July seems to have gone by very quickly...it doesn't seem like a month since I wrote the last blog at all. It has been a bit of a mixed bag month really with some good bits & some not so good...normal life then here at Chabanol!
The weather improved at the beginning of the month thank goodness & our days with Matthew, Susie & Ethan were lovely. We managed to cram a lot to things into those days & it was great to have them here again. Geoff & Matthew went off to see the Tour de France stage finish in the Cantal on the Wednesday & had a great “father& son” day together. Susie, Ethan & I went to the childrens farm at Montpeyroux & Ethan had a great time feeding all the animals there. Then we ended up at the lake for a much needed dip...it was a very hot day. On the Thursday, Matthew & Susie went out for lunch together, so Geoff & I had Ethan all to ourselves for a while. It was great to see him playing with Matthew`s old Brio train set & Galt trike. I always knew they would be worth keeping! We had a lovely time being Grandma & Pappi for real, & not just via Skype, for a while. This is one of the things we miss living so far away from him, so it was a real treat for us. All too soon they were off again to spend some time at the coast & I have to say it was really sad putting all the toys away again. However, the next time they visit there will be another little one to play with, as our new grandchild is due in December. Looking forward to that very much.
We had quite a busy time after that, with guests in the gite & B&B. The first gite guests were here to visit family & for a family birthday celebration. We were greatly amused on day one, to see a set of Roman armour drying in the sunshine having been sprayed gold! I can now say that the gite has had its first visit by a“Roman centurion”! The party was, of course a fancy dress one, & the costumes the family left in were really good...Chabanol has never seen the like before! Great fun all round. These guests were followed by another lovely family who were here too for a family get together in a nearby village. They loved the place do much, they stayed an extra night. The fact that we could let them stay on is indicative of our season though, as normally in July & August, the gite & B&B is busy. Not so this year unfortunately. For us to have the gite unlet for third week of July is an unwelcome first. The B&B too remains pretty empty during the week & then I have lots of requests for the Friday nights (most of which of course I have to decline) & then nothing until the next Friday. Also most of the B&B requests are for families with 2 or more children. Once we get past 2 children I have to offer 2 rooms...& very few of them go for that! Its very frustrating this year. We have also had a couple of last minute cancellations & the number of people who ask for accommodation & then don't follow up this year is amazing. It tells me though, that we are not the only ones round here who are struggling to fill our rooms. There must be so much choice that families are obviously going for the cheapest option. Happily, we now have the lovely R family back in the gite for their third holday with us, so all is not doom & gloom! I will miss them when they go home...& so will Xena & the hens!
Xena is thoroughly enjoying life here just now. The two holiday houses in the hamlet have occupants & both families have dogs. Xena seems to have become a “dog magnet”& they all come here to race around the garden & play together. One of the families have replaced their very nasty Boxer dog with another, but fortunately he is a lot much more friendly,even if he looks a bit fierce in his harness which he wears all the time. One night I glanced out of the window & was a bit startled to see a flashing red light moving all round the garden. Thoughts of aliens went through my mind (it was a bit eerie after all!) but it turned out to be a light fastened to the Boxer`s harness! I don`t think we will be buying one of those for Xena though...our neigbours might have heart attacks if they see that in the village on a regular basis!
We have made the most of the nice weather by visiting the lake as often as we can for an evening swim. I love that lake..its so nice to cool off in the beautiful surroundings. We have also been amused by the new straw hats which have been issued to the lifeguards here... ours is now a dead ringer for Mickey Pearce, Rodney`s friend in Only fools & Horses! However at the moment our lake is closed because of nasty bacteria in the water caused by algae. It is the first time anyone here can remember this happening, but two other lakes in the area are also being affected in the same way. We are missing our swims very much & are hoping they soon deem it is safe to go back into the water again. In the meantime we drove over to Culnat for a swim there the other day & combined it with a meet up with Tots for a coffee & a chat which was nice. It is too far to go every day though.
Due to the lack of visitors, I have also had a bit of time to man my art group's exhibition at the Chateau de Montfort in Vernet le Varenne. I enjoy these afternoons & love chatting to anyone who comes to look round the expo. It has gone quite well & I`m pleased to say that I managed to sell a couple of paintings too so that was a bonus. It is finished now & a new set of paintings has been installed for August.
Because of all the rain we had in June & now all the really warm weather, the garden is going mad! The potager is just coming into its own & the courgettes, raspberries, spinach & potatoes are all appearing on our plates now. The weeds are also rampant...which is always the downside to this weather. Geoff has just finished clearing the trenches around the house & gite which were turning into mini forests! Also we (or rather I, as its always me who suffers the most) have had a real problem with flies & other biting insects. I have never known it be so bad here...I've been bitten so many times I've lost count. At the moment I have a nasty itchy bite on my thumb which is driving me nuts. It also drives me nuts that you can`t buy stuff to alleviate the itching in supermarkets here. It always means a trip to the pharmacie...& they are always full with queues!
I can`t write this blog post without mentioning yet again the dreadful attacks in Nice & Normandy. The Nice attack affected me very much...I love Nice & have spent many happy hours walking along le Promanade des Anglais. The atrocity there will have changed the way that particular place is recognised for evermore. Geoff & I have talked a lot about what is going on here in France at the moment & we are both very much of the opinion that nothing will change here until the politicians & government address the problem of all these thousands of disillusioned young men who are willing to sacrifice their lives to make a point. France has so many of these “ghettos” full of people who have no jobs, no money, no future & who are regarded very much as “second class” citizens. They are easy fodder for the so called radicals. After all, what future do they have living as they do? I can't see what good all this hand wringing & war like talk does after these events. The government are sticking their heads in the sand & not tackling the problem, which they don't want to admit they have...&,sadly, these attacks will continue until they do, in my opinion.
We have just returned from the annual village Resistance commemoration ceremony where Emily & Matthew, our gite guest children were asked to help lay flowers on the war graves. They did their task very well in spite of not understanding a word of what was going on! Their mum & dad were very proud of them. We were also in the village yesterday to see our lovely young neighbours here in Chabanol, get married. It was very odd to see Benjamin in a suit & tie – a very rare event – & Rachel looked stunning in her beautiful dress, as did their two little girls.
And so onwards into August. We have virtually no bookings in the gite once theses visitors go which is very disappointing. The B&B bookings are starting to look a bit better, but it looks like being another quiet month for us business wise.
Maybe we will be able to take a night off sometime, like everyone else here does in August...but I will need to prise open Geoff's wallet before that happens, which is a very unlikely thing to happen! We'll see....!