Tuesday, 24 August 2010

he will be out for the count on Friday and I can catch up.

As certain expats, who really do not want to be expat badged we find ourselves propelled away from the clubs and classes, web sites and chat rooms that are all around us. Why, we have no idea it just seems weird to go abroad then be English but we are learning with a little apprehension that although we live in France we will never be French and so the magnetic pull to anything easy and comfortable like just being able to hold a conversation is taking place.
Mike has had problems with the orange tractor and has taken the gang mower off and brought the tractor to the house to fiddle and ponder. He explained the problem to me with all the things he has tried so far and I went onto the Anglo info website and placed a free ad to see if any one out there had an opinion on our symptoms. Within four hours the e-mail lit up like a Christmas tree with people coming forward with suggestions and ideas about what could be wrong. A couple of guys gave us links to sites with manuals and Mike has downloaded many millions of bites of information. I took the trouble of replying to everyone who mailed us and now I have the beginnings of a data base of nice people.
We have cleared out the little spare room and put the gym equipment in. I e-mailed all my mates to see if any one wanted the bed but no luck there, so I put an ad on Anglo info, free to whoever collects, type of Ad and I got an immediate response and three people racing to get here first. I played first come first served and a very bright and interesting lady came to load up. We got chatting like you do and it turns out they have been here for 7 years and are fitting out a gite for income. We chatted about each other and then Mike asked if she had horses because she wore the same boots Sam wears and then we got talking about horses and manure.......We have now organised a manure pick up at the weekend to include aperitif and meet the hubby. They live in St Jean de Daye and we have already swapped pickle for cider and she is talking in terms of veg for meat as she rears pigs and sheep for the freezer. A little advert on a site I have been avoiding like the plague came good, and Mike and I will now keep our eye on it for people asking for, and offering to.
Tomorrow we on the the road looking for a drive belt for the big mower, it broke and although we thought we had found the solution it turns out that it was too big and has broken the control spring, we have now spent 100 Euros on two belts which don't fit so I am getting a little fed up. We know we can recoup 50 euros tomorrow on a try and return deal from the local tractor shop but we will need to go to St Lo and that is time out of my schedule and I am getting behind. Mike is at the dentist on Thursday and that means he will be out for the count on Friday so I guess and I can catch up then.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Light headed and happy, and if I keep taking the medication I'll be just fine........

It is very muggie and warm, no lovely hot sun to soak up but at least we are damp and the lawn says, thank you.
We spent the night on the boat and enjoyed seeing Cherbourg celebrate the visit of the Solitaire Boat Race where a gang of blokes sail single handed and manically around the bay of Biscay and beyond. The field at the marina was full of tents and there was a real feel of boat show mania until we saw the prices and held back until we go to Southampton in September. After dinner we put HOSS in the car and set off for an evening out together hoping to catch the free concert and whilst waiting for the stage and auditorium field to fill we bought a bag of Chi Chi and ate our quota of fat for a week in five minutes, but they were really good. The concert started and if I just say, Bontempy organ, french lyrics that don't fit and tone deaf singing then perhaps you can conjure up the scene, it was unbelievably bad so we stepped out of the enclosure and set ourselves up in Beema's cockpit to watch the mad and foolhardy setting out for their channel crossings in the dark and sympathise with those only just making it in before the sky went totally black.
We have set up the little spare room as a gym and found yet another bit of kit at the St Pellarin vide grenier. It took a days worth of exercise carrying this equipment back to the car park so setting up the room was as far as we got but tomorrow we start in earnest.
Mike cut my hair on Thursday and I feel so much better, when I have to start pulling it up and out of the way with a clip then I know it needs a cut. Poor Mike, he actually dislikes doing it but I am never disappointed unlike when I go to the hairdresser and I am always disappointed and it cost me thirty Euro for the privilege, so I am light headed and happy and if I keep taking the medication I'll be just fine........Happy birthday to hannah for tomorrow.

Friday, 20 August 2010

I love to see her beautiful face and she does not seem so far away.

Here I am again with hissing pressure cooker and heat from the kitchen. I am missing gardeners world to get four litres of tomato pasata in jars and to decant a kilo of chilly into pots to freeze and for tomorrows dinner. We are off for a bimble in the van tomorrow so if we decide to stay out then I have dinner ready to serve.
We have decided to put our new gym in the spare room, we so rarely have both rooms full at once so instead of kicking HOSS out of his room and spending money on transforming a simple no hassle store room into a ROOM we will take the most obvious solution. That will be the job for the weekend if we don't stay out. I am quite enthusiastic about a gym, I feel I need to challenge my muscles and with Mike no longer confident about walking on uneven ground, long heart pounding walks in the country are a thing of the past. My friend Sarah showed me a leaflet she collected at the tourist board advertising a 10 kilometer walk around Brevands. I just can't imagine us doing that sort of distance without the repercussions of sore knees and ankles.
We have had to re home our visiting hen, she is just a pain, waking up the gang whilst still happy to sit in their little house until I come and open up and she also poos outside the heneriera and kicks up gravel and sand on the grass, a real no no for the mowers. If she was giving me an egg of three I would not mind but she feeds all day then buggers off somewhere else and for all I know she could be going next door to a nice little egg laying palace at my expense, so Mike caught her and we have let her go in a field at the top of Bucaille so she can find someone else to live off.
We have had a very unexpected crop these last few days and I have really enjoyed picking and using our very own mushrooms. We have been watching the fairy rings in the lawn and with the little rain on Tuesday, we have had a crop of fresh little button field mushrooms....lovely. Georgie came on Skype with the two little boys she looks after today it is so good that she makes a real effort to call us every Friday I love to see her beautiful face and she does not seem so far away.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The jars I have finished have started to ping, so all is well.

After all the wonderful weather we have had it is just someone or anothers law that it should turn out to be an meteorological disaster on the day that you have guests for lunch. We had invited both Anna and William and Ann and Graham to come and see the garden and take time to get to know one another. I woke yesterday morning to pouring rain, wind and grey skies. Although we are happy and content with the situation it was a shame as we had hoped to play Boule and sit out in the garden to pims about a little. Both Anna and Ann are at launch stage with their gardens and felt it all so hopeless until we showed them what we had achieved in three years and I am please to say that we may just have given them both a ray of hope. Instead of playing and being in the garden we were in the kitchen and sat until six o'clock putting the world to rights and talking about ourselves, something Mike and I really and truly miss and didn't know it, until now.
Today the sun shone and the wind was warm and I was a little disappointed, a few days like yesterday would have gone down well. Mike got the mower going again and cut the lawns and they look fantastic and I put plastic down and planted out my brussel sprouts and cauliflowers for our winter feasts. The poly was a little dry so a good soaking and then a huge harvest got us to lunchtime so I decided to tackle the processing until tonight which is where we are now.The pressure cooker is hissing away bottling Passata and the freezer is grumbling and groaning at the addition of yet another load of courgettes.
Mike's Uncle Tom died last week and we have sent french sympathy cards to his cousins as we can't be with them next Tuesday. I was very impressed with the way these cards are presented, inside each card there are 7 sets of words to choose from and copy, I read them out to Mike but they were just too General De Gaulle for us to use, amazingly intricate French that a regular Frenchman would have trouble understanding, but nice gesture all the same. We are thinking of converting HOSS's room into a little Gym so that Mike can properly exercise his poor old knees and legs so we are walking around the place making plans for change and Mike is glued to le bon coin looking for very cheap equipment.
signing off now the pressure cooker is on the last batch and the jars I have finished have started to ping, so all is well.

Monday, 16 August 2010

that just restores my faith in the French remaining a great nation.

Three years ago today we woke up in Brevands in our camper on the drive of our new home. The previous owners gave us the keys the night before D day so that we could be here when the lorry arrived and we lay in our camper with great excitement and relief that we had got this far in fulfilling a dream.
Today we bumped into our friend Sarah in the market, a little tearful and upset because the financial pressures of living in France was catching up with them and they might have to sell their beautiful home. I asked her and peter over for afternoon tea at four but upgraded that to a BBQ at five after our trip to Lerclerc, where we found BBQ food cheap as chips due to the fact that it rained all day yesterday. We lit up the coals, filled our glasses with Brevands cider, cremated Mexican pork strips to an inch of their existence, gorged on tomatoes and onion with green peppers, coleslaw and toasted our anniversary . When you only eat what is available a dinner party takes on a new meaning, it's easy and there are no excuses or apologies because you only eat what is ripe today......
After yesterday's rain the lawn was ready for a cut and we both set out to get it done before our guests arrived, but Mike fell, en panne and we ended up in town with a shredded rubber drive belt trying to get an instant replacement. The chappie, no, technician, in the mower shop was not sure if he had found the right one for us and gave us, what he thought might fit and said to try it for size and come back in the morning and pay for it if it fitted.......and you know what it did fit, and you Know what even more, ....we will go back in the morning and pay for it. I have many misgivings about the french and how they run their lives but an episode like that just restores my faith in the French remaining a great nation.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

It has rained nearly all day, we are sooo happy.

The fish feeder is a total success, Mike inflated our free tractor inner-tube yesterday to make sure it was not going to go down straight away and with that experiment complete he threw it into the pond attached with a bit of rope....well...you should have seen the commotion that caused. The ducks flew off the water, the swan made a very hasty retreat to the willow tree and the mandarins took refuge on the other bank which left the coast clear for the fish to investigate this huge black shadow that was gorged with yummy specially formulated food just for them. We now have a viewing hole into the pond where the fish come up looking for food and it is a joy to watch them ducking and diving, taking a little food then coming back for a bigger piece. OK, so I like the look of gold dish in the water except that these little darlings look like they are on their way to carp-like accreditation.
I have just come in from the field hoping to find a clear sky but not tonight, sadly. Mike was listening to radio four on Wednesday and there was a mention that our bit of the earth is going threw a meteor cloud at the moment and if we go into a dark area and look up into a clear sky we might just see a shooting star of two, so we did, and we saw seven shooting stars and made lots of wishes for us and our loved ones. Looking into a huge sky like that makes you melancholy. I lay on the picnic table looking up discussing how small and insignificant we all are. deep and meaningful stuff. HOSS sat in the dark watching us looking up and thought it was all a bit obsessive, but we had a really good time and went out the next night and told our friends to get out there and make some wishes as well. It has rained nearly all day, we are sooo happy.

Friday, 13 August 2010

the tax man is on our side....who can honestly say that

Back from our night-out camp fest, and was back to work in earnest. The rain did not come to much and Wednesday was clear and beautiful again. The kids who used to live across the road were over staying with their Dad and his new family and they all worked together to make the house, sale ready and gardened all day. The boys and their new step brother and sister came over twice with buckets of gold fish. They would rather we had them to care for and enjoy than leave them in the pond which is now very short of water, so I was pleased to become the new fishes mummy , don't think Mike sees himself as Daddy fish, but he does care.. One of the fish looked decidedly fat with eggs so hopefully she will be happy to lay in our gaf rather than hers. We now had to think of a way to feed this growing shoal, the fish given to us last year are now a good size and I am guessing the more fish you have the more you need to feed. Mike and I walked around the barn and the various workshops to look for a cunning way to feed these fish without the ducks tucking in as well. Mike suggested a tractor tyre inner-tube that would, according to the internet, put us back 25 euro but I reckoned that if I explained myself badly enough I could con a second hand one from the tyre guy in town, and that is precisely what we did. I rabbited on about fish and lakes and ducks and made lots of huge hand signs until the very nice man rushed into the workshop and came out with the biggest inner tube you ever saw and said ......bon courage......half french really does get you a long way, but not so far when dealing with the French national health system.
Last week I tried to apply for a French medical insurance travel card so that when we come to the UK we get medical care through the French system, other wise, we would need to pay for all our treatment in the UK, I was astonished when I was told that we no longer had the right to medical care in France, and when I spoke to the french Customer Services I was unable to explain myself or understand why we had been struck off and as the woman on the other end was unable to get herself understood she just put the phone down on me. Fortunately there is a help line for UK expats and a very competent french young lady explained the problem and gave me all the info I needed in English. Mike and I drove over to St Lo to deliver all the paper work I had put in the post, special delivery, last year, that had not made it onto a desk for processing. Today I called the contact I had at our regional NHS head quarters who explained that there had been a document missing last year and the dossier, had been left unattended but it was now under control.....she thinks. I have to send, again, all the documentation to prove we were in France in 2006, which gave us the right to be in the system. When we moved to Brevands in 2007 the government announced that all residents that were not French nationals or over 65 had to pay for their own medical care and If we had come to France and straight here, we would have been in that category. Fortunately our time in Watten discovering we didn't want to work or be in business in France or any where else for that matter gave us the right to stay, but then, like now, it is a very dodgy situation to be in and frankly I don't like it. Good news today is that our tax bill came in and we have nothing to pay, zero, nil, rien, so we do feel that at least the tax man is on our side....who can honestly say that.
Happy 7th aniversay to Deb and Jez, be happy and content with your life.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

rain, fantastic, that what I say

It is so good when something happens, that sets you off laughing and on Sunday evening I was busy watching over my pressure cooker bottling pasata and ironing at the same time when Mike popped his head around the door with that look on his face that said...you're never going to believe this one. I switched off the process of bottling, can't leave that to explode all over the kitchen then followed Mike out to the willow and looked up to see our little white visiting hen about 20 foot up in the tree. I never knew that hens could fly that high and we watched in absolute amazement. I laughed to the point of tears at the ridiculous squarking noise she was making thrashing about at that height but after about 5 minutes it occurred to me that perhaps she was reluctant or too embarrassed to attempt a control crash with us watching so I turned my back to walk in and she literally fell off the branch and fluttered to earth, ruffled her feathers and toddled off to wherever she visits us from.
We have just spent a couple of days in the van, we went over to Neufville en plain to visit new friends Graham and Anne, who are just finishing off a new build and were really keen to show us the garden and progress since April, which I must say was pretty good. They do however, like our friends Anna and William, have new canvas for the garden design and I for one would just love to get my hands dirty and do a bit of design work with them. Anne and Graham are coming here on Monday to see our progress in three years, oh yes on the 16th of August we will have been here in Brevands for three years, it hardly seems possible.
So after morning coffee in Neufville we set a course over to the west side of our peninsular and headed for the beaches. We found a free camper site in Siourville where we pitched up for the night. HOSS was banned from the beach until 19:00 so we sat and read and I started up a discussion with a man in the camper next door who had trained German Shepherds for the military and had a heap of things to tell me. HOSS is a bit of a free spirit and some people see it as a lack of training, I just see it as personality, he always comes when he has been called it just takes him a little time to realise that it's him we are calling, I realised that needed to take this chappy with a little pinch of salt when he explained that you should only feed a dog like HOSS once a day, but I know that to avoid the danger of a twisted gut you should feed them two or maybe three times a day, I said nothing but then he continued to tell me stories and adventures about the dogs he had trained and how he lost a beautiful GS with a twisted gut...I frankly didn't have the energy or depth of French to tell him he was a total looser and cut the discussion short, had a gin and tonic, eat my dinner then took my well cared for and well trained HOSS for the run of his life on the beach. Mike beat me at scrabble...again...and as soon as it was dark enough we climbed up into our little bedroom pod closed the curtains, said night night to HOSS and fell asleep only to be woken by hours of torrential rain which you might think would have ruined our holiday, but no....we were smiling all the way back to Brevands splashing in the puddles and putting the window wipers on full speed..rain, fantastic, that what I say

Saturday, 7 August 2010

hope the rain is called off though...did I really say that.??

I am not good at sitting down at the PC this time of the year and as we have been quite busy working on the Boule park and processing food when that is done with for the day there is little time for blogging.
Wednesday and Thursday were dominated with trips to the gravel pit. We drove the 40 KM there, loaded up with shovels then came home and unloaded onto the park. Mike made a box in the back of the trailer to give us an idea of the weight over volume we were loading as legally, we are only allowed to carry 500 KG in the trailer. The first load was 400KG, the second was 700KG the third was 650KG and finally on the last run we had sussed the process and got the weight right at 500KG so we were not bothered about getting stopped by the jolly Gendarme during that trip , The girl in the office at the Gravel pit said to take care as the Gendarme are capable of waiting at the end of the road but we got away with our persistent misdemeanour
The Boule park is now complete and we are very happy with it, we have rolled it, walked all over it, sat and looked at it and finally had a match on it and may I say we are not so incapable of a good game I let Mike win just to keep him happy ....yeh right
At last the rain has come, sadly on the day that Le Port de Carentan is having it's annual fete and Isgny are holding their nocturn vide grenier so today we will go to the fete then at six o'clock go to the vide grenier then back to Carentan to see the concert at the Port...busy busy busy, hope the rain is called off though...did I really say that.??
Happy Birthday to Phil on the 4th and to Chris on the 6th and Happy 5th anniversay to George and Alan in Canada

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

it is so easy to be generous when you have a glut of everything.

Yesterday I threw back the shutters to the fresh smell and exciting sound of rain, I shouted out "thank you god" woke Mike up, and probably the whole of Brevands. It was all however, very short lived and by breakfast we were all dried up and bathed in bright sunshine again..not complaining, just thirsty.
We are in the middle of a change of use for the out buildings and what was the wood shed is going to become the recycling room so that we can clean up the out house which is the exit into the back yard from the back kitchen and should be clean and organised or at least have a storage purpose of some kind. Mike cleared out the bundles of kindling that we inherited from the previous owners and intended to dispose of them at the dump so we loaded the trailer and this morning intended to set off into town, but Mike had a Belamy moment and decided to see where we could make a couple of bug palaces in the garden. I am always up for a natures-way solution to anything and we went off for a ramble onto the field to think it through and decided to make two piles in the middle of the wild flower area so that in the winter we will have structure and in the summer there will be a las vegas venue for the bumble bees and creepy crawlies who frequent such places.
Having emptied the trailer we were free to go to the gravel pit for our first load of red course sand for the Boule park. There is, with all things wholesale or direct, a strict procedure and we were asked to go to the weigh bridge then collect shovels and make our way to the private client area. Alarm bells started to ring at the sight of shovels and Mike was very ill at ease at the prospect of loading our own trailer. Sure enough, as non business people we were expected to load up by hand, no front loader or JCB or anything. Our astonishment and disappointment at having to do the work ourselves was, I am pleased to say, echoed by a French couple who told us that this was a new procedure and were spitting feathers at the inconvenience, then came over to ask what we were doing with our sand and when we said a boule park or as Mike prefers to call it a terrain de petang, they both confirmed that we were using the right material and nodded and confided with each other. I wouldn't mind, but we hadn't asked for advice but silently I was glad to have a second opinion.
My neighbour has gone and I look out of my side window from where I used to count the cars in and out and there is no movement or action, I am sad but today their oldest son rang the gate bell and asked if I had a spare lettuce because some friends had come to see him at the house for the last time and he had nothing to feed them with so we marched into the poly for a lettuce four tomatoes and an onion, it is so easy to be generous when you have a glut of everything.
I forgot to mention it was Maggie and Gig and Neils birthday on the 1st August HAPPY BIRTHDAY xxxxx