Thursday, 24 September 2009

Prey, Pray don't touch me!

This praying mantis was rescued from the lawn beneath my feet and stayed for hours on the bench where I put it and whilst I watched it, it watched me with its funny alien head and eyes. It was trying, I think, to lay its eggs. It's at times like these when I sit in French sunshine and watch a living insect that I wish I had a brilliant camera!

Food Almost For Free

We've been eating tomatoes from our potager and keeping abreast, so to speak, of their ripenings, but NOW we have had to use them before the slugs move in! I just didn't fancy making chutney but did feel inspired by Chantal to make tomato sauce. Altogether I made 6 jars of tomato sauce, two tomato tarts, AND we are still eating tomato salad. The green tomatoes on the vines are still ripening but if necessary I will make green tomato chutney.

I wash and hull the tomatoes and blanch them in a pan of boiling water so that I can take the skins off.
(These I save separately because later I whizz them up in the food processor with the liquid that has blanched the tomatoes, having added some lightly sautéed shallots, garlic cloves, seasoning, including a dash of soy sauce and lots of thyme to make as a basis for Tomato or other variety SOUP. To one amount I added a dash of freshly sieved juice from handpicked elderberries. Very good.)
Then the tomatoes are cut open and I take out the green seeds, which I understand to be poisonous but that might be an old wives tale! The tomatoes are put into the preserving pan with a splash of sugar or honey, seasoning, and cooked slowly. When it looks a different colour I whizz it in the food processor and return it to the pan having sieved out the seeds. I adjust the seasoning as required once the liquid has considerably reduced. Then the satisfying part is to bottle the sauce in clean warm jars, polish the jars, add labels and ADMIRE the fruits of thine labour.
We have been gifted bucketfuls of wild peaches. Mmm... after giving them a wash, we discarded the bruised ones, and trimmed the manky skinned ones. We de-stoned the peaches and wherever possible tried to keep some as neat halved peaches. I rinsed them in cold water with white vinegar before poaching in honey and white wine. Poached peaches with a few mm of 40% alcohol in the jars will be stored for a few weeks for peach compôte with yoghurt or lait ribôt and muesli for breakfast. Delicious! At first I made ordinary peach tarts for dessert. However, the neatly halved peaches were baked in the oven with sugar and then with a pastry top added, created a kind of upside-down peach tatin! Having inverted the tart I added a second layer of halved peaches, having taken the skins off. This tart had a 35cm diameter. We eat the peach skins as they are very good for the digestive system! Oh .. and I sprinkle lavender flowers across the top!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Warmth is lacking in the weather but not in the heart of France

We lit the woodburner.... even with a few layers of clothing we feel cold. The rain has arrived after another 14 days without water. Today it has fallen finely for most of the day and we are damp around the edges! It amazes me that we had the tale end of Summer weather just a few days ago and now the seasonal shift feels well into Autumn.

However, it was Patrimoine weekend for the 19th and 20th September and a little warmth has returned. We've listened to and watched some of the free concerts for the Haydn Chamber Festival weekend, being amazed by the talent and perfection of the young musicians.
We attended the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the Henry IV bridge. A painting competition was in action and many painters positioned along the quay were providing their interpretation of this famous bridge.

Before 1609 when the stone bridge was constructed, there was a wooden bridge across the Vienne If one ventured into the Hotel Sully, near to the church of St Jacques de Compestela
one could see drawings of the technical engineering that was demanded to create this imposing structure. The bridge survived WWII when the mayor and other brave members of the public stayed on the bridge and asked the Germans not to destroy the bridge with explosives. Fortunately they obliged. For this event one of the barques was called into action as a ferry ... I could have sat there being punted back and forth all day!
In the early evening we danced "Sur le Pont de Chatellerault" whilst Renaissance dancers and musicians led us with music and example.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

September warmth expires

September brings some chilly winds once the sun's warmth expires.
We've had a few days exploring the region with Captain Sensible's sister and husband and we have tried to keep ourselves busy! BUT Sweetpea has eaten too much and needs to adopt a regime with more exercise..which is not her favourite pastime as she is not sporty! Oh, the lovely French food beckons ... even the healthy food still in our garden. We must pick the tomatoes and dig up the last of the beteraves and carrots. The romano choufleurs are beginning to grow. Maybe we should remove some lower leaves to push the energy into the flowers. The soil is dry and dusty as I dig the last of the failed beans into the ground. It needs manure!
We returned to St Savin church... more a cathedral as the steeple soars into the blue cobalt sky. Inside this vast space the scaffolding, signs and sounds of labour have departed, leaving the silent magnificence and grandeur to return with the coloured pillars standing like candyrock.

The friezes on the ceiling need binoculars to see the detail but it's good neck exercise. I love Noah's ark.

The short video of renovation is informative and I gasped to witness the intricate detail of labour that has been required. What skill, talent and patience. Merrimée and now Unesco have treasured and rescued this beautiful building from ruin. Merci. Why is it that when the notices say quite clearly no flash photography, even the guides as well as other visitors ignore the request? I mentioned this to an attendant in the shop who acknowledged that no one takes any notice! I think it shows a lack of respect for all that the craftsmen have achieved. Mercy.

The old bridge is very interesting and CS noticed that the sections for the passing of packhorses are differently shaped. One is pointed, others are curved and some are rectangular.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


Yet another glorious sunny day was forecast but eventually it was cooler than yesterday but even in Tours at 5pm it was 29.5 degrees centigrade .... this morning I managed to rise earlier than normal and made a savoury tart for a picnic with my home-made frozen shortcrust pastry, some previously cooked, chopped beetroot leaves, wild set cherry tomatoes, black olives and goats cheese arranged prettily with a Cantal grated cheese topping. Also I conjured up a chocolate, pear and hazelnut tart for this evening's meal. We rendez-vous-d avec le Maire, finished domestic duties, and dashed to Tours to collect Captain Sensible's sister and husband from the airport. The charcoal for the evening barbecue didn't seem to get sufficiently hot so CS made the kebabs in the oven under the fan-assisted grill and served them with a cheese fondue. Very nice!! The entrée was my terrine de porc, pistache et prun avec une petite salade mais pour moi la même sans le terrine! After a natter and a chatter we played cards and so to bed! 090909 est fini!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Another Sunday bicycle ride

Yesterday we did a second Sunday 'velo' excursion. This time we took the car to a vide-grenier at Chenevelles where we listened to French 'danse ancienne musique' (Stefan was playing his recorder in the group) and then travelled north of Chatellerault to another vide-grenier at Antran. Having found a few 'fleabargains' we tired of the tatt and leapt upon the velos for 'une promenade' further north to Vaux-sur-Vienne. I love Autumn when one can stop and collect wild walnuts, hazelnuts, blackberries, Reine Claude plums. Forager est Vivre. Who needs a bar? I had plums stuffed down my bra as I had no pockets. They were too good to miss and essential for the digestive system! When we returned to the fête we were mildly disappointed because we had missed the fun of the "carnival of rafts" (les radeaux) being water-borne. However, there they were, all lined up... and the winner was the one whose contributions of coins were the heaviest. How equitable (fair-minded) and non-judgemental is that? C'est la vie en France! The bar was still open and so I had a beer and he had a rosé-pamplemousse, mais malheureusement there was no more pancake mixture available.
It was quite warm yesterday. Today has been even hotter (18C / 68F at 20h)... we had to go into the town to deal with various matters ... then having taken our friend a birthday gift we returned chez nous for the soiree. It has been SO HOT that even by 19h, having had a rare pizza lunch (we shared one as it is so huge), we only needed a salad evening meal. Even that appeared to be huge by the time we raided the garden produce fora beefsteak tomato, lettuce, beetroot, grated carrots and potatoes mayonnanise to accompany the Blue Cheese from LIDL, which was JUST to go with the glass of red wine, you understand!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Clio has an engine repair

My little Clio has also reached an age and 90,000 miles on the clock. I was alerted by the garage a few weeks go when the speedometer failed, that the distribution kit and all its parts should have been replaced at 72,000 miles. The penalty for failing to take heed might be that the cam belt breaks and the motor would be caput!! I'm sure there is some leverage in the mileage for these things but as we cannot afford a more recent model, little Clio has now been repaired. maybe she will be kind and helpful for the foreseeable future as she has been a good car so far!

Property Maintenance and Repairs

If you live near here and you wish to have
property maintenance and repairs then please look at this new website.

EDITED on 25-09-09
The lovely Huguette needed her water leak resolved. She has just emailed me and said "David est un plombier magique".

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Jolly visitors

Some very good friends, Rose and Colin came for a few days in August. We were not inspired by the modernistic interpretation of the 15000 year old magdalenniene frieze at Angles sur l'Anglin. It was a hot day but the route to the cinematic diaporama meant little in the searing heat and did not portray meaning for the historical time it was meant to represent. And as one entered into darkness out of the very bright light it didn't seem very clever for those who are less confident in their mobility! The copy of the cave relief was in plastic not in a stone-like substance and I am surprised that it didn't melt in the heat of the sun! The guide and the visitors were melting also! We also went to Richelieu and wandered in the town and the park to try and conjure what life was like when the Cardinal was in power! Picnic lunches and evening meals made us very full. I've got to go on a fish, fruit and vegetables diet!!
Cheers Rose!!!

See the portrayal of history at but come back to here!!!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Wednesday 2nd September 2009

The weather has made a distinctive shift from summer to autumn. Leaves carpet the arid lawn. Wind and rain at night create a distinct freshness but the grasshoppers are still singing so we know that the temperatures are still good. We must harvest and eat the beetroots being a good size and I don't like them when they get too large... and the carrots which are mostly thin and tiny but still good. The tomatoes also need to be cropped. Soup and sauces may be the best answer apart from tomato tarts. The leeks are growing well and with any luck we may later have some of those green pointy cauliflowers.

I am able to concentrate better...problems to solve ... photos to edit ... things to write... items to sort... people to contact...things to do ... places I want to visit.. restrictions on transport...oh the riches of life. Trying to be positive!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


It's raining! After the splendid, gloriously hot days of between 35 and 40 degree temperatures, the drought has broken after exactly 50 days.