Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Final Posting of the Year

apart from finding the courage to publish the new blog address, SweetpeainFrance wishes everyone a very Happy New Year.

I wish all the Village de Vaux readers, who have contributed to 9307 page views of my 355 postings since I started this blog, all the very best of wishes for 2012 and thereafter.

I hope you receive kindness, good health, happiness and much more of the positive elements of living life in a challenging world.

For me I am on a slow learning curve, looking at a half-full glass.
So Cheers to you all as I toast in 2012.
Over and out from SweetpeainFrance
A love song which touches my heart

Monday, 3 October 2011

Penning the penultimate posting

This is the penultimate posting for SweetpeainFrance.
She will publish the link to her new blog when it is up and running in a few weeks time.
Meanwhile something to listen to.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Stag Beetles

Marvellous, magnificent beasts.

On Wednesday at Angles sur L'Anglin there was a beautiful Stag Beetle trapped by himself into a large builder's bucket and his glossy back was dusty. After a photo shoot he was let free and attempted to bury himself under a log. I let him be.

On Thursday at Village de Vaux a Stag Beetle fell one metre to the ground from a Laurel bush. He was shiny and feisty.  Big Feet came to look and leapt into the air when her nose got too close. I suspect it emitted some form of protective liquid.

They have marvellous antlers which when the beetle marches forward hold together as if locked into position. It reminded me of a Roman soldier, strong, determined, ready to march many miles.

I haven't seen Stag Beetles for several years. Perhaps they like the warm, dry, conditions.

I will do some further research, report here later and add some photos. I'm just a tad pushed for time and need to be better organised for posting.

Meanwhile, let me tell you that we have had 14mm of rain since Monday.

These are interesting links:

The sound of the larvae can be heard here:

With thanks to the BBC.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

To June

The wind has been blowing so much that doors bang unless propped open. Then dust comes in so we have to open and close each door. My house has many doors.
The driving wind is driving us mad!  I would detest living anywhere near the Mistral.
The wind is a sign that the weather is to change and rain is forecast!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

5 little swallows sitting in the porch

I can't open the kitchen door but will have to sometime soon.
"It’s a shaky time when chicks first leave the nest but all part of the natural process when they learn to survive on their own." RSPB

Five, beautiful baby swallows are sitting on the metal angles that support the glass French verandah above the entrance door. These are not my favourite architectural inventions but they do keep the rain and snow from falling immediately outside the door. I am over at Angles sur L'Anglin and seemingly a temporary prisoner in my own home. Mummy and daddy swallow re-appear very frequently, to swoop at a fledgling and feed it. Sometimes they hover over one gaping mouth as if to feed it but then suddenly choose another.  There is a pecking order. The stronger bird seems to get fed more and is getting stronger more quickly!  Such is life!

The meteo for this region says 25 degrees Celsius but it feels hotter than that. The rear garden is incredibly hot. I have had to retreat indoors.  Thinking about doing all the jobs that need to be done is too much and I have succumbed to laziness and creative writing.

I was only sitting in the shade in the rocking chair that does not rock a lot when I became quite hot and flustered. I am drinking copious quantities of tea. Cold, black or green tea is delicious. The concert of birds in the back garden is good listening material. Hoopoe was seen to fly from 7 o'clock to 1 o'clock diagonally across the garden. Blackbirds, Black redstarts, sparrows, chaffinch, pigeons, doves, rooks are all content.

I decided to go to my car and find the camera but I couldn't locate it which is a pity. As I exited the door below the baby swallows, some fledglings flew away.  I felt very bad. But then they returned and I don't like to go out again and disturb their mealtime.

Monday, 23 May 2011

In June

I change my tune..................
the cuckoo has commenced its garbled warblings of
cuck cuck cuckoo
cuck cuck cuckoo
cuck cuck, cuck cuck, cuck cooooooooooooooooooooo
we're not yet in June
though it feels like August
in the heat of the sun
gin and tonic a must
sun bares teeth upon golden skin causing us to seek shade
as bright light make us squint to see to the end of the field
now grasshoppers sing
if I could
I would
in the hammock
all evening and listen to the songs of the wild.
Meanwhile a bedroom window is open for me to listen and hear.
She stops.
and reminds me that even no nightingales have been heard for several days.
June will change my tune....................

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The rain came

last night with a strong, fresh breeze bringing a thunderstorm and lighting the sky with orange explosions.  This morning the rainometer (minor memory loss - what IS the correct word?)  measured 5mm, but as it was positioned under a canopy of tree leaves perhaps there was more rain.  This region has had drought conditions for several weeks.  Whereas no rain fell here, at Angles sur l'Anglin about 15 miles south east, had 26mm several weeks ago in one downpouring! 
Our neighbour will be happier as he was having to feed his sheep some of the newly cut hay! The sheep, all newly shorn, streamed into the uncropped grass in the field behind the house.  Our neighbour helped us stack 10 steres of oak logs and another wood that burns brightly, we think is called hornbeam, but his French word for it defeats translation from dictionaries and the internet.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Very sadly, this old bird flew into the front of my car. It was immediate death.  I slowed in surprise and shock, the van behind overtook me, the approaching vehicle passed and in the mirror, seeing the pheasant lying in the road,  thought, "Oh what a waste," and reversed to rescue it.  Having researched what to do, I bravely dunked it in boiling water in my preserving pan cauldron, wet plucked it and wearing gloves emptied the poor thing, set it on paper in a sealed container in the fridge for my memory to fade with instructions to  Captain Sensible to braise it after 5 to 7 days. It was a  bit of a tough old bird, but I blessed it and thanked it for providing food as  braised casserole, a meat pie and soup.

Although there was a time of great poverty when my children remember me trying to kill a bird by driving at them, which was stupidly dangerous of me, I have never to my knowledge killed a game bird in this way.  I am not proud of taking a life but it did just fly straight into my car.

I do not wish to repeat the experience of plucking and gutting but would do so again if I had to!
And I was a vegetarian for over 23 years!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

For those who are interested in history

I found this very interesting site:

You can click on any other date than the date of whatever is "today" and read and see  A VERSION of history for that particular date from the past.

I thought I need to learn more about my own country of  birth and the history of the world.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Dry weather in France

Evidently April 2011 was the hottest April in France since 1900. 

Drought is occurring in the North of France.  Drought will push up fruit and vegetable prices as well as the price of feed for cattle  and other meat oriented animals.  
To the gloom and doom,  we can add  petrol costs which are rising and unfavorable whilst we ferry back and forth between two houses.  The Sterling / Euro exchange is far from favourable.  I was waiting for it to improve before converting my pension on the currency market but the rate has become steadily worse.  I'll just have to bite the bullet soon!  One compensation is that if we were in UK the taxes would be higher overall. Well, that is our argument!
However,  it is usually hotter here in the spring and summer but slightly colder here in the Winter than UK.   I don't mind cold but do prefer warmer weather and that is the bonus. In winter we have the warm woodburners.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

European Pond Terrapin

The European pond turtle is a terrapin.  It is  of a medium size varying from 12 to 38 cm in length. Its shell is brown with a hint of green with yellow spots. Emys orbicularis species have become rare in most countries even though they are widely distributed in Europe. They are a protected species and are not allowed to be kept as pets.

So, what a wonderful and unexpected surprise Captain Sensible received on his walk with camera in hand. He thought it was a tortoise but its tail alerted me to the fact that it may be a terrapin. I am glad he left it where he was because it was in its natural habitat.  If it were a tortoise I had wondered whether it should go to the vet as someone may have lost it.  But that decision was not necessary.

I did some research on Wikipedia.   They prefer to live in wetland areas surrounded by large, natural, woodland but can travel up to 100 metres away from the water and occasionally up to 4000 metres to lay their eggs in nests which they may return to year after year or they will travel for feeding.

I wish I had seen it.

A few days before that we met unexpectedly, a lady who is keeping three tortoises.  As they are over 15 years old she is worried that people might come and steal them .. so we are sworn to secrecy.

With grateful thanks to Captain Sensible for permission to use his photos.  Click on them for a larger view.

Sunday, 24 April 2011


A day of reconciliation. 

A day to accept and acknowledge errors, failings, weaknesses and "to accept the things I cannot change" and "to have the courage to change the things I can" and "to have wisdom to know the difference".
Patience, time, appreciation, tolerance are required to make changes. 

Despite days, hours and parts of time, with difficult moments, there is strength to pick myself up, to try again and again, to be determined not to be beaten and to make the next step - pas a pas - to work at confronting struggles as they occur, one day at a time.

To forgive but not to forget.   
To remember.
To acknowledge what my dearest daughter told me,  
that the past is not the future.
To create change can be rewarding. 
Out of death, growth and life will come.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Frosts in April or May?

Although we have a way to go for the following dates, and as a reply to “DaysontheClaise”  with their posting "Frost Candles at the Ready"  which mentions the installation of special candles in vineyards, ( a lesson for which I thank S & S), I feel bound to write about the Frost Saints' Days, which our French neighbours have often alerted us to in previous years.   

The dates are May 11, 12, 13 when three consecutive days in May mark the feasts of St. Mammertus, St. Pancras, and St. Servatus.  In the wine-growing districts of France, a severe cold spell occasionally arrives,  inflicting serious damage on the grapevines. Although scientists claim that the unseasonable frost is caused by air currents blowing off a late breakup of polar ice in the north, some people in rural France believed that it is the result of having offended one of the three saints, who for this reason are called the "frost saints."

In Germany, too, feelings toward these three saints are mixed, especially among those whose livelihood depends on agriculture. They call them "the three severe lords," and farmers believe that their crops are not safe from frost until May 13 has passed. French farmers have been known to show their displeasure over a cold snap at this time of year by flogging the statues and defacing the pictures of Mammertus, Pancras, and Servatus.

Evidently, the growing season has to get past these dates in May safely, if at all possible, to ensure a chance for the cropsin the potager or fruits in the orchard to survive. 

I have only ever heard of the second saint linked to St Pancras Station in London, UK.  As for the first and third,  I suppose I ought to do some research but do not have immediate time.  Mammertus makes me think of mammary glands and Servatus makes me think that I should serve myself as well as others!  Flippant or not?

Not being NOW religiously-minded, I do know that one year recently we were afflicted by frosts in May (was it last year?) and our potager crops were mostly unsuccessful.   So much so, that this year, and because of other circumstances, we are hardly going to plant anything.  We are fortunate enough to have a marvellous French producer of almost bio veg in our village at incredibly reasonable prices…….we are going to support this French family to receive or seasonal fresh vegetables so as to get on with other facets of our lives and thank the Saints that we won't have to dig, weed and harvest the crops and therby save our own personal energies! 

With thanks to Wikipedia.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Part 2 The Spring moves forward as the clock changes time

You have to have read the previous posting.

It is almost 21h, that is 9pm, new time, Spring time.
I just wandered outside with the rain spitting as it does in this region and down at the woodland at the end of the field which is the garden at Village de Vaux can be heard the nightingale preparing her speech and not yet in full song.  I  am in love. She or he who is so enchanting must surely fill hearts... but not of those who cannot hear.
To be unable to hear would be terrible. It would be worth the hearing aid.

Listen to this.

Read this.

Hark! that's the nightingale,
Telling the self-same tale
Her song told when this ancient earth was young:
So echoes answered when her song was sung
In the first wooded vale.
      - Christina Georgina Rossetti, Twilight Calm
Thank you Spring. Thank you March.

The Spring moves forward as the clock changes time

Now the rain is sprinkling the land after days of glorious sunshine. Dry weather and warmth started their promise for a summer to celebrate life.
The daffodils in my new garden at Angles sur L'Anglin have had to be watered three times a day to prevent them lying prostrate on the ground in the heat and drought, but at Village de Vaux they do not appear to need extra water.  Tulips are coming into bloom. Cowslips (les coucous) have been in flower for over a week.  The cherry and plum trees blossom, but are almost finished.  The bees have been about their work.  I made a herb garden from the bonfire ashes. It’s a kind of raised bed with recycled wood to create an edge.  Boxwood plants surround the edge and it is intended to be a sensory garden. There are no grand plans just an impulse to create something interesting.  Elsewhere flower seeds have been scattered and plants transplanted and there is more to do. There is always more to do. It must be a pleasure rather than a chore.

Before Christmas I purchased several shrubs. Now they stand in a row intending a hedge between neighbouring gardens.  The black redstart and the robin vie with each other for worms revealed in the earth. Digging 12 deep holes, filling with compost and then the shrubs was hard so I have given up for the moment on putting down textile fabric.  Logistics and energy went out of my head.  
My French neighbour who rarely has conversation came to the boundary to ask questions about what was this and what was I going to do with that, then asked me round for coffee but we had tea and proceeded to ask even more questions about the house, telling me her viewpoint on what needed to be done and how she would do it, and what the price should have been.  Hm… I did retaliate with questions so admit that I tried to deflect the interrogation away from my private life. Did I understand her French correctly?  Hm… She thinks I should not have lavender in my herb garden because lavender is huge.  It can be true of course, but also there are some pretty dwarf-type varieties of lavender and I do like French lavender flowers.

The first lizard of the year was seen on Thursday and on Friday the reinettes (small green tree frogs) began to chuckle to each other.  Every day I open the window and wait with bated breath to hear the cuckoos and nightingales that abound the rear of Village de Vaux and create magic in my life with their incessant song. This morning I am rewarded with the call of the Cuckoo in the woodland at the end of the field.  I hear it, but it takes several seconds to register …aha, there she is!  Now I await the Nightingales, which are private and hide themselves from view. They lure with their captivating, enchanting song.  The house martins and swallows arrived about a week ago screeching and squealing as also fighter planes flew overhead. Turtledoves romantically canoodle and repeat their cooing. Pheasants, or partridges more likely, are chook-chooking in the field beyond the grape vines, hidden from my view.

Loirets or maybe the glis glis (edible dormouse) called “bandits” are in the combles.  As there is no accessible attic we will have to remove the roof tiles to  check on what is happening up there.  I lie in bed with a fly swat and bang the ceiling and walls at the least sound of entry or exit of the little darlings!  They woke me up the other night with a swishing and swirling as if a train was arriving or as if a waterfall had appeared. I think they are mating!  So sweet looking but a nuisance.

Blogging has taken a bit of a step backwards as I am pretty exhausted with manual labour but Captain Sensible has been able to make progress on my new house….little by little......we will arrive.
I oscillate between hope and despair, of pessimism and optimism: I realise that dreams are made to be broken if ever they get created.  

Yet, walking along the lane of life in France I am transported into WONDERLAND.

I am trying to play the piano more frequently. Yesterday, it was just one note, one particular note, Db in its melodic and harmonic context, that reduced me to sobs of tears.  Chopin does that. On other days a sequence of notes and their harmonies ill have created heart-wrenching pain but I never know when it is going to happen if indeed it does. Sometimes I am afraid to play because I don't want to cry when I play. Sometimes I play and create pure inner smiling pleasure. Music can make me dance with joy, it makes me move, it gives me joy, it makes me as happy as a canary in a cage as well as an emotional wreck. It has been too long insufficient in my life.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Inspiration in the kitchen with Salmon and Rosti potatoes

January 13th 2011

I felt inspired to cook something interesting and different as I had offered to cook for tonight. I just love cooking salmon. It is so simple and usually so delicious that it needs very little to accompany it.

I peeled the last of the unsuccessful 'tiny' potatoes of the Charlotte variety. They have lasted to now so how is that unsuccessful?  Because they are small and we have had an abundance of small potatoes and I am the only one who is willing to peel them. They have not always needed to be peeled but they are fast throwing out shoots.  Several ideas in my head amounted to opening up the very nearly vegetarian cookbook, one of those Australian cookbooks that are so marvellous, and I espied a meal we enjoy.

Rosti Charlotte potatoes, Fresh Tail Cut of Salmon, Creme Fraîche mixed with cream, wasabi, seasoning, lemon juice and tarragon,  plus well-washed mâche which is like watercress and is a healthy eating food, of which we buy from our charming village 'producteur'.

There was half a bottle of delicious refrigerated Cremant de Loire opened but well-recorked, with less of a fizz but stillaplenty to accompany this January evening meal folowing a day of shopping for flooring materials and realsing that the January sales have started!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Age knows no Mercy

When you get to my age and read about the death of a particular woman from when 'Times have been a changing', and from when Times long ago produced male musical heroes who made one girlishly hysterical, one knows one is on the long long climb downhill!!

Suze-Rotolo  was 67 and I have that Freewheelin' LP and it's cover somewhere I'm sure.
They were in love.   Then listen to This

March begins  but yesterday was not a good start!
My mother's been in hospital unexpectedly with bronchial problems and I hear again of more acquaintances and friends who have cancer.   Life isn't easy.  I weep too much as it is.

My car needs a lot of money to be repaired. My heart has been pounding as to what decision to make. Should I let it limp to death and abandon it for another  that I know not so well.... or give it a kiss of kindness and hope it WILL be kind to me and see me through for another few months or even a year, until I can get it together to buy a newer model!

Good news on the house front with thanks to Captain Sensible ..... a floor is being laid and rooms have the sign of being loved and are keen to be lived in having been unlived in for almost two years.  I DO SO HOPE to get my brain and life in gear to write that other blog.

Spring HAS to give way to NEW LIFE even though the bitter cold of today  has said goodbye to the FALSE HOPE of the February warm weather.

March must hurry forwards to April and Easter and a time when a woodburner will not be required.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Be still and know

Signs of Spring advance.

Tonight, be still and know.
I stood outside leaning on the oak support of the porch
(which in England or in India would be called a verandah),
langourously looking
at the whispery-grey branches of a bare plum tree,
where in just a few months,
will be adorned white petals
and the hummmmmm of beeeeeees
and after that small red-baubled jewels
will entice one to make jam or tarts.
I stood
heart full
looking at different light in clouds of night
knowing that Spring is coming.

I stood and stared and tried to find peace in my heart.
Be still.

February is such a lovely time of year when one can stand,
feel privileged to witness the rise of temperature
to appreciate the suspense of Springtime
whilst watching a world of stars in space,
scudded by moonlight behind clouds;
to know the unseen gentle brush of breeze against a background
of a seemingly, apparently empty world
yet which is full,
repeating itself year on year,
since a time before we have ever known.

This place is special.

It bares the bones of life and France.
No roaring sound of machine or man.
Sheer emptiness
full of flora and fauna.
Alone in France?
Always an animal or person or stone or tree
to reveal a truth
or a smell
to haunt the mind.
It has taken so much time for me to learn it,
to know it,
to believe in it
it drives me wild at other times to be without people.

Be still and know.

It drives me wild to oftentimes hear the silence that is not silent.
Sound is always here.
The rustle or more of the wind,
The trickle or pelt of the rain.
A vehicle moving in the distance,
A tractor passing by,
The tick of a clock,
The cough of a sheep or poney.
My cough.
My cry.
The loiret close by.
Big Feet purring likes to know
I am here.

I stood outside and hung the washing on the line.

Be still and know.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Gourmandise des Rois

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Epiphany cakes for kings and frangipane lovers

We invited H to share with us this best of gateaux called La Galette Hollandaise.    A galette is a pancake but in this case it is pastry, often flaky pastry, stuffed with almond paste.   This year we have given our Gold Award for 'galette des rois' to the Angles sur L'Anglin  boulangerie.   I don't think this one has flaky pastry. The pastry is crisp and crumbly. The almond paste has not been stinted on and fills the pastry shell... no gaps here! ... and seems to have a slight taste of rum. The icing sugar on top is dry  like crisp and even snow. 
At 10 euros for the cake which serves 8 not greedy people, I reckon it is good value with our cup of Blue Lady Grey tea which I mixed with a little Green tea (unspecified) and some dried Rosehip berries from Spain.
So we chatted. I explained my amusement of making her laugh by adding decorations (feves,that is beans or figurines from previous affairs with foody delicacies!) .......a plastic fir tree from 2010 Buche du Noel, an unexpected guest or lonely shepherd,  the angel keeping guard over the baby for now the Kings had departed to wish us all a Bonne Année.   What a pleasure that she should receive the feve... a little frog.. Perhaps her Prince will come!

We shared gifts. I think I prefer this day to Noel and its Eve and New Year's Day and its Eve. For me it has more meaning with the coming, and going of the  wise men, Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior. I feel a new tradition occurring and pourquoi pas? We are in France-home of the Good Food Appreciation Society.

And today what joy .. my daughter's Christmas Gift arrived. It was posted on 8th December and we feared it had been lost but here it is with so many little things in it that I shall open them little by little.   She's always so very very good at choosing exactly the right gift!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Never have we seen a vertical rainbow

Is it an omen?   As a rainbow it must be good.   On the way home from work we were astounded to see near the setting sun a vertical rainbow.  The sky was blue with large long clouds reaching out like fingers beckoning to us and skudding across the sky as if to make an escape.  As they reached their end they would wisp upwards like meringue being whisked into peaks.  We've witnessed a great many aeroplane trails in the sky, both this morning and this evening.  The sunrise was so beautiful as it lifted itself over the mist laden paysage.

My internet research has led me to facts that I never knew before! This article is about photography.

Sunset Rainbows  are special for three reasons.
(1) The sun's rays are nearly horizontal, so the top of the rainbow will be high in the sky.   A sunset rainbow is the widest arc you'll ever see from the ground. Almost half of the full-circle rainbow can become visible....  This means the ends of the arc are nearly vertical as they intersect the horizon. Sometimes only the end segment of the rainbow appears, and if you see a photo of a vertical rainbow at the horizon, you'll know it was made at sunset (or sunrise). With a little geometry work and a sun angle chart, you can tell time using a rainbow at the horizon.
Click to enlarge image
Ireland Sunset Rainbow
near The Cliffs of Moher
(photo by Shannon Field)
(2) At sunset, the sunlight contains more red hues and less blue (because of atmospheric scattering). This will affect the appearance of the rainbow by emphasizing the red bands and muting the blue bands. The same red tint will apply to anything on the ground illuminated by the sunset. The effect can be quite dramatic.
(3) If you're lucky, you can get a rainbow against sunset clouds. This phenomenon is gorgeous to behold, but photos seem to be few. Be sure to turn around next time you're photographing a sunset, and see if the sky behind holds anything interesting.

With grateful thanks to Photocentric

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Noises in the Night from not the Stone Martian but the Stone Marten

Awoken again, but this time as the alarm went off, with a screeching noise coming from the attic above the stairwell.  I went to the landing where Big Feet was looking with interest at the ceiling.  Captain Sensible got the fly whisk and banged about on all the upper floor ceilings. The noise had ceased by then.

I have suspected for over a year we have a stone marten in the roof.  At first I was quite spooked and used to lose sleep but I have now got used to it!   It crawls in at night knocking the roof-tiles about!
Evidently we need mothballs to dissuade it of co-habitating in the space that we can't access.  They don't like noise, though they van make a lot themselves... so leaving a radio on at night is supposed to deter them!  Little critter... but don't they look cute? 

has a very good description of both  
 I have often seen the latter in wooded areas.  I hope he does not mind me promoting his website here.

Listen here to the sound I heard this morning. 

For those who have not yet twigged... if you hover the mouse over the highlighted areas that are then underlined and click you can go to the next site.  Make sure you return here!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Best Wishes for the New Year

This is a scene that is no more.
The second photo is of the same place by the River Anglin where now poplar trees have been razed.  
I am sure regeneration will occur but to see devastation was yet another sad blow to the year 2010.








with all best wishes for a
H A PP Y   N E W   Y E A
much love from SweetpeainFrance 
and Captain Sensible
at VillagedeVaux