Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Rainy Day

Day three and it's still raining: steady downpour need the windscreen wipers on all the time type rain. People on Total France are posting about "how to build an ark". All our oil radiators are on and the washing is on a dryer in the lounge. South of France late May - ha!

Yesterday we went to M. Bricolage in Marmande - one of the less awful DIY stores - and bought some cheap and nasty wood shelving. Garden tools are supposed to be in the garage but they keep creeping round to a messy corner by the kitchen door. So the shelving (which needs assembling) is an acceptance of the inevitable - the gardening stuff will stay on the veranda.

When I was eight, we lived in an Edwardian house with a large veranda. It was bliss for my mother on wet weekends as my brother and I could still play outside. It had storage cupboards to investigate, old furniture to make into hideouts and a water-butt that we used to stir so we could see the mosquito larvae wriggling back up from the bottom.

Rainy day in France? Thick sweater on and I'm going out to play on the veranda.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Evening in Bergerac with Smudge

Yesterday we (Tod, Smudge and I) drove the two hours to Riberac in the Dordogne to drop off some last minute paperwork for the accountants for our first tax year end in France. Next year we will find accountants with an office that's closer!

Having Smudge in the car is hard on the ears. He bark-yodels, loudly: "Let's leave, RIGHT NOW." "Look there's a cow." "We've overtaken a bicycle." "We've stopped for petrol." "Let me out for a walk, RIGHT NOW." But it's also good to have him with us, rather than leaving him at home on his own for hours.

To give us all a break, we decided to stop on the way back for dinner in Bergerac. We wandered down through the Old Town to the banks of the Dordogne, threading our way past pavement restaurants setting up for the evening and last minute shoppers carrying extravagant flower arrangements - today is Mother's Day. All of this takes time with Smudge as every lamp-post and shop corner has to be sniffed and a new message left. Sometimes we have to double back, to check out a particularly alluring smell. As our attention is at dog level, it is easy to overlook (or perhaps underlook) the attractions aimed at humans, such as the statue of Cyrano de Bergerac.

We checked out a couple of restaurants in a small tree-sheltered square and decided to go for the Moroccan one. The other was all duck, duck and more duck and although Smudge seemed to prefer it, he was outnumbered. Rain threatened and the waiter was doubtful, but by staying outside we could have Smudge at our feet, where he could keep close watch on importunate pigeons, occasional grey cats and the elderly black dog under the table next to us. Smudge refused a taste of Tod's foie gras (discerning dog!) and the steak kebab did not pass muster (though the black dog thought it was fine). My chicken kebab, however, was acceptable.

We strolled back to the car under increasingly lowering skies, this time catching a couple of moody evening shots of Cyrano. And the sunset as we left was spectacular, but also warned us of the weather about to come.

I huddled in the back of the car with Smudge as Tod drove us home for deserted mile after mile, lightning flashing across the dark horizons around us.

After yesterday's exertions we're all having a lazy morning.

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Sunday, 18 May 2008


When I came back with Smudge from our walk yesterday evening there was a punnet of cherries on the veranda table. No message, just the cherries.

The cherries were gleaming, glossy red. I thanked whoever had left them and tucked in. Nothing like sweet cherries straight off the tree, with the warmth of the sun still in them.

I was round at friends for the evening and didn't get back until late, checked for messages on the phone and sure enough, there was Marion, saying they'd left the cherries. So I went to bed, resolved to call her this morning to thank her.

This morning, I walked Smudge first, before calling. Or at least attempted to. He was having a "I'm sitting here in the well of the car and not getting out because my back legs ache" sort of a morning. So I wandered around for a bit, taking some photos and hoping he might be enticed out, but no.

Driving back, as we approached the track down to our house, the car in front of us turned down it. Visitors! It was Marion and Colin, worried that they hadn't been able to get hold of me last night and wanting to make sure that all was well.

They live about half a mile away from us as the crow flies - perhaps double that to drive - over the brow of the hill behind us, in an old colombage house that they are renovating. We'd seen their non-French sounding surname on their letter-box as we walked the dogs past one day during the winter and wondered if they were English.

We finally met some weeks later and since then have seen each other once in a while. But we've each chosen to live in a part of France where we believe the English are thin on the ground and are not rushing to be part of an "English community".

Nevertheless, with Tod away in the UK, it felt good to have neighbours just over the hill who leave cherries and care enough to want to know I'm alright.

colombage restoration

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Bank Holiday Saturday - Lunchtime

I wandered down the track by our garden to see if the wild rose scrabbling over the bank by the large slab of concrete that is the base of what was once an old tobacco barn had come into bloom yet.

It hadn't. But having got that far down the track, I wandered on to our derelict cottage - one day, hopefully, to be renovated and a place for friends to stay. The grass around the cottage is knee-high, except where Tod has mowed a narrow track through and the trees in front (limes I think) are now in full leaf. The boughs bend down to the ground and create a cool green sanctuary. There is no fence here dividing our land from the surrounding fields and each flows into the other.

The view between the low swaying branches, across the green winter wheat, is of a narrow lane that bends round the woodland where the white cattle sheltered last summer and the small stone bridge that crosses the stream in the bottom of the valley.

The warm easterly wind was full of the musty-sweet smell of elderflowers.

There was no sound, except bird song. No sound of tractors or cars, or dogs barking, or distant voices. I had this green world to myself.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Leaving Toulouse

Tod flew back to the UK on Monday from Toulouse.

Whichever one of us flies out, the other gets to drive the batmobile home. Normally we have “Madam” (our Tomtom sat nav) to navigate us to and from the airport. We call her Madam because of her posh received pronunciation voice: “Exit ahead” every vowel and consonant crisp and clear. This time though, Tod wanted Madam with him in the UK so I was driving solo on my way home, threading through the spaghetti of dual carriageways that circle Toulouse.

In fact it’s easy – just follow the signs to Bordeaux and Paris.

Then I remembered: the first time I saw those signs a year ago and felt again the bubble of excitement. “Us, moving to France”.

Now, those signs are part of my life and the excitement doesn’t go away.