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Saturday, 1 January 2011
Thursday, 30 December 2010
It is faire to say that these past two days have been quite wonderful for lots of reasons. Mike made a quick recovery from his good night out and I took the liberty of leaving him quiet and warm in bed to restore himself from his over zealous wine drinking session and late night. I say that I took the liberty, because throughout our entire married life Mike has patiently restored me back to the living after my very own over zealous wine drinking sessions and I felt usefully humbled at being able to pay back that level of respect for the hung over dead with a cup of tea and a slice of brioche and butter at midday.
We had a call from Mark to ask if we were up for another party and with Mike’s colour well and truly resturned we agreed to get together and go to Jill and Tony’s for an evening of games wine and good food. The evening was a true Franglais event with a good cultural balance from both sides of the channel and the conversation sea sawed from French to English and a patois of both tongues in between and it transpired that at a certain level, speed and waggling of arms just about everyone got a good understanding of games rules and how to cheat. I am in awe of these new friends we have recently made who revel in French artefacts and have a natural and enviable attention to detail and presentation. Both homes we have visited these past two evenings have been candy to our eyes and senses with old and ancient combined with the new and practical. All in all, I feel revived and inspired, happy to have made the acquaintance of people we can talk to and learn from.
My other bit of wonderful happenings was a request from Genevievre to drive to Carentan Church and sing one of our Christmas songs at the funeral of a chorister’s husband. With nothing in the diary I agreed to join her and we set off both draped in black with manuscript in hand to participate. I have never been to a French funeral so this was a first and I am not Catholic so it was a double first. Half of the choir were there and I sat with my fellow altos to sang couronnee d'etoiles as the coffin was walked into our huge and impressive church and I for one was filled with an emotional charge that lifted every hair follicle on my neck. We then sat through the convoluted and crowd bonding process of saying goodbye to the dead. Monique played the part of song master and sang the congregation into the hymns and responses. Monique showed a strength and confidence I had not identified in her before and bearing in mind she just had her eightieth birthday she proved to me that she must be an angle living amongst us with her pure voice and patient approach to encouraging the grieving and shy to join in. The sounds of a catholic service in France is completely different to the sound of a C of E service so I was unable to participate but I had the privilege of people watching and the honour of just being there. I listened to the readings and I must admit to having had a good understanding of the sentiments but when we were asked to sit and meditate to the sound of our choir master playing Ave Maria on the full and magnificent church organ I was crushed by an emotional avalanche and I cried my eyes out as though it was my Dad in the coffin in front of me. When we left the church I told Monique that I believed she is an angel on earth and that got her going as well and we cried together in the cold wind, patting each others shoulders, Sarah standing by raking her gloved hand across her face not wanting to make this emothional outburst into a team event. What an amazing afternoon, and when I got home Mike had cleaned out our little stove and she was bubbling over with heat and good cheer, I was back home within the hour and happy to be there.
Wednesday, 29 December 2010
It’s all over and we are now looking forward to the new start, which happens every year, and only lasts a day or so but the application of a new and positive outlook is a real tonic to our battered and abused digestive systems and numbed TV brains.
It is eleven in the morning and Mike is still in bed. We went to the Simply Chateau Xmas Party last night and what a fun time we had. Mark and Shirley certainly know how to put a party together with lashing of food and drink and party games of which we have not experienced or participated in for many many years. Mike got into the swing of things early on in the evening and I instinctively knew it was my opportunity offer to drive home. I say my opportunity because since moving to France my driving opportunities are limited to taking Genevievre to choir and the odd trip out alone in the Ford mondeo but to get the opportunity to drive the explorer, well, Mike was really way beyond the fairies grip to allow that situation to develop, and it did, and I drove home. I didn’t really enjoy the drive back with fog and driving rain all the way home but the joy of watching Mike laughing and playing party games was worth it’s weight in gold. We met another couple who live in St Marie Du Mont, my favourite village on the way to Utah beach and we will make the effort to call in and see them and their house, which it is steeped in history and I just love a “steeped in history" house.
We have started the wood collection program, and for two mornings now, not including today as mike is nursing a good night out, we have presented ourselves in front of the far hedge to cut back all the dead wood, which is good to burn now and we are piling all the other stuff to prepare for the wood shed. It is satisfying work if not a bit painful, If you thought God loved us all you need to ask why he left the bramble behind in the big scheme of things. The Bramble bush is a persistent and aggressive plant which offers the sweet blackberry for our delight once a year then just becomes a pervasive enemy trudging through our gardens with very little thought to the consequences. The snow brought down a lot of the cathedral sized black berry bush structures which when you look closely are just a mangle of very prickly stems and air. I do enjoy the sensation of tugging on a prickly tentacle and have it give way disentangling itself from the trees and bushes it has kept prisoner for so long and if the root ball comes up as well then I feel I have totally achieved. Am I qualified a gardener now? or just a bit caught up in the moment of an aggressive and satisfying act. Happy Birthday to Geoff
Saturday, 25 December 2010
Well, here we are and it is Christmas day 2010. Life is full of punctuation and of all the commas and exclamation marks in our lives it seems that the 25th of December is the most reverent, awaited for and esteemed. Yesterday we kicked off our Christmas celebrations with a lunch for six friendships which have blossomed and evolved into the comfortable and fun filled gatherings Mike and I have so much missed in moving to France, and now we find that we have within this year alone acquainted ourselves with another four people we can relate to and have fun with and that is a very important development for both of us.
Sarah and Peter were unable to come yesterday and as I sat amongst my friends I reassured myself that we could have easily fitted another two people around our table that has accommodated so many happy gatherings in the twenty years that we have owned it. So, eight nutty expats around a lunch table was fun and full of relevant “living in France” antics and we each all shared our long tall stories to the point of disbelief and wonder as to why we are still here, but deep down we all know why. If I could bottle up and sell this convivial and happy few hours in my home yesterday I would be a millionaire by now but still here developing this fascinating lifestyle in a foreign country.
Debby and Jez skyped from Australia last night on their Christmas morning and the boys were there in T shirts and shorts taking this distant relationship we have with them in their stride. I am glad to be recovered from the emotional tug of war I have experienced in the past and a Skype conversation seeing my baby’s face is now just an accepted part of the way we live. I thank goodness we have these life tools in our kit to enable us to be so close but oh so far away and yet OK and acceptable..
HOSS is off colour again and I am having to walk him and care for him on double duty which is not difficult as he is so trusting and dependant on us, it fills an emotional gap in my life that will always need filling.
I am doing this blog at six thirty in the morning because I over indulged at our Christmas eve luncheon and although I am pretty sure I did not drink too much Mike suggested that my new style of eating, counting calories and keeping my plate simple and small was thrown my system into a panic with all the rich and complicated food I had just indulged in. Two more days of indulgence and then back to the counting and manoeuvring of calories, proteins and carbohydrates to reach my goal before April when I will be able to recalculate and rethink the Viv Baker 2011 personal goals.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Mike and I have done a full days work today and it has been a long time since I can say that, we are both knackered. We brought our country life style into the 21st century and borrowed Sarah and Peters electric log splitter. Peter gave us a short and precise training sesh before we loaded it into the car then off we went with the intension of getting all the wood we bought in October 2009 to a usable size for the stove. All the miss shapen and just plain ugly logs were triaged into the open fire pile then we split and sized everything else for the stove and now I recon we are set until the end of the winter, what a great feeling that is.
Mike and I sit down to lunch every day and always have a good chat, Jeremy Vine puts plenty of fuel on our topical and political discussions but sometimes we do just chat and I commented that I have barely switched on the electric kettle since the stove has been lit and Mike, with his logical and well organised mind worked out that ten boiled kettles of water a day over the winter period might equate to about fifty quid and that is a quarter of my wood bill. So then I suggested that I note down how many times I don’t switch on my electric oven and how many times I don’t take water from the water heater for washing up and Mike just gently asked me to get a life and just enjoy the ride…..which I promised to do.
We are still in white-out mode and this morning the drive was an ice rink so we have to tread carefully but the field is a completely new experience for me as it is white with snow but hard like ice. When you put your foot down it crunches in like walking on meringue, fantastic, but HOSS is totally unsure and as I set off on my power walk this morning I became aware that there were no doggy sounds anywhere near me and when I turned to call him he was standing on the only bit of thawed garden by the barn with no intention of putting his paws in a Pavlova pie, not even for me, I hate power walking on my own it feels so pointless so we both gave up and went for a cup of tea instead. Happy Birthday Mum...xx
Sunday, 19 December 2010
With so much time on our hands due to the fact that we are snowed in again it is easy to sit down virtually every day to write a blog, but sadly, there is very little to write about except that, blow me down, it has been snowing again. There is no more news in that, and there is no more joy or excitement. We decided not to get up this morning, well not true, I got up to free the chickens and show HOSS the vast expanse of white with no intention of making my mark and treading on virgin snow, he was disappointed but barked and jumped about with an instinctive joy for the little time allotted to him this morning. I then got the fire going, made coffee and toast and went back to bed and we watched Plus belle la vie which is the East Enders of the French soap audience without the screaming, shouting and deplorable behaviour. When I was nicely settled and getting into the story the inevitable phone calls began from the choir to say this afternoons concert is cancelled then three friends to ask, is the concert cancelled ? so once up, we got up, and started the day with log carrying, digging out chickens, filling the bird feeders and pushing the snow from the poly tunnel roof, there, I said it was uninteresting, not quite yet boring, but any more days like this and I will use the word boring in anger.
We have sat around all day on our computers, we have taken a meal every three hours, taken aperitif at lunch time and dinner time and all the while I am trying to keep tabs on my calorie intake with my on-line weight loss site, I am sure that if there was a real person watching over my nutrition page they would send me a motivational e-mail and demand I get a life but I am doing this with the ether and the either don’t talk back.
When the sun went down, and I have no proof or recollection of the day being that long, I took HOSS for his walk and to shut the chickens in. I was duly rewarded with the most fascinating spectacular of a snow covered garden and a full moon shining. I have often been out there at the top of the moon cycle and it is always a privilege, but tonight, it was stunning. I walked to the other end of the field as if it were day time but the sounds and the smells were unmistakably night time. The moronic sitting around watching every Christmas movie ever made, was put into perspective tonight because you can’t get a night time walk like that, without the day that has just past us by.
Saturday, 18 December 2010
On Thursday John and Linda did one of their famous day trips to visit us from Bracklesham Bay and arrived at midday in time for a walk around the place to see what changes we have made then lunch. This years visit however they managed to get a late sailing from Caen and didn’t need to leave before eight in the evening so we were able to fit in tea and scones, a walk around the village with HOSS and a good chin wag in front of the fire. Mike and I are really quite tough and I felt that J & L were feeling the cold despite the stove blaring and the lounge open fire banked up. We talked about heating and the such like and realised that they keep their flat at 20 degrees and there we were knocking back our central heating to 15 degrees, and with an array of draughts to deal with I suspect they may have been a little uncomfortable..
I was so tired from talking all day that yesterday morning despite setting the alarm I slept through to nine fifteen and had to run down the stairs to get the phone when Ann called saying that it was snowing to the point that they had lost sight of the church and should we perhaps postpone our coffee visit, but I reckoned that if it was just starting to snow then we had a few hours to pick up out UK shop and get back to baton down the hatches again. Mission accomplished with my Tesco shop put away and a new UPS to keep my Mac alive when we have a break in the electricity supply, which does happen, but a break in power is more than likely to be when we overload our system. The other day I had the dishwasher going and Mike was using the electric heater in the bathroom, I put the kettle on, fatal, the breaker gave way and we had to reset all the clocks and my Mac crashed, and it really does not like that, but with my new UPS installed the Mac will stay alive for at least 40 minutes without crashing and that gives me time to reset the breaker or close down in a more controlled way. We have contemplated asking to have a larger supply to the house but we would loose our lunch time half price electric with a new meter installed and whilst I can keep an eye on what we are doing it is worth it to keep my 12:30 to 2:30 half rate period as I do get a lot of cooking and cleaning done but I still have to take care about the loading.
It snowed for a whole day yesterday and we are plunged once again into winter wonderland, but this time we don’t feel so wonderful about it but the weather and it’s consequences are well out of our remit and it is a question of putting up and shutting up.
We had a huge hunt for wood in the afternoon yesterday. I had kept a tree load of branches that I assured Mike I needed for pea props and wig whams and a long and concise list of practical uses around the garden which in the end I never used so by accident I had a tree load of branches dry and ready for the cutting process and the burning of. We are staggered at how much wood is required to keep a tiny little fire box going and Mike is weighing up the effort we are going to have to put in to keep our hungry little treasure going. We took HOSS for a run on the beach and brought back a chunk of wood to burn and I think that is going to be the way we will need to apply ourselves to keep this mode of heating Cheap and Eco.