Je suis revenir

………  along with the Cuckoo on April 1st.   Finally, the cuckoo was heard throughout the land – or to be more precise St. Valerien in 85.  I have joined a ‘Gardening in France’ group on Facebook (well it has to be good for something), and over the last 2 – 3 weeks I see people posting that the Cuckoo has arrived in their department from the north in Brittany (35) to down the east side mainly (55 & 39 Lorraine & Franche- Comte) – I was feeling left out,  but there it was this morning, April 1st loud and clear Phew.

DSCN4493            DSCN4494

Took these two photo’s yesterday late afternoon – wanted to get them before the forecast rain and storm bashed them about, (which in the end never arrived). The first is the Cherry in the front planted well before our time – we were unsure last year how healthy it was (our first Summer) but we need not have worried, with the birds getting to the fruit first,  so this year we are armed with old CD’s to hand (probably much to the amusement of our French neighbours). The 2nd photo is the old Apple tree to the side. Not sure how old this is, but it’s very very old and has tiny little fruit I thought at first were cider pears, but no. Neighbours across the road Marie-Esther and John, we knew that his Grandfather lived in this house, so the apple tree…. well anyone’s guess. Marie-Esther makes something from the small cheek sucking fruit, but not sure what yet.  She has an invitation to come and help herself, so we’ll find out later in the year.  We went over for coffee the other morning and she did ask what we would play to the cherry tree when we mentioned CD’s, not realising at that moment they were for stringing in the tree itself – maybe something by Neneh Cherry or Wild Cherry perhaps, or a recitation of Housemann’s ‘Lovliest of tree’s the Cherry now‘ while hitting it in a Pagan fashion with a stick.

Spring is finally arriving thank goodness.  It’s been a long cold winter with many really hard frosts in January – day after day, and what with that and my fall and the alterations to the kitchen and downstairs bathroom, both Barry and I are glad of the warmer days when we can get outside, except for the weeds of course which out here grow in the blink of an eye.  Still the garden group has started up again.  Only been to one so far and that was the garden of the lady that organises the trips in the next department over – Deux-Sevres – more in to what is called the ‘bocage’.  Here in St. Valerien, we sit between the bocage and the flat plains – endless fields of wheat, barley, sunflowers and maize at different times of the year – think Iowa or Indiana!

Anyway it was cold and ppisg….. pouring down, but it didn’t stop us taking a walk around.  It was fab to look at an established border in the Spring.  There were primroses out and all manner of things starting to show.  We came back with lot’s of goodies in the way of cuttings and plants grown on from more established things.  Our next trip out is this coming Tuesday (4th) in the opposite direction – the forecast is fine and dry at least.  Then it’s a château owned by someone’s friend ho has started a garden centre and tree nursery there…….keep your hands away from the purse Tickner, walk away now.

It should be fun as afternoon tea is also being provided.  That’s in May and then moving along to September I opened my grosse bouch and announced to Barry that we would be hosting the visit in September.  Better start some one handed weeding, I might be done by then, and plant up the new rockery and, and……

We have a new baby…. don’t panic, it’s in the field behind us.  Mum must have given birth somewhere over last weekend as on Monday morning walking with her was the sweetest new born donkey, and that’s ok as mum’s a donkey too.  White with some tan spots, so we know who dad is, and the eldest donkey Celestine isn’t impressed at all.  So with four donkeys now I can safely say we have a collective noun for donkeys – a drove.

DSCN4490                   DSCN4489

So Spring is slowly arriving in the Vendee, but not so in Princeton, Massachusetts where a friend lives – it snowed on April 1st (no joke) – will they ever see Summer.17757270_1244456089008545_3697570143782662257_n

Makes you want to get your winter woolies out quickly again.

On a handy front, I was signed off by my surgeon on the 15th March, very very happy with his handiwork and how everything was healing and progressing, and now left to my own devises in terms of looking after it.  I’d been keeping the hand mobile as time went on to the point that I could do physio on my own – didn’t need to go anywhere, and my dislocated fingers are now released from bondage.  I keep trying all sorts of things and am calling whatever I do ‘physio’ – like lifting a gin or wine glass with my right hand instead of my left, and I can knit and sew again, so everything is all quite flexible, and just this week I started to drive again – that’s me to the shops, not Barry round the bend.

I’ll bore you with the kitchen/bathroom alterations next time, but I’ll leave you with a recipe for a tart given to me by a guy at our Franglais class on a Monday night.  Only difference being he used figs he’d dried himself in his little machine – Ooooo there’s posh, having said that it would explain why there are a choice of four tucked in to my Amazon wish list.  Where there’s such an abundance of fruit and things like tomatoes they actually make perfect sense.  The local Gamme Vert has them, but not at the moment, usually appear when things like that are required.  Here’s the recipe – sorry no photo’s yet.

Nigel’s Fig and Walnut Tart

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C, placing rack in centre of oven.  Grease a 9” (23cm) square baking tin.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper or non-stick grease proof.

OATMEAL CRUST

2 cups/480ml/200 grams old fashioned rolled oats.

1 cup/130 grams plain flour or all purpose flour.

¾ cup/160 grams packed light brown sugar.

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

Ground cinnamon to own taste.

1 cup/226 grams cold unsalted butter cut in to small cubes.

In food processor place oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon.  Pulse to combine.  Then add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and just begins to come together.  Press about 2/3rds mixture on to base of prepared pan.

Fig & Walnut spread filling

375g packet dessert figs, or air dry your own.

100g walnuts

2 tablespoons of honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place figs, walnuts, honey and cinnamon in a small food processor, process to a fine paste.  Spread fig mixture over base of oatmeal crust.  Sprinkle over the top the remainder of the oatmeal crumb, adding a few chopped walnuts to it if you prefer.  Press down lightly onto figgy mix.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Leave to stand in pan for 15 minutes.  Lift on to a wire rack.  Cut in to pieces while still warm, serve with crème fraiche or cream.  You can also leave it to get cold , dusting with icing sugar before you serve.

******************

See original imageThere are a couple of blogs in the pipeline waiting to be released on to the unsuspecting public, but they will have to wait for the moment. The writer has ‘un problème avec les chiffres de la main droite’, or to the uninitiated – a problem with the digits of the right hand.  This missive is being typed with one or two fingers of the left hand only.  Why is that then?  You may well indeed ask and I shall tell you… it’s a syndrome known as ‘the stupid woman syndrome’.

On Tuesday morning last, the 31st January at 6.30 in the morning on my way to the loo, I decided to spice it up a bit by missing the bathroom door altogether and putting my right foot out in to the void that is the curving hard wood staircase. I didn’t stumble, trip, grab the handrail (that was on the opposite side) I just dropped from the top step and landed on the 9th curled up in an interesting backward dormouse position.  Along the way I managed to hit my head twice, once on boarding and one on the exposed local stone wall banging my nose in the process and it all bled rather well.  Left shoulder slammed against something, right ankle and outside thigh landing on the hard, very hard wooden staircase and my right hand slammed against the stone wall.  Damage done in photos courtesy of Clinique Sud Vendee Hospital in Fontenay le Comte’s radiologie dept. Two dislocated fingers, the pinkey in two places – the top bit waggled all on it’s own and required six stitches where scraping it down the wall resulted in a flap of skin being torn away.  Dislocation sorted.  Then also in that hand two breaks.  The first not too dramatic on the side and will heal of it’s own accord but the second was a wrist break that had to be operated on, on the Wednesday morning to put plates in – 14 stitches up inside of arm.  Surgeon told me if he didn’t do that it would always be broken.

dscn4474                                  dscn4475

Before                                                                            After

So three days in hospital. And sod’s law said of course that new knitting yarn arrived on the Wednesday and all I can do for the moment is look at it longingly in my knitting trug.  I think it will be good physio when the time comes.

See original image

We have builder and tiler in at the moment (more in another blog).  People are quite convinced it was my attempt to get away from the noise and dust for 3days I think if that was the idea then the Caribbean would have been my destination of choice.

It wasn’t my intention either of finding out how the French health system or a French hospital really really works quite so soon over and above a repeat prescription, but now I know – absolutely bloody brilliant.

And I’ve shared this because I’m a bit silent at the moment on social and unsocial media, sitting here with my right arm in a sling – oop Madam Teekner, vous must keep zee arm oop,(oop translated as up on this occasion) and if I’m suffering, then why shouldn’t you oh and  providing radiographie is ok then stitches come out on the 15th.

It’s sunny out today I feel some one handed rose pruning coming on this afternoon.  Flippin heck look out, she’s got secateurs in her hand – anything could happen.  I’ll be back soon, but not before I’ve had a lie down – left arm needs a typing rest.  Nearly forgot. In case your wondering, Barry would like you to know that the stone wall and the wooden stairs are absolutely fine and not damaged in any way; and for visitors he has cleared the murder scene of all the blood!

4X4 Baby Embroidery Design 411 | Free Embroidery Designs Download | Free Machine Embroidery Designs | Free Embroidery Patterns:    4X4 Baby Embroidery Design 411 | Free Embroidery Designs Download | Free Machine Embroidery Designs | Free Embroidery Patterns:

To infinity and beyond…….

‘Ere, what’s going on…..

Image result for pictures of frosty gardens  So, I know frost is nothing if you’re in England, it is expected, but NOT in France.  How is it that it can be 35c +++ for 3 months of the year and sunny, warm or warm air for most of the rest of the time and suddenly one night at the beginning of November the temperature plummets to minus something or other.  This morning when I got up (7/11) it was minus 1 nearly 2 degrees and everything was covered in white – even the tops of the hedges – it’s not what I signed up for – frost in November in France.  It’s usually January.  I have a very strong feeling that this winter, unlike our first winter here last year, this one is going to be much colder and  much harder.  Will we see snow for all of 2 hours?? I think so……

We had the local Vendee TV  on yesterday morning watching the live coverage of the start of the Vendee Globe yacht race from Sables-d’Olonne.  Everyone was in thick padded coats or similar with hats, Scarves the lot.

So time has gone on and it’s now nearly the end of December and nothing little has changed from what I wrote above.  The Vendee Globe Yacht race is nearly over, with some exciting and scary moments.  Barry has it live on his phone – there are two battling it out for 1st place, seemingly it’s got very exciting. For a while now there have only been two in real contention – Armel Le Cleac’h (French) is in the lead, but not moving very fast at the moment and Alex Thompson (Brit) not that far behind and catching up quickly today – it could be a close run thing.  All the others are still in the Pacific.  Here’s a link to the tracker if anyone is interested.  http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/x6hz61/

And the cold and the frost and minus temperatures continue interspersed with rain, and then some cold sunny days.  Thankfully no winds, which we get often.  As I said at the start it is quite a different Autumn from last year, although I did sit out the front yesterday and today having my coffee in the sun – fresh but beautiful blue sky etc.

See original image

A new blog will follow very soon.  I hope everyone has a healthy and fun new year, in spite of all the troubles in the world and everyone we love from our youth dying.

I think the death of Debbie Reynolds last night was the one that saddened me most – the girl who danced with Gene Kelly in ‘Singing in the Rain’ – how lucky was she.  Always pretty and glamorous without being over the top Hollywood and always seemingly gracious.  Funny how some people stay with you.  I can’t remember how old I was, but with my friend we were ‘allowed’ to go to the pictures on our own to see her in the ‘Tammy’ Films, and after her Sandra Dee.  I guess they must have played them over and over at Saturday morning pictures (6d), as the first one was released in 1957 (I would have been 6) and I know I was 9 or 10.  I can still sing one of the songs – Tammy’s in Love – sad but true. So thank you for the memories.

See original image    See original image

See original image

It’s always Summer, somewhere…

Good Bye, Summer: No I haven’t died or dropped off the edge of the Universe. Like everything in France clubs, groups, set evening events that happen throughout the year – in my case Franglaise, Knitting/Craft group, garden group, proper French lessons etc could also be Yoga,  all finish at the end of June or the very first week of July for the Summer break (July, August) and start again sometime in September and, seemingly, so do I. But quite unintentional I assure you.

Summer came and went – just like that – visitors, loads of gardening until it got too hot, our own Summer holiday although we needed another holiday when we’d finished with that one (more further on). The summer months were exceedingly hot and now suddenly Autumn is here and the barbeque outside the back door has been replaced with a stack of logs.

Friends came out for a week the second week of September, glorious day when we met them at Nantes Airport – hot, but a pretty day .  Make sure you bring your sun hats I said, the forecast says low 30’s for while your here.  As we sat down to dinner that evening the mother of all thunderstorms started and rolled and flashed away until late in to the evening with more rain during the night.  Now I know anyone in the UK would think ‘oh gawd it’s raining again’, but not so here – nothing by September for 10/12 weeks – well, ok two showers of 15 mins apiece doth not constitute serious rainfall in this neck of the woods, especially when daily temperatures with no let up are 34 – 37 degrees C every day and night time temps are 27C – 25C if your lucky.  But with that rain in September the blazing heat fell out of the sun – cooler moist mornings and colder nights Image result for clipart of heat fallling out of the sun .

A couple of weeks back now,  at 7.00am it dared to be in single figures – you see never happy wherever we live.

My two Hoopoe’s  (yes they are mine!) left on the weekend of the 20th August (and oh such shame, I’ve just re-read my last blog and I see it was MAY – forsooth and shamefacedness).  So Hoopoes had two babies, and sometimes they would all come together, funny little flat footed  things learning in part how to get bugs out of the ground and then waiting for parent to get a juicy grub with their longer beak.  Now not a lot of people know this – did you know that the Hoopoe is the only bird that can open it’s beak underground due to it’s strong jaw muscles – clever little so and so.  And how do I know they left on the 20th August – well I last saw them on the Thursday, Barry saw them early morning on the Friday, we went to a Brocante on the Saturday but they didn’t show up that afternoon or any other day after that, so I’m guessing their plane was an early morning flight!!!  So for those that missed a picture back in May, here’s an action shot of one of mine

DSCN7998.JPG  It got so hot that birds disappeared for a while and who could blame them.  I was told that I might see Golden Oriel’s but hadn’t until a couple of weeks back when I saw one in a garden,  flew across it and disappeared – identifiable by a stubby tail – looks like someone’s got the scissors out and cut straight across.  So now all the little birds are returning including the Robins and Blue Tits ready for the winter, and the cheeky Black chested Redstart’s are more in evidence again.  God I’m turning in to a twitcher.

Birder                                                                               oh nooooo not the binoculars!!!

 

 

dscn8407            dscn4180 First map reading exercise and view over Lake Constance.  First full day.

Our summer vaca this year took us to Bavaria …. yodle ho he hoo.  The ‘boys’ – our group of friends from the car club we’ve been away with a couple of times before, discussed a couple of years ago about doing the Alpenstrasse run – if you have a classic car it has to be done, seemingly.  2015 was talked about, but reality proved 2016 would be more likely.  Hotels were booked and many a meeting had – hooray for Face Time as by then B and I had crossed the Channel.  It was decided that we should meet up at Lake Constance and so a gaggle of various British sports cars and a Mustang set off from the UK, a couple from Denmark in a Morgan and Barry and I drove across France in the Citroen DS.  Of course it went without saying we left on one of the hottest days – time of departure 10.30am and already 34C – yikes.  It was 2 days of over-heating for us not the car who was a star.  Miraculously we all made it to the same hotel and stayed for two nights at Lindau before moving on – 3 nights at Fussen, 3 nights at Bad Wiesee, and that was it for Barry & I.  The others continued on to Berchtesgaden and Bad Salgau.  As it was our first summer in France and the trip was planned before we left the UK, we were unsure about the garden, the house and the cat – none of which we needed to have worried about.  We asked some friends to look in a couple of times on the garden while we were away, but bless them they came every night and watered as it was sooo hot.

The first trip on our first full day took us on a drive around Lake Constance and then by ferry to Mainau Island.  The whole island is basically a baroque castle and it’s grounds, and they were amazing. Worth a visit if your ever out that way – http://www.mainau.de/opening-hours-prices.html.   The garden’s themselves were both formal and informal with lot’s of planting ideas in both natural form and formal for inspiration, but perhaps the waterfall steps are an idea too far.  Planting out a huge bed of Dahlia’s for an Autumn display by strict planting methods, lot’s of plans and a large team.  My display is good but not on such a grand scale.

dscn4213          dscn4230         dscn4224

I never used to be keen on Dahlias, but since seeing some in my friends garden, I’ve come back to them again.  A friend got me some from a specialist in Hampshire and I brought them back with me in May and they are going berserk, giving an amazing autumn display – I want more!!!  It’s a plant that always reminds me of an Uncle in Bedfordshire who had an allotment and grew large quantities.  He worked for the post office and provided many a wedding in the 60’s and 70’s with bunches for the tables.  I can always picture him cycling up the road he lived in with them hanging in bunches from his handlebars – just like an onion seller.

I finally gritted my teeth and went up a mountain in a cable car – at 65 I thought it was about time I conquered my fear.  I drew the line at hand gliding or walking back down. Tegelbergbahn was the mountain in the area known as Shwangau. At 1,730m.  As it was nearing the top, the car slowed as it got steeper and went so close to the side of the mountain, well no we didn’t crash in to the side (over dramatic as usual Tickner), just seemed like we might.

We encountered lot’s of waitresses and waiters wearing dirndl and lederhosen respectively.  Thought it was something reserved for the tourists in certain areas but no, we were assured it is still very much worn on high days, holidays, celebrations etc and the number of dirndl und lederhosen shops certainly pointed in that direction, children’s clothing and even clothing for babies either suitably decorated or mini versions of.

As this blog has been two weeks in the writing – busy busy busy I shall finish this and start a new one swiftly, but I’ll just put in a few more photo’s for good measure.

dscn4275   dscn8492   dscn8526

Some of the group carried on walking to the top – I’ll take their word that it was stunning!

dscn4279  Coffee in the clouds   dscn8550

dscn8557

‘Ere did you see that film ‘The Birds’. 

‘Yeah about a load of stupid Seagulls’

‘What are they then?’

dscn8542 Barry took a load of lovely wild flower photos at the top, but put me in mind of another film – The Italian Job where Benny Hill gets out of the coach and goes picking and taking photos of wild flowers……..not saying Barry’s anything like Benny Hill………

dscn8643     dscn8640

dscn8633

Painted houses in Oberammergau and a Barque decorated church

and…..

dscn4251        dscn4283    dscn4346

I like the middle photo – so now you all know what to do with the ends of your logs when hmmm…. you don’t want to use them for firewood = make an egg shaped plant pot holder of course.

dscn8698

Our amazing Citroen DS that never let us down, even in the most torrid of heat.  Waiting patiently to complete the very last leg back home.

Brezelina & die Wiesn:

 

whoopwhoop

This is back-tracking.  I’ve got really behind with my posts, and some of the things I want to write about will have to be for another time – I keep jotting down things and they have now become a very long list, but I’ll get there.  The garden now calls – making vegetable strips for Barry and an island bed for me, back to back visitors, loads of Vide Greniers visited, a chalk painting beginners and advance techniques workshop or me, classic cars and new clubs for Barry, our first visit to a French vet for Shima and that thing called life………..

So, this will be a short blog (what for me haha!) about the garden and things in it.  First excitement back in April was the sound of a bird I didn’t know, and then I saw it – oh my gosh we had Hoopoe’s arrive.  I get excited every time I see one of them and I can now pin point where they are in the area according to their hoop-hoop-hoop noise.  I always thought they were bigger than they are, but no, about the size of a thrush, bit leaner. rosy coloured chest and the most amazing end of wing and tail feathers – black and white – truly stunning when it flies away.  There are another pair in the next village – Ligney and others around – they spread themselves about, but not many of them.

I was in the bedroom that overlooks the big Magnolia (Grandiflora) when B walked in an there was one of them sitting on a branch looking towards the bedroom window –   DSCN7997cropped   a really  close up look.  He took this picture – enlarge it, it’s worth it.  People in the village say we get Golden Oriel’s sometimes as well, but not quite yet apparently – I’m swatting with my bird books so I know one when I see it or hear it.  Here’s another photo of my Hoopoe (yes it’s mine!)Hoopoe on lawn 2016

The donkey has returned to the field at the back of the house, but with her (Bonnie) she has brought the older donkey, the lady that lived here before told me about.  Her name is Celestine, the donkey not the lady that lived here before!, and then there’s a baby (‘ish).  The grass is long now and they love it.  I try to resist giving them carrots, don’t want to start the habit, but they do run down to the fence when I call which is more than Barry does.

DSCN4003                       DSCN3998 Get me my carrot NOW!

Last Monday arriving back from the UK there had been big storms out here on the Sunday and loads of rain.  Walking through to the back in the afternoon, quite happily trotting across the grass getting out his bugs was a big green Woodpecker.  I’ve heard it or them in the big trees at the back since we’ve been here, but never seen any, and now I have. Quote from Barry ‘there’s a big green bird walking across the back grass’ – Barry & birds is a no go area, and quite hopeless asking for a description i.e. it was big and black – yes…and!

We inherited a bird table just across the first lot of decking, and a tin of wild bird seed. I wasn’t going to start feeding because of the cat getting the youngsters, but the garden is so spread out that she hasn’t – head count for the cat is one live mouse in the house that she brought in! We had a lot of really hard frosts January/February so I weakened and I’m really glad I did – the bird count goes Mr & Mrs Robins, Blue Tits and Black capped tits, Hedge and Field Sparrows, Chaffinch and I think a Bullfinch. Chaffinch are lean and taller and this one is shorter and fatter and one or two other finches as yet to be identified. Owls roost in the Magnolia for a while come Sept/Oct and I’ve had a Redstart – I know this because it posed for me near the kitchen window while I consulted my two bid books.  I keep the books in the kitchen now and shout ‘Don’t Move’ at any bird that I’m not sure about.And I’m getting blase now about Birds of Prey – seen everywhere hovering over the fields etc.  There are several species including a Honey Buzzard – that’s the only one I remember after someone rattled off a list.

The little Lizards – Mr Scuttle – are really coming out now, and Barry walked into a bigger Green Lizard warming itself just inside the garden barn store.  He is quite large as we saw him walking across the far garden wall the day before and we were quite a distance away.  I’m told Stick insects will be seen – ah the bain of my Mother’s life when I was a school kid.  We all kept Stick Insects in  a jam jar with a piece of privet in the jar.  and who didn’t open the jar up to inspect before going off to school.  I would quite frequently be met with ‘I spent ages removing YOUR stick insects from the bedroom curtains this morning’ – whoops.  I’m told that we stand a good chance of getting Praying Mantis as well – can you get tablets for it.  Not of the stick insect family I think I’ve read, although you would think so……and to end, deep joy.  Barry walked in to the log store about 3/4 weeks ago and found a grass snake warming up. Long with a yellow band around its neck.  We didn’t know it was a grass snake at the time, but the local that came and did some digging for us and a couple of people who have lived here a long time confirmed it also – in French – Coulevre – it can grow up to 2 metres in length, but in any language I shall NEVER go into the wood store ever ever ever again!  Feel it should be a ‘she’, so I’ve christened her Ssssssssybil.

                                      Afficher l'image d'origineAfficher l'image d'origineAfficher l'image d'origineAfficher l'image d'origine

A Richness of Clocks

Our kitchen wall clock that came with us to France is defunct in fact deceased, it is no more.  It was a lovely clock bought when we re-did the kitchen in the UK – a red and cream clock advertising French chocolate (what else) and I based the kitchen appliances accordingly – red food mixer, coffee maker, etc oh and my Kitchen Aid (a pressie from Barry) in Candy Apple Red, and since we’ve been here a new kettle in red and I’m willing the toaster with my evil eye to pack up, so I can get a red one to match, but it keeps going and I keep staring and shouting at it that it’s useless but it just doesn’t listen to me – maybe if I poke it with a fork in its internal organs – that should do it, unplugged of course.

Although the clock had a bent hand when it got here it didn’t seem a problem, we put the time back at the end of October and it was fine – kicking or even ticking away merrily on the far wall.  We put the hands forward the other week and no – threw a tantrum and decided not to go, and no matter what Barry did to it, nothing – well it does go if you lay it flat, but as it’s large that isn’t really any help.  So ,we’ve been tentatively looking for a replacement – the local Jardinage has some very nice ones and last week went looking again – we found one in a shop called Casa, bought it and were very pleased with it – large white and sort of industrial.  I had already mentioned to the powers that be that my favorite shop in Vouvant also had the sort of clocks we were looking for, but  we came home with the one from Casa.  The next day we went out to Vouvant with Barry’s daughter and baby who were over and went for lunch at the local Auberge which is very child/baby friendly (in fact all the cooing going on we could have given Finley away several times over),  and a quick nosey into the shop to say hi to Jill and Ray ( http://www.frescointeriors.fr/en/ ) and oh guess what, came out with a much bigger clock with a ‘mock’ pendulum.  When home, it immediately  went on to the back wall of the kitchen .DSCN3986

DSCN3984                                    DSCN3988

And now we have a conundrum, where do we put the Casa clock, or do we switch them around, or put the very large clock on the half landing where my paternal Great Grandfather Bulls clock is, (not going due to me over-winding) and do we leave the original red clock on the floor of the dining room to be admired by one and all from another angle? (picture the scene – a group of friends standing in a circle around the clock drinks in hand, discussing the merits of it being there or even why is it there, what statement is it making and will it affect life as we know it, like something from Tate Modern)   Life – it’s nothing but flipping conundrums and deliberations.  Image result for free clock clip art Having browsed, contemplated, scratched my head and let enthusiasm run away with me all over the winter, as to what to do in the garden i.e. making new beds, what to plant where, where to put those that we bought from the UK, thinking that some plants have actually died – right with one, wrong with another, I keep being told to ‘let the garden come to you’!  It’s already here – it and me aren’t going anywhere.

I did have a lovely surprise the other week though.  At the end of February beginning of March I weeded a much overgrown raised rose and lavender bed that, when we arrived in October I thought was quite ugly and what the heck was I going to do with it to make it look more attractive.  After its thorough weed I trimmed the lavender and quite harshly pruned the roses – some quite old and woody.  I’m now pleased to report the bed is looking incredibly healthy, no disease on the roses and lavenders in rude healrh – probably the shock of receiving some forked in Vitax Q10 – the first feed of its  life I suspect.DSCN3994 Sorry not a good photo – it’s there to the left of the well.  There’s a new old bucket on the well which will  be really useful for watering garden water come high summer and pleased to report the cat hasn’t gone ding dong down it yet.  The bucket in place when we arrived was plastic – EXCUSE ME!  In the main gravel bed were one or two plants that hadn’t had their winter debris cleared from them for probably a couple of years, so I cut back the detritus from one, found some little unfurled leaves and we both decided they looked like the Crane’s Bill geranium type – nope wrong big time – over the weeks and oh what joy something that for me is/was much more exciting – a huge clump of purple coloured Pulsatilla or Pasque Flower ( the genus Pulsatilla contains about 33 species of herbaceous perennials native to meadows and prairies of North America, Europe, and Asia. Common names include pasque flower, wind flower, prairie crocus, Easter Flower, and meadow anemone. Wikipedia. ).  It obviously like it environment and must have been there years – I counted 40 flowers on it.  My Mum, bless her, tried to grow them in the South of England and although it survived a few years was never very robust – always expecting great things and always disappointed. Anyway the robustness (!?) of this one has given me the idea of getting some more now available in blue, red or white and maybe a couple of Edelweiss and Gentian.  It is the oldest and most useful of homeopathic medicines and as I’ve just started looking at my homeopathic books again it might not last very long!!!!!!

DSCN3946                DSCN3947               DSCN3993

From the first few blooms in March through to what we have now (right) absolutely amazing.  And even the weird and freaky storm of all storms couldn’t damage it. The forecast said possible thunder and lightning – they didn’t mention the plaque of locusts and Armageddon!   The day before Barry’s daughter and baby were due to arrive, there were three very long rolls of thunder early in the afternoon – didn’t put Barry off though blissfully unaware as he trundled around the garden on the ride-on tondeuse. So all was quiet and then it came – well so black I had all three lights on in the centre of the house, it was coming out of the drain pipes with such force that  had I been a midget I could have taken a shower – thank goodness for ditches, and then hail for 20 minutes or so – oh mother. Then as more often than not, and what it does here the sun came out like nothing had happened, except you know it had because the files of hail in sheltered corners took ages to go away.  Oh and Barry did get off the mower just in time.

2016-04-13 15.38.27                         2016-04-13 15.38.11

This was April 13th and what started out a warm and sunny day and ended the same.

and I promise next time a recipe, my two lot’s of company eat most of the evidence for cake, but………

See original image                                        See original image                           See original image

March brought breezes

Who remembers the poem about the months – yes, you know the one January brings the snow makes our feet and fingers glow….February brings the rain thaws the frozen lake again. Tell me, when was the last time you saw a frozen lake and March, well now March brings breezes loud and shrill, stirs the dancing daffodil – stirs everything else as well.

Were told February, March and April here are the wet months and March is THE month for winds, oh and then some.  so, if it starts out blue sky’s, bird song, sunny, warm and all is still, you can bet your bottom dollar (where did that expression come from?) it’s going to be wet and howling wind by the time you go to bed.  Trying to get anything done out in the garden is miserable but we have to get out there.

In our entrance room which has the breakfast table in it as it leads straight in to the front kitchen (yes, I have a front kitchen, a back kitchen and a walk in pantry the size of a dining room) there is  a marble-topped wash stand that moved with us.  Used to be my computer table and now it’s the telephone table, torch table for when the power goes (frequently in winter), the house diary etc etc.  So a couple of weeks back I was putting the phone back in  its cradle and I saw something, but it didn’t register for a moment, I looked again and there was Eddie (L)Izzard) doing his chad impersonation – a head and two little feet just popping up over the parapet. OK so do I leave him or do I try to get him outside – he was obviously on the move after his winter nap.  The first tactic didn’t work, and neither did the second.  At this stage he was in the middle of the floor, head up ‘what the heck’s going on’ he said – well, I’ll hold the front door open and flip this paper behind you, and perhaps you’d like to progress in a stately manner out to the front gravel beds. Nope he said I’m happy to stay here and be chased by the cat.  Enter stage right the Lord of the Manor and with one flick of the dustpan and brush he was out.

Basically what I’m saying is, the sun is getting warm enough to start bringing out the lizzards.  This one was a big boy with a very long tail.  Shima the cat has spied one between wooden slats by the back door a couple of weeks before and spent happy hour with her foot down the crack fiddling around, but to no avail.  I lifted the board and it darted so quickly not sure where it went, much to her amazement.  I’m sure I’ll see her come in doors before not to long, dangling a tail between her teeth, deep joy.

It had been beautiful at the beginning of March, but the day we decided to go to the seaside – a much-needed trip – it was ok, but not sunny.  We like it here because although were in the countryside, we can be at the coast in 40mins or so and we have to be able to run away to the sea.  I couldn’t live in a landlocked part of this country, as lovely as they are.  So, Jard-sur-Mere it was.  Been before, had mussels in THE best sauce ever at a little restaurant on the beach promenade.  We ate at the same restaurant, but mussels of course (there being an ‘r’ in the month) were out of season. JsM reminds me a little of the south of France.

How unused we are to things that happen in other countries during winter- we thought the beach was closed – big screens shutting it off, and then we realised the screens were put up at the beginning of the winter to stop the loose sand from blowing over the roads etc and probably making another beach and burying your car while you were eating- the wind would kick up a sand storm.  I love this little house, virtually next to the beach, if it ever comes up for sale AND I win the lottery, you’ll know where to find me.

2016-03-11 14.19.57  2016-03-11 14.21.39                                                    2016-03-11 14.18.33

These photo’s don’t do the place much justice, we’ll go again but not in the summer months.   It’s a nice little town, and down one of the roads that lead to another beach is this amazing hotel.  Built for Edwardian Parisiennes wanting to take the city out of their lungs its style tells the era it was built in – and you can picture elegant men and women strolling along the sea walk taking the air.  This is the only photo I can find – obviously nearest to the camera are modern add on’s, but you can see to the right at the back the original Belle Époque hotel – it’s very lovely, but sadly only two stars.  It’s called the Hotel de l’Atlantique.

Hotel-ocean-saint-vincent-sur-jard

Barry’s just walked in to find me typing this – what another blog – so soon he says.  Yes, said I and showing him my note-book said I’ve got all this to catch up on.  Well, he said I never knew I was leading such an exciting life.  Just as well it’s bedtime or there would have been no tea for a certain person tonight, let alone a piece of very fine apple and walnut loaf.

What else for you to look forward to – A St Patrick’s night dinner, Chocolate chip cookies using chestnut flour, Chalk Furniture painting, Vide Greniers, a stunning coffee & Walnut sponge, Franglais evenings and a trip to Castorama in Niort with lunch in Coulon (in the Marais), oh yes, and Buckwheat & Walnut bread and the conundrums of drizzle, on Lemon Drizzle cake…..now, now contain your excitement, do.

Image result for free clipart of cakes

 

 

 

Going to War

And so, when I was in the bathroom the other afternoon contemplating the world and all its horrors, I looked up through our lovely roof window to the clear blue yonder and caught site of two birds of prey circling on a thermal, getting higher and higher in the sky. I watched for 5 mins or so – I always find it a fascinating site and we get loads of falcons large and small around here, ditto owls.  Anyway I thought how lucky am I……….

DSCN3896

As I keep saying, after La Roche sur Yon we drove 12km north to the Museum of the Vendee. The building itself is quite something, large green area landscaped with grasses and, from the access road, you can’t see it at all as it’s  been built into the hillside, all that’s visible is the roof planted with sedums.  There is also a walk down to the  memorial garden to commemorate the Vendee Wars (1793 – 1799)

Once inside it’s light, bright and so spacious – a refreshing change.  It’s divided in to ‘ages’ as listed in their website : http://www.vendee-guide.co.uk/historial-de-la-vendee.htm.  there are inter-active activities, moving scenes etc.  we did two of the rooms – The Renaissance (applicable to how it was for the Vendee area) and The Wars of the Vendee which were both really interesting – some villages lost over 30% of their inhabitants, and the war was really very very bloody : http://www.inthevendee.com/vendee-wars/vendee-wars.html.

We had gone specifically to see an exhibition of War Artists work, both the Great War and WW2.  I had seen it advertised in a paper in November, and then in February suddenly realised we didn’t have much time left to go as it closed in March.

DSCN3935       DSCN3945

‘Artistes en guerre’ was a large exhibition, and to our surprise not war artists in general, but artists that hailed from the Vendee, and, I have to say, worthy of anything you’d see in famous galleries around the world.  It was amazing, the fact that apart from some necessary lighting it was very dark so made the paintings and drawings all the more effective – poignant, humorous, horrifying and deeply moving.  There was also some sculpture – copies by the artists of war memorials, and celebratory paintings  like a huge canvas ‘ La Reception du President Wilson a l’Hotel de Ville de Paris, 1919 by Rene Rouseau-Decelle – the title being almost as big as the canvas.  In my mind, it made the art that I’d just witnessed all the more poignant, it showed men in their top hats and tails, women in all their Edwardian finery and furs, opulent flower arrangements, huge bunting etc – almost making a cheery mockery of it all.

Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out in 1937 (shown in France in 1938).  The artist Maurice de la Pintiere after he had been liberated from a war camp bought out a series of drawings in the style of the seven dwarfs, the exception was they were a depiction of life in a German Prisoner of War Camp. This one entitled ‘Desinfection ll’.

DSCN3942  When I first looked at this I immediately thought oh Snow White etc, then I looked again – there are no words. And this another of his work.

DSCN3943

Maurice de La Pintière (1920-2006) was a versatile artist who was a painter of animals, a caricaturist, an illustrator and creator of tapestries. As a resistance fighter during the Second World War, he was deported in 1943 and experienced the horror of the concentration camps at Buchenwald, Dora and Bergen-Belsen, all of which he depicted on his return to France.

This large exhibition room nearly always has some  kind of exhibition.  Before this there had been one on the History of French TV and Radio.  We did the war exhibition before we walked around the museum in general, needing a cuppa and bun afterwards.  We were a bit silent on the way home, needless to say.

What struck me most of all and a bit of hope for the future was that being a school holiday there were a lot of children there with their parents and more importantly Grandparents.  Children from very young ages walking around this exhibition being explained to by grandfathers and fathers – it was rather heartening.

February – school holiday – I hear you say.  Yes, well they have a lot in France mainly because the children depending on their age work later than they do in the UK and also of course Saturday mornings, so school holidays are different.  France is divided in to 3 zones. Summer, Autumn and Christmas, holidays are the same dates for all three zones; other times they differ so it gets confusing.  We are in zone B and, having gone back for 4 days after Easter, our area is on Spring Break as from today and return on the 17th April.  Then there’s nothing until the 5th July when all school break up, except of course for the 5 separate days of National Holidays throughout France, but they only get two of these as the other three are on a Sunday – phew.

Here is a link to the Museum : http://www.vendee-guide.co.uk/historial-de-la-vendee.htm

Image result for photo of palm fronds         Image result for photo of palm fronds

Come On…….Catch Up

So where was I before being interrupted for the past month…..oh yes February and La Roche sur Yon.  I’ve got catch up to play.

Barry & I like La Roche sur Yon- now the capital (or County Town) of the Vendee thanks to the little man who got people planting pine trees to make use of the land that wasn’t capable of being arable – ah yes, that’s it – Napoleon.  Fontenay le Comte was before his time the capital, but when he came along decided that the peasants of Fontenay were too much of an unruly rabble to tame and completely ungovernable and Fontenay had geographical problems, so he moved the capital to La Roche-s-Y.  It sits high on the Vendee plain, so as a military base at the time you would have a good view all round of the surrounding country side.  He made it a garrison town.  Roads spread out from one main square surrounded by what were once military housing and it’s all together very lovely.

DSCN3889      DSCN3885     DSCN3873

The man himself on his horse, some info and a grid plan of Cite napoleonienne (it obviously still belongs very much to him) and Terry Pratchett enjoying a coffee in the February sunshine. (Feel free to enlarge if you can any of the photos, so you can read what the info says).  There’s some lovely shops here, and we even found an Indian food store with ready-made dishes and loads of spices etc, so we stocked up.  Indian food is no go in most of France,  they don’t like it hot a spicy or even spicy.  You’ll find shops and restaurants in the cities which will of course include North African.  Chinese also, we have two restaurants in Fontenay – Chinese New Year was an interesting experience in the supermarkets earlier in the year and disgusting – so the answer is to stock up on all the basic ingredients and do-it-yourself.  That’s one of the few things we miss – not being able to pop out for a take away.

We have a pizza van comes on a Monday evening in the lay-bye in front of the church – lovely, everything fresh but expensive for two.

Sorry verging from the straight and narrow there.  I love French florists, they spill out onto the pavement making full use of the space and, sometimes, onto their neighbours space as well.  Mimosa was just coming in – my most favorite flower other than Sweet Peas.  It always bring to mind the south of France and warmer weather to come.  I used to buy it for Mum and I when I saw it in the UK, so an old favorite.  Barry bought me a small 3ft tree for Valentine’s Day this year, but got it locally and about half the price of this shop in La Roche.  Mine’s about the same height and now (middle March) its yellow pom-poms have finished.  We have a small semi-circular graveled standing for plants (before our time) and as it’s in a hot spot I’m going to turn it in to a tropical spot.  We bought an Aloe with us, so that will go there and there’s this really vicious spiky – mmm not sure cacti/aloe that was left for us out in the front garden.  It’s on the corner of a flower bed and bites anyone that passes –  and it isn’t small. Neither is my aloe.  I shall buy another aloe I’ve seen with curling ‘leaves’ and tendrils, and then add my Mimosa to the bed, along with something of a citrus nature.  I’ll wrap them in fleece for the winter and put them under cover in the donkey byre.DSCN3891

DSCN3892                          DSCN3900

The wine bottles in case you’re wondering, outside the back door were found in the fuel barn and their contents  have been tested by the Patron of the establishment.  Some were quite disgusting (we don’t know how long they had been there) and others were actually good – so watch out forthcoming visitors we could introduce you to a cheeky little number.  Interestingly, we also found a bottle of Holy Water, complete with a handwritten label in really old style writing, which we can only think belonged to ‘Grandma’ when she lived here.  Her Granddaughter lives in the farm opposite – Grandma hasn’t been around since the early 1970’s or has she though, being in the cemetery almost opposite??  We put bottle back on its shelf for luck.  Visitors may pay a small fee to handle said bottle.  So after a wander and a very good lunch, we drove 12km north to The Museum of the Vendee where there was an exhibition of war artists work which we had wanted to see for a while and it was drawing near to it’s closing date.  More later. As a bye and bye – there is a very pretty water garden running through the centre of RsY and it’s always intrigued us – there are a load of mechanical animals in it that can be worked from various vantage points.  This crocodile can blink it’s eyes, move backwards and forwards, open and snap shut it’s mouth, hiss steam which always makes the kids scream and very lifelike when it rises from the water, there’s also a camel, flamingo’s and a couple of other things.  We wonder if they are done by the same mechanical expert that designed and built the Elephant of Nantes.  At Nantes there is also an exhibition of other mechanical animals and things like a spider that crawls up the wall.  Were hoping to do the elephant ride in the summer. http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/#_=_ Oh the Croc has a light over it’s head – presumably to keep it warm in winter or perhaps just so you can see it at night!!

DSCN3877   DSCN3881

DSCN3870      Click to viewByeee for now.

See….Pam

No, we didn’t see Pam the day we went to La Roche-sur-Yon last week, but we did go to the offices of the Assurance Maladie to register our S1’s in order to get our CPAM – get it!

You apply to the DHS in the UK for the S1 and then it has to be presented  to the equivalent in France in order to get your CPAM card. The CPAM allows you entry into the French Health system, so we are now disengaged from the NHS – we are without though at the moment, the very nice young lady said it would be a week – bit then we’ve heard that before.  Barry was concerned as we left with him saying “but she hasn’t given us a reference number if we need to chase it”, to which I replied ” it will be ok, she’s French and it’s enough that you have presented your paperwork and she has logged it on her system”  Just for the moment I’m keeping quiet.

Once we get it we can register with the GP and get our top up health insurance.  The French system pays for up to a certain amount and then you pay the rest, which is why in the case of a big op or something you need the top up.   If the GP prescribes something, you pay at the surgery by interesting your credit/debit card into their machine and your CPAM card and then it goes through the system and Assurances Maladie re-imburse your account, some say it usually only takes a week.

But I have to say this, and I know all countries have good and bad, but what a refreshing change – nice building, good on site car parking, a receptionist that logs you in with why you are there, gives you a ‘receipt’ that tells you how many are in front of you.  When your called you go into very pleasant open plan offices, well spaced out with plants and with smartly dressed assistants, polite and efficient.  The lady that dealt with Maternity was so well co-ordinated (I clocked it all – but then you wouldn’t expect anything less), I thought she’d stepped out the pages of a fashion magazine.  And the best bit – outside there was no-one spitting, searching for Roaches (the wacky baccy sort, not the cocky ones) on the ground, or draining half a centimeter of beer out of a can and then throwing it away in frustration because the can was empty.

We could have gone in to a sub-office in Fontenay (40km closer), but we had been told the man that deals with it in there doesn’t like the English which is weird as that is the section he deals with – and supposedly he is not very effective at processing your application.

We weren’t bothered as we like La Roche-sur-Yon very much and it was a lovely day, we had coffee and lunch in the centre and then drove about 12km north to ‘The Museum of the History of the Vendee’ at les Lucs-sur-Bologne.

More in another posting, as this will go on forever.

Oh yes, and today I found my sock yarn in the depths of a moving box.  Just got to get an instruction book now and by the end of the year Barry will be walking around with Hobbit feet.