Put it in perspective

Put it in perspective

It’s been three weeks since my last entry and I have to say that having our little garden house has made a world of difference to our quality of living standards.

Who would think that living in a shed could be so satisfying? If you had sat me down a year ago and told me that I would be nothing short of ecstatic to have a shed to live in during the daytime I would probably have told you that you are mad!! Or sworn!! Or probably both to be honest.

Indeed, I am sure that there are people who are amongst our group of family, friends and acquaintances, both this side and the other side of the English Channel, who must think that we are a bit strange for being so pleased. And there have been a few quizzical looks, and some slightly sarcastic sounding comments about shed parties, but we have just ignored that and been content in our happy little bubble!

Of course, it is all down to perspective isn’t it?

When you are living in a lovely house somewhere, and someone says to you “here you are – a 17m² shed – put some furniture in it and away you go” well, I suppose that idea isn’t very appealing really. But when you have been living in a cramped, increasingly untidier motor home – suddenly the prospect of doubling your living space overnight is a very exciting prospect indeed!! And as such we have been treating our new space just like home – making it a cosy little space, adding some little touches – putting proper spot lights up, buying a bed settee, and most important of all – creating a Gin Den!!

Now, I’m a bit of a light weight where it comes to drinking alcohol as I don’t drink regularly or often (which yes I know is strange in France) so when I do it tends to go straight to my head. Especially with the large measures which are often poured by friends (my mind is now thinking back to the time when Bernard poured me a G&T which I am convinced was not Gin at all – probably rocket fuel – and was at the very least a quadruple measure – and hey ho!! I was pissed before 4.30pm in the afternoon).

But I digress from the Gin Den……

So, I am partial to a nice G&T and like the boutique gins that are widely available in the UK but no so much in France – so I have been collecting bottles – but not using them up – and when I finally got around to putting all the gin bottles in one place – I counted up no fewer than 13 bottles of different brands of Gin!! I just need an excuse for a party now to get some help in drinking them. gin den

Which leads to a dilemma – we now have a little space in which to entertain – which is exciting – but of course we don’t really have toilet facilities for guests. Back in the Autumn we did attempt to erect a toilet tent for when we had a large gathering – but reports back stated it was not a particularly pleasant experience. So, we are mulling this one over as to how we can overcome this – as being a sociable butterfly I really do want to start offering some return invitations to all the people who have been so kind and generous in inviting us over for coffees, meals, over night stays, shower use, washing machine use and so on.

Anyone who has ever been in a caravan or motor home will instantly understand why these toilet facilities are not suitable to offer up for guests. But, for those of you who are not sure…I might expand on this in more detail one day – but for now, please just know that what goes in has to be emptied out by my dear husband. And as much as he loves all our friends – he doesn’t want to know what you had for dinner last night…if you catch my drift. So, if anyone has any ideas for installing a civilised toilet system as an en-suite to a garden room, but without a sewerage system in place – answers on a post card please.

On the house planning side of things not much has happened of late – we are still waiting for some reports to come back before we can submit the house plans. We have had some site plans sent over for us to review but we were not happy with the perspective that the position of the house gave us. So, we’ve had a bit of too-ing and fro-ing between us and the architect. From his perspective he needs to get our house in the plot with the best orientation to utilise the solar power and also to be able to turn cars around without the need to reverse (apparently that’s a French thing) but from our perspective we (especially me) need to satisfy ourselves that we will get the view that we want from our bed – without cricking our neck!! So, we have been out on the land – looking this way and that way – gauging the necessary angle to get the right perspective!! Hopefully we will get there soon, in the grand scheme of things it is better to spend a bit of extra time to get the right result. .

As Duffy says “It’s been a long and uphill journey…getting to where I am today…..it’s been real tough and I’m still learning, that working hard’s the only way ….Put it in Perspective”

Click here to play Put it in Perspective

We have both been busy, me with painting the garden room with wood treatment as we are very keen to get the wood protected before the weather changes for the better – as it is in a very sunny spot so would not take long to get sun damaged if we don’t treat it – so that’s a must for finishing soon.

Martin has had the interesting task of starting to clear out the ruin in preparation for our fur family to get bigger. We are hoping to adopt a couple of barn cats which will be semi-wild and can live in the sheltered part of the ruin. But first, there is about 100 years’ worth of rubbish to remove – and that’s not just the load of old stuff my dad and step-mum put in there – there is disintegrated render which is just powder, rotten tree trunks, mulchy leaves, tiles, stones, bricks…. you name it – we have it. Oh, and cobwebs that are straight out of Arachnophobia III……. shudder! pile of rubble in ruin

It has been all I can bear to stand gingerly by the door and watch poor Martin shovel up spade after spade of shit into a wheelbarrow and then go through the painstaking task of sorting it out into piles of tiles, stones and then rubbish. wheelbarrow

We are keeping the stones as we hope to use them in the dry-stone walling around the edge of the raised terrace of our house, and we think the tiles might make a nice mosaic path somewhere – not sure where yet – but it will definitely need to be a mosaic as the majority of them are broken.

It would appear that dad placed old cupboards on top of the really old rubble before putting their carefully wrapped bundles of belongings on top of that, so the stuff underneath is really, really old. Martin became quite preoccupied with the question “I wonder where the owner’s poop is” as he was shovelling the stuff up. There’s no sign of a bathroom anywhere – but we think we may have sussed out where the original cooking area might have been. Martin also discovered hanging from a beam a tiny, very old key! We have no idea what it’s for – it’s not either of the doors.

Old key

It’s all very exciting as it unfolds, but also very poignant think that my dad’s dreams ended here in this ruin. At some point in time they packaged up their belongings to store here – knowing he was very ill, but at that time not realising they would NEVER return here to complete their dreams. There are really well packaged and labelled up parcels of stuff – which as of yet I have not been in the right frame of mind to even start unpeeling to reveal the contents – but that will come – soon, I think. But there are also piles and piles of damaged items – bags that have begun to decompose once exposed to the sunlight and boxes crushed under the weight of the floor that collapsed in when at some point a huge tree trunk fell straight through the roof!!tree through ruin roof

 

So much stuff damaged – and to think that this was once their life.

The saddest image for me was the sight of dad’s old brown working shoes peeking through a damaged black bin bag.shoe

His shoes that he would have packed away – hoping to return soon to pick up where he left off. And that breaks my heart in some ways, but equally I know that Martin and I would not be living our life here in this way if his dream had not come to an end. So I suppose, again, it all depends on which perspective you look at this from – is it the sad tragedy – or is it the amazing opportunity!!

I know which perspective I prefer to look from.

 

 

Deux Petite Canards

 

Deux petite canards

It’s been another busy week in this 24/7 city that never sleeps ha ha!! Who would have thought that life in a sleepy little village in rural South West France could offer so much in the way of entertainment during the winter months?

I touched on the Birthday Drinks Bar Crawl in my last blog mentioning that we had been out until the unearthly hour of 2am drinking, and that I had a hangover the next day. To be honest I thought that would probably be my last night out this side of Christmas.

But no!! Or should I say “mais non”? This week has seen lots of adventures and late nights. Firstly, we went to celebrate Carol’s birthday at Carole and Bernard’s house on Monday evening where they made us a lovely vegetarian curry, and lots of gin and tonic and red wine was drunk. That was a lovely evening – and very good to see Bernard looking so well after his recent spell in hospital.

Then Tuesday evening we went to play pool – which wasn’t a late night as such, nor a drunken one as by then I had decided to make a concerted start to my December “Pre-tox” in preparation for January’s “De-tox” (for me this means eating no meat (easy as I am a veggie), no wheat, no dairy, and no processed food, and no alcohol for the whole of January. In December I plan to do a “light” version of this which means following the plan for any day which is not a special occasion – so as to avoid it getting in the way of the party season. Anyway, my “boisson de choix” on Tuesday was “Thé Vert Menthe”. I played one game with Peter which was not my finest hour, but then when my second game came around with a bit of coaching from my trainer “Mr Traynor” I managed to surprise myself and everyone else in the back room of “Café de la Poste” by getting a few balls down in one go!! It was my closest game ever…well at least in this decade (I used to play quite well for a girl in my misspent youth). I got down to 1 ball but I still lost!! Peter won 10 games in a row that night – he was on fire!! Sharon playing pool

On Wednesday I decided that now my knee is feeling much better it is about time I started to join Martin on the evening dog walks down to the village. In our former life in Chandlers Ford we used to walk each evening in December after dinner and count how many houses had their Christmas Lights on. Although the houses with lights on are few and far between, the village in itself has some really awesome lights – which we think must be funded and organised by the commune, and are really quite lovely to see. Starting at the end by the Rugby Club bar there are lights which are sort of in the shape of a tree but not quite tree shape – which I have nicknamed Christmas Pile – as it’s reminiscent of a pile – although a pile of what I do not know. Christmas Pile

We can actually see Christmas Pile from our small deck outside the motorhome up on the land and it is very reassuring and comforting to see how close we actually are to civilisation now that the Winter is drawing in.

Then as you walk through the high street there are lights on the Halle, and over the arches of the Hotel du Commerce, in the windows of most, if not all of the businesses as you walk down towards the end. Christmas Lights collage

It all finishes up at the Mairie which has a rather spectacular Christmas Rocket and a Blue Tree. I love it!! The whole walk takes us about 45 minutes if we stretch it out and pause to look at any new lights each evening. It’s great entertainment for us – they say that the best things in life are free and it certainly gives us some fun to look at them. Christmas Rocket and Blue Tree

During this walk we passed the hall where the choir meet – and yes, I did say that maybe we would go back, and then Martin said he would go back even if I didn’t, but actually as we listened to them practicing inside and it was the same “O Salutarius” as before we realised that the choir probably is not for us!! Never mind – we gave it a try but it was not to be!

Thursday heralded the arrival of the replacement doors for the garden house at last!! This means that we can finally crack on and get the raised deck for this, and then the actual garden house erected. And not a moment too soon!! As always, a week or so away does us good but then when we return to this life in the motorhome it doesn’t take long before we feel the strain placed on us through life inside a 21m² home. Two large wet and muddy dogs contribute to a, let’s say “difficult” situation, and tempers sometimes get a little fraught!! Occasionally, an ill-timed comment can lead to a furious exchange of words. For example, Martin discovered that to say the words “why didn’t you bring that in before you started cooking” to an extremely stressed woman who was attempting to cook up a lovely, healthy, nutritionally balanced meal from scratch, with fresh vegetables in approximately 12 inches in total of food preparation space – was not the best thing to say!! He was reminded in no un-certain terms that he would travel far and wide to discover another woman prepared to live in these conditions AND deliver 3 meals from scratch a day and that if he preferred to live in a yurt and eat out of tins he was welcome to try that out…..or something similar…there may have been a few extra words…I can’t quite remember!! Anyway, we won’t dwell on that and are friends again, and he has been working hard on getting the deck done since. This is what we are hoping it will look like when complete, and hopefully this will bring us some reprieve in the way of extra space (and dare I say it the chance to not be in the same room as each other all the time). Garden house

Friday was “cinema date night” for us. We went to watch French film Grande Bain in the village. It’s amusing to say the least that back in the UK we were spoilt with the choice of no fewer than 10 films which each ran a few times a day for many weeks – yet we rarely went to the cinema. Yet here in VduP we get excited when it comes around – the monthly film!! In French, no English sub-titles – just our own imaginations to work out what is going on. This one was quite easy – very similar to The Full Monty but involving a group of fairly lost, middle aged French men who formed a synchronised swimming team! It was very funny and definitely had some “laugh out loud” moments in spite of the language difficulties. And in any case, the cinema is warm and dry, and has comfy seats and enough space to stretch our legs out comfortably!!

And then to conclude our very full week of entertainment, whilst strolling around the village on Saturday morning after popping down to see what all the fuss was about for the Telethon (a fundraising event) and seeing the Pompiers doing a charity car wash and having a guided tour round a fire engine, Fire Engine we bumped in to Beatrice and Bruno who invited us to the Bingo that evening. Now, during the Bar Crawl when I was, let’s say a little tipsy, I had a conversation with Beatrice about the possibility of becoming her Bingo caller at the campsite next season…so this seemed the perfect opportunity to find out more about French Bingo. So, we said we would love to go!!

Beatrice said doors open at 7pm but Bingo starts at 9pm, so we arranged to meet them there about 8pm. We figured that if it started at 9pm we would be finished by 1100. We got settled down, had a cup of tea and a crepe, and a chat with Beatrice and Bruno whilst we waited. The French system involves buying Bingo cards as it does in the UK, but instead of marking the numbers with a pen you re-use your card – and cover the numbers with counters. The regular Bingo goers all have a fancy magnetic counter holder, but we had to borrow some counters from Beatrice and Bruno from their campsite game.Counter holder

Like the UK though the players often have a lucky charm to touch to bring them luck. There was a lady at another table with a little Buddha, and the French lady next to me had a little duck. I told Beatrice that in the UK I might have had a lucky pen, but as we didn’t need pens that would not be the case. I quietly wondered if now might be the time to consider my knickers to be “lucky pants” but once I found out what some of the prizes would be, I changed my mind and decided that tonight it would be the taking part that would be important and not the winning!!

Just before 9pm the very lovely Vicky announced the Bingo would soon start and the balls were placed into the dispenser. All went quiet…eyes down…. you could hear a pin drop. The numbers were announced one at a time …in French of course!! Beatrice and I soon worked out a system that would not only help me improve my understanding of French numbers, but would also ensure that I did not miss any. I listened to the number…attempted to work out what it was, clarify with Beatrice and then she would place her counter after I placed mine. So, each time a number was called I would say, quietly…what I thought was the number in English. I hoped I was not distracting the French lady next to me but she didn’t seem to be annoyed. We had a lot of giggles during the games, and I discovered that I have some serious mental blocks with certain numbers – including 84 – which is quatre-vingt-quatre – I was convinced that this was 88 each time – which raised a laugh and Bruno’s eyebrows!! Both Martin and I found the way that Vicky said the number ten – Dix, Cinq et Cinq (10, 5 and 5) to be hilarious and couldn’t really understand why, until Beatrice explained that Dix sounds a lot like Six (6) and then we really cracked up laughing when Vicky announced Six, Trois et Trois (6, 3 and 3). But, on a serious note, my improvement from the first game to the last game was about 200%. The French lady next to me actually commented to Beatrice about how well I had improved from the start to the finish. It was a great way to get my head around the number system, which I have to say is a little weird. I mean 1 to 10 makes perfect sense, 11 to 19 is reasonable, 20 to 69 is very straight forward, but then… 70 is 60,10, 60,11, etc. And then it gets really weird – 80 is 4, 20…how weird is that? Then 90 is 4, 20, 10. Martin made this observation to Bruno who smiled, raised his eyebrows and then laughed and said “yeah… Five Ty – right”. We all laughed – there are flaws in both languages.

There were so many games!! We started at 9pm and had a 15-minute break about 1030pm, at this point I thought the Bingo had finished and we then moved on to the Basket (tombola) but no, there were even more games of Bingo following on from this. I will say this for the French system – you certainly get your money’s worth. We paid €5 for 6 cards each and played these over and over again – the reusable cards are a great idea!!

So, the aforementioned prizes. Unlike the UK which often has cash prizes, in France the prizes are food, wine, or objects. In this case…. for many of the games the prize was either “Foie Gras” or Ducks. Not just any old duck – proper, legs akimbo, little feet poking out of its wrapper – ready to cook duck. So, this found me switching between a silent mantra of “oooh chocolate – let me win” to “please, no, not the duck”.

Martin actually had a “sweat on” for a line. A “sweat on” is where you are down to one number. He was waiting for the number 22 which as any English person will know is “two little ducks”. Ironically, the prize for this round was indeed “deux petite canards” which thankfully Martin did not win.

Later, as we were leaving, happy and laughing at 1230AM, we saw the “canards” leaving the building in a most unceremonious way over the shoulders of Laurent who was carrying them out for the lady who won them.

Early night for us tonight I think!!

©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. 

If I had a hammer

It’s all go this week and very exciting!! Our architect has been working on the plans so our portfolio is nearly ready to go off to the planning – but we are still waiting for the Levels Survey to be completed. That will tell us how sloped the different parts of our land are so we know how high up the pilings need to be. Hopefully we will end up with a raised decked terrace which will lead right out into the woodland which will be our idea of paradise! We just can’t wait – but even if the plans were submitted tomorrow, we are still looking at it being next Autumn before a liveable house is in situ. So, we still have a long journey to go.

To make life a bit easier we have plans to erect a few out-buildings. Now, in France you need planning permission to put up anything over 5m². So, the first shed is a small one which falls under that size. In the short term it is for storage, but in the longer term it will be a potting shed as it is where our vegetable garden will be. How exciting to be thinking about growing our own vegetables!!

We went for dinner with friends twice this week and had two lovely vegetarian meals cooked for us. Such a treat to be cooked for, and also to be able to sit in the comfort of their homes and have some space, and lovely company and chat too!! The meal that Frieda made was all with veggies from her own garden and it just really excites me to think I will be able to do that soon!! Fresh home-grown veggies really do taste so much better, and of course it will be wonderful to eat whatever is in season.

Back in the UK one of my lovely friends has set up a Facebook page called One Pledge and is urging people to make just one pledge to do something that will help the planet. My pledge is to eat locally grown produce as much as possible and to reject vegetables that are wrapped in plastic in the supermarkets. So, just think how much help my own veggie garden will be with that!! Why not click on to her page and make your own pledge?

So, the shed has been assembled during this week. All of our land is sloping – the top bit where the house will be not so much so, but once you get down a level then it becomes very steep – so Martin had to first construct a small deck to get something flat enough to put it on. Here’s a little video of him working. Even Lillie helped out (well her idea of helping of course). Lillie helping to build the shed

Our neighbour Pierre has also been busy working on their house and garden, so all week long there has been a symphony orchestra of power drills and hammers between Martin and Pierre. When one of them stops, you can hear the other. A bit like bird call to each other

But, it’s lovely to hear the sounds of productivity!! And to see our plans, hopes and dreams finally taking shape. I know this will sound very trite, but when we stood out on the little deck this evening, with the little shed finally finished, and we saw this huge, beautiful red squirrel charging up and down a tree – really close to us – and it all felt a little bit overwhelming – in a good way – but I just had a little tear of happiness as it really is all starting to come together.finished shed

So much wildlife here – in fact, we are seeing so many birds of prey out on each walk or drive that we do I said to Martin the other day “do you think they will end up like elephants”? He laughed and said “hope not”. This is a standing joke between us, (Sian and Ryan may also remember too). When we went to Kenya in 2009 and were lucky enough to go on a 2-day safari in Tsavo East we saw so many amazing animals – zebras, lions, giraffes – and ELEPHANTS!! Lots and lots of elephants. The first few times we were “wow”, but after two days were “oh it’s only elephants” and we just couldn’t believe that in just two days we were anything less than totally amazed by seeing elephants.

Our French is coming along a little bit too. In order to help with this, we have joined the French choir – and both went along nervously on Wednesday. Much to our bemusement the first song we practised was not even French!! It was a 16th Century religious hymn in Latin – O Salutaris. It was my idea of a nightmare:

1) Old style religious singing

2) I didn’t have the first clue what I was singing which always makes me feel uncomfortable and

3) My vocal range is just not cut out for that sort of song anyway

I shifted around, muttering the odd sounds, and feeling very out of my depth for the longest time, vowing to only stay until the end so as to not offend anyone and to ensure that Carol did not lose the Brownie points that she was sure to have gleaned by taking not one, but two new victims – sorry recruits!! However, after that things did improve and we practised some much more uplifting songs which I enjoyed a bit more – and Martin enjoyed a lot! So, we know have the situation in which Martin really does want to go back and I’m not so sure. I did end up really liking the song “Je Suis Un Homme” despite really not being very happy when Carol told me one of the lines was “I am the king of pigs” – I really do object to such speciest lyrics – but when I found the lyrics on You Tube it actually is “I am the King of Pricks”. Hmmm?? I’m not sure to be honest – which is worst to be King of? Pigs or Pricks? You tell me!! screen shot king of pricks

 

©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. 

 

 

 

Fifty shades of ……Autumn

Fifty shades of…………Autumn

Everywhere I look at the moment there is colour! Stunning, beautiful shades of green, yellow, rust, ruby….and it seems that every time I open my mouth to speak, I am saying “isn’t it beautiful”, “look at those colours”, “aren’t we lucky to live here”. And we are…. very blessed. It is a truly beautiful time of the year in rural South West France. The leaves are still on the trees – just, and they have changed in to a wonderful carpet of muted shades of autumn…simply stunning.

I’ve always loved Autumn – it is my favourite time of the year. I like the way that the earth is getting back what it needs to regenerate itself – a bit like Doctor Who!! Some people see it as a sad time of year as nature is dying, but no, I see it as the necessary process required for rebirth. It’s a great time for us humans to hunker down, snuggle up during the darker, colder evenings…and give ourselves whatever it is we need. Whether that be a good rest after the craziness of the summer, or simply just time to take stock and work out what it is we need…not want, but truly need.

For me and Martin the colder evenings have been spent poring over house plans – tweaking ideas from draft plans 2 and 3, and having video calls with our architect, Rob, and now at last we have reached final draft stage and have the layout of our dream home. Side elevationFinally, we can begin to dream about where next year will take us, and the life we will be able to live in our new home.

The colder evenings have also brought lots of concern about our well-being in our life in the motorhome and we have had lots of kind offers of hot showers, a place to sit and do some work, the use of a washing machine, and invitations round to dinner. We are truly blessed with some lovely friends here. We were even offered the use of a house to stay in over Christmas by our neighbours but we are actually going to be back in the UK for Christmas – but even so – it was very kind of them to offer. It reminded me actually of when we first arrived here in our February trip and put up an event shelter in the snow. They had thought that we were camping and would freeze to death so they had discussed amongst their selves and decided that we could have Alice’s pigeonnierre to sleep in and she would move in to the main house. So kind, and yet at that stage we had not done one single little favour for them. We have been really moved by the kindness of people who are not returning favours that have been done for them – these are genuine acts of kindness – and we honestly cannot wait until the time when we can return those offers of dinner, and when people’s showers blow up, we will be the first to invite them over to use ours. Such a lovely sense of community there is over here. Our neighbours have an abundance of rocket and chard at the moment, so last night’s dinner for us was a rocket salad with calendula petals from the bounty we came away with when we nipped over, and tonight’s dinner was sweet potato, peanut and chard stew made with the chard she gave us. Rocket and calendula salad with goats cheese toastsThat’s another aspect of life over here that I really love – the eating of fresh, seasonal veggies. Essentially if you cannot get it in the local shops, its not in season so you cannot have it. This is making us much more in tune with the seasons, with nature and more in touch with where our food is coming from. For us, being veggies, we no longer really think about the food chain as such, but it does still apply to us in that we are not only reducing our carbon foot print by eating seasonal stuff – it must be so much better for us – it’s not travelled far – literally only a few metres in the case of the rocket and chard, and often no chemicals and no crappy processing methods.

So, all in all the Autumn is proving to be a happy time for me!! I’ve been feeling much more upbeat and it has really helped that I’ve been able to get out doing some decent walks again.

Sharon and doggos by lake.jpg

I now have a couple of ladies who I have been walking with and it’s good to have a chat, put the world to rights, and generally enjoy this beautiful weather and scenery we have been getting. I had to giggle one morning last week, when my friend was making drinks for the two of us, and also her hubby who was outside working. She got a large silver whistle and gave a very loud and shrill blast on it to call him in!! He obediently came in for his tea, and I laughed with them about what I good idea that was and how well trained he is. My friend explained it stops the need for shouting out. Great idea I thought…. I’m always shrieking for Martin when he is busy down past the stone wall on our land.

When I got back home to Martin later on, I put the kettle on and when the drinks were ready, I spotted the dog whistles hanging by the door. Giggling I gave a large, long blast on one. And, sure enough – ten seconds later, a bemused looking Martin popped his head up from over the wall. I congratulated him on coming when called and joked he would make a good slave for me, and maybe I should now consider myself to be a dominatrix. To which he told me to get stuffed in no uncertain terms. Boring……..after all there are all these long evenings in the motorhome!!!

We were doing a house sit for a few days this week, and I spotted in the pile of books in the bedroom that infamous grey cover…Yes!! Fifty Shades of Grey….”Martin! Maybe we could get the dog whistle out again??” “What do you mean no chance ha ha” …oh well, we’ll just have to settle on the hot tub again!!

Fifty shades of grey maybe not….but the view from that hot tub was certainly Fifty Shades of Autumn!!

View from hot tub

©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. 

Vive La Difference! But….we have more in common than that divides us

Vive La Difference….but, we have far more in common than that divides us

100 years ago, the guns silenced, marking the end of the First World War. Today, in a sleepy little village in South West Rural France about 150 people from various countries marked that occasion in a manner not dissimilar to other events held elsewhere in Europe.Memorial procession

Confusingly for me, although the church bells rang out #ATouteVolee at 1100the chatter did not stop, and the hustle and bustle of the Autumn Fayre continued. As Martin and I walked up the high street he persisted in talking about something until I snapped “are you NOT going to observe a minute’s silence?”. He hadn’t realised it was 1100. We both noted that it was strange, but we figured the silence would take place at the start of the memorial event at 1130. But it did bother me….all my life I have stopped and taken that minute’s silence at 1100. So, I asked people “why not silence at 1100” and the answer was simply that, typically in France the memorial services are at 1100 but here in rural South West France there are other events going on so people are needed at more than one event, so the events are sometimes staggered. Notably, the Bastille Celebrations that should be on 14th July take place in Villefranche du Perigord on 13th July so as to not compete with the larger, neighbouring events.

Ah, so that answered my nagging question. Another difference was the lack of poppies, which of course are a Royal British Legion thing -intended to raise money for that particular cause. So the poppies were few and far between, and none to be sold in the preceding weeks of course. I did spot a few blue poppy shape stickers, which on research afterwards I realised are Bleuet de France – the French version of Poppies.Bleuet de France

I still wore my perpetual bling crystal poppy brooch that I bought years ago – considering at the time that the cost of this would be my donation to the RBL for many, many years, but now actually in hindsight it is a good thing to have so I can mark 11th November in the way that I like to.

The memorial service was lovely – all in French of course, and I listened intently to see if I could pick up more of what was said that I had been able to during the one in May….a little bit more I think. Most poignant was the reading of the names of “Nos Morts” by a couple of young children – who proudly read aloud the names of those who had given their lives in the 1st and 2nd World Wars. I had a few tears with the emotion of it – just as I always have done on previous occasions. We are always reminded of the sacrifices made – no matter where we are in the world – on days like this.Nos Morts

After the main service we went over to “La Salle de Reunion” where the choir sang a song in French – it may have been a popular song – I do not know, it was not familiar, but it was lovely to listen to. Then the choir sang the British National Anthem – which made me stand tall and proud and I sang, albeit very quietly and awkwardly under my breath, feeling a bit out of place. Then, this was followed by La Marseillaise – the French National Anthem which then made me feel a little embarrassed that I do not know as single word of this iconic song!! So, I vowed to learn it by the next memorial event. In saying this to my friend who is in the choir, a conversation then arose by the end of which I had agreed to give the choir a go!! Oh dear – what have they let themselves in for? Still, this will be a good opportunity to learn some French, and integrate with some new people which is so important in such a small community.

What really struck me with this event is that there was maybe 150 people there – which represents quite a significant proportion of the local population. All those people turning out to show respect to the people who laid down their lives so we could stand here today. By comparison, the last Armistice Day I attended was in 2016, in Southampton – a huge city with a population of 254,000, and yet there were only about 20 people turned out at 1100 to stand in the rain and mark their respects. Admittedly, that was during a week day and not all employers would allow staff to just take their tea break outside – but at the time I was a bit of a rebel and just done my own thing anyway!!

I may have been feeling a particular need to show respect that year as it was the year that I finally went to visit the grave of my Great Grandad Hubert Doe in his final resting place at Cabaret Rouge Cemetery near Arras. His death in the 1st World War was what I now believe to be the trigger point for a whole load of weird family dynamics that subsequently occurred in our family. His death broke my Great Nan Louisa’s heart, and of course my Nan Winifred lost her dad as a young girl. Louisa then went on to marry a friend of his – Alfred Coggin. He had lots of issues from the war – probably shell shock, and became a not-so-nice step dad to Winifred and then later a dad to Stanley. We don’t think that he was much missed after he died in the 1930’s. Then Stanley grew up and joined the Royal Air Force and within a few flights was lost on a bombing raid to Mannheim May 19th 1942. StanleyThe loss of first Hubert, then Alfred and then Stanley to Louisa and Winifred caused them to view boys as more precious than girls, which then in turn led to my own mum Patricia feeling less important than her brother as they grew up. Then even me as I grew up wondering why my brother could get away with so much more than I could. Of course, back in those days with the great British stiff upper lip, neither my Great Nan, or my Nan spoke about feelings which would have meant that all this strange stuff was never interpreted for what it was, just feelings of inadequacy were felt with no associated rationale. It’s only in recent years when me and Martin with our curiosity in war time history and my need to unpick and understand every complex reasoning behind behaviour, that we have perhaps unravelled the root cause of our own rich tapestry of crazy family life! We also came across this very poignant audio clip  when digging up wartime history – it’s the sound of the bomber that Great Uncle Stanley made his last flight in – leaving the UK. It’s hard to not wonder what our family would have been like had that plane not been shot down that night. But we ALL have this shared history – every single one of us has someone in our past who was affected by those wars – and that has shaped who we are – whether for good or bad, and whether we like it or not.

It’s things like this that make me truly believe that we should not live our lives from behind a filter and we should open up and share our vulnerabilities and ask for help when needed – after all we are all human, and surely none of us sail through life without any assistance at all – even if that help is just the occasional wind behind our sails – encouraging us to continue forward – or maybe choose another course.

And that’s why I found myself doing something that I rarely do these days – sticking up for someone I don’t even know in real life on Facebook. This lady blogs about life as a mum, but unlike some of the perfect air-brushed yummy mummy bloggers, she tells it how it really is. And one of her posts had been a hilarious account of how she tried to get her boobs to fit in to a backless bra. A very unkind other mummy had really had a go at her for doing this, and in reading the resulting onslaught I felt compelled to express my own opinion which was quite simply “she is writing about HER life! And if you don’t like it then unfollow her blog, don’t read it”. And that is exactly how I feel. We all only have one life, and the way we life it will determine lots of things, including our own happiness, and if people don’t like us for living our “real, unfiltered life” what should we do? Pretend that our life is different, and more appealing to the people who don’t like us for our “real life”. Or, find people that do like us for living our own “real, unfiltered life”. For me it’s got to be the latter – I would get totally exhausted if I were to be living two life’s – it’s hard enough living one. And the people that like the way I live my life will enjoy being with me and want to spend time with me, and the people that don’t like it will drift away from my life. But, my life – the good, the bad, and the ugly – will be lived – true to myself, real, and unfiltered. ( if you fancy following her she is blogging on Facebook as – Knee Deep in Life )

So, our new life in France is sometimes challenging, and sometimes in finding our way we express frustrations, and I suppose sometimes that might seem as if we might prefer to be living our old lives in the UK. But, that’s not the case – we love our lives in France – we love the simplicity of life – although sometimes it is that simplicity that drives us crazy, we love the natural beauty of the countryside – although the extremes of weather that allow that beauty are sometimes worth grumbling about in a typically British fashion, and we love the slow little village that we have chosen as home, that gets so sleepy in Winter that we have to resort to playing scrabble!! And the people that are all co-existing around us – many of them have been on the same journey, some of them are still wondering why they made that jump across the channel 11 years ago, some will feel that their lives are now truly French, and some will be one foot in the tunnel ready to hop back if Brexit hits the fan.

All of us humans are unique, but as the late, great Jo Cox (murdered MP) once said – “We have far more in common than that divides us” so I think we owe it to each other to embrace our differences and allow each other to be ourselves.

©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. 

Ghosts and ghouls, three legged beasties and things that go bump in the night

Ghosts and ghouls, and three-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night

There’s spooky stuff going on around here this week. Squash’s of all shapes and sizes are appearing everywhere Squash on chair and despite me always thinking the French didn’t really celebrate Halloween much there are definitely creepy things lurking in the shadows.

Even in the Boulangerie window there is a sweet little display of carved pumpkins Cute pumpkin display although this was not as sinister as the display in our favourite vegetarian restaurant in Monpazier – who knows what you can eat at the Blood Café sign but I doubt very much it was vegetarian.Blood Cafe Halloween is definitely not as big in France as in the UK or the states, but you can find trick and treat sweets in the shops. But….we did not actually see any trick or treating children on the evening itself so just as well that we didn’t stock up on sweets.

Halloween falls right in the middle of La Toussaint which is widely celebrated in France and is actually a public holiday! Yes, another day with the shops shut – but we are getting used to it. La Toussaint is celebrated on 1st November – it is Two Saints Day – a Christian celebration which remembers the dead. Traditionally chrysanthemums are taken to cemeteries to place on graves of loved ones, and these flowers are only associated with death in France – so not the best choice to take around to a neighbour!! Which luckily I didn’t but I did wonder why there were so many in the shops.Chrysanthemums

So, you can see why Halloween has not been too popular in France – for many people it seems as if it is overshadowing long standing traditions. And the French definitely do not like their traditions coming under threat – which is fair enough!!

Another tradition is of course the hunting season – or the Chasse as it is known. This is more of an institution than tradition and very much part of life in rural France. It’s a dilemma for me, as on the one hand I can see that it is very much part of French life. Also the wild boar (Sanglier) which are hunted would otherwise over-run the countryside. But on the other hand, I just hate anything to do with violence towards any living creature. So, it is fair to say that it is a part of life in France that I do my best to avoid. I’m actually really quite scared to go out walking in the country lanes – so I have taken to wearing neon orange walking top, socks and cap in the hope that if there are any hunters out on the prowl they will see me before they shoot!! Neon Orange Gear 2

This week we did actually see some hunters whilst out driving – two of them with one dog – and as we drove past I urged Martin to slow down “don’t hit the dog” then we saw a wild boar run across the road! Then it was “slow down there might be another” and quickly followed by “shit go faster they might be following with guns”. It’s all a bit too much for my nerves. Then I felt really sad for the Wild Boar and got a bit tearful. Then told myself “C’est la vie”. But I still wish it wasn’t. It’s not always easy being vegetarian and very sensitive in France, but “Je suis comme ca” – that’s the way I am. Wild Boar

 

We have seen lots of different wildlife over the last few weeks as well as that wild boar. Dead snakeWe saw a dead snake – well it might have been a snake skin – but definitely dead (I know that for sure as Lillie decided to roll in it – disgusting little dog that she is).

We also saw a fire salamander who has decided to make its home in our water supply box. Fire Salamander

Maybe it’s because of being spooked by Halloween and Toussaints, or maybe I’m just a bit jumpy because of the Chasse – but I’m also seeing things that are not actually there – for example this giant frog sitting on the edge of road suddenly appeared,Giant frog 2 And I’m certain that this Troll has been following me home from my walks.TrollAnd the other night I heard some banging outside the motor home but luckily when I looked out it was just Martin going “bump in the night”. Martin going bump in the night

And then finally….our second Bar Crawl took place this weekend. Great fun was had by all, but look at us!! You would not want to bump into us down a dark alley would you!! Bar Crawl

 

©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 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.