Marching on…

Oh, its so nice to be writing this with the sun shining through the window at last! I`ve had enough of cold snowy weather now & really want to have a bit of spring like warmth again. When I wrote the last post, we were still in the depths of winter & I have to say that March has had its moments with some very low temperatures – especially at night, & there is still quite a bit of snow on the mountains across the valley. However, I do feel now that we have turned the corner at last (famous last words eh?) & we can look forward to some warmer sunnier weather. The garden looks lovely just now – full of primroses, daffodils & violets & I even chanced it a bit last weekend & planted up the circular bed in the middle of the lawn, so it all looks so pretty. The fruit trees are just about to blossom too so I do not want any more white stuff falling from the sky to ruin it all…are you listening up there?

So…what have we been up to this month? Well we have both been quite busy really, one way or another. We started the month off well by having a really great weekend away on the South coast. We went back to have another look at Frejus. If you remember, this is one of the places we think we would be happy to live when we retire & we wanted to see what it was like in the winter months. We were astonished to be driving through Montpellier & seeing the remains of all the snow which fell there, in the gardens & alongside the roads where they had been ploughed. It is so rare to see snow on the south coast like that & we were very glad we hadnt had to drive through there a few days before…although we do have all the right equipment for driving in snow, unlike the locals in the south! The drive to Frejus was a long one, but we did have a great weekend. Our hotel was nice (even if we couldnt get any wi fi all weekend as it had promised!) & we enjoyed having a stroll round the beautiful port area again. On the Saturday morning, it rained, but we decided to take a Uber car up to the old town to see what life would be like there in the off season. It was our first experience of Uber…& we were very impressed. The old town was quiet but pleasant to walk around & we found a very small market, so we were happy. Back at the port, we met up with the two ladies who were our dinner companions on our last cruise & who live on the Riviera. We had a fantastic lunch at one of the beach side restaurants…starting off on the outside sea side terrace, but that was a bit ambitious warmth wise really so we soon moved inside, much to the amusement of the waitress! A good time was had by all though & we really enjoyed being in Mandy & Carolyn`s company again. In the afternoon, we met up with two of our former guests, Regine & Angel, who live in Frejus. They were thrilled that we had contacted them (they have stayed with us several times, so we have gotten to know them quite well), & they were delighted when we told them we might be coming to live in Frejus, at least for part of the year, when we retire. It was great for us to be able to talk to them about the town, which areas to avoid when looking for apartments & just life in general for local people. We felt that the whole day had been a great step forward for our decision making. We drove back home the next day feeling so much better for seeing the sea & having had some warm sunshine on our faces yet again :blush:

The B&B bookings continue to trickle in for the spring & summer & we have guests in the gite for Easter weekend, which is nice, as we dont often have people staying at Easter. Easter is a bit of a non-event here as its usually too early for good weather & the school holidays frequently miss the Easter weekend – as they do again this year. This booking came at the last minute & is a grandfather & his lady friend, his son & his two granddaughters. The son is separated from his wife & so this is a chance for the girls & him to spend some time together & with Papy too. They are a nice little family & they invited us to have an apero with them last night - the kind of guests we like. This gite let has meant that we have had to get the gite sorted in a bit of a hurry…we thought our first guests were not until May! We had already done some of the work over there though, as we had agreed to have a NZ guy come to stay on a sort of helpex basis i.e. free accommodation in return for doing some little jobs which we need done. However, he didnt arrive as planned – letting us know the day before he was due to arrive. He told us hed had an accident on his bike & the doctors were advising him not to travel. We were a bit concerned for him, but now I am beginning to wonder if hed had a better offer! It was a shame, as we had a list of things for him to do, but not catastrophic. It just means that Geoff & I will have to do all the stuff instead now :blush:

We have managed to get out a bit too this month. Geoff treat me to a lunch at Vivianes for Mothers Day, which was nice. I got lovely cards & gifts from the kids, but I do miss them on days like that, so it was good to go out. We have also been over to visit our friend Tots as Geoff wanted to pick her brains about a book he is writing. Tots is now doing very well with her books & so was able to give him some help as to how to get his book published. It is of course nothing like the books she writes…it’s a non - fiction book about teaching…but hes keen to try & put his thoughts out into the wide world & so he was pleased to have her input. It was also good to see her again as its been a while since we last met up. Another “big night out” was to a soiree Auvergnat in the village salle de fetes. It was a really good evening, where we ate a typical Auvergnat meal & had a good chat with our friends from the commune. The fete committee did themselves proud & were dressed in traditional Auvergnat peasant costumes. It was good fun & we had a very good time. As part of the evening there was an opportunity to pay 2€ to guess the weight of a whole ham. We thought our guesses were a little on the low side, but it turned out that my guess of 5.65Kilos was the closest to its actual weight & so with much ado & a lot of good natured banter about Les Anglais winning, we were presented with the said heavy lump of jambon! Youpi, you may say, but as we drove home we were wondering what the heck we would do with this ham. There are only two of us here & that’s a lot of ham to get through for two people! We were also wondering where the heck we would put it. We do have cool (very cool) outhouses but we share them with a variety of small critters who eat everything which is not firmly secured in a tin, so hanging this ham in there was not going to be an option. Also, we had no idea as to how we hang it. After consulting a friend, we were advised to buy a ham bag…yes, you did read that rightly! Geoff was dispatched on Monday to find one & returned saying it was easy to get, so we are now the proud owners of a cotton Sac a Jambon… which sinisterly has a picture of a poor piggy being approached by a knife wielding bloke in a pinny. We have decided to hang the ham, in its bag, in the gite kitchen, which is unheated at the moment as we have no guests. Our next problem was how to cut it. Being total novices, our first attempts were not a big success. We basically were clueless & managed to hack off a couple of slices which were as tough as leather. I was in fear for my teeth as we tried manfully to eat them. We realised at this point that as well as having no idea how to go about this slicing business, we also did not have the right tools for the job. We resorted to You-Tube…our saviour in many other “dont have a clue” situations…& lo & behold there was a video telling the world how to slice a whole ham. Fantastic! We were a little dismayed to see all the equipment which the bloke on the video was recommending though…at least 3 very sharp knives & a clamp to hold the ham while slicing it…none of which we have of course. This ham was beginning to look as if it was going to cost us a fortune! Fortunately, our neighbour (when he stopped laughing) loaned us a suitable slicing knife, so by wedging the ham into one of my casserole dishes (AKA the clamp) Geoff is now able to cut some reasonably thin slices. I have to say that the ham is delicious & we are the envy of most of the locals at the moment, but if anyone is passing, please call in. You will be more than welcome to take some of this ham home with you. Otherwise we will be eating it until Christmas!
The day of the soiree I was asked by our young neighbour Cindy, if I would look after her little boy, as her child minding arrangements had fallen through at the last minute, and as a member of the Fete committee she was expected to help to prepare the meal and the salle de fetes for the evening do. This was no problem really as Timohe Is a nice little lad & he loves Xena, our dog & the hens very much. We had a good day with him. I was very amused though at lunch time, by how much he ate. I had given him what I thought was a decent child’s portion of scrambled egg on toast which he polished off in no time, so I ended up giving him some of mine too. And then…like a true little French lad, he had to have some cheese! “Ou est le fromage” he asked! We hadnt planned a cheese course but I had to think again obviously! I was caught in a weak moment at the soiree by my good friend Julie, who has been trying to persuade me for ages to join a local choir in Sauxillanges. I have to say at this point that I have resisted all invitations to join this choir for 10+years now, as although I can sing & love to sing, I am not a good choir person at all as I have usually sung solos & I like to do my own thing really. Also, I find that French choirs are way too serious for me. I like to sing light hearted, jolly stuff & I dont like most of the repertoires I have heard around here. Anyway, as I said, I was caught in a weak moment & found myself agreeing to go with her to “see what it was all about” as they have a great new enthusiastic lady leading the choir now. I went…I liked one song, hated the other & was bored by all the time taken to warm up & learn parts. Although I have said Ill give it one more try, I dont think the Sauxillanges choir will be getting a new member in me. Sorry folks.
A lot of my spare time this month has been taken up with two pages I have joined on Facebook…I know, sad or what?! The first is a new page called Boldon Born & Bred. I was born & bred in Boldon in the NE of England & this page has been fascinating as literally thousands of folk have been posting photos & comments about the place & people who have lived or still live there. I am now back in contact with old neighbours & schoolfriends from way back & I am loving every minute of having my memory jogged with childhood events. The second page I was invited to join (New Born Hats) has had me reaching for my knitting needles again. I do like knitting but prefer to knit small stuff now…& I hate sewing up, so knitting tiny hats for poorly new born & premmie babies is proving to be very enjoyable. The idea is great…lots of hospitals need these hats in amazing numbers, so we knit them & send them to a lady in the Isle of Wight who then distributes them to the hospitals on her list. I am loving this. It takes very little time to knit a hat & also I am using up the yarn I brought from my MiL`s house when she died. She was a great knitter all her life & right up to the point where dementia finally overtook her, she was knitting premmie baby cardigans & vests for her local maternity hospital. I am sure she would have approved of what I am using her yarn for today. The only down side of this is the cost of the postage…but I think it is a small price to pay for what I think is a worthy cause.

Ok, that’s it for this month. Its onwards & upwards into April now…with its good weather (I hope), a garden full of flowers & fruit tree blossom, & maybe some more guests. We also have a trip to the UK for our granddaughter`s christening to look forward to at the end of the month too.
A bientot mes amis.

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