Fossegate & other May tales

May has been a funny old month really for us here in Chabanol. The weather has been very up & down..really hot some days & nasty,cold & damp on others. We held off getting the garden furniture out for as long as possible, as it is usually the kiss of death for any good weather, but gave in eventually as there were some days when we wanted to eat outside & our terrace gets very hot. However, having given in one day last week when it was really hot & dug the parasol out of storage we are now having storms & another spell of damp,cold weather to close out the month. The garden is going mad...all this rain & bits of warm weather is ideal for growth, so all the plants we put into the potager are growing well...but so are all the weeds & grass. It doesn`t take long in this climate for our garden to become totally overrun with weeds & that is what is happening at the moment unfortunately. We have both been trying hard to keep it all under control, pulling barrow loads of grass & weeds out of the flower borders but it is like doing “a King Canute” at times! Having said that, the garden always looks at its most colourful in May & this year is no exception with all the irises, peonies, clematis, snowball trees, lilac etc in bloom at the moment & the scent in the evenings is wonderful. I didn`t manage to get any muguet (lily of the valley) flowering for Mayday this year (the traditional day for giving bunches of this to friends) but it is flowering now & the scent is lovely in that part of the garden We had some very nasty storms this weekend which have taken their toll on some of the flowers but I suspect they will soon bounce back.

We have both been quite busy this month, which is good news! I was a little worried that this year May was going to be quiet, as I usually benefit from the many holidays France has in May, where people take an extra day (le pont) to make a long weekend. This year several of these holidays fell on a Sunday & in that case, it is just too bad lose the day`s holiday. However, due to two lots of family celebrations in nearby villages, I have had a lot of guests in both the B&B & the gite which has been very lucrative :) In addition to the family gatherings, I have had three lots of returning B&B guests which has been lovely – I always like it when people come back - & some new guests too. I have been busy every weekend so that is a really good start to our season. Geoff too has been working hard. All of his contracts are now in place & he has more work than he would like, really. Not complaining though...the holiday cruise now looks like a certainty later in the year...Youpi :)

Its also good that we have some money coming in at last, as we have also had some unexpected outgoings always! Whilst we had people staying in the gite one weekend (of course!) we had a nasty problem with the plumbing which resulted in a backflow from our fosse septique. Fortunately, as all the guests in the gite & B&B were from the same family, the gite people were able to use the B&B bathrooms, & it was only one morning, but even so, it was a bit of a disaster! We managed to get someone out to empty the fosse quite quickly, thank goodness, & they also unblocked the pipe to the gite which is what was causing the problem at the same time. Phew...literally , as we had more guests due the next weekend! It did cost quite a bit though & was another outgoing we hadn`t anticipated just yet but it had to be done. We have also had to open up the fosse yet again this week (which of course means digging a hole in the garden to get access) as we have the dreaded inspection by the waste water people. As we thought, our system no longer complies with the new regulations but we knew that would be the case really. We don`t have to do anything about it ( which is really what makes a mockery of the whole thing) but if we eventually come to sell the house we have to declare it to the buyers who can then of course ask for a reduction in the price of the house, as they do have to make it comply within a year of purchase. We are going to have a think & probably get some estimates for the work - & also see if we are eligible for any grants - & then make a decision whether or not to replace the system. I am not looking forward to seeing my lovely garden dug up I can tell you, so it will be a hard decision to make.

Our other bit of excitement ( you can tell we don`t get out much can`t you??) was bee related. We always keep an eye on our holiday house neighbours abode & we were a bit concerned to see lots of bees flying in & out from behind the upstairs shutters. The family had arrived once before to find a huge bee swarm taking up most of the window & we thought this was happening again. We contacted Vero & she in turn arranged for a local bee keeper to come & try & collect the swarm. He arrived & we spent an interesting hour or so watching from a safe distance as he tried to get the swarm. Unfortunately, it was so big it broke apart, so he didn`t manage to recuperate many of the bees, but at least the problem has been solved for now anyway. The big downside to it though, is that we are having to keep a watch to make sure the bees which escaped don`t swarm somewhere else now...especially on our property, which has many suitable nooks & crannies. So far, so good.

Xena has continued to settle in well. She has now welcomed quite a lot of strange people in her house & garden & has proved to be very good with all the guests, both young & old. She is still being a bit of a pain with the hens but hopefully she will get bored with them in time. They are getting on a bit now & don`t really take kindly to being herded around & hassled! She is a delight to take for a walk, coming back to call all the time & Geoff is very happy to have a doggy companion again. She & our neighbour's dog seem to be getting on just fine - the two of them spend many happy hours racing round the garden together & she will chase tennis balls until the cows come home. Xena is going to be a big hit here when we have children staying I think, which is all good news :)

We havent really been out & about much this month for one reason or another. We did treat ourselves to lunch on one of the jour feries as we wanted to try out the Auberge at Vernet la Varenne, which is under new ownership. We always like to eat in the local places before recommending them to guests...well thats our excuse anyway! Although the service was very slow (they were very busy & just didn`t have enough staff on to cope I think) the food was good so it passed the test & will be going on the recommended list! Our only other outing was to a party to celebrate our friends Julie & Jean-Luc`s “significant” birthdays this year. It was a lovely night out, but we couldn`t really do it justice as we were both quite tired & the French habit of standing about for hours having an apero just kills us nowadays. We didn`t go through to eat until 10.30 pm (having arrived at 7.30) & I`m afraid by midnight we just ran out of energy. We had guests staying & I had to get up to do breakfast the next morning, so we left ...before dessert (unheard of in the Phillips family!) We realised as we were driving home that we are just not as young as we used to be & when we are working like this we haven`t got the same staying power as we used have. What a sad state of affairs :(

And on that same track, as its the last day of May it must be my birthday! My lovely guests came down to breakfast singing Happy Birthday in French & English this morning, clutching a card & a lovely amethyst pendant which Regine had made for me yesterday at the Musee d`Amethyste at Vernet la Varenne. I`m celebrating today by serving breakfast to my B&B guests, cleaning their room, washing & ironing & then cooking a meal for new guests this evening. One day I will retire...I keep telling Geoff this but he just laughs! Perhaps my rapidly approaching trip to the UK to see Rod Stewart in concert will make me feel a bit rejuvenated! He is older than me after all & if he can still prance about like that - well maybe,so should I! I`ll tell you all about that next time. Have a good month mes amis