Friday, December 13, 2013

Let Bygones be Bygones

Yesterday I attended a village funeral. I've written before by how moving I find these ceremonies in this small community. This was the grandmother of one of the first families to welcome us here. She had lived a long life, dying at 94, and had never left this village working with her husband and later her daughter and grandson to make their living from the land. A hard life but a rewarding one. 

 Last weekend we had our annual money raising event for the Telethon (like the UK's Children in Need). A youngster in this village had benefitted from Telethon funds which paid for a super duper wheelchair and that is why we fundraise with such enthusiasm. Sadly he died a few years ago at the age of 15 but our support for the Telethon remains in his memory. 

We also had our annual event for the youngest and the oldest residents of the village. There is a Christmas craft workshop for the children and then songs and stories from the Club des Ainés around the Christmas tree. Father Christmas didn't forget to call with gifts for children and for the over 70s and then drinks and chocolates to end the afternoon. 

A Christmas story

 I also spent two days last week helping the Banque Alimentaire (Food Bank). During the last weekend in November shoppers at supermarkets across France are asked to donate dry goods to the Food bank. I spent one day at a local supermarket helping with the collection of the gifts and one day at the base in Marmande helping sort all the donations for storage. It is very sad that more and more people are relying on food banks to help them eke out their small incomes and the gap between the haves and have nots keeps widening. 

 All of these events made me stop and reflect on how lucky I am. I live in a lovely house. I am warm and well fed. I have healthy children and grandchildren. I have a loving husband and caring friends and I have enough money to live comfortably. The weather has been very cold but gloriously sunny recently and driving around on my everyday business and walking the dogs has been a delight - the countryside here is really lovely and the sunlight on the frosty fields gave it an added wintry charm. How can I not feel thankful that I live in such a gorgeous spot and in such a friendly village? This is why it's where we hope to end our days. 

This was, of course, the week when the world bid farewell to Nelson Mandela. For me it was his ability to forgive that set him apart from the rest. While many are imprisoned or persecuted for their political or religious views, people struggle with physical and mental handicaps and to live on limited incomes we should all be grateful for what we have and should do our best to live in peace with each other. So to anyone I have hurt or offended at any time I ask pardon and to those that have hurt or offended me I will try to let bygones be bygones. 

 'I have been saying throughout, let bygones be bygones. Let what has happened pass,as something unfortunate but which we must forget'  Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Home is where the heart is

Since I last caught up with you we have been enjoying living in Kebourg and making it truly chez nous. We finally have all our clothes out of storage and in our new wardrobes and dressing area and we are slowly adding pictures and the little bits and pieces that make a house a home. Curtain material is bought although I haven't actually started making them yet.

 I am enjoying my office / work room though and at the moment it is my Christmas card factory. We are as warm as toast and really glad we invested in all round insulation.

Outside all the landscaping is finished and grass pushing through and we have two car parks and so no more mud ! Shrubs and trees are ready for planting and we are are enjoying making plans for developing the garden in the spring. We have a few finishing jobs but we don't want to be painting etc until the new year and we're using the winter to get everywhere organised and to truly settle in. The outside of the house still isn't pointed but that will be done in the spring too and then we will say our final au revoir to the workmen.

We love living here - we were happy in our first french house at Peyrenegre but it was always a workplace too and never felt like a forever home.  Here we like:

  • the better views outside (and no pylon)
  • the better views from inside, I can watch the sunset from my office and have views from every room - I especially like a  small original window in the salon that frames the view like a picture frame
  • the free water from our natural spring,
  • being in the village with people we love popping in,
  • that it is such an easily maintained property
  • having no upstairs
  • being so warm with great heating and insulation
  • the bigger, higher roofed terrace with closed ends to keep off the wind and to store our winter wood and house a summer kitchen
  • the pool just for us and close to the house

This is a house designed to fit the way we live in France and suits us down to the ground - it really is home sweet home. I'll be getting the decorations down soon and finding a place for each of them to set the scene for our first Kebourg Christmas. The dogs seem happy here too!

Thanks to all of you for your help and encouragement during the renovations. We hope to have many happy years here and to continue to share this lovely place with friends and family.

The first Kebourg birthday

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Feeling slimmer

Just had to share how high I am feeling today. Last night was a big dinner at Kevin's local Kiwanis club and I enjoyed getting dressed up for the occasion. I had on the dress that I wore for my daughter's wedding last November but as I am 15 kilos lighter now it looked so much better. I was glowing with all the compliments about the weight loss, the shorter hair and generally how good I looked. As I have been feeling a bit like Cinderella doing nothing but painting it really cheered me up.



Saturday, October 5, 2013


A great summer of friendship ended with the visit last weekend of our French friends from the Mayenne. I have known them for 30 years now and have shared many happy times with them and so it was lovely to have them here at Kebourg.  We had a lovely trip out to the Latour Marliac lily gardens at Temple sur Lot which were the inspiration for Monet's work. The sun shone and we had lunch in the restaurant there looking out over the beautiful lake- a lovely end to our summer of friends.

The beginning of October means a few days in the mountains for us as we have friends who own a house in Genos in the Haute Pyrenees. Usually we are very lucky with the weather but this year we had one good walking day and one rainy games and reading day. As usual we ate very well and everyone made a contribution to the table and the wine cellar. A forage in the woods and eggs from our hens made a delicious final day lunch of omelette de cêpes.

The Wednesday walk
Checking out the mushroom haul
Scrabble in French - a challenge for me!
Chilled and happy - waiting for the aperos

From quiet homes and first beginning, out to the undiscovered ends, there's nothing worth the wear of winning, but laughter and the love of friends.

Finally our friend Annie demonstrates how she got a cêpe from the other side of a fence.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Summer Souvenirs

Sorry it's been so long - there's been a lot going on! We've had a lovely summer and enjoyed sharing Kebourg with family and friends. Here's just a taster of the good times we had.

 Helping hands

We have had a lot of help from our younger friends this summer. David and Hannah from Germany and Adam from the UK all spent time here working on the project and they were a great help and good company. We were surprised to have these unsolicited offers of help and very touched that young people would be happy to come and spend a few weeks with us old folks. Hope it wasn't too traumatic for you all!

We also had help from our own children and children of friends who were on holiday - special thanks to Olivia and Henry who gave up lying by a lovely pool to do jobs for us. With so many hands to the pump things kept moving along despite us taking time out to enjoy our guests.

Things have moved on so much it's hard to start to tell you what has been happening. Perhaps I'll just tell you where we are up to now.

Things we have finished
Guest bedrooms
Guest bathroom
Swimming pool - needs a surround on the cards for next spring
All the internal ceilings - what seemed like miles and miles of woodstaining

When I say finished  I mean all the painting and furnishing - we still haven't any pictures, curtains or those little touches that make things cosy - that will keep me busy on winter afternoons.

Things nearly finished
Kitchen - just waiting for a couple more units to be done and a cupboard to be painted
Main bathroom - waiting for tiler coming next week
Heating system - just being fine tuned 

Still to do
Halls - need painting but two sides are stone so won't take long
Shutters - they are up and we have only the top coat to do
Terrace tiling - a job for next Spring

The builders will be back at the beginning of October to point the outside (they needed the shutters finished first) and then the parking can be done and we'll have an almost normal home!


Kevin always feels that dogs come to you. One of the builders heard that we would like another dog to keep Sam company and told us that his friend's labrador retriever had had puppies that they were giving away. It was, of course, love at first sight . We named her Schula and picked her up at 8 weeks old when our friend Leah was here from Germany - she used to love our fox terrier Sally so much and we knew she would love to welcome the newcomer. She was a hit with everyone and is coming along very well - already responding to the sit and come commands and making grumpy Sam a lot less grumpy.

We also took some ducks from our friend Sandie and they settled in very well - they won't be with us for long as they are for the table so another job for next week.

We have been busy in the grounds too and had a great season in the potager - lots of bottled and frozen goodies for the winter. In fact I am exhausted just writing all this down so off to sit in the sun with the kindle I got for my birthday at the beginning of the month.

Tomatoes for the winter

Old friends and one of our lovely daughters
Derby and Joan - a bit less of us than last summer!
Beautiful sunsets - something we didn't get at the last house

Well I think I have caught you up on everything - I'll try not to leave it so long next time.

A la prochaine xxx


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Home sweet home

Finally we have moved in to our new home. Still a lot to do to finish everything but it is good to be chez nous at last. We can't go on calling it 'the ruin' any longer so from now on will refer to our home as Kebourg. Here in the French countryside most homes are built on land that has a place name and the houses built on that land take its name. So that's why you will often see two houses with the same name. But we are now within the village confines and so have no place name and are just known as being in the village 'Au Bourg'. So now we are Kevin and Enid au Bourg  = Kebourg.

I managed to get away for a visit with the family in May and then back to all stations go. Rooms ready to be painted, a veg garden needing attention and house moving to organise. But finally we spent our first night in our new home and didn't it feel good!

Here''s an update of how things have been moving along.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Next steps are to finish painting our bedroom, the kitchen and salon and then fitting out the kitchen. The builders will be finishing the tiling next week, the heating engineers will be making the final connections the week after, the builders are working on outside walls and by the 13th August we will have a swimming pool. Phew!

But today was a time to be with friends and neighbours at the viilage fête. A day of good food, good music and good company and for us what living in this small community is all about. Happy days.
A la prochaine.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Round up at the ruin

It's almost a year since we sold up and moved on but this is actually the first year we have been completely gite free. At the beginning of 2012 we were opening the gites after the winter, giving them a deep clean, preparing the gites for the first guests and taking bookings and keeping up with the marketing. Those of you who run gites know how much work that entails. This year it's all about us and with no gite guests to think about we can visit our family more often and have only ourselves to worry about.

Of course the best laid plans and all that and a simple fall down a single step put Kevin on crutches and hors de combat as far as anything physical was concerned. He's making progress but far from running for a bus yet. 

Le Pays Basque

Our first little trip away of the year was to the beautiful region of the Pays Basque about 3 hours south of here.  I had booked a small self catering rental close to one of the most beautiful villages in France as our base, but when we turned up it was far from the most beautiful rental in France! Why do people create web sites that don't reflect the truth about their properties? Why do they think it's OK to ask people to pay for mouldy showers and warped kitchen work surfaces. Why do they thing grey ,stained tea towels and mismatched crockery will make us feel at home? We didn't stay but found a small hotel not far away - welcoming, clean and well equipped.

P.S The owner has accepted that she hadn't prepared the property well after the winter closure and has now reimbursed us - that was good customer service as we didn't ask for a refund.

As Kevin wasn't mobile our friend who is a pharmacist let us borrow a brand new wheelchair so we were able to stroll along the sea front at Bairritz, wander around St Jean de Luz, visit Espelette with its houses covered in dried chillies and nip to the border to stock up on cheap booze and olive oil. We had a lovely meal at an auberge in Espelette with a taster menu of dishes of the region.

Wounded soldier on the sea front at Biarritz

View of the Pyrenees  at the top of La Rhune - we went up on the little train of course!

Just driving around stopping at one pretty village after another was a delight. We plan to return when we are both able to walk and go a bit further into Spain to San Sebastien and Bilbao for the Guggenheim museum.


With four children all living miles apart it's not easy to get a visit from them at the same time so we were delighted to have our son and daughter ( Kevin's brood) and two grandsons to stay for a long weekend. Lovely catch up and we all had a great time. The boys braved the chilly pool and we enjoyed watching them swinging through the trees at Le Parc en ciel - an adventure park nearby.

Taking the plunge

Next week I am off to visit our two other children ( my contribution to the four) - we haven't been together since my daughter's wedding last November as she has been on a honeymoon ever since! It will be lovely to catch up with them too.

Look what just popped into my inbox whilst I was typing this post - I'll be with these little cuties on the 14th May. 

Bouncing superheros - Charlie, Bethany and their friend Jimmy

The potager

Last year was a nightmare for us weather wise with the coldest temperatures for many years freezing pool equipment and holding up the start of work at the ruin. This year we haven't had the snow but rain, rain and more rain and low unseasonal temperatures. Again this has held up work on the building work but had also meant that early planting in the potager wasn't possible. Without my greenhouse, which I left at the old house, I haven't been able to sow as many seeds this year as I wanted to but have corn,squash, beetroot and lettuce sprouting nicely and I am buying the rest as plants from the market garden in the village. Our French neighbours have always advised us that May 15th is the time to aim for planting out here but as I am going to the UK next week this week I have been planting tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, cucumbers, courgettes and lettuce. I have also sown, french beans, carrots and parsnips. This weekend I will put in another row of tomatoes and more peppers. When I come back I hope to be able to plant out the corn and squash and do some more seed planting. I hope the weather is kinder for a while so everything gets going. The crop of broad beans that I planted in October are doing very well but those I planted as usual in February didn't germinate as it was too wet. Fingers crossed as always with this gardening game.

The Ruin

Things slowed down a little at the ruin as everything was waiting for the doors and windows to be put in. We had these made to measure this time and so the menuisier couldn't start on them until he was able to take the final measurements after the builder had finished all the openings. They are all done and installed now (just waiting for the front door) and so the other trades are back in action. We are hoping to be in by June so as to be on site to finish the interior decorating etc. A painter is due to start work here at the winter lodging so we will still be looking after this house for our friends ( and enjoying the pool) until then.

With Kevin out of action I have been the main gardener, painter and general dogsbody. Of course we have great friends and family helping us - rotovating the veg plot, cutting the grass and helping with the painting - so we aren't as far behind as we could have been.  Painting the ceiling of the terrace was really hard for me as I was just too short to reach the highest bits so some mountain goat kind of climbing was required and a few weary tears shed - but it's finished now and looking great. Our lovely friends Sandie and Mark have invited us to dinner on Saturday and drinks first courtesy of them but on our terrace at the ruin so we could all sit and sup and admire the woodwork.

I have started painting the ceilings in the house now, we are taking delivery of new white goods and bathroom fittings and we have chosen wall paint colours - it's beginnning to feel like a home.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
And finally

Sam came up with a good tip for facing life's challenges when he asked his Mum and me 'Shall I just jump in and shout Wheeeeeeee? Good advice isn't it?

A la prochaine.

P.S. I did try to finish this post in the morning I was leaving for the UK but the photos wouldn't play ball. Now back from the UK where I had a lovely family time and fingers crossed I've got it working this time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gathering up a few threads

It's been a while since I updated the blog as events as always have overtaken me but in this post I am going to give you a quick catch up of the various strands of our lives.

Living in a small rural community

Our little village was shaken recently when we heard that one of our neighbours had committed suicide. She was a quiet, private. woman and although everyone knew that she was suffering from a long term illness that gave her a lot of pain, no-one could believe that such a devoted Catholic would have made this decision. As usual when someone in the village dies everyone turned up at the church to support the family - standing room only as we all squeezed in. It is this feeling of being part of a big family that made us want to stay here as we grow older - everyone looks out for their neighbour . If you move to a village in rural France remember that most of the inhabitants have lived here all their lives and have been following the same way of life for generations. If you don't want to be part of it at least be respectful of it and get to know people before you criticise the way they live. (Sorry about that little rant but we have seen English people come and go in this village who have not even tried to get to know any of their neighbours but who have had lots to say, quite rudely, about 'the French' and how they do things).

Keeping in touch with family and friends

Off I went at the beginning of February to visit friends and family. I was lucky to be able to take our grandson Sam to school for two days and play with all his birthday toys and in London I saw my granddaughter, Bethany , have her first swimming lesson. Lots of fun and games and hugs and cuddles and I had a lovely time.
I took a day to visit Birmingham and was surprised how beautiful the architecture is
An overnight stay in Lichfield to  visit to ex gite clients who are now dear friends

Playing birthday present games with Sam - 5 years old!

Charlie is such fun  - no longer a baby but a real little boy
B liked her new cossie so much she couldn't wait to try it on

The only downside to this trip that I came back with a nasty cough that lingered on and eventually turned into sever bronchitis.I have done nothing for the last two weeks being confined to bed for the last week but am slowly getting better. I am so frustrated at not being able to do anything and champing at the bit to get going again!

In the garden

Before I got really sick I did manage to do something in the potager. The broad beans and garlic I sowed in the Autumn are coming up well and I weeded those rows and managed to plant another two rows of broad beans. Our neighbour came and turned the patch over with his tractor and we took the protective fence down as we aren't letting the hens roam free this season. I bought seeds, potato sets and onion bulbs but haven't been able to do anything with them yet. Not too serious as the frosts came back so best to wait a little and hopefully I'll be fit enough to get going again by the end of the week. We planted the peach tree our friends bought us for Christmas and I had a master class on fruit pruning from a neighbour. We have pears, apples, apricot, fig and plums in our little orchard - oh and now a peach too. There are also cherry and walnut trees in another part of the garden and a beautiful old quince tree so we won't be short of fruit.

Broad beans, last of the winter veg and newly ploughed soil

Work on the house

I came back from the UK to find the builders had been very busy and I now have a new terrace at the back of the house. The underfloor heating went in and we are just waiting for the final floor screed to go down. It is starting to look like a real house at last.

Marking out the floors
It was a bit chilly that day -scary isn't he?

Ceiling in, walls and beams sandblasted and underfloor heating down.
Summer kitchen

Solar panels going on
Rear retaining wall and support arch
A lovely rear terrace

Next the floor will go down and when the windows are in the walls will be insulated and a few additional internal walls added. Then we'll really see the ruin becoming a home - can't wait!