A Pretty Good Start

My first blog post of 2013 & for a change in January it is not full of doom & gloom stories…in fact just the opposite for once. I am pleased to report that there have been no costly visits to the dentist for either of us, no really bad weather stories & no car breakdowns! For a change we have had quite a lot of good news & good things happening to us this month so je suis contente as we say here :)

Firstly a bit of good news follow up on the state of play regarding my mother. She was eventually discharged home from hospital last week after a stay of 6 weeks. She is still very frail & needs more care than before but so far so good. She is very indignant about having to use a commode in her sitting room, but as she still gets very breathless & getting to & from the loo tires her out completely, she has very little choice! I am absolutely amazed ( & pleased) at her ability, against all odds, to remain in the land of the living & now it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she keeps going for a while yet!

Now back to the mundane stuff. New Year came & went without much fuss here in Chabanol. We did manage (just) to stay up until midnight thanks to back to back programmes about my favourite French soap opera, Plus Belle la Vie! We wandered down to the end of the drive at midnight to look for signs of life & some fireworks in the valley but found neither, so came back, had a drink & went to bed! Such is the extent of the high life of the French countryside…& two people who are getting on a bit!

Business wise, although we have had no guests at all this month, we started the year well with two gite bookings for the summer. This has never happened before because most of our clients are French & our enquiries for summer don’t usually start until March/April time. One of these bookings is for a set of folk who want to come & help a couple who live locally celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary in June. I suspect that could be a really good week! The other booking was as a result of the “season’s greetings” e mails I sent out before Christmas. An English family who had previously stayed with us in the B&B decided they’d like to return for a fortnight in the summer. Youpi…at last a marketing strategy (& many hours spent getting the dog & cat to pose for photos) has paid dividends! So, along with some B&B bookings which have also come through this month, we are off to a really good start :) Lets hope it continues!

Geoff also has had a fairly good month for enquiries for his English lessons, but a lot of those are still ensnarled in the mire which is French bureaucracy. So although he had quite a few bits of translation work to do, he has found himself a bit short of actual teaching this month. I have made sure he used this lull profitably though & now have four freshly painted bathrooms in the house :)

When we returned from the UK after Christmas, my head was full of our son’s upcoming wedding in April & so I spent several nights worrying about things we needed to do. Upmost in my mind was the dreaded hunt for something to wear. I HATE clothes shopping at the best of times & shopping for an outfit in France is a nightmare for someone like me, as I need a “grande taille”. Most of the grande taille stuff here are clothes I wouldn’t wish on my grandmother. The other problem is the French fashionistas passion for dull colours...black, black, brown, grey or black...take your pick! I like pretty, bright colours & certainly didn’t want to be wearing predominantly black for a spring wedding. My first trip to Clermont Ferrand confounded my fears & I trailed my fancy shoes all round all the shopping centre, never once even seeing anything which would tempt me into a changing room. Some of my friends on FB had suggested some outlets which catered for big ladies, but as with all French towns these were in completely different satellite commercial centres around Clermont, so I was not looking forward to multiple trips out visiting them. In desperation, I decided to have a look in a very nice little shop in Issoire which sells the most beautiful wedding dresses (at a fraction of the price you would pay in the UK by the way, should there be any prospective brides amongst you!) And...hey presto...I now have a lovely outfit. As it was in their sale, I got a really good deal too so I am very, very pleased with it…& very relieved too! At the same time, I also bought the stuff I needed to make the wedding favours for the table (I love this shop!) so production of those is in full flow now, along with the place name cards I `d also been asked to make. I am very pleased to report that normal sleep patterns have resumed!

The other wedding related worries have also been solved in the past couple of weeks. Getting back to the UK from here is always a bit complicated (not to mention expensive), especially when we both have to travel. We spent many a “happy” hour on the internet trying to sort out our travel arrangements. Finally we managed to get all the various connections & timings to work, train from here to Paris, Eurostar from Paris to London, train from London to Manchester ...& back again of course. It means us setting off at some ridiculous hour of the morning on the outward journey, thanks to the reduction of through trains from CF to Paris (thanks SNCF!), but as I’ve never travelled on Eurostar before, I am really looking forward to it all now. And finally, the last bit of the jigsaw has fallen into place, as we have found someone to come & look after Bounty for us whilst we are away. Another huge weight off my mind.

Usually, January is a very cold month weather wise here but as this January is proving to be very different from usual, we have had some odd weather too. We have spent a lot of time in thick wet fog, something which is quite rare here for any prolonged period, then we had quite a bit of snow(normal)& now we have nice mild spring like weather with beautiful sunshine & temperatures in double figures(not normal!)All very strange. I have just done a quick tour of the garden & we have snowdrops in bloom (at last, after 6 years of trying to find a part of the garden in which they would grow), the odd violet in the lawn, crocus plants well up & daffodil leaves poking through. I suspect all of these plants are in for a nasty shock when the true winter weather returns, as I am sure it will soon.

It was the Foire de St Paule in Issoire last Saturday so we paid our usual visit. I love this Foire, with its huge market selling everything from tat to tractors, good traditional food (lovely, so long as you like tripe that is) being served in all the restaurants & from stalls, vin chaude for those who want it (& need it to keep warm) & best of all mimosa galore! The house is full of mimosa scent just now as Geoff bought me what seemed like half a tree for only 5€! It is Galette de Rois season here too so we went to the Croix Rouge do last Sunday where we were offered traditional Galette (a heavy rich pastry filled with marzipan) & cider whilst we listened to the traditional New Year good wishes being presented by the committee. I was pressed into singing as per usual which always surprises me as none of the assembled audience has a clue what I’m singing about! Probably just as well!

All in all then, a very good start to the year so far, I think. I hope things continue to be like this next month & that I haven’t jinxed our good fortune by writing about it!