Blimey…what a month. I
m struggling to know where to begin this post as so much has happened...some good & some downright appalling. Ill start with something neutral then…the weather! We had a terrible start to June with really heavy rain every day for over a week. It was truly awful & our garden quickly turned into a swamp. We had a mini lake outside the front door & I got to the point of not wearing foot ware as it was easier to dry my feet than shoes & socks every time we ventured out. The problem here, is that these old houses are just not built for this type of weather & quickly become damp & cold as the walls absorb the water. Also, we have long suspected that we have a source of some kind underneath the house which normally gives us no problems, but with torrential rain like this, when the ground becomes saturated the dampness seeps up through the floor too. Nothing to see, you understand, but just that cold & damp feeling everywhere. We were still lighting fires virtually every evening until the middle of the month…not good news for our wood stocks either.The weather has improved now though thank goodness & we are back in summer mode again.
As you can imagine the rain didn`t really bring the tourists flocking to our door either. We had 2 cancellations…very unusual for us…one because their route was flooded (cant help that I suppose) & the other because “his mother was ill”…hmmm! We have had some very nice guests stay though when the weather started to improve. Sometimes when you do this gite & B&B thing you get some people who arrive as strangers & depart as friends, which is what happened to a Dutch couple who came to stay in the gite for a few days. They were so nice & friendly, loved the gite & the garden, thoroughly enjoyed the area & appreciated all the suggestions we gave them for places to visit. We took them up to Le Margalou for a meal one night & thoroughly enjoyed their company throughout their stay. We were sorry to see them go…but I suspect (&hope) they will be back one day. Another of our B&B couples liked my blackberry & apple jam so much I ended up giving them a jar to take away. They were on their way to Carcassonne to start a new life there having just recently retired so it was a sort of house warming present!
The Dutch couple were also very keen geocachers & their visit got me interested in this again. They had a great afternoon touring some of the local cache sites - there are lots of them around us including one in St Etienne sur Usson which I had a hand in getting set up. Geocaching is like a big global treasure hunt where once you have registered on the site www.geocache.com you can use GPS co-ordinates to find the caches which are hidden all over the place. The caches are all different, some tiny, some large, some with just a logbook in them for you to sign to say you found it, some with little treasures or tokens which are taken by the finders & something else put in their place. All of the caches are graded by difficulty of access so if you are not a big hiker you can aim for the ones in towns & villages with easy access, or if you (like our Dutch guests) are more experienced & want to combine the hunt with a walk or hike you can choose to do that too. As Doreen said, it is a great way of going to places which the locals who set up the cache know are interesting or have wonderful views etc & which otherwise you would not have found. It really is an interesting hobby & we are determined now to set up a cache here in the future, as I think our guests might enjoy that. It will also hopefully, bring more people here & then they can see what we (& the Auvergne) have to offer. Mind you I have to say that we are not very good at finding the caches ourselves yet. We have found one so far (mainly through the help of our Dutch friends!) but although I know exactly where the one in St Etienne sur Usson is…I have yet to find the damn thing! I will not give up though!
One other great local “find” for us came as a consequence of an article in our local paper La Montagne. We noticed by sheer chance that there was going to be an open garden event & that one of the gardens was very nearby. And that it was a Japanese garden!I never cease to be amazed at what you find here in the Auvergne! This garden was wonderful…a real haven of peace & tranquillity in the middle of nowhere. The house & land had been bought several years ago by a group of artists & actors & one of them had transformed the land into this lovely garden. It had all the traditional features of a Japanese garden,lovely softly rounded bushes, white & green plants, a dry stone water bed, water features & a lovely Japanese pagoda with a sunken table & sitting area. Truly beautiful. We got chatting to the guys who were there (including the designer) & they told us that they hope in the future to maybe do some outdoor evening theatre & readings events there, with food. I told them how much I loved events like that & how much I missed being involved with theatre etc & offered to read some Shakespeare for them if they wanted. I hope they get it off the ground & maybe include us if they do. I`d love that!
The latter part of June has been very quiet work wise - well for me anyway… Geoff is still very busy with his teaching & document revision work - so I was able to meet up with Linda one day in Clermont-Ferrand. We had a good catch up with all the news & I head all about their travel to Poland for their son
s wedding. Linda & Mike are now working towards Mikes proposed retirement at the end of the year & their inevitable return to the UK. We will both miss them greatly when they go.
I have also just had a visit to the UK to see the family & also ,of course, to go to the Rod Stewart gig in Carlisle. I had a great trip. I drove across to Limoges to fly to Manchester ,which was a long drive, but I took my time & enjoyed it. The next day , Matthew had taken a day off work so he, Ethan & I went off to Marten Mere, a wildfowl trust reserve near Southport & had a great day feeding the ducks, exploring the reserve & trying to keep Ethan from launching himself into the “big puddles” i.e the ponds! It was great to be able to play Grandma at last :). We called in to see Geoff’s mother in her new nursing home on the way back & I was pleased to see how settled she was there. I was able to report positive things back to Geoff when I got home…its always difficult when you are so far away & you don’t see family very often. On the Tuesday morning I had a good trip to Manchester, got my glasses sorted (thank goodness) & did some shopping & restocking of the Phillips pharmacy with things which are so much cheaper & easily available than in France, before catching a train to Carlisle. Not much to say about he Rod Stewart gig except that it was FANTASTIC & I loved every minute of it. There were lots of “people of a certain age” in the audience…in fact my daughter reckoned she was the youngest one there! That fact was borne out by her obvious lack of knowledge of the words of Rods songs! It was a great evening though. I also had a treat the next day too when two of my best friends, Liz & Rose, from nursing days came over to Hazel’s house for lunch. As always, our friendship is one which just takes up where we last left off & we had a lovely afternoon catching up with family news & reminiscing about our exploits when we were young. Its a bit scary though when we realise how long is since we met on our first day of PTS! I flew home the next day, yet another day of protest in France – so it was not surprising that the plane was delayed…but thankfully not cancelled!
I had one nights sleep in my own bed & then on the Friday morning Geoff & set off on our away night treat. This was my birthday present to us both…we have now arrived at the point where going away for a treat night is better than actual presents on our birthdays. We drove south through the Haute Loire, past Puy en Velay & into the Ardeche, pausing to have a pic nic en route. We had chosen to go to the lovely thermal spa town of Vals les Bains & actually stayed in one of the old spa hotels. It was really nice…& a real treat for us as we usually stay in chain hotels when we go away! However I had found a special deal for dinner bed & breakfast here & we made the most of it! It was a boiling hot day…we had had to put Sylvie’s roof up as I was in danger of getting sunburnt…& on arrival we checked in & then headed off to the lovely outdoor pool for our first swim of this year…youpi! We had such a nice time, swimming, walking around the beautiful town with its pretty park, eating dinner on the terrace, having another stroll before bedtime…just what we needed. The next day after breakfast, we attempted(& failed yet again!) to find the geocache in the park. I think we are pretty useless at this geocaching malarky, but it is fun looking! Then we headed home, taking our time & enjoying all the beautiful countryside. Since we moved to France we rarely go off to explore other regions any more, partly due to lack of cash, but also due to time & work pressures. I have decided we must do this more often now as we both really enjoyed the break! Just have to work on Le Radin now!
Being away that night meant that we could distance ourselves for the Brexit vote for a couple of days at least. I don’t want to get into a political rant on here…this is not what this blog is about really…but I will say that we were both shocked & devastated by the result. We are also a bit scared, as I don’t think anyone really knows what the future holds for the UK, our children, or us as ex pats. We are all in a “wait & see” scenario just now. I see other ex pats looking at French Nationality, but I am not sure its for us. We could probably get it…we have lived here for 10 years now , speak good French & are well integrated in our community…but we don’t feel French, so just not sure thats the route for us. We don’t know how we will stand work wise or if we will need to get permits to live & work here. We pay all our taxes & cotisations in France & again there is a big question mark over all that too. We are trying very hard not to panic but I must admit neither of us feels entirely serene at the moment. The only good thing is all the messages of love we have had from our French friends & the community we live in…as well as lots of leg pulling too of course! We are so lucky to have chosen such a great place to live & have such lovely friends here & I’m sure we will have a lot of help in the months to come when the dust settles a bit. Its all a bit raw & emotional just now, but there may be interesting & challenging things ahead for us.
So, onwards into July then. I’m making the most of a few more quiet days before Matthew, Susie & Ethan arrive for a few days & then the gite & B&B start getting busy at last. August is still very “unbooked” though…so if you are still thinking to get away for a summer break, you know where we are A bienot mes amis.