Les poissons en France

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Best Laid Plans

They say that lightning doesn't strike twice but...........

On Sunday 29th Rene got up as normal, got dressed but then developed a bad headache and was dizzy. Sue called the Doctor and Rene's blood pressure was very high, over 200. The ambulance was called and set off to take her to the local city hospital. We said we would follow although we didn't realise we would be chasing the ambulance at 70 to 80 mph!!!

They lost us before we got to Cahors and we had to ask for directions. She must have had a scan as soon as they got her in and the doctor, who fortunately spoke some english, showed us where she had a large area of bleeding in the brain. Basically the high blood pressure had burst into the brain and it was affecting her speech, and her right side arm and leg movement. Things looked black.

However we went to see her today and she was more stable, and the blood pressure had stabilised. She could understand us although she couldn't use the right words when she was talking to us. This made her frustrated and we had to stop her trying to get out of bed!!
It's going to be a long process but things don't look so bleak. You never know what is around the corner and this just reinforces our belief that you must make the most of today.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

An End to All That

There is now a strange finality to our 'old' life in England.

We went back for my mother's funeral, driving in 2 cars (one english and one french). This had a slight problem when, driving through Rouen in the evening rush hour and in a torrential rain storm, we became seperated. Unfortunately I was in the lead and was unaware of the problem. I just thought that Sue and Rene were a couple of cars behind. What didn't help was the fact that, unknown to me, I had no credit left on my mobile phone and so couldn't receive any calls! I don't known what the other passengers thought in the car holding area at Boulogne when Sue was shouting over to me 'I'm your wife, do you remember me?'

We successfully sold the english car to a local car dealer, albeit for the 'book' price, but we were just pleased to be shot of it. This then meant that I could concentrate on the funeral. A short but personal celebration of Mum's life. As with all of these things, we do them for our own consolation, but I wanted to publically express some of my feelings for her.

The only hiccup was the late arrival of mum's only surviving relations: her brother-in-law and her cousin, who raced into the Crematorium car park with 1 minute to spare. Having driven for about 4 hours to get there, they then went off to find something to eat. It was only gradually that I became more and more annoyed to think that they couldn't even spare half an hour passing the normal courtesies before making their leave. That is the joy of relatives!!!

We arrived back in our home in france at a quarter to midnight on Friday night to see evidence of the joy of Friends. Our french neighbours had mown our grass for us.

We can now press on with all of our plans.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Chestnut Fair

On Saturday we went about an hour East into the Cantal to visit an annual fair celebrating all things chestnut. This fair, at Morjou, is held over a weekend at the end of October and attracts about 20,000 people. We like these events in France because they really epitomise the vibrant community spirit of rural life. All ages support the running of the fair. They are all keen to keep alive their local traditions, customs and music. Having parked in a field, we walked up a long street lined with stalls selling chestnuts, chestnut jam, chestnut wine ect, cooking chestnut cakes and crepes, or ornaments, furniture and implements made from chestnut wood.

At the same time we were being passed by various musical groups playing strange looking instruments and wearing outragious costumes. We ended up in the local museum, the Maison de Chataignes ( the Chestnut House) which gave an explanation of the history, usage, types of chestnut trees ect. although this did tax our french a bit. All in all it was nice to immerse in the happy atmosphere, sampling the chestnut paties, drinking freshly pressed apple juice and eating freshly roasted chestnuts!

The only hiccup of the day occurred when we got home and I tried to download the photos we had taken on to the computer. I became a little confused (nothing to do with my Pastis, the national aniseed drink!) and deleted them from the camera before I had saved them to the computer. Sue was not best pleased. The fact that it was a mistake was not taken as an excuse, although my invitation for her to do it in future was dismissed with contempt. We'll just have to go again next year!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wild life

I got back to our new home from sorting out my Mum's affairs late Wednesday afternoon. It is a lot of driving; 4 hours to Dover and then nearly 10 hours from Boulogne to home. So today I was finally able to start some clearing out now that we can see what the Germans have left us. And what they have left is basically rubbish. So, with JJ's trailer we did our first trip to the local council recycling centre. It is all well organised, the attendant even helped me lift an old washing machine into the skip. But the most important feature was a mound of free compost which they bring from wherever they compost the green recycling! Sue wants to ask if she can have a lorry load.

I was given a tour of the back garden by the garden designer. As you can see she was very happy doing this! She also showed where some animal is rooting and then leaving it's visiting card. I don't think it is Deer, as I think they would be eating the grass and not digging up the earth. I feel that it could be wild boar that we are told are in the hills and which the hunters go after. If anyone can recognise boar poo please let us know.

Sue was also then telling me that Nadine says that the long multi-coloured snakes are not poisonous, it's only the smaller black ones you have to look out for, especially when they come to warm up on your concrete patio!!!

She then told me that I had missed the visit from the woodpecker who has been eating the shutters for years. She went into our back room which has never been improved and he had his head through the hole in the shutter.

As if this wasn't enough, we had a roosting bat in that room as we were clearing it out. He wasn't disturbed by the light or by us working in the room. We left the window open and he had obligingly gone once it was dark. Somewhat unfriendly, we promptly barrackaded the window to encourage him to go elsewhere. We'd had enough wildlife for one day.

The Signing

I felt rather daunted about having the responsibility for signing for the house but knew I didn't have any option. The events of Thursday were totally bizarre. I took the phone call from the nursing home to say that John's Mum was dieing and as John was in Gourdon I rang him to suggest that he try to arrange to sign by proxy. Next phone call was from the German owners to say they were arriving at 2pm to start sorting out the house and loading their furniture. Did we really need this!! They eventually took the last things from the house on SUNDAY afternoon.

Friday 13th arrives ( we are assured that this is a lucky day in France) beautiful weather but of course I couldn't settle with everything on my mind. I went to get changed ( thought this was a formal meeting and had to look the part) soon there was a call through the open window Su Su, peer out in some disarray, it's Jean Jacque asking me to meet the other neighbour who doesn't live here and had just called by. I explained that I didn't have much time but went round as it seemed churlish. Result very tight for time to get to Notaire, but some of you will say that this is the norm for me. Prayed I would not have a problem parking, ran down the road and got in the door as the clock struck 3. Make pleasantries with Doris (owner) and Anna the Estate agent, alhough first gaff was to ask the Estate Agent if she was BUYING lots of houses, well any one can get their "acheters and vendres" confused. To my rescue comes Monsieur Sir Galahad in the shape of the dishey Notaire (John thinks his wife is lovely) and ushers us into the front office which looks like an English one from the 1920 s . All four of us then start to go through the contract clause by clause. Copious maps are produced to show me exactly which bits of land we are buying (I lose count of all these little bits and we have to do it all over again). We some how managed to end up talking about "Mains Sewerage" a new word for the French and German ladies and they were fascinated and kept repeating it. We stopped every now and then while a cheque was written out for somebody who had to get paid at that stage in the proceedings. The "others" thought it was highly amusing as they reckoned I understood all the bits that referred to money and not the rest. Well I certainly didn't the Termite report, apparently there are no termites but are Capricorns! Nobody seems to know the English for Capricorns but just shrug their shoulders and indicate a bit of treatment and there isn't a problem, guess they are wood worm, any definitive advice would be welcome.

Eventaually 2 hours later we become the proud owners of a pile of French stone and a few bits of scrubby land (Le Grand Bois was not this leafy haven of oak trees full of nesting birds as we had imagined but a bit of scrub on top of a hill). You may think this was the end - oh no. Doris and I have to rush round to the insurance office to confirm that we have our own insurance and that her's can be relinquished - all part of the legal bit. All done and Doris suggests we join Anna for a glass of champagne. Lovely but more small talk which I managed this time without too many obvious gaffs.After the drink I ran Doris home , fought off another drink from her friends and arrived home at 6.30ish. Mum frantic as I had told her I would be about an hour. As I draw up neighbours shout come and have a drink which we duely did. Mum and I had a celebratory meal of egg, chips and beans at about 9 o'clock. Not your traditional French meal!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Life never ceases to amaze me by presenting scenarios which would appear far fetched in a film or book.

The final signing for taking legal possession of the house was scheduled for 3pm Friday 13th. But on Thursday morning the care home in England phoned to say that my mother was causing concern. By mid-morning it appeared that she only had hours to live. I was able to organise the Notaire to allow me to sign by proxy which I did in the afternoon and, at 6pm, I set off in the french car to drive back to be with her.

I didn't make it. At 11.30pm they called me on my mobile to say that Mum had slipped away peacefully at 11pm. Is it strange to say that I was unable to feel sad? In many ways Mum had finally got what she wanted. She had increasingly talked of 'going off to find somewhere where I can be me'. During the summer she had walked miles looking for this Shangri-la. As I was driving through the open french countryside in bright moonlight, the sky was full with stars. To my right Chartres cathedral was floodlit, shining like a beacon to guide lost souls. As I looked up into the sky I tried to see two stars close together, for I felt that once again, Mum and Dad would be together again.

It seems incredibly ironic that our move to sever ties with our old life should become complete with the passing of my mother at exactly the same time as we sign for our new home.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

We Wait

Although we are slightly in limbo, waiting to take over ownership of the house, there are still plenty of things to keep us busy. The grass keeps growing, there are still plenty of weeds and nettles to attack and there are millions of stones to clear or to pick up and put back where they have fallen from crumbling walls! But every little job done gives a sense of achievement as it won't have to be done again. And needless to say, Sue is busy with her plans for creating gardens out of scrub and meadow.

I went back to England last weekend to see my Mother and on the Saturday our neighbours, JJ and Michel took it upon themselves to remove 2 large trees from the boundary between JJ's and our courtyards. One tree was our side of the wall and one was on JJ's side. I had said to JJ that I would help but when I got back the job was done.

Also, I had talked to JJ about mushrooms and Cepes. Sue is very nervous about picking and eating these strange autumn fungi. But at this time of year in France, they are the leading topic of conversation; have you been picking, how many did you pick, etc. So, on Saturday afternoon, JJ arrived to present Sue with a huge tray of Cepes, which he insisted that she had to set to and cook and then freeze. As this was her first brush with this French fetish, she checked with Nadine exactly what to do. Just another example of the generosity of our local community.
I was duly introduced to the Cepes when I returned from England on Tuesday evening with a meal of Chicken garnished with local Cepes!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Reconnection to the digital age

Have managed to negotiate the language and technical difficulties of organising a telephone line and wireless connection to broadband, hence the new posting. A lot has happened in the past 3 weeks; thunderstorms, temperatures in the 30's, an invasion of sheep, and the discovery of a new way of life.

The first heavy rain on our second night of all being here showed the need to renew all of the roof of the house! Very quickly our Rose-coloured glasses slipped and we realised we needed to gut the house totally to achieve the kind of 'Grand-Designs' stlye of house we wanted.

Our next door neighbours are lovely, helpful and very kind. We feel that they appreciate the fact that we are already tidying up the outside of the house and garden. We invited them to Sunday Lunch and it was touching when Nadine had a little cry when she came into the lounge. She was born in the village and her Grandmother lived where she lives now. The old lady who lived in our house had no family and so Nadine became a surrogate daughter to her. We don't think she had been in our house since the old lady died and so it was a bit emotional for her.

At the end of our first week we were confronted by a farmer setting up an electrified fence on our rear field and a flock of sheep appeared! Phone calls to Notaire, our english solicitor/advisor and to the estate agent prompted assurances that there was nothing to be worried about and that they would be gone before the date of a final signing. They were still there yesterday when they made a break for freedom and our neighbour discovered them in our courtyard eating Sue's azaleas and my few bonsai that I brought from England. JJ left a message for the farmer and then we shepherded the sheep away from our juicy meal. The farmer arrived to sort out his fence but this afternoon he and friends and 2 dogs took down the fence and drove the sheep away - we trust for good.

We have decided to sell our car back in England and buy a French car. Last Saturday we went looking, saw a Renault Megane Estate and negotiated a deal. We were asked to return on Tuesday, with passports, to provide details for the Carte Grise (registration Document) . If we left a cheque we could take the car on Wednesday and then let them know when the money was in our french bank account (from England) . This typifies the trusting, laid-back attitude to french life.

The rest of the time arround these high-lights has been spent hacking down nettles and brambles and mowing grass. The weather has been unsettled but seems always to clear by about 4ish so that we can take our apero on the veranda in some warm sunshine.

To sum it all up, we are tired and happy.