Happy St Catherine’s Day

November 25th is the feast of St Catherine. One of the students called Catherine received a text in the middle of an English lesson, saying Bonne fete. This led to a question about how you would say it in English, and suddently a huge cultural gap opens up. “Well, you don’t say it, because England isn’t a predominantly Catholic country so the saints’ days aren’t celebrated.”  Silence!  And then someone mentions a rhyme linked to St Catherine’s Day,

à la Sainte Catherine, tout bois prend racine….

Trees planted on 25th November take root. The implication is that trees planted on 24th or 26th November may not. We had come across this idea before but it always comes as a shock. It also explains why a friend who is giving us a walnut tree is desperate for us to have it straight away – we’re already a week late!  “Make sure you have a hole dug ready” he told us. We wondered whether the date still stands when it has been such an exceptionally warm autumn. The answer is most definitely Yes.


One of the benefits of living in the country is that it is much easier to see the stars. Recently there has been a lot of cloud but last night Orion was glowing in all his glory and I decided to get up in the middle of the night to see what else I could see.


Len bought me a telescope two Christmases ago and we have tried a few times to get it aligned to the stars so that it would show me what I was looking at but we have so far failed. However it does     function without being programmed and this week I managed to focus it on some distant trees (not as easy as it sounds because it’s quite powerful). So for two or three hours last night I looked through the telescope, trying to find something to focus on. Wherever I pointed the telescope there were thousands upon thousands of stars. My aim was to find Jupiter, which I finally did, at least I think I did. Just a round shining dot. I couldn’t see any of the features in this photo but it felt like progress. Stargazing is obviously not something that can be picked up in 5 minutes. I’m off to find some tutorials now.

A Scottish evening in the heart of France


Last night we were privileged to be invited to an intimate soiree to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The theme was Scotland, since the couple had enjoyed many happy holidays there. Most people had found a    little bit of tartan to wear and there was Scottish music playing in the background.




The menu was as follows:

Oatmeal biscuits and smoked salmon

Cock-a-leekie soup with spelt bread

Haggis (as near to the original as is possible with french ingredients), tatties and neats ? (carrot and suede)

Raspberries and whipped cream with oatmeal soaked in whisky with shortbread

Dundee cake

Phew! What a meal and all accompanied by very interesting conversation and reminiscences from the guests.

A big Thank you to our hosts.


0.3% growth? La crise en France

When I had my flying lesson (as Len calls my rapid descent from upstairs to downstairs in the stable), the only thing that was broken was a pair of glasses. So we went to an optician in the nearest town to ask for them to be mended. This is usually done willingly by any optician without charge. However, as she was looking at the glasses I saw a notice she had posted on the counter, to the effect that people shouldn’t buy glasses on the internet and then expect her to adjust or mend them for nothing.

Contine reading

Centenary WW1 at St Philbert du Peuple

Flags and wreaths at the monument to those who died in World War 1.

Flags and wreaths at the monument to those who died in World War 1.

This morning we attended the memorial for those who died in the First World War. A lot of planning had gone into the event and we had received an invitation detailing the events: a ceremony at the cemetry, mass in the village church, a ceremony at the monument to the dead, inauguration of an exhibition ‘St Philbert dans la Grande Guerre’ and finally …….. a cocktail together!

Contine reading

Shiners and life after death

We often talk about our house in France as a lego-house. There are bits added on, bits taken off, bits carved out. It has the effect of making you think you can tackle things on your own. So on Friday I set about repairing the upstairs floor of the stable. This is about 25 m squared and consists of rotten planks of various sizes balanced across the beams. We bought large sheets of pressed board to replace the beams and I set about clearing the dirty compacted straw and throwing out the rotten planks.

Contine reading

The french palate

Once a fortnight we meet with a group from church who live in our locality. This week it was our turn to host the group and I made a batch of almond biscuits to have with the tisanes at the end of the meeting.


The biscuits were nothing special and in England they might have been met with ‘Mm, these are nice’ or even ‘Can I have the recipe.’  But not in France. One friend commented that they were just like the ones his grandmother made. Someone else took a little bite from the edge and said ‘Mm, very crunchy like shortbread at the edge, then as you get further in it’s soft and chewy. Is it the butter that does that? Very clever’. And he asked for the recipe!

A conversation with the wood man

On Friday we had two deliveries of wood – one lorry load of chestnut and one of oak. The chestnut is good for getting a fire going but it burns quickly. The oak is good on an established fire and it burns more slowly. The Esse eats an enormous amount of wood and during the winter it feels a bit like stoking a train engine, throwing in logs all the time.


The pile of chestnut logs needing to be stacked.

The first delivery of chestnut logs needing to be stacked.

All of this and more will have disappeared by spring.

All of this and more will have disappeared by spring.

After the second delivery the wood man came in for a cup of coffee and a chat. He was interested in the wood pellet fire and asked lots of questions so we gave him a demonstration. He is retiring in a year and he has trained a young lad to take over but the banks won’t give him a sufficiently big loan to buy the equipment and current stock of wood so the business will sadly fizzle out and the lad will have to find something else to do.

He told us about another wood man who managed to get the contract to supply wood for heating Roissy Airport in Paris. The whole airport is heated by wood chippings, which sounds very green until you learn that he has to supply seven articulated lorries full of chippings every day – an eight hour return trip.