May has been a very busy month for us…well for me anyway. Because of all the Jour Feries (holidays) in May in France, it gives folk lots of chances to get away for a weekend or a few days as they often tag extra days onto the official holiday making a pont (bridge) to enable them to take a good break. This May has seen 4 public holidays here & even 2 in one week which led to a lot of firms closing down for the whole week. Consequently, I have been very busy with the B&B & gite…in fact I reckon this has been the best month ever as far as the B&B goes since we started. Geoff on the other hand has had a really bad month with lots of lessons cancelled due to the holidays & people taking the time off. He & his other teachers have begun to fall behind with their teaching hours…contracts need to be finished on time of course & now the catch up begins before the grandes vacances of July & August. Not always easy to stay on track here. Its always a case of swings & roundabouts with our businesses here!
I have had B&Bs almost every weekend this month, several using their gifts of vouchers via Smartbox or Dakotabox & several staying staying for 2 or 3 nights which is a bonus for me. These coffre cadeaux boxes are a double-edged sword for me as I like the way they bring folk here, & sometimes they come back again, but they take a whacking commission & don
t pay me very quickly at all. We have had some lovely guests this month really though, including an English couple who are friends of our former neighbours in Marple which was nice. We also had a very last minute group of 4 guys who had been in Spain doing some triathlon training & who had realised that, because of queues at the Spanish/French border & absolutely torrential rain, that they were not going to make it home to Belgium that night as planned. They rang about 10pm wanting both rooms…& they were lucky that we hadnt gone to bed by then! They arrived, totally fed up & tired at midnight & were very pleased to be able to get a good night’s rest in a comfy bed . We also got a very good booking as a result of a sad event. Last year we had a family stay in the gite & B&B to attend a surprise 60th birthday party for a man who lives in our commune. This time they all came back for his funeral as he died very suddenly due to a massive stroke. Very sad…but quite good business for me as he was one of 6 siblings so once again it took the gite & B&B rooms to accommodate the family. So, all in all a very profitable month for me as I said before.
We didn`t go to that family funeral, but we did go to the funeral of a very nice man from the commune, who also died very suddenly earlier in the month. Hubert was a very quiet, kind & well-respected man who had lived in the neighbouring village all his life & so the little church at ST Etienne sur Usson was packed for his funeral. In France everyone waits outside the church until the coffin, followed by the family mourners goes inside & then everyone goes into the church. At the end of the service everyone files down to the coffin to say a personal farewell in whatever way they feel comfortable with & then again everyone waits outside until the coffin is placed in the hearse & then they follow it to the cemetery if appropriate. There were a lot of mourners at that graveside…but we opted out of that part of the proceedings. It is odd to us still that that very intimate part of the service, in our eyes, is so very public here in France.
I made a very rare visit to our doctor early in the month to get the cataract removal business underway. I like our doctor…he is my kind of doc as he doesn’t fuss or do unnecessary stuff when you go. He never even looked at my eyes…just accepted the recommendation from the optician & then started to ring ophthalmic surgeons to get me an appointment. I started to get a bit worried when he said that Issoire hospital were accepting no new patients & the guy who our friend had recommended in Clermont Ferrand had a years waiting list. However, a colleague in the same practice gave me an appointment for June so that is the first hurdle crossed. I have to say I’m not looking forward to this procedure being done, but then again, I am not enjoying the poor eyesight I have at the moment either. We will see (no pun intended) what this consultation brings in June then.
I have also been through the experience of renewing my passport this month. My passport doesn`t actually run out until September but as we will be in America then & we need to get documentation sorted out for that trip I wanted to get the passport renewed as soon as I could. I have to say that the whole procedure of renewal on line was very easy indeed. Our only problem was the digital photograph which was a bit fiddly to do – no textured background (not easy in this house), no shadows (ditto), no hair drooping on my face etc etc. We got there in the end after several rejected photos, which I thought were quite nice, with a photo which they accepted…& which makes me look like an escapee from Cell Block H! The whole process has been very quick & my new passport is already winging its way to me now. I will be pleased to have the new one in my hot little hand as I hate being without my passport here. It is my main means of identity really if ever I get asked for that.
We haven`t been terribly sociable this month really. Its difficult to go anywhere when you have lots of guests coming & going. We did make two trips up to Pegotard to see some friends though, firstly just for a chat & cup of tea & the second adorned in red, white & blue, as requested, to watch the Royal Wedding with a group of people. I loved the wedding & it was a nice treat to watch in via British TV although I was really struggling to identify many of the celebrity guests without the help of French subtitles as I would have had at home! I did miss my daughter though as we usually have “hat chats” & outfit discussions on the phone at events like this, but she was on holiday in Berlin that day
To say that the weather has been very varied this month would be an understatement really. We have had some very hot & sunny days …but we have also had an awful lot of rain too. In fact, at the moment we are experiencing some very nasty storms with lots of torrential rain showers. This type of weather is disastrous for our garden which is fast taking on jungle status, with loads of weeds & the grass is growing at an uncontrollable speed . Geoff is struggling to find times when the grass is dry enough to cut. The veg garden is thriving though & we will soon be able to harvest some of the stuff, such as spinach & radishes, up there. It also looks like we might have a decent fruit crop this year too as the raspberry canes are covered in flowers & the cherry, plum & peach trees all have baby fruit setting. I just hope all these storms don`t knock everything off the branches. We made our annual trip up to Echandelys to buy our beautiful hanging baskets, & other plants at the plant sale there, but all these sun & dry loving plants are suffering just now. The rain has also thrown up another problem (there are always problems with these old houses ) in that we have rain coming down the chimney especially, when the rain is from the South. It is becoming a bit of a nuisance, especially at night, as I hear it pinging off the metal tube which feeds hot air from the stove into our bedroom…& its driving me mad! We have had someone out to see if they can find a solution & have had a quote for work. However, we are a little worried that this work might affect the functioning of the wood burner so we are waiting to speak with the installer to check that all will be ok. As they say…it never rains but it pours eh?
Having looked at the diary last week & realising that we have lots of guests due each weekend from now until the summer, we made the snap decision to go away last weekend for a little jolly. As we get older, we no longer buy significant birthday gifts for each other choosing instead to go away for a night somewhere & as it is my birthday today, this was my birthday trip. We stayed in a lovely little town called Figeac which is about 2½ hours’ drive from here, just into the Lot. Fortunately, by chance we had chosen a nice day to go away & so were able to drive there in Sylvie with her roof down all the way & have a picnic en route too. We had a lovely hotel room with a balcony (I love balconies!) overlooking the river & thoroughly enjoyed looking around the pretty old town & having a nice meal in the evening. The next day we drove to another stunningly beautiful village called Conques & enjoyed having a wander round there, making it back to the car before the rain started. The pic-nic that day was in the car…a family tradition for us! We also drove to have a look at another place, Laguiole on the way home. This is the original place for all the knives (& now other cutlery) which have the distinctive bee motif on the handles. It was interesting to visit, but as the rain had now turned into a massive deluge we didn
t stay long. The drive home was a bit hairy as we had real storm conditions all the way after that. Sylvies roof stayed firmly shut that day! All in all though, we had a really nice weekend. It was good to get away from making beds & breakfasts for other people & be spoiled a little instead. A good birthday treat…even if it was a few days in advance.
And so, we bring May merriness to an end. Its my birthday today & I
ve been celebrating in style as usual as its Thursday…cleaning day! It has to be done though Im afraid as we have both B&B rooms full again this weekend. However, I
ve also been reading all the lovely good wishes & birthday messages on both my Twitter & Facebook time lines & trying to thank everyone as I really do appreciate all those messages. I intend, after Ive posted this to celebrate a bit more, by watching some tennis - Roland Garros is on so for once, there is tennis on French TV, although we do have to watch every French player who is still in the tournament, even if they are 336 in the world! I shall also help myself to a celebratory drink of ginger beer (which I got hooked on yet again during recent UK trips) as my lovely daughter has sent me more via good old Amazon. And I`ll be eating some birthday chocolate too! Now that is really treatsville!
A bientot mes amis