Driving “home” for Christmas

As the title of this post suggests we did more than our fair share of driving last week. Whenever we take the car back to the UK – which fortunately isn’t very often these days- I am always struck by the pluses & minuses of living here in the Auvergne. The big minus point is that it is a really long way from anywhere. It takes almost two full days of driving to get to our family in the north of England & by the time we get there we are thoroughly fed up of being in the car. The pluses though are that driving round here is a doddle compared with driving in the UK. We have almost forgotten what it is like to be on a three lane busy motorway & as for traffic jams..!! We think we are badly done to if we have to wait in a 5 car queue in the lunchtime “rush” hour at Issoire. So it was really great fun driving up the M6 in the rain with poor visibility due to spray & cars coming at us from all directions at great speed on the Friday before Christmas..! To be fair we did have pretty trouble free drives there & back. It is just a long way.

We did have a lovely Christmas though with the family & we were pleased to see that both our mothers seem to be OK – especially Geoff’s Mum after her recent stay in hospital. She has a new walking aid for outdoors & Geoff made sure she put it to good use whilst we were there. This year, adding a couple of days on to our stay either side of Christmas enabled us to do a bit more with the kids too & I even managed to have a morning’s sales shopping with Hazel which was a treat. I only bought some new pillows (how boring is that?) but just doing some “girly” looking round the shops was great. We were also able to spend an evening & night with Matthew & Susie before we set off back home. They took us out for a drink to a very lively bar in the Castlefield area of Manchester where they live. Geoff really enjoyed that…if not the price of the drinks!

One of my Christmas presents was a Livebox radio which I am absolutely thrilled with! I have always loved listening to the radio & can now enjoy Radio 2 & Radio 4 to my hearts content without interference or having to stay by the computer. It also means that I will not have the frustration of having to lose all my favourite Radio 4 programmes every time Test Match Special is on! I hate cricket at the best of times & having to listen to that drivel when I knew The Archers was on used to make me very cross indeed! The only downside I can see with this new radio is that I will have no excuses now to put off the ironing as I can listen to all my favourite programmes in the kitchen now. Ah well...you win some, you lose some J

Our first experience of using house sitters, whilst we were away, worked out very well. The young Australian couple seemed to have had a great time here doing lots of walking, cooking & shopping in the local markets. They took to Bounty (& he to them) very quickly which was good & everything went very smoothly by the sound of things. They even left some food in the fridge for us to eat when we got home which was sweet of them. They obviously enjoyed the open fire here...our wood supply had a big dint in it...but that was a small price to pay for the peace of mind we had leaving the house & animals in safe hands. I will certainly not hesitate to use the house sitting site again when we go away like that & would recommend it to anyone else in our situation. Bounty was particularly grateful…he would have hated having to go into kennels.

Before we set off on our epic journey back “home” I spent an entertaining few days sorting out this years “Seasonal Greetings” email which I send out to everyone who has stayed with us or has sent us an enquiry over the last year. This year I decided to create a photo montage of the animals seeing as they seem to remain in people’s memories big time! (I really can’t imagine why!!!)I spent a “fun” day trying to get some nice photos of Bounty & Maisie wearing festive Santa hats with very mixed results at times. Bounty at one point legged it out of the garden & off into the village at great speed, with said Santa hat in his mouth & Maisie refused to co-operate in any shape or form so I had to corner her in the Dogbag or as she was dropping off to sleep to get her anywhere near the hat. However the final results were a big success & we have had lots of lovely replies from our clients, all of whom remember Bounty particularly well for some strange reason! Geoff was a bit miffed with one of the replies which stated that the family had very happy memories of all of us at Les Hirondelles.. Bounty, Maisie, Christine, & James! Only goes to show who the clients see the most of doesn’t it??

The weather here continues to be mild & frankly a bit boring. We have had a bit of snow in December but nothing to write home about really. The poor local ski resorts are not having a good time of it at all & we have some guests who are coming in January to go walking with racquet’s (snow shoes) so I only hope we have some snow for them by then. We have had quite a few B&B guests throughout December & have most of the weekends in January with at least one room booked. They are mostly people with Dakotabox vouchers which need to be used up by the end of January, but we are not complaining at all! We have never been so busy in the winter months before. My only worry is that we need to redecorate the living room & the B&B bedrooms sometime & it is getting difficult to find the time to do this when we don’t have any guests. I suspect Geoff is conspiring somewhere along the line to avoid the painting which needs to be done. He never did like redecorating! I may have to block out a period soon in the diary so he can make a start but don’t tell him I said so!

So as 2011 draws to a close tonight, we are really looking forward to another good year here. I hope it is the same with you all & we wish you a very happy, healthy & safe New Year. Bonne Année à tous!