Les poissons en France

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hectic to say the least!

We've been experiencing problems with the internet again and so we've been off line for 2 days. I eventually traced it to the wireless connection between the phone modem and the computer. So I'm currently sat next to the telephone with the computer linked with a direct connection.

So, where were we?

Having repaired the digger on Saturday afternoon, Sunday saw David and I carrying on with digging out the dry river bed. With the two of us, we successfully reached the end of the 'river' (or is it the beginning?) in the Silver birch copse. (as it will be). In fact we timed it rather too well, as the digger ran out of diesel just as we finished.

Meanwhile, the girls (June and Sue.......and Betty!) were still busy clearing the heap of stones from the rear wall of the barn. And job was finished.

Having got on so well with all of the jobs I'd lined up for David and myself, we spent Monday up in the loft above the kitchen, removing some rigid insulation that I want to re-use in the porcherie. Not a nice job!

This was the final job of David and June's 'Holiday'. I was almost glad to see them go so that I could have a rest!

I then spent Tuesday evening, after we had taken our workers back to Limoges airport, trying to sort out our intenet problem. And virtually all day Wednesday! But.....whilst I was sat at the computer, Jean-Pierre, the lad who works for our builder, was finishing clearing out the first Cave.

We can't believe how much stone has come out of this one 'room'. And the next Cave is nearly twice as big.

This work of clearing out the Cave, also meant that the passageway was cleared as well. However we now have about a 2 foot drop from the bottom of our steps down to the bottom of the passage. Not easy for Sue and I, and definitely not easy for Betty. But our builder, Cyrille, very gallantly rigged up a plank to allow us to get out of the house!

Then, this afternoon, work was started in the second Cave. The old dividing wall in what will be the kitchen came down, and so did one of the huge beams holding up the floor of the lounge. Fortunately, the floor didn't come down as well.

Things are happening quite quickly at the moment, and we are going to have to try to move all of our things out of the house this coming weekend. Cyrille is planning to get the ground floors dug out and the correct levels fixed during the coming week. Then the first-floor floor will come down! It's certainly proceeding quicker than we thought it would.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Back to John's version.

Things have been going so well that things were bound to go wrong sooner or later. And they did.

To begin with, the digger refused to start. We thought that it was the battery so I went up to our local garage and they suggested changing the battery leads and fitting a car battery. Seemed a bit extreme. The garage is shut on Monday, so they could come to look on Tuesday or Wednesday! Meantime, David set to with a big spade, moving earth from the river bed. I chickened out and tidied up tools, and investigated modifying my home-made window frames, ready for the glass.

However, the problem of the digger played on our minds, (or certainly David's). So, at about 3 o'clock, we set off for Cahors to look for a shop selling new leads and a car battery. If the garage man's idea seemed good, we could do that! And lo and behold, there was a huge range of terminals on sale at the car section of Leclerc. So, back home by 4.30 and mod carried out by 5pm. Hey presto, it worked! All ready for an early start in the morning.

We couldn't start there and then as we had to get ready for an evening meal at 'Le Petit Paris' in a very picturesque village called Daglan. Very interesting village which certainly merits a visit in the Spring when everything will be open. The Restauant wasn't too busy, as the tourists have all left but the meal was excellent, and their house wine (Bergerac) was extremely quaffable. We will certainly be going there again.

More Stumps More Men

Hi - Another day another guest blogger: I'm June the wife of "Digger David" how on earth I'm going to live with his "change of career" at this stage of our lives I'm not sure!!! Today started off pretty much where it left off yesterday with the "lads" looking at moving two more tree stumps from the ruin (which we are now going to upgrade to calling "The Garage"). Cyrille the builder arrived (phew) to start work in earnest and wanted to do a deal - could he please use the little digger, because it would give him easier access to the cave, in exchange would the "lads" mind using his big digger.... well what a question, it took them about two seconds to say yes. He would just give them a quick demonstration and away they would go, he took out the two tree stumps in as many seconds to show them how easy it was!! Off they went to play - sorry work.

Sue went off to her french lesson and I pottered about making coffee for what seemed an army of men, in between time I was official photographer (David Bailey eat your heart out). The work went extremely well and in no time at all the ground in the garage was levelled and they set about knocking the stone walls down to an even level all round, by the time Sue arrived back all was finished and the car was ceremonially parked in it's new home.

The builders are levelling off the floor in the cave below the present main bedrooms, Sue thinks if they go down a few more feet they will end up in Australia and is now quite concerned about where all the rubble and rocks are going to end up.

I added my twopennyworth and said I wasn't worred where they put it but if they disturbed all my nicely redistributed stones from the side of the barn there would be real trouble. In between time "DD" reclaimed the small digger and set off to work at the bottom end of the garden on Sue's "dry river bed" which will come from a small raised birch copse and meander through to the veg patch and "fall" over the hedge.
I think it probably hit all four of us at the same time that the "small raised birch copse" would need an awful lot of building up... we had solved the problem of where the builders can put the rubble. Four brains four hours ... one solution.

The weather today has not been as kind, the early morning mist refused to shift all day and the temperature has not risen to t-shirt weather, well in Sue's case only four layers of clothes. We have been very fortunate so far, although the mornings have been cold, Wednesday and Thursday gave us a good frost, by lunch time it has been warm enough to sit on the patio and eat lunch. However, being the eternal optimist(s) we are hoping this is only a one-off.

Friday, October 26, 2007

All Charged Up

As everyone has declined to put fingers to keyboard today it's "Digger David" doing a guest spot. The day started with a final push, or pull, to get the stump out of the "garage". With the help of the digger we found the offending roots and out it came. We had no sooner finished and Cyril the builder made his entrance. This long awaited event was greeted with great joy and a belief that at last things were on the move. We showed him our work on the stump but he did not seem overly impressed. Whilst John went off to talk building work with Cyril I was let loose on the digger. A childhood dream was fulfilled as I moved earth around with aplomb. Cyril brought a couple of bigger diggers to rearrange the earth in the caves and so got started. It was all happening on the building front as the roof tiles arrived. Sue looked mournfully at the front lawn as the lorry trundled across the grass to find a spot to deposit the pallets of tiles. Why can't builders do their work without making a mess cos someone has to clear up after them!! They do have their benefits as Cyril showed his skill with the digger by moving the tree, which John and I couldn't move, then transported a number of huge flagstones from the cave to a site by the ruin. With all this work going on the ladies felt it necessary to get in on the act so Betty and June set about moving a pile of rocks from the back of the barn to a rockery under the oak trees. But Digger David carried on regardless moving earth from one spot to another. The working day finally came to end and we marked the occasion with a bottle of bubbly. And so to bed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Some" Men at Work

John was up very early on Wednesday morning as the builder had assured us he was starting - no sign of him all day. However John and David set about their scheduled task of clearing the ruin. Things did not go according to plan. Just inside the entrance to the ruin was a tree stump which John had cut down shortly after we arrived here. Well, at 5.30 in the evening they abandonned trying to get it out.

They had been severing enormous roots from 8am to 5.30pm and it wasnt even rocking, although that may have been because the roots had grown all over the rocks which had fallen down many many years ago. The whole operation was hampered further by the digger refusing to go after lunch. It was established that the problem was the battery and it was put on charge over night.

Bon Appetit!

Our French teacher has been telling us about a catering college at Souillac for some time and on Friday we decided to go and investigate. We were given the menu and decided that the meal for Friday evening looked great, sorry fully booked. Never mind the one for Tuesday evening looked good and we were full of enthusiasm so we booked. When we got home Betty said "will we get there in time" as we had to pick June and David up from Limoge airport. Whoops we had booked for them but forgotten it was the day they were arriving. Well we arrived on time to this 5 star restaurant , we just couldn't believe that it was decorated like a really good restaurant and the food was fabulous. June says I'm not to tell you about it because you will all want to go.

We had mis en bouch with our apero which was courgette cream served with a little tartlet.
Then a starter of Quercy salad (foie gras, nuts, duck fume etc.) It was enormous.
Followed by a special scrambled egg served with a very special cheese straw.
The main course was braised fillet with turned roasted vegetables, and a dreamy flavoured sauce.
The dessert was plum tart decorated with a sugar basket in which was spiced ice cream and then it was surrounded with a spicey sauce (very Yummy)
The "cafe" order was a little complicated, 2 espressos, 2 coffees with milk and then June had "Lime infusion" - as in tree - but she was convinced that they had forgotten the "infusion", however the hot water was fine. Accompanying this was little cream pots some topped with cassis and blackcurrant, others with pear and vanilla and then there was an array of petit fours and homemade nougat. We were determined to push it all down!
All this was served by a charming redheaded young man and it was £12 a head plus 10 euros for a bottle of wine!!
Do you all want the website to check the menu before booking your next trip to St. Germain? It will be a regular venue for us.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Chestnut time again

It's amazing to think that it's a year since we went to Mourjue for the Chestnut Festival! And this time I made sure that I didn't lose the photos. It was as enjoyable this time as it was the last; good weather, lots of interesting 'folk' bands and lots of people having a good time.

Mourjue is a tiny little village in the middle of farming country, but, for this one weekend of the year, the place is packed. We walked up the street from the car park ( field) towards the little main square, past lots of stalls selling all manner of food and other products connected with chestnuts.

We sampled a selection of goodies, including the obligatory roasted chestnuts. These were being cooked in bulk to cater for all of the visitors.

As we munched our way through this feast, we were being serenaded by an amazing selection of bands playing strange instruments.

A lovely day out and a bag full of chestnuts to roast on our fire at home.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Keeping Busy

We're still trying to keep ahead of our builder, although it now looks like he's coming next Wednesday!

Yesterday was a bad day at the office. I had bought some panes of glass from our local hardware supermarket (Bricomarche) so yesterday morning I set about fitting them. The second pane was fractionally small and I was trying to raise it up on a couple of matchsticks ( you see I'm being very professional) but it didn't work. As I positioned the beading, ...crack! But to add insult to injury, the last pane broke as well just as I was nailing the last piece of beading!!!! I was seriously unhappy. So this morning I went to a 'proper' glass shop to order the glass again, as well as some large panes that were too big for Bricomarche to do for me. They recommended thicker glass than Brico, plus even thicker glass for the really large panes. Won't be ready till next week, so the second attempt is delayed.

Having returned from my shoppimg trip, I started removing the rendering (crepie) from the wall over what will become the 'picture' window for the kitchen. I felt that it would be wise to make all the dust etc. before the windows are fitted.

Whilst I was doing this, Betty helped as usual.

The crepie was very sandy and came off really easily, so, as Sue's cousin David and June are coming out next week to help again, I thought that I ought to carry on taking the crepie off of the back wall which David had spent a long time working on in July. I feel bad that I haven't found the time to do any more work on the wall since he was here last!

Whilst I was doing all of this, Sue was putting yet more coats of paint on the Porcherie door. It's got to be the right colour!

Then she disappeared into the 'Cave' to take off some crepie from the interior walls before the builders start to dig out the floor.

Whilst all of this activity was taking place, Sue suddenly told me that there was no water coming out of the tap! She went next door to check if JJ and Nadine had water but Nadine was out picking walnuts. JJ came and tried to help, and, as it's only a week or so since we had the water meter moved, we decided that there must be some 'muck' in the pipes. Fortunately, just before I set to and started taking our plumbing to bits, Nadine arrived and queried if they had water in their house. Lo and behold they also had no water! Saved in the nick of time. It transpired that there was work being carried out on the water supply, but somebody failed to inform us. So thankfully we were able to have showers to clean ourselves up.

More important than all of this trivial messing about, we've had frosts the last two mornings. When I greeted JJ today, he told me that he had seen two formations of birds (Storks?) flying south when he had got up. We both agreed that winter has come if the birds are heading for warmer climes. Then, about 4 pm we all heard birds calling. We searched the sky and finally saw them, very high, forming up and then going south. It's always lovely to see nature in action.
Finally, Sue went down to the veg patch in the late afternoon and came back to tell us that the frosts have finished our crops.

On the way back from the Potager, I had to pass JJ and Michel who are building a wall for JJ. This is the second weekend they have been doing it, and they'll need at least another one. I've been taking notes on how it's done!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Day Off

Yesterday being Sunday, we took things easily, as Betty wanted to take us out for a meal. So we did the english thing and went for Sunday lunch. We went to a restaurant 10 minutes up the road run by a Dutch couple. We all had a pleasant meal but we must have seemed like 'food critics' to Betty when Sue and I kept making comments about the decor, the furniture and the presentation of the food. The actual food itself was cooked very well but each plate was let down by the presentation on the plate. The starter had some salad on the plate and it was 'english'; lettuce leaves, sliced cucumber and segments of tomato. My main course of venison was excellently cooked but again lacked any imagination in the look of the dish. The restaurant itself looked tired. My impression is that the dutch couple have run the restaurant for some years - successfully - and have become complacent. During the course of our meal we had at least 3 plates with chips in them. The chairs we sat on had been left outside during the winter months and so looked tatty; ready for the bonfire in my opinion. And finally, of the 6 tables occupied, 3 were English! So, whilst as I say, it was pleasant, it won't be going on our 'recommended' list.

Having done my Giles Corren bit (he's a food critic in the Times) we returned home, had coffee and sampled my Plum liqueur which I made from the plums on the tree infront of the house. The girls gave it the thumbs up.

I then took the opportunity to carry on with making the door to the Porcherie. I had a hiccup when I confusedly put beading on for the window, but on the wrong side of it, but that is now rectified, and we're ready to stain it. Just got to buy a lock now!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Autumn's here

We're noticing that the leaves have started changing colour already. We've been saying that it's happening a month earlier this year, but when we look back at our old photographs we realise that there really isn't much difference! I think what we remember is when suddenly the Oak leaves turned from green to brown, and this didn't happen till November. But other trees had been changing just the same time as this year.
Having said all of that, last night we lit the fire for the first time. We're having lovely bright days, but then it is getting chilly at night, hence the fire. Another factor spurring on the commencement of the fire season is the fact that we've now got a large wood pile as well as a big stock in the barn. And potentially, we won't be needing it! Once the floor is taken out we won't have a fire unless/until we put in a wood-burning stove. So I'm quite happy to use our wood now. The future will have to take care of it's self.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Preparation Time

We've been having meetings with Cyrille (our builder) and both the window man and our Stair man. There are details about some of the 'picture' windows and with the stairs which can't really be determined until the new concrete floors are in place. The problem is that, as we are on the side of a hill, the house is on a slope as you look at it, but it also falls away from front to back. We are going to have a lot of steps between rooms.

In the meantime, we're pressing on with getting the Porcherie weather-proof so that we can use it for storage. Sue's been painting the window frames so that we can get the glass in, and we've bought the wood for a door. It's really looking like a little house!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Here we go......

At last we've got the band-waggon rolling! We need to get the water meter moved out of the Cave which will become the kitchen. I went down to the Town-hall the week before our Korea trip and told the girl there who runs everything, that we would not be back till the 30th of September. Lo and behold, the Water man arrived on Tuesday 2nd October to see what needed to be done. He left saying that he'd be back the next week. We had to go out this morning (Monday) and when we got back at 12 o'clock JJ told me the water men had been, and there was a big hole dug. Now that's what I call service.

Betty is staying with us again and we had all been invited to our English neighbours, John and Lesley, for lunch. But when we saw the men's lorry returning at 2pm I rushed out to make sure there weren't any problems. Needless to say, Sue came along as well to make sure they'd dug the hole in the right place. After some banter as to the relative merits of the English and the French rugby teams (who will be meeting in the semi-finals of the World Cup next weekend), the men were quite happy plodding along.

Having left the men to get on with it, we returned to John and Lesley's to continue with our meal. That is, until a lorry laden with what looked like breeze blocks went past the window. So we rushed out again and this time it was a delivery of materials for the concrete flooring which will replace our lounge floor. This was off-loaded onto our front lawn; the first of many loads I think. Hopefully it won't take too much to repair it when we've finished!
We did manage to finish the meal after that, and we then had some instructions on how the water, electricity, washing machine etc. work as we are going to decamp into John and Lesley's house whilst the worst of the work is done. At least we won't have to worry about how to heat up enough water to wash ourselves!

Having finally finished our lunch at about half past four, I had time to clear the 'spoil' from around the water meter (except for another load of stones). Lets hope that all of the work goes this smoothly.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Korea - Part 4

You will no doubt be relieved to know that this is the final part of the saga.

I was awake at 4.45am on Thursday 27th September our last day in Korea. It was not necessary to get up until 6am but somehow when you are older the anxious button kicks in and you wake up way ahead of the alarm. Guy also was up on time and we leisurely took our reserved seats on the 7.40am train from Busan to Seoul (Guy was due back at work at lunch time). Fantastic service, in a modern train. John said that the train clocked 300kmph (there was a visual display) and I didn't feel any movement, hence I was snapping pictures of the countryside as we went along. It was scheduled to arrive at Seoul at 10.27 and it duely did to the minute.

We said our sad goodbyes to Guy as we don't expect to see him again for about a year (although he has pledged to contact us every week - watch this space). Our first problem was whether we would be able to park the two large cases for the day and then be able to enjoy our last day in Seoul. Yes we could. With assitance from a nice little man we were able to operate the depositaries locking system. Next job check the whereabouts of ATMs to ensure that we could get some money if necessary when we returned to collect our cases. We were directed to cash machines taking Visa etc by the tourist office. We spent a lovely day in the ancient palaces and Botanical gardens and watching old men playing board games in the park.

We finished with a nice meal which I finally succeeded in eating with chopsticks.

Feeling replete, we sat recovering from our meal and all of a sudden the rather loud "background" music began to play an upbeat version of the Planet Suite, in particular the movement that the hymn "I vow to thee my country" is set to. We had this hymn at our wedding and we have always considered this " our piece of music". What a coincidence.

We were totally at peace with the world and then disaster struck. We went back to the station to collect our cases and replenish the money...... and low and behold the Korean ATMs would again not accept our cards. Lots of swearing about call centres who had assured us that we could use our cards in Korea, followed by lots of running around like headless chickens trying anything we could think of to obtain some money. Things were desperate as we only had about £2, nowhere near enough to get the bus to the airport and 3 hours to sort it out!. By this time all Banks were closed and time was ticking away towards our flight take off time. I decided that desperate measures were required and the information desk kindly let me use their phone to call the Embassy, which of course by this time was closed. The recorded message gave the telephone number for the consular duty officer but in my heightened state of panic I was not organised to write it down so had to go through the whole procedure again. I eventually got through to the duty officer who was not convinced that this was a real emergency and that I had tried every option. I soon put him right!

I knew that Embassies do lend British citizens money in emergencies because years ago it was my job to collect this money back from errant travellers when they returned to the UK. I dropped this into the conversation and he agreed to meet us at the next subway station (we had just enough money for one stop). Look out for a european in a grey suit with a pink tie at exit 3 he said, we found the colour blind diplomat, who was wearing a black suit with a lilac tie. He was a really nice young man, introducing us to his Korean wife and then braving the monsoon conditions to take John to an ATM that he hoped would cough up. Eureka it did. He had told John that the Foreign Office do not consider this an emergency and he was going to lend us the money out of his own pocket if the machine had not worked. So things have changed in 35 years! He then escorted us to the bus stop carrying my case for me - I bet the Foreign Office do not know that they are paying him all that money to be a porter. I may be being facetious now but I cannot tell you how thankful we were for his help. You may be wondering why we could not contact Guy, a) I do not have his work telephone number or address and b) I knew that he was working late catching up on some reports, so by the time we could have contacted him our plane would have gone.

When we reached the airport we had calmed down. The nice booking in clerk must have decided that we looked poor old folk who needed a good night's sleep so he gave us seats by the emergency exit as he said we would have more room. It was a dreadful seat, right by the galley with lights shining and trollies clanking all night - result no sleep. We arrived at Dubai at 5am when it was 30 degrees C. We thought it had been busy at 3am but it was "heaving". Just about every nationality on the face of the earth was there. John soon slipped into Victor Meldrew mode, maintaining that he had never had to queue for a pee in his life - lucky him. He gave up in disgust the first time but soon realised that all the many toilets were the same.

No more crises (except me developing a pouring cold - poor man who sat next to me, I was either disturbing him to go to the loo or spluttering all over him) until we were about to land at Manchester. We were approximately 300 feet from the runway and all of a sudden the pilot aborted the landing. It seemed an age before he announced that the plane that had landed just in front of us had burst a tyre and there was debris all over the runway.
We again stayed overnight at the 5 star facilities provided by Paul and Jennifer before flying back to Limoge on Saturday the 29th October. Our holiday was finished off in style by Flybe providing us with our own personal plane - well that is a bit of an exaggeration, there were 8 other passengers and more crew than clients.

A bit of an adventure eh!!