Les poissons en France

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Black Diamonds"

Every winter since we've lived here we have said "we must go to a truffle market". Ah well, yes now we have been.......ah well, yes. This year for the first time in twenty years they held a market in Gourdon. It was originally scheduled for a couple of weeks ago, but the snow came and it was cancelled.

Just a quick life history of the truffle - assuming I can remember it properly. Nicole our neighbour, lent me a book all about fungi in the Autumn with a view to identifying those growing in our field to see if they were edible. Having read the book I was none the wiser and even if I had been I wouldn't have eaten them. However I found the section on truffles fascinating. The sort-after culinary truffle is the subterranian fruiting body of a mychorizal fungus which associates with the roots of trees, predominantly oaks and hazel. There are several different varieties which are distinquished by their colour, the black ones found locally are particularly prized. They are cultivated, but it seems a very hit and miss affair, being harvested between December and March. The fungus produces a sort of herbicide so that there is a circle without vegetaion around a tree, indicating the presences of a truffle. However that is only the first clue, the "black diamond" could be absolutely anywhere within this barren area!! As I understand it, all the "wrinkles" of truffle hunting are passed on by word of mouth, in a very clandestine manner. The informant necessarily being an octagenarian and the recipient at least middle aged.

Todays market was full of the statutory "old boys" associated with any rural affair in these parts. The vendors all had a basket in front of them with truffles varying in size. Quite honestly they looked more like an obscure variety of potatoes, except that they were 850 euros a kilo!!

A chef was preparing some scrambled egg into which he grated quite a lot of truffle. We paid 2 euros for a tiny pot of this absolutely delicious scrambled egg - the only problem was we couldn't taste any truffle!! Never mind, we have learned that we need not pay extortionate prices for gourmet food which is laced with black fungus balls.

This is also the season of "gras de canard" when they sell copius quanties of duck and goose fat. Today we saw a man paying 7.50 euros a kilo for cooked duck bones. The mind boggles at what he may be going to do with them, particularly as you can buy a fresh carcass in the supermarket for 1.50 euros. I guess we are just English philistines!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yes, We ARE Mad

I got Jon to help me yesterday to bring the last two 'beams' indoors. So, yesterday afternoon and today I've been putting them into position (hopefully to give us a less springy floor).

It's not been easy as the 'beams' are heavy and long. To be able to get them upstairs and into the bedrooms involved manoeuvring them onto the bridge landing and then lifting one end up and round so that I can get it up and into the door of bedroom 2. It was on the limit of what I was able to do by myself.....but we did it. Sue often tells me I'm getting more and more like my Dad!

So, at the end of play today, the 'beams' are all in position, with one end recessed into the wall and the other resting on a large cross-beam. The plan for tomorrow is to cement them all in the walls and install the drain pipes for the 'en-suite' facilities so that, Saturday, I can commence fixing the levelling wood for the floorboards.

There will still be lots and lots to do in these rooms ( build walls, plasterboarding, bathroom facilities, tiling etc, etc!) but it will be a nice psychological milestone to get the floor down.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cats, Cats, Cats

We currently have five in residence. By a querk of fate we have over booked on our first intake.

On Monday, Pussycat arrived and joined me in the bedroom (me being in bed with "the back problem"). He is 17 and feels the cold so could not go out into the "cattery". He happily goes for walkies on his lead and is absolutely no bother other than he eats noisily in the middle of the night and insists on chatting very loudly when you go to the loo.

Today Misty and Figgy arrived. They are very large fluffy Maine Coons with the softest natures. Jon and Sue, their owners, assure us that they are not whimps and that they have very thick fur coats which will withstand the sub zero temperatures. John has made them special houses off the floor which I covered with blankets but, as we are cat cosetters, we will observe closely, after all, this is a five star establishment!!

Meanwhile our two know that something is going on. Cleo is sure that it has something to do with the bedroom because all of a sudden she has been banned from going in there.

Diana is taking it all in her stride, so long as dinner is still on time!

I feel sure that I/we will be fully occupied for the next fortnight cleaning litter trays, feeding and fussying to ensure that none of them have psychiatric problems. Needless to say we might have!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Let the Work Begin

The wood has finally arrived! Not yesterday as promised, but this morning.

However, it's here! Unfortunately, because of our telephone wire, they were unable to put the wood up on our 'upper' terrace. And double unfortunately, my assistant is unwell and has been in bed with back problems (self-inflicted from too much gardening). So, with some misgivings, I set to and started moving the wood upstairs into the salon all by myself. With a number of rest breaks I've managed it all bar 2 last 're-inforcing' beams. They are 5 metres long and I can just about lift them; having moved 4 already, my legs said, at just before 5 o'clock, 'no more!'
I've recruited a helper for tomorrow morning!!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happiness is a Sharp Chain

Whilst we're waiting for the wood for the bedrooms (which I'm now promised will be delivered on Monday afternoon) I foolishly suggested that we went shopping for some plumbing bits as well as food etc. So, that was the morning! But then I remembered that I had to put the sharpened chain back on the chainsaw and finish cutting down the trees behind the white bed.

What a difference having the chain sharpened made! Job completed! (Except for the huge job of cutting up and clearing all of the branches etc from the trees. Still, that's for another day)



I expect that, after a couple of weeks we won't remember that there had been trees there!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Morning Prayers

You can see what is most important in our house first thing in the morning! (The other photos were all censored!) There was a fair bit of hopping around and oohing and aahing at the appearance of the germinated seeds. (I carried on reading the paper.)

As the day was bright and sunny we managed to plant the last 3 roses and then the two trees we bought at the end of December.

Sue's pleased to see the trees planted as they 'make it look like a garden'. (I don't know what we've been doing in it for the past 3 years, what with paths, beds, pergolas, etc.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

There I was, Diggin' this 'ole

Whilst it wasn't as sunny as yesterday, Sue decreed that we would plant the rest of the roses this afternoon. So, off we went, me digging the holes and Sue doing all of the technical stuff; pruning, trimming roots, preparing the soil/compost mix and 'accurate' positioning of the rose in my hole (if you see what I mean!).

We were doing fairly well until our friends Rodney and Raymonde turned up for a chat and a cup of tea. This coincided with the onset of rain! So, we have three more roses left to plant. However, it won't be tomorrow, as we're off to the Catering College with friends. Much more exhausting than digging holes!!!!!

Sap on the Rise

It was a lovely sunny day yesterday; a day heralding Spring and a day demanding 'work'. So, although the ground is still soggy, it was convenient to cut down the trees shading the 'white' bed in the front garden.

We made a good start on the job, but it quickly became obvious that, for the larger trees, the chain on the chainsaw needed to be sharpened. The chain is now at our local Agricultural Supplies shop, ready for collection Wednesday afternoon.

After the first couple of cuts we were amazed to see sap starting to drip out of the branches. Only the middle of January, and the sap was running out of the cut branches in a steady stream!

It really shows the difference in the seasons between England and our little corner of paradise.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Off We Go

Etienne, our electrician, arrived on Tuesday as promised. And a day and a half later, we have a forest of wires in the bedrooms, and it's over to me to now create floors and walls etc. etc.

Today I've started to put insulation between the floor beams but, we're still awaiting the delivery of the flooring. I phoned the woodyard at the beginning of the week but.... the snow...waiting for the arrival of fresh stocks....!! Still, it's good to be doing something again.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


You may recall that from time to time we highlight the differences and similarities between the English and French. For example, when our Mayor was arrested and charged with trespassing on the railway line whilst demonstrating about fewer trains stopping at Gourdon station. By the way, initially he and two other local mayors were found not guilty, but the prosecution then appealed and recently they were found guilty but no fine was imposed. However, John has just read that after two years of campaigning, most of the reductions have been reinstated. There is a moral here somewhere. Viva la difference!!

Whilst being holed up in the recent adverse weather we have both read a very interesting book called "The Secret Life Of France". It was written by an English lady (daughter of the cousin of a friend of mine - just to add the personal interest) who has lived in France for over twenty years. It would appear that lots of French attitudes stem from the Revolution, for example the right to demonstrate. We are always commenting that all towns and villages have beautiful flower displays and at Christmas lovely lights, with never a comment about "it being a waste of money!". All verges, hedges and trees are regularly trimmed and we now realise that is because the French worship beauty. Not only in women but in all aspects of life. Talking of women, apparently "sex" is regarded as a very necessary human activity and to be freely discussed with Health Professionals (glad I'm old). Infidelity is not regarded as a taboo and consequently they do not have the equivalent of The Sun with lurid headlines about politicians. Making money for its own sake is to be deplored and very American, I assume that is why we are still waiting for the electrican to come.!! To obtain a job in the public sector is coveted. It is not easy to get in, with exams etc to be passed, but is regarded as a job for life with super pensions at a relatively early age (55). Mr Sarkosy is trying to bring such attitudes into the twenty first century but with little success.

"Ideas" are the main stay of French culture and a philosophical approach to life is very important. Endless hours are spent discussing ideas and little changes. People have a strong affinity to their roots and the rural lifestyle even though they have moved to the large towns . Hence lots of Parisiennes have homes in our area and wouldn't dream of selling them even though they only stay for the annual four weeks summer holiday - another hard won privilege not to be surrendered.

We are delighted to be able to understand the culture of our adopted country better. Another friend asked her French friend to read the book and she confirmed that it was spot on, but she was not sure about the sex!!

PS We've got to stop gloating . It's been snowing now for about 24 hours and the temperature has stayed about -3 all day. Not nice!

Friday, January 08, 2010

New Beginnings

Whilst some of you may think that the new year has only just started, for the head gardener, the new campaign has begun.

After a few days of pouring over the internet and the sites of seed companies, then sorting through the seed bank ( a box of unused seeds from previous years), operations began in earnest yesterday. The first batch of seeds were planted (Zinnias) and are now sat on the floor in our bedroom. I'm sure that the only reason we chose underfloor heating was so that Sue has a source of 'bottom heat' for her plants.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Grey Limbo

We're marking time now. The weather is cold and grey, although we haven't any snow, but it doesn't make us want to rush out into the garden.

Inside the house, we're waiting for the electrician. He is/was due to arrive tomorrow but at the moment we're waiting for an email to confirm if he's coming tomorrow or Friday or next week.
At the same time, we're still waiting for the flooring to be delivered. I won't start shouting till next week, as I won't be able to start on the floor before the electrician's finished!

Some of you may have noticed that we received a comment on our last post. A kind lady left us a message of encouragement, although, when we looked back through the past few posts, she must think we're slightly demented! We often forget that the blog can be read by people who don't know us.......we'd better watch what we write in future.