Les poissons en France

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Found 'em

Even on a day like today with temperatures hovering around 40 c the kestrel(s) are still very busy flying to and fro the hole in our wall.
 This is the hole where David photographed the kestrel flying.
What has confused us is that the kestrel never lingers by the hole but flies off, seemingly to the same spot in our trees.  We have tentatively looked in the trees and we can often hear 'mewing'.  However the quantity of guano and rodent remains (skin and bits of bones) on the ground under the hole made me go and get the binoculars and ... lo and behold I saw certainly 2 large chicks in the hole.
I've Picassa'd the photo to make it clearer.
So we now await the flight trials!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Lodgers in Our Own House

Subtitled "Living with the wildlife"

Our activities have been severely curtailed recently by the other residents in our house.. We have not been able to eat outside in the courtyard because the kestrel wants to deposit his catch in his larder.
Photos courtesy of cousin David, We really must get a better camera.

A little brown bird (exact identity unknown) roosts in our porch each night and makes it very plain when she wants to go to bed and would we please also go to bed and stop that security light flashing on and off!!

I threw one of the windows in the salon open this morning and John soon told me that I could not have it open for long as it would upset the bats roosting behind the shutters.

The deer continue to think that the garden is grown as their personal food supply.

We will not mention Cleo the cat who totally rules us but we are happy to be slaves to them all as they give us so much pleasure.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Sue has a book of French Gardens and she has always wanted to visit the chateau and gardens of Hautefort which is in the Dordogne and only about an hour and a half from us.  So the visit of David and June provided just the excuse to go.
The Chateau stands on a hill overlooking rolling countryside and, as a home until 1990, is furnished with period furniture. It also has a formal garden around the house and an english style parkland outside of the chateau.
The gardeners were trimming the box when we arrived and it was a work of extreme precision, to the extent of measuring with rulers to maintain the gaps and the widths of the box hedging.
And it was all done by eye and hand.
Sue very much enjoyed the visit and is now able to cross this garden off the list!

Monday, June 22, 2015



10 - 06 - 1944

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.                                                                                 George Santayana

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Call of the Mountains

With David and June here with us, we decided to have an expedition down to the Pyrenees which are some 4 odd hours away for us.  But, to make life more interesting, we detoured to Millau bridge on the way down.
As everyone will say, it is a very impressive sight, but we spent a good hour in the visitor's centre studying the information and the video on the building of the bridge. 

This excursion had added a couple of hours on to our journey but we arrived at our hotel at Vernet-les-bains in good time.  The hotel was a bit dated but clean but the receptionist/general factotum (and chef for all we knew!) put us all in the mind of Basil Fawltey.  He was full of himself, very talkative (in both French and then English) and insistent on giving us all the leaflets for the nearby attractions.  Having installed ourselves in our rooms we went off to find the nearest supermarket for some bottles of wine ... although by a mishap of organisation, we had to buy glasses and a corkscrew!!!

The next morning we set off early for the main purpose of our trip ... the little yellow train which runs on part of the line from Perpignon to Toulouse; specifically the part of the line through the mountains connecting some of the ski stations.  We had booked our tickets and so expected no problems but, of course, even this early in the summer season, some of the covered carriages were reserved for coach parties which meant that it was a bun-fight for seats in the open carriages!

We got on the train at its starting point of Villefranche-de-Conflent and went to Font-Romeu, a journey of an hour and three quarters.
We wound our way up in the mountains through picturesque scenery and increasing numbers of wild alpine flowers.  When we got off at Font-Romeu we had to use a taxi to get to the town as otherwise it was an hour walk uphill all of the way!  And once we were there we saw that it is really a ski resort and so quite missable at this time of year apart from the meadows of wild flowers.  
As there wasn't much to do we had a snack and then walked down to the station (going down was obviously within our capabilities!) but this meant that we were going to be too early for our train.  Fortunately no one even asked to see our tickets, let alone checked the time of our train so we were able to jump on an earlier one.  However this did lead to some anxious moments when we stopped three times at different very small stations/stops to pick up more passengers, which seemed to lead to some delays as the driver had to find spaces on the open carriages to squeeze them in.  We kept worrying that we would get turfed off but we kept our heads down.

The next day, before we came home in the afternoon, we went to the large fort at Villefranche-de-Conflent, a historic walled city which is a UNESCO world heritage site. We spent a very interesting morning there and I was delighted to see a number of school parties going round to learn of their heritage.  One of my highlights was when a small 8 or 9 year old french boy asked me in English 'please excuse me'!!!
Before we started back for home we needed to eat and Sue had seen a reasonable looking restaurant back in Vernet where we had stayed at the hotel.  And what a triumph!  The special for the day was Mussels Belgian style.
And as you can see we each had a bucket of mussels and a plate of chips between two!  The mussels were served in a spicy soup (with Cayenne pepper) with a bed of vegetables and they were fabulous!!!  AND they serve mussels every fortnight alternating with Paella.  The only problem is that it's quite a long way to go  ... but ...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Early Morning Visitor.

This 'visitor' was inspecting the recent plantings in the Sepentine bed just after 8 this morning.  The gardener was alerted but thankfully there didn't seem to be any eating of the recent plantings of Cleomes or Asters!


When we have people staying with us it forces us to have a 'holiday' and we go to some of the attractions in the vicinity.  Yesterday we went to the gardens at Eyrignac and, as we didn't get there till midday we started with a picnic french style, table cloth and all.
we've been to these gardens a few times now , but they seem to get better everytime we go.  There were some lovely lilies this time.
We could see that these will be followed by Dahlias, so no doubt we will try to go again.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Having just posted the Omnibus below, we went outside and David saw a Wren come out of it's nest in the wall of the porcherie!
So, as well as the Kestrels who are nesting 'somewhere' nearby, and now the Wren, we are bombarded with Swifts, a pair of whom we think have nested in the house, Sparrows go in and out of holes on the pigeonier, Blackbirds have nested in the box hedge opposite, Black redstarts are nesting in the back wall, and a redstart persists in roosting at night in our porch!  Also last night Sue saw the Owl emerge from 'her' window in the top of the pigeonier.  Lots going on.!

Omnibus Edition

Well the weather finally broke last Wednesday evening. Perfect timing as we had managed to get most of the plants I had grown from seed in the ground by then. Actually, we had to buy "yet more compost" and spread it on the beds and plant into that as the earth was so hard we had to use the trowel as a chisel to make a planting hole. Of course the storms do not now know when to stop. However, although the rain has been very heavy it has not caused any damage and has done the garden a power of good. You will recall that last week I was reporting that every thing in the garden was burnt up ... that wasn't strictly true. As the long bed is in the shade until early afternoon it didn't suffer so much and in fact for it looked like the herbaceous border I had envisaged when I planted it.
Of course gardens are ephemeral so I am glad I captured the fleeting moment.

Have any of you intimate knowledge of Kestrels? We have been watching a pair for more than six weeks but despite studying them on the internet we cannot work out what on earth they are doing. Initially we were convinced that they were nesting in a hole in the back wall of the house. Our neighbours had told us that this was a regular occurrence before we moved in. Then we were not so sure. We would see one roosting on a dead branch above the long bed and the other would bring  "her" food which she took further down the alley. We looked and listened for evidence of a nest in the alley, but nothing. Then they became very busy bringing food to the hole in the wall, and would be very agitated if we were eating in the courtyard. We also found lots of fur on the ground below the hole. We had read that they cache food during the day to eat just before they roost so that they do not "go to bed hungry". Yesterday the pair were incredibly busy, so the eggs may have hatched, wherever they are! If we ever work out what is happening we will let you know.

On our way to the airport to collect my cousin and his wife on Saturday we called into our favourite "greengrocers". Well that is a rather simplistic description, it is a fabulous supermarket chain which sells excellent fruit and veg from all over the world. Whilst browsing John found some wonderful must have figs. Knowing that June and David love foie gras as much as we do, we decided to go and buy some for yesterdays meal. John was convinced that the supermarkets opened on Sunday mornings but apparently that is only in July and August. How disappointing as the figs desperately needed the foie gras. Eventually we found a farm shop open and David and I went shopping. I chose the foie gras and he chose several bottles of good wine to go with it. Unfortunately the man on the till was a "stand in" and hadn't a clue how the till worked and to further complicate the issue he had no idea the price of one bottle of wine. This confusion seemed to go on for ever!! As the desire for the foie gras still loomed large we stayed with it, paying some by bank card and some in cash. Phew!! Just as we were leaving he said something and I realised we had bought a raw foie gras! Oh no, we were going to have to exchange it and that meant a return to the till to pay the difference. We fell into the car exhausted ... but it was delicious!!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Still at it.

... despite the weather ... still in the thirties!

Saturday, June 06, 2015


We are conscious that we have not "blogged" recently but quite honestly we have not had time. We have not had rain for about a month and it has got hotter and hotter. So the regime has been up early watering, trying to do some ordinary gardening for a couple of hours, by which time it is 30 degrees plus and impossible to do anything else outside until after 7pm when it is time to water again. Consequently plants are shriveling and the vegetables are bolting. Hey ho that's weather.
However it has its compensations. Mary and Clive were here for a couple of days and it was wonderful to sit out until late eating and chatting.
Last night we went to Montauban to hear our friends, who are members of The Conservatoire choir, sing two pieces both called The Manificat. One was by Vivaldi and one by John Rutter. We recommend that you listen to both. Vivaldi's was written in the 18th century and Rutter's is contemporary. Both very melodic, which is important to me, and Rutter's was almost "easy" listening with hints of themes by Leonard Bernstein. Try it, we thought it was "Magnificent".

However getting back to the weather, when we arrived at Mantauban at 8pm it was 32 degrees and when we left at 10.30pm it was 25 degrees. Coming from Blighty I don't think we will ever be able to really understand the climate here.

John's ps
As Sue has said, we both really enjoyed the music but I can't quite agree with her comments about the Rutter.  She has described it as 'easy' listening but this is because there are some lovely melodies in it, but you need to pay attention to listen to the full range of voices.  Also Rutter hasn't borrowed themes from Benrstein and West Side Story but he has taken on board the operatic/show style that Bernstein used .