Les poissons en France

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas to all our Readers

Our first Christmas in our 'new' house in France. Strange that it is not the Christmas we expected nor is it the Christmas we would have pictured in our wildest dreams last Christmas! But that is the adventure called Life.

Winter has coincided with our Christmas and we are struggling just at the moment. In fact we have got the Winter Sails. We have been covering all of the windows and doors with sheets and blankets in an attempt to block off all of the draughts we can now feel. But the draughts are so strong that they are billowing out like spinnakers. The more we try to heat up the house, and the bigger the wood fire we burn in the fireplace, the more we are finding all of the holes in the walls, floors and around the windows and doors!! The previous owners, ( the germans ) only came here during the summer, and so they weren't interested in making the property insulated and weather proof.

We realise that we have to survive this winter but take in to account issues of insulation and adequate heating when we get going on the rebuild of the property next year. I have talked to our neighbour Bernard, who knows everybody around and he has told me where I can buy some more wood for the fire. I thought that we had lots of scrap wood for the fire, but we are burning it at a much faster rate than I expected. We will be going out in the next couple of days to buy a Calor gas heater to boost our means of heating. At the moment it is all adventures!!

To all of you who read this, I wish you a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Clearout

On Tuesday it was another bright, clear day, and the weather forecast shows no change for the next week. As usual we were working outside and we were working on tidying the area under the trees along the top hedge. We have cleared a lot of shrubs and saplings which were encroaching out into the grass. I looked up at about 11am to see a small lorry arriving. It belonged to the chap who lives a field away the other side of a stand of trees. He deals in scrap metal and our neighbour Bernard had promised to talk to him about the agricultural equipment which we have freed from the undergrowth under the trees. He and I set to and loaded the things onto the back of his lorry ( with a bit of grunting and groaning).

It needed 2 trips for him to clear us out.

We were pleased to see all of this old stuff removed; it helps to show off what improvements we have so far made about the house.

In the afternoon I carried on clearing out the stumps of the shrubs and trees along the top hedge and Sue set to and lit bonfires with the leaves which I had cleared to be able to see the stumps! She ended up with 5 bonfires and managed to fill the whole valley with smoke!!!

This morning we inspected and virtually all of the leaves have burnt out. It was very frosty to begin with, ( -6 degrees at the back of the house ) but by lunchtime I was sitting on the terrasse eating my lunch and opening the mail (Christmas cards ). This is why we have come to France! Eating outside on the 20th December!

Where the sun could get to the frost had gone, so I set to and finished clearing and mowing where Sue's bonfires had been. Even though there is no grass there, it now looks cared for and like the edge of a garden.

We are really pleased with the results of our efforts but you soon forget what it looked like when we arrived. However we just turn to the next job - clearing the remains of years and years of rubbish! I guess in times gone by, before the introduction of council tips and rubbish collections, the nearest corner would do as a rubbish heap. Now that we have cleared away the undergrowth, we can start to work our way into the garbage.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bird Watching

We are attempting to encourage the small birds to feed on our window sill. We got the idea from our French teacher who has a small table set up on a window sill outside her living room window. Whilst we have our weekly lesson we can see all sorts of Tits, Sparrows, Nuthatch etc. taking nuts and seeds from the table. So I made a similar table to go on the window sill outside of our living room. We started off by hanging Fat balls to bring them close to the table and we are really pleased that we have managed to get Blue Tits, Great Tits and a Robin now taking seeds from the table. Of course one of our cats, Cleo, has realised what is happening and wants to sit on the inside window sill! That won't encourage the birds!

Move On

We are now ready to move on with our lives but of course Christmas is nearly here, Guy is coming 'home' (although he has never seen the place!) and we think we will have to organise visits to friends who are either comimg to France or who live here. Then we have got to organise our return to England to celebrate Rene's life with her friends and family. But, we can't let all of that stop us too much. There's just too many things to do!

The weather has turned cold at nights but, during the day it starts to get warm by about 11 0'clock. And of course, by then, I'm too hot in thermal underwear and about 4 more layers of clothes!!!
This pattern of weather also means that the grass is still growing. So, although I've mothballed our new mower for the winter, I had to get it out again to mow the back field. But it is satisfying when it is done as it changes a field into a garden.

Also, whilst the weather is good like this, we are afraid to waste it. We have things we can do inside but we feel that we must work outside whilst it is good. So Sue has been continuing with clearing the brambles and saplings out of the top hedge of the front garden which leaves me with heaps of very prickly twigs and branches to load into the trailer to take to the Tip (Dechetterie). But I enjoy doing these jobs that will only have to be done once. Another job to cross off my list

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Very Special Moment

We woke up Thursday morning to the hardest frost of the winter and it was extremely cold at 8.30 when we set off for the crematorium - but it was magical. The trees were covered in a thick layer of frost and the fields and hills looked like a winter wonderland lit by the cloudless azure sky. The crematorium only opened last week and when we went inside we were shocked by the decor as it is exactly the sort of modern interior that we ultimately want in our house. It seemed that Mum had got it without the wait that we will have. We had told the undertaker that everything must be "tres simple" exactly as Mum would have wanted. There was only John and I there and the very nice young undertaker who was perfect for the job. Some how it seemed just right. We stood by her coffin and I read a few words and then told her about all the friends and family who had been concerned about her since she was taken ill. It was very short but we drove away with a good feeling, which I hope you will understand.

Just to prove that there can be humour at the saddest of times. Anyone who is familiar with the construction industry will know that no building is finished on time. When we arrived they were working on the landscaping - difficult when its 0 degrees - and inside there were electricians and carpenters a plenty - just finishing off!! The poor old boy who was fitting the door handles in the ladies had to be ushered out complete with all his tools while I used the loo. It could have been built by Langwiths of Holbeach who were always in this position whatever council building they were involved in . The ol' boy even looked like a Langwith employee - I guess its the same the world over. Mum would have appreciated the joke and fortunately the electrics worked to allow her a smooth and dignified exit.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Turning points

Sue's Mum , Rene, has been in hospital for over 6 weeks now and we have been visiting her every day. We have watched as she has slowly deteriorated and had become reconciled to the idea that there was no way back for her. Yet it was still a bit of a shock when we went in on Tuesday 12th december to see her and found an empty bed. She had died peacefully at 11am and we got there at just after half past one. The hospital had been trying to phone us but had our number wrong. We can't praise the hospital strongly enough; Rene could not have had better service and kinder care. Because we are keeping things very simple and it is just Sue and I, the cremation is on Thursday. This is nice since it will give us time to get over all of this before Christmas and before our son Guy gets home from South Korea.

We will be going back to England sometime in January to hold a Celebration of Rene's Life with her friends and family and to all drink a glass of wine in her memory. She would have approved of that!

What a year this has turned out to be.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Equipment News

Monday turned out to be a busy day. We got up early so we could go to the vets in the nearby town to find out if we needed to make an appointment for the cat's regular/annual injections. No problem, just turn up. We tried to do a quick bit of Christmas shopping, but nearly all of the shops stay shut on a Monday, certainly the shops we wanted. But, in looking in shop windows, I saw a poster for a music evening, 'Christmas Blues'. We found the hotel where it is to be held and it is run by English chaps. We have decided to go on Friday night to the gig, but we have to have a traditional English Christmas dinner! We wouldn't normally eat this, even in England! And I expect the place will be full of English! I bet you won't get French people eating Turkey and all the trimmings! But, in the spirit of broadening our social life, we're going to give it a whirl.

We did all of this and still managed to get back home before 11am. I needed to line the Satellite dish with the sun at 11am French winter time in an attempt to find Astra 2, which is the one broadcasting english TV. Our german friends had left the dish they used for receiving german tv and we feel that we ought to try to set up english tv before our son Guy gets home from South Korea the week before Christmas - although we don't seem to have time to miss watching it.

As luck would have it, we had only just returned home when Sue spotted a lorry looking lost.

It was the lorry delivering our mini-digger which we had bought on ebay. We had been told that the delivery company would phone us the day before, so it was very lucky that we were in when the lorry arrived.

The first problem was that the 'mini-pelle' is heavy and the lorry was on a slope. We realised that as soon as we got it rolling we wouldn't be able to stop it disappearing off the end of the lorry!

Then the lorry driver had problems with the tail-lift! We eventually succeeded in persuading him to turn the lorry round so that we (all 3 of us) could get the digger on to the lift. Having got it on to the ground, the driver obviously knew how to drive a digger. He started it up, and drove it off it's pallet. All that was left to do was tip him and then learn by trial and error how to move the digger so I could get it off the road.

In all honesty, the digger is very easy to drive, although it remains to be seen how easy actually using it for digging will be. I managed to move it safely into one of our 'caves' so that it could be locked up out of sight.

All that was now left for me to do was to sweep the road and start repairing the damage to the grass verges. At least I have got all winter to do this before our neighbours return!

However...... still plenty of daylight left. Just before the lorry arrived, our neighbour Bernard had come over to tell us that he had talked to his friend who is a scrap metal dealer ( we mix with the nicest of people) and they would remove the old agricultural equipment we had salvaged out of the hedges. And 'gratuit'. But they were afraid that they would churn up our field. So.....Sue and I did our human donkey impressions and brought all of the scrap metal over to the road. At this point we called it a day.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Driving in France

I will just pass on a few tips about driving in France.

1. If you pass a sign indicating a fixed Speed Camera ahead, there will be one, albeit in about a kilometre. Take note of the speed limit and slow down.

2. You will sometimes see a gendarme with or without a speed gun, standing prominently at the side of the road or at a roundabout. Whatever the speed limit slow down.

3. Increasingly there are mobile speed monitoring units which you won't see, specifically in villages and built-up areas. You won't know if you have been 'done' until the letter drops through your letterbox giving you details of where to send the fine. You can contest the charge on the following grounds :-
a) your car was stolen
b) your car was destroyed before the date the offence was committed
c) you were not the driver ( WHO was then?!)
d) someone is using your number plates

As none of these applied, I have sent off my 135 euros (about £100 - gulp!), and I now drive like a real old fart. So, like me, obey the speed limits and ensure you slow down to 50kph going through any and all villages, no matter how sleepy they look.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Couldn't get the picture of the Pigeonnier floor in the last blog - technical issues as usual!
Dumb operator no doubt.


We have been taking advantage of the good weather over the weekend to be working outside. Sue carried on clearing brambles in the boundary hedge of the front garden, burning them and other rubbish behind the barn, and then, just to make sure she wasn't wasting her time, she was cutting the ivy off the rear wall of the barn.

Whilst Sue was busy on the land, I was still in the 'cave' moving earth, wood dust, ect, to find what is on the floor.

I had thought that the 'square' on the floor in the corner was your ordinary concrete floor, but of course, with a house of this age that was a silly idea. The flooring seems to be assorted flagstones. Certainly, they are too heavy for me to try to move. No doubt we will be able to use them as a feature somewhere, inside or out.

The soil, if I can call it that, I was taking outside to fill in some slight dips in the front lawn; these dips were the divisions between uncultivated land and vegetable plot according to one of our neighbours, Bernard. I was keen to get as much of the 'ditch' filled in as possible as the weather forecast for all of next week is rain. No doubt, the soil will settle down and I know that the rain will help with this. It will need to be firm for when I start driving over it with the ride-on mower in the spring. Having tamped the soil down I was dismayed to see Cleo realising that I had prepared a fantastic outside cat litter tray.

Searching for more soil, I cleaned out the small 'room' in the bottom of the pigeonnier and found a lovely floor of 'cobbles' set into the ground. We think that this space had been used as a chicken coup at least twenty years ago. The space is really too small to be usefull although Sue suggested that we could put some lighting in there and use it to display sculptures or bonsai. Time will reveal all!