Les poissons en France

Saturday, February 26, 2011


As you will see, seed production is in full swing (it's better this year because we have a bit of upstairs which is warm enough for me to park plants). However, you may be a little perplexed by the array of canes strategically placed over the seed trays and the cat sleeping under the canes. Any ideas? On two occasions, when a litter tray was not available, Diana found my trays of seedlings a perfect substitute. It is bad enough fighting the marauding wildlife outside without having it inside as well.

Who would be a gardener?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interesting Day

Yesterday, Monday, was the 'regular' visit to Toulouse for the second injection of this, the 6th cycle of chemo. This means setting the alarm for 5am and setting off just after 6am. Whether you describe this as interesting, I'm not sure! What was interesting was when Sue saw 2 owls fly out of our pigeionnier as she was putting on her coat. She told me about this as she got in the car, upon which I saw one of them fly back. It's really nice to know for sure that we have a pair; let's hope they successfully rear youngsters.

The Day Hospital was heaving with patients when we got there, so I wasn't very optimistic for a speedy turn-round. After they'd taken my blood sample, I was sent for a chest x-ray. When I got there I met up with a receptionist who I had previously encountered. During our previous meeting, we had talked about where I came from in the UK, he told me of another Englishman who lives in the Dordogne who had actually been to the Cavern in Liverpool. It turned out that my new French friend, who is about 55, used to play in a band, and is a huge fan of an English group called The Inmates. This group have been playing since the mid 60's and are still performing now. Jean-Claude showed me clips of them on his ipod and gave me details of their Facebook page. A strange encounter in a French x-ray department.

So, yesterday we greeted, with the statutary hand shake, and I went in to have the x-ray taken. When I came out, my friend told to come round to his side of the reception desk where he showed me an e-mail from some member of The Inmates! It was in english but he had been unable to find anyone to adequately translate the phase 'pulled through'. Jean-Claude had obviously been ill and they said that they were pleased that he'd 'pulled through' it all. Sue and I laughed about this new example of the strange but pleasant things that crop up in our 'French' life.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The day I feared would never come again arrived today. John did some more work on the bedroom ( a spot of rectification). For this to happen on the third day after his chemo is a total miracle, but as the footballers say "we take each day as it comes". He did have to have a sleep before going to his book club but these signs of normality are very encouraging.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Our friend Paul, of chauffeur and B&B proprietor fame when we limped to Guy's graduation, met someone he knew and enquired about the health of his family. The man told him that his wife wasn't very well. Paul, mindful of previous "ear bashings" from his wife for not finding out what was wrong, enquired further. It seems that she has exactly the same as John with the protein being deposited in the heart, and has even just completed cycle 5 of the chemo. It really is a very rare condition.

St. Valentine

For many years, like Father Christmas he has flown over our house, but this year we had an "outing" to the cinema. Well I can assure you that really is an event as we haven't been for hundreds of years!! We thoroughly enjoyed the "King's Speech" and the drink afterwards with our friends. I was a little concerned as we ended up walking halfway round the small town before we found a bar open. A fortnight ago John wasn't able to walk 20 yards with out being out of breath, but he managed this hike extremely well.

Our owl has been calling vociferously for a mate for about 3 weeks now, much earlier than last year. When we arrived home last night John saw another owl fly into the pigonnier to join him. Has St. Valentine been really active this year and we have a "love nest" in the tower?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What's for Tea?

As we have highlighted previously, Spring isn't too far away, and the head gardener is beginning to get a bit 'twitchy'. Lots of seeds are germinating and so lots of pricking out needs to be done.

So that's why we needed such a large kitchen!!!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Some Good News on the Health Front

Some of you will know that we visited the cardiologist in Cahors a week ago for a check up. John was very out of breath walking to his clinic and when the doctor gave him an ECG he noticed that his heart beat was still irregular. Instant deliberations with the cardiologist in Toulouse resulted in, and I quote, "the heart is in a period of instability, come back next week".

John has certainly been markedly better in the last two days and I was delighted that he managed to walk round the garden centre and the supermarket yesterday. He has not been able to do this since early November. Hence we were not totally surprised when the ECG he had today confirmed that he nolonger has an irregular heart beat.

Cycle Six of the chemo starts on Monday (all being well) . If John could feel as he does today for the rest of the treatment it would make his life so much more comfortable.


I was just sitting here eating my breakfast and looked up to see a small flock of migrating red kites flying over head.( I needed to refer to "the bird book" to establish that information). Yesterday lunch time we watched a buzzard catch and enjoy his lunch in the allee.

I listen every week to a radio 4 programme called Saving Species. It does take a world wide view but predominantly discusses British issues of habitat loss, creating wildlife havens etc. A couple of weeks ago I felt moved to write to the programme telling them how living here we take things like butterflies, red sqirrels, barn owls etc. for granted. I suppose at that minute I just needed to say how lucky and privileged we feel. (You have all heard this so many times that I must have subconciously deduced that there was another anonymous voice out there with which I could communicate).

Fine, I had got this off my chest. So you can imagine my total surprise when I received an email from the Presenter explaining some of the reasons why wildlife is so much more abundant 'chez nous', followed up by a thank you from the production assistant. Do they not receive many missives from their listeners? I really appreciate that Brett Westwood took the time to reply to my musings and print his email below.

Dear Sue,
Many thanks for getting in touch and for your observations. There's no doubt that parts of Europe including France that have been less intensively farmed and have a much richer wildlife. Land use is definitely part of the reason, but some of it is for climatic reasons too. As we head south in Europe the number of species increases, and one of the pleasures for me of visiting western France is finding insects and plants which have only a toe-hold in the UK, or aren't there at all: praying mantis, lady orchids, re-backed shrikes…the list goes on.
What France does have, especially in the west and south, is a less intensive farming economy and some substantial areas of forest, heath and wetland. Here in the UK we have begun to appreciate what we've lost in the past by re-creating larger areas of wetland into which we're reintroducing cranes…they're also colonising naturally and numbers are at their highest for several centuries. Red squirrel conservation is now entering a new phase , boosting populations and keeping the greys at bay. So projects are under way, but there’s a long way to go! The biggest challenge is to create landscapes which are resilient, and which offer lots of niches for wildlife…that's what some areas of France still have, but even here they are still reducing.
All the best and thanks for listening
Brett Westwood
Presenter, Saving Species
NHU Radio
BBC Bristol

Saturday, February 05, 2011


Whilst it seems a little too early to think 'Spring', we have some nice, warm and sunny weather arriving.

It has even cheered me up!! Need less to say, Sue is out there full of enthusiasm. She insisted that I went out with her and she showed me the snowdrops blooming and the small daffodils just on the point of opening their flowers. So ... even if this spell isn't Spring, we know that it is not too far away.