Monday, 27 June 2011

The Batmobile's been Googled!

Earlier this year, on a bright spring day, off to a book club lunch I think, with the hood down on the batmobile, I breezed up to the cross-roads in Grateloup.  Coming towards us from the other side of the junction was a Google car with cameras on its roof, which flashed as we met.

From time to time I've idly wondered, in passing, whether the batmobile's image was there on Google but thought we're so rural here, they won't bother. Yesterday, checking out a route on Google maps, I saw the little orange figure and decided to see if I could make him stand on the Grateloup cross roads. He did.  Up came the images of the centre of the village.  And there's the batmobile - on Google!

If I'd known, I would have had my hair done!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Canicule: "Whew what a Scorcher"

Twenty-three degrees at eight- thirty this morning and I'm struggling to get the drip system for the new hedge to work properly.

Crouched on my knees among brittle thistles, I make more holes in the black tubing for the watering attachments alongside each small plant. Water runs through the hose and it squirts and spits at me soaking my shorts as I work.  In the hard bleached sunlight the occasional soaking refreshes.

Buzzards and kites hunt across Serge's stripped wheat fields.  The combines worked late into the evening through the week and he followed one night with the baler - chug, chug, thump, thump, clang, clang - the bales now left scattered through the bone-dry stubble.

With the promise of temperatures in the upper thirties this afternoon, we open up the pool.  But it's too hot to linger so we retreat to the cool of the kitchen to sample the hazelnut and apricot tart I made last night.  Something in the meld of flavours clashes slightly, but we take a second piece, just to make sure.  Next time I'll try the hazelnut with pears and chocolate.

Typing this, I glance up to see Monsieur F trundle past on his tractor, bouncing down the slope between his field and our small orchard.

Moments later I hear the gentle swish-swish, swish-swish of the water canon across the maize as it rustles in the scorching wind.

Monday, 20 June 2011

"D'Artagnan's" House?

Vita has been to visit her cousin Brando at a grand seventeenth century fortified house.

When Airedales play, they play hard, which can be daunting for other dogs.  But put two Airedales together and the barging and play-biting weight for weight is glorious fun.

They roar round the garden and house for three hours, stopping every so often to flop by us, tongues hanging out, joyous grins on their faces.

We are there to learn more about the house with our friends who have a château and are knowledgeable about old buildings.  Brando's owners are aiming to sell their house (reluctantly) and are interested in understanding its history before they leave.

Local legend has it that the house was owned at one time by Charles de Batz whose life was fictionalised as D'Artagnan in Dumas' The Three Musketeers.  What fun for the owners - to live in a house that may have been occupied by D'Artagnan!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Vita plonks herself down ...

... right on top of where I'm weeding out the couch grass from the gravel in front of the small wall that Eric has built to edge the bank up to what will one day be our front entrance.

She's been startled by a gust of wind and has come for reassurance.

On hands and knees, I work round her and, warm against my leg, she lies back watching the swallows as they dive above our heads.

The sun is struggling to break through the clouds.  In the half-sunlight her normally dull brown fur glows deep gold.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Just in Time

The météo promised rain this week.  Nothing new about that. They've been promising rain for weeks.  But this time it felt different.  Maybe because several days of rain were shown.  Maybe because the little thunder clouds on the chart didn't slip away to nothing as the days went by. They stayed stubbornly in place. Maybe because we have friends coming to stay this week - a sure sign that the weather will break.

And there's the almost empty leaky water tank sitting there with its muddy puddle in the bottom.  And if it's going to start raining again, surely now's the time to make it waterproof.

We found a large sheet of black plastic at a reasonable price in our local Gamm Vert. Tod said we ought to line the walls and floor first so that the plastic didn't tear on the concrete. We wandered round looking for something that would do and not break the bank and he noticed some trousers that might fit and I fretted about the black thunder clouds I could see piling up through the shop windows.  We settled for big bags of hamster bedding for the floor and bubble wrap for the walls and didn't buy the trousers.  Then, at home, we realised we could use the summer pool cover that we were about to throw out because its blue bubbles were dropping off and floating around in the swimming pool and clogging the filter.

The tank is just over three meters square and one point two meters deep.  One point two meters is just about my chest height.  So climbing down into the tank, I have to stoop and turn my head sideways. I feel like Alice in Wonderland when she eats the cake and grows so large her head hits the ceiling. We pump as much of the muddy puddle out as possible, but there's still some left.  I drill holes in the concrete and fix up wooden battens to hold the black plastic and worry about electricity and water. The blue pool cover is stapled to the battens and Tod rakes the hamster bedding out over the floor - the tank almost looks cosy.

I try to unfold the eight by six meter black plastic sheeting on the cottage lawn as the thunder, wind and rain start in earnest. At this point there is no going back.  We have to get the liner in situ before the rain starts collecting on the roof and running along the guttering and down the drain pipes and into the water tank.  I fight with the black liner in the tank and the liner keeps winning.  It's like trying to wrap a parcel, but from the inside.  I'm on my knees crawling round in the hamster bedding. Water is now coming down the drain pipes and dripping into the tank.  We put a bucket there to catch the flow.  I finally staple the liner to the battens and beat a strategic retreat. The liner will hold over night. I'll finish tomorrow. As I walk back to the house, my trousers are soaked and clinging to my thighs - it's like putting on a wet cold swimming costume. I just want to be in the warm and dry.

The first time it's rained in weeks - the rain I've been praying for -  and I'm wishing it would stop!