Posted by: kathandroger | November 10, 2019

Fungi, Fires and Fetes.

Rain rain rain here over the last few weeks. No chance of ploughing the vegetable garden although most of the clearing has been done. The walnuts lay rotting on the ground and the falling leaves are left fallen, except those that have been blocking the bloody gutters! But one bit of nature which loves this weather is the local mushrooms and fungi.IMG_1165 We are inundated in the surrounding woods at the moment, and the French are even happier than usual. Most of them, of course, are able to identify the edible ones. But not all of them. The local news is of a lady who was found dead in her bath, and her husband very ill, after a case of mistaken mushroom identity. Very scary, and I only eat the obvious Field Mushroom and the one that looks like a sheep’s foot. Looking in the books there are over 500 types found around here and they are so similar that I reckon it would take me years to have any confidence in identification. We can take them in to the local chemist for verification, but that takes all the fun away! And the names!IMG_1166 (2) This funny chap is, I reckon, called Calocera viscosa, a member of the Dacromycetales, and recognised by its tuning fork basidiocarps. Blimey!  What language is that?

I know I am a boring old fart, but the years really do seem to fly by. It was Guy Fawkes’ night again this week, only about a month or two after the last one! Friends David and Jane had another bash at their farm, with poor old Guy having his feet warmed againIMG_1161 and then a carefully prepared firework display which all went off at the same time!! It did make lots of noise though. And then lots of food courtesy of our very hard working hostess, followed by music from both the French and Foreign members of the party. It must be a popular event, as one chap drove all the way from near Belgium just to join us and play his washboard in the band. Well done.

November also means it is time for the lambs to be slaughtered. We have a huge ram lamb, another two smaller rams, and one lady lamb. After much soul wrestling I have decided not to kill them myself this year and will give them away to friends locally. The French all seem to know a friendly butcher who will do the deed, and apparently there is a local chap with all the proper qualifications who will kill and butcher a lamb for 30 euros. Sounds like a good deal to me. But we also have some chicks to get rid of. Our talents at chicken sexing are not good, but one of them has started crowing now, so I am convinced he is a chap. Poor condemmed chap. But then a neighbour told us he would like a cock for his flock, so that is one head less to roll. But first we have to catch the blighters! Our main laying hens reside overnight very happily in their house, but the youngsters prefer to fly up into the trees overnight. Shooting  the down seems a bit of an overkill,  if you can excuse the expression, so another cunning plan of capture will have to be hatched.

Last night was the “Fete de la Soupe” in a local village. The first event of its kind there, and the organisers were worried that they would not attain the aim of having about fifty attending. Ten different soups were offered, with bread, pate and cheese, and everyone was invited to try as many as they liked. Well over a hundred attended, the soups were delicious, and was followed by locally made cake. As if that was not enough, the event also included country dancing accompanied by a local Celtic band. A really good village event and a pleasure to be part of. Incidentally there were probably almost as many Brits there as French, but as always only the locals remained to the end!



Posted by: kathandroger | November 3, 2019

Behind a Mask.

It  was Halloween a few days ago. As in the UK, the event has become more and more popular in France, and naturally one of our local bars had a special evening to mark the event. Everyone was invited to dress for the occasion, but as always, only a minority did so. Anyway, it was a good time, with the special band, a hasty conglomeration of the local talents, performing a variety of songs in French and English to the delight of the sometimes scary looking audience.IMG_1145 (2)

But what to wear myself? I had intended to go in the costume worn at our play in the village when I was cast as a Count in the Middle Ages. The white wig was a bit horrific, but the frills on the coat was not scary at all, and something else had to be found. Thank goodness for the childrens’ masks in our local supermarket. With an old raincoat the effect was, at any rate, a bit different!IMG_1142

Life behind a mask is wonderful. The looks of wonderment I received were a joy. To be genuinely unrecognised by frequent acquaintances has to be experienced to be appreciated. Some were looks of fear, some of puzzlement and some of “what is that silly arse doing?” It helps to keep silent if one has a strong London accent, but a few mumbled words in French keeps every one guessing! The only problem was that there was a meal as well as the necessity to imbibe, and so the mask had to be lifted. I was a little disappointed that a six year old lad was not in the least scared by my roaring at him, and also found that wearing an outdoor garment in a crowded bar does tend to lead to severe overheating! I don’t think there are many of us who like to look ridiculous, but when we do it together it seems altogether different. A good evening.

My sojourn to the next region is now over. The second week was marked by some sort of little animal eating first a tomato, and then an apple that I had left on a work surface. I found a “humane” trap in the main house, and baited it with a bit of cheese. Sure enough, in the morning the culprit had been caught. IMG_1141He is called a Lerot in France, a kind of Dormouse, and a very pretty little chap. They are commonly found in houses often heard running about in the roof spaces, and do little harm. I had only seen dead ones until now, and was sad that the mouse had trapped his tail and one hind leg in the snapping door. It was very much alive though, and ran off rapidly when I released it outside. I hope it is OK, and I even ate what was left of my apple!

Well the Rugby is all over and we didn’t win. I thought that we had done so well against the All Blacks that it would be hard to repeat the performance, but in the end South Africa were better that us. I am not very nationalistic, and I am sure that the win will do more for morale in their country than it would have done in ours. And the fact that it was a genuinely mixed race team from a country so recently battling apartheid really underlines the importance. Well done South Africa!

Posted by: kathandroger | October 27, 2019

Dog and Cat sitting.

Friends of ours have gone on holiday to Italy. They have two dogs and a young kitten, and were looking for someone to care for the animals for a couple of weeks. What a good opportunity to see another bit of France, in another Region, if only half an hour from chez nous.

I know the animals, at least the dogs, as they have stayed with us and Polly at home. The cat, Wally, is a new edition to the family and spends most of its time annoying Flora, the. labrador x  cockapoo. Flora’s dad, Rollo, is much too grown up for the rough and tumble and just looks superior and remains aloof.IMG_1137 (2)

They are good on walks, and in general a good excuse for me to explore a new area. Flora was attacked and badly damaged by a wild boar a few months ago, and used to chase everything that moves. She still chases cars, but a few days ago we were in a wooded path when a very large boar crossed right in front of her. She didn’t chase it!

It seems much more isolated here, being surrounded by big fields and only a few scattered farmsteads. All the summer crops have gone now, and the winter wheat and next years oil seed rape are the only things in the fields. But the farmers really are organised; I noted this triple tractor ploughing yesterday,IMG_1129 (2) and today met the boss who had begun sowing some oats. The soil looks good and easily tilled, and contains lots of fossils, which I must stop collecting as we already have several hundredweight at home! Incidentally, farmers in their tractores in France seem to be able to see when there are cars behind them on the roads, and pull over quickly, unlike in the UK, but still manage to cover the roads in mud, most of which seems to stick to my little white car! There are lots of Jays and Crows about, but also some Lapwings and a few Hen Harriers, which is good to see. The latter are lovely elegant birds which have almost all been killed by gamekeepers in the UK.

Autumn is here and the trees are beginning to change colour.IMG_1125 (2)

This fine avenue leads to a much less impressive house! But the still warmish weather and the recent rains, have led to other impressive growth; this field of sunflowers is from the seeds that dropped at last year’s harvest,IMG_1126 (2) and underline that we are not quite yet into the winter months!

However, the most important part of this week has, of course, been the Rugby. Well done England, who were unbeliveably good in beating the All Blacks yesterday. And hard luck on Wales who were pipped by South Africa this morning. Actually, Wales were very lucky to be there, having only just beaten a 14 man French side. I watched both matches with a couple of chums, eating bacon sandwiches (bacon freshly brought over from the UK) and drinking lots of tea. It is strange that the older we get, the further away from our playing days, that we can still offer words of advice and encouragement to seasoned professional players! England were so good, that even a French friend sent his congratulations, and that is saying something. We look forward to the final next Saturday.

Posted by: kathandroger | October 20, 2019

Toms Ticks and Tremors.

Alas the tomato season is almost over. Just a few brave souls remaining on the vines in the now colder and very wet weather. But they  grow like weeds here, and they are still popping up where they are not expected. We plant flowers in boxes (which are now falling apart) over the septic tank covers as well as all over the property. This plant has survived my lawn cutting and the attention of the free range chickens and is still in production.IMG_1106 Eating tomatoes out of season is always an unsatisfactory exercise, so we must make the most of the next few weeks.

Tics are a real nuisance, especially at this time of the year. Apparently the long dry spell has suited them well, and they are particularly common and troublesome. I took Polly on a long walk with one of the clubs last Thursday and she was her usual energetic self. The next day however, she did not want to eat, shied away from being touched, and just lay in her box all day. She had been biting at her tail a bit, but there were no obvious signs of her illness. She was taken to the clever vet the next day, who immediately recognised the malady as one of the tick borne illnesses. After various blood tests and a phone call after he had seen the blood film he had made, she was diagnosed and treated for Babesiosis. This is one of the several tick diseases; I know all about Lyme disease, which was not uncommon in humans in the UK, but this one was new to me. Apparently it is becoming more common here, and has recently been seen in dogs in the UK. Not unlike malaria, parasites from the tick enter the bloodstream, multiply and cause symptoms when there are enough of them. Poor old Polly must have had some ticks for days, and her useless owner had not noticed them. To be fair, there are so many burrs around now, that one more little nodule in her long and wiry hair is difficult to recognise. The preventative treatments seem to be less effective against ticks nowadays, and none of them is one hundred per cent effective. I am happy to say, though, that the treatment was fully effective within a couple of days, and we now  have our bounding bundle of disobedience back!

Back in the UK a couple of weeks ago, my twin grandsons began school. They are not identical, and neither is their appreciation of education. One thought it was wonderful, playing with his mates all day and sometimes doing puzzles. The other had the tremors just thinking about it. And he had the tantrums too. Whilst his brother forged on ahead to his studies, Teddy screamed and grabbed onto anything he could to prevent his onward journey. Both he and his mother were in tears as the very understanding teachers prised him from her arms each morning. All sorts of efforts were made to persuade the young man that he was not going to a torture session, but they were made in vain. Until, that is, a friend read about drawing a heart on his hand and doing the same thing on his mothers hand. When Ted felt anxious he only had to press his heart picture and his mum would be thinking of him. My daughter thought this would be useless, but tried it none the less. A miracle! Ted now loves his school, and has even one an award from the headteacher. His brother is furious!CURI0698

Posted by: kathandroger | October 14, 2019

10 years on (continued…)

I started reflecting a couple of weeks ago on the way things have changed (or not) in our lives in the 10 years since I began this blog. When I first started thinking I wasn’t sure that so much had altered, but the more I reflect there are some areas that are unrecognisable. I’m going to steer clear of the world of politics, suffice it to say that the days of Obama, Brown and Lula (with all their faults) seem light years from Trump, Johnson and Bolsonara (none of whom have any faults, apparently…).

The world of social media has been transformed, and has in turn transformed many aspects of our society and the way we behave. Ten years ago some of us had a vague idea of Facebook and we’d started to reach out to long lost friends around the world. Twitter was in its infancy and Instagram hadn’t even been launched. No doubt that the benefits of being able to connect in a way previously unimaginable has been hugely positive. However, the decision to keep these various platforms free to the user has led to some, at best irritating, and at worst scary, practices around data gathering. The disastrous consequences have already been witnessed with various elections and ‘B-you-know-what’, as well as the feeling that our every move, preference and desire is being tracked and logged.  The need for ‘likes’ and the penchant for showing off on line brings with it a somewhat narcissistic influence on society.

Something slightly less tangible, but inevitably connected to the above, is the way in which the concepts of truth and trust have evolved in the past decade. Ten years ago I tended to believe quite a lot of what I read in journals and papers (maybe not always in the tabloids I guess), I generally listened to and accepted the views of experts and had a certain level of trust in some of those who governed us. Today I am pretty sceptical about virtually everything. I am cautious even of the mainstream media, shy away from social media and believe pretty much nothing our politicians say. What a sad state of affairs. The fact that our leaders are narcissistic, compulsive liars doesn’t help, but the ease with which people can make up total lies (or fake news, another recent invention) and circulate them around the world without batting an eyelid, the facility to change images and the desire to deceive without any morals or scruples has totally altered the relationship between those in power (social and commercial as well as political) and the rest of us. When we can no longer use facts to guide us, because we don’t trust them, our decision making can only be driven by emotions. That’s when we become easily manipulated and that’s a dangerous game that some play very well. 2009 really does seem a different world.

Posted by: kathandroger | October 13, 2019

About the Dead.

I know that sounds a bit morbid for a Sunday, so I will talk about my breakfast instead.IMG_1103 (2)

At this time of the year we have loads of figs and grapes in the garden. The usual array of mixed cereals are supplemented by freshly gathered fruit from the orchard and the day is fueled by this wondrous natural bounty. No wonder I feel about 18! We do have some banana plants as well, but they do not donate to breakfast, and the latter fruit has to come from the shops.

The French news fascinates me. One continually recurring theme is any old murders that for some reason are brought back into the public eye. Such was the case this week of a poor chap in Glasgow who was arrested as the murderer of his wife and children in Nantes some eight years ago. The news was obsessed with the story, interviewing  old witnesses, and saying how the suspect had had plastic surgery to change his appearance; certainly it was a bit strange that nobody seemed to recognise him from the man they knew in the past. But fingerprints matched, so there could be no mistake. Oh yes there could! DNA testing showed the suspect to be completely exonerated. The French blamed the British, and the British said nowt. Not much in the news to talk about now in France!

We had a wonderful walk on Monday with the club to a pretty village called Angles sur Anglin. IMG_1079

Very pretty, and in summer choked with tourists. I wouldn’t want to live there for that reason alone, but in October it was at its best. But we didn’t really go into the village and instead walked over to the neighbouring river Gartempe. At least I think we did, as I was completely lost. Anyway we came across a Dolmen.IMG_1070

Very interesting lumps of old stone. Probably about 7000 years old, a big flat stone originally supported by other ones, but now collapsed, and found all over Europe and elsewhere. Widely thought to be burial monuments, but rarely with any remains within. Bizarre; we can sent men to the moon, but we have no real idea what this big lumps of history were all about.

Anyway, on from there through a strange and eerie wood, covered with moss or lichen or both and anyway damp and dark.IMG_1073

To reach the site of some ancient Sarcophagi. I guess the ancients got a bit fed up with those bloody great Dolmen things and decided to put their corpses into big stone boxes which remained above ground. Again they are found all over the world, but because they were big and unwieldy and blocked up the inside of churches, they became modified and latterly false Sarcophagi were used as an upmarket headstone in cemeteries, with the corpse in a coffin in the ground beneath. Our site is still being excavated,IMG_1075 and the stone site in the side of a cliff must have been a joy to work, in the cold and wet, using primitive tools, and bashing away all day to make a box to put a body in. It was after three hours of walking that we finally got back to the village and had a typical French lunchtime meal, which lasted another two and a half hours, so the day was almost done when I got home. Even the dog was a bit cream crackered.

We are apparently going to have temperatures of 26 degrees today. This after quite a good amount of rain, though not nearly enough to fill the reservoirs. There a mushrooms all over the place; I thought we had some on the hallway carpet a few days ago, but it was just some of my detritus. Anyway the walk with the second group on Thursday was punctuated with multiple stops to gather assorted fungi. I am still unsure, but did eat some nice field mushrooms from our land a few days ago. The French seem to know about edible fungi in their genes, and some of the strange looking things picked I wouldn’t have touched with a barge pole. But everywhere this year the cyclamen, both naturalised and in gardens, are magnificent.IMG_1085 These were in a local garden, and I have never seen so many looking so good.

Posted by: kathandroger | October 6, 2019

Bloody Television!

We don’t watch much TV here. In general the French programmes are rubbish, either dubbed American films or lots of French people laughing at one another. Apart from the weather ladies that is; always decorative and a joy to watch, even if the weather is poor. But recently, with the change in the climate, rain and relatively cool, and the fact that the Rugby World cup and World Athletics championships are on, I have to admit to having become a box watcher. Dennis the cat thinks it is wonderful, because he can jump onto my lap and sleeps whilst occasionally sinking his claws into my chest, and the dog just sleeps and scratches herself… I must get rid of those fleas.

The French are not doing well in either sport, although the rugby players have just beaten Tonga and are through to the knockout stages, a term appropriate to the way the game is played nowadays. I noted that the Tongan forwards averaged almost 20 stone each, and the collisions were enormous. How easy it is to play rugby whilst sitting in an armchair! The athletes have not yet won a gold medal, and the poor decathlon favourite, Kevin Mayer, who should be English or American with a name like that, manage to injure himself and not finish the event. I think I prefer the Athletics. The shape and size of the participants, besides being of both sexes, is a panorama of human variety, from the miniscule long distance runners to the huge hurlers of hammers and shots. And the joy of the exhausted winners is wonderful. The Rugby is on for another few weeks, so box watching is still on the cards, but sadly the Athletics finishes tonight. I will have to get off my fat backside soon.

But I have been playing in the workshop. The local disused railway line has been torn up and eventually the track will be a walkway and cycle path. Tons and tons of old line has been taken, but some of the supporting brackets have been discarded and left. They are cast iron and very heavy, and in demand from hobby metal workers like myself, who have pinched any remaining specimens. Add to that an old fireplace iron set, and a new sculpture of railway workers was screaming to be made. The only problems were twofold, firstly that the cast iron is impossible to weld to, and secondly that the finished article would be too heavy to move!IMG_1062 (2)

In fact the two pieces are separate, so that moving them is not really a problem. Not sure it will make a competition winner but it was lots of fun to do, with lots of sparks and hot metal falling all around. Boys will never grow up!

On my way back from the UK last week, I chatted with a chap who lives in a village south of Limoges. He was very excited, because the next week the French championship of Conkers was to be held in his hometown. He had been practicing endlessly, and was hopeful of winning and becoming eligible for the World Conker Championships later in the year.

IMG_1060 (2)

The dry weather does not seem to have affected the conkers, but our walnuts are very small this year. And the grapes and figs are as abundant as ever, which I don’t understand given the long drought we have had.

There is lots of Mistletoe here. The plant allegedly feeds off trees but does not damage them to any extent. This one seems to be of the killer variety however.IMG_1059

The poor apple tree was very dead and seemed to have succumbed to the enveloping saprophyte, but the mistletoe was very much alive and singing. Funny thing is Nature.



Posted by: kathandroger | September 30, 2019

Back to Blighty …again.

How the years roll on! It was back to the land of my birth last week to attend a 70th birthday celebration. Seems like only yesterday that we were bemoaning being 30! A lovely event though, given by an old Trinidadian friend who still dances like she was 17.IMG_1045 Friends don’t change, only the skin ages, it is the same person underneath, and it was a pleasure to see so many people again after ten years. The Caribbean band were great, and only the photographer was rubbish! I had borrowed my daughters’ car to make the journey from Somerset to stay with a chum overnight in Sherborne in Dorset. I had forgotten the route, but that would be no problem with the Satnav in the car. It was only when I started that I found the bloody thing didn’t work, I had knocked the little chip out. No maps, no real idea, but I did know I had to go south west, and the sun was just peeping out in between the clouds. Make for the sun I told myself, and, by some miracle I ended up in Sherborne. I remembered the address, but had no idea how to find the road. Having stopped in an unknown street, I asked a nice man the way, only to be told I was already there, almost opposite the house! Who needs Satnav?

Things haven’t changed much over the past few months. Everyone is completely fed up with the Brexit saga, and like me, a feeling of being ashamed of our politicians seem widespread. There are still too many people, and in particular too many cars. Parking in the residential areas of any town nowadays seems a lottery, and a visit to a kiddies party in Bristol was a nightmare for parking. It was a good party, however, and not many grandparents would dress up as Spiderman for the sake of their six year old grandchild!IMG_1052Granddad Chris tells me that his outfit only cost £12, and he is thinking of wearing it on a daily basis!

One thing I have to get used to in the UK is not saying hello to everyone as we tend to do in the countryside here. Eye contact with passers by is very unusual, although most people do respond to the grey haired old geezer who greets them with a cheery “good morning”! But in general spirit is good, and people react to one another as they always have done. I stayed with daughter Clare in Frome, the lovely little Somerset town, now heavily populated with DFL’s (down from London) like her. This means that the property prices have rocketed, and her new house needs lots of work. The bathroom has been out of action, and the twins have to be washed in the kitchen sink,IMG_1058which they do not seem to mind too much! I found it a bit small however.

Families are funny things. Having fallen off my bike and broken my shoulder in the spring, I phoned my son in Germany last week only to find that he has fallen off his bike and broken his shoulder!RHFX6595His was only the collar bone and shoulder blade, but he did need an operation to sort it out. And it was on his non dominant side, so he won’t have to learn how to perform intimate bodily attentions with his other hand like his father had to!

So it was nice to be back in England to see family and friends, but it was also a good feeling to get back to France, which I regard as my home now. Thanks to Ryanair for the cheap trip, only a two hour delay on departure, but the cost was less than the autoroute toll charges to the ferry. I think it is the less frenetic way of life in France which is the main difference, and of course the relative paucity of population.

Posted by: kathandroger | September 29, 2019

10 years on…

Incredibly it’s coming up to 10 years since I started this blog – how time flies! I was watching the Athletics World Champs in Doha last night and there was a little resume of the 2009 edition in Berlin. The highlight back then was the astonishing performance of a certain Usain Bolt who set a new world record of 9.58 for the 100m, just one of his 11 world titles. Now retired of course, Bolt brought a breath of fresh air to a sport that was suffering from cynicism caused by drugs scandals. We were of course also in the build up to the London Olympics; London and athletics felt exciting and both were taking a high-profile role  in the world. As I watched the 100m final last night won by an athlete who has missed 3 tests this season, followed by a two time drugs cheat I yearned for the Bolt days. As for London, well probably more about that later.

I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one thinking back a decade. I’m not big into social media, so had missed something called  #10YearChallenge  whereby people post photos of themselves in 2009 and 2019 side by side and draw comparison. So not quite the same idea, but the idea of posting photos of yourself definitely is a reflection of a trend of the past decade. Again, more about that later, probably in another post.

As I started thinking my mind flitted from politics (scary) to technology (exciting/scary), from social change to international conflicts and so much more. The amount of change suddenly seems momentous. It is perhaps therefore not a surprise that so many people are feeling anxious, uncomfortable, angry, frustrated, out of control….

I started by thinking about sport, so let’s go back there. As I write, I have half an eye on the World Cycling Championships from Yorkshire. In the past decade Yorkshire has become a real hub for cyclists following the start of the Tour de France in 2014, the now established Tour de Yorkshire and now the World Champs. The good folk of God’s County have really taken the sport to their hearts and when I return to my homeland I see cyclists everywhere.

This morning I watched Wales-Australia in the rugby. There’s a change there too. The guys are simply massive and their speed and physical strength, resulting from the ‘professionalisation’  and the money in the game have changed the sport on many levels.

Football was already well down that road of course, but the small elite at the top seems to earn some quite obscene sums of money. The gulf between ordinary people and these ‘idols’ seems greater than ever. They really do appear to inhabit different worlds. I couldn’t leave football without mentioning that in 2008, just over the decade ago, my Boro boys beat Manchester City 8-1. Last week City won a match 8-0 and were hailed magnificent. The decade has been somewhat kinder to City than the Boro – just shows what a massive amount of money can do!

Women’s football has made strides particularly in the past 5 years, as have the female versions of cricket and rugby. The media has played an important part in this – in the UK at least. France continues to be a bit less enlightened despite the world cup earlier this year.

How about tennis? Top 3: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic…well it is comforting to know that some things don’t change!!

Next time I’ll turn my thoughts to some of the other aspects of our world and consider how different they look 10 years on…

Posted by: kathandroger | September 29, 2019

Postponed edition!

I am back in the UK for a week. Rainy, windy, dull and dank. Great to see family and friends, and smiles can rid the mood of the lousy weather. My computer skills do not extend to blogging on the ipad, so I will report properly on Tuesday!

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