A Bit of May-hem

Really don’t know where to start this months catch up. May has been such a busy month with one thing & another – some of those things have been good & some a little frustrating.

The month got off to a really good start with the arrival (at last) of our friend Frank & his roofing crew. By sheer good luck he had chosen a three day period to come & do the roof, where we had no-one in either the gite or the chambres d`hotes - which was just as well when we saw the size of the Manitou machine he brought with him to get all the roofing materials aloft! The guys were extremely good, putting planks & wooden blocks on the lawn to protect the grass & the dexterity of the handling of this huge piece of equipment was an art to be seen. I have to say that not one plant in our garden was damaged & apart from a couple of shallow ruts in the lawn, you would not have known they had been here & working hard for the three days. Oh & the lovely new roof, of course! We were so relieved to have gotten this done at last…no more lying in bed listening to drips falling into buckets in the attic! Result! It was also fascinating for us to watch the construction of the new roof as it happened. Very skilled work & boy, did those 3 guys work hard. I will have nothing said about their work ethic…they arrived at 7.30 each morning & worked until 6pm each evening taking only the mandatory hour off for lunch. We were promised it would take 3 days & it took 3 days. We were extremely impressed by it all. :)

So with that all done we then welcomed our next gite guests – a lovely Canadian couple ( the first Canadian visitors for us) who had a great week exploring the region before ending their month long vacation in France, with a few days in Paris. Quite a contrast! I didn`t actually see much of them, unfortunately, as having seen them safely settled in, I departed for the UK & a few days of cuddling my new grandson! I had a good trip, enjoyed lots of granny time with the baby while his parents caught on a bit of sleep, did their ironing, cooked meals & tidied their garden as well as re-honing my pram pushing skills! I got back to France totally shattered…just in time to say au revoir to the Canadians & start cleaning the gite ready for the next lot of visitors!

Our next gite visitors were Belgian & we were a little surprised to receive a phone call from them on the Thursday evening before their scheduled arrival at the weekend, to say that they couldn’t come on the Saturday after all, but would arrive on the Sunday, oh & instead of 4 of them (two couples), there would only be 3 people coming as the 4th member of the party had died & was being buried on the Saturday! We weren’t quite sure what to say to that…or how to welcome the grieving widow either at first, but it all turned out very well & they seemed to enjoy their time here visiting friends & family after all. As they said it was better for the lady to be with them, than sitting at home on her own.

As well as the gite guests the B&B has been very busy this month too. We are working at almost “summer speed” which has never happened before here this early in the year. All of the bank holiday weekends (& remember there are lots of those in France in May) have been very busy as people did indeed take the “ponts”, so we haven’t had time to do anything or go anywhere ourselves at all! Geoff did leave me to it last weekend to have his own visit to see Ethan, his mother & some friends, but that apart we have spent each mini lull in the visitor traffic, recovering a bit! It has indeed been our very best May ever in terms of the business. I just need the summer bookings to pick up a bit & I will be a very happy (if a bit tired) bunny indeed!

On one of these “days off”, Geoff had arranged a meeting in the real St Etienne, so I decided to tag along for the ride & also to visit the big IKEA store there. Having put up with a very untidy & ugly table in the “office” part of our bedroom since we arrived here, we had decided to buy a new desk & some storage units to try & tidy things up a bit. Mission accomplished & we now have a smart (& for the moment anyway) tidy, new desk. When the “new” flat computer screen arrives from a friend who no longer has a use for it, our little office corner will be complete at last! It has only taken 8 years…!! This was also a cunning plan to re-introduce Geoff to the delights of shopping in IKEA before the new store in Clermont Ferrand opens in the summer! Sneaky eh?

Whilst Geoff was away in the UK, I did my duty & went up to the Marie to vote in the European elections. It was very complicated & I had a real problem trying to decide who to vote for, as I’m not really enamoured of any of the political parties here in France! I suppose my little protest vote did nothing to affect the eventual outcome but at least the National Front candidate did not get in here, thank goodness!

We have had some very strange weather here again this month. This year continues to be a bit topsy turvy as far as the weather is concerned. We have had a few (but only a few) warm days, but we are still needing to light the fire most evenings as the temperatures drop sharply once the sun goes down. We also had some very strong southerly winds for about four days, last week, which is very unusual here & was very tiring. One nasty gust of wind caught our kitchen window which had no been fastened securely & smashed the glass. Of course, like everything else in this house, the window is not a standard size so we are still waiting for it to be fixed. We have a Leader Price plastic bag over it at the moment & the shutter closed - very chic! The wind was followed by a day of torrential rain which brought about yet another disaster. The combination of a lot of lush spring growth & the weight of all the water finally pulled most of the ivy away from the house wall. It just fell down intact, forming a sort of huge bridge outside the front door. Fortunately, the two nests full of goldfinch chicks had fledged the day before…I wonder if they knew this was going to happen. We have had to chop the ivy all back to the height of the downstairs windows, which was a very nasty & tiring job. The house looks so bare without its pretty green covering at the moment, but we are hoping that it will re grow. At least Geoff will be spared the job of keeping it under control, for this summer at least.

So, another May has been & gone. It is my birthday today & as I “celebrate” we are also still up to our eyes trying to sort out pensions etc. I think now that I am old enough to get my state pension from the UK, I might as well claim it – although there is still a lot of French bureaucracy to plough through before I actually see the cash! And absolutely no chance of me actually retiring & putting my feet up yet either, according to my dearly beloved! I live in hope though...one day…!