is (or was) only January

The comment...”yes -it is January” seems to have been my mantra this month! Things that have happened, the weather, the garden...all have been very bizarre & very unseasonable in many ways. I have had to remind myself over & over again that we are indeed still in January as it has not felt that way at all at times!

We started the month well with a quiet New Years Day...quiet apart from being full on, with guest breakfasts, cleaning rooms & washing, drying & ironing bed linen! Our guests were part of the family gathering in the next door maison de vacances & so were no bother at all. They came in at a sensible time having seen in the New Year with the family, got up, had breakfast, paid & went next door again. Ideal start to our business year! Of course, the rest of January has seen us guest-less as one wants to go far in January do they?

It has given us the chance though to do some redecoration – not the ideal time of year for most folk but a sensible one for us while we are deathly quiet. Our living room has had quite a radical makeover as we continue to try & banish all the traditional dark green & black paintwork which we inherited when we came here to live. We now have a very much lighter & brighter colour scheme in there with light grey walls & a lovely dark pink colour on the doors. We are still humming & aahing about the fireplace though. Somewhere in the past, someone obviously decided it would be a good idea to cover the stonework with thick black paint...well I suppose they thought it was more practical like that. We have always hated it, but have never been able to figure out what to do about it. This time, we bought some grey paint...well at least we thought it would be lighter...but after talking to some friends & investigating a bit more, we have now decided to try & take the black paint off & restore it to its original stone work. Discussions are still ongoing as how to achieve this...& so it remains black at the moment!

We also took the chance to go up to Clermont Ferrand one Sunday afternoon to take a guided tour of the Opera Theatre there. We have wanted to do this for ages...but the tours are so popular & so you have to book a long time in advance. Anyway our turn had at last arrived & we really enjoyed seeing the beautifully restored interior & hearing all the history of the building. I really miss being able to go to the theatre here, so it was wonderful to actually be in a traditional one at last! The auditorium is quite small & steep with 3 balconies but not a lot of seats really & the stage is very small. It explains why we never get ballets there & I am amazed they can accommodate the operas they do get occasionally. It is used more for classical music concerts really. However it was a treat to see it & I can recommend the tour highly.

Being January, the tradition here in a lot of communes is for the Maire to gather his commune`s inhabitants together for a drink & give a speech outlining his wishes for the new year to come. Our Maire hates public speaking(!) so doesn`t do these “voeux”, but the Maire of the commune where my art class is situated does, & he asked our class to mount a mini exhibition to show the commune some of our paintings. It was a lot of work for a very short time, but it seemed to be appreciated. We had made some pretty book marks using sections of some of our paintings & they sold well – even if the paintings themselves didn`t! Hey ho!

As for the weather this month...well this has been where I have often been uttering the “ is January” phrase! It has been the most amazing month weather-wise with balmy temperatures & lots of spring like sunshine. We have even had some days where we have been able to sit outside & read & drink our coffee. Considering that often we have snow here in January, this is not normal! I have lots of spring flowers already in bloom...daffodils, crocus, primroses, violets, hellebores & snowdrops all flowering, & we have seen several bees flying around too. It is all too early of course & I am fearful for their survival as & when the cold snap finally arrives. We did have one short episode of snow early in the month, but it is very mild just now. The mountains over the valley are clinging on to their snowy mantles...but only just. The ski resorts over there are not having a great season really.

During the snowy weekend our traditional January jinx struck, when one of the electricity circuits in the house died one evening. Of course it had to be the one which has the living room, hall & staircase lights on it, so we were plunged into semi-darkness for the evening. Now, the electricity in this house is a wonder to’s all legal but has many parts to it & is way beyond our capabilities to fix, so we were really pleased when our call to our friendly local electrician was answered by a visit...on a Saturday the snow. Great service here you note. Michel loves a challenge...& believe you me, our circuits are definitely that! He got it sorted quite quickly, thank goodness, & asked for a measly amount for coming out. Bet that would not have happened in the UK!

We were also amazed one morning (remember again that this is still January & traditionally one of the coldest & snowiest months of the year) to see road repairing machines arrive in our little hamlet. The little road which links us to the “main” road has been deteriorating for a long time now, but as it is the commune`s job to repair it & as our commune has no money, we had almost given up hope of it ever being repaired. But repaired it has been, & we now have a lovely new road surface to drive along, which is a great relief. We only hope now that the snow plough does not damage it if & when the snow does finally arrive!

Our final outing of the month was to the big Foire de St Paule in Issoire yesterday. We met up with our friends Linda & Mike & had a nice walk around the big market. Our men folk bought big bunches of mimosa (as is the tradition) so I now have mimosa everywhere in the house as usual which smells beautiful. Linda & Mike were off to Ikea on the way home & after a bit...well a lot...of persuasion (Geoff is not a fan of Ikea to put it mildly) we decided to tag along & we managed to find some new throws for the living room furniture to match the new colour scheme. Result!

This January has been full of news of the deaths of so many iconic people. I never was a Bowie fan so found all the over the top tributes a bit trying. Then came the news about Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Alan Rickman & just today Sir Terry Wogan. The latter has made me very sad this morning as I loved his radio shows. They were part of my life for so long as I drove to work every morning. I often laughed out loud at his stories & anecdotes, along with lots of other folk in the Manchester traffic jams! You could always see who was tuned in to his show! I have shed a few tears this morning remembering him & his wit. The ages of a lot of these folk who are dying are a bit too close to mine for comfort. More reason for living life to the full while you can, I say.

So, January is at an end & I have been cheered up a little with the first booking for the gite this year. This is very early for us (yes it is still January!) & is, as always, very welcome. Hopefully it will be the first of many. Fingers crossed :)