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. 

 

 

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. 

Bonjour, Buongiorno and Allo Allo

Temperature chart I’m sitting outside writing this in 35° heat and it is nearly 9pm!! It’s been too hot to write, too hot to type, too hot to do anything really. But, as it is a few weeks since I last blogged I thought I should get up to date.

 

 

 

I’ve been away on a little break to Italy with my daughter Sian to celebrate the end of her A Levels and spend a bit of quality mother and daughter time before she heads off to Uni in September. We went to Lake Garda where I was spoilt with the luxury of air conditioning, a shower that spouted forth a continuous supply of water for as long as desired, and a swimming pool! All of this was very much appreciated after a few months of living in the motorhome. As were the spectacular views of Lake Garda every time we went out – such a stunning place to visit.

As always “Gaffe Femme” managed to sustain a few holiday injuries as seems to be inevitable. This time it was (in no particular order)

  • a burst blood vessel in my left eye which rendered me looking like a vampire for the first 3 days. This was very unfortunate when meeting our fellow hotel guests as they probably thought I was straight out of the Twilight series – or a very heavy drinker!!
  • a bruised left foot which made walking and jogging painful, and sadly climbing up Monte Baldo totally unachievable
  • gastric issues of an unidentified nature. My hunch is that it was the red wine vinegar I put on my salad the first night but whatever it was it lasted for 5 out of the 7 days of the holiday and took two lots of over the counter medication to get sorted out, but luckily no need to see an Italian doctor
  • sore right knee – not sure what happened here but I think it has just come out in sympathy for my left foot

So, let’s just say that I had more than my fair share of unwanted attention whilst hobbling around the hotel with my blood shot eye, grimacing face (from the stomach issues) and limping (from the bruised foot and sore knee).

As well as the injuries sustained we also had a number of “near death” experiences which were fondly referred to by everyone at our dinner table (we were seated with two other pairs as a table of 6) as ND’s. Every evening the other 4 people would enquire if we had had any more ND’s and laugh about our antics. The most significant of the NDs was probably when I nearly drowned off the back of a pedalo!! Sharon drowning

At the time it was really, really scary, but we were soon laughing about it!! The most serious ND involved a trip to a public toilet in pitch black….but that really is another story for another time.

 

 

 

Sian was keen to practice her Italian, especially having just had a week in Sorrento already, and a further trip to Venice planned. I imagine by the end of the summer she will live up to the song by Bananarama Robert De Niro’s Waiting

Unlike me of course…. who after a few months of desperately trying to learn a few words of French got completely confused by having to say Buongiorno instead of Bonjour and Si instead of Oui. In shops I was saying Merci Beaucoup instead of Grazia much to the bemusement of people.

Never mind…. now I am back I can concentrate on acting out the lead character in ‘Allo ‘Allo once again!! Already I have been mocked by the old French man at the market for not understanding him talking to me in English.

So, now I am back to no air con and sleepless nights, and the closest thing to a swimming pool is the little paddling pool area I created this week. Paddling pool.jpgBut it does the job – keeps me cool. We felt bad having our own little pool whilst the doggos were so hot though – so we got them one each as well!! Luka took to it like a duck to water (so to speak) but Lillie was a bit more difficult to persuade to keep still. Luka paddling pool

Lillie paddling pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, there was a rather lovely surprise awaiting me when I got back. Martin had done loads of work, levelling off part of the land enough to park the motorhome actually on the plot instead of on the track next to it. And, he had added a few special touches to it – an event shelter to give us a summer kitchen and a new bench. Marsha in new locationWhen you have been living on a track for 6 weeks believe me, it is very special to then actually be properly situated on the land that we now actually own!! Yippee!!

Oh, that and a special welcome home dinner!! Heart in melon Martin was in my very good books for at least a day or so for all of that

 

 

 

 

 

 

– but it was soon back to beating him into working hard on the land and this week and seen a lot of hard graft. Some small trees being chain sawed, a composting system made out of old pallets, and the start of a rear walk way at the back boundary being made so that the young children from next door and the lovely, but increasingly aging Alice, will still be able to have a snicket (i) short cut through to the village without encroaching on our privacy.

Our surroundings are constantly changing and evolving and the landscape is not staying the same for a moment. It’s hard to believe that it is just a year since we called by here for “old times sake” to see what had become of Dad and Ann’s forgotten land and now, here is something completely transformed from what it was then, even when they were working on the land it was not then as clear as it is now. Martin cutting down acacia

And it’s not just our land that changes the landscape and outlook. The meadow opposite belonging to Madame C (the Portuguese lady) has now been strimmed by her son on his annual month-long visit from Mauritius – and we woke one morning to the sight and sound of a field of sheep. We honestly don’t need any animals of our own to make it feel like we are living on a small holding (but don’t tell that to Luka and Lillie – they might feel under threat of eviction). Sheep in meadow

(i) Snicket – cut through/alley way as used by people from Ooop North

©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. 

Oi you! Get orf my land!

It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind since we’ve been back on French soil. Our trip down went well, with me following Martin in the new pick up truck. My first time ever at doing the long drive, and apart from a few tense moments involving large trucks and a miscommunication between us as to how long a chain of vehicles I was prepared to risk my life for in overtaking, it was OK – better than I had anticipated really.

The 3 Amigos

Once back in Villefranche-du-Perigord our first priority was to report for housesitting duties for Sue and Paul in Fraysinnet – we were looking after their super cute little wire-haired dachshund called Prune overnight whilst they went off and had some fun. This meant we had the use of their house – including jet propelled shower and a swimming pool – which was brilliant. The weather was not as hot as it had been for the few days beforehand – but still warm enough for me to make very good use of the pool – although Martin couldn’t be tempted in.

 

Then we spend the weekend busy strimming back some of the brambles and weeds that seem to grow back as soon as we look away for just a few minutes. We remember very well Dad and Ann saying that their frequent trips back to the UK resulted in a perpetual battle of the brambles. We are determined to get a sensible balance between visiting those we love and actually really starting to forge out a life for ourselves here and not let the grass grow under our feet too much.

Monday was a momentous day indeed!! We had our appointment with the Notaire to complete the transfer of land ownership. Because of the lateness in us being send bank details to make the payment we had half expected that the appointment would be delayed – but to our absolute joy we turned up, and one hour and lots of paper signing later – I walked out of his office the proud owner of three small plots of very special, and magical land in rural South West France!! Transfer of ownership documentIt felt surreal to think that just a few years ago Dad and Ann would have been sitting in that same office doing the same thing – excited with their own plans – obviously not knowing that their dreams would be shattered just a few years later. Part of the reason for us doing what we are doing is to honour their dreams, but of course we have our own dreams to fulfil too. To celebrate we went to Charlotte’ s for a Café Gourmand – something we have been promising ourselves as a treat ever since coming here but never quite finding a good enough reason to have 4 pieces of cake all at once before.Cafe Gourmand

Much to Martin’s disgust my new catch phrase of “oi you! Get off my land!” still hasn’t lost its novelty value.

The first thing we done after this very important RDV (that’s the French abbreviation for rendezvous) was to drive to Belves to the Sogedo office. Sogedo is the local supplier of water. Water, as we have found is such an important commodity. When we drove down in February we had been alarmed to find that the water taps had been turned off at ALL of the Aires on our route to Villefranche-du-Perigord. 100 litres of water was all we had on board and we had watched the level gauge go down and down, realising that our plans to “wild camp” in the Aires was to be scuppered if we could not find one with the water turned on and we would have to find a campsite that was open (also a rare commodity in February). However….we were delighted to find that Villefranche has an Aire that stays open all year round!.

So, the concept of water supply is to us, something that we are acutely aware of it’s importance. Now we have been camping up on the land it’s been lovely in the sense that we can spread out a bit, but a complete pain in the butt to have to drive down to the Aire every couple of days to fill up with water. 100 litres soon goes!!

So, that’s why we were so keen to go to Sogedo. It was a hot, hot day and we had the doggos in the back of the pick up truck, so when we arrived my priority was them of course. We ventured into the office – “parlez vous Anglais” “Non, but my colleague does” – colleague came to front desk. “Merci beaucoup” I said – “but first of all, it is very very hot out there and our dogs are in the car – is it possible that they could come in here”. “Yes of course!”. So, just a few minutes later Luka and Lillie are laying on a lovely cool tile floor, having a snooze whilst we concentrated on the important business of getting a water supply. The trouble was that Sogedo were certain there was already a water meter, and we were certain that there was not. Our previous searches had previously only revealed the isolation tap, never a water meter. Anyway, Corrina the lovely dog friendly French lady said that they would send someone out to sort it out. “How long?” we asked – expecting “un mois…maybe deux mois” as has been the case with EVERYTHING else. You could have knocked us over with a feather when she said “tomorrow”. So, off we went back “home” – really pleased that soon we would have water sorted out.

Next morning, I was at the land alone when a Sogedo van arrived. A bit of an exchange in “a little English, a little French” and the man soon had the water supply turned on at the isolation tap. But now the important issue of the water meter. I explained the best I could that we did not know where it was, he asked where the house was. I said “we have no house yet, we are going to be building one”. “no, the little house”. “Ah, the ruin?” and pointed down the slope in to the woodland. He started to climb down through the thick undergrowth and I said “no, no you will be torn apart with thorns” and showed him the track we have cut through. I went to get decent boots on, and by the time I got down there the man was kicking off get big chunks of dead tree from the concrete lid to a water meter box!! “Voila!” Inside was revealed a very old tap (“be very careful” he said “it is very fragile”) and a 2-foot piece of fairly new hose pipe. l'eau de la vie.jpgOur mystery was solved – this was the water meter that Dad and Ann had installed about 6 years previously – with just 3 cubic meters used on the meter. This makes perfect sense as they would have, like us, needed a utility bill to get other important things like car registration etc. sorted out.

“How did you know it was here” I asked the man – and he said that it was him who closed the meter 3 years previously (it was actually 5 years but in such a poignant moment I did not want to correct him”.

Running water

 

So….we now have “l’eau de vie” – on tap! Hurry! It has already made such a difference to not have to worry so much about filling up. We still need to do the toilet (back of pick up truck down to the Aire to go into the chemical toilet disposal point) and the grey water (large buckets then thrown in the woodland). But, it’s a good feeling!!

 

 

 

 

After the excitement of the water I decided to start getting a feel for what the areas of the land will be so that we can begin to landscape it to suit our needs. When I say “landscape” I don’t mean landscape as in your traditional sense by any stretch of the imagination. Just more like organising it into zones. So, I know have a hammock gently rocking in the trees which is roughly in the place where our bedroom will be.Happy in my hammock.jpg

And I have the very beginnings of a Zen garden on one of the dropped terraces – which in time will become a Meditation and Yoga area – maybe with some natural arches providing a beautiful backdrop to my daily practice (which has dropped off of late much to my disappointment). We have lots of ideas and vision for this land. Some of the plans change when we realise that a spot is either too sunny, or not sunny enough for our intended use, but that’s very much the beauty of living in the motorhome up there as we can see how it is 24/7, and as the seasons change.Zen Garden.jpg

The soil is great over here

 

Our neighbour Violene kindly gave me two baby tomato plants when I told her I was starting to create a garden. For a joke I showed her this photo the next day and told her that the soil must be great in these parts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of birthday cards

 

This week also marks Martin’s 59th Birthday and our 9th Wedding Anniversary. He had a full letter box of cards waiting for him on his birthday – but actually only one of them really did come through the mail – I played a prank on him by placing all the cards that people in the UK had given me to bring back.

 

 

 

 

 

9 years anniversaryWhen we got married 9 years ago we never dreamt we would be living full time in a motorhome on a track next to a bit of woodland – that’s certainly not what he promised me!! But then again, I’m sure he’d say “I beg your pardon – I never promised you a rose garden”. And it’s true – along with the sunshine there’s gotta be a little rain some time. And as I sit here writing this I’m hoping that we get a bit of rain this evening and it’s absolutely stinking hot – too hot really!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, the final event worth noting for this week is of course the World Cup. I don’t usually follow the footy but of course when it’s something as important as the World Cup I’ll make an exception. We watched the France v Belgium game on Tuesday and were excited to see them win. On Wednesday we were discussing the potential dilemma that the England v Croatia game posed. If England were to win they would then be playing France. So…who to cheer for!! Country of origin or country of residence? Or both? Anyway, it didn’t pan out that way for England which was a huge shame and would have made this evening’s match very interesting. Then again…as I am writing this I am listening the television at the campsite bar (we came down to watch the match) and France has just won 4:2 – and that’s a really exciting thing!! Aren’t we lucky – to be living in a country that we love and it’s the World Cup holder!!hashtag dilemma

 

Inlaws, Outlaws and Aliens

Wow, it’s been over a month since my last blog entry. This was a deliberate move on my part as, after careful consideration I decided that I would not do a weekly blog during our trip back to the UK as it was not all directly related to #projectFrance. However, I feel that a summary of our month long trip would be a good idea.

So, we embarked on our 1000km trip back to the UK on 1st June. The primary reason for the trip back was to provide moral support if necessary for our youngest who has been sitting exams. But also, we had a few hospital appointments, and some dental appointments, and as we left the UK amidst a bit of a drama back at the beginning of May we thought it would be lovely to spend some time catching up with family to update them on how our house building/land acquiring plans were going.

First stop was Broadstairs to visit James, Nicola, Henry and Chloe, and we had a lovely visit to the seafront with themChloe, Henry and Luka at the seaside……..and a much looked forward to Indian Takeaway, and an even more looked forward and very much needed bath for me!! It’s not that I hadn’t been showering at all – far from it – it’s just that with only 3 minutes of warm water, showers “a la camping-car” are short and sweet and merely functional. Not like the lovely, relaxing bath with my soothing bath products that I took in their bathroom. Only the promise of the Indian takeaway being ordered was enough to get me out of there. Indian food is something I do miss when in France as there is no such thing as an Indian Restaurant or Takeaway – at least not in rural SW France as are we – maybe in the cities – we haven’t found out yet

We also managed to squeeze a quick catch up with friends Matt and Hannah – who were great friends of Dad and Ann – and it is always lovely to speak to people who know the land well (as they do) and completely “get” what we are trying to achieve.

Then it was off to Chandlers Ford where we used to live. Lots of family to visit here, including my mum, daughter, Martin’s son’s and of course our lovely “daughter-outlaw” Lisa. That’s an ex in-law to you and I. Sadly, a marriage break-up means that she now gets the coveted title of “outlaw” – of which we have a few!! We get on really well with all our “out-laws” – maybe they know something we don’t ha ha!! Enough said about that maybe??? Lisa is also mum to our super cute nearly 4 year old Grandson Max – who we took to the New Forest for some great adventures. New Forest with Max collage

We found a campsite in Ampfield to set up base, negotiated a bit of a discount for a long stay (always on a look out for a bargain and after living rent free for a month in France it was a shock to the system to find campsites cost nearly as much as a mortgage). We were blessed with superb weather for the whole of our trip, and it was really lovely to be able to set up a comfortable base in which we could spread out a bit. Shiloh Luka and Lillie

 

 

The doggos were delighted to also meet up with one of their favourite doggo friends – Shiloh and the three of them enjoyed a “tail wag” whilst the humans enjoyed a “chin wag”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst in Ampfield we re-connected with old neighbours of ours, who used to live a few doors up the road from us until they saw the light and moved away to a place that is more aligned with the life they want to lead – much like us. They now live in a charming house, with lots of land, on which they can enjoy a life of partly self-sufficiency, and look after some gorgeous rescue ponies – Alwyn and Fergus. Martin quite literally bumped into John whilst out walking the dogs, and they recognised each other. This led to an invitation to dinner and then a return visit to us at the campsite. It was so lovely to spend time with like minded people, and even more so because they are all (including their lovely daughters) vegan – so this led to lots of interesting conversations and sharing of recipes – in particular a kale and chickpea and spelt salad which introduced me to spelt and got me back into kale in a huge way. We were given a guided tour of their raised beds and now Martin has purchased a book to help us on our way back in France. We both felt very envious of their beautiful sunset over the stunning Ampfield woods but of course soon we will have our own stunning sunsets over the woods our of our own kitchen windows. Sunset over Ampfield Woods

Hulk

 

One of the first things to sort out was to find a Mitsubushi L200 – the vehicle we had decided would tick all the boxes for our needs for a vehicle in France. We were lucky to find HULK very quickly into our trip (named due to his number plate) and in order for me to gain confidence we decided that it would make sense for me to follow Martin and Marsha (the motorhome) around when we set off on our inlaws and outlaw visits for a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gin and Tonic.jpg

 

 

 

 

We also caught up with other good friends, and shared a few meals – most notably the cheesiest pizza I have even had – dare I say it TOO cheesy!! Also, a lovely family meal with Ryan popping over from Bournemouth. And did I mention a fair few Gin and Tonics – another thing that I do miss from England and fully intend to take at least 3 bottles back with me each time for the Gin Bar which I will most definitely be having in our new house. Gin and Tonic at Bayleaves

After said daughter had completed exams and celebrated with family Family mealand this anxious mummy was assured that she was happy with how they have gone and was about to embark on a week long bender that would not require parental supervision – we ventured up towards the East of the Country to spend some time with another “outlaw” – this time ex sister in law Sarah, and her partner Gary.

 

 

Ev's GravestoneSarah is the much loved mum of Evan who sadly had a fight with cancer and didn’t win – very tragically lost at the age of 13. Evan’s loss has had a profound effect on all of us. Yes, it was awful to lose my Dad and Step Mum to cancer, but I have no words to describe how I feel about a 13 year old boy having to fight this awful disease. However, time spent with Sarah always is (and always has been) extremely upbeat and fun, she’s funny, brave, kind and clever – and we love her for that.

3 days went quickly and we were soon on our way to my brother Stephen who lives in Colchester. We pitched up at a campsite and picked him up to bring  his over for a homecooked curry, a few beers, and for him to do his part of the paper-work for the transfer of ownership. The said paperwork consisted of no fewer than 52 pages – all of which were in French, and had been sent over VERY late on Saturday evening – the French certainly do like living on a knife edge!! Google translateThanks to Google Translate and a huge amount of patience we were able to satisfy ourselves that we are not selling our souls, but agreeing with the succession plans according to French law, and I am buying James and Stephen out of their shares so that me and Martin can build on the land. My comedian of a brother (Stephen) had cracked a few jokes about wanting to keep his share and rent it out to me – but as he was talking in Francs and not Euros I figured he had no idea what he was talking about

 

 

Then on to North London to visit the notorious Mother In Law!! She’s actually not bad for a MIL – although I always do find that my dear husband resorts back to child like behaviour when he visits and wants to raid the biscuit cupboard and other boy like stuff!! We were able to do a ridiculous amount of washing at her house, and also give the motorhome a much needed and very thorough wash. Although there was plenty of room to park Marsha the Motorhome on her driveway Camping a la Muriel

we stayed inside the house which was a novelty for us – but I found it a bit disconcerting the first night, to have all that space in a bedroom. But another long soak in the bath was much appreciated and caused me to sleep like a baby the second night. We also saw one of my brother in laws, David, whilst there and it was lovely to update him with our plans for our little house. Whilst talking to them both we realised that we will probably be able to fit our teeny little house twice, maybe three times over in MILs house and I wondered if they think we are a bit bonkers. After all, many of the roads in Stanmore are 2 miles long with only 100 or so houses in them. Now we have spent so much time full time in the motorhome it all seems a bit alien to us to have multiple bathrooms, and enough space in a house to watch TV in one room whilst someone else is in another room.

 

That was the last stop on our epic round the UK in a week trip, and then it was back down to Ampfield for a few days to see everyone down there again before heading back. Owen and Hannah

We enjoyed seeing everyone a great deal, but the time spent back in the UK did confirm to us a few things. One being that the roads are so much nicer in France – so quiet in comparison. And also, that we most definitely no longer want the life of a hamster on a wheel- continually running around, getting no-where, trying to earn enough to pay for a life we don’t really want. For that realisation that has come at a time which means we are young enough to really fully reap the benefits of the new life we have chosen, we are very grateful. Our little home on wheels has taught us a lot – most importantly that if it doesn’t fit in a 17 sq metre motorhome we probably don’t need it. We are still adjusting to that life, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a hardship, although we do realise that to some people our lives must appear to be very alien. But, it’s the same for us – we now find the traditional model of domesticity to be quite alien to ourselves – and so, when people’s faces have shown a look of sympathy for the hard life we must be leading without our TV and vast amounts of space we share a wry smile and whisper “if only they knew”.It's not how big the house is

©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. 

Please Mr Postman

It’s been an active and eventful week this week that’s for sure. Once I’d set my mind to walk 5km every morning I was really pleased that first Nic, and then Carol decided to join me. So, every morning this week at least 2 of us have walked the 5km route – leaving at 7.15am – bright and early to get it done before it gets too hot. I’m not going to mention the small point that the first morning Nic turned up to join me I was still it bed (oh whoops I just did mention it). It was partly her fault, partly mine, a bit embarrassing and resulted in a very sleepy me literally being out of the door in about 7 minutes flat and feeling rather dazed and confused for the first few km.

As the week has progressed the walking group has evolved to a running group as well. Not sure how that happened but Carol knows a guy Steve etc. etc. and before I could say “but my knees are knackered and my boobs are too big to run downhill” it was 0800 on Thursday morning and 5 of us – well 7 if you want to count Luka and Lillie too – were off on the hilliest run I’ve ever done in my life!! 20 minutes out and 20 minutes back.

Running group Luka
Luka is my all time favourite running partner
Running group Lillie
Lillie looking the part in her little running harness

 

Very hard for me and I was the slowest – but I enjoyed it and went back for more this morning – 0800 on a Sunday!! For a run!! Unheard of in my previous life!!

 

Yoga shadowI have also revived my yoga practice and am now trying in earnest to do 30 minutes most days after my walk. So far this has worked well this week as it’s been sunny and warm and I have been doing it outside, overlooking the trees – which has been a fantastic contrast to my previous yoga studio back in the UK – but I did find I was missing a mirror. But then we doing a pose I caught my shadow and realised I was sticking my butt out the back a bit too much and was able to correct it really well by just looking at my shadow!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday was a really active day – as well as the 5km walk we also had all our worldly goods arriving in the removal van. This was exciting and frustrating in equal measures. Back in England we had stressed the limited access to the storage barn, and (we thought) agreed that they would bring a small truck but in the preceding few days via a few frustrating phone calls it became apparent that they were going to bring a larger lorry. So, we were both a little nervous about this.

You’ll see from the photo that it was a challenge for them!! It’s a very steep and narrow slope – it took about 45 minutes for them to get up there!!Removal van

Enough said about that – I don’t want my blog to be moany but I was disappointed that they didn’t take any notice of us and also even more disappointed that there were a lot of broken items – luckily nothing irreplaceable but it would seem they didn’t take a great deal of care of our possessions. So, everything we own in this world apart from the things we managed to squeeze into the motorhome are now in storage until we build a house to fill up. It’s a good job we had a good de-clutter before we packed it all as I really do not want to EVER move house again!!

We were very grateful that we were going to our neighbour Alice’s for supper that evening and we had a lovely, chilled out evening with her and as always, a bottle of wine and hearing more of her crazy stories unwound our coiled springs.

Thursday evening was another fantastically chilled evening with friends Carol and Craig. Lovely homemade pizza by Craig, and salads from Carol – and lots of Gin and Tonic and Rose Wine – lovely. All enjoyed sat outside looking out on to lovely French landscape and we were completing spoilt by a stunning sunset – see the photo and I swear there were no filters on this picture. Just simply stunning!!Loubejac sunset

Friday evening was the Fete des Voisins (Neighbours Day) which was in the village at the Halle – which is the covered market area. Large tables were put out, and everyone coming brings a plate of food to share and some drinks. Fete du voisinsThe idea is to get to know your neighbours. It was a really fun evening – lots of wine, I tried “l’eau du vie” for the first (possibly last) time and got up with some young French girls (and some older English girls) for a little boogie.

Martin finally got around to fixing the post box up this week. The said post box was found in the ruin and previously belonged to Dad and Ann, but we have never found the corresponding post. But Martin found an old wooden post on a rubbish pile down in the village so used that to fix it on – hey presto – our very own post box!!

He ventured down to La Poste to check that we have our address correct as technically we are within the Bourgale estate but our access is via another track. He explained to the post woman that we were going to send ourselves a post card to test it out – much to her amusement! With a little shrug she said the post takes “un jour, deux jours?” So, he posted the Post Card – which has full written instructions for the post man on exactly how to get to us….and waited…………….and waited…………..and waited. Every day, we checked the post box singing this song in our heads

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vAqE0AvEqwAvEqw

Day One – nothing

Day Two – nothing – but we did have loads of junk mail

Day Three – nothing

Day Four – nothing

Then when we thought maybe it had got lost – on Saturday!!

Post card has arrived

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Result!! It’s official – we can now have food parcels sent to us!!

At least now we will have a proper post box to have notes from Alice left it – although I must say it was rather sweet to come home to this on Saturday morning – it was left on our camping table outside the motorhome

Note from Alice

She had very kindly agreed to “doggo sit” for Luka and Lillie whilst we attended Bernard’s 90th Birthday Party – which was great fun. I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like to be 90 years old but he’s looking good on it – and given that he was a similar age to me now when he first came out and was in very poor health I think that’s a very good indicator that life out here could be the healthy option – let’s hope so!!Joyeux Anniversaire

©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.