Nothing like a normal November

I am skiving today in order to get all the end of the month tasks done. Skiving from what? I can hear my children (who still think we are permanently on holiday here) saying. It’s the Croix Rouge’s Marche de Noel this week & I just can’t do all the three days – its exhausting! I know I’m a wimp & most of the other volunteers are well into their 70s & 80s, but trust me its very, very hard work! I did almost a full day yesterday & will do my bit again tomorrow, but I needed a day “off” today...& I do have things to do here …honestly! As usual the Halle au Grain in Issoire has been transformed into a regular Santa’s grotto of wonderful handmade goodies & there were lots of people there yesterday taking full advantage of all this bounty. This event has unfortunately brought it home to me how woefully behind I am in my own Christmas preparations & present buying. So far I have made over 100 ruddy mince pies (& I don’t like them remember!)& they seem to be all spoken for, what with me giving a big box to the Croix Rouge to sell, another box being demanded for the fast approaching Carol Service & Geoff wanting lots for his students. I suspect Christine’s Mince Pie production line is not yet closed for this year...unfortunately. I have also not yet closed the Christmas card production line either but it will be grinding to a necessary halt very soon as I have to write & send them soon. I have made over 60 cards so far - again some for the Marche de Noel – but most of them are for our own use. I only hope all our friends & family appreciate m efforts this year! I had a “fun filled” afternoon the other day trying to persuade some very uncooperative animals to pose with their Santa hats on so that I could take photos for our “Seasons Greetings” message which I send out from the business. I gave up eventually after Bounty ran off into the village with his hat in his mouth & Maisie disappeared into hiding until I clearly came to my senses & stopped bothering her! I have managed to cobble something together thank goodness. Now all I have to do is to remember where I put all the e mail addresses & how to send them all out... “sighs”

We did manage a trip up to Clermont Ferrand last week. Geoff had a business meeting & I (foolishly) thought I’d get some Christmas shopping done. As a shopping trip I’m afraid it was a dismal failure. I sometimes miss being able to go into a shop such as John Lewis or Marks & Sparks & actually getting what I want! I came back with nothing...again! Although I like the fact that the French do not go overboard on the Christmas thing I do miss all the buzz which surrounds Christmas shopping in the UK. No Christmas music & no lights on yet of course. CF really didn’t feel Christmassy at all.

This lack of Christmas feeling has not been helped by the weather this month. It has been so mild, with most days being sunny & really quite warm. Last year we arrived back from holiday to snow & I remember having to leave the Marche de Noel early on the first day in order to get back home safely as we had blizzard conditions. This year there are roses flowering in the garden & wild flowers still in bloom. I even some very bewildered primroses in the garden...totally bizarre. Having put all the garden furniture away before we went on holiday, we have had to reinstate a couple of chairs & table as its still warm enough to eat outside some lunchtimes. Yesterday, we noticed a local farmer getting in yet another lot of silage & all the cows are still in the fields which believe me is not normal here at the end of November. I suspect the ski resorts are in panic mode now as it is the start of the ski season here tomorrow & there is not a sniff of any snow on our mountains yet.2011 really has been a very strange year weather wise in the Auvergne.

Another bonus resulting from the mild weather has been to continuation of the B&B visitors. We have had B&B guests here on a couple of weekends this month & have more coming in December. Again, not a normal occurrence here but it is very nice to be able to prolong the season (& keep some money coming in) for us. Because the B&B has gone so well this year we have taken the decision to close up the gite for a couple of months this winter. It costs us quite a lot to keep heaters on (even on freeze control) & so this year we have drained the water system & are going to close it up completely to see if we can reduce costs a bit. Winter lets are pretty few & far between anyway,& by the time we heat the place & subsidise the wood usage we don’t really make much –if any - profit, so we will try it this year & see if it makes any difference to our bills.

Our holiday is beginning to fade into the memory banks now. We had a great time though & really appreciated the chance to rest up & relax as usual. All the glad rags & fancy stuff are once again safely stowed away for another year. We are now planning our next trip back to the UK...not really the same thing as going cruising at all! We are going back to see all the family at Christmas as usual & have just booked the ferry etc for that. We are just hoping everything goes to plan as Geoff’s Mum is in hospital at the moment & we don’t really know what is going to happen in the next few weeks. We have everything in place for the trip, including the arrival of some very excited sounding Australian house & dog sitters. I only hope they remain excited when they get here & meet the animals in the flesh! Bounty has been warned that he has to be on his best behaviour…or else! They did say in their advert that they like new challenges so they should be happy here! I will bring you all up to date with how we all get on in the next blog post at the end of December. And on that note, as this is the last post before “the big day”, I’d like to wish you & all your families a very Joyeux Noel