And yet another year has gone…

31/12/2018 And yet another year has gone…

I realised with a shock this morning that it was last day of the month time yet again, so panic set in as I had not written a word of this months blog! Also, I am still a bit disorientated due to lack of sleep yesterday, time changes yet again, the shock of returning home to freezing weather and having to work and cook again…not to mention having to think, which Ive not done for a week as we were looked after extremely well during our UK trip! More of that later though.

December business for me, has been non-existent as per usual. Not many folk want to take breaks here in the winter and as the gilet jaunes are still being a nuisance in many parts of France, I suspect not many people fancied venturing far in case of problems. We were expecting 8 people in the gite over New Year, but they dont seem to have arrived! I took the reservation as a favour to our lovely young neighbours, as they asked if it was possible just before we went away. Cindys sister in law wanted to come with her family, to spend New Year with her mother and Sebastian and Cindy. I gave Cindy the gite keys before we left for the UK, as she insisted she would put the heating on, sort out the fire (its mighty cold over there as we have closed it up for the winter now) plug in the fridge and water heater & make up all the beds. However, there is no sign of any activity (or of Seb and Cindy come to that) and the stuff is all as I left it, so something must have happened for the venture to be called off. Its really not a problem…but I am curious to know what has happened! Geoff has continued to be busy, finishing off his teaching contracts, doing lots of end of year paperwork and also with quite a few document revisions for the university. I think it was good for him to take a break from the computer over Christmas and he looked quite happy to put his “I am on holiday” notice on his e mail, for once!

We started the month on a social note with a nice lunch at Vivianes with two of Geoffs “staff” and their partners. Viviane did us proud as always and we had a nice social meet up. Unfortunately, the other guy who does some teaching for Geoff was unable to come at the last minute, as one of his children was ill, which was a shame as the whole idea was to introduce him to the others. We also went to the Carol service in Clermont Ferrand. It was nice but completely different this year with a lot of young people there – obviously from the university – and we didnt really see anyone we knew from previous years! However, we read as usual, my mince pies disappeared very quickly and we enjoyed the evening very much. I also went round to my friend Julies house to sing some carols with her one afternoon. Jean-Luc (her husband) found a meeting to go to and so left with great relief! It was good though, for me, to get to sing carols…I miss all that really. We had another nice musical interlude too just before we went away, when Geoff`s guitar teacher (who has recently given up his teaching as he has a new job) organised a nice get together of his pupils to play guitar, sing and eat at his house as a sort of farewell gesture. It was nice and we were sad that we had to leave early as we had other things to do. He says he will try and organise more meet ups like this once he has settled into his new job and we will look forward to going to them.

I was very pleased that our village Amicale Liaque (fete committee) organised a little Marche de Noel this year, for the first time. I went along with my paintings and managed to set up a nice little stall. I really enjoyed doing it as it gave the locals a chance to see my paintings and all the other talents they have in the village. I managed to sell two paintings too which was a bonus.
I think it might well become a regular event now…I hope so anyway.

I had a good laugh whilst at the Marche de Noel when one of those “ only in rural France “ moments occurred. I had asked my daughter to go to a little craft shop/puppet theatre we both know, near Penrith to buy a puppet for our granddaughters Christmas present and it just so happened that this was the day she could do it. However, there were lots and lots of puppets to choose from, so there she is, in the middle of the Lake District sending me photographs of various animal puppets and there I am, in the middle of rural France with a crowd of very interested French people helping me select one They kept asking me…do they have a monkey? A dog? A rabbit?...and poor Hazel had to keep leaving her coffee to find them & send a picture! The craft shop staff were totally bemused by all this too! Eventually we all agreed on a lamb, which was lovely, and then all the French lot started telling me how much their children liked Shaun le Mouton…which doesnt really have the same ring to it as Shaun the Sheep does it?

We ended the month off with a great trip to the UK for Christmas. The Reekie family, who have stayed in the gite for their holidays many times now, arrived to house sit for us on the 22nd December and after a quick whizz round our house (they know the gite well, but not the house) we left the animals in their tender care and set off. We had decided to fly to the UK this year as it was a bit late for a two day drive by then, and so tried out the Lyon /Manchester route with Flybe for the first time. We stayed overnight near Lyon airport as we had an early flight the next day and all went very well. We were met at Manchester by our son and grandson who was holding a notice to welcome his Grandma and Papi! Cue first lot of tears! We had a super time, seeing Matthew, Susie, Ethan and Hadley on the 23rd and 24th December and then we drove in Matthews car…which he had finally been able to get us insured to drive…up to Carlisle where we spent the rest of the Christmas holiday. We managed to fit in a carol service on Christmas Eve and then had a fabulous Christmas Day with our daughter and son in law and my brother. Hazel was in her element playing with her swanky new cooker in her newly(almost) finished kitchen and we ate extremely well! Those of you who know Hazel and her love of cooking, will understand the joy she got from preparing and cooking meals with this new toy all week…and we enjoyed eating them all too! We had a relaxing Boxing Day, and only just managed to fit in a walk! Hazel and I did a bit of shopping in the sales on the Thursday, which I loved. We went to the Gretna outlet place and I was surprised at how quiet it was, but I really enjoyed a mooch around the shops there. I miss doing stuff like this with my daughter, so this was an added bonus. Matthew, Susie and the children came to Hazels on the Friday morning on their way up to Edinburgh to see Susies family, and we all had a great brunch and family catch up together. I dont often manage to get them all together these days so again it was another bonus. And we got to play with some of Ethan and Hadley’s Christmas toys too! When they had gone, Geoff and I went off to visit our friends, Mike and Linda, who are now living near Penrith and we spent a nice afternoon catching up with all their adventures.

We bade farewell to Hazel and Phil the next morning and set off to drive back to Manchester, meeting up with my cousin Ken & his wife, Joy for a nice pub lunch (my god, British food portions are huge!!) en route. This was another treat for us as we love seeing K & J and they had brought their daughter Erica and her Finnish partner along too, so Geoff was in his element talking “education” stuff with Erica and it was nice to meet Jonas (Im sure that’s not how you spell his name!) for the first time too. We took Matthews car back to his house but as he and Susie were still in Edinburgh, we had decided to go and stay in a hotel near the airport for the night as our flight the next day was at 6am. So, we also were able to fit in another meet up with some friends who we havent seen for ages, John and Elizabeth. John and Geoff were in Rotary together when we lived in Marple and we all became good friends. We were a little sneaky in suggesting that they picked us up from Matthews house and took us to the hotel but we did have a great evening chatting over a drink or two when we got there. It was a perfect ending to a lovely trip.

Our flight to Lyon the next morning all went smoothly – even if we had to get up at an ungodly hour – and the drive home was good too – although I don’t remember much about that as I was zzzing a lot, so I am told! Our house sitters had had a good week, and the house was cosy and warm when we got home. It was Emily`s birthday so we all had a lovely celebratory meal together in the evening before I gave in and went to bed as I was exhausted. The Reekies left early this morning to drive home, so we are back to just us today and it feels odd. Xena is bereft as Matthew has played and walked with her all week and now, she is back to the old folk! We have been sorting out stuff, washing bedding and cleaning rooms today so we are getting back to normal. I will also have to cook tonight – the first time for over a week – and I am not really enthusiastic about that!

The end of another year then. It has been a bit up and down at times but we have done some great stuff this year such as our trip to the USA to celebrate our Ruby wedding, various short trips to see other parts of France, having my cataracts done and doing some serious moves towards our retirement at the end of next year, at last! I am not entirely sure we will make it to midnight tonight as we are both still tired, but we will try. All that remains is to thank you all for continuing to read my blurb and all the encouraging comments you send me. I never really expected to be still writing this blog 12+ years on …but so long as you lot still enjoy reading it, and I still enjoy writing it, I will continue for at least another year.

So, from us all here at Les Hirondelles, Chabanol, we hope you all have a very safe, peaceful and Happy New Year and that 2019 is good to you.

A bientot, mes amis

1 Like