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 | October 3, 2019

 

 

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!

Posted by: kathandroger | September 22, 2019

End of Summer?

It is damp cool and cloudy outside. And we had a good shower of rain last night. About time too. The sheep are already greedily consuming hay, as the brown remains of what was once a pasture is no longer enough. It was over 30 degrees again yesterday, too hot for me, but we are now promised cooler and wetter weather for at least a week. I guess that is the end of the summer, and what a hot and long one it has been. The swallows left a few weeks ago, and we only glimpse a few migrants now. But we had well over 60 on the wires from our little homestead, so the several family units in the outhouses have done well again. I look forward to returning birds next spring!

I brought the squash in yesterday for winter storage.IMG_1025 (2)Not as many as usual, but they did not seem to suffer as much as the other crops in the long dry spell. Hopefully they will keep through the winter, kept in one of the gites.

With few guests still to come, the dog will have less opportunity to eat socks! She has made a habit of stealing kiddies socks if they are left around, and if they then chase her she eats them!-the socks that is. We have had endless fun when checking if the foreign object has passed through her system, but she has not had any problems so far. The soiled articles are in no fit state to be returned to the owners however! I did manage to retrieve one of my own yesterday,IMG_1024 (2) before it had been swallowed. Looking again, it may be that a foot of a sock will appear on the roadside before long!

The dog and I wander endlessly through the local woods. Most of these are fairly barren, but in a few places the trees are cleared for little huts and leisure areas. In France the land is often divided into little “parcels” owned by various people, and most of them are left to overgrow naturally nowadays. One chap though, has been clearing an isolated patch near to us. He seems nice enough, but a bit strange. I was intrigued to find this,IMG_1019 (2) one of two piles of old bananas, on his patch recently. Now who has piles of bananas, and who would bring them out into the wild just to dump them? Strange.

Our figs are another crop which has done very well in the drought. We are both full of the things and can’t give enough away. The trees do very well here, and I had always admired the specimen just up the road from us. Sadly the owner has died, and some rather coarse pruning has been done.IMG_1030 (2)I know that figs are very hardy and tenacious, but I am not sure this one will regain all its former glory!

And finally, it is not all about nature and the great outdoors. We do have some cultural pursuits here, and last night it was an evening of Baroque music and Classical readings in a local village.IMG_1031 (2)The soprano was impressive, as was the keyboard player, a local friend, but to me the most remarkable was the lady sitting here on the stage, who gave lots of reading, in Greek and then in French, with wonderful hand movements and frequent moments of gravitas. I understood some of it, but wondered how she could sit in one place without moving, throughout the whole performance. Brilliant buttocks.

Posted by: kathandroger | September 15, 2019

Cats and the Russian Vine.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Posted by: kathandroger | September 8, 2019

It’s time again!

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by: kathandroger | September 1, 2019

Is our dog Chicken?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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