I have never really liked November here and this year has been no exception. The month just seems to be a nothing month wedged between the end of our BandB and Gite activities and Christmas preparations. Also, many of Geoff`s teaching contracts are finishing and so he is at home a lot…and that means he is looking for things to do…and that means a lot of the time I get dragged in to help him This November started off with snow still on the ground which was not good news really. A lot of the trees here had yet to shed their leaves and so the heavy wet snow brought down a lot of branches everywhere causing a lot of damage. We got off quite lightly in the garden with a few branches down and a big hole appearing in our box hedge due to broken branches. However, there were loads of problems on the roads round here and clearing all the mess is taking time. So, the jour ferie of Toussaint (1st Nov) passed by very quietly with us both rattling around at home with very little to do.
We have now closed up the gite for the winter & have cut the water as we do every year now. Although it is cold over there now, I have still been using it as my craft workshop where I make my Christmas cards. It is great having the space to do this and not having to clear up every day. The table is a complete mess, but I can leave things as they are for each of my sessions over there. It is mighty cold though with no heating on, so those sessions are limited to an hour or so each day. I have finished now (I hope!) …over 70 cards made which will be enough for our personal use and a few to take to a Marche de Noel I
m doing in a week’s time. I dont suppose I will sell many (if any!) as the French are not really into sending cards full stop and Christmas cards very rarely. However, I have noticed this year that there are a lot more than normal on sale in the shops, so you never know. I do enjoy making the cards but the cost of posting them is getting a bit steep now. I keep looking at my list and revising it, but it never gets any shorter!
Talking of postage, we have noticed a big hike in the cost of sending stuff by post to the UK. I am still knitting the baby hats for a charity there, but the parcels are costing me a fortune to send so I have slowed down my activity rate considerably recently, which is such a shame. I also made an error with the birthday date of our granddaughter (can
t think why as Im so organised with things like that usually) and so her present had to be dispatched in a bit of a hurry. They wanted nearly 60€ to send by rapid delivery, which we baulked at, as you can imagine, but even the normal delivery cost was 16€…and the parcel was not that big. And it arrived 3 days after they told us it would, taking almost a week to get to the UK. Very annoying! I am dreading the cost of sending the Christmas cards…but then its Geoff
s problem. I makeem, he posts `em, that’s the deal!
We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend away to see Kylie in Paris. I had an appointment in Clermont Ferrand, to see the eye surgeon for my new glasses prescription on the Friday morning and then we set off to drive to Paris. All went well and we drove to the hotel in the Boulogne -Billancourt area of Paris without any problems at all. The Kylie gig was great and Geoff in particular really loved seeing her again. He took our daughter to see her in 1990 at Whitley Bay ice rink (how things change eh?) and has loved her ever since! Mind you the ticket prices have changed a lot too since then! We were up in the “cheaper” seats and I was a little disappointed that there were no big screens, as I thought they were the norm nowadays at big venues, so we had to hope that the tiny glittery person on the stage was really her! I had to laugh too at Geoff, who had not realised that Kylie had such a gay following. He couldn
t understand why such a huge proportion of the audience were gay men couples! I would say that 75% of that audience were blokes. Mind you I had the last laugh of the evening, when on exiting the arena, I needed to go to the loo…and for the first time in my life walked straight into the ladies, killing myself laughing at the huge queue for the gents! Overall though, it was a great night out and my husband danced all the way back to the hotel, draped in gold streamers singing “I want to go out dancing”. We have decided he will have that played at his funeral...it will be very apt, I think! On the Saturday morning we took the metro to the Voltaire area as Geoff wanted to go to the Gustav Klint art exhibition. It was pouring with rain and so I decided to just stay in a café whilst he went to the expo, but he was soon back, disappointed as he couldnt get in due to all the entries being pre booked. As it was still pouring, we headed back to the Metro, retrieved the car and headed off to Bourges where we were to spend the night. Good decision as it turned out, as Bourges was lovely and we really enjoyed walking round the old town, looking at the fantastic cathedral and nice shops there. We had the most wonderful meal there too that night…by far the best and most original Italian food we have ever had in France. The next day was the 11th November and we spent the morning wandering around the marais (marshland) area of Bourges listening to the 11 minutes of bell ringing which marked the 100 years anniversary of the end of the 1st world war. It was a bit surreal, as it was a beautiful day, it was quiet, the scenery was wonderful and the bell ringing was magnificent. We paused at 11am and remembered in our own way. It was all very moving. We drove home through the countryside, along side the river Cher for a lot of the time, which was nice too. Another bit of France that we had never visited. All in all, it had been a great weekend.
**As I mentioned earlier, I was now the proud possessor of an ordinance (or prescription) for new glasses which would be the end part of my cataract operations. Neither of us have ever bought new glasses in France as the testing procedure here is complicated, the waiting times for an appointment are very long and glasses are much cheaper in the UK. So, this was to be another new experience for me. French friends told me to take the ordinance around several optical shops and get a devis (estimate) from them all. It turned out to be interesting to see the price differences I can tell you…even though I was looking at the cheapest frames in each shop. There was a little bit of the cost refunded by my carte vitale and a set sum by my mutuelle (private health insurance) but the glasses were still quite expensive. However, I eventually made my choice and now have two pairs of quite swanky French specs…and best news of all is, I can see and read clearly again
Geoff has once again been dealing with French administration things this month. Our taxe professional (total scam tax as far as I`m concerned as mine is twice as much as his even though I earn a lot less) was due and now has to be paid via the internet. He got his done very easily, but mine as usual caused problems as the site would not accept my siren (business number). It took a few hours to sort out - and a lot of naughty words too! Hopefully there will only be one more time for that. Geoff also needed to put together a dossier for the University he does revision work for, as they have changed the way they pay him. This is even though he has worked for them for ages, you understand. He has to justify and provide proof that he is “in the system” and all his taxes are up to date! Sometimes living in France is not easy…and French administration is NEVER easy. All done now though (through gritted teeth) and hopefully now they will pay him what is due!
We decided it was time to empty the fosse septique too this month…we know how to really live here don
t we?? The poo wagon came and it was all done and dusted in about half an hour so it really wasnt that bad. It costs a small fortune (over300€) now though to have this done and to obtain the certificate to prove that you have disposed of your waste lawfully and within all the regulations set out by the water companies. It galled us mightily then, when one of our neighbours here, declared that he still gets a local farmer to empty his fosse (which incidentally is now illegal) & it costs him 70€…cash in hand of course. Sometimes I think we are just too law abiding for our own good.
As most of you will be aware, France is in the grip of a huge protest at the moment. The Gilets Jaunes are everywhere, protesting about everything, but mainly about Macron (who they hate), higher fuel costs, higher taxes and the rising cost of living. We have been quite lucky here as the protests have been fairly small scale & have caused a few problems, but nothing major. However other parts of the country have had real disruptions and lots of nastiness along side the protests. I have to say that I felt very vulnerable as we drove through the makeshift barriers the protesters had erected at the roundabout going into Issoire last week…these people are quite threatening … and so I am pleased we are not in one of the really militant areas. They had all gone when I drove into Issoire on Tuesday and I was very relieved. However, I suspect the protest and anger will continue for some time yet which is a bit unsettling. We lost a booking because of the protests…an English couple who have stayed with us many times now, as they travel to and from their house in Spain. They decided to fly this time as they were afraid of getting stuck in the protests. I know they will be back, but it was a shame not to see them this year. This, however, is a drop in the ocean, as we know of other friends, café owners and shops who have lost hundreds of €s due to these protests, so I hope they stop soon.
And so, the end of November is here. It arrived with miserable weather - snow, cold and wet, and is going out quite mildly with sunny (if chilly) days and wonderful sunsets over the mountains. I still have flowers in bloom in the garden and my hanging baskets are still going strong and looking beautiful. We took advantage of the mild weather last week and finally got the plum tree which fell over at the beginning of summer due to the deluge of rain we had then, chopped up. It was hard work, took us three afternoons and we were very sad doing it, but needs must. There is a very big gap in our garden now where it used to be. We also took our first steps towards selling the house and retiring yesterday when we had an estate agent come to value the property…but there is a long way to go yet on that journey, so nothing will change just yet. We have some nice social things happening in December and we will be going to the UK for Christmas as usual…although this year we are flying, so that will be very different. So onward and upwards…and as this will be my last post before Christmas, I wish you all a very Happy, Safe and peaceful Christmas.
A bientot mes amis