Posted by: kathandroger | March 18, 2018

Three dogs and a new fishing bird.

We enjoy walking our dog. She has a youthful energy which we both envy, and her relentless pursuit of wild animals, real or imagined is a daily amusement. It also gets us out of the house, in fair weather or foul, and we appreciate the ever changing countryside around us. So it was no problem to accept the request of friends Dave and Pay, to look after their brace of dogs for a few days. Rollo, the spaniel/poodle cross is about three now, and escaped from his home about a year ago on one of those wonderful randy urges which we all used to revel in during our youth. The result was a litter of pups from a nearby labrador bitch, one of which remains his companion. Rollo’s reward was to have his family jewels removed! So Flora, Polly and Rollo have been together for a few days. A sudden family influx has made a big difference to our household. The first mornings wimper from the pack made me venture sleepily downstairs in bare feet to encounter a strange but familiar wet feeling between my toes at the bottom of the stairs. The culprit cannot be proven, but our training over the past months has made dog pee a part of life, and the puddle was soon cleared. Walking three dogs is different from walking one.IMG_1430
Even young dogs pull like billy o, and commands are diluted by three. After some vigorous exercise behaviour becomes rather more acceptable though, and in general they have been a pleasure to inflict on the fauna of our lovely countryside. To see three dogs trying in vain to make any progress in pursuit of a hare or deer is incomparable entertainment; we know the animal will escape and the dogs come back looking as if they have had the time of their lives.
But what to do when three animals are back home and wanting some entertainment? Now these are three intelligent animals, and playing tug with a pair of old socks is not interlectually fulfilling for them. So we have begun reading stories to them.IMG_0488
We began with old favourites like 101 Dalmatians, but it was too basic, so we are now making progress with ” A short history of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. They seem to appreciate the nuances of the American’s quiet humour. After several hours reading they settle into a lasting slumber, no doubt pondering the lessons of history.IMG_1433
But back to the real world. The barn end with the fish sculptures needed something more higher up. The result was inspired by a spare cutter from an old Allen scythe found in the workshop, and an old oil barrel from over the road. And with the use of the trusty old plasma cutter (has there ever been a better boy’s toy made?), and a bit of very inexpert welding, the menacing bird has been erected.IMG_3929I don’t think there is any more room on that wall, so we may have to build another barn. It looks OK with the others though.IMG_3928
But now spring is coming and some proper work needs to be done-in the garden!

Posted by: kathandroger | March 11, 2018

Return to France.

Where did the time go? One minute the expectation of a holiday trip is just round the corner and then it is all gone! Nearly a month away from home and now back to the grindstone. Except that it is not like that at all; I love being at home, and am pleased and proud to admit it. Holidays are great, seeing the family is lovely, but they are a trip away from the reality of everyday life which, here, is where living really happens. The bad news is that Chucky the chick is no longer with us-it apparently disappeared one day, now doubt taken by the buzzard or sparrowhawk, as mother hen had all but abandoned it. The chicken house roof had blown off, and various bits and pieces of outdoor plumbing had been damaged by the freezing temperatures. Kaths’ 2CV refused to start, the wood store door fell off when I opened it, and the grass needed its first cut of the season. So just the routine problems waiting to be fixed! The lambs are all in good condition; three boys, to be eaten in the autumn, and the dog has come into her first season.
Well what about reflections of the time away? A great trip, with great contrasts in the way people live. From the wonderful temples of Ankor, to the relative poverty of life in Cambodia. But the kiddies all had smiles DSCN1008 (2)wherever we cycled. The laid back way of life in the so called “poorer” countries was a pleasure to see, especially when a tents had been erected over the little roads we were on so that celebrations could take place. One was a wedding and we cycled right in front of the bride and groom who were having photos taken, and they seemed to think it only added to the fun!DSCN1005 The Killing Fields in Cambodia, and the War Museum in Saigon brought us back to the cruel realities of life, but overall there seemed to be an inspiring air of optimism in the developing countries that we certainly don’t have in Europe at the moment. And the group we went with, and the tour guides, were a real pleasure to be with. I hope we see them again in the future.
Leaving Australia with its gentle climate (yes I know it had been 40 and more degrees a few weeks ago, but it was mid 20’s when I was there),was a bit sad, but I was inspired by the over 70’s swimming group we encountered on the early morning dips I took with my daughter.DSCN1044 Keeping in shape seems to be a way of life in Oz which we could all learn from. Leaving Sydney airport had been a nightmare last year, but having checked in on line I was delighted, and felt very superior in bypassing the huge queue to leave by kit at the baggage drop. Airports and long distance travel are, for me, are relaxing time. The brain needs to go into neutral, time has no meaning, and all the films I have been wanting to see are available on the plane. Even a delay of 9 hours at Bangkok was no problem, as the onsite hotel I was offered gave a few hours kip, some good food, and a nice shower before the haul to Paris. And the wife, bless her, met me there and chauffeured be back home. The jet lag is not too bad, just as well, as all those little jobs in the gites and in the garden now have to be done!

Posted by: kathandroger | March 4, 2018

Clean up Australia!

It felt a bit like coming back to the civilisation we recognise when flying into Oz. Being useless with modern electronic methods, I was very proud of myself for getting through customs and passport control by using the “e” system. Being one of the first off the plane helped, but my pride was dented more than somewhat to find that the baggage collect was not in operation for another half hour, and I ended up being one of the last off the flight to reach freedom. My lovely daughter and graddaughters were there to meet me, and the shreiks of delight could be heard all over the airport-even theirs were loud. Sydney is always busy-today this was the suburbs at 1pm.image
The pace of life here always amazes me. The cars are all near new, and the affluence of the place is witnessed by the expensive vehicles and also by the price of the loveley local houses; Sydney seems as expensive as London or Paris now. But it all seems so well organised; despite the traffic density cars keep moving and jams are rare.
The mornings here are a delight. At daybreak the local kookaburras start their monkey like chattering and they are then superceded by the squawking parrots which seem to be everywhere. Early rising seems to be normal, and the local traffic is on the move before light. Son in law Bill and I set off soon after 5am one morning for our customary fishing trip, and the road were already busy. I love seeing not only cars parked on the roads, but also frequent and sometimes very large boats.image
I always adore coming through Sydney harbour just before sunrise. The water is alive with rowers, singles, doubles, fours and eights. The boats have bright lights on them and are frequently followed by the coach in his little tinny. Apparently the local championships are soon, so training is at its peak now. We made our way to the fishing mark, about nine miles offshore, only to find that the marker buoy could not be seen due to the rough seas and rain. We turned around and caught some Flathead before making our way back for the early afternoon. I am pleased to report that I was not seasick despite the buffeting, and even managed to eat some chicken rolls whilst landing fish from the rocking vessel!
The spirit of the Australians is somthing that should be imported into Europe. It seems that everyone is up and active, be it surfing, swimming, cycling or anything else. On my way to swim soon after 8am yesterday, a schoolboys cricket match was about to start, and another group had started soccer training. At the pool this morning, we had to vacate the lane swimming because the local over 70’s group were starting their weekly competition. Exercise seems to be a way of life here.
And today is “clean up Australia”day. This day of action was apparently started several years ago and has become nationwide. Groups of Scouts, usually with their families, and lots of other bands, join together to clean up the enviroment for the enjoyment of everyone. It is good fun too.image
The only sad feature I have discovered is the relatively reticence of the locals to say hello. In France the youngsters, maybe only in our rural setting, are always polite and greet us with a smiling “bonjour”. Here the locals often tend to pass with heads down, just like in other cities, and in complete contrast to the joyous greetings we received on our holiday of the past few weeks. A smile and greeting costs nothing, and it makes such a difference. Come on Sydney, you have it all, how about a little happiness?

Posted by: kathandroger | February 25, 2018

Three countries by bicycle.

It must be age, or the time differences,or,most likely, general incompetence. Our last post seems to have called itself “more oriental delights” and has inserted itself in our font! Please click on that and send me to computer classes!

Posted by: kathandroger | February 18, 2018

South East Asia.

There is only one thing to do in the cold and rain of February in France. We are in Cambodia in temperatures of mid thirty degrees! Sitting supping the local beer on our hotel balcony in the enveloping warmth of dusk seems a long way from the shivers of last week. Paris looked more like Siberia when we left, with some roads around the airport blocked by snow. What lucky chaps we are to be able to traverse the globe when things get gloomy at home. Our cycling tour has taken us through Thailand, over the border and we are now en route to Vietnam.image
Thia is the second time we have toured with Exodus Travel; we cycled across southern India with them a couple of years ago, and loved the relaxed way we explored the remote areas of that fascinating country. This trip is similar,arriving in Bankok, then slowly traversing the countryside on two wheels to the Cambodian border and visiting the well known sites.
Thailand is buzzing. The economy is stable, the infrastructure is in place, and agriculture is green and efficient due to the water capture resevoirs and irrigation. Cambodia, to my surprise, was also seemingly alive with energy and development. It seemed that every other car was an expensive Lexus, and even the swarming motorbikes were usually new. Modern houses are replacing the old shacks, and arriving today in Phnom Penh, after the initial rundown downtown, is like any new city centre. We have visited the huge Ankor complex of old ruins, but to be honest they didn’t do much for me-very impressive but not pretty. We are off to see the Killing Fields museum tomorrow, so that won’t be much fun either. How humans overcome the misery of a barbarous civil war such as this country had only a few decades ago amazes me. We have noticed several mutilated limbs on war survivors, but in general the decemation of the countryside has been repaired. Cambodie is browner than Thailand because if the lack of a good irrigation system but even that is being put right.
On the brighter side, the food in both countries has been wonderful. Having eaten whole frog, imageand today fried tarantula spider with cockroach, we are starting to see the limits of our home cuisine. Cycling in temperatures of arond 35 degrees really is no problem with the frequent stops for local sustenance. We are looking forward to more local delights!

Posted by: kathandroger | February 11, 2018

Six cans of paraffin and one old door.

Funny old lot, these Frenchies. No doubt we are the same in the UK, but the different ways things are handled here is a continuing education. Our theatre group of last year split up in disharmony, to say the least. We had several more performances booked, but the cast fell apart from one another acrimoniously, and we could not continue. The two main adversaries were friends beforehand and had even been on holiday together last year. Well, I was sad, but perhaps because of my limited linguistic ability did not appreciate the depth of feelings on each side. I was happily aloof from the dispute and maintained a good relationship with both sides, and thought that the events were all history. Wrong! I was asked to attend a “conciliation” meeting a couple of days ago, as legal proceedings were being started….because six cans of paraffin, and one old door had not been returned to the President. Accordingly all fifteen of the company attended a preliminary meeting with the conciliator, a firm but fair retired policeman, in one of the local council offices. One group on one side of the room and the other on the other side of the room. Me in the middle. The rules of the game were explained, and nobody could talk unless they first put their hand up, and then no interruptions were allowed until the individual speech was over. Actually that was the best thing about the meeting, because the French usually talk all over one another and meetings are a shambles. We heard all the old groans again, conciliation was not possible, but the cans and the old door were given to the Red Cross. What a palava, and it was quite difficult to dodge from one group to the other afterwards to underline my neutrality. I hope I did so, because I love them all!

But back at the ranch, we have had some snow. But no more lambs. No lambs for Flo in the snow, but she looks full to bursting, with a ballooning udder, and will no doubt have them in the next day or two. The first twins are looking great, having put on some weight, and are jumping around like new born lambs. They still look a bit grubby against the snow though.IMG_3925
We tell our guests to spend the hot summer evenings drinking some nice cool white wine in our “kiosk” on the top of our land. It does not look so inviting at the moment!IMG_3926
And seeing the grubby sheep did remind me of our “Lavoir” just across the road. IMG_3916This is where the dog loves to chase the frogs into the water, but was originally for the locals to do their washing; “laver” is to wash. Most villages around here have preserved the feature, and some of them are splendid. Ours is not, but no doubt could tell a few stories of times gone by. Apparently the lavoir was where all the local gossip was aired. I would love to have been a fly on the wall, or even a frog in the froth!

Posted by: kathandroger | February 4, 2018

Chucky won’t grow!… And land issues.

Deep mid winter; morning frosts and drizzling rain during the afternoon. Nasty cold winds; not the best time of year to be a little chick. The twin lambs are thriving in the field and at last using the luxury home I built for them a few weeks ago. But little Chucky the chick won’t grow! And it doesn’t want to come out of the chicken house either. So yesterday we lifted mother and child out and moved them a few metres away to the base of a cherry tree. Mum Sandra tried endlessly to get the little chick to scratch and eat bits of stuff, but to little avail.IMG_3911
We left the lesson for an hour or so, with only the dog watching the progress.IMG_3914
Mum Sandra eventually seemed to give up and perched in the tree leaving the little bundle of fluff to shiver below. I put them both back in the house, but Kath has already aired her fears of chick demise. I will crush a few sheep nuts for her today, and may even give some to the chick as well. We can’t win them all! Incidentally, the cock, Decker, is celebrating his empire by cock a doodling almost all day…. and during the night as well. It is a good job we have no guests at this time of the year; he will be eaten or given away before the season begins. The French cocks apparently scream Cockoreeko rather than our version, so Chucky must have some British genes.
Thinking of other differences between the UK and France, we have lots of seemingly lost plots of land here. I guess that a “parcelle” as they are called, may be lost in the vagaries of inheritance, as with many houses in the area. The result is that fields become overgrown and often impenetrable, which must be a good thing for the local wildlife. This plot is over the road from us.IMG_3915
The dog certainly loves them, but has yet to catch anything.
We have a “parcelle” in our wood which does not belong to us. It is owned by a wonderful old couple on the village who we visited some years ago to buy it. They were in full agreement, and we left them to arrange the legal details but have heard nothing since. Their plot is shown by orange markers in the ground; I have no idea who put them there, but don’t dare to remove them.IMG_3917
The owners looked frail when we last saw them and we didn’t want to impose on them, but talking to a friend when we last passed their house last week they are both very well and about to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary! We must visit them again to congratulate and to ask the secret of such an amazingly durable relationship.

Posted by: kathandroger | January 28, 2018

13 for Rosemary and the Hunt Police.

The weather here is cold, wet and generally nasty at the moment. Ideal weather for our sheep to lamb. Accordingly, Rosemary, our old girl of six, had been “bagging up” rather nicely over the past week or so. Rosemary is the most ugly of sheep, but a wonderful mother. For the past two years she had raised triplets, and we were expecting the same this year. With her swelling udders and the prominence of those experienced nipples, the wife had been predicting birth every day this week. It finally happened last night, and we were greeted this morning by the sight of one healthy looking boy lamb.IMG_3906
We didn’t really expect a singleton, but then we noticed something behind her-the second boy, smaller and looking frail but well.IMG_3910
Both have settled well and are feeding, and have been named Dougal and Henry. We wait for Flossie to produce her second brood. Kath has worked out that Rosemary has given us thirteen lambs now, all of them sired by Hercules, the rampant ram. Actually the latter had a go at butting me again a few days ago-an event to be avoided if possible as he really can inflict some damage. He has never attacked the wife though; must be something to do with hormone recognition I guess.

I was enjoying our weekly walk with the rambling club on Monday last-the dog with us as usual. We had just come out of a path through the woods, when a uniformed chap approached me and told me to put the dog on a lead. He was a “Guarde de Chasse”. This is an official we don’t have in the UK. He is appointed by Government, under the auspices of the Environment and Agriculture ministries, and his job is to protect the Flora and Flora of the countryside. He wears a nice uniform with special badges, and drives a blue van. He was a nice chap and very polite, but was insistent that my dog was a “chien de chasse” -a hunting dog, and a danger to the surrounding wildlife, especially during the hunting season. Apparently we had been detected by a hidden camera, and he had come to intercept us! I, of course, apologized profusely, put the dog on the lead and we walked off. Until we were out of sight of course, when the little animal was given her liberty again. He did tell me that I could let the dog off the lead after February when the hunting season was over! What a load of cobblers! I am all for protection of the environment, but to say that my dog can chase deer in March but not before just is not logical. It is all to protect the hunt of course, but if a dog is under control it does seem a bit silly. The guard does have the ability to arrest me and to take the dog away if he thinks fit, and I could be imprisoned or fined if I get a bit stroppy-heaven forbid! But in general the hunt in France is very well managed, with excess animals being culled but enough left to satisfy the hunting fraternity. There are about a thousand Hunt Guards in France, so unless they all descend on our local woods one day my chances of evading capture are good. Polly, who has never caught anything in her life, and who comes to heel the second I whistle for her, will still be let off the lead to enjoy the freedom of our lovely local countryside. Sorry chaps.

Posted by: kathandroger | January 21, 2018

Rumours of my Death…. and the New Arrival.

For over thirty years I lived and worked in deepest Dorset, in a county community where any local professional was well known. As the village Doctor, one was talked about widely, often not with the adulation one would have desired! I had a phone call from my younger daughter this week. “Dad, how are you feeling, because there is a rumour all around that you are dead”. It is true that I tripped over a few days ago, into a muddy puddle, and damaged some ribs. Even the dog laughed. But generally I didn’t feel dead at all. No one seems to know how the story started, or even how my demise came about, and I have tried to telephone one alleged perpetrator with no success. I have yet to read a nice obituary.
There are many strange experiences in life. This is the first time that my demise has been reported, to my knowledge anyway. I can see the funny side, indeed that was my first reaction. I realize that the years are fast passing, and that the youthfulness felt within is not matched by the haggard exterior appearance, especially when a pretty young lady on the London Tube offered me her seat when I was visiting in the Autumn. I refused of course, but that was before I knew of my imminent departure from this world. Each week seems to pass so much more quickly nowadays, and the acceleration will only end abruptly one day. I hope the memories of me back in Dorset are not too unkind, and that the correction of the rumour does not make people too unhappy!

But life in France goes on unchallenged. We are expecting some lambs any day now, although the two ewes do not seem ready to pop yet. I thought the same thing last year and then discovered triplet lambs the next day! Good shepherding is another of our failures. The chickens, however, are a different kettle of fish.( a French friend reads this blog and often finds the language somewhat challenging, so I look forward to her interpretation of the latter phrase!) One of our new girls, Sandra, decided that mid winter would be a good time to hatch some chicks. We do have a cockerel, Decker, who Kath reliably informs me had be very attentive to his manly duties over the past month or so. We did not bother to get any fertile eggs, therefore, but Sandra started to sit before we went to the UK for Christmas, and we left her in the house with the other chickens. When the birds sit, they do so on any eggs that are nearby, pulling new laid ones from other chickens under them. Sandra was sitting on twenty one eggs! The gestation is about 21 days, some some would have been much less than that when we heard the tweeting of a newborn chick.IMG_3904 We left her for a few more days, but no more appeared, so we took her off the nest and threw the other eggs out. We have more than enough birds now in any case. The little yellow chick is a Cou Nou, the local breed with bare necks, and must be the offspring of Black, the last chick we hatched. So Black and Decker have produced a youngster, and a name had to be found. Kath launched the question on Facebook, and so far the favorite seems to be Chucky, from chuck and key. But I also like Makita, Chisel, and Spanner. We only hope the awful weather can be endured by the little chap or chapesse.

Posted by: kathandroger | January 14, 2018

Sheep Shelter Shambles and the Eco Home.

Just before we traveled to the UK for the Festive Season, a quick check of our sheep and goat revealed a catastrophe.IMG_3899
The fine building which we constructed six years ago had finally succumbed to the relentless leaning of our overweight ram Hercules. He loved to rub against the old palettes that were used to support the corrugated iron and asbestos roof, and the fruits of his labour had brought the house down. Luckily none of the animals was inside at the time, but the incessant recent rains had made the area into a boggy mess of old iron and debris. Lambing is due to commence shortly and so on our return a new animal house was a matter of urgency. Now I don’t think I am naturally miserly, but I do love making something for nothing. There were three old Telegraph Poles in the barn, and an old and very heavy ladder, that had seen better days and was a bit wormy. I wouldn’t have trusted climbing it, and so it was sacrificed to make rafters, and the rungs are good for lighting the woodburners in the house. The poles were chainsawed into lengths for the uprights, and lots of the old iron and asbestos was reused for the roofing. And there we have it- the new Eco Home for Animals.IMG_3901
Situated in a very pretty and sought after area in South Touraine, amongst the rolling hills around St Remy Sur Creuse, the property benefits from a south easterly aspect on a gentle slope. Early morning sun will delight the occupants and later in the day the structure with shade from the midday heat. Comfort is enhanced by the free circulation of air, providing refreshing ventilation to all parts of the building. Eschewing the negligible advantages of double glazing, the pure light in the interior will be constant, and not require laborious window cleaning. At the rear of the house is the sleeping area; comfortably lined with mature hay from several years ago, and cunningly placed at the top of the slope so that the occupants can easily roll out of bed in the morning.IMG_3902 In due course, heating will be of the underfloor variety, when the expected animal excretions have broken down enough to exhibit their typical exothermic reaction. The convenience of having the heat source and toilet facilities in the same area cannot be over emphasized. A completely natural sound system surrounds the building, with early morning birdsong sure to be appreciated by the occupants. The eating and drinking area is nearby, a short walk over the uncluttered carpet of Loire Valley pasture. The very attentive Caretaker is on hand each day to make sure the water, hay and feed is provided.
The only problem is that the bloody animals have so far ignored their new mansion. I suppose we could advertise it as an addition to our gite complex if all else fails!

Older Posts »