December has been …different! Lots of stress, quite a few changes, very odd weather, a lovely but hectic trip to the UK as usual & some other odd happenings here in France too. So here goes…
We have had no guests this month…apart from our house sitters but more about them later. So, you would think that we would have had a nice calm lead up to Christmas & our trip to the UK. But things never go smoothly do they? Firstly, the month started off with a lot of snow. This made driving around difficult & prevented us getting to the carol service in Clermont Ferrand as we had planned. We were a bit disappointed, as it’s the second year running that we have missed it (last year we were in Strasbourg) & also it meant that I had 60 mince pies which I
d made specially for it, going begging! The snow was a bit of a nuisance really but it did eventually go & we did start getting out & about soon again. Our biggest worry at the start of the month was the car. The insurance insisted we get the damage inflicted by the sanglier (see last months post) assessed & of course they then decided it was fixable…so no automatic pay off to scrap it. Cant say I was surprised…insurance companies never pay out in my humble opinion. However, in the mean-time, we had taken the decision to get a “new” car…the accident had pushed us to finally decide to get rid of the Ford one way or another at last “sobs as I love that car”. We had a quick look around some of the local second-hand car lots, as we had to get on with it if we were to have the car ready for the UK trip & found a Nissan Qashqai which we liked very much. It was of course more than we wanted to pay but as the guy was willing to pull out all the stops to get the car MOTed & fully documented in time for us to depart, we went ahead. So now we are the proud owners of 3 cars…we can`t get the Ford sorted until January & then we will sell it for whatever we can get for it.
We are very pleased with the Nissan…& it was perfect for our UK trip as it turned out, so apart from all the extra stress surrounding the purchase & getting everything sorted before we left for the UK, everything turned out well in the end.
Geoff has still been quite busy trying to finish off outstanding teaching hours & complete all of the end of the course paperwork. He also had to go to Brioude one day to complete his cardiac function tests- he has family history of early death due to heart problems, remember. His final tests were exertion ones…& apart from finding them very hard going, he seems to have passed with flying colours thank goodness. He was a bit miffed though, to be told that he was a bit overweight & needed to take more exercise! In my opinion he is not overweight at all & as he walks at least 1 hour+ every day with Xena , as well as doing Pilates 3x a week, we both feel he does enough for a guy of 65 years old! These doctors have always to find something from their hymn sheet to say haven`t they? Anyway…his mind is now at rest re his heart function
I did manage to fit in the Marche de Noel at Chameane again this year. I took my paintings & cards as usual, but although I had a nice day, I didn
t really sell much. 1 painting & 1 card…Im never going to make a fortune out of this am I? It was nice to have a relaxing day though, chatting to friends & drinking coffee! We were also invited to a birthday party in the next village just before we left. We had a good time catching up with friends from the commune…& one of us was happy to be quaffing some rather strange looking cocktails! I was less thrilled with the Fanta which was obviously meant for the children!
Because we always leave here at least a week before Christmas I need to be super organised & get all the shopping & preparations done quite early. We combined a shopping trip to Ikea at Clermont with a visit to the city centre to see the lights (which were beautiful as usual) but that apart, I have done a lot of shopping on line this year. That still left all the wrapping etc to do though. We got our Christmas tree & I made all the usual decorations for the house…although this year there was absolutely no holly with berries anywhere which was a shame.
Our house sitters, Bill & Milton, arrived on the 18th & having got them settled in, we set off for the UK early on the 20th. We did the Zeebrugge- Hull crossing again this year which suits us fine. After doing a bit of shopping in Halifax (its years since I was there & I wanted to see the Piece Hall again) we spent our first night of the trip with my cousin Ken & his wife Joy. We were very well looked after…fish & chips followed by a pub quiz…real treats for us Then on to Manchester where we stayed for 2 nights in a hotel close to our son
s house. We spent some great Grandma & Papi time with our grandchildren & loved every minute 😊 We even babysat for Matthew & Susie to allow them a rare visit to a local pub one evening. Then it was off to Carlisle to stay with our daughter where we had more fun times. We all went to a carol service on Christmas Eve which was lovely & another treat for me. Christmas Day was great too, …church in the morning, a fabulous meal cooked by Hazel & Phil, games in the afternoon & then everyone (my brother was there too) watched a Star Wars DVD whilst I went off to bed as I was very tired by then. Boxing Day was very relaxed…Geoff had a bit of a stomach upset (!) but we did fit in a walk around Talkin Tarn (an old stamping ground of mine near Brampton) & a bit of a tour of possible house buying areas for our retirement. It was a very useful exercise & we now have a bit more idea where to look for suitable properties. The next day we spent a relaxed morning with Hazel, Phil & Geoff going for a walk whilst I did some ironing for them. I have to say that they need to upgrade their iron by the next time I come though…dont like working with inferior equipment! After lunch we drove off into the lakes & met up with our friends Mike & Linda in Keswick where we had a cup of tea/coffee & of course inevitable cake! This is Linda we are talking about here! After a quick tour of the shops for last minute supplies, Hazel & Phil left us to drive back home (they had work the next day so needed to get themselves ready for that) & Geoff & I went back to Mike & Linda
s cottage to meet all the rest of the family. We spent a great evening together eating & playing games, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Mike & Lindas cottage is lovely & I can see why they chose it…but it is a bit out in the wilds. They seem very happy there though, which is the main thing. The next morning, we set off to drive across to Hull where we did a big shop in Sainsburys to stock up with English treats to take home. The ferry crossing went well & after a longish but uneventful drive we got back home about 6.30 – to find Bill cooking a lovely meal for us. We were a little perturbed to find both he & Milton in shorts & T shirts -thoughts of our electricity bill & woodpile went through our heads immediately – but they assured us that it had been very mild & this is how they normally dressed when at home! They seemed to have had a good time here & had been out & about a lot visiting places. The animals were well & happy & so were we. The boys left the next morning leaving so much food behind that I don`t need to shop anytime soon! I also have spent the last couple of days trying to find things in my kitchen! Why is it that house sitters feel the need to re-arrange stuff??
Now we are getting back into the swing of things. I spent yesterday & today doing normal things – cleaning the guest rooms, washing bed linen & towels, ironing & tidying up before our last guests of the year arrive this afternoon. They are the parents of our holiday house neighbours who are here to see the New Year in with the family & who stay with us every year, as there is not enough room for everyone in the house.
And so, its good bye to 2017…a year not without traumas & changes (broken wrist, car accidents, new stove & new look for the living room & the gite) …& after tonight it will be hello to 2018. I wonder what that will bring??
All of us here at Les Hirondelles wish you all a Very Happy New Year & I hope 2018 is a good year for you all. Please continue to read my ramblings & as always feel free to comment whenever you feel like it. I do so enjoy the feedback
A bientot mes amis…