Confused of Chabanol

Confused of Chabanol

It is that time of the year again when all the days merge into one for us. Because we have virtually no weekends off to punctuate the weeks, I end up not knowing what day it is most of the time. Now some of you will probably say that is a sign of my advancing age but I like to think that it is because we are so busy! And busy we have been this month I am glad to say with both the chambres d`hotes & gite in full summer mode now. We have our first real summer guests in the gite just coming to the end of their stay this weekend…& it has not been a stay without mishaps…but more of that later. The B&B has been going full blast for a few weeks now with very few “days off” so we do relish the very odd morning when we don`t have to get up & do breakfast. Breakfast service has for the most part been on the terrace as thankfully the weather has improved greatly at last, & is now almost done automatically! My jam supplies have diminished greatly & our boulanger is a very happy lady with all the extra business this month! So all in all everything is running smoothly here at Chabanol…well almost!

The month of July has really flown by. I am finding it hard to believe that this time last month I was trying to find some kind person with UK TV service so that I could finish off my Wimbledon frustrations by watching the men’s final! I managed that, thank goodness, thanks to my lovely friend Julie, who not only loaned me her TV for the afternoon but also her sitting room & access o her fridge as they were out at a party! That day was also the start of the very good weather which cheered us all up immensely at first & then as the days got hotter & drier became a bit frustrating. Sometimes we are never satisfied, I think, when it comes to the weather...we complain when it rains, is too cold & also when it is too hot! We have had a scorching July though, with temperatures reaching dizzy heights at times & making us retreat into the coolness of our house as it became too hot to sit outside even in the shade of our big trees. The heat has abated a little now though after some terrific storms last weekend. As usual we seem to have escaped the worst of these storms here in the Auvergne. Many areas of France had lots of damage to buildings & roads etc but although we had a lot of rain, thunder & lightning, we didn’t suffer any damage apart from a bit of rain coming through the Velux window in the gite. Geoff’s lawn (which he proudly refers to as his gazon Anglais)Has gone from being very green & lush to looking like scorched earth in the space of a couple of weeks, but has recovered a bit after all the weekend’s rain!

At the height of all this chaleur, we eventually took delivery of our winter wood supplies. We had been getting a little concerned as our usually reliable wood supplier had not delivered the wood as arranged on several occasions last month. If you are a regular reader you might remember that this guy is 83yrs old & so we are expecting that one day he will not turn up at all! However, it turns out that he has not been well & has had a pacemaker fitted to regulate his heartbeat. He arrived one very hot day with the wood & told us he was under instructions to “take things easy” for a while…& then proceeded to unload the wood as per normal with Geoff struggling to keep up with him! They breed them tough here in the Auvergne! He was vey proud of his “pile” (battery) & kept showing us his tiny scar & listening very carefully to make sure it was still ticking! I only hope it keeps ticking nicely for a few more years yet as we really like this old gentleman!

As I mentioned earlier, my jam supplies have gone down rapidly now that I am doing so many breakfasts & I have been getting a little worried as the fruit on the markets & shops this year is not that abundant & is quite expensive due to the poor weather in the so called Spring. So it was with great relief that we have been invited to several friends’ gardens to pick some fruit recently. Geoff got very carried away picking cherries at our friends Annie & Christian’s garden (we also were invited for a delicious lunch too) & we got raspberries, red & black currants & gooseberries courtesy of another friend, Bernadette. We are so lucky having such generous friends here. So the jam pan has been in action rather a lot this month again (just what you need in really hot weather!) & the jam cupboard now looks a lot healthier :)

I have enjoyed a couple of really good art experiences this month too. The first of these was the day I spent at the Bar St Thomas`s Marché Artisinal, the small art & craft market which our friends Pat & John have started doing at their bar/restaurant. It was a lovely day, hot & sunny, but I had a very shady pitch & although there were not that many visitors, the ones who came, did buy stuff. I sold four paintings – an all time record – so I was very pleased indeed! One of these sales was going to Canada too so now I think I can call myself an international artist…well maybe not! The other “arty” thing was a visit to the fantastic biannual Aquarelle event at nearby Brioude. This is a big, town wide exhibition, which attracts international artists & it is always a joy to visit & see such wonderful paintings. We had a very pleasant day there taking our time (it was a very hot day as always) & enjoying seeing all the very different exhibits.

There have been some difficult moments too this month…it wouldn’t be Chabanol if something didn’t go wrong would it?? The first was the death of our beloved dishywishy! Geoff was distraught, but it was not really unexpected as it was almost 20 yrs old & had given us excellent service. Geoff was doubly distraught when I insisted that it be replaced immediately but he did sanction the Royal opening of the wallet & now we have a brand new dishwasher :) I must admit it is a bit unnerving though as it doesn’t make any noise…unlike the old one! I have to keep checking that it is actually working! The other difficult moment was a bit more serious, as we have had more plumbing problems in the gite & as per usual with these properties which are not in constant use, the problems only arise when there are guests in them :( This time , after a couple of visits from our friendly neighbourhood plumber we seem to have got to the bottom of the problem, thank goodness, when we finally discovered that the waste water (sinks, washer & shower) has never been connected to the fosse septique as we had always thought & has just been draining into a soakway. This has coped well when only moderate amounts of water have been used, but when there are a lot of people showering & using the washing machine(like this week), plus a lot of rain, it just couldn’t cope with the volume of water. However all has been connected properly now & thankfully our gite guests were very understanding about it all.

We have also had a couple of annoying brushes with the good old French bureaucracy machine this month which have given us a few sleepless nights. Firstly Geoff got a letter informing him that because he hadn’t submitted some data, his all important number which allows him to take business clients for English lessons, had been withdrawn. Without this number, Geoff cannot work in businesses & as this is our main source of income, this was very worrying indeed. Also worrying was the fact that he had submitted this data…way back in March, but had done so via the new online form & so had no written record of it. We have long since learnt that you must keep copies of everything official here in triplicate! Anyway, after a very sleepless weekend, he eventually got through to someone to discuss the problem & was told that he had obviously submitted the data TOO EARLY!!(smacked hands!) All has now been sorted but sometimes you do have to wonder…! We have also discovered that we have a problem with our Cartes Vitale (our access to state healthcare). Not only have we been using our Cartes (with no problems I hasten to add!) which have only a temporary number on them for the past seven years, but we should also have had them updated every year by passing them through a machine at a pharmacie or doctors surgery! As we both very rarely visit a doctor, we had no idea this was necessary as no-one had ever mentioned it!! All again is in the process of being sorted out but it would have been nice to have been told all this at the beginning!

Just to finish this month on a lighter note, we had a fantastic night out on Saturday, when we were invited to a surprise 60th birthday gathering at one of our favourite local Auberges. We felt very privileged to be invited, as once again we were amongst a lot of family & very close childhood friends of Pierre’s & we had a great time. We originally met Pierre & Pascale when we were looking for a house here. By chance, they were doing the same thing & we were all staying at the same B&B near Issoire. They eventually bought a house in the next commune to us & we re-met them by chance one day at a concert & have since become good friends. We had two couples (Pierre’s uncle & his cousin & their wives) staying with us in the B&B so this “do” was good for business too! The two “petite dames” who own & run the Auberge de Civadoux really excelled themselves on Saturday night by roasting two whole lambs, surrounded by couscous & vegetables, in their massive bread oven. The smell when the meat was taken out of the oven to be served to all the assembled guests who were sitting at tables in the bread oven room was fabulous. What a wonderful night we all had, & Pierre was totally overwhelmed by it all as he genuinely had no idea that this gathering had been arranged by his wife in secret. Fantastic!

Geoff has just arrived back with a LOT of red currants. He has been picking them in yet another friend’s garden this morning so I suppose the jam pan will be making an appearance again this afternoon. Whoopee doo :) Now, if only I could remember what day it is………