time. But, hard to believe, it is a Frenchman who has come second. To listed to the news on French radio this morning it is easy to think that he won the race himself instead of being well beaten. Little mention of Froome, who is one of the worlds outstanding athletes, but all about Romain Bardet. Still the French need some cheer and it is their race after all, so good luck to them, and they may even have a winner at some time in the future.

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