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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Un petit peu de culture

Last night Len and I set off for our first class of a series on The History of Art. The theme for this year is Sculpture from the Renaissance to the present day. It is run by the Association I work for and the teacher is the curator of three local museums.

The atmosphere was very informal. We all introduced ourselves to begin with – poor Len was the only male with nine women – and then the two-hour talk began, accompanied by photos on a big screen. We began with ancient greek statues which brought back memories of our holiday in Greece, then progressed through the Classical period to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a lightning tour, looking at the influences that had affected the kind of sculptures that were created.

Bust of Niccolo da Uzzano, a local banker, by Donatello

Bust of Niccolo da Uzzano, a local banker, by Donatello

Settling back in France

Lunch on the pation, hot weather and a game of scrabble - we're back!

Lunch on the pation, hot weather and a game of scrabble – we’re back!

We have just come back from a week in England. We went for our granddaughter’s christening in the Wirral. It was lovely to spend time with all the family and friends. Then we had a weekend with my sister, including a day in London seeing the poppies at the Tower of London and the Turner exhibition at Tate Britain.

We average four or five trips a year to Britain at the moment, no more than the number we used to do in the opposite direction. It can be unsettling, belonging in two different places and sometimes feeling that you don’t belong in either. But once we had had a good night’s sleep, unpacked and seen to the chicks all was well again.

Jessica's christening cake.

Jessica’s christening cake.

88,000 poppies (not puppies as Len thought I said) flowing like blood around the Tower of London, representing the soldiers who have died. They will be sold at £25 each and will raise £15 for charity.

888,000 poppies (not puppies as Len thought I said) flowing like blood around the Tower of London, representing the soldiers who have died. They will be sold at £25 each and will raise £2m for charity.

Searching for treasure in Angers

I had a lovely afternoon in Angers today. Angers is our nearest big town, the administrative centre for the department. It only takes 45 minutes to drive there but we’ve become such country bumpkins that we don’t often visit, which is a shame as it’s a lovely town.

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Old houses in Angers

 

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Just to show you can make a garden out of anything!

My prime purpose in visiting today was to find the much talked about shop, Tissus Myrtille (Blueberry fabric in English!). It turned out to be an Aladdin’s cave of all things to do with sewing, embroidery and knitting – a bit like El Kilo in Liverpool. I emerged after 30 mins with a bag full of wool for my next weaving and having had a short knitting lesson – possibly not a very good idea as continental knitting works in a different direction from British knitting!

I then made my way through some lovely back streets and found an indian restaurant – very important, and across the river to the Gallery for Contemporary Tapestry where the huge Jean Lurcat tapestry is displayed. In one room there was the happy sound of a class of children completing a piece of weaving. At the moment there is a display of work by European and Japanese textile artists. Here are some of the treasures I found.

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A few hours snatched in the garden

This has been an odd week. We went from sandals and T shirts to boots and jumpers overnight. The computer kindly told us that it was warmer in Liverpool, that never goes down well.

Seeds of yellow flags

Beautiful seeds like little counters in pods on the yellow flags. Do I feel another embroidery coming on?

However, the warmth has returned and we may even make it to the end of October without lighting the Esse.

Still a bit of colour in the garden in October.

Still a bit of colour in the garden in October.

A visitor for breakfast

This morning we were quietly eating our breakfast when there was a fluttering of wings from the wood cooker. I opened the hatch and out flew a sparrow. This has happened a few times during the summer, a bird falling down the flue, and it was one of the reasons for me cleaning the range this week, before the weather changes, to check that there weren’t any other birds hiding in it somewhere.

We love our wood cooker but cleaning it is one of the downsides. Twice a year (at least) we unscrew the bolts that hold the hotplate down, lift it out (a two man job), push a wire brush around all the spaces inside, scrape deposits off the boiler and give it a good hoover and clean. Then it all has to be reassembled.

Hopefully this was our last summer visitor.