We have new “Neigh” bours

We have new “Neigh” bours

Well, not on a permanent basis – but for the past 10 days we have been looking after these lovely guys, as well as two slightly smaller friends.

It’s all been part of a house sit in a lovely village called Limeuil which is right where the Dordogne River meets the Vezere River. Where the Dordogne meets the VezereWe have been looking after a farm house whilst its owner has been away in Holland. And what a lovely time it has been – just like a holiday. We’ve had the use of a heated swimming pool, a hot tub, sauna, and a huge TV with Netflix!! Beautiful terrace

This has given us a great chance to re-charge our batteries and enjoy some space for a change (one of the biggest challenges of living in a motorhome full time is the lack of space) and also it has been really good for me with my rehab programme on my knee as I have been able to adapt my daily exercises to include some work in the heated pool – and I’m certain that the heat from the sauna has helped it a lot too Nice cuppa in the pool

The four dogs got on well – mostly – it would not be true to say that there were no growls at all – but overall they have been really good with each other – although it has been largely two sets of two rather than a pack of four – although Lillie’s rather blundering, boisterous clumsy ways have on occasion led to her being nick named “Lillie No-Mates” Lillie no mates

whilst Luka has been snuggled up with his harem on the rug in a doggie Menage a Trois

Luka in a menage a trois

The horses have been a novelty for us. Neither of us have much experience with horses so initially were un-sure about taking this house sit on. But they take minimal looking after – they spend all day and night in the meadow and bring their selves down to the barn at lunch time when they just need feeding and a little while in the barn, then half an apple and a few pats and then off to the meadow again. If I’d known horses were such little work maybe…………….

It’s all been good experience for us. Martin’s had practice in pool cleaning, and as usual we have gleaned lots of ideas about what we do (and also don’t) want for our own house. The plans will now include a hot tub. Not exactly like this one – but we would love a wood burning stove one – we can dream!Hot tub terrace

We were close enough to Issigeac to be able to go for an appointment with my sports injury lady – Liz and she has been progressing me really well with different exercises and stretches. She said that I am her “best patient ever” as I am so motivated to get over this hurdle. If the truth be known I have learned a very, very hard lesson over this knee injury which is to “listen to my body” and not to anyone else. No-one else knows my body like I do, and I am so relieved that the tendon tear seems to be mending and my strength is returning to my legs. Having to go up and down stairs here at the house sit has proved challenging but in the ten days we have been here I have progressed from having to go very slowly and with great difficulty one step at a time – both feet on each step, to going up “normally” for about half of the steps. It’s slow progress – but it’s progress. We have however decided that we will definitely be putting all of our bedrooms on the ground floor as we have no idea what the future entails for us health wise – and this is to be our forever home, so we only get one crack of that.

So, anyway – after having some lovely “Neigh” bours for 10 days it’s now back home to our usual neighbours – I say usual rather than “normal” as who has neighbours who pop things like this in your letter box whilst you are away? Living next door to Alice

It’s good to be back home!!!

©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. 

There’s not Mush Room in here!

There’s not “Mush Room” in here!

October is quite exciting in Villefranche-du-Perigord as it is Cepes season!! Cepes are a regional speciality and are a type of mushroom which only grows here, and only for a few weeks in October. A while back Martin and I were talking to our friend about what Cepes were like, and he told us that there was a lot of hype about them as they were so unique to the area, but that they were actually quite slimy and not really very nice. A bit like eating slugs. Nether the less we still fancied trying them when the time came around.

One of the lovely things about this village is that the high street often has banners high up above the houses and shops which mark various fetes and festivities. In the summer there were lots of bright yellow and orange flowers which were put up when the festivals were taking place, and then at the beginning of October we noticed that all of a sudden there were lots of pink umbrellas high up in the sky. Pink UmbrellasWhen we asked we found out that this is to mark “International Breast Cancer Awareness Month”. One of the boulangeries were also selling ribbon shaped baguettes last Saturday to raise money for charity – but sadly we missed out on buying one as we had got distracted by pain au raisins in the other boulangerie (our Saturday morning ritual took over our minds and we forgot to buy one). But it is nice to feel the familiarity of the marking of these important and significant events – very much the same as in the UK. Funnily enough the demi baguette that I had got the week before did make me wonder if it had been baked to mark Men’s Health Week – but I was too shy to ask. Strange shaped baguette

The evening I had bought that baguette was Tuesday – our weekly night out to Café de La Poste to play pool with some other English (and Scottish) people. That night I played so badly I pondered on whether it would have been better to use the baguette instead of the cue. Bernard then decided that it was about time I had my own cue! And when we visited him later that week he presented me with his very own old cue – an honour indeed!! So, I now have by very own cue – for the first time in my life!! The next week I couldn’t wait to try it out when we took my visiting Mum and her friend Kay in to the pub!! Sadly, no games won that week – but I do think I am improving and it was good for trick shots!! Sharon's Trick Shots

So, Mum and Kay have been over to visit for a week. They were our first visitors from the UK. I really wanted Mum to see the land we have bought in its current state so she gets the full picture of our journey – where it has started, and where it will finish in ???? who knows how many months’ time. Mummy and Daughter

Mum loved it here – she loves the land, loves the village, and all the places we took her to visit. They both did. And we really enjoyed playing at being tourists as well and saw some places that we had not been too as well as taking them to places we had previously been to and really liked. Mum happy in France

Sarlat was one of the places we went to – and it was here that we all got to try Cepes for the first time – and perhaps the last. Mum was the first of us to declare that she REALLY didn’t like them – and in fact, refused to even try to eat them based on their appearance – which she said looked like a breast complete with nipple (maybe it was to mark the previously mentioned Breast Cancer Awareness Month – who knows). But we all admitted to not really enjoying them, but the other three of us managed to get them down the hatch – me with lots of tomato ketchup. They clearly are acquired taste – and as our friend told us before – they are quite slug like!! But….when in Rome….

The next day when we took Mum and Kay next door for coffee with Alice we were talking about the Cepes – and Mum told her all about how much she had disliked them, and asked Alice if she liked them. Alice told Mum that it is all in the way they are cooked, and they can be very nice if cooked well. However, Alice told us of the time a friend of hers cooked a giant Cepe that filled a pan. Apparently, you should never wash mushrooms to get the full flavour when cooking, so this friend (who was an excellent cook) did this, and cooked the giant Cepe to perfection….but when she turned in over in the pan the two of them could then see – horror of horror – WORMS crawling out of the giant mushroom! Alice rather fortuitously being a vegetarian had the excuse to not partake but the others…well, when in Rome…..Collage of Cepes

There clearly are some benefits to being vegetarian in France after all!! Not just having the ready-made excuse to not try certain things – but also to take full advantage of the abundance of vegetables that are now being harvested.

Our friend Steve gave us a melange (1) of squashes from his garden – including butternut squash and marrows which we are already familiar with, and also some beautiful orange/red Pottimaron which is a new one to us. A Melange of Squash

So, Mum and Kay chopped up three whole Pottimarons and then I made a HUGE pot of Pottimaron and Red Pepper soup for our friends, family and neighbours’ lunch which was the first time we had invited a large number of people over to “the land” for a meal – which went really well and was great fun to have 12 people over an “al fresco” lunch of soup, bread, wine and desert! This I hope will be the first of many to be enjoyed.Friends, Neighbours and Family Lunch

Mum’s back in the UK now enjoying her own bed and not enjoying the cooler weather. Here is it still a pleasant 24 degrees – hot enough to be enjoying our meals “al fresco” still – but no Cepes thank you very much!

(1) Melange is the French word for assortment. It is one of my favourite French words and I use it frequently.

©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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

The Mille-feuille Mystery

The Mille-feuille Mystery

Once again I have been a bit tardy in keeping up with this blog. This is partly due to having so much fun on our recent trip to Roquefort and partly as we have been so busy getting Sian organised and settled in to University.

Before we left Villefranche-du-Perigord we went to the Bio Marche at Goujenac on the Saturday morning after being told about it by our very like-minded neighbours Pierre and Violaine. Violaine’s friend Julie has a stall there selling natural skin products called Plantes Vagabondes, so I was keen to have a look at this. I was intrigued by her Sagresse range which helps with menopause, and deciding that as I had been a bit grumpy of late it might be a good idea to try this out. So, I bought the Sagresse set of the tea and an elixir.

Tea and elixir

We had an amusing conversation in Fronglais – with me asking if it helped bad moods. She didn’t really understand me until I done the hand actions of an attacking lion – accompanied by a loud “Grrrr” then she laughed and said “oui! It will help”. I took my purchases over to show Martin and then using good old Google Translate had a look at which herbs were in the tea.

 

 

 

 

I was quite confused to see Millefeuille on the label as I had always understood this to be a French pastry, so I done a bit of research and found that that it’s the French for Yarrow – which I had heard of before – but still found it confusing that it was called the same as a cake.

Then on the Saturday evening we attended the opening of the new Bistro – O Faim Gout’R – in the village. Being such a small village, it is always extremely exciting when a new business opens up – and this was no exception. This event was actually just the “inauguration” – the Grand Opening was to be the Monday evening – but we would already be gone by then. So, we went down for a few drinks and enjoyed some of the lovely canapes on offer. We were really pleased to see there were some veggie options – which gives us great hope that we will be able to support this new venture. CanapesMy favourite of the canapes was the Mille-feuille a l’italienne which was sliced aubergine, mozzarella and tomato. Really lovely! But still, a little confusing about the word mille-feuille being used to describe something savoury – after all it is a cake “n’est-ce pas?”

We reflected that there must now be enough bars in the village to have a bar crawl, so vowed to arrange one of these when we get back from our UK trip at the end of September. The trouble with rural French villages as far as bar crawls are concerned is that they all shut by about 8pm! Never mind – we will just have to start at 4pm!!

Anyway, on the Monday (3rd September) we headed off to Roquefort to find out more about the legend of the famous cheese and to buy some of said cheese to celebrate my dad’s life. I was really excited about the cheese. Martin was really excited about being so close to the Millau Bridge as he has always wanted to see it. So, we planned to drive over it no matter what the route was – but first the cheese!!

We arrived late afternoon on a Monday, so predictably everywhere was closed – it’s a really small village – much smaller than you might imagine for such a famous place. So, we amused ourselves with a stroll up the hill – passing a Pizzeria on the way up (“no Martin I am going to cook a nice healthy meal in the motorhome when we get back”) – and then back down the hill – the Pizzeria now really tempting us – “OK then – just a quick look on the menu” – then – “Roquefort and Walnuts?” “mmmmm that sounds good!! OK then”!!

Roquefort and Walnut Pizza20 minutes later we were tucking in to the most seriously good pizza combo I have EVER experienced!! Let me tell you!! This pizza was THE SECOND BEST EVER. (The first best pizza was, and always will be the one we had at Lake Garda based purely on the location and it being my first Italian pizza in Italy).

Next day we went off to explore the famous producers of Roquefort. We had already heard of Roquefort Societe and Papillion, but there are also Carles, Gabriel Coulet, Occitanes, Vernieres and Le Vieux. Pretty much all there is at Roquefort is the cheese caves – each producer having their own shop, exhibition and caves. We decided to visit the Papillion one – based solely on the fact that I love butterflies and also it was the first one we came to (and that hill was steep).

I wasn’t able to visit the caves as there are 200 steps and with my knee in a brace, and only able to climb or descend steps like a three-year-old (both feet one at a time on each step) we decided that I would leave this to Martin. However, the staff put on an English video  for me which I sat and watched whilst Martin went on the guided tour in to the caves, and the doggos sat nicely in the porch outside.Doggos sitting nicely in porchIt was fascinating to learn about the production, and after I had watched the the staff asked me if I would like to sample each of the different Roquefort they make. You bet I would. Explaining that it had been my dad’s favourite cheese I told the staff why we had made this little pilgrimage and that we had heard the legend of Roquefort – I asked if it was true what we had heard.

“Nearly one hundred years ago, a shepherd went off for his day’s work, with his cheese sandwich made with rye bread and sheep’s cheese wrapped in paper for his lunch. Distracted by a pretty girl he left his sandwich in a cave and went off to pursue her. When he returned month’s later he found his sandwich and bit in to it. It was delicious and he then discovered that the cheese had reacted with the bacteria from the mould on the rye bread to make the blue/green veined cheese”

The staff confirmed this was absolutely true!!

And so, Roquefort cheese was born. These days the production is virtually the same as back then. Rye loaves are baked and the powder from this is used to create the bacteria that makes the mould. The wheels of cheese are stored in the caves to mature.  The caves in Roquefort are totally unique in that the air flow created by the gaps in the cave roofs are exactly what is needed to create the required humidity.

It was all very interesting to learn all about this, but I doubt very much if that is why it was Dad’s favourite cheese – I bet it was the same reason that I love it – because it tastes so flipping great!! We bought loads of it!! And bought it back to the UK to share with our nearest and dearest (the ones who like stinky cheese anyway).

We went for lunch at a small creperie and were seriously impressed on two counts – first of all the food was great – we shared a Salade Roquefort et Noix, and a Roquefort Gallette (a buckwheat savoury crepe). Both really good.

Then followed by a local delicacy – a sort of baked cheesecake – made with sheeps cheese.

Sharon eating pudding
I know I don’t look THAT impressed but that is just because I hate having my photo taken when eating

But also because the man running the place was doing it single handedly – he was seating people, cooking the food, serving it to the tables, taking payment, and all with a smile!! He really did put some other people (who shall not be named) to shame for their service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting later on that afternoon, reading the multitude of information leaflets we had picked up,  I came across THAT word again. This time as a description to the layers of the cave formation. Mille-feuille!! You can see the layers in the photo. Sharon pushing the rock.jpg

I said to Martin – this word Mille-feuille – it’s following me around – all week it keeps cropping up. How can it be the word for yarrow, and the word for a canape, AND the word for a cake, AND the word for layers of rock?

Yarrow meaning

 

So, we looked in to it and found out that the Latin word for yarrow is Achillea Millefolium – and the species name millefolium refers to the “thousand leaves” of yarrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now it all makes sense…………….

So, next thing on my “to do list” when we are back in France will be to have a Mille-feuille pastry and then I will have had a complete set – unless of course anyone knows any other uses for the word?

 

©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. 

 

 

Wherever I lay my hat…………

Wherever I lay my hat…..

We are a family of hat lovers!! Sian in particular – who has worn a hat of some kind since she was a cute little bubba and had no hair. Carol and Bernard remember Sian from when she visited in 2010 purely on the merits of the little trilby that she used to wear back then.

Hat collage
Even Luka joins in with hat fun!!

I also love hats, but don’t wear them all the time, but Martin on the other hand is very rarely without his hat. Either the winter hat – which is leather, or in summer the lighter material one – but each of them is a distinctive cowboy hat. We call both of them the Gruffalo hat – but the reason for that is an entirely different story.

Gruffalo hats collage
Gruffalo sporting his summer and winter collection

So, my point is really that Martin is easily identifiable by his hat. Which became amusingly apparent this week. But first I need to re-wind a little bit to Friday morning. I’ve been slow to get up in the mornings due to my knee, and Martin has been on dog walking duties as I am not allowed to walk. So he got up, and said he was going to walk the dogs by the lake, use the village toilets (stink them out instead of the motorhome) and did I want anything from the Boulangerie. We only have Pain au Raisin once or twice a week now – on Saturday and sometimes Sunday – as they have about eleventy billion calories each, and we also have stopped buying bread on a daily basis as it’s helping to pile the weight on me. Martin knows this so it really irritated me that he asked about the Boulangerie as once he’d mentioned it I then started thinking about big, juicy raisins in sticky soft squidgey dough….mmmmm….but NO I was to resist it – so I snapped a resolute

“NO THANK YOU but if YOU want something you can get one I suppose CAN’T you”

Martin said that he had just fancied a pain au raisin but he would wait for the weekend. “There you go AGAIN” I said grumpily, “making me want one”. The almost certain knowledge that my current level of inactivity would inevitably pile on the pounds was making me very sensitive.

Anyway, Martin went for the dog walk and nothing more was said. He came back and ate the breakfast that I made for him – chocolate museli from the Bio Coop (a bit like Holland and Barratt meets Rice Up Whole Foods) with fat free yogurt and a melange (assortment) of fresh fruit. Not one word was uttered about the boulangerie, and I had forgotten all about it by then.

So…………..later on that day we had called in to see Carol and Bernard as he was still under the weather. As we were leaving some other visitors turned up – 2 ladies and a man – and we were all introduced to each other by Carol. As we were outside Martin had his hat on. One of the ladies said “I recognise you from the village this morning”. Martin shifted un-easily and said “no, I don’t think so”. “Yes I do – the boulangerie!! You were there this morning – I recognise your hat” she said – pointing to his hat!! Ahh!! The cat was out of the bag – or rather out of the hat!! Martin’s face was a picture!! Guilty as charged!! I found it all highly amusing of course!! That’ll teach him to wear the Gruffalo hat!

Four amigos
The Four Amigos – reunited once again!! I have a huge soft spot for these two extra doggos!!

Saturday – we went back to Beaumont to do some more house sitting. We were greeted like long lost friends by Woody and Belle, and soon the four doggos were once again the four amigos. However, Victoria the goat has now gone to live with some other goatie friends in her new home. I was sad to hear this but very pleased that she is happier with some of her own kind that just the chickens to live with. This means the chickens are now free range, and have the run of the whole place so Luka and Lillie have had a sharp lesson on not chasing chickens. To give them their due they both picked this lesson up very quickly after the threat of a certain and painful tortuous death was made to them by Martin.

As vegetarians (with vegan leanings) we are very conscientious about eating eggs, and try very hard to make sure that we only eat eggs from chickens we know personally and are well looked after. So, we were very pleased that the backyard girls done their thing and produced 3 eggs for us. Breakfast was scrambled egg on toast quite literally straight from the source. Lovely!!

Egg collage
The Backyard Girls doing their thing!!

We had a lovely time with Woody and Belle, so much so that when we were packing up the motorhome ready to leave and Woody jumped in as if to say “where are we going on hollibobs Auntie Sharon” it was really hard to not accidentally on purpose forget to tell him to get out.

Woody in motorhome
Where are we going on holibobs Auntie Sharon?

Later today, we are meeting up with the kit house builder and the architect again and going to see two houses that they have built using the SIPS panels. So hopefully soon there will be some more news on this soon.

But on a more personal note, today marks the 5th anniversary of my dad’s death. The last day of August. I’ll never forget that day. We were in France then as we are now, but that time we were in the Ardennes and just 2 days from being back in the UK. Dad had a consultant appointment in Canterbury and James and I had gone with him. The scan results had revealed that his Stage 4 lung cancer had spread to his brain. A really horrible end to a really horrible cancer journey. At the end of the appointment I had asked for a private word with the consultant. Dad went out with James and when he was gone I asked the dreaded question, explaining that we had a holiday booked – would Dad be around when we got back or did he have less time?. The consultant said that he probably had 1 – 2 months left – maybe less, and to talk to Dad. So that evening, without saying the blatantly obvious “are you going to die when I am away?” I broached the subject with Dad. He was very quick to say that he wanted us to go to France, but only on one condition – that we brought him back some of his favourite cheese. Dad was always a huge cheese lover – as am I – and as far as I knew he liked all cheese, and didn’t particularly have a favourite. “Which one is it” I asked. He said he couldn’t quite remember but it was strong and he thought the name began with R. So, a few days later Martin and I drove off with our landrover and trailer tent on a mission to bring back some cheese beginning with the letter R.

Landrover and trailer tent
See the size of the fridge!! It was literally full of cheese!!

We travelled the length of France right down to the Alps, and every supermarket trip would yield a search for cheeses. I bought some of each….Reblochon, Raclette, Rochebarron. Not convinced it actually began with R I bought others – Saint Paulo, Camembert, Brie. By the time we headed back to the UK our trailer tent fridge was filled with a whole variety of fromages – each wrapped in white waxed paper, and stinking the whole place out! My plan was to take it all back to Dad and let him sample them all and decide which it was.

We knew in our heart of hearts that we were taking a bit gamble on being away, but each phone call suggested that even though Dad was clearly not in good health, he was stable and mostly still living at home with some respite at the local hospice to help him cope with breathing difficulties.

Even so, when we got the phone call that morning from James part of my heart knew what it would be. Yes, he had taken his last breath – quietly and peacefully – while all of us were elsewhere – James, Nicola and Henry on the train to the Butterfly Museum, and us in France. And after the initial upset I’ll be buggered if I didn’t have as clear as a bell in my ears – the bloody cheese – it’s ROQUEFORT!!

It was suddenly so obvious!! Every time we had seen them there was always St Agur to spread over crackers – but of course St Agur is not truly a Roquefort – although in France many cheeses do claim to be. There is only place that it is made and that is Rouquefort-sur-Soulzon.

Recently we were told the legend of Roquefort, and partly because of that and partly because I now always have a proper, sentimental association with Roquefort and my dad, we have decided that we are going to go over to Roquefort-sur-Soulzon for a few days to find out more about it before heading back to the UK to settle number 1 daughter (only daughter Sian) into Uni.

So……there will be more about that next time.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering what happened to all the cheese – we ate it over the period of a good few days, and from that a tradition has been created in that to mark Dad’s birthday, his absence at Christmas, and the anniversary of his death I do a little cheeseboard, light a candle and enjoy a little bit of Roquefort in his honour!! Bon Appetit Dad!! Roquefort in honour of dad

©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.