April turned out to be quite busy with one thing & another! We have been real gadabouts this month too – making the most of the good weather, which is just as well, as it is dire now, cold, damp & miserable.
Geoff had a good trip back to the UK at the beginning of the month. He enjoyed seeing the kids & grandchildren & the chance to sleep on the top bunk of Ethan
s new bunk bed was very enjoyable! He also had a great time meeting up with his old school mates for their annual pilgrimage to watch a PNE match at Deepdale. It is really good that they all still meet up for this event & he was also pleased to see Betty Stuart again (Hi Betty if you are reading this 😊). This year there was another old mate who turned up who they hadnt seen for many years so it was a very good reunion all round. Meanwhile, all alone back at the homestead I was beginning to suffer from a problem with my one of my teeth…but more of that later.
When Geoff got back we managed to get the gite all spic & span ready for our first guests of the year over Easter…including getting the electrics sorted as thank goodness as our electrician turned up at last. Needless to say, it turned out to be a much more complicated job than we
d hoped…the wiring in our houses whilst being safe is somewhat bizarre ☹. However, it was all sorted by the time the guests turned up. They were the brothers & sister plus families of a man who lives in our commune. His wife had organised a surprise party for him to celebrate his 60th birthday & so our guests all had to stay hidden on the Saturday until the time of the do. For our first guests, they were a bit problematic…the gite guests didnt arrive until the wee small hours, the B&B guests wanted early breakfasts, some of the gite guests trooped over to our house to use the B&B shower rooms (& used all my hot water in doing so) & then the gite lot didn
t get up & go until 12 md on the last day (my checkout time is 10.30) so I was quite relieved when they all left really. Normally we have really good guests here, but I hate it when folk take liberties like this lot…& dont ask or say thank you when we accommodate them. Not the ideal start to our season really.
Our poor old credit card has been taking quite a hit this month as we have been buying a lot of family birthday presents & booking trips away. April & May are big birthday months in our family with our son-in-law’s, son
s, grandsons, daughter
s & then finally mine at the end of May. Ouch! I have also booked my flights to the UK for my nieces wedding in July & we have just booked to have a short family break in Venice in September. Geoff’s mum
s estate is almost wound up now & he thought it would be a nice way to commemorate her life as a mother, grandmother & great grandmother to get all the family together for a few days & so that is what we are going to do. I have to say the suggestion was met with much enthusiasm by all our family so off to Venice we will go in September. We are going to stay in the same hotel on the Lido which we stayed at, when we took the kids to Venice when they were small & I cant wait to see Ethan`s reaction to seeing & using all the boats & vaparetto traffic you see from there
All of this has been good for me & has taken my mind off the “tooth problem”. Those of you who know me will also know I am almost “dentaphobic” & I tend to ignore tooth problems until it is almost too late rather than go to the dentist. And so, it was that the tooth which had been broken for ages began to ache. I got an emergency appointment with the surgery where I used to go & where I trusted the lady dentist there (well…maybe trusted is a big word!) but she has now retired & the new young lady there was not so sympathetic to my problems with dentists. She took out what was left of the filling, put in a “pansement” & disappeared. I was not happy & still had the most terrible toothache I have ever had. I was in total agony all night. The next day we went back & by then I think she had realised that what she had done was not appropriate, so she “fitted me in” for root canal treatment under lots & lots of anaesthetic thank goodness. Lucky me eh? Since then I have had more appointments to eventually fit a crown, which will finally be done next week. I have to say I am not warming to this dentist. She does nothing to put me at my ease, doesn
t tell me what she is doing, never talks to me at all if she can help it & all I can hope is that this crown will stay put as Im not going back!
We have been gadding about too this month. We had a lovely drive over to Lac Chambon one Sunday where we met up with Linda & Mike for lunch at a lakeside restaurant we like there. Geoff was a little upset to find it had gone up market quite a lot (& so had the prices!) but we had a delicious lunch. We had asked for a table on the terrace & got caught out completely by the fierceness of the sun as there were no parasols yet in evidence. I got a bit burnt…something I am usually very careful to avoid I also went with my friend Bernadette to the garden event at Ambert which we always try to go to. It was a bit disappointing this year as the park where it is normally held was closed for renovation & so the stalls were just all around the Marie & were not so attractive. It was also freezing cold…quite a contrast to the weekend before when we went to Chambon.
We have also had a few days away thanks to the arrival of our lovely holiday house neighbours who agreed to look after our animals. Our friends Marc & Michelle have recently retired, sold up their house near Paris & moved to Le Porge which is about 25mins drive from Bordeaux. Marc & Michelle originally came into our lives many years ago when they became our daughter Hazel
s school French exchange family. We have become real friends since then & they came to Hazels wedding. They have been asking us to go & visit so we decided to take a few days off & drive across. We took a bit of a convoluted route to get there, as we left after Geoff had finished teaching on the Wednesday evening, stayed in a hotel in Aurillac that night & then drove through the Dordogne area where we had spent many a happy camping holiday with the children when they were small, before meeting up with some friends for lunch at Montblazillac. Dawn is one of my Twitter & FB friends & also does some telephone teaching for Geoff & we have been wanting to meet up for ages, so this was a good opportunity to do so. We had a lovely lunch with them & then set off to complete our journey to Bordeaux & then on to Le Porge. Marc & Michelle have made a huge change in their life & their new house (which indecently they bought from an English couple!) is really lovely & exactly what they wanted. We had a great couple of days with them visiting Bordeaux one day – we`d not been there for over 20 years & what a change –& we loved it. We also spent another afternoon going down memory lane again by visiting our old campsite haunts of Carcans, Maubuisson & Carcans Plage. Our old campsite in Carcans is still there, but boy has it changed! When we first went there (& yes, I know we are talking 30 years ago!) it was a quiet site in amongst the pine trees & still had chemical toilets! Now it is big, modern & has electronic gates! The whole area has really gone upmarket too…but it was nice to see it all again. Our visit was also enhanced by some fantastic weather…clear blue skies, sunshine & temperatures in the mid-20s c. It was great being beside the sea again & we really enjoyed the break very much.
Our trip to see Marc & Michelle has got us thinking about “life after Chabanol” once again. Although I think buying a house like theirs for our retirement is way beyond us & we still haven`t finally decided if that retirement will be in the UK, France or a mixture of both – & there are lots of things in that mix I can tell you such as being nearer to family, the effects of Brexit etc etc. However, we seem to have started looking at the idea of buying a small apartment (or even a mobile home) near the sea in France & possibly a small place in the UK too so we can split our year between the two. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that (if…& it is a big if) we sell our houses here for a reasonable sum, we can definitely afford a small apartment in the sun near the sea. All this of course is still a couple of years away but it is good fun looking at estate agents web sites in the meantime! One can dream after all!!
One other thing that our trip showed us was the contrast between the villages & towns on the coast & here. Everywhere we visited over there seemed vibrant & well-kept, whereas here the villages are dying. We were very sad yesterday to say goodbye to Nathalie & her family who after 20+years were closing their boulangerie – which just so happens to be our favourite & where we buy all our bread & croissants for the B&B– in Sauxillanges. Another friend David, was also closing his electrical goods shop in Sauxillanges yesterday & the little second hand clothes shop closed last week. Sauxillanges, which, when we arrived here, was a bustling, lively little village is slowly dying & often resembles a ghost town now. A lot of this downturn is due to the little supermarket in the centre of the village closing & moving to become a small Carrefour Contact supermarket on the outskirts of the village. This shop is very nice, but has killed off all the traffic to the village centre completely. The powers that be have also seen fit to close the nice little friendly tourist information offices in Sauxillanges & Vernet La Varenne & concentrate all tourist activity from the big tourist office in Issoire – which believe me will do no good whatsoever for the villages here. We are now just waiting for the post office & the bank to close – the PO has already reduced its opening hours - & then the village will definitely be dead. It is all so sad & not good for our business here either. Maybe it is time to be thinking of moving on after all.
So, April comes to a close…& it is going out in style with a blast of cold weather & even snow last Thursday! The quite nasty overnight frosts we have had this week have taken their toll on a lot of the plants in the garden which were just beginning to sprout & the fig tree looks very sad too. I doubt I
ll have any muguet (lily of the valley) to give away tomorrow either. May is usually a busy month for us with all its jours feries (holidays) but we look like being quieter this year. I (like all the French folk) blame this presidential election which is proving very worrying too. Many of our sensible French friends are so upset with the choices for the next president & are saying that they wont vote or will vote blanc – a very popular choice here which involves putting a blank return into the ballot box – which makes no sense to us & is a bit annoying, as it might just let Mme Le Pen become the next president. Perish that thought. One more week to go & then we will know …very scary indeed. So, my friends, don
t forget to set your alarm for tomorrow (Mayday) so you can all rise with the dawn & dabble your faces in the dew as tradition demands. Ill certainly be doing that…mmmm…well maybe not!
A bientot mes amis…