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.

Posted by: kathandroger | July 18, 2016

Sheep swapping and baby Bats.

Our little flock of sheep has been modified. We lost one of the mothers after she gave birth this year, and we needed another female for breeding next year. Luckily we have a neighbour who keeps a few sheep and he was happy to swap one of his females for one of ours, an unrelated lamb who could breed with old Hercules our ram. The swap was unremarkable, and after the initial bullying and bleating, all seems to have settled down.IMG_3438She has been named Flossie, and was already sheared although she is this years lamb. It seems to be the norm in France to shear the lambs, but I have never known it to be done in the UK. She is a bit small, but hopefully will give us some new babies in the spring. Hercules seems to like her already.IMG_3439

This is the season for bat breeding. We find lots of dead baby bats in our boiler room, and it upsets me as bats only have on newborn each year. Some seem to be successful however, and this pair on the dogs towel were gone the next day.IMG_3429I have looked for the colony in the roof and have not been able find it, but today, because of the coming heatwave, we closed the shutters on the front of the house, and dozens of bats flew out! I managed to get this snap before they all flew off.IMG_3443It was wonderful to see bats flying around the courtyard in company with our swallows, each as fast as the other, and a rare sight indeed.

Chickens can’t fly very well. They also can’t swim very well. Sooty, one of our new acquisitions, is a very inquisitive animal, who has learned to lay eggs in our herb box just outside the kitchen, decided to go for a swim yesterday. We were both relaxing outside when the shrieks of panic from the pool area made us jump up and run to the rescue.IMG_3440.JPG

Even the lazy old dog came to help Kath lift her out. Boudie is terrified of the water herself, and gave Sooty lots of advice afterwards.

France is a sad place again this week. We heard the news of the massacre in Nice on our way back from a firework display in out local town. At this stage it appears it may have been the work of one isolated madman, but the slaying of normal families, including innocent children, has been abhorrent. I can’t say that we feel any more threatened personally here after the latest attack, but we will all be a little fearful in the big cities in future.

Posted by: kathandroger | July 11, 2016

Summer!

The hot weather has finally arrived. Gone is the misery of last week and we have been basking in temperatures around 30 degrees. The pool has been well used and the rose wine is fast disappearing. So what have we outdoor types been doing?-watching the television!!

The Tour de France is well under way, and the best way to follow is on the box. But it passed within a few miles of us on Tuesday, and, like the rest of the local population, we took a picnic and chairs and camped by the roadside for several hours to watch the event. The cyclists pass in a matter of a few seconds, but they are preceded by the “Caravan”, which consists of various vehicles adorned with giant models, vans selling paraphernalia, and lots of girls singing songs and throwing bits and pieces to the crowd. All that lasts for about half an hour and then it is at least an hour before the bikes arrive, so the picnic then begins. After all that we pack everything up and go home to watch the finish on TV. A wonderful event. We were even inspired to pull the old tandem out of the store and have a quick bash up the local hill.IMG_3434My motor in the back seat was in good form, and she pushed me up with no problem.

Another event on the tele has been the European Football Championship. Pathetic England were shoved out early on, but France were in the final, and we really hoped for a host country win-it was needed here to raise the French morale. Alas it was not to be, and the radio this morning spent over half an hour of the news explaining what went wrong; the rest of the world news did not feature. They will get over it eventually I guess. And then there was the Tennis at Wimbledon and Andy Murray in the final. I don’t really like tennis that much, too much grunting and shouting, and that is only the women. But he won, and with the Brits taking lots of wins in the Tour, it has not been a bad time for the UK in sport-and we certainly need a morale boost as well. The post Brexit shenanigans have been shameful.

But on a much lighter note, son Tom and wife Anke are here from their home in Germany. Their first child Lucy is just over a year old and toddling about with the chickens and trying to talk to them, but in which language it is difficult to tell.IMG_3432Hopefully she will learn both languages together. There is something wonderful and humbling about talking to a truly bilingual child, time will tell.

Posted by: kathandroger | July 3, 2016

Brittany and the Beast.

For me, the best time of the year has ended. It begins when the swallows arrive in March, and it ends with the longest day in June. The local harvest has just begun, and soon the fields will be emptied of their crops and ploughed for replanting. The freshness of the new year gives way to the dust and heat of the summer; all the roadside flowers have been mown away by the local council workers, and the cuckoo has fallen silent. No more lovely orchids for another year, and hopefully the grass will now reduce its relentless growth. The summer bushes are now in flower, so the butterflies will hopefully be more in evidence, and we are have today had the first raspberries from the garden.

Our season in the gites is in full swing now, with a full house of Irish this week, and lots of kids around and having fun in the grounds.The summer will, no doubt, pass in a matter of what seems like days. We did manage to get away for three days last week however. I had never seen Brittany, and we took advantage of a present of a couple of days in a hotel given to Kath from her French students after our visit to London last year. Pretty place, lousy weather! It took the better part of five hours to motor to near Concarneau, most of it in fine drizzle, and almost as long, it seemed, to find the hotel. We did have a nice sea swim, wearing wetsuits, the following morning, and a walk in the dry along the cliffs, but other than that we saw Quimper and a few other towns in the rain. It is very like Cornwall in the UK, but less crowded and with better beaches. Some French friends have a cottage further south in the province, and we spent one day with them on our way home, visiting a wonderful village given over entirely to arts and crafts. I gained some inspiration for further projects!

I have finally finished the Beast. It is a copy of a very ancient statue I saw in Sydney with my daughter a couple of years ago, and I have no idea where it comes from or what it was for!

IMG_3426Anyway it now adds to the various collections of sculpture in scrap metal in our courtyard, and will serve as a seat. It is made of a lightweight concrete mixture which includes peat and vermiculite and is build up over a welded iron frame covered with chicken wire and filled with polystyrene. Even so, it took two of us to lift it! The head has a nice feel to it when sitting on the thing, and I hope to spend many relaxing moments with a glass of wine stroking him gently. I don’t think I can be arrested for that.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: kathandroger | June 24, 2016

OUT!

The wife got up at 6am today. That in itself is highly unusual, but she is very interested in politics and it was to find out the result of the Brexit poll, revealed at 5am UK time. The message came back upstairs that we are out of the European Union. The Prime Minister has resigned, the money markets are in turmoil, Britain is totally divided, and the future for all looks very uncertain.The so called winners in the UK are celebrating wildly as if their whole lives are about to change for the better, but I bet they haven’t thought things through.

So what really will change, especially for us Brits abroad? Not much, at least to begin with. The sun will come up tomorrow, the birds will sing, and our flowers will still look lovely. We may be a bit poorer over the next year, but the clever wife had changed lots of UK cash into euros, so that will be OK. Our French friends will be teasing us relentlessly, but the right wing in France is also keen on leaving the EU, so what will happen in the future is anyone’s guess. Scotland will no doubt become independent and rejoin the union, and the border between Eire and Northern Ireland may be dissolved. Who would have thought all that a possibility ten years ago? David Cameron has reassured us Brits abroad in the EU that no changes are envisaged, at least for a couple of years. It may be that we can take out dual nationality here, which will be fun, although I may have to improve my French language skills. We have become ensconced in this country and I do not want to leave. The prospect of returning to the UK, with its overcrowding, money grabbing mentality, poorer weather and general dissatisfaction with life holds no appeal.

Nationalism, and Religion, are questionable emotions. I very well remember a medical student we had  in Dorset, and who is now an eminent surgeon. His parents were a mixture of the Far East and Africa, and he had spent much of his life in the USA before coming the Britain to study. I asked him which nationality he felt he belonged to. His answer was that he belonged to none and to all; he was just a citizen of the world. Perhaps we should all feel that way. And the relentless disasters caused by our perverse religious beliefs still spoil the world news daily. This little political change in my mother country is really just a minor change to the world we live in, and I remain optimistic that life for us will continue to be good.

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