January - A month of mini disasters

Our new year got off to a very good start – which is just as well as the days that followed brought more that a fair share of mini disasters chez Phillips. The good start was courtesy of our really nice gite guests who despite having a bout of gastro (a legacy from their grandchildren at Christmas) spent a very good week here at Les Hirondelles. What a difference from last year`s visitors! We all spent New Years Eve together – along with our friends Ron & Muriel – eating & bringing in 2011 in style. We also had some return guests in the B&B - a lovely young couple who in the intervening year have got married & are expecting a baby in April. They spend New Year with their friends in the next village & have outgrown the desire to sleep on floors & share a freezing cold bathroom in the barn, & so stay here in comfort instead! Since then we have had a steady stream of B&B reservations mainly due to the new Coffre Cadeau box scheme we have joined this year. It looks like it will prove to be successful but we need to get our heads round the new system for booking & confirming the bookings which is very different from the last lot. So far I only have 2 out of 7 bookings satisfactorily confirmed. More work to be done there then! Our first lot of visitors via this scheme have already been & gone. Their visit brings me neatly to the tales of the mini disasters.

Our visitors were due to arrive on the Thursday night & the meteo`s forecast of “quelques flocons” of snow proved to be very inaccurate as it rapidly turned into 10cms of lying snow & ice. Our visitors were woefully unprepared for that – no snow tyres.They also used their GPS – something we always advise against here especially in winter as it brings people here via a lovely little steep road with many bends! Needless to say they got stuck as the road & bends were sheets of ice. Geoff responded to their cry for help & went to pick them up as their car just couldn`t cope with the conditions. Unfortunately , our car found then difficult too & refused to stop when he reached them , sliding gently into their car – denting ours but not theirs! Eventually the two blokes managed to push our car past the worst of the ice & the guests were very grateful to reach warmth & security of their cosy room! With the help of our Maire & his tractor we were able to recover their car the next day but they decided to leave it in St Etienne sur Usson rather than risk the little road to Chabanol..which was fine but I did spend a lot of time playing Tootles the Taxi during the weekend! They were a lovely couple though & seemed to enjoy their stay – despite the weather.
Our cars have both been in the wars too – disaster numbers 2&3. My car overheated just before we set off for the UK at Christmas & had to go into the garage for urgent “leak” repairs. Then the exhaust dropped off Geoff’s car. More garage work. The guys at the little garage in Sauxillanges really love us! And now my car has a very fetching dent in it “sighs”.

Disaster no 4 was the phone & internet packing in just before our visitors arrived. We spent nearly a week without proper communication with the outside world.. a real disaster for me..no Twitter, no Facebook, no decent e mail time..aghh! Eventually the 2nd lot of France telecom engineers managed to find the fault, which of course was “internal” & therefore we have to pay for the repair. But it is really nice to be back in my virtual world once again.

Another chimney fire was disaster no 5, despite my men folk having swept the chimney in November. Of course it happened when I was here on my own & I must admit it was a bit scary. The noise is awful & the metal pipe which goes up the stack was glowing bright red in places. I quickly put the fire in the grate out & then just had to wait for the fire in the chimney to burn itself out – not a long time, but enough! I really think we will have to get the inner pipe replaced this time..more expense..”sighs” again.

Now, some non disastrous events! We managed to have a fantastic day out at Lake Chambon before the snow returned. The temperature that day was about 15 degrees & it was a beautifully sunny day so we took the dog & a picnic & had a great walk around the lake. I’m glad we took the opportunity before the snow descended again! We also managed to fit in a bit of sales shopping – & even bought something for once. Sales in France are not the same as in the UK but it is possible to get some real bargains here. And this weekend we spent a lovely day in Issoire at the Foire de St Paule, enjoying the huge market, the atmosphere & lunch (no tripe for me though!) with my Red Cross friends. The house is now full of mimosa which is sold in abundance at the fair - lovely it is too.

Geoff is as busy as ever with his English teaching. He has been contacted by another possible student this week who wants lessons twice a week & perhaps her husband will take lessons too – great news! I also have been “working” a bit – helping out a friend with the care of her mother who has dementia. She has had a good package of care for her mother until very recently when it all fell apart very rapidly leaving her struggling to cope & worse than that unable to take her much needed respite day off. I was able to help her out a bit a couple of times which allowed her to escape & have a good nights sleep. Care provision in France is very good normally but the company she was using were being a bit naughty – overcharging, not supplying suitably qualified staff etc & then left her completely in the lurch when she had the temerity to complain! Happily, she seems to have found some really good people to replace them now. It was quite nice to be able to help her out.. & it was good to use the old nursing skills once again!

Having brought you all up to date again it is time to stop & allow Geoff to do his guitar practice in peace. Yes... you did read that right..he got a guitar from Santa & is taking lessons. I think it is another mid life crisis thing – but he is enjoying it! I shall keep you all updated with his progress!

Mike worked for a french company in the uk and we thought of moving here when the children were younger, but it never came together. He was offered a job here 2009 and started to work here in sept of that year - I stayed at home to hold the fort! We had 2 of our children doing exams ( got 6 in all) another living with us ( deciding what to do with his life after uni!) other 3 at uni. Poor Mike was a bit traumatised with new job new culture commuting back and forwards… Finally moved summer last year , our youngest is at the International school in Lyon , lives with french family in the week back at weekends and hols. It is a strange twist on the empty nest syndrome! We are taking our time to find our feet - people are friendly , but no ‘network’ of friends as yet! Life with 6 children has been so hectic we are enjoying a bit of peace and quiet…don’t know for how long though!

What brought us here? Good question! When the kids finished their uni education we decided it was our turn to play!I like mountains, Pyrenees was too far from family(all in N of Eng), Alps too expensive.Daughter suggested looking here & when we did we found the Auvergnats to be lovely & welcoming. Then we found the house…& the rest is history!As you have prob seen by now we have a gite & B&B which keps me busy in the summer & Geoff has now found a niche teaching English so we are just about suviving. And you?

Would be great to keep in touch - maybe we could meet up when the weather improves! I often head south - shop in Clermont Pardieu and then keep going! We love the Auvergne -the countryside is so varied and so quiet too - not been discovered by the great British public yet! What brought you to this area? I will look for you on Fb!

Hi Linda - another Anglo/Auvergnat - youpi!We are a bit thin on the ground - which is actually why we like living here but it is nice to find fellow spirits occasionally. We are a bit further south - about 16kms from Issoire, up in the hills & have been here for 4+years now.The Auvergne is lovely isn`t it? Are you on Twitter? If so have a look at @tottielimejuice - she lives near Chatel-Guyan. Now that we have made contact - keep in touch either here ,on FB or Twitter. We might be able to have a meet up sometime :slight_smile:

Hi Christine - this is my first comment/posting on the site , have just joined the network. Have been in France for just 6 months now, we live in the Auvergne also so was excited to find someone else on here! We live just south of Vichy , Chateldon , my husband works just outside Clermont. Are there many from the Auvergne on here?!