Les poissons en France

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Edinburgh and Beyond

Sunday 9th September we flew from Toulouse to spend time with our friends Ray and Fay who live in Edinburgh, to be joined by Bob and Jenny from Birmingham.  Leaving home in the mid-30's, we took vests and jumpers to cope with Scotland's temperatures of 15 or 16 !

Ray is very knowledgeable about Edinburgh and so we benefited from a detailed personal tour of the city centre, its buildings and their history.
The next day was the Botanics (the Royal Botanic Gardens), and Wednesday Sue and I went to the Museum of Modern Art.

Thursday we went to a 'conceptual' garden/art installation called Little Sparta which contains sculptural works, philosophical inscriptions and land art; the work of the Scottish artist Ian Hamilton Finlay.  When we arrived at the car park it was raining and, as we had to walk about a mile to the entrance, we waited ... until we convinced ourselves that it was easing off.  The walk up to the garden was 'interesting' as the track led us up through a herd of cattle with a bull (at least that's what Sue maintains) and she was very uncomfortable (scared).  Once in the garden we waited in a conservatory of Hamilton Finlay's house waiting for the 'easing off' to materialise.  A bleak site.

In the evening, Ray had booked a walking tour of the 'Hidden Gardens of Edinburgh'.  This was an evening tour of the private gardens (which are small parks) set in the middle of some of the large Georgian terraces in the centre of the town.
Fortunately it had stopped raining and we visited about 5 gardens in all, some with a 'municipal garden' style and others given a naturalistic 'wilderness' treatment.  The tour ended in the dark in one of the gardens with a glass of bubbles ... very civilised!

On our final day with Ray and Fay we drove about an hour north to Pond Cottage, a house which started as a ruin with 10 acres of woodland and which, over the years, they have converted into a comfortable home.  Sue was particularly keen to go to see this.
(Sue says that this photo doesn't do justice to the cottage, actually a 4 bedroom bungalow)
A view in their wood.
The pond, which is quite large.

On Saturday we turned our backs on civilisation and drove up to the West Highland Peninsulars to Strontian, near Fort William.  We drove North-west, through Glencoe, on twisty, narrowing roads, over a ferry and on to see my cousin Sue and her husband John (no really, another Sue and John!) who had moved there about 3 years ago.  We stayed in a 5 star B&B, but the weather was foul; it struggled to get up to 12 deg. the wind blew and it rained sideways.
The countryside has a bleak grandeur but the weather meant that the wildlife (deer, otters, eagles etc,) sensibly stayed at home.
With no animals to see, we decided to drive to Ardnamurchan Point, the most westerly on the British mainland.  Unfortunately, the weather didn't improve!
Having seen the grey sea and the grey sky we started our journey back to the B&B which proved eventful.  As the roads there are all single track with passing places, when we came upon a Fuel tanker delivering domestic fuel oil we calmly turned the engine off and waited ... about 10-15 minutes. Once this was sorted we carried on and then decided to stop at a Wildlife Park.  Upon getting out of the car, neither of us had my bag ... with all of our money, credit cards, phone etc.  We (not just me you realise) must have left it on a chair in the cafe next to the lighthouse!
We retraced our steps (at least 45 minutes) driving slightly faster around the twisty narrow roads than in the morning, fearing the worst but trying to reassure ourselves that people who would make the effort to go all the way to this Point would be the 'right' type. And our luck was in.  The bag was sitting behind the counter waiting for us.

Tuesday morning we were to drive back to Edinburgh for our flight home at 7am Wednesday.  As we had plenty of time (the car was due back at 4pm) we decided to stop at Glencoe visitors centre.  The weather had become calm but very misty, but it gave us some great views of the mountains.
We left the visitors centre to continue the journey to Edinburgh and fine for time until ... between Callendar and Stirling we hit a traffic jam, and the kind drivers heading in the opposite direction were telling us "There's a tree down blocking the road.  You'll have to turn round" (Scottish accent needed here). A quick 3 point turn and we were following a little tour bus which seemed to know the way.  We, and lots of other cars turned down tiny little lanes, churning up the verges when cars were coming the other way, until our tour bus met a service bus.  There was much discussing between the two drivers as to the width of the lane, the width of their buses and the state of the verges.  After about 10 minutes, a lady (fairly stout, possibly Glaswegian) jumped out of her car, went up to the drivers and proceeded to take control.  She got one bus to back up to a wider section of the lane, and then told the other bus driver that he could now get a bus through the gap.  It worked!  We were only 15 minutes late getting the car back.

After all the excitement of our return to Edinburgh, taking the car back and finding our overnight hotel, we decided the simplest thing to do was to make up an M&S takeway which we ate in our room before retiring early to bed ready for our alarm clock sounding at 4am!!!!
It was certainly good to get back home to continuing temperatures of 30 deg. and to start the course of antibiotics for the flu that we have come home with.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Look who came to Tea

This evening, 8pm, we had a family come visiting.
 They came along the alley nearly up to the house before wandering down to the bottom of the back garden.
It's ironic that we are starting to see them now, just as the hunting season has begun!

Our little corner

The family of our neighbours have made this video of our hamlet.  We are blown away with it!!!


Wednesday, September 05, 2018

So far, so good

Another good morning's work and phase 1 of the hedge removal is finished!
The next stage is to get rid of all of the 'cutting' which, as we're not allowed to burn, will have to go to the local tip.  Then I will cut the stumps as close to the ground as possible ... there's no way I'll be able to get the stumps out.

Then it's over to the Head Gardener!

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Another Run Out

We do not have a television so we find our "TV like" entertainment via YouTube. We have recently discovered a series called "Fake or Fortune" and have been watching several of the programmes.

In one episode they were trying to establish the provenance of a sketchbook containing drawings  which were believed to have been drawn by Henri Toulouse - Lautrec when he was in his late teens. During the course of their investigations they visited the childhood home of Toulouse - Lautrec which we realised was about a couple of hours drive from us.

As the frantic tourist season has now finished and the temperatures have dropped to between the mid twenties and thirty degrees we decided that we would have another "run out". We had an extremely interesting guided tour of the Chateau du Bosc with reference to the painter and the families that have owned it. It is still lived in, evidenced by the smell of Sunday lunch, and remarkably, still contains furnishings from Louis XIVs time. Apparently the incumbent aristocrat at the time of the Revolution was a very "generous chap" and the peasants intervened to stop the chateau being pillaged by the mob.
Henri was idolised by his Mother and he shared her bedroom until he was 11 !  The room has been left as it was at that time but it now also has a display of his toys, books and drawings.

Life chose to stunt his growth,
condemn him to constant pain.
Who are we to criticise his self-medication,
his choice of suicide by absinthe and debauchery?
We all have a cross to bear,
his was heavier than most.

Friday, August 31, 2018

A Rum Tale

This is not only a rum tale it is a long one.

Last Saturday our friends invited us to a fund raising event in the next village. Their niece is very involved with a school in Nepal. A recent earthquake destroyed the old school so they have built a new bigger one. However it has no water supply due to the earthquake so funds are needed urgently. Sometimes it is good to reflect how lucky we are.

We had been told that there would be pizzas afterwards and we were to go to the barn....what barn? Peyrille is a small very old village with a tremendous community spirit and lots of expats. Apparently the "barn" was bought by the commune as a venue for community events. It transpired that the adjacent ancient bread oven had been fired up, someone had made a vast quantity of dough and we had to make your own pizzas to be cooked in the oven. In view of the large number of pizzas to be cooked there was an inevitable delay. No need to worry as we were also required to bring a glass which was filled with wine for a euro. Our friend had brought water tumblers for us which were FILLED to the top. Wine flowed all evening and the pizzas just kept on coming so you can imagine that there was a wonderful atmosphere!

Monday evening the same friends invited us round for aperos as their son and his partner were home from Martinque. We were still getting over Saturday night but it would be churlish to refuse!! Michel said "the boys" were preparing a Caribbean evening so it sounded fun. We were greeted with a rum punch which apparently contained white rum and surettes (a kind of sour apple grown in the tropics which is steeped in syrup). That went down very well and was followed by something a little longer - rum and orange. Gorgeous food accompanied the alcohol which now included organic red wine. As it got dark our hosts suggested we might like to try an "old" rum digestive. Why not! However to our astonishment it came out in a 3 litre box exactly like wine is sold in. It was delicious so we had two. We came home carefully, hoping that we would not encounter any gendarmes as we had to negotiate the village fete which was in full swing. We made it and reflected on a wonderful evening with super company. I also reflected that we had guests for lunch the next day and hoped that I would be in a fit state to cook. I had a perfectly clear head on Tuesday, it really is good stuff.

Christophe and Franck have ideas of turning Michel's barn into a pied-a-terre for their long holidays in France. Michel has obviously told them about our house so they arranged to come and have a look on Wednesday morning. However they arrived clutching another bottle of rum declaring "this is the best"
Subsequently John went on line to find out more about the producer and his wares. We were flabbergasted when we found out that the bottle was selling for 237 euros. What generosity.
We now have to organise a special evening to open it.

The very happy alcoholics are now having a few "dry" days.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Clearance continues

Although we are not in a rush, I'm making use of this slack period in the garden (no mowing!) to carry on with clearing the 'dead' hedge.
I've trimmed back the hedge to the 'trunks' on the garden side.  (The hedge is at least 70 years old according to our neighbours)
At least one of the trunks is trying to regrow ...
... but a) next year's invasion by the box caterpillar will devastate the fresh growth
          b) we don't have enough time to wait for the hedge to become a hedge again even if we treat it.

I also have to report the first signs of autumn approaching ... the head gardener has started to tidy up in the porcherie for overwintering and/or next years sowings.

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Run Out

We are in the middle of a spell of entertaining which is very nice but rather exhausting. So yesterday we decided to have a break and have a "run out". He therefore donned his cap and I put on my chiffon scarf and we set off with our picnic.

Initially we were stunned to see just five miles away, vast swathes of hillsides covered in trees which had succumbed to the heatwave. We are used in August to seeing the odd tree with brown leaves but this was far worse than normal. We were driving through the Causse National Park which has exceptionally poor stoney soil with virtually no depth (worse than ours) but it was still a surprise. 
 We found a lovely shadey spot in a walnut orchard to have our picnic before driving to the nearby Castelnau-Bretenoux chateau which was our destination.
The chateau was built in the 13th century by the local barons. It was added to and embellished by subsequent generations but eventually abandoned in the 18th century. Some of the living areas were destroyed by fire in 1851 and it was again neglected until 1896 when it was bought by Jean Mouliérat. He was a tenor in the Paris Comic Opera and we assume he must have been the Pavaroti of his day as he obviously had very deep pockets.

We were fascinated to see that Jean was born in Vers opposite La Truite Dorée, a well known local restaurant. He seemed to want to live the life of "Lord of the Manor" but at the same time turned his every day life into a piece of theatre. Most French chateaux were ravaged during the revolution and are therefore not furnished. However, as Jean didn't start his renovation until the end of the 19th century his large collection of furniture and objet d'art remains to create his living stage set.
 He was obviously one of those eccentric, larger than life characters whom I thought only existed in Britain. He donated the chateau to the State two days before his death in 1932.

We had intended the "run out" to encompass two other places of interest but we were too shattered after our visit to the castle. They will be there when the "ol' folk" fancy another excursion!!