Who says you can`t teach old dogs new tricks?

Blimey…September already tomorrow. This year is really flying by…but on the plus side, September means we get back to France again and I can`t wait! Our flights look as though they are still OK and having renewed our senior rail cards this weekend, I will be booking our train tickets (with fingers crossed that there will be no rail strikes on the day we are travelling) and our hotel in Nice for the night we arrive there today. We are soooo looking forward to being back in France, the sunshine, the markets, swimming in the sea and all the other things we love doing when we are there. Only 12 more days my friends…**

Meanwhile, what have we been up to this month. Well actually, quite a bit including those new “tricks” referred to in the title of this post! We have been out and about quite a bit as usual and have enjoyed lunches and days out in places where I have been reliving lots of days from my childhood. We went to Hexham one day, which I really enjoyed. My parents had a static caravan there for many years so I spent many weekends in Hexham as I grew up. We found a lovely bistro (Danielles) where we had lunch and then I enjoyed looking round the shops while Geoff visited the Abbey and the museum. Towards the end of this month, we went off to St John’s Chapel, a lovely little village in Weardale, where again my parents had a caravan for many years -before the Hexham one. In fact, my parents van was the very first one to go on the small site there…which apart from now having much swankier vans on it, was exactly as I remembered it! After lunch in the small café there, we went off to find another blast from the past for me, the natural swimming “pool” in the River Wear. My dad tried to teach me to swim there when I was little and it had not changed one little bit. Nor, I hasten to add, had the temperature of the water! But, being the hardy souls that we are we just had to have a dip…but not for long as it was truly freezing! I did enjoy it though…so many memories for me. We also had a really nice day out in Whitehaven one day. Lots of folk said it wasn`t worth visiting, but we really enjoyed it. Mind you the sun shone that day which made the harbour look very Mediterranean! We really enjoyed the visit to the Beacon Museum too. Other jaunts locally this month have included yet another lunch out at Upfront Gallery, this time with my cousin Ken and his wife Joy (we always love this place!) and just this last weekend we went into Penrith to go to the wonderful flower festival in St Andrews Church there. The displays were beautiful and we had a bonus meet up with my friend Sandra (alias @rattycastle on Twitter) and her mother for a cup of tea, which was lovely too.

One Saturday evening we headed off to see our friends Linda and Mike in Uldale to commandeer their garden under relatively dark skies, to try and see some of the perseids meteor showers (shooting stars). It brought back many memories of us lying on sun loungers on our lawn in Chabanol, in the pitch-black watching these. We often used to frighten the living daylights out of guests returning from a meal out, by greeting them from the darkness as they passed by! We did manage to see a few shooting stars…well most of us did anyway! Linda seemed to miss them all…just didn`t have the knack! It was fun though

Another evening found us sitting outside at Talkin Tarn to watch a fantastic performance of Wind in the Willows, performed by one of our favourite outdoor theatre troupes, The Pantaloons. It was very good and having doused myself liberally with jungle formula (the midges there are a force to be reckoned with) and wrapped myself up in a blanket to keep warm when the sun went down, we had a great night! Last Saturday saw us back inside a theatre this time, to watch a very good performance of two of Alan Bennet’s Talking Heads sketches, at the West Walls Theatre in Carlisle. One of the things we really missed when we lived in France was live theatre, so we are really enjoying being able to go to these shows again.

Now we come to the main reason for this months post title…our trip away with our grandchildren, Ethan and Hadley. We have never been able to take them away with us before and so when I suggested to them and their parents that wed like to do so this summer, for a few days, I was originally thinking of hiring a static caravan or maybe a glamping pod…something a bit different for them to experience “camping” as we used to enjoy doing this with our kids, but no longer fancy a tent or sleeping on the ground! However Ethan said ”can we go in a campervan?”…and I ignored that, as Geoff had said hed never do that! Hated the idea, he said. Then, I came in one day to find him researching campervans for hire…and you can guess the rest! The power of grandchildren eh?? So, this was a whole new box of new tricks for the old dogs to learn! We hired a lovely -and very big- van from a couple in Chorley and after picking it up and having all the complexities explained very patiently to us, we drove it to a site near Bolton le Sands for our first night, which we had decided to spend on our own to try and see where everything was and more importantly, how it all worked! We coped well, until it came to putting our bed together which was like a giant Jenga puzzle and despite watching a video sent by the vans owners, we didnt get that right at all, resulting in a very uncomfortable night`s sleep, as we fell down holes in the badly put together cushions! We collected the kids the next day. They had no idea of where they were going or more importantly, in what, and their faces were a sight to see as they saw the van! We managed to install their car seats and set off with their eyes sparkling! Geoff found that driving the van was not that difficult and so we arrived back at the camp site in good time for the kids to explore and make some new pals as they played out on their scooters. That was just what we had wanted to see them doing so we are really pleased. The next few days passed very well with only a few problems over food (our grandchildren are VERY picky eaters!) and we did eventually manage the beds! The kids loved sleeping in their sleeping bags and the fact that we let them stay up playing, until well after their usual bedtimes! We liked the van very much; it was very well equipped and allowed us the luxury of sleeping in a bed whilst allowing us to sample camping again. All in all, it was deemed to have been a great experience by us all and Ethan was heard to say, as we drove back to meet up with our son, “where can we go next time??“ HELP! Best start saving up now then, as it was a very expensive few days! We did enjoy the trip though very much…and we did learn lots of new tricks such as how to empty a chemical loo and build jigsaw piece beds!

The only real problem we had on the trip, was my fault as I managed to fall backwards out of the van onto a concrete surface …with a very resounding thump! Fortunately, I didn`t do any serious damage but I have spent the last week with an extremely sore butt, which has made sitting and certain movements very difficult at times. It is getting better but very slowly. It needs to hurry up now though as we are off to France in 2 weeks time and sitting on a plane for 2+ hours might be a bit uncomfortable as things stand just now!

We have also continued with more mundane stuff this month. I have started knitting small critters ready for my craft groups Christmas fair in November and intend to take some patterns with me to St Aygulf when we go to add more to the little stash (3 mice, 1 gingerbread man,1 elf, a cat key ring, several angels and an orange dinosaur) which I have here, already. My daughter and I spent a great afternoon swimming in one of Cumbrias open air pools (Hunsonby) with the little one, which we really enjoyed. I`ve been missing my usual swims this month as our usual pool has been fully booked. Next month it will be swimming in the Med of course

We have been delighted recently, to see and enjoy some of the publicity given to a celebration in the commune of St Etienne sur Usson where we used to live. Twenty years ago, the little village school there was used to make the film Etre et Avoir, a documentary which became very celebrated throughout France and beyond, showing aspects of life in a one class, one teacher, rural school. The film really put St Etienne sur Usson on the map and was very successful…even being shown at the Cannes film festival. The village school still exisits…but is now a little bit bigger and more modern in its approach to learning. It even has computers! To celebrate the anniversary, there has been a lovely exhibition there and the newspapers and local TV covered the event…hence our ability to see it. It was lovely to see some familiar faces in the coverage and to see the children who featured in the film (now, of course, adults) returning to their old school to join in the celebrations. It brought back many happy memories for us too.

In France, we were always told that after the “quinze aout”, it was the end of summer, but we are hoping to extend ours a little longer. For us it will be all steam ahead now for our trip to France. As I have already said, we can’t wait! We have both had our hair cut and as we have decided this time not to take any cases, we are still debating just how much we can get in the computer bag and a very small backpack! Just enough for our overnight stay in Nice I think…and so with tightly crossed fingers we will be flying “light”! The next blog post will be of course from our little apartment in St Aygulf, hopefully with me sitting on our balcony in the sunshine! Until then…

A bientot mes amis