A Puzzling Month

February is always a bit of a puzzle isn`t it? For a start why is it so short? It always catches me napping as the last day arrives very quickly & as per usual I had forgotten I had this blog to write! This February has also presented me with a few more puzzles as I will now explain.

Firstly...the weather. I have no idea what is going on in the weather gods heads any more. We have had some splendid spring-like weather again this month. We even sat outside one afternoon, reading & soaking up some nice warm rays of sunshine...in February?? Here?? That has never happened before here. Needless to say all the spring flowers are in bloom, including the best show of daffodils I`ve ever had...& of course when the frosts do arrive( & we have had a couple of those recently), they suffer. The birds are going crazy too & I suspect they will soon start building nests...again far too early.We have seen bees in the garden already & again I fear for them as I`m sure we could still get snow. The mountains across the valley are clinging on to their snowy mantles (thank goodness for the skiing tourists)so I still think that winter is definitely not over yet.

We have been pretty quiet again this month business wise.Geoff is still waiting for contracts to be finalised – the French administation systems remain a puzzle as usual. One of his students started his dossier for training in December & it has only just been signed off this weekend...well we think it has finally been signed off...another puzzle just understanding that document too!It is very frustrating when both he & Geoff are champing at the bit to get started & they can`t until someone finally puts a stamp on a bit of paper.

I have had one lot of B&Bs this month – a lovely couple, who really enjoyed the opportunity to explore the countryside around here.That booking all went well – unlike some of the others I`ve had this month. I am really struggling with some of the advertising sites I am being forced to use these days. I loved working with all the “old” smaller sites, which were easy to use but most of them have been swallowed up by the big boys now & I find some of their systems to be really puzzling to say the least! Booking.com is the main culprit here. I do appreciate the fact that it does bring me some business “out of season” but their systems are really made for hotels & so for a small set up like we have here, they don`t always meet our requirements. Although I thought I had mastered the booking systems & put all the restrictions I wanted in place, we have had 2 bookings this month which were not viable -including a family of 4 who wanted the gite for 1 night at a ridiculous price (B.com divide the weekly price by 7!). Its taken many frustrating hours trying to sort that one out I can tell you! However I think we have now (with the help of some very patient people on the phone) got all the restrictions in place. Fingers crossed! Amongst all the angst of B.com bookings, I have also taken a good booking for the gite for summer. I am really delighted that The R family are returning for their 3rd holiday chez nous. A lovely family, an easy booking & a good start to the summer season :)

As Geoff`s birthday & Valentine`s day are in very close proximity, we decided to treat ourselves to a weekend away to celebrate in style. We managed to find someone to sort the animals out & off we went for a night away in Moulins – still in the Auvergne but in the Allier department, about 2 hours drive from here. Moulins is a nice little town & we enjoyed exploring it a bit but our main reason for going there, was to visit the National Museum of Stage & Dance Costumes – something I`ve been wanting to do for ages. The museum visit was fantastic & we really enjoyed the permanant exhibition of Nuryev costumes & memorabilia. I saw Nuryev dance once when I was young & have never forgotten it & seeing how his costumes were constructed to allow him to move freely was really interesting.I strongly recommend a visit to this museum if anyone is in that area..it is very good indeed.We stayed in a nice B&B which overlooked the old market square in the centre of town. Unfortunately, it also looked onto the clock tower which chimed all night but hey ho! Valentines`s day always presents a sort of puzzle for me as I have a very romantic husband, who always tries to do something different. Some of the things he has arranged in the past were a bit OTT (but nice-ish!) & so I always have a bit of trepidation as the day approaches. This year though was lovely...he`d recorded himself playing his guitar(not expertly as he is still learning)& singing a love song for me.I was able to watch the video on my tablet on Valentine`s morning. He still mananges to amaze me even after all these years:)

Back to earth after our weekend away the next puzzle was the demand for our Taxe Professionele payments. I think we (along with most people) will never fully understand the French tax system. I resent greatly that I have to pay double the amount of TP than Geoff, who earns more than me!It depends on which profession you are in (we think) but it always seems so unfair to me.It is no surprise at all that lots of small businesses fold in France when you have to pay so much money in taxes & social charges which seem disproportionate to your income. We were upset last week to see that the lovely little florist shop in Sauxillanges was closing as Fabienne, who ran it, had reached the end of her tether with all the charges involved with having her own business & was going back to working for someone else. Its all very sad.

Other things which are still puzzling us at the moment include what to do with the fireplace in our living room.As you may remember we want to take all the horrible black paint off it & return it to the stone underneath.Several people now have told us that sandblasting it(which would certainly be the most efficient option) is not advised because it is our main room & all enclosed. So we have crossed off that option. We are now waiting for a trial pack of some special paintstripper to arrive from the UK to see if that will do the trick. Hopefully more news about that next month. We have also had yet another problem with our plumbing -quelle surprise eh? Our recently replaced bath tap has started to leak yet again. What is it with French taps?? They are so expensive & somehow they dont seem to last 5 minutes. Our nice handyman has been to have a look & is as unhappy & puzzled as we are. He is still trying to sort it out & will return again today to try & get it finished.

Because we have been quiet again this month, I have caught the jigsaw puzzle bug again. I have love doing jigsaws & have always had lots of them. I did get rid of some of my collection when we moved here but have started to buy them again – mostly from vide greniers now.The problem with jiggies is that they do take time & you need to have somewhere to do them... in summer it is impossible as both of those elements are difficult to achieve. I have just finished a particularly difficult puzzle & although there were times when I felt like giving up, I really enjoyed doing it! Our friends Linda & Mike, who came for lunch last weekend, have loaned me one of their puzzles so I`m off again! I always used to recommend jig saws when I was nursing & could see some patients who were finding it difficult to settle or talk to people. Put out a jig saw & everyone wanted to help as they passed by...therefore lots of chat & integration. Always worked like a charm! However Geoff is telling me that I am becoming anti social here as I get so engrossed in these puzzles.I find them a great way to pass cold & dreary days of winter though.

Having raced to try & finish this post by the 28th, I now have realised that because its a leap year I have an extra day to play with! Am puzzling now as to why I didnt realise that earlier ! I will put it down to a senior moment!I am hoping that this all copies & pastes as usual to my publishing sites as thefomat seems to have changed for some unknown reason. Yet another puzzle...but then it is always thus with computers isn`t it? Fingers crossed & a bientot mes amis :)

Hi Jane. I`m finding that we too are getting more visitors from outside France these days. The French don`t seem to want to commit to holidays atm...& most of our clients used to be French. I too use my tablet for virtual jiggies ...but you cant beat the real thing now & again!

Hi Christine, we have more bookings than we have ever had at this time of tbe year for our gite. We have mainly Belgians and Dutch as it is easy for them to get to us.
I do my jigsaws on my tablet now, Everyday Jigsaw.
Strange weather here today, an almighty hailstorm followed by sunshine.
Good luck with the fireplace,