Happy (Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof)

Happy (Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof)

 

Huge progress has been made since my last blog entry. We got stuck straight into mini house building – with Martin completing the raised deck really quickly and then between us we put up the garden house over a period of a few days. The hardest part was sorting out all the pieces of the jigsaw and deciding which bits to start with. This was made harder than in needed to be as we convinced ourselves that we needed a piece that didn’t actually exist so went through the whole pile of bits to get to the bottom and of course no such bit – a bit of a tense moment – but then the penny dropped and we realised we were looking for something that didn’t exist!! What a relief that was.

The pieces slot together like a puzzle – and actually for the most part was very simple to do. garden hut at the beginning

I loved banging the slats in with my mallet and taking all my stress out of the wood! sharon banging with the mallet 2 The only part that was physically too hard for the two of us to do as I was not strong enough to help Martin lift was the two apex bits of the roof – so Pierre our neighbour came over to help with these whilst I supervised!!

I have to say that the construction of this garden house has made me feel happier than other aspect of this house building project for absolutely ages – so much so that we were compelled to shoot this very silly lip sync video to demonstrate our happiness

Another highlight of the last week was visit from our English friend Thea who came to stay for one night on her way toward Spain in her Bongo called Beryl the Purple Peril. We got to meet her lovely doggie Bertie and showed them both all the sites of VduP, including the Tuesday evening Pool at Café De La Poste. It was really lovely to have her here to stay – we get really excited when people visit us and say how much they love our plot, and our plans – and just “get” what we are trying to achieve here.  We had a lovely evening with her – she introduced me to Ginger Gin and we both very much hope that this will be the first of many visits from her and Bertie.bertie in beryl

Dare I mention Brexit and the stress it is causing us and many other ex-pats who live here? Well, without getting political there are so many things flying around at the moment about whether we will be able to travel with pets, or indeed travel at all for that matter – so we have made the decision to get both dogs under the French Pet Passport scheme – which meant another rabies vaccination and a big bill, and then also we decided that we would start the procedure to exchange our UK Driving Licences for French ones whilst we are still able to do a straight swap. All stuff which we didn’t anticipate having to do quite so quickly and to be honest without Brexit might never have needed to. But needs must – and it feels a bit like we are being pushed to the edge of the parapet at a rate of knots that is quite scary. But we know that if we were to be stuck one side of the channel – it is this side that we want to be stuck!! We love it here, we love our life in France, we love spending time with our new friends, and we love the gateway it provides to the rest of Europe, and talking of parapets – we are prepared to stick our heads well above the parapet and make sure that through whatever madness Brexit brings – our children will still have some choices available to live in a European country that may not be available to others.

It’s hard to not dwell on such negativity – but we do try to remain focussed on what we are doing here in France and as long as we are pushing forward in the right direction that is the most important thing.

Talking of which – we had a major breakthrough this week – not only have we erected our garden house – we now have electricity!! Real, proper – turn on an off ‘able electricity!! Like the old Creature Comforts ad!creature comfortsWhat an amazing thing. Now anyone who has ever done a bit of basic psychology will be able to tell you that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggests that humans need their basic needs of food, shelter and comfort to be met before they can progress higher up that hierarchy!! Living with no running water for the first 3 months, and 12v battery power only for 8 months had indeed at times made us feel that our basic needs were being somewhat compromised. So of course, the moment that electricity was switched on our moods were immediately elevated to absolute elation!! Oh, what a feeling – it is really quite wonderful to know that we have a little garden house which has electricity and once we get a few bits and pieces out of storage we will have some home comforts (and some heating) and we can hunker down and get cosy in our Little Hygge Hut. heart lamp

Can’t wait to celebrate the completion of the Hygge Hut with a Gin and Tonic Party!

 

N.B Hygge – pronounced Hoo Ga – is a Scandinavian word for a mood of cosiness and comfortable conviviality.

 

Don’t mess with my TouTou

Don’t mess with my toutou

Wow! Time flies when you are having fun!!

We had a good trip back to the UK which was very productive. We purchased a trailer to come on the back of the motorhome and filled it with a number of very exciting purchases. Best of all for me, is a complete set of Les Mills weights, bench and resistance bands – AND a shed to put it all in! Yes!! I am going to have an outdoors gym studio!!

Les Mills equipment

Everyone who comes to France has at least one thing that they really miss from their home country. In my case it is the gym!! For the past few years my entire life has been centred around going to the gym, and I used to work my calendar appointments around the times of my favourite classes – which were Body Pump and Zumba Strong. I’ve been grumbling ever since moving to France that I was missing the hard core, cardio workout that these classes gave me. And of course, the social contact that going to the gym gave me. Four days a week I would do back on back classes with my friends – fondly referred to as the Crew at Studio 2 (at least that was until the gym got knocked down, re-built and our Studio was then Studio 4 – but that’s another story).

People we have met who have lived around here for some time laughed when I said there is no way to exercise!! “Look at the hills” – “Get out there running, or on your bike”. Of course, I did start a bit of running, and hill walking with a couple of English girls – but very quickly into this I hurt my foot which slowed me down, and then with my knee injury it became apparent that hill running and fast walking would be off the menu for me, for some time.

That was a cruel blow indeed!! As well as the endorphin buzz from the cardio, I was going to also lose part of my social network. So, long story short – my lovely hubby Martin has treated me to an early birthday/Christmas present….and I’m working on some friends who will walk at a slower pace!!

Our trip back to the UK was mainly to settle Sian into University, and after moving her in we went off to visit family for a few days – including to visit Evan’s grave slightly early for what would have been his 16th birthday. Not brave enough to have a tattoo in France (with my French skills it could have proved disastrous) I had waited to come back to the UK to have the butterfly tattoo that I had wanted to have as an “in memory” tattoo.

Tattoo

The butterfly forms part of the picture which is on his grave stone. The tattooist was amused at my request to have “Tardis Blue – it must be Tardis Blue” but upon hearing the reason why he was very obliging and spent a while mixing a few different blue inks together. You see….Evan has gone off to travel the Universe with Doctor Who in his very own Tardis (the casket) so that part of it was vital (to me at least). I think Evan would have loved that his Auntie is a bit of a rebel and had a tattoo!!

 

 

So, after this we headed back to the New Forest so I could pop over to see both of my kids in Bournemouth and satisfy myself that Sian was happy and settled in her halls before heading back to France. We stayed at a campsite in Sway, so I could catch the train in to visit them as the trailer meant using the motorhome would be out of the question. On the train I mused as I went through Pokesdown Station – “I wonder if I am the only one who thinks of Pikachu when I see that”. I messaged the kids that question “no said Sian – but I will do now”. I think I was becoming obsessed with the Pokemon due to the trailer which now at least in my head was a dead ringer for Pikachu.

I’d told Sian that it would be just me visiting her and Ryan – no Martin, and even more disappointingly “NO DOGGOS”. But I had a cunning plan up my sleeve, and an hour after I caught the train Martin was to follow me on the next train – with the Doggos. We would come out of the pub after eating our breakfast and…….SURPRISE!!  Watch here for Doggos surprise Sian

 

It was lovely to see Sian squeal like a 6 year old with excitement at seeing them. Well worth the military operation involved to do it (which included an accidental missed train on Martin’s part).

Sian refused us admission to her room – so I can only assume one of two things a) She has properly settled in and the room is a bomb site – just like home or b) She had a fun night and there was a strange person in her bed.

Either way, she seemed happy enough, so the trailer, complete with it’s fetching yellow cover with the cute little ears that really remind me of Pikachu from the Pokeman that my kids were so fond of – made it’s maiden voyage back to France stuffed full to the brim of my own “Studio 2” and lots of other “can’t life without items”.

Pokeman Trailer
Don’t worry – it hasn’t really been painted up like this. Clever Ryan done a bit of doctoring!! Can you imagine this around VduP?

Talking of doggos…..another mystery was solved recently. For ages I had thought that the little dog belonging to lovely Beatrice at the camp site was called TouTou. The reason for this was that the water bowl at the bar has written on it “TouTou’s Bar”. Toutou's Bar

But then, when we visited Monpazier, a lady made a big fuss of the Doggos, stroking them and saying “TouTou”. We realised then that something was a bit different to what we had thought. Using good old Google Translate we found out that TouTou actually means Doggie in French.

So, this week, back home in Villefranche when we popped up to do some washing at the campsite I told Beatrice the story. She laughed, and we chatted about her dog’s real name and why she is called this. She is called Bendy – and the reason for it is Beatrice needed a name beginning with B. Why? Because the French tend to give their dogs a name beginning with the letter that corresponds to the year they were born. This helps the vets know the age of the dog. So Bendy is 13 years old…meaning that there are lots of dogs aged 13 in France with names beginning with B. Beatrice used to work in printing and Bendy is the name of a technical piece of printing equipment – hence the name.

I told Beatrice the reasoning behind our doggos names – Luka as he was originally called Loot (his owner bought him and his brother in the London riots and called them Loot and Robbery), and I wasn’t keen on that so looked for a similar name that would not confuse him. The song My Name is Luka by Suzanne Vega is a favourite and really resonates with me in relation to that gentle, oh so sensitive little doggie soul that Luka is, so that is where that came from. And Lillie is short for Princess Lillipops – much less provocative than her kennel name of “Fait Accomplais” referring to the inevitability of the Brexit vote which was all going on at the time (her sister is actually called Brexit, and another is called Dirty Blond after Boris Johnson).

But now, all I can think of whenever I see that dog bowl is that silly 80’s song – Don’t mess with my Toot Toot  – I wonder if anyone messes with the toutou called Brexit???

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

We ‘Mite’ be Buggered

We ‘Mite be Buggered’

The week before last we had a bit of respite from suffocating in the heat in the motorhome (and being on top of each other getting grumpy) because we went to Beaumont-du-Perigord for a house sitting assignment. The English homeowners got to go back to the UK for a few days and we got to use their lovely Perigordian house and all it’s facilities, and look after their menagerie of animeaux. They have Woody, a Rottweiler crossed with German Shepherd Dog, Belle, a Black Labrador, a goat called Victoria and 3 hens and a rooster!!

Collage of animal antics
Belle and Wood do not understand the concept of “human only” furniture and Victoria enjoys a round of parcour

Our dogs came too and the 4 of them got on brilliantly which was fantastic as it meant we could go on a drama free 5km walk each morning on a lovely circuit which took us up a steep hill, pass a lavabo (that translates to bathroom sink but it’s actually a dog dip), and round past some lovely fields of baby sunflowers and rural houses. Each walk gave us new and fresh ideas for our own house plans.

The animals had come with written and verbal instructions and I had remembered the house owner telling me that they were not allowed on the sofas. I hadn’t remembered though that she had said they were allowed on their own sofa. So, imagine the looks of disgust on Woody and Belle’s faces when I walked in to the living room – saw them on the small sofa and said in the firm dog owner voice “are you allowed to be up there”? Looks of guilt appeared on their little faces. “Get down off there”. Looks of confusion on their little faces. Then “come on – down now”. They both jumped down and huffed into a heap on the floor together. That made me think I should check – so I sent a message – oh dear!! Yes, they are allowed on that sofa!! So, back in the living room “apparently you are allowed on there Woody and Belle so you can get back up”. Bemused looks from the two doggos but up they did jump – although they did give me some sideways glances at times over the next few days as if to check out the new “rules” that had been instated.

We had a lovely few days in the area and bonded with all the animals. I particularly loved Woody, and I think Luka was getting a bit jealous and fearful for his place as my “top dog”. I also adored looking after Victoria and loved her funny little face when I hand fed her toast (she kind of pouts and clicks her tongue).

Also, of great novelty value to us was to be able to use an oven without roasting ourselves too – so I made veggie lasagne, and moussaka in the Le Creuset pots in the range cooker – and dreamed of a time not too far away when I can do this in my own kitchen.

Veggie mousakka
Yummy! And topped with English cheddar cheese which was a gift from the house owners!!

We also visited an English carpenter who is working on a timber framed house in the local area, and it was really helpful to see the infrastructure in this half-finished state to get a clearer picture of how it all works. We are definitely moving away from the brick-built concept back to our original thoughts of timber framed, although I now realise that you can have timber frame with different finishes outside – for example rendered, so if we want to move away from the wooden cabin look we can. At the moment we are undecided.

We have also met with a French company who specialised in timber framed kit houses this week – English guys but have been established in France for 8 years – and this is a promising proposition which we are going to explore in more detail.

One of the nicest things about house sitting was the respite from the constant itch/scratch cycle that I have been plagued with for the past few weeks. Away from the land I noticed that I was not so itchy, but disappointingly when we returned the itching returned with a vengeance. Strangely all the bites on me were in the really awkward places of bra straps, and knicker lines – which puzzled me and so after a few days of suffering in silence I decided to research. I quite literally done a Google search of the words “insect bites on knicker line and bra straps” and came back with the horrific find that my symptoms matched those of harvest mite infestation. It’s common for dogs to also get this at the same time so Luka and Lillie were checked and yes indeed the poor little buggers have the tell-tale signs.

Harvest Mites
Totally grossed out that these things were in me – however, they are so more that the human eye cannot see them so that’s not so bad

It’s no surprise really when you think we are living in woodland – and harvest mites tend to live in the long grass at the edge of woodland. Well, we are chopping down the “edge of our woodland” on a daily basis. So, the darling little mites are becoming homeless and jumping on us all.

 

 

 

 

Lyme madness

 

So, a trip to the pharmacy and an amusing 3-way conversation between the pharmacy assistant, Mr Google and myself took place. I came away with cream for me, and spray for my clothes that reassuring will prevent me getting lyme madness it seems.

 

The doggos were taken to see our neighbour Bernard who is one of the village vets – for an informal consultation which confirmed this – and his advice was to go the vets and get insecticide shampoo. He was very nonchalant about it, explaining the mites are everywhere and its just part of living in woodland. It will get better when we have less rough ground and more surfaced areas – so the next step we think it to build a timber deck on which eventually a summer house will go which will give us some normality of living whilst we pursue this.

So, anyway the doggos each got a luxury spa treatment.

Collage of doggo spas
Luka tolerates his spa bath…Lillie on the other hand absolutely lapped it up!! Look at that face!!

Wednesday 15th August was the Fete Votive (Festival of Light), which is a bank holiday in France. In the afternoon there were some “Inter Village Games” at the Rugby Stade and we went down there to have a look. Inter village gamesIt was very amusing to see grown men and women doing the sack race. And then in the evening, as well as music and dancing down in the village there was also a firework display over the Plan D’Eau (the lake) at 11pm. We noticed that there were some barricades ready in place for the roads around the lake to be closed off for the fireworks and as the only way up to our track was along one of these roads we needed to decide on whether to stay down until it all finished or go up earlier. Being a pair of old farts, we had already gone up home by about 10pm and was having a cup of tea when the first fireworks went off. We couldn’t quite see the fireworks through the trees so walked down the track a bit to get a better view and were treated to an awesome display from the opposite side and a higher perspective that the rest of the audience.  It was only after it all finished that we contemplated that we were quite probably dangerously close to the fireworks and had the H&S been done in England the four houses up our track would probably have been evacuated as well as the road closures – C’est La Vie.

 

Here’s my video of the finale of the firework display https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkC-5fkd7v8&feature=share

 

Sians results
So proud of our clever girl!

Last Thursday was Sian’s A Level Results and when she phoned me to let me know she had achieved the best possible results in both subjects – A* in Psychology and Double Distinction Star in Health and Social Care – we both had a few tears and a few whoops of joy, and then realising I had not got a card ready to send to her I craftily tried to fob her off by sending her this video and telling her I had arranged for fireworks to celebrate!! She wasn’t falling for it – she’s a clever girl is Sian – she was top of her year in Psychology!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did have rather a big blow this last week when the knee pain I have had for a few weeks got suddenly much, much worse and last Friday when I bent down in our tiny little shower cubicle it popped and the pain was excruciating and I simply could not get up again without letting out some very blue expletives. A few days of hobbling around and I made my first visit to the French doctors. Luckily, she spoke a little English, and with our pre-prepared account of my symptoms on Martin’s tablet thanks to Mr Google, and a very thorough examination she made her diagnosis. As she pulled a face and made the sign of a cross over my knee I feared the worst!! Maybe my leg will have to come off I thought!! But fortunately, she was trying to explain that I have a sprained cruciate ligament in my right knee!! It’s not torn yet (thank goodness) and hopefully with a leg brace on for at least 3 weeks and the minimum of walking possible for at least 2 weeks followed by physio it should heal. I’m gutted to say the least. It’s not the best news where there is so much to do here on the land, but hopefully although for the time being I “mite be buggered” (see that play on words – I’m not illiterate as you may have first thought upon reading the blog title) – in the longer term I’m sure my ‘jambe bionique’ will sort me out.

Jambe bionique
Bang goes my chances of having a bikini body for the rest of the summer. What with the harvest mite bites on my torso and a white patch on my legs!!

 

 

 

What bastard chose this route?

Last week saw the event that we have all been training for in our daily early morning walks and twice weekly runs. The Trail du Pays du Chataignier!! This was the 6th event of its kind and is an annual trail running event. Participants can take part in a 12km or a 25km run, or a 12km walk. Initially Nikki, Carol and myself were to enter the walking event, with Martin entering the 12km run and Steve entering the 25km run. However, for various reasons none of us girls entered, leaving Martin and Steve to do it. Oh, and 175 other runners of course!!

The name of the trail translates to the Trail of the Chestnut Land, and it takes people through some beautiful Dordogne countryside – from Villefranche du Perigord, through Besse and Loubejac, and back to Villefranche du Perigord (VduP). During our Thursday and Sunday training runs we have all grown to know the hill that takes you back into the village. It is a horrible hill!! Far, far worse than my previous nemesis of a hill in Ramally Copse which took me years of trying before I could run up comfortably without stopping. It’s not the only hill on the route – far from it, but being at the end whatever run you have done makes it particularly horrible.

So, race day came. I was not taking part at all due to my knee hurting like crazy (see previous blog Bonjour, Buongiorno and Allo Allo), so I took my decent camera down to get some snaps and support the boys. Steve suggested that I go to the front of his house to take the photos of the runners coming down the dreaded hill, which I did. Unfortunately, Martin had told me that the grumpy old French man with the little dog who often trips me up when I hobble up “that hill” is Steve’s next-door neighbour. This is partly what caused what happened next. I saw Claude (the grumpy old French man) in his forecourt, so said a cheery Bonjour to him and ducked straight in the next forecourt without paying much attention to my whereabouts. The only place to tether the dogs was the front door handle, and I noticed the door came open a little bit. Dogs hooked up, I got my kit out and my position ready. Next thing is the dogs are moving around and knocking the door, then a lady opened the door, jumped out of her skin at the two dogs – who had started to jump up at her!! She said “is there a problem?”, and I said “is this Steve’s house”. No!! Oh dear!! I realised what I had done and began to explain. Luckily, she saw the funny side of my mistake, and her husband and daughter came out for a chat and I was offered tea, and water for the dogs. Steve’s house was actually the one next door to that….so I set up base there instead and got some good shots of the runners coming down the hill at the beginning of the event. IMG_0122

The first few back over the finish line were so quick I actually missed them whilst I was having a Café au Longueur outside the Boulangerie, so I drank up quickly and went to the finish line to catch the rest coming in. Martin finished in an impressive 74 minutes – position 99 overall.

On Thursday when we were having our post run coffee at the Café du Commerce the Maire came over to chat to us as he often does (he’s really friendly, and it’s not at all like the Mayor of Portsmouth or Southampton coming over to say hello) and he told Steve (in French) the funny story of what had happened during the race.

Maire and Norman
The guy on the left is our Maire – see he’s really very normal looking. The guy on the right is Norman – he is the butcher. Obviously I don’t really like the concept of butchers (being a veggie) but he is rather lovely!!

Claude (the Maire – not the grumpy old French man with the little dog – trust me there are LOTS of French men called Claude) was running along and a young lady was running at the same pace as him so they chatted. She said the route was beautiful but really hard and hilly, and said “what bastard chose this route?”. Claude said nothing, even though as Maire of VduP it was indeed his choice of route ha ha. Later on, after a bit more chat it was divulged that he was the Maire and then apparent to the young lady what a faux pas she had made!!

It was really hot on the day of the running, and continued to be until a huge thunder storm broke the run of hot weather on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. 2 weeks of blistering heat had begun to takes it’s toll though. It was hard to see at the time, but now that we are back to a much more moderate mid to late 20’s, I can reflect that the weather was really getting to us. We were arguing and bickering constantly!! About everything!! And I was honestly wondering if we were doing the right thing, whether France was right for us, whether we were right for France. But now, sense of humour firmly back in place and things are much more normal. However, I think it’s fair to say that it is indeed a challenge to be living in a 15 square metre motorhome which has no air conditioning, and is crammed full to bursting point. In 35-degree weather it’s like an oven, and watching the thermometer rise to 45 degrees inside makes you feel like you are being cooked alive, even though I bought some little USB charged fans back from the Lake Garda holiday, all they do is make it in to a fan assisted oven by blowing the hot air around!!  Night times were hot and sticky (in all the wrong ways), itchy and unbearable, and definitely not an environment conducive to constructive, sensible planning decision making conversations.

So…little was done. But, hey ho!! At least we didn’t decide to throw the towel in (as was certainly going through my head a lot) and also, thankfully I didn’t end up like poor Mrs Turtle who was killed by her husband after a dream move to France to set up a Chambres D’hote business went horribly wrong and he drove over her in his Mercedes after a row. Local neighbours say she wanted him to sell it to pay for a pool but he wouldn’t!! Take a look and see what you think? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-39886619

The heat makes people do crazy things! It is not all perfectly polished toe nails, hovering tantalisingly teasingly over a glistening pool in the #lovemynewlifeinFrance Facebook posts. There’s a lot of ducks living over here I reckon….gliding serenely over the pond, but beneath the water their little feet are paddling furiously as they try to keep their heads above water. There is no shame in admitting that this can be a hard life at times so I think it is a great shame that people sometimes do not open up to others and admit to this.

Martin and I have had lots of conversations since the inception of this Project and are still firm in our decision that we want to be building a modestly size house that will be sustainable and cost effective for our future. Now that the weather has cooled down and we are back into the swing of things we have been talking to different builders about different options. There is a set of regulations which all new builds currently have to be built to – RT2012. The finished project results in a house which costs minimal money to run – however, the new regulations that will come in to place in 2020 will yield houses that cost nothing to run!! The prospect of this is really exciting as we would have no energy bills – well yes gas if we used that to cook – but no electricity. So, we are currently exploring this.

Meanwhile we endeavour to keep our little camping spot as homely looking as possible. Now that I have the summer kitchen in an event tent, and the new bench that Martin bought I thought it would be nice to go out an buy a few cheap bits and pieces to make it look nice.

 

These things included 4 metre of wipe clean table cloth. Belle Cocotte

 

 

The design I chose appealed to me for two reasons. Firstly, it was only 2 euros a metre (which as it’s being used outside makes sense as it won’t last forever, and secondly because it has chickens on it!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wording Belle Cocotte meant, or so I thought Beautiful Chicken. But, after spending loads of time cutting it up and artistically draping it over every conceivable surface can you imagine how we, as VEGETARIANS, felt to discover that it actually means “Beautiful Casserole). Poor Chicken!! Google Translate Belle Cocotte

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.