Sunday, February 3, 2019

Long time no blog

I seem to have let the blog slip in the second half of 2018 and now January has just slipped away- who knew retirement would be so busy!  So 'Happy 2019' and I hope to chat with you more often this year.

We ended 2018 with family and started 2019 with friends - happy days. 

When we were renovating our first house in France, an enormous project that only the mad would have attempted, we came across the HelpX website. This puts in touch people who would be happy to exchange work for board and lodging with people who need a helping hand. We met lots of young people over the years and have kept in touch with many. One year two brothers came our way and brightened our life - great workers, great company. It has been lovely watching their lives move on and at the beginning of 2019, we were over the moon to welcome one of them, Andrew, and his gorgeous new wife from their home in Nashville Tennessee. 

With the weather still not garden friendly and with Brexit casting a cloud over us we were glad to end the month with a few days away with our friends to their house in Genos in the Pyrénées. It really was a winter wonderland. We walked, we ate well (as usual), we played games and we celebrated the three January birthdays. Can you spot our champagne chiller? A very French end to the month.

Add to all this our usual activities and you can see why retirement is so busy. We love it and hope the rest of 2019 will be as much fun.

A bientôt.

Monday, April 2, 2018

March brings ......

............breezes, loud and shrill,
To stir the dancing daffodil.

The Good

Two birthdays for our family with Bethany turning 9 at the start of the month end Ellie 3 towards the end. They both had new clothes as their presents from us and we can't wait to see them for a week's holiday at the end of May.

Rain-dodging became my new sport and I managed to get lots of work done in the potager. The raised bed system comes into its own when it rains a lot as it drains well and doesn't result in sticky clay as open gardening here does. We are redoing the pathways and the ground being wet helps with that. So while lots of people couldn't get going I had beds prepared and, in the greenhouse, started seed sowing. The autumn sown broad beans and garlic are looking great and I transplanted the spring sown broad beans that had been brought on in the kitchen. Potatoes are chitting and this year I am going to try a new growing method with them - more on that in April.

The chard keeps on giving

Spring sown beans in front and Autumn sown behind

Garlic and one of the new paths

A major path overhaul

Tomato seedlings

A major event for the club of the third age - our money raising Grand Loto open to the public. Everyone rallied round and a healthy profit made top our funds. We are also busy rehearsing for our variety show which we put on every year at the beginning of May and that is shaping up very well again this year. 
The Bad

The rain, wind and grey skies just wouldn't go away. Luckily Kevin managed a grass cut because soon the ground was squeaking like a full sponge. It also brought more illness for Kevin, this time bronchitis that didn't respond to the first course of antibiotics and meant he had to have a course of daily injections at the house. Very depressing and meant I was the in-house chef. I don't think I did too badly and even made a curry for the first time in my life!

The other.

I had two orchids in flower. I know nothing about cultivating orchids and am learning as I go along. My friends bought me my second one in September for my birthday and after it had flowered my inclination was to cut off the stems but I just never got round to it and lo and behold two flowers emerged.When they had finished I cut down to the next bud and lo and behold new flower stems are growing - chuffed to bits.

A bientôt.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

February brings.....

 the rain, Thaws the frozen lake again.

The good

My half term visit to see the family. Chilling in Wokingham with Ali and Karen and enjoying half term activities with the Popes in Beckenham.

The Bad

We said a very tearful goodbye to our friend and neighbour who sadly died after a short battle with cancer. One of the kindest people we have ever met and a big loss to our community.

Huguette Large 1950 - 2018

The Rest.

Still too cold for seed sowing but lots done in the garden making new paths in the potager, and a new enclosure for the chickens. The beds in the potager are all prepared and broad beans germinated on the kitchen window sill. Hats off to our chard crop - the vegetable that shows no sign of stopping producing. 

A bientôt

Friday, February 9, 2018

January brings....

'January brings the sow
Makes our feet and fingers glow'

A new look for the blog for the new year. The good, the bad and the ugly  well nearly, the good, the bad and a postcript

The good

The garden
No snow for us but rain, rain, rain -  the rain that hadn't come in November fell at last. Though gardeners on my Facebook gardening group bemoaned the wet conditions I was glad to see the lakes around filling up at last. With raised bed gardening the soil drains well and so whenever a sunny day popped up I was able to get out there and work on preparing the potager for the growing season. Feeling the sun on my back really felt good and working in the garden always works its magic.

Frost finally breaking the manure down nicely

Autumn sown broad beans and garlic

A few winter veg left but all other beds prepared for the new season and we have started redoing the paths.

We brought in the year with our French friends. Their friendship over last sixteen years has been so special and a big part of our integration into this community. Always happy to help whenever they can - this month's project the clearing of the last pile of wood from around the property. All cut and neatly stacked thanks to Jean Pierre and his giant tractor operated log splitter.  We also had a lovely gift from our friend, the village Maire, Michel. During the renovation works his team took away scrap metal from the site and sold it for us. By mistake, they took an old hand plough we wanted to keep and ever since he has kept his eye out for a replacement. The plough finally found, he dropped it off and yesterday his men called on the way home from sandblasting on a site to sandblast the plough all ready for a coat of anti-rust paint. Friends - always a good thing.
The group of 10
Looking ahead
Even on the odd sunny days, outdoor activities are limited so time for organising and planning. Felt very noble after having spent an afternoon sorting out files and tidying the office kept company by the French crime series Spiral. Seeds ordered for next season and garden projects planned. The best job of all was planning our holidays. May on the Kent coast with all our children, a long weekend finally visiting Puy de Fou with a group from the village and checking our itinerary for a trip to Thailand in early December. Lots to look forward to.

The Bad

Kevin has really missed January as he has had an awful virus, spending many days in bed and the rest of the time doing very little. The only advice from the doctor was to be a patient patient - which he found very hard. He even had to eat meals cooked by me!

The rain came into the good things category but what has been worrying about the weather is that it has been too warm. My neighbour showed me peach trees already coming into bloom which is much too early. This early blossom can be caught by late frosts. The constant rain also made walking in the orchards more like skating! Just about got around with Schula and Sam running free. When our friend's dog Ellie came for a week and had to be on the lead and she strained to get to the others I was slip sliding away and only just managed to stay upright.

Suffice it to say I am more and more disillusioned and disheartened by the inept and dishonest way this is being (mis)managed.

My orchids are in flower! I finally overcame my reluctance to get my new gardening gloves dirty, one of my Christmas presents, and I made good use of the ear warming headband too on these cold early morning dog walks. Goodbye January - you've been a wet one!

A bientôt

Monday, January 1, 2018

Bonnes Fêtes

Deck the halls......... christmas decorations inside and out.

A very grown up Christmas for us this year with my daughter and her wife flying in laden with goodies. Our daughter Sophie came up trumps continuing her 2017 theme of dressing her Dad well and Tom didn't forget the chocolate oranges! James and Lizi made sure we had the grandchildren with us by sending us a lovely canvas of the three of them. Kevin got his whiskey so all was well with the christmas world.

A visit from our lovely friends and their family with the delicious Chloe for us to play with.

 Friends and neighbours enjoying an English Christmas  -  the crackers were a hit.

New year's Eve - spent with our lovely group of French friends (also known as 4 couples and us) who we have known and hung out with from our earliest days here. We are so grateful for their friendship and support and look forward to many more happy times together in 2018.

We hope you had a wonderful festive season and we wish all of you the happiest of years in 2018.

A bientôt.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Christmas wish

Too long since I updated my blog - another sign that I am getting too involved in projects and not giving myself enough time to sit and reflect.  Must try harder in 2018. A little catch up before the end of the year catches me unawares

Those warm summer days sharing our home with people we love. Good food, good wine , good company - lots of love, laughter and cuddles. A reunion with a long lost friend in sunny Greece. A very special birthday celebrated with our family in the UK. So many happy moments.

The lovely Decker children searching for eggs

The bestest of best men and his beloved

A friendship rekindled 

Birthday treats

Celebrated twenty one years with my lovely husband  - this is soon after we met.

There were sad times too - a bitter sweet visit to my old home town of Salisbury to say a farewell to a dear friend and a close friend in the village receiving a life threatening diagnosis. Then there is the car crash that is Brexit and wondering how or if it will affect our income and our life here. We'll still be here whatever happens and you are all welcome to pop in and spend some time with us when you can

We wish all of you a very merry Christmas and the happiest of years in 2018.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

How many swallows made our summer?


Once again the swallows came back to nest on our terrace. Even though we leave the two nests from last year just in case they use them, once again they set to work from scratch and raised five chicks in their first nest. There are now four hungry babies in nest number two. So this year it will be 11 swallows who have made our summer, two parents and 9 babies. Soon this second brood will be leaving us and we wish them bon voyage. Hopefully they will return next year.

A fond adieu

We recently said goodbye to two of the members of the club of the third age -  a sister and brother who died within a fortnight of each other. The second was a very sudden, unexpected loss. The two funerals saw churches full to bursting as whole communities came to say a fond farewell.

We have experienced many village funerals in our fifteen years here and are always touched by how many people attend. This last one was even more significant to me as I sat and watched so many people showing their love and friendship in such a loving way. A big family of four children, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren remembered a life that was full. A man who worked hard as a farmer all his life and who also gave time to serve the community in many ways. I couldn't help thinking of the contrast this life had with that of those who put profit before community and measure people'e worth by what they possess.  Money cannot buy the love that was shown at these funerals and I feel blessed to have known both these gentle people.

Simple things

Lots of things happening in the world at the moment are making me sad and I am comforting myself by thinking of the simple things that make life good. The swallows, good friends, a caring family, my garden and good health.

When I was a girl it was the craze to have an autograph book and I remember my aunty Janie writing a verse in it which I now know is from Charles Kingsley's poem 'Youth A Farewell'``

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;  
Do noble things, not dream them, all day long:
And so make life, death, and that vast forever
            One grand, sweet song.

Our own sweet song

Some photos taken recently around our home by one of our daughters - the simple things that help make our life a sweeter song.