Ok...we lasted almost four weeks this time. We have decided that being dog-less is not really for us. Not long after I had published the last blog post, we started looking for a replacement for Bounty. I looked at Le Bon Coin quite a bit & there were a few possibilities there, but there was always the niggle of not knowing exactly why these dogs were being given away. Had all these loving owners really become too old, infirm or died as the adverts said??? I also looked at our local SOS animaux refuge site & saw a couple of likely looking lads there so one day, Geoff & I went to look at them in the flesh. The little terrier I had really liked the look of turned out to be a “scrapper” & was in an isolation pen because he fights with the other male dogs, so he was rapidly crossed off the list! Another likely candidate was not good with cats & as we were about to upset poor Masie anyway with this new addition, we rapidly declined him too. We did however see a nice looking female dog who seemed very friendly & although a bit bigger than we had in mind, she looked very much what we wanted. She is a young cross labrador/collie (or as my friend Tots insists - a “lollie”)& seemed to tick all the right boxes, so we went home to have a think & planned to return to take her for a walk the following weekend. When we went back, the refuge was in lock down as one of the new dogs had a nasty virus, so we weren't able to walk her as planned, but having spent a bit more time in her company we decided she was right for us, so we reserved her & just had to wait for a few days until the vets gave the all clear for us to pick her up. And so after a few days wait we got the call, went & signed the papers, collected her vet book, paid the fee (which was a lot of money but did cover all her vet treatment & sterilization costs) & so Xena( yes, our son had fun with that name, having been a big “warrior princess” fan when he was younger - but it does suit her somehow) has come into our family. She has so far been as good as gold – in fact Geoff reckons she is so good she is almost boring! We have never had a well behaved dog before! She is a lovely friendly dog, very energetic so she loves her walks, likes playing with a ball in the garden,comes when called, sleeps in her basket(well when we are present she does – I suspect she gets on the chair when we are not there!) & loves the car where she gets in & lies down without a sound. She also has a very waggly tail which we are loving after seeing poor old Bounty`s stump twitching for all those years! Her only down point so far is chasing the hens...but the novelty will soon wear off there, especially when one of them pecks her nose. Our cat, ,Maisie has now unpacked the spotty hanky she packed when Xena first arrived & although she is still sending us reproachful looks, the two of them seem to be settling into a wary love/hate relationship. So all in the Phillips household is good again...& we are smiling once again.
The day after Xena arrived, she had a baptism by fire as we had B&B guests. They were a lovely couple & were very understanding about the new doggy. Xena was very good & although we were worried about her making a noise at night, she didn`t turn a hair & didn`t make any noise at all. I think she will fit in here very well. We sent these guests up to eat at La Margalou in the village & they enjoyed it so much they went back the next night too. Viviane was very pleased! Our next guest was a lady (Pascale) who hadn`t come far (she lives just outside Clemont Ferrand) & who just needed a couple of peaceful days walking with her friend, who joined her the next day. She arrived looking totally stressed & tired but by the end of the weekend left, looking much better. We aim to please! She was delighted to have found us & plans to return with her husband & other friends to do some walking around here. Her friend told us about a great site where you can have personalised walking maps created with your village at the centre of the map. We have now done this & are delighted with the result – especially as before, the walks around here tended to require two or even three maps to do, as we are on the edge of the standard ones. Our own creation, Chabanol Walks, now covers all the local walks, cycle routes & horse riding tracks & I think will prove to be very useful. Our next guests were returners – an English couple who have a house in Spain & who stayed with us last Autumn on their drive down & again on the way back. We get on really well with this couple so doing a meal for them was a delight, as they are very amusing & have lots of tales to tell! They used to own & run an art shop & having seen that I like painting last year, they arrived with some watercolour paints for me which was very kind & much appreciated. They will be back for two nights next week on their way home again . I love guests like that :)
The gite too has had its second lot of visitors this year. They were an English couple who live in France & who were taking advantage of the four nights their young daughter was on a school trip, to have a break & do some walking. Unfortunately the weather was a bit iffy that week, but they seemed to enjoy the walking they did despite that.
The weather is being very odd really...as it is in the UK too I understand. We are having some lovely sunny days but it is really cold – especially at night & first thing in the morning. We still have snow on the mountains across the valley & our guests told us that there was still some skiing going on over there when they visited Super Besse. The garden is looking lovely despite the cold & has moved on from its yellow phase (daffodils, primroses etc) to its purple phase now (aubrecia, honesty etc). The grass is growing like mad & Geoff is back on lawn mowing duty regularly now. Xena sees the lawn mower & wheelbarrow as personal challenges & tries to continually bite the wheels which makes us smile! I think we had best be careful of her doing the same to passing cyclists though!
I went across to Ambert with our friend Bernadette last weekend to visit the garden event they hold there each year. We had a lovely afternoon – but Bernadette was a bad influence(well thats my excuse anyway!) & so I ended up buying more plants than I`d anticipated. I hope they survive all this cold weather otherwise I will be in trouble!
We had an unexpected visit from our friends Mike & Linda earlier in the month on their way home from a trip to Puy en Velay. They called in for a coffee & ended up staying for dinner! They are in full contemplation mode just now as Mike is almost convinced he wants take early retirement (Linda is very convinced!) & so they will be going back to the UK quite soon I suspect. Mike likes to walk with Geoff, so they went off for a walk & chat while Linda & I did the same(chat, that is) in front of the fire! We will really miss them when they go but it will be nice for them to be near their family again – especially with two weddings & a first grandchild on the way this year. I met up with Linda again the next week, along with the other “ladies wot lunch” as we reconvened at a new venue half way between them & me. This restaurant had been recommended by one of Geoff's students & the food was lovely. I think we may well go back there again. We were the last to leave as usual...well we have so much talking to do, don't we??
Taking advantage of the fine weather & no more gite guests this month, we have had the roof windows replaced over there. These windows were put in when the barn was converted into the gite & were beginning to show their age by leaking. It annoyed us that they only ever leaked in high summer, (when we had guests in the gite of course) but that is when we have storms with very heavy rainfall & the old gutters which were part of the windows were no longer coping with heavy downpours. The guys who came to replace the windows were very good & efficient & so we now have new Velux windows which look very smart & hopefully no longer leak! Time will tell when the downpours arrive!
Having a new doggy means that I have resumed my weekly Tuesday dog walk around the lake at Sauxillanges – something which I really enjoy. However last Tuesday`s walk turned into a disaster & an incident which I will take a long time to live down! Xena had been such a good girl, coming back when called, not barking at the children who were there, etc & so when I put her into the car boot, I put down my bag & her lead t give her a treat...& then closed the tailgate...with the car keys – including the spare (which was in my bag) inside. Brilliant! Fortunately I still had my phone in my pocket..but with no glasses (they were in my bag too) it was hard going even to call Geoff. He was teaching but came as soon as he could, but all our efforts with the traditional wire coat hanger came to nothing. Eventually, Geoff went off to the local garage & the guys there said they would come out with their “car breaking into” gear...after lunch! Yes, it was 12md by now & nothing comes between a Frenchman & his lunch of course – even a damsel in distress & a shut in dog! So three & a half hours after I`d closed that boot, the guys did arrive & after a lot of trouble they eventually managed to get into the car. Much relief all round...& much embarrassment on my part! However, this incident has shown us two things...our old trusty Ford car is a bugger to break in to, so is unlikely ever to be stolen & our new doggy is a lousy guard dog, as she sat there calmly throughout, wagging her tail & never barked once at these two strange guys trying to break into the car!
And so on that, no doubt amusing for everyone else note, I will sign off for this month. We are ending April on a high & are smiling broadly as we heard just yesterday that the teaching contracts Geoff has been chasing since January have at last been approved. This means a lot of quite well paid work coming his way at last so we can breathe financially for another year now. It will also mean I may not see him much over the next few months but you can`t have everything I suppose. I might need to employ a new homme de menage (cleaning man) to help me soon! I may also now start looking at cruises once again.... :)
May will start well, I hope, with more returning B&B guests & the annual Trail d`Amethyst which passes by Chabanol tomorrow. Best keep Xena on her lead for that or else the runners may not be smiling! A bienot mes amis