The new year beginneth…

I am beginning to dislike the month of January very much. It always seems to drag with very little to do for me - no guests, bad weather so no gardening & rubbish TV. As usual too, we returned from the UK carrying the bugs that had floored both our children before & after Christmas. I have only just managed to shake off this nasty cold bug, which has seen me cough, sneeze & splutter throughout the month & has left me with zero energy levels most days. Happily, though I have not repeated the broken wrist saga of last year so that is something to be thankful about I suppose. The weather has not helped my mood either, as it has been quite cold & damp, with a couple of heavy snowfalls too just for good measure. But at least we should be thankful that we have not suffered any of the terrible floods that folk in & around Paris are experiencing. I can think of few things worse than having your house or business flooded with that amount of water. Ghastly. Our rivers are very full here but living half way up a mountain does have its advantages sometimes.

Despite the cold & snow our garden is already showing signs of spring…although, personally, I think these silly plants will regret flowering so early. We still have more snow to come here …it is only the end of January after all. However, the snowdrops & some crocus plants are already in full flower & most of the daffodils are in bud now. I only hope they survive. We had a tidy up session in the garden the other day which sadly included having to take out the lovely ceanothus bush over by the gite terrace. We loved that bush as it gave early vibrant colour to the spot & was always covered in bees & butterflies. It suffered badly a couple of years ago when we had a mega frost, but it seemed to be recovering & flowered last year as usual. When I looked at it recently though, it was completely dead, with moss starting to grow on it too…so out it had to come. It has left a very big gap over there & we need to put something in its place, as the terrace has also lost a lot of its privacy. This sounds like an excellent excuse for me to visit the garden centres over the next few weeks doesn`t it? My mood is brightening up already :blush:

Although we have not had any guests here this month, apart from the overnighters on January 1st, we are starting to get bookings which is good news. Strangely though, the bookings are B&B ones & not for the gite which is a bit odd as the B&Bs are usually last-minute bookings here. I am beginning to be much less stressed now about bookings really. I have always hated doing the marketing side of things & so am doing less & less. If folk want to come…they will come, is my motto now. Fortunately, Geoff looks like having a lot of work again this year with his English teaching – he has had several meetings & discussions in the last couple of weeks with the business which is his main customer & they are keen for more teaching to be done again this year. He is now waiting for the numbers of students & the contracts to be drawn up & off we go again :blush: All this means that I don`t have to worry so much about filling the B&B & gite all the time, which suits me fine these days. One day I WILL become a lady of leisure full time!

Because things have been quiet & I have been confined to barracks with this dratted bug for a lot of the month, our thoughts have turned to our proposed big adventure holiday in September. For those of you who are new to this blog, it will be our 40th wedding anniversary in September so we have decided to celebrate with a holiday to the US & to cross a couple of things off our bucket lists of things to do before we die! Geoff has always wanted to see & hug the huge sequoia tree, General Sherman (yes, he does hug trees!) & I have always wanted to see the fall tree colours in New England. So most of the planning has now been done, the flights to & from the States are booked as is the internal flight from San Francisco to Boston & the two fly drive tours are sorted & booked too. We have never been so organised for a holiday in our lives! It was a super way though to pass a few dreary days looking at the tours, the hotels we will be staying in (lots with swimming pools…there`s posh eh?) & plotting routes etc through totally unknown areas. We still have a few things to sort out, such as flights from here to Paris & of course, house sitters to organise as usual but we feel quite smug at the moment! The arrival of the Barclaycard bill yesterday wiped a little of the smug smiles from our faces but hey ho…its only money!

We are still embroiled in the ongoing insurance saga of our Ford car. After its little encounter with the sanglier in November, we have now received the official report from the damage assessor stating that, as we thought, its not economically worth repairing. It is an old car, has done many kilometres & has other bits & bobs which need repairing too. However, (there is always a however isnt there when dealing with insurance companies??) Axa dont seem to be showing any signs of paying out the promised money which we were told would be ours, according to our policy, should this scenario ever arrive. Surprise eh? Instead, they seem to be coming up with stupid scenarios like selling the car on to brokers in the south of France etc etc. We are getting a bit cheesed off with all this now. Fortunately, we did have the cash to buy another car & we do have the space to keep the Ford parked here while they fanny about, but its not ideal at all. I really hate the way insurance companies are happy to sell you policies & take your money, but never want to pay out when you claim. Watch this space for further developments.

Socially, January has been a bit dull as always. I met up with my friend Muta for lunch in Clermont Ferrand one day which was nice…even if Muta got a little lost & I got a bit dismayed to find that my favourite brasserie where we were supposed to have lunch, has closed down. Geoff & I also went to a “soup & games “night in St Etienne sur Usson one Saturday evening which was good fun. We took a new game which we had played at Christmas & subsequently bought for ourselves, called Tsuro, which was easy to explain & proved to be a success with our friends. The soup was delicious too :blush: And of course, last weekend we went to the big Foire de Sainte Paule in Issoire as usual. We enjoyed wandering around the market there & I got a big bunch of mimosa as custom dictates. The house is still full of the blossom & smells wonderful. But that apart, we havent really done much…its too cold & damp to go far really at the moment. I have been ploughing (all too quickly) through a couple of seasons of The Good Wife DVDs – Im addicted! But it is a great series & it helps pass the time :blush:

Today our water is supposed to be off so that they can complete pipe replacement work in St Etienne sur Usson. Last night we spent a happy time digging out every decent sized jug & bucket in the house & gite & filling them full of water, as there was no indication as to how long the water would be off. Today they are still sitting there as our water is flowing as per normal…& its after 11am now. Happy days :blush:

So now, here we go into February. The winter school holidays start here on the 11th but we are a bit too far from the ski resorts to expect much business from that. Geoff is going to the UK on the 24th & we also have his birthday & Valentine`s day to look forward to. Lets hope the weather is kind too.

A bientôt mes amis….