Wednesday, 31 December 2008

At the End of the Year

Aujourd'hui est le Reveillon. Demain est le jour de St Sylvestre. We hope that begins une Bonne Annee. And so we wish all our friends now and to all those we have known, a very good year and cheer. May we be grateful for what we have and we hope that 2009 will increase whatever we have in joy and happiness. A review of the year will be edited next year!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Christmas Day Picnic 2008

The year is drawing to a close. We have had a few technical difficulties grappling with the new Apple Mac laptop and it's apparent lack of software. I would like to compress, crop and the photos but at the moment we can't. Despite being told by the sales persons at John Lewis that we would be able to do web design and photo editing it appears that I might be on the brink of returning the damned machine, tho' it is very beautiful!!!! So time passes by !!! Hey ho !!!
Any advice for Apple Mac would be gratefully appreciated.

On a more positive note the first two photos prove that we enjoyed our Christmas Day Picnic at Angles sur l'Anglin. We took all our photos on large pixels and the first photo needs cropping. Notice that the fairies are pouring the magic liquid into Captain Sensible's glass. If you click on the above first photo, it should enlarge! The fillet steak tournedos were cooked just perfectly by le Chef.

So... a few days later ... I am editing this blog.

Home-made 'mise en bouches' with Chilled Vouvray
Dry Fried prawns with coriander and garlic (Crevettes avec Coriander et d'ail ) ( just two each )
Salmon in a Lime Butter Sauce ( Saumon en Beuure Blanc avec Citron Vert )
Filet de Boeuf Tournedos ( 5 euros p.p.) sur un lit de poireaux verts avec roti pommes de terre, carottes en sauce du miel, et chanterelles ( lovely mushrooms ).
Then we had two yummy cheeses ,Raclette and Chevre du cendrier ,from the producteurs at the market with salade vert (lettuce to you heathens) with a very good dressing made by Captain S. We obviously left a lot of the cheese for another day!
And after that... and just to keep ourselves warm, we had M&S Luxury Christmas individual puddings. I ought to buy shares in M&S OR just make my own puds again! Well, that was served with creme entier and brandy to flambe it.
We would have had coffee and choccies but we were getting a wee tad cold and the skies were drawing in by the River of the Anglin and so we packed our car, took a walk around Angles sur l"Anglin, witnessed no-one, and returned home to unpack. C.S. grabbed at least a half-hour siesta and then we proceeded to our friends for an evening soiree, where we ate a very finely decorated Christmas Cake. This year there must be cosmic consciousness as both she and I have adorned our cakes with crystallised fruits. I made them a Dundee Cake only decorated with almonds of course.

We arrived home about 3 am with a fire and a cat that both needed refuelling.


Sunday, 28 December 2008

Seasonal Poem Message

Click the above to read a summary of our Year 2008 and our very best wishes to you all.

Monday, 22 December 2008

The shortest day in the midst of Winter

The days are getting longer whilst the sterling pound is gathering speed .... in decreasing it's value and my pension! I hear a whole new strain on the seasonal refrain of "Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat" ! Is it time for cheer or just more drear? However, let's be positive and wish everyone Seasonal Winter Blessings. 

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Drama in a Chateau

Yesterday we had a marvellous experience in a Chateau. We were privy to the first performance of a play in Franglais. It was a comedy. Artur met Jennifer, learned English, were married and lived seemingly happy ever after! Afterwards the guests shared a convivial evening meal. Although we paid for our tickets we also took a shared lunch. I made potato and salmon tart and Eliane made a Spinach tart. It was eaten in the dining room which had just been the theatre. We gathered around the food table, meeting new French friends, speaking in French or English or a mixage/ melange of the two! I was aware of being studied and to my surprise one dark haired beauty asked me was I "gitâne". Well..... that is a possibility as I explained. My mother often told us children that she was of Romany stock, but how she thinks this to be true is not clear!! She has however had the knack of knowing when something is wrong or when an untruth was said as I found out to my peril when I was a child!! I also explained that my ancestors on my father's side were founders of the Royal Scotts Equestrian Family Circus that travelled between Edinburgh and Walberswick every year. She thinks my roots are in Granada or Seville! Ha ... that is maybe why I LOVE making marmalade with Seville oranges!! Mmmm.Unfortunately no photos!


This web blog now features in a list of blogs about lifestyles in France on a new Forum web site called created by Carole and Tony Bayliss whom we met about three years ago. At that time we had been very isolated in our hameau and so advertised for like-minded people. C & T invited us and others to an afternoon buffet and this event was the start of a most amazing Summer of Fun. Sadly"The Group" has separated for all sorts of reasons. It is a shame because generosity, kindness, warmth, creativity, energy, and the sharing of quality food, wine and good company of adults and children bonded our disparate characters together. Life does not stand still. Check out this site if you are interested in living in France.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Verandah The 100th Posting

This post is the 100th posting since this site was started!

We (that is the royal we!!!) really need to write detailed and informative text about how we have renovated this cottage, which is at least 150 years old, and which we(he) purchased from une dame Hollandaise, five years ago. We should write a separate website about it! When we bought it, none of the grenier had been converted into bedrooms. Now we have two upstairs bedrooms and an upstairs wet-room as well as a down stairs bathroom. We also have the building potential for renovating a third bedroom. We ought to put our photographs in chronological order but somehow other life developments just take over!!! We are currently awaiting replacement windows on the newly finished(?) verandah because something has gone wrong with the sealants! So.....pause encore! The construction of the verandah has however achieved the aim of Captain Sensible which was to create winter warmth for our stone house and to create a room with daylight where we can eat and watch nature! The porch part has also not been finished on account of health problems but perhaps next year we can be optimistic that after initial teething problems it will be finished. Which is worse?.... Having a new baby or having a building project? As Huguette says "Captain Sensible has been very courageous". C'est vrai! But it has transformed winter living in our house and I am very, very grateful!!!!!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Champagne Cocktail Concert at Chateau d'Artigny

How wonderful it is to live in rural France becoming used to wellies in winter and then to get glammed-up with smart clothes and shoes with little raised heels to go to a concert in a grand hotel and listen to an American pianist Jay Gottlieb and a singer Alison England, both of whom live in Paris! I didn't expect to hear Cabaret music from Broadway but nonetheless it was very entertaining! The Chateau d'Artigny looked magnificent in the evening and as we approached the Chateau with it's glowingly-inviting lighted rooms we felt especially important in "our chauffered limousine" named Xsara! Inside we marvelled at the Art Nouveau trompe-l'œil painted, domed ceiling! It was once the home of the parfumier François Coty. I think my mother used to wear his perfume! I exclaimed to myself, as no one was with me, about the exquisite curved cloakroom doors. We'd seen them constructed like this at the Chateau des Ormes. The Champagne Lanson was served (or you could have a Dubonnet cocktail or orange juice) with trays of small "mise en bouches",some of which were on little spoons or in tiny glass jars with a doll's-house spoon. These delicacies just kept appearing, being placed on the copper coloured glass table and when I had thought I would go hungry as we'd left home at 17h I discovered that I'd eaten a fine and delicate feast! Eventually I plucked up courage to take a photo.
One doesn't get this for a treat in England! The music was familiar and being sung in English / American was easy for me to comprehend. The performers spoke excellent French and I discovered I could follow that too! I wonder how the French audience reconcile this language difference? Afterwards my piano teacher took us to the bar to met Jay. He'll be playing in Chatellerault March 2009. The armoires in the bar were stashed with Armagnac bottles - just choose which year you would like!!!!!!!! What a .....Beautiful, glorious, heavenly, marvellous, wonderful, wonderful evening!
Photos later _ if the camera survives!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Christmas Day Posh Picnics Past and Future

This post was blogged in November 2008 but published in February 2009 because I did not want to spoil our surprise of being featured in The Connexion newspaper.
Recently, that is, just after we returned from England, we were thrown down Memory Lane and prompted into thinking somewhat earlier than we would have liked about what we intend to do for Christmas! And it is only the start of November! We have already received one invitation to a lunch with a friend's family, and if I could I would escape to somewhere warm where I know no-one!

Here we reproduce some text scribed by us for a journalist, accompanied by some photos giving us this morning a hearty laugh about our previous picnics!

"In 1996 we met again having not seen each other for 25 years. At that time Edna's Uncle, (a former Mayor of Southwold) was still alive and living in the town. We went to visit him regularly and often walked around this beautiful seaside town. We had already discovered that we had many mutual interests one of which was the love of anything different and unusual. During our first year together we set up table and chairs in the middle of Southwold common and enjoyed a 4-course picnic which was equal to much that was on offer at the local restaurants. In December 2004 whilst walking the beaches of Southwold, we started to ponder what to do for Christmas. Remembering our picnic on the marshes, we decided to break with the English tradition of a "full roast" and instead come to Southwold for a posh picnic on the beach. The day was bright, sunny and very cold, but we decorated the table and chairs, set out our best cutlery and wine glasses, stuffed hot water bottles up our jumpers, and enjoyed splendid food much to the amusement of passers-by, many of whom asked to take pictures and lamented that they also would like to break away from tradition and "do something different" on this very traditional day.

When we moved to France in 2005, we decided to continue our tradition by a scenic lake near our home. We made a hay box to keep the food warm and at midday sat down with hot water bottles to a magnificent home-made 5-course spread. (You may have gathered that we are both devoted foodies!) The lake is at a hameau called St Sennery and it's history is quite fascinating because during WW2 it was on the line of demarcation and German soldiers, presumably bored with not much to do, painted two landscape pictures inside a small pagoda-like structure which sits on stilts in the middle of this lake. In 2007 when the lake was drained, David walked over the dried-out mud and took photos of these murals with their views of farmyards and fields which we guess reminded the soldiers of home.

We did not have a picnic in 2006 on account of already having eaten a traditional Christmas Eve Menu with our French neighbours which ended at 2.30 on Christmas Day morning, and also on account of freezing fog!

Read our previous entry for Christmas Day 2007 when we chose a different lake at Les Maillards. The water was frozen from a heavy frost the night before. Barbecue facilities enabled us to reheat courses. We were lucky with the weather and during the three hour feast we watched buzzards circling in the clear blue sky, and a coypu meandering across the lake.

Why do we do it?

a) our immediate family are in England
b) we don't have television preferring to make our own entertainment and fun
c) we prefer to avoid the razzamatazz of a commercial Christmas which suits our limited budget
d) we enjoy eating "al fresco" even in the depths of winter when the weather cannot be planned
e) we want to experience the unexpected and new challenges whilst we are still able to live life to the full and as "all the world is a stage" it allows our eccentricities to provide our play time.

So what do we intend to do this year?
We aim to have a Christmas Day Posh Picnic at Angles sur l'Anglin, one of Les plus beaux villages de France.

Our Christmas Day picnic lunch menu will be:

Apertifs with Crémant de Loire and home made canapés
Giant prawns with home made aioli with a home-made mousse de saumon
Gratin Dauphinois with seasonal vegetables
Strips of Fillet of beef laid over smouldering oak logs. (This will be an experiment adapted from a traditional Zimbabwe method!)
Brebis and Beaufort cheeses with a green salad
Christmas Pudding (I used to make my own but nothing can beat an M&S luxury vegetarian pudding )
Chocolates and Armagnac
Coffee followed by a very brisk walk!
Well when you read the report for Christmas Day 2008 you'll see we had some Menu changes just because we reckon the Beef needs a Sunny Day!

That's it! ça y est! The planning is done! Maybe at the end of 2008 or the beginning of 2009 we might be able to escape to a warmer place!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Wizardry in the garden

After reading various conflicting opinions on pruning we realise we should prune the cherry and plum trees in Spring. I thought that lilac should be pruned in May after flowering. The internet says we can hard prune it now! We have substantially thinned the large lilac plantation which after perhaps 20 years of growth was more like trees than shrubs and far too tall, so maybe there will be fewer flowers next year! We've saved the thick trunks as thin logs and these have been stacked for use in three years time. We've added the branches to the growing bonfire. We rearranged the pots of plants and these will be surrounded with fleece to protect them against the winter frosts. We've already had a few frosty mornings at the end of October. We've gathered the dead leaves and dug them and the last of the compost into the veggie plot. Then we planted our "Wizard" winter field beans, Vicia faba, as green manure to fix nitrogen in the soil. It's better than leaving the ground fallow. The new potager area took 23 rows of 20 beans making 460 beans. We bought just over 2 1/2 kg so it looks like we'll have too many beans but it was the cheapest way to purchase them.
The moles have been extremely active in our absence and Captian Sensible has instructed Sweetpea to collect more combat material! Meanwhile he flattened their metre distanced hills with a spade!
Lunch was enjoyed in the sunshine on the porch but by early evening with muscles groaning it was time for a welcome aperitif of Guiness and Cheddar Cheese in front of the newly lit woodburner. Captain Sensible had swept the chimney yesterday. Now its time for supper! That was our day! Just pottering about!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Driving rain and home again

Isn't she lovely? My little darling Francesca! with self-inflicted nail damage! Cuckoo!

The journey was booked

a) to witness a tug launch now postponed until Spring

b) to see Francesca now 8 months old

c) to see family. Unfortunately other family members and friends could not be seen on this particular visit.

We journeyed on a Saturday stopping to marvel at the stunning stained glass windows and sculptural friezes of Chartres Cathedral.

An excellent Sunday lunch was enjoyed with Carol and her family. The two children were impeccably well behaved and a credit to their Mum and Dad. We enjoyed staying with Barbara and Terry for two days taking a walk through beech woods on Tuesday morning.

Having lost two hours sleep on Sunday with the fall back of the clocks, and an early morning alarm call for the ferry crossing, combined with a one hour time difference between UK and France, we lost sleep yet again with a Monday early morning journey to Southampton. Donning our overalls, we tried to "make a difference" with tug tasks. Captain Sensible was impressed with his first viewing of the tug in its steel flesh. So far he had only seen the photos on the weblog He assisted Seb with electrical and metal matters. I painted some of the anchor-chain winch but fear I was rather slow at this task! Lunch was shared and too quickly it was time to leave.

We took advantage of Wednesday's beautiful weather with a long walk across the common to Southwold harbour where we dined on fish and chips outdoors. Felicity was experiencing carrying Francesca in the new backpack who thought it was fun to be high up and "donkey riding". The new groins have created a sandy beach making it easy to stroll along the tidal edge of the shimmering sea. We arrived at the pier for a welcome cup of English Earl Grey tea. Sitting in the warm sunshine, watching the passers-by, it felt like a Sunday afternoon. All we needed was a cream tea but we were full! We wanted to explore more of my favourite place but the sun was sinking and the temperature was falling and babies do need to be in a warm place.
On Thursday Vicky arrived for morning coffee. Grace, now one year old is so sweet and very sociable. She smiles graciously at everyone and talked to Francesca, now 8 months old. We all played with the toys and the babies in between adult talk. Time passes too quickly.

In the afternoon Norwich car parks were full on account of the Beer Festival so we were forced to park on the outskirts of the city. Despite the crowds we took the opportunity for a brisk town walk to buy our favourite loose leaf teas and other English things. We also took Francesca to see the images at Sainsbury Centre for The Visual Arts - my favourite gallery designed by Norman Foster. Here she is aloft in her back pack on my daughter's back!

We met up with Tallulah who is achieving lots of success with developing Easy hotels. She has established very good contacts and has learned a tremendous amount since University. After dinner we each had quality daughter time. They went to the pub and we stayed at home with an over excited Francesca who thought it was much more fun to stay awake with Gran'mama!

On Friday zipping into the city for some last minute tasks I managed to find much needed stylish walking trousers and jacket and as they were reduced by 50% I felt very happy! Then a rendezvous with Mick's parents in The Fat Cat. It's so noisy in an English pub and drink seemeth to floweth over but at least bars are now non-smoking areas! Francesca slept whilst we chatted. The weekend came too soon and regretfully we say farewell!

En route to the ferry we spend over an hour shopping in Tesco for ourselves and friends. David takes action, putting in the trolley a pair of trousers, a packet of socks and a packet of pants! The following story makes this action significant and it is ironic that as a non-shopper, he takes the time to "shop" and his task is thwarted! As the last item is put into the trolley the fire alarm rings. Interestingly it does not sound very loud, nor does it appear real as no one is apparently moving! But then we are rounded-up and asked to leave the trolleys at the check out and we must leave the shop! As we near the main entrance door we are amazed at how calmly, nonchalantly and slowly everyone is shuffling towards this the only exit - with one half locked! We give older people the opportunity to go before us! The manager is shouting at the public. The public respond that "it is a shambles!" Outside the supermarket staff are standing clustered together, blocking the exit door and not directing us to any safe area! People are sitting on the window sills, near the half-opened exit/entrance door, eating the early lunch they had purchased, making it difficult for us to exit! It is 11 am. Meanwhile the evacuation procedure must have taken almost 10 minutes unlike the 2 minutes we used to achieve for a fire drill at school. We can't wait for the crisis to pass in order to pay for and collect our goods so we abandon all, including the carefully considered garments and leave the car park before chaos ensues and so we continue our journey. We have a ferry to catch! Rain and more rain falls during our two day journey but France, spacious and civilised, welcomes us home! We skip the auto routes for a slower passage in rural France, stopping at Blois! Very nice! In our absence about 50mm of rain has fallen!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Gîte Holidays for Families and Groups

Our latest website is for families and groups requiring gite accommodation for a walking, cycling, or wine tasting holiday in Loire Valley South, France.

La Chaise

La Picardie

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Village de Vaux Les Vendanges

Today the villagers went to their respective vineyards.
Since we arrived in our hamlet five years ago, we have never been sufficiently confident to intrude into the annual rural ritual of harvesting the grapes. Last year using the long zoom lens of my SLR camera I secretly took photos from my bedroom window.
This year it seems as if we have been accepted into the community and having a sense that our neighbours are our friends we thought we could enquire as to whether we could take photographs and exhibit them here on Sweetpea's web-blog.
We asked politely and they courteously and graciously said that they did not mind being famous and certainly were not inclined to being kept TOP SECRET!

At the first vineyard there was much good humour when Big Feet our cat met Gin the young Border Collie, and evidently they played together on the tractor until noon. The grapes were looking good to our uninitiated eyes and tasted sweet. Monsieur DT arrived carrying a beautiful old wicker basket containing bottle and glass. Captain Sensible was treated to a glass of the red stuff for it was the morning aperitif for the workers.
Unfortunately our camera problems caused us to miss several photographic opportunities but once resolved we moved onward to the second vineyard where our vine guru Monsieur R and his wife Madame B, cousin and friend posed proudly in the afternoon warmth of sunshine. A bag was found and stuffed with bunches of grapes to eat with our cheese. Our vine guru has been consulted on several occasions in the last five years. In our first month of temporary residence he demonstrated how to prune our 50 year old vine and recently he advised us about it's maintenance as now it is in the shelter of our porch it is less exposed to the elements.
The mini-tractors are set-up to carry vats for the grapes and the grape crushing machine. Everything is in order. Putt Putt Putt go the tractors. Listen to the crunch and crush as the "moulin de raisin" is turned. When the work is done, the country folk go home. Putt Putt Putt past our house, down the lane to home where grapejuice will be transformed into wine. Some may provide bernache to drink now, or be made into wine jelly confiture. Most will provide the daily glass of reward and nourishment.
There is a welcome and a warmth in the fields of France and much camaraderie in sharing food and wine. We are privileged to know such company!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

October opportunities

We have started to help the residents of our village to learn English whilst we learn French. It is really fun although it has initially taken quite a lot of time to prepare activities because we did not know who would arrive, how many people there would be, and what levels of speaking, listening, reading and writing English they would have. Everyone is very friendly and laughter is a feature of the evening. By November we have 14 adults!

We've been helping with the children"s group for over a year! This term there were just 4 children in the first session of the activity group. With 3 helpers this was brilliant! Each child and each adult is making a "Bonjour" plaque. The children loved working with the salt dough and next week we shall paint and decorate the wooden plaques.

Renaissance and Traditional French dancing has started. We danced for several hours on Saturday afternoon and were rewarded with gateau to celebrate Hannah's 17th birthday.

My piano teacher wants me to learn a piece by Scarlatti and also a piece by Beethoven. I'm still practising pieces from the film "The Piano", composed by Michael Nyman. I just get lost in the sounds and wish my piano was better. I would love to have a Steinway grand piano placed by white voile curtains against a window from which there is a view of the sea or the mountains! Dreams! Her children are learning English and have made a lot of practice and enjoy correcting our French.
As I write this I'm listening to a discussion about Chopin's Ballade No 1 in G Minor being played on the BBC and I'm in tears!! My piano teacher has a recording of that and other pieces on her new CD for sale at 12 or 15 euros

Chopin's Ballade No 1 in G Minor
Tuesday 7 October 2008 13:30-14:00 (Radio 4 FM)
Repeated: Saturday 11 October 2008 15:30-16:00 (Radio 4 FM)

It's a programme called SOUL MUSIC. It is a series exploring famous pieces of music and their emotional appeal. The pianist Peter Donohoe explains how he practices sometimes 8 hours a day on attempting to perfect this technically demanding and emotionally turbulent piece of music.
After our arrival at the Salle des Fêtes and drinking morning coffee or fruit juice we walked 14km uphill, through the forest of Lesigny to the Chateau d'Alogny and downhill to an aperitif. Others stayed for lunch but I don't care for Choucroute and Charcuterie! At mid point on our walk we enjoyed a Casse-Croute (literally to break the crust). The tables were laden with a variety of pork patés, brie cheeses, baguette, broyeau biscuits, dried figs, apricots and prunes, chocolate, coffee, wine, fruit juices, and water.

After our own lunch and a rest/sleep we ventured out again into the wind and rain to the Garlic Festival. Most of the "car booters" had gone home but we listened to a brass band, and bought some garlic and onions. The ground is so hard that I'm not sure if we'll be able to plant any! Evidently garlic should be planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest!

We took Anthony a home-made chocolate birthday cake and encouraged him to blow out the candles! He's 23! Here's the recipe:

PARTY CAKE adapted and simplified from a recipe by Jamie Oliver

3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
200g castor sugar
200g butter
3 eggs
200g self raising flour
1 teaspoonful baking powder
200ml double cream but I used crême fraîche
How to make it!
Preheat oven to 180°C
Prepare two 20cm cake tins. Spread a little margarine, butter or oil on the tins.
Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Mix the cocoa powder with a little warm water.
Add it to the butter and sugar. Add the eggs. Add the flour and the baking powder. Beat altogether. If you wish you can add a handful of flaked or ground almonds.
Divide the mixture into the two tins. Bake for 25 minutes. Leave to cool. Remove the cakes from the tins. Spread crême fraîche onto the inside of each cake.
Scatter fresh raspberries onto one side and sandwich together. For Anthony's cake I used home made cherry jam. Yummy!!!!! Thanks Jamie!
If is not all eaten then keep it in the refrigerator.
We made green tomato chutney using 2kg tomatoes, 1kg onions and 1 kg apples and unfortunately burnt batch 2! Silly me!! Captain Sensible also made some onion chutney.
We also collected more apples from a friend's garden, so now we'll have to make some jam or more chutney, bottle purée and cook cakes and pies because they will not keep through the winter and we still have not got a freezer!
2kg chopped green tomatoes 1kg sliced white onions 1kg peeled and chopped apples 1500ml red wine vinegar 1500g sugar (a mixture of muscavado, soft brown or white sugar) 2tsp salt 2 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp nutmeg 1tsp black pepper 1/2 tsp allspice.
Put all ingredients into a preserving pan (not an aluminium pan) and boil then simmer until reduced by almost half then boil rapidly until thicker. Fill clean, dry, warmed jars to the level of the rim of the jar. Stir to remove bubbles from the jars. Put lid on and seal tightly. Keep for several weeks or months before you eat with cheese or patés.
NB. This makes a very large quantity. Adjust the amounts of fruit according to the size of your pan!!!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


It has been "Heritage weekend".
We visited an Agricultural Museum out in the northernmost point of the Départment de la Vienne. It was a "corps du ferme" purchased by an associative / co-operative group to display artefacts from farmers and firemen. At one time it was, and maybe still is, used for educational groups to experience by-gone days with real implements and machines. There was one room devoted to the history of the plough since Abyssinian times.

Here our acquired guide showed us the "charrues" and told us how at the age of 14 he started farming on a machine that had a "versoir" , that is, the blade that cut through the soil and turned the clods of earth. This particular machine looked jolly uncomfortable and the wooden or rubber tyres, if it had any on the iron wheels, were missing. It was the last of the ploughs before the very first tractor. He retired 18 years ago. He spoke to us about other English people who lived near him who were musicians and how he once used to play the violin in folklorique groups but now sadly he said he was too old for dancing. In the next room with great delight he showed us one of the earlier washing machines. It was a manual marvel! A metal perforated drum, sitting in a V shaped metal water container was above the box in which the twigs and logs would be fired. The woman, for then I suppose it was mainly woman's work, would have to stand and turn the handle of the drum whilst the linen or clothing inside tumbled in the heated water! Then he showed us the "barrattes" which were the butter churns. Outside another man demonstrated how butter is made. Of course we had to buy some! We also looked at the construction of the "four à pain" which was constructed slightly differently to that of our neighbour. Oh I wish I had one! We also watched cord being made whilst the accordion music blared happily. Unfortunately it was only on a cd, perhaps they needed me to play my instrument?
Then after a picnic lunch of home made quiche, fromage et salade, then chocolate with coconut gateau and a fresh apple washed with a glass of red wine and a flask of tea enjoyed in the sunshine on a track between the maize we ventured to the Chateau of Les Ormes. We have driven through this village on the N10 many times but if one stops and deviates to the village on either side of the main through route one comes to admire the most amazing church in the style Roman-Byzantine. We also visited the Relais du Poste which was once a stopping point for the Kings and their retinues, and a beautiful 18th century Chateau which once belonged to Madame Pompadour.
Of course we were only privy to some of the rooms. English Heritage would make something of the kitchens. At the back of the house was an amazing "glacier", the ice house. Imagine the labour and the expense involved in the collection of the ice from the Auvergnat mountains, north of the Vienne. Imagine the number of people required to climb the mountains and descend with the ice, others who would assist in the carriage of the ice in boats along the River Vienne, which eventually joins the Loire River before they travel together to the sea, then imagine the unloading and the smashing of the ice into smaller pieces to carry it through the door to the vastly huge stone well about 10m deep and 10m in diameter! All for the sorbets to be stored in the summer months!!!! The privileged were privileged indeed! The others had to labour! We can only imagine! Would you wish to have laboured and served or to be served and not to have laboured? The sun shone! We were happy!

This boat (photo below) was moored just outside of the grounds of the chateau but we know no more than that. It was very beautiful and obviously quite old. Stunning in the sunshine.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Beautiful Villages in the Dordogne Valley

24 hours after an impromptu decision to go camping we headed South, not knowing where we would arrive. Sarlat looked inviting and given the evening hour we looked for a campsite to discover that we were only one of the two tenting occupants with the river Dordogne at the edge of the grassy poplar lined site. We visited about five of "les plus beaux villages de France" and walked and climbed and admired the beautiful golden stone of the valley. We also went to Rocamadour! This village is sadly dominated by tourists. Unfortunately, the Stations of the Cross and the reasons behind why the village is famous were sadly neglected and in disrepair! I was horrified. The panel above the arched tunnel invited the "pilgrims" to contemplate, admire and pray". Seeing the shops in the light at the end of the Reanaissance constructed tunnel I wondered why they had not added "to buy" or "to shop", these being the gloriously labelled"national vocation". I wondered this even more when it became apparent that some of the profits from the sale of 'tat' merchandise is perhaps not being collected by the Mairie and obviously not being invested in the repair of the fabric of the village. That's tourism for you!!!!
We had problems with our camera, having dropped it some time ago and without battery recharging facilities we were cautious with our happy snappy habitude, hence we have only a few photos!


Captain Sensible has reminded Sweetpea that she has not entered a photo of the verandah complete with windows. Without more ado here it is!! If you click on the photo it might enlarge and you get a better view!
The 50 year old vine seems quite happy and is roaring away with new branches!
Congratulations to Captain S for his endurance despite ailing and failing body parts and sometime failings in mental and emotional stamina when working with old oak, old stone and learning new building techniques to solve the unforeseen constructional challenges!
Well done also to Sweetpea for her participation in collecting, lifting, carrying, cleaning, tidying, finding the lost tools and her administration of catering and nursing duties!
Here is the fermette before the extension!
The verandah room is warm, light and airy with a panoramic view of the garden. We can see the birds, bats, butterflies, bees in abundance and the flies are kept out! We wine and dine in our new room. There are still some finishing touches to be done to the porch area but it will be completed all in good time!!!