Les poissons en France

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I've spent the last 2 days on the roof of the porcherie although, as you can see, the weather has been somewhat hot. In fact it's really too hot to work outside between about 1 pm and 5 pm.

Yesterday I put the tiles on to one side, and this morning I finished cutting all of the part tiles needed at the ridge. At close of play tonight, I've got the second side nearly ready for tiling, except I've run out of wooden laths to sit the tiles on.

Despite the fact that I was supposed to cut the grass this afternoon, and so must do it tomorrow, I'm hoping that I'll be laying the tiles tomorrow. However, I'm relaying the tiles which were already on the roof on this second side, and we are going to pressure wash them before I relay them. One way or another, the roof should be finished by the weekend.

Sue's spent all afternoon trying to sort out flights for our 'holiday' to South Korea to see Guy. We're going out there for the second half of September, so there is a bit more pressure on getting jobs done and getting ready (hopefully) for the builders in November.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Guest Bloggers

Pat and Mel have sent us an item for our blog, and we think it's nice to have an 'outsider's' perspective of our french life.

ps A couple of days ago I listened to the owl chicks in the evening and I thought I could only hear one. However I listened again last night and I could definitely hear two different voices calling for food.

We (Pat and Mel), have returned to a cool, wet England after spending four lovely days with Sue and John in France. The pictures on the blog give you no idea of the sheer charm and size of the house and land which they have bought. Believe me, I take my hat off to them watering the flowers and the vegetables after a long day out watching 'The Tour'. This involves transporting the wheelbarrow full of water, and using a watering can to water the vegetable plot which is miles from the house! Cleo provides good company for the gardener.

The produce is excellent and grows at such a rate that some ends up in the compost heap. However this does make for a very upmarket compost heap which requires some attention to presentation.

The plans for the house resemble something from Channel 4 Grand Designs TV programme! Knowing Sue and John, it will look amazing when they have finished! Although they are using a builder, he will only be doing the structural work, and they will be doing lots of the work themselves.

Sue and John are very happy with their new life. John thoroughly enjoys having conversations in French with everyone. Shrugs and hand gesticulations are very important.

Sue's love is her garden and her cooking is still excellent, using her own produce from the vegetable plot.

An unexpected bonus was the 'Owl watch'; quite unusual to see an owl at such close quarters and every evening at dusk, feeding time began for the chicks. When set against a clear sky, with masses of stars, it was very 'Harry Potteresque'. However, it's difficult to capture the owl returning to the nest, as can be seen from the picture!

It was lovely to see Sue and John so happy and contented with their new life in France. They are making lots of friends, both french and english, and we look forward to seeing them again.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


We both pushed ourselves a bit too much today. Sue was determined to mower all of those bits the ride on mower cannot reach. This turned into a mamoth effort with strimming as well as mowing, so by 6pm she'd had enough.

However, she'd also had to pick the daily harvest of lettuce, courgettes, aubergines, herb salads, spinach, haricot beans and mangetout. We're eating salad and fresh veg all of the time but we aren't making any headway!

I was up and out on the roof of the Porcherie. I was determined to get the felt and the battens on one side of the roof today. I have to confess that I had to push myself to get it done, but now I only have to lay the tiles tomorrow. I should get this completed, although we have some English people we met on the roadside at the Tour de France coming tomorrow evening for an apero.
However, by the time I stopped (at 6pm also), I felt buggered! Good job it was cloudy today and not full sunshine.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Another Ordinary Day in France

To give you an insight into our mundane lives here in France in our retirement, we thought we'd describe our day.

Being Friday we started off with our regular French lesson from 10 till 11. This comprises at least half an hour of chatting until we get round to correcting our homework.

We then dashed home for a pee, collected some sandwiches and then went off to see the Tour de France in a village 10 minutes away.

The villages on the route of the 'Tour' all treat it as a holiday and often there are meals and 'a bit of a do' which carry on into the evening. We didn't get to the route until about an hour and a half before the riders came through, but we had missed the majority of the publicity caravan that preceeds the riders, throwing sweets, toys, hats etc. into the waiting crowds.

Finally the riders appeared around the corner and whoosh, 15 seconds and they're gone!

Just as they appeared the batteries on my new posh camera failed and I had to rely on Sue on the little snappy camera.

The Tour finished for another year, we went off shopping. But, first we stopped to pic-nic in the shade of a tree to get out of the 35 degree sunshine. We ate our lunch looking at an idyllic local scene.

Having done the necessary weekly shopping we popped in to the English Bookshop and, whilst we were there we looked at the display of paintings exhibited in all of the little shops which line the street up to the medieval part of the town. This then led us to talking to one of the shopkeepers who explained how her husband had renovated and redesigned their shop. We were both raving over how he had done it and the lady was very patient with us!
So we finally made it home just before 5 o'clock. Just enough time to do a couple of little jobs before we went next door for a post-tour apero party.

The party got a bit lively when JJ's cousin and his wife joined us and it became more difficult to follow the french conversations as it all speeded up. We left them to it at about half past eight so I could go and light our BBQ. Barbecued fresh sardines and home grown vegetables went down nicely.

But not finished yet! We then set to and watered the flowers and the vegetable garden in the failing light. So here we are now blogging before we fall in to bed at 11 o'clock at night.

Just another ordinary day.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

New Fashion Trend

No rushing about to see tradesmen today, so we both concentrated on the Pigsty (or at least as much as uninterrupted sunshine and 35 degrees would allow). I pressed on with building up the side walls of the porcherie so that there won't be a gap on the inside between the walls and the roof insulation. I was determined to get this finished today as we won't be working tomorrow and I didn't want to have to finish off the stone laying on Saturday. I want to be crashing straight into the roofing then! So I finally finished the walls at 7pm, after having had to go to the builders yard for another trailer load of sand.

Sue's main contribution today was raking out the old mortar between the stones so that we can start re-pointing them. David had told me about a 3 bladed tungsten bit for a drill, but, although I located one on the internet, it fits a disc-grinder. Not a problem however, as I was able to buy a small disc-grinder at 'Brico-Depot' for 7,50 euros. I have to confess that a piece of electrical equipment, guaranteed for a year, for £5 is actually too cheap. It must encourage the throw-away society, because if anything does go wrong, I shall simply throw it away and buy another one.

That's the end of the technical stuff so the ladies can start reading again. Raking out the old mortar was a very dusty job so Sue found a novel solution.

No, this isn't a Health and Safety issue, it was all Sue's idea. So, if you start to see big, hefty brickies on Costruction sites wearing shower caps, you know who started it!

Les Artisans

We're trying to keep the momentum going, so yesterday morning we went to see a man who makes stairs. He was a lovely chap with a sense of humour who hand crafts superb wooden staircases. He showed us around his workshop and then we viewed photos of every set of stairs he'd ever made! He's going to come to the house on Monday to look and measure, but he is so nice, and his work is so good, that he's going to do our stairs, whatever his price.

We then went to arrange a visit by a double glazing window company. However, it doesn't have the feel of the hard-sell, pvc window people in england. The man who we think is actually the owner, came in the evening to roughly measure up our requirements so he can give us a quote. Like most people who come to the house, he said how nice the house is, (although we always add 'how good it WILL be') and what a nice spot we live in. We certainly think so!

We're starting to believe that things will happen soon, which has meant that Sue has begun to worry about how we are going to live through the work. At the moment it may be that we have to sleep/live/shower in the pigsty, the caravan, and/or our neighbours house. Our English neighbours John and Lesley have kindly said we could use their house when they are not there. We obviously don't want to abuse this offer, but the thought of a hot shower may be too good to resist.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Exciting Times Ahead

Yes, it's full speed ahead now! Today we had the second builder arrive to see us with his quote for the major works on the house. We had been hoping that he would be cheaper than the first builder because he had talked to me about a way of converting one of the lofts into a bedroom without building up the house walls by 60cm (2 feet). He went through his quote in great detail in French and a bit of English, and he can start about November time.

Sue's instant reaction was to sign the contract with him straight away! So now we have to organise new windows and the staircase. We are off tomorrow morning to see the man who makes stairs and who is recommended by both our english neighbours and 'our' builder, Monsieur Fages. Then we will go to the local, recommended window manufacturer and fitter. It is fortunate that Pat and Mel , our last summer guests, have just left, as we can now concentrate on thinking about exactly where we want the electric supplies and the plumbing to run.

The trouble is, the weeds and the grass keep on growing, and I've got a roof to put on the Pigsty!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Rambling on

We all went for our 'regular' Sunday walk over the hill and down to the next valley and village. The ostensible reason for the ramble was to pick plums from the garden of some friends but, although the trees are laden with fruit and they look a lovely colour, they just aren't ripening yet. (Hence the look of disappointment on the faces)

We returned home late (1am) on Saturday night and were given a lovely flying display by the Owls. It was a brilliant clear night sky with moonlight, and it was easy to see and follow the flight of the owls. We had a long, leisurely meal on our terrasse last night and an owl started the night's flying just after 10pm. It's amazing how the owls take no notice of human activity right below them!

We took Pat and Mel down to our Sunday market and I couldn't get over how many people were there. But then I realised that there was a Bric-a-Brac market on at the same time! The place was heaving. However, all of our usual stall-holders were there, and, as we are now classed as regulars, the lady who bakes Pastis (a gateaux typical of the region), gave us a present of some sort of sugared fritters. We saw the mayor buying some wine from one of the stallholders so we had to have a tasting . I thought that if it was OK for the mayor, it must be alright. Don't know if it was that good, but Mel did buy 3 bottles. At least he has a story to tell about the wine when he serves it up. Aren't we becoming locals!

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Not to be outdone by previous summer guests, Mel kindly set to and picked some of the stones from the unused vegetable beds. (A slight improvement to breaking rocks). We can always find something to keep people busy.
The event for the evening was a trip to the Cahors Blues Festival.
We had organised a BBQ in the afternoon for Pat and Mel and a couple of our local friends and then we went off to Cahors about 8pm to meet another couple we've met over here. There were about 8 bands playing in different bars up and down the main boulevard of Cahors and, although 8 o'clock was a bit early, the evening gradually warmed up.

I was particularly keen to see the band called 'The Texas Sluts', although they only had one female player.
However look who I saw in the audience!

Sue, Pat, Mel and I stayed on at the festival till after 12 listening to a band called 'Hound Dog Song' who, although french, had a real genuine blues sound. A most enjoyable evening.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Owl Watch

Pat and Mel arrived from England yesterday afternoon and so the evening was mainly spent on the terrasse eating and drinking. At about 10pm, the light was just going and so we were all standing out on the lawn in front of the Pigeonier waiting for the first sighting of the owl. We could hear the chicks getting vocifarous. After about 10 minutes or so, we were rewarded by an owl emerging and flying around the house, quite unconcerned by the audience. We all felt sure that there are definitely 2 owls in there as, on occasions, one owl had no sooner flown in than one flew back out.
It was lovely to watch our owl calmly flying around the house and even roosting on the chimney.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Reasons to be Cheerful.........

Today wasn't anything special, just another day. But I feel inspired to show you some of the little things that mean so much to us both, here in France.

Firstly, I was outside cleaning the cat's litter trays last night after 10 o'clock at night, when JJ told me to listen. Amazingly, we could hear young birds still in the nest, calling for food. And they were in our Pigeonier where 'our' owl lives. I got Sue to come outside, and Nadine arrived, and so we all waited for the owl to come out.

JJ and Nadine often see 'her' come out of the top open window of the pigeonier around half past ten, and 'she' dutifully obliged. And we could then still hear the young calling for food! So we all assumed that there are owl chicks in the nest.
Naturally we rushed indoors and went onto the internet to find information on Barn Owls. According to what we found, we think that we have a pair and that the female is on the nest. So there must be a male hunting and bringing food back to the nest. From the information we found, we might see youngsters attempting to fly, roosting outside of the nest, or on the 'sill' of the window.

So 'Owl watching' is going to be a feature of the summer!

The next heart-warming event occurred when I was bring home the new roof tiles from our local Builder's Merchant. (And, yes we even have one of those in our little town). JJ and Claude, a cousin of another of our neighbours, helped me unload the trailer.

The help was given quite naturally, unsolicited, as a normal, neighbourly thing to do.

Finally, as another example of french neighbourliness, Claude, who I had only met this morning, was walking with his little grandson in the garden when he invited Sue and I for an apero. He had no need to, but we saw it as just something that he would naturally do. So, half an hour later, we had to stop our jobs and we went to meet the family. Claude and his wife, his daughter and her husband, and the grandson of three and a half.

We feel very lucky to be here in the middle of all of these little things which add up to make a great life!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Notre Ami

Our good friend Paul has just left after a long weekend with us. He arrived by train and we took him around our local beauty spots to give him some idea of the attractions. Other than that we only really had time to put the world to rights and sample some of our Cahors wine.

We did manage to fit in walking up over our hill (see view of St. Germain in photo) to scrump plums from the garden of some English aquaintances who are back in England.

But this morning it was an early trip to the station for the 7am train to Paris. And Sue was up and came with us!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Holiday Jobs

David and I completed removing the 'crepie' from the section of wall of the house which we'd set as our target (although he did more of it than I did!). We want to leave people feeling that they want to come back again!

Last Sunday night we went for a meal in a nearby restaurant which had been recommended to us. The meal was very good and we had a really nice bottle of wine there. So nice that we went to the chateau the next day to check it out.

We couldn't tour the chateau as it is a private residence, and we believe that it is owned by the Cartier family, hence the picture in a book.

We had a very good tasting session, trying 4 of their wines ranging from 7.50 euros (£5 ) to about 27 euros ( £18 ) - a bottle that is. So, of course we had to buy some, and it is good. But the meal led to a greater outlay of money than we had anticipated.

So now I've got to think about where to have my wine cellar!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

No Peace for the Wicked

Our first summer guests are here and are determined to help us with the house! So, we dutifully supplied David with a hammer and chisel and pointed him at the back wall.

The majority of the wall is covered with a sand and lime render called 'crepie' and fortunately it isn't too difficult to take off. The intention is to repoint the wall when the builder finishes making new windows and a door in the walls, sometime in the future. But for now it is interesting to see what quality of stones the walls are made from.

Not to be outdone, June took over mowing the grass, after a quick driving lesson. She even got up to full-speed.

Our neighbours thought that the fact that Sue and I could watch our friends working for us was very amusing!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

It's a Cat's Life

When I come back again I'm definitely coming back as a cat. Eat, sleep and then stroll around.

Yesterday morning when I got up, I found our little black cat, Cleo, looking somewhat perplexedly at a mouse. She had no idea what to do with it; she was totally bemused every time it moved. So, I got Diana, pictured above, and shut us all in the lounge. Diana thought that I was stupid to expect her to do anything until after she'd had her breakfast. All she was interested in was how quickly I could get food onto her plate. Therefore I had to catch and kill the mouse, whilst watched by two disinterested cats!!!

The cats are so well trained, that often, when we come home and they have been left outside, we find them queueing up at the front door waiting to go indoors to use their litter trays. If the litter trays are dirty, they (Diana in particular) will sit next to the trays waiting for us to change them. Today we were both working outside when Diana came to find us. She told us a huge story and then wandered off to the front lawn. I realised straight away that she was going to go to the toilet in the area where we are trying to regenerate the grass. We think that she must have waited by the litter trays for as long as possible but then, rather than use a dirty tray, she had to go outside. How embarrassing!

Pressing on

I've been able to press on with the timber-work on the porcherie and I have to admit to being pleasd with the result of my work. I have tried to get on as far as possible before we have our summer visitors arrive and we take a 'holiday'. It is so easy to become lost in concentrating on 'jobs'!

I will be ordering the roof tiles as soon as we transfer more money over from England, and then we will see how long something like this takes to get delivered. Our 'holiday' will last till the end of July; I want to get the tiles on site so I can carry on after that. Then the interesting bit will begin when I start making window frames!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It's Summer

It's the 1st of July and it must now be summer because the Sunday Farmer's market has started in our local town. So we now have our normal Friday market and, throughout July and August, the Sunday market.

We had to go to see what and who would be at the market so, of course we ended up buying a lot more than we went for!

The High Street of the town was packed with cars and people.......................

.........seriously, there were more cars and people than we normally see. However we thought we'd show some of the rest of the town.

The suitably impressive Town Hall or 'Hotel de Ville' which dominates the centre of the town.

Every town and village in France has it's Church which is usually the most impressive building there, although you can see the rivalry between State and Church here in our town with it's church and it's Town Hall.

Whilst we were wandering around the town we saw a 'wedding' car although we couldn't find out where the wedding was going to be; the driver of the car was fast asleep in the driver's seat. Perhaps he'd been on the stag night!