Flaming June

Bit of a cliché the title for this month’s post, but it has been very hot lately. We have been experiencing temperatures in the high 30s which is unusual here so early in the summer. Some days it has been almost too hot to do anything outdoors & the dog & I have retreated into the coolness of the house. I must say that the folks who built our houses knew what they were doing. I sometimes curse the small windows & thick walls as it makes the rooms a bit dark but when it comes to keeping in the heat in winter & more importantly just now, keeping the rooms cool & refreshing, the house builders really knew their stuff. Today is much cooler – a drop of a mere 20 degrees from yesterday’s dizzy heights & I must say I am enjoying the respite. You can have too much of a good thing & the garden needed the bit of overnight rain we had last night. I am just hoping that the weather hasn’t peaked too soon as we are about to start out summer season proper with the gite & B&B & the last thing I want is unhappy clients & rainy weather all summer.

The B&B has been very busy again this month Im pleased to say. We have had visitors every week but have managed to get a couple of nights to ourselves most weeks. It is important to have a bit of a breather occasionally & not have to be constantly “on duty” or worrying if the dog barks too much. Again we have had some lovely people staying with us – & a lot of folk experiencing their first taste of B&B too. They all seem to have departed converts of chambre dhotes which is good news. We must be doing something right then! Our first summer guests in the gite arrive on July 9th. & it will be all systems go after that until the end of August. Oh & I almost forgot – the Tour de France has a stage finish near here & a stage depart from Issoire next month too. Help!!

Whilst all the holiday activities are just about to take off with a vengeance, other activities are coming to an end for the summer months. Geoff’s teaching commitments are slowly winding down, although he has agreed to do another summer session of English lessons at the Lycee in Issoire next week. Good luck to him I say – although the students are all supposed to be “volunteers” I always found teaching teenagers for the last week before the summer holidays to be a nightmare. Their minds were definitely not on learning anything! Tonight is my last art class before the holidays too which is sad. I really enjoy my Wednesday night sessions of painting, relaxing & catching up with the gossip. We are having an expo in September & so will need to make sure all is on course for that tonight. I am gong to try & sell some of my paintings his weekend at a craft fair I have foolishly said I will do. Foolishly because we are very busy at the moment & also because I always get cold feet when it comes to thinking my stuff is saleable! However as I enjoy it all so much I now have quite a stock of paintings & I don’t really know what to do with them all. There is a limit as to how many I can offload onto friends & family! One of my recent B&B visitors bought a painting the other day so there is hope I suppose. I will report on the success (or otherwise!) of the day next month. Please cross your collective fingers & toes for me that it doesn’t rain either – its outdoors & watercolours & rain don’t exactly go well together!

I was able to put one of my other talents to good use in the middle of the month when one the local girls got married here in the village church at St Etienne sur Usson. I volunteered to help with the flowers in the church – something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It turned out that decorating the church in France for a wedding is a very low priority as most of the decorating effort goes into the reception venue – the party afterwards being much more important than the actual ceremony (or so it seems) – more of that later. Anyway I was left more or less to myself to decorate the church & boy did I have a great time dong it! I did several big displays & all the pew end decorations-something else which is not usually done here. All the flowers had come from gardens or the countryside & although they were not of the best quality at times, I think I did a pretty good job in the end. I was very proud of myself - & the bride & her family were delighted, which was the main thing after all.

We were invited to the wedding & the Vin dHoneur afterwards It was very interesting to notice all the differences between what was a typical country wedding here & in the UK. Firstly, this one was very relaxed – no fancy outfits or hats at all. The bride’s mother wore trousers & a jacket but it was not remotely like any mother of the bride outfit I’ve seen in the UK. Most of the other guests had made precious little effort to dress up – lots of flip flops & jeans in evidence. Can you imagine that in the UK? The actual marriage ceremonies – both in the Mairie & the church were also very casual & seemed to me to be something to be gotten out of the way so that the fun could begin! There was no reverence at all – in fact people were coming & going in the church all the way through the ceremony! There were no fancy cars either – the couple & all the guests walked from the Marie to the church & then back again to the Salle de Fetes where the reception was to take place. The Salle de Fetes had been beautifully decorated by the family & friends using vast amounts of crepe paper flowers & wall decorations & a local guy had been drafted in to cook he meal which started at 6.30 ish & ended sometime in the wee small hours! Can you imagine many brides in the UK these days opting for a “do-it-yourself” reception in a village hall? And yet it was such a very relaxed & friendly affair with practically everyone in the village welcome to turn up & take part in the Vin dHoneur, wish the couple well & then depart leaving the true invitees to enjoy the rest of the evening. I loved it – well apart from the church bit which I found a bit too irreverent – & we were very pleased to have been invited to share a part of the day with the family.

Two bits of news relating to our own family before I finish for this month. Firstly our son Matthew & his girlfriend return to the UK in a week or so after six months backpacking around Asia. I suspect it will come as a massive shock to his system to have to put on normal clothes (i.e. shirt, tie & shoes) after having spent months in shorts, swimming gear & flip-flops & go back to work! Shame eh?? And our daughter Hazel is in the process of buying her first flat after years of renting accommodation. She is discovering the joys of having no money & has suddenly realised that she also has to furnish this flat too! Shame again eh??