Why “Phew”? I can hear you all ask. There are several reasons actually as August has been a pretty full on month and “Phew” sums up nicely how I feel now that it is almost over. We have been very busy right up to the last few days & so we are both pretty tired. Because the gite has not brought in the punters like it normally does each summer, we have felt obliged to compensate by accepting every B&B booking we could get, including putting some of those in the gite when the 2 B&B rooms were full. As you can imagine this has been very hard work & I am really glad to be having a couple of days respite at the moment before the September influx starts. We actually did 20 days non stop B&B this month…a record for us, & although it was good businesswise, there does get to be a limit to having people in your house all the time, & consequently feeling that you are never “off duty” as it were. Fortunately (phew again) most of the visitors were lovely people & caused us no problems. We did have one young couple though who were very hard to please. Goodness only knows why they chose to come here as she, in particular, liked nothing about the place, the countryside or anything much at all as far as I could see! She even complained that it was cold was 30c at that time! I was very pleased to see them depart I can tell you – & then discovered that they had also taken the key with them. Not that I’m too bothered…I suspect she would rather cut her arm off before she darkens our doors again! We also welcomed our friends Liz & Alan for their second visit to us. Liz & I had a great evening catching up & reminiscing about our days as student nurses. The two sets of people in the gite this month were both super & really enjoyed their weeks stay with us. I only wish we had been able to have more gite stays…they are so much less labour intensive! The gite is now empty again, but is all ready for the arrival of our daughter Hazel & her boyfriend this weekend. Really looking forward to that!

The second big “Phew” was for the weather here in August. We were officially in canicule (heat wave) conditions for nearly a week…& boy was it hot. The French take canicules very seriously these days, after the big problem they had with the last one, when literally hundreds of people (mainly elderly) died. We had lots of canicule warnings & advice as to what to do, on the TV as people sweltered in the oppressive heat. Normally here, although we do get very hot weather in the summer, the temperatures are usually good in the mornings & at night time due to the altitude & its never a problem for sleeping. However this time we saw temps of 40c (our thermometer actually read 52c in the full sun one day) during the day & in the mid 30s at night. Our house , which was constructed many years ago, to withstand the heat of summer & which is normally a cool haven when it gets hot, failed miserably to cope during these extreme temperatures. The poor dog was also miserable as he couldn’t find a cool spot anywhere. Now don’t get me wrong here, I love the heat & sunshine as much as anyone else, but these temperatures were unbearable…especially for working in. We had one major changeover Saturday during this lot & believe me it was not pleasant having to clean the gite & B&B rooms, wash & iron all the bedding etc when it was so hot. Geoff, too, found it hard going carrying on his teaching as the businesses he goes to are not really big enough to go to the expense of air con. Lots of very hot, cross students. Now, however everything is back to normal…or almost normal! This years bizarre weather patterns have produced some pretty violent storms over the last few days, with hailstones the size of golf balls falling from the sky. I posted some photos of these on FB & Twitter if anyone is interested to see them. It was really quite scary, the noise was deafening & you certainly didn’t want to go out during these hailstorms. Fortunately (phew, yet again) we escaped any major damage. In some of the neighbouring villages, cars were dented & had windscreens smashed.

Our village fete came & went in a blur really as we were too busy (& too tired) to do much at that point. We did make it up to the lunchtime meal on the Sunday & again to the fireworks (we never miss a firework display!) on the Sunday evening. The fete was a great success though, mainly due to the good weather, & had record numbers of people attending for a change. I was a little taken aback to be invited to help our friend Liliane with the count of the votes for the winning author in the literary event which takes place alongside the fete. It was quite amusing, all taken very seriously of course, & although I was only given one authors votes look after (everyone else had at least 2, but I,being English no doubt, could only cope with 1!), I did my duty..& enjoyed the inevitable cake afterwards! Incidentally “my” author won!

We have spent a lot of balmy evenings in the garden this month, as usual, gazing skywards whilst watching the amazing shooting stars. We are so lucky here not to have any light pollution & so the night sky is truly wonderful to see. All the star constellations are very clearly visible & as always in mid August the shooting stars are fabulous to see. We usually put out the sun loungers on the lawn so we & our guests can lie back in comfort & enjoy the show. This year they were particularly good as the sky remained cloudless for most of the peak shooting star period. Wonderful! Another nocturnal delight for Geoff has been finding (& filming) the glow worms which are abundant here. If you really are a glutton for punishment you cn see his “amazing” video of the fascinating creatures on the Les Hirondelles, Chabanol FB page…but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

My final “phew” is a personal one. After many years of putting up with a very uncomfortable chair at the computer I finally found a decent, proper desk chair at one of the vide greniers we visited this month. So at last I can sit & do all my computery things in comfort…phew! Or so I thought.. It turns out that the old uncomfortable chair has been a lifelong companion of my dearly beloved for many years & has somehow made its way back down from the attic (where it had been banished) as himself has declared that the new chair “hurts his leg”. Pah! I am not giving in though…we are in stand off mode just now...let the Chabanol Chair Wars begin!

Marie Douarre is a charming person and one of my closest friends, she and her husband are delightful people who made our integration much easier. It would be a good evening to have you and them here for supper one night?

Hi Judith. We have the same philosophy re mixing with the English! We too love living here & have integrated well into our comunity. It would be good to meet up sometime though..nice to swap experiences etc. My husband teaches Eng to Mme Douarre who has told him she knows you.

Like you, life is still a bit busy here. The next couple in will be our last for the season next Saturday, I have enjoyed doing it so much but I will need a bit more help next year. I'll give you a call when you are calmer B&B wise and it would be good to meet up. I don't mix too much with English folk, not that I don't like them, I do very much but I came to France to integrate and try to speak the language, when we invite people to supper there will be a mix of people with a couple of English and the rest French, this is my home now, it is such a lovely life here in the Auvergne.

Oh..what a small world. I`d love to meet up & swap notes :) Daughter is here for a visit next week & we are still a bit stuck with B&B visitors too atm but you are welcome to drop by for a cuppa & chat anytime

Christine, I really enjoyed reading this and then I realised that you live just up the road from me!!!! I live at La Chapelle sur Usson and run a Gite at Le Pin. We must get togethjer one day and share memories of the NHS.

Judith Lea