Saturday, May 23, 2015

Why good ideas are not always good ideas

Friday 22 May 2015

Lovely and sunny 24 degrees

Was very noble and did lots of emails and ringing people.  The sun shone so walked the dog and the air was sweet with honeysuckle intermingling with acrid overtones of wild garlic and elder flowers.  Wild roses are strung with wild profusion on the banks and the common orchid stands proud in the low grasses, its pale blue spires seeming to glow against the darker growth surrounding.

 thankyou Leigh Evans

Went down town for some shopping and stopped for a coffee and cake and admired the decoration and arts magazines in the paper racks.  There are some stunning homes there. Need to do a bit of lottery winning.

Later on in the day, went to see a house with a lady for whom I have sold a number of properties over the years.  She has spent most of her life in Paris and loves to speak English but she was tired and so was I (it seems to have been a very long week) and so we started off in French and then went to English and then back again.  She has just evicted the tenant and the house was in a poor condition: light fittings ripped out and plugs hanging off the walls.  The base of the doors seemed to have been attacked by giant gnawing animals.  The damp in the toilet had reached the ceiling.  Some renovation had been done to the extent of removing any character from the place.  I suggested she repainted and put in a kitchen.  She thought she would repaint the outside and leave the kitchen as it was and I said it was up to her but spending money on a kitchen is always worthwhile.  We had tea and cake in her conservatory.  My jeans are getting tight.  Must stop the cake.

Back home and an opportunity to regret one of my 'good ideas'.  They are inevitably hard work and occasionally, hell.  I had suggested a group Skype session and the first lady on is one I know and get on well with.  The second lady came on with an annoying buzzing sound in the back ground and was very boring and then another lady tried to come on and kept on cutting out.  Then the boring lady cut out too.  I felt very tired and thought I could be sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine.  One of the ladies said she had made elderflower cordial. I looked up this recipe and am going to have a go  thank you Graphic Foodie

A grand day out...

Thursday 21 May 2015

Sunny periods 22 degrees

Up at the crack of dawn to the dentists.  Blissfully unaware that a bridge involved removing the two crowns on either side of my previously ulcerated tooth.  Involved a lot of knocking and ghastly, stomach churning crunching.  He knows I am chicken so he gave me some anesthesia even though there were no live nerves in the vicinity.  He then made some resin 'dents provisoires' and released me.  I gave a lady a lift back to my town and was ashamed at the state of the car - OH's fishing/DIY junkyard.  

Arrived back in town just in time to meet the diagnostics guy who had come to look at the top rental unit and then to go on an estimation.  Beautiful old stone house with existing gite, space for two studios and, amazingly considering its location, a hectare of land with the most wonderful views of our little town.  The lady owner had an unnerving habit of invading my personal space and, when I backed off, grabbing me by the elbow.  Her lapdog kept licking my toes.  It was a bit off putting to say the least.  I was muttering 'stop it, you little shit-zu'

Had a pop into the fripperie and found a lovely Marks and Sparks white cotton dress and a voile tunic in various shades of turquoise - two euros for the two!  Had a coffee and met up again with the diagnostiqueur who said he wouldn't charge me as I had put so much work his way.  Now that is what I call appreciation!  Was very happy.  Went home and had lunch of spinach, orange segments and tuna with freshly grated black pepper over.  Was very good.

Continue to have emails and posts from members of the group who cant find the newsletter in their inboxes.  Feel like going in a corner and shrieking.   Happily, had arranged to go and see a new member who lives about a half hour away.  She and her husband bought a wreck and have done sterling work to make it a comfortable and authentically restored family home.  Lovely garden and potager and wonderful views; a red kite soared above us and the dogs got on like a house on fire and tore around the garden for a good two hours.  We talked crafting and families and it was delightful to make a new friend and have an afternoon as myself and not having to watch what I said and try and pick up on the subtext of what was being said.

Back home and felt energised.  Picked many strawberries and blasted the browning haricot leaves with some copper fungicide.  So many snails - threw them over the wall.  Dog snored loudly and twitched on the mat.  Watched some Chelsea Flower show.  After my experience with just doing a small garden at the Tatton Flower Show, I can tell you dear readers that the amount of stress and expense is huge.  I would not have missed it for the world but would never again do it on my own and without a backer.  Would love to do Chelsea as head of a team and with funding.  That would be just awesome.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The newsletter takes flight!

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Torrential showers
15 degrees 

Woke up late and in a fog.  Rain hammering down.  Who needs to go back to the UK? Decided today was the day to do the newsletter I have been going on about for months. Signed into Mail Chimp and entered in all the articles submitted by members, popped in some photos and added opening and closing messages.  Send out test emails and it looks good.

OH rang and said crossing had been terrible and there were a lot of green people on the boat.  He had booked the car in for a service.

Wrote to the accountant and said I was very unhappy that he had signed me up to a centre de gestion for which I had to pay over 300 euros without having either asked my permission, notified me or offered any explanation.

At 2.30 the newsletter was finished and I received by email the draft compromis and powers of attorney for the NZ ladies - too late now to explain everything to them and get the POA's signed so had to go down town (avoiding the bar owner) and tell the notary to delay until next week.

Rang SFR to ask why my mobile bill was so high and discovered that sending texts to UK was costing me 30 cents a shot.  Must stop sending texts to Ms Noddi.

Walked dog.  Had coffee with American lady who is good in small doses.  She is like a clockwork entertainment centre - wind her up and off she goes.  We had coffee and cake in the lovely cake shop and she rattled on for an hour and a half and then I started to feel the urge to go.  Her conversation is rather like the conveyor belt from the game show which used to be hosted by Bruce Forsyth - the only things I tend to remember are the start, the end and the particularly bizarre bits in the middle.  Most entertainingly, she has put a sign on her door saying that the house is for sale because the neighbour is a complete arse - the new buyer must be 'cool' or 'con'.  The Mayor freaked out when he saw it and said to take it down as otherwise the neighbour (who is actually bonkers) would come and see him and give him hassle.

Back home, refreshed and slightly wired from the coffee and discovered five million emails from people, saying they hadn't got the newsletter or they now wanted to sign up for it.  I have been banging on about the newsletter since January.  Aaaaargggghhhh

WF rang and said he had failed his second driving test.  Apparently he is still driving too close to the centre of the road and messed up the parallel parking.  OH and I both took three goes to get through - RJ passed first time.  One of my failure was doing an emergency stop that the Examiner didn't expect and he nearly went through the window and another was reversing into a kerb.  At least he now has another job and can pay for more lessons to iron out his problems with road positioning.

I am shocked but not stirred

Tuesday 19 May 2015

So much rain - what on earth is going on?  This is May after all

Day started horrifically early when OH leaped out of bed at 6 am and started running around the house and not being able to find stuff.  Dog put his paws over his head and tried to pretend it wasnt happening.  At 7 he left and dog and I were already worn out.  By 7.30 OH had rung to say that the windscreen wipers had packed in and he was having to drive at speed in order to force the rain off the windscreen.  By some miracle he arrived at the ferry port in one piece.  Terrible forecast for Bay of Biscay.

Spent day sorting out paperwork.  Walked dog.  At 5.30 I had had enough of my own company and went down town.  The sun had made an appearance and I bought a Arts et Decoration magazine and settled down with a shandy to read it.  The local bar was packed with Brits and the owner, also a Brit came and joined me on the terrace.  He kicked off by telling me how professional I was and how everyone spoke well of me.  I know that some of the local agents hate my guts, but kept quiet about this fact.  He told me about the landscape gardening business he was setting up and offered to buy me another shandy.  I said 'why not'.  Some other people hovered around - one of them, an Australian with exactly the same birthday as me, came out and rolled a fag and leered.  It suddenly occurred to me how much he resembled Father Jack from the wonderful Father Ted TV series.  A Frenchman came along and the bar owner asked how he was and he replied 'mustn't grumble' - hilarious.  He is obviously spending far too much time with Brits.  He also knows 'sick as a parrot'.

The bar owner supped his pint reflectively and changed tack.  He told me that he was quite happy for his wife to have affairs as it put spice back into their marriage.  I was really shocked as I could not imagine this of his wife, who I thought I knew very well.  He said she has affairs periodically and then comes back and tells him all about it.  His wife, busy behind the bar, smiled and waved.  I started to regret saying I would have another shandy and started to drink it quickly.  He then said what an attractive lady I was and he also had affairs, though what he had told me was strictly between us.  I went from being shocked to being traumatised.

The voice in my head, which had been saying 'WTF and what the hell is he thinkin of' said 'time to go' so I did.

Dreamed that I had gone to help out on a farm and the farmer expected me to sleep on a patch of grass under some ropy canvas and with a pile of manure within smelling distance. I woke up annoyed and saying I wanted a bedroom of my own, or he could find another mug to do the job.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Grim news and something funny from the past

Monday 18 May 2015

Sunny periods
23 degrees

Spoke to the owners of the llama farm and they said, categorically, that they were exhausted by the whole debacle and wanted to withdrawn their house from sale for the foreseeable future.  All that time, effort and angst for nothing then and not a centime earned. Rang up the new buyers and the man was absolutely distraught and said 'shit' many times. Too fed up to write today so here is something I wrote a while ago

Our eldest has recently left home to work on a campsite in Provence and it has been very pleasant.  I have cleaned his room, removed vast quantities of old yoghourt pots, spoons, beer bottles and screwed up paper.  I have extracted all the rolled up socks and reeking tee shirts from underneath the bed and behind the wardrobe.  I emptied all the cigarette butts and papers and fragments of tobacco from the chest of drawers.  I organised the bookshelves and installed my craft books.  A roll of toilet paper lasts more than a day.

When kids are at home, you feel obliged to lead by example - getting up early, doing housework and not watching telly during the day.  We have slipped a little in our standards.  We have siestas.  We watch Bargain Hunt with our lunches on trays.  Our youngest came back from Uni in the UK and the loo roll still lasts more than a day.  The house stays relatively clean and tidy, or so we thought.

Last Friday I came home early in the mid-afternoon.  The sudden heat wave, with temperatures of over 35 degrees, had blasted both the locals and the tourists from the streets and our local town was as dead as Tucson before the shoot-out starts.  I was lolling in a very pleasant torpor on the sofa, watching tennis and feeling zapped, when the telephone rang.  It was RJ and he was sounding very pleased with himself.  He had a new girlfriend and wanted to bring her home for the weekend.  I looked around at the front room and was traumatised.  The doors looked like they had been eaten by rats - paint loving rats.  Dribbles of tea had mysteriously spread themselves generously over a really well-lit wall.  The ironing mountain had reached epic heights.  We needed to do a 'big shop'.   At least we had loo roll.   This was a real quandary.  He had only brought home one other girlfriend in all of his nearly 22 years. 

We were galvanised into action.  OH (husband) seized a cloth and bucket and went outside to clean the windows.  Our youngest, WF, was extracted from his room and given the Hoover to wield.  I set to work on the tea dribbles.  We have a poele a bois like most of the locals - this is a sturdy wood burning stove and provides an economic means of heating as we have a lot of trees on our land.  I knew that all fuel burning systems give out a certain amount of dirt and dust but hadn’t quite realised how much of it makes its way onto the walls.  The sunny cream of our front room had turned, over a period of a couple of years, into a rather dingy beige.  I started to wipe off the tea stains; they were resistant.  I got the wire ball from the kitchen sink and applied it with gusto.  The paint came off the wall.  OH was not pleased.

WF, puce with effort and overheated by the lack of good insulation in our loft space which renders the bedrooms on the hot end of toasty in the summer, and arctic in the winter, came downstairs, trailing the Hoover lead behind him.  He paused in surprise and asked why on earth I was washing the walls.  I replied I was washing off the tea stains and stood back to admire my handiwork.  To my horror, the part of the wall I had washed was now restored to sunny yellow and the rest was still beige.  I had to spend the next hour washing the rest of the wall and hope no-one noticed that I hadn’t done the part above the telly.  WF assured me that  it just looked like 'shading' and our surprise guest probably wouldn't even notice.

We paused for a cup of tea and pondered sleeping arrangements.  We decided they probably did want to share a room (and hoped Grandma wasn’t paying attention from her snowy cloud) and OH went up into our loft and found a spare mattress.  The spiders had enjoyed the mattress and more cleaning was required.

RJ rang at 11 pm to say they had only got as far as Toulouse (2.5 hours away) so we went to bed and slept fitfully.  They arrived sometime in the night and WF let them in.

The next day dawned and I saw a small red 205 parked in our courtyard.  There were contact lenses in the bathroom and, when I peeked through their door, I saw RJ on the mattress and the girlfriend, a shock of dark hair spread on the pillow, in RJ’s bed.  I made a cup of tea and relayed this information to OH.  WF was flat out and not ready to give any interesting further information.

RJ had told us that his new lady had a BTS in Esthetique and had done the makeup for runway models.  I went into the bathroom and surveyed my reflection.  I looked like the mad cat woman who tried to rent a room with Flanders in one episode of the Simpsons.  I recently went to my hairdresser and said I would like my hair to be wavy and not short.  I have known Martine for seven years now and we get along very well.  She said she would make me look young and beautiful.  She said that I should trust her; frankly I should have had misgivings because the last hairdo she gave me made me look like Mireille Mathieu.  She very meanly started at the back of my head and by the time she reached the side, it was too late.  My hair, which had been pooling in my collar bones, was now just covering my ears.  Martine then proceeded to put in the perm rollers and gave me some magazines, full of pictures of women with lovely hairdos who, I presume, were as young and beautiful as I was going to be.

I am now very curly - the effect is of a halo (on a good day).  During the night, it often goes completely flat on one side and I have to rewet it to get the ‘desired’ effect.  People who haven’t seen me in a while are often surprised. 

I quick-showered, wound a towel tightly around my head, put on my dressing gown, and marched into the kitchen.  Everyone else was up and dressed, including the new girlfriend, who had also put on full makeup.

She was tiny and looked like a cross between Bjork and Kirsten Dunst.  We both felt shy and I escaped upstairs to get dressed.  I found OH hiding in a bedroom. 

OH has been studying French for the last two years and has proved surprisingly resistant to both grammar and pronunciation.  Now it was crunch time.  We went downstairs and OH kissed her appropriately and then declared


There was a confused silence as T tried to take in what this could possibly mean and RJ took in my new hairstyle.

OH regrouped:

‘ah, no!  Bonjour I mean....’

They stayed the weekend and it was lovely - we had a day out at the seaside, ate tapas  and played cricket.  OH made a real effort to speak French and we laughed a lot.  I am happy to report that T ate like a horse, is capable of drinking us under the table and kissed and hugged us goodbye with genuine affection.  They have now moved in together...  could I become a mother in law?  Is it all too early?  Will she manage to organise and motivate RJ a way neither he or we could?  Watch this space....

Monday, May 18, 2015

Doing battle with the greenery.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Sunny periods with lots of sun later
23 degrees

The phone rang and woke me up and I lay in bed, running through the various people it could be - offers? cancellations? people in flat cant make the hot water come on?  Children with disastrous news (boys only ring when there is monumental news to give or they need money) but in fact it was a lady with an immense property for sale.  She had seen the ad I had put out a couple of months ago and left a message.  Didn't recognise the Departement dialling code.  Went back to bed and drank tea.  Wagtails running along the crest of the barn roof.  The confused owl still hooting.  Small white clouds floating across the top of the window view.

Had breakfast and realised with a shock it was only 10 am.  On looking at the Planting by the Moon calendar, I see that today is good for fruits so I plant tomatoes, Crimea Black and Cherry, piments, peppers, haricots, choux and epinard.  The strawberries are still ripening so we eat them 'sur place'.  OH chops some bamboo out of the bamboo forest and makes some more supports for the raspberries, of which I have both Summer and Autumn fruiting varieties bought from B n Q by OH on a trip many moons ago and they are rampantly healthy, never a malady, and give huge crops.

The bamboo is a good 25 feet high and grows at the edge of the river that forms the boundary of our property.  It grows on runners underneath the soil and emerges as vicious spikes like giant thorns out of the earth.  The spike grows about 9 cms a day in hot weather. A thin spill of bamboo then emerges.  You have to keep mowing them to keep them down.

Have lunch of yesterday's chicken and some epinard and followed by fresh navel oranges from Spain.  There is nothing like a navel orange, tart and juicy and full of vitamin C.  OH then goes fishing and I put a leg of lamb on to cook with garlic tucked under the skin, some sprigs of rosemary lain on top and a coating of honey.  I have foil cook bags so everything just cooks away on a very low heat for hours and the flavours infuse properly.  

As well as planting by the moon, I also pay attention to companion planting or 'planting by association'.  Some plants love being next to one another and some absolutely hate having their roots in the same soil as another plant.  

Here is a link if you want to look before you plant

I did test out an association which was listed as bad and the cabbage next to the bad association suffered whilst that next to the good one, thrived.  Pondered on the good and bad associations in my life and the necessity of being with positive, dynamic and exciting people.

Had rest in deckchair and dog attempted to knock over my cup of tea; his forté.

I have a variegated honeysuckle which is strangling the herb bed.  Battle for two hours and manage to cut most of it back, make the topiary bay tree reappear and get out most of the weeds.  Decide to award myself glass of white and OH reappears early (too much water in the river) and so we eat for 8 pm and watch a new BBC series Jonathan Strange and Mr Morell, which is just as terrible as the book which I abandoned part way through.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

We are all a bit worried....

Saturday 16 May 2015
Overcast, rain 13 degees and why a revisit today?

My NZ ladies have flown in for the day from China to revisit the lovely Villa.  They arrived last night and are very disappointed with the weather, which is a fine misting rain and only 13 degrees.   I get to the house early and open up and ring the owner to say we are here.  I have to take this precaution because when, a few weeks ago, the neighbours saw a white van outside and all of the doors and windows open, they called the police and they came around in force and the electrician who had come to do the quote nearly died of shock (no pun intended).

The ladies are late and look cold and jet lagged.  The builder arrives and they go around together and discuss what they want doing.  Am horrified to discover that they want the place redecorating.  The walls are a good four metres high and covered with nasty ancient tapisserie and it will cost a fortune to get all of that off, fill the holes and paint.  The builder, being English, says the work is mostly cosmetic.  A French man or men would have been horrified and would have started to talk insulation of walls, changing all of the windows and a whole myriad of stuff that is completely unessential.  There are foot thick walls, shutters and it is in town and protected from excessive weather by nearby buildings.  In addition, there is full gas central heating.  We are there two hours and then the builder goes back home, to have a siesta instead of the Saturday morning lie in that he has been denied and we go for a hot chocolate as we are frozen.  OH comes down after a while.  They say they would really prefer to have some idea of the cost of renovation before signing the compromis.  The compromis is set for next Friday so I have to ring back the builder and tell him to get his skates on.  I have an uneasy feeling about this sale.

Back home for lunch and then down town to meet the couple renting the small unit for a week.  The man has gout and the lady looks tired.  I show them the flat and settle them in and then treat myself to a pistachio ice cream and black espresso and then walk the dog and back home.

Have an email from the llama people saying they are withdrawing the house from sale. Speak to the potential buyers and don't tell them this and we come up with a couple of solutions which will enable them to buy and the sellers to find another property.  

Speak on Skype to the American lady who is meant to be completing at the end of June and still hasn't sold her house.  I say I am very worried and she says she is too.  She is in her car with some ducks and one of them has thrown up everywhere.  I would be absolutely manic in her shoes.  This is a time bomb which is approaching explosion status.   Have told the owners mother that from now on I am dealing directly with the owner.  For the past nine months she has dealt with all correspondence relating to the sale, saying her son is very very busy.  It is ridiculous.  In eleven years I have dealt with a lot of very, very busy people and not a single one of them has expected his 70 year old mother to be the intermediary. She says I cant contact him because he has a respiratory infection and needs to rest.  I think some gros mots and think that I will contact him as and when relevant.