Friday, 18 December 2009

I have this effect ...

Been a bit of a funny week, one way and another. First I lost the internet, then it came back a bit, went a bit, and is still a bit dodgy. I learned to live with it, and waited patiently for it to decide to work, feeling perhaps that it doesn't like winter any more than I do.

Then we had another person come along who was interested in buying the gites and pushing as only a French person can push to sign an agreement to sell in the New Year. He doesn't (it turns out) actually have his money in place yet, but why should that matter? They're a strange breed these French. Even now, he's sending emails asking for yet more information to get his bank loan. He's coming back on Tuesday for the kids to choose their bedrooms! Dreamworld, or what? Perhaps he thinks if he pushes hard enough, we'll sell them to him and forget to ask him for the money!

DH offered to provide karaoke entertainment for the neighbours Christmas Day in return for our Christmas dinner. Admittedly, this was back in August, but how I now wish he hadn't. It's worked beautifully since Bob (bless) brought it here all those years ago. We even took it to Spain with us, but now we really really need it, yes, you've guessed it, it won't work! Might have to admit defeat on that one and go back to video tapes ( DH actually laughed out loud when I said that!)

I ordered a Wii for the kids for Christmas. It came three days later. I ordered some games and steering wheel thingies, they all came. I started to wrap it all up whilst everybody's out and found that we'd had one game sent twice, and another not at all! Typical!

We've had ice and a threatening of snow so all the school buses were cancelled. They do that sort of thing here! Had to take Dear Daughter (11) to school in the car, but kept Dear Son (15) off as it seemed half the school weren't bothering to get their backs off the bed this morning.

We ran out of heating oil two days ago. Now, it is very very cold both inside and outside the house. In fact, it's actually milder outside than in at the moment. He said he'd deliver an hour ago, but of course hasn't turned up.

Can't think of any more reasons to be cheerful, so I'd best sign off!

Sorry if this post depressed you!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

London buses

Months without anybody serious wanting to buy the gites, and now two have come along at once, both wanting us to sign a "compromis de vente" in the New Year! Now what? One's a cash buyer and the other needs a loan (which he might not get). Toss a coin for me, will ya!

Probably neither will buy them - we've been in a similar situation more than once! Wish I had a bottle of the cheap Bailey's stuff Lesley was on about - I'll just have to have the real thing instead!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Sore arm (DD's = sore head (mine)

How's that for a blog title? Poor little Dear Daughter (11) had her swine flu vaccination on Thursday morning at school. She was a bit nervous at the thoughts of having a needle stuck in her, but in the event it passed off with very little pain. Within 24 hours or so, it was becoming more and more painful to a point where she couldn't lift her arm above her head without a lot of pain. (So don't lift you arm above your head, my dad would have said). She's also been shivering and has a lump in her armpit, all undoubtedly reactions to the vaccine.

Now I know it must be hurting, since she's a brave sort of kid (like her mother) but I'm starting to get headaches from her constantly moaning about it, putting ice cubes on it, putting heat pads on it, and generally being totally obsessed by it. I'm being very sympathetic (through gritted teeth) which is more than her brother is - he told her to stop complaining, it was nothing compared to a game of rugby! Didn't help much, that comment, I can tell you!

It's sure to get easier over the weekend, trouble is, she's supposed to be having another one in a couple of weeks! I think we'll cancel that! My nerves won't stand it! Anyway, half protected is better than no protection at all!

The boys have theirs next week, so DD will have her revenge!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Where did all the time go?

It's not fair! I'm not old enough to have a 15 year old son! I remember when he was a little baby - he was such a good baby, never cried, always happy. He still doesn't cry, and is usually happy but you should see the size of him! I'll post a piccie when I've finished my takeaway pizza. More later.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Signed on again and other ramblings!

I've just spent the last twenty minutes trying to sign on. Thanks to all the new technology, you don't have to queue up and face a snotty cow behind the counter of the DOLE office (aah, happy memories of being a school leaver on the dole - I've worked diligently ever since!) Nowadays, you sign on on-line, or by telephone. The on-line version was taking me round in loops, so I tried the telephone. I had to say a magic word (in French) to be taken to the next stage. My accent has not improved, and the first couple of times, it didn't understand me and took me back to the main menu. After lots of pressing buttons, I finally made it. I expected a fanfare at least, but I just got the dialing tone.

I first registered as unemployed at the end of the summer season, way back at the beginning of September, but so far I haven't received a bean, and by the time I do, I shall probably have found gainful employment. Could this possibly be Mr Sarkozy's way of not paying out any money to foreigners? Don't be so cynical!

Corrie's been on every night this week - love it! RIP Blanche though - I loved her one-liners!

The surveyor's been and gone and says there are no real problems! Can this be so? Fingers crossed for an offer of the asking price (fat chance!) followed by an early completion (I can dream). Perhaps then I can move the last of DH's suits from his National Power days out of the old house! They can go straight to Emmaus! I'd best have another glass of wine quick to celebrate, since something's bound to go wrong!

Tomorrow we've got a French guy coming to see the gites, bring him on!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A typical entry from my diary

Don't know why I'm putting this here, but everybody loves to snoop in somebody's diary! This one is from Monday 30th November, It's longer than they usually are, so I apologise in advance, feel free to click away at any time - I won't be offended! Here goes:

Felt better than I've been in ages this morning, cracked on a-pace. Céline, J & N for the early morning, K went with Catherine [neighbour] for her 9 am start. All in good spirits. Got DH up at 8 am as the accountant was due. Fount out at 3 pm that he wasn't coming (we rang them). Don't know if we've upset them (quite probable) or if they're just as incompetent as the rest of the French so-called "professionals". Do know that H was so pissed off I was relieved when he went to his rugby meeting. To add to the mix (one thing is never enough) the surveyor's changed his appointment and is coming Thursday pm now and staying the night in a gite. He's carrying out a "full structural survey" - God help us!

Made H walk the dog with me (in the rain) and naturally missed the accountant ringing to apologise and make another appointment. They can all push off now, at least until I've regained my equilibruim. Hard to find something to be cheerful about, but my naturally bouyant personality wasn't knocked back for long.

Usual rush and push to get hungry kids fed decent food by 6.40 pm, including a trip to the bus stop to pick them up. H missed an absolute treat [he eats at the rugby club, poor thing!] - I did home made beefburgers (no egg, had to improvise) with potato wedges à la Nigella - set my sore mouth off a treat! [I burned it on a mince pie on Saturday!] Bloody lovely on such a cold, miserable night. Squashed a slamander underneath the wheel of the car on our drive, which set off a couple of jokey texts from N - all of us in excellent spirits - dunno why particularly, but I treasure these times. Watched French news, don't seem to have Channel 5 any more.

Only one Corrie - unbelieveable - 1 hr Jungle crap afterwards - hate it! Who are these "celebrities" anyway? I only recognise one! Kim from "How Clean is Your House" - I used to like that, made me feel efficient.

Did half an hour on my treadmill which I enjoyed this time as I read trashy magazines to pass the time, but I didn't half feel knackered afterwards - and I had K's bed to make up and tons and tons of washing to put away before I could collapse into bed myself.

On standby for the accountant most of the day, but managed to give W his two usual walks. Almost collapsed with tiredness after the lunchtime tomato and rice soup (l/o rice from risotto on Saturday) Not as bad as it sounds. Would have dozed off on the settee afterwards, but daren't as it would have been too embarrassing to have the accountant tap on the window and wake me up! Wouldn't be the first time!

Watched an oldie but goodie Clint Eastwood - he was so handsome!!! Film called The Eiger Sanction, also watched Midsomer with K after school.

Enjoying the book I'm reading about the Guernsey - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It's all about the occupation of Guernsey during the second world war, but written in the form of letters going back and forth, which makes it easy to pick up and put down again if time is short. Some of it is quite disturbing. I'd never realised that Guernsey (and obviously France) had it so tough in the war. The residents of Guernsey had 24 hours to decide whether to evacuate their children to England before the Germans invaded, or whether to take their chances with the occupation. Those who did didn't see their children again for 5 years!

Feeling more on an even keel in spite of everything. Need to be for everybody's sakes. Posted my Barshinskey book [a book I read on holiday and only just finished] to mum - €6 - eek!!!

Nothing of interest on the emails, nor phone calls. Only bills in the post.

Are you asleep yet? Wake up, it's finished now! How do you think I feel? I'm actually living all this!!!! If you're very good, I won't do this again!!!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Meltdown in le Clerc!

It was our wedding anniversary on Saturday, and as usual, DH had forgotten. Either that or he hadn't had time since last year to go out and buy me a card. This meant that he was guilt tripping himself (I wasn't bothered, honest!) I was just glad he was speaking to me again. Anyway, on with the story. He decided it would be a good idea to take me to the jewelry section in leClerc at Saintes (he has a loyalty card, so gets a bit off) for me to choose something. Time was tight, due to the fact that he overslept and he had to take the boys to a rugby match at midday. Nevertheless, we stoically set off to leClerc to get my pressie. I had to have a pressie, since he'd forgotten to get me a card, so I therefore had to have a pressie as well as a card. Are you getting the picture? The fact that I have absolutely no need of any more jewelry and I'm perfectly ok for earrings for the rest of my life and have my everyday watch and my posh watch so no need for anything there - all that didn't matter - I had to have some jewelry from leClerc, or I was being difficult.

As time was tight, he sent me off to the jewelry section whilst he got some money out of the cash machine. Leclerc was packed! Saturday morning is never the ideal time to go shopping to a supermarket and all the French people in France seemed to be in there at 11am Saturday morning. I took a shuftie round the jewellry section, there was a lot of sterling silver - not my thing, gold crucifixes, again, not my thing, it was going to have to be a watch which had some imitation diamonds around the fact €60, not bad I thought, okay I'll have that - I'll be able to wear it to the wine bar at St Palais we were going to for an anniversary drinkie, won't I be posh?

I could see DH approaching me from the corner of my eye - I recognised his walk, rather than saw his face. He was not a happy bunny. One of his cards had been rejected by the cash machine and he couldn't remember the code for the other one. "Well, you can forget about that for a start" was his opening gambit. "Okay, I said, no problem, let's go home then. Maybe I was being too reasonable or something, but the poor bloke nearly had a nervous breakdown there and then! He kept saying that he was doing this for us (doing what for us?) I damn near had to lead him to the car muttering under his breath all the way about how hard done to he is! Perhaps it's his age or something, but he's over it now - until the next time!

Dear Son (16) has come home from school poorly with a sore throat. I knew it was serious when he slept through his Sunday lunch yesterday. He's off to see the doctor at 6.15 pm, which is the same time as I have to pick Dear Son (14) up from the bus stop - if only I could master the art of being in two different places at the same time! Looks like you'll be walking, Nick! DH'll be at his rugby meeting, no sympathy there!! How do I stay so cheerful?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Silence is Golden - or is it?

DH and I have had an upper and downer (that's Gloucester for a row). I merely pointed out to him that it would be have been nice if he'd rung me from the supermarket where he had gone to buy some fruit for himself on his way back from Friday night's rugby practice and then I could have given him the list that I had which would have made life easier on all of us and we wouldn't have run out of milk, bacon, orange juice and bread for Saturday morning's breakfast. Perfectly reasonable complaint you would think.

He hasn't spoken to me since and he pointedly leaves the room whenever I come into it. Alright, I admit, voices were raised, and maybe it was a mistake to point out that rugby isn't as important as he thinks it is, and that there are other considerations. None of it was helped by the fact that Dear Son (16) rather tactlessly asked where the orange juice was.

Another thing might have been that when I took Dear Daughter (11) to her art class yesterday afternoon, I accidentally locked them all out. It still tickles me to think of Dear Son (16) climbing in through Dear Son (14)'s bedroom window using a long ladder. I bet DH was spitting feathers. It's a shame he's not speaking to me, we could have a good laugh! Shows how easy it would have been for the burglars to do the same, good job there aren't any in France.

Silence may be golden, but I'm feeling lonely in a houseful of people now. He's capable of keeping this up for days, I'm not. Now I remember why I rarely rise to the bait, it's easier to just say nowt. Aah well, at least I'll get the ironing straight!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Holiday photos

Okay you have been warned. Click away now if you don't "do" other people's holiday photos!!!


What happened to my sweet little baby? She's turned into a vamp! At least she's not a goth (yet!)


Eating again!!!
Nick snuggling up to his Auntie Christine (he wishes to remain annonymous!)


Jamie sneaking the dregs of the Spanish red (he thought we hadn't noticed!)


Still crazy about each other after all these years!!! Either that or pissed again!!!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Back to the grind

Hello, Bob and Lesley (my only followers - I'm just jealous!)

Well, thank you for asking, we had a lovely holiday once again in Spain. The weather was, for once, hot and sunny, so we were able to go to the beach all day every day for a change, had we wanted to. Normally, we arrive just as the weather turns (the clocks go back and that seems to mark a step change in the seasons in Spain and in France). This year, however, we had a freak indian summer and actually came back brown and not rust coloured and wind beaten! Unfortunately, since it has been crap weather ever since we re-entered France, nobody is any the wiser and the tan ended up down the plug hole! Just my luck really. I'll try and post a couple of photos later, just to prove I didn't dream the whole thing. At least the dog was overjoyed to see me when we got him back from prison (sorry, the kennels).

We got home on Wednesday and the kids were all back at school Thursday. Even my French lessons re-started on Friday, so it didn't take long for the holiday to become a memory! Was it really this time last week that we went out on Trevor's boat into the Mar Menor and sunbathed on one of the many islands in the bay? Did we really have the cheek to complain about the flies as we drank rosada and ate roasted almonds outside the El Fraile? I can't even stay outside long enough to drink a cup of tea since I got home, it's such a cold wind!

Enough of my whining, you didn't even ask about my holidays in the first place, so moving swiftly on... Immediately before we left we heard that a certain person who was standing in the way of a certain purchase of a certain gite complex has, unfortunately, passed away (claps hands with glee). This has led to the cookery course idea being given the go-ahead, so we are to be treated to a full survey in early December. If that doesn't put them off, they're either mad or desperate! We'll see.

Bookings for next year are passable, but we have to survive the winter first. One of DH's mates has booked three weeks in December to improve his French, so that's the turkey paid for!

I'm still doing my bits of writing for various people which went some way to buying the odd tapas on holiday, with a bit of change left over to get Dear Daughter (11) some new shoes before we went, her 'old' ones having gone into holes! It just never stops.

Reading this back, I can see why I don't have any followers, it's almost made me drop off to sleep. To think, I'm actually living this!!!!!

See you on Facebook!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Banana anybody?

The rugby club were playing up in the north of France on Saturday. DH, who plans the next meal as he's eating the current meal, realised a couple of days before that Dear Son (16) and Dear Son (14) would have to eat their lunch at 11 am, travel on the coach for a couple of hours, then play rugby at 4pm without having anything further to eat. Didn't occur to me, does that mean I'm an unfit mother?

Anyway, he had the bright idea that what was needed was a snack lunch for the whole club before they went onto the pitch. Off he went to the supermarket and bought 50 bananas and 50 cereal bars. What he didn't anticipate, however, was that once they got to the north of France, the group divided up and half the team left the bus to be taken to another rugby ground. We now have dozens of bananas, all going over-ripe and with the best will in the world, we can't seem to eat them faster than they're turning black. I mean, I quite like bananas, but this too much for me. At least the cereal bars will keep till we get back from hols (bring it on!).

A lesson learned? Don't think so!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Oh next week we're off to sunny Spain!

Well, it had better be sunny! We're off on our jollies down to see DH's family in Spain. This time next week we'll be kipping in the Hotel Alize at Lerma and eating an inch thick raw steak (they're worse in Spain than in France for undercooked meat!) I'll stick to the fish dish then!

You can tell we must be due to go off on our hols, me and Dear Son (14) both have sore throats which seems to be an annual event. To cheer us up, here are some of the things we're looking forward to most, in no particular order:

going to the beach where the kids swim out in clear blue water to an island about 200 yards away, just because they can. There's a restaurant at this beach too for the grown ups.

The tapas bar in Cartagena where they do something clever with an ice cold green apple and some foie gras (yum).

Fish and chips in Watts Frying on the La Manga strip - to die for!

Seeing family and all the English people who live down there in Los Nietos who have become friends since we started going there 5 years ago.

Real pork and beef sausages at the English butchers in Cablo de Palos.

Hopefully a bit of sunshine, but since the clocks go back next weekend, it will only be for a short time in the middle of the day, if at all.

NOT BEING HERE!

That's about all I can think of for now, bring it on! Gotta go, Corries back on now!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

I'm so excited!

I just had my first article published on the internet! Here is the link, I hope you can make it work, I couldn't. By the way, who exactly is Solitaire! Anyway I recognise it so I know it's mine.

The trip to the DOLE office went well enough last Friday - once we'd found the place. Apparently it only moved a week ago and everybody we asked only knew where the old office was. That explained why the GPS didn't recognise the address. Hey-ho. Thankfully they didn't send me out of there with a list of potential employers wanting to interview me, but I do have to go to a "back to work" workshop in a week or so where they'll teach me how to write a CV - ha! You don't have to sign on any more either, just go on line and tick a few boxes. The age of technology, I remember the last time I went on the dole as a sixteen year old school leaver you had to sign a bit of paper in front of a right snotty cow after having queued all morning then a cheque for £16 came through the door the following Friday. How times have changed!

Next door gave Dear Son (14) a pair of hamsters. Two days later, one had given birth and now we have 9. Does anybody want a hamster? When will we learn not to trust the French? One new cage later 25 euros (we had to separate them!) and DS now knows that there's no such thing as a free hamster - he paid! They are cute though (scratch that, never show weakness!)

The bank have agreed in principle to extend the mortgage so we won't be evicted yet. Best I can do for good news I'm afraid. We lost the sunshine for a few days, but it's back with a vengeance now, what with that and the hot flushes, I'm never at the right temperature! We won't go there.

That's it I think, more later if I think of anything I missed!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Wish me luck - I'll need it

I've been made redundant! Don't worry, it's just a paper exercise, I'm fully employed and more, but it costs too much for DH to employ me in the French system, so I've been sacked! In a little over half an hour, I'm off to Pole-Emploi in Saintes (the French equivalent of the DOLE office) to register as unemployed. I'll only get a pittance, but it means DH doesn't have to pay OVER 600 euros a month to the government for me insurance, pensions etc. This interview is to discuss my situation (in French). That'll be interesting .... I'll let you know how I get on.

As part of my job search, I'm registered with an internet freelancer site called Get a Freelancer (original). I've been invited to quote for a job on there this morning, translating English porn videos into French! That it should come to this. They say that they're not that interested in the level of grammar - I'll bet! I don't imagine there'll be much dialogue, but they want the action described in French. What was the real insult was that they're only prepared to pay less than $1 per 45 minute video translated. I don't think I'll bother. Dole office, here I come!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Let us pray

I often think that there's enough material here to keep six blogs going, but then a lot of it is probably quite boring if you're not personally involved in it. However, I couldn't resist sending you the latest development in the non-sale of the gites.

We at this very moment have a very nice couple from Cork in Ireland staying with us. Their names are Michael and Mary and they are both chefs, she in particular is a pastry chef. They came to see the gites through an estate agent with a view to buying them earlier this year. They (like many before them) decided there and then that this was what they had been looking for to establish their long held dream of a cookery school. They cancelled all their other appointments, then went home to Cork and arranged a euro loan on some rental properties that they have in Dublin. So far, so good, so you know that there's going to be a 'but' and here it is...

Mary's father has never got over the recent death of her mother and has been going to rack and ruin ever since. The minute they got the loan agreed in principle from the bank, he went into a steep decline and ever since he's been in a hospice, weaker by the day and they're just waiting for him to be taken so they can get on with their dream cookery school.

Is God trying to tell me something? It does seem a bit harsh that somebody has to die in order to sell the gites and move on with my/our lives. I don't mean to be cruel to the old boy, but could he please get on with it? I don't want it to be painful, just quick! The banks will be on our backs any day now, and you have to admit it sounds like a pretty lame story to pass on to them. They'd laugh us out of the place. Now let us pray....

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Died and gone to heaven

We have waited all summer for a bunch of holidaymakers like the ones we have here at the moment! Happy smiling faces wherever you go. Children laughing and playing nicely without wrecking the place. The wine tasting last night was well attended and everybody was listening at the appropriate moments (you know how important that is to DH) whilst chatting pleasantly in between times. The three or four teenage girls organised themselves to babysit the younger ones although they only met one another on Saturday. It's now Tuesday and we've suffered no abuse whatsoever. After cancelling the last few barbecue nights due to total lack of interest, we're now already taking orders for this Thursday night, and it looks like even the vegetarians are coming and at least four have already ordered the leg of lamb to be cooked specially for them. This feels like the old days and I feel like I've died and gone to heaven! Now why isn't it always like this?

Friday, 14 August 2009

A Night on the Tiles

Last night, our dear friends, Kevin and Sheila invited us to a birthday party at their complex of gites about half an hour from here. It was brilliant to be able to pretend to be on holiday at a gite complex for a change! He had live music, the weather was superb, we had too much to drink and didn't want the night to end as then we had to come back to reality! Happy birthday Sheila, I really hope the top I bought you fits, just cut the bows off if you don't like them!

Back to bloody reality! As I'm writing this, the French people who are staying in the gites -9 in a house that sleeps 6 are welcoming yet another group of their friends onto the site. They were all four of them prepared for their day by the swimming pool. I daren't tell DH since it might give him a heart attack. They all go tomorrow, so I'm just ignoring it. He's still asleep, so he might not notice.

We have a whole new lot tomorrow - 7 gites to changeover. It fills me with delight to know that one of the new arrivals has sent me an email asking about a "dongle" - I had to look it up on the internet, I've never even heard of one! Dunno if I can get him one, but I sure can't wait to meet him - not! The weather forecast is for 35 degrees, stormy and thunderstorms in the evening - just as the little darlings get out of their cars! Can't wait!

Hey-ho!

As if all this isn't enough, and obviously it isn't, the "Flying Dutchman" turned up here Wednesday out of the blue. He just happened to be "in the area" - he lives 2 hours away. I haven't been wrong-footed like that since the last time he wrong-footed me! Maybe he thought it was impolite to drive on by - Mark, in the unlikely event that you are reading this, next time, just drive on by. I'm fussy about who I give coffee and beer to and DH hasn't got over the disappointment (and probably never will) - we're expecting the liquidators (or whatever it is in French) to be here by Christmas.

Better get on with sorting my bedlinen - we've got 27 beds to change tomorrow!

So, what are you doing today? My day can only get better (as soon as the hangover lifts - the tea ain't working!)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

We're having too much of a good time - help!!

Well, why do you think the wine tasting last night didn't finish until 4 am? Working backwards, how, on a busy changeover day did we end up falling into bed at 2 am full of Pimms? Sunday, our coffee morning with all the new arrivals finished up with several bottles of champagne and a good part of a bottle of cognac (mixed together, if you please!) in the garden for the next SEVEN HOURS!

Our children, not to mention dogs and cats are being fed at odd hours (if anybody remembers - good job they're capable of getting their own! - at least the kids and cats are, poor long suffering Woody has to wait!)

Yes, those of you in the know may have realised, our very good friends (and customers) from Ireland are here. Good job it's only for a week, I'd be dead if it was any longer. Orange and lemonade for the rest of the season, I promise, God!
The culprits (this is a photo from last summer)

Another scorching day in prospect, and I'm dehydrated to begin with! At least it's good 'craich'!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Oh no! Not another hot and sunny changeover day!

That's what I thought yesterday morning when the temperature was already at 28 degrees at 9 am and we had a changeover day to do. Every Saturday (changeover day), virtually without exception since this season began has been roasting hot and sunny. Followed by cloud, cold winds and even (eek) rain on the Sunday morning.

Sometimes I think running a gite complex would be a doddle without the customers! I'll give you an example. Dr C and his family arrived last Saturday. They booked very last minute, as people seem to do more and more these days and as a result could only have a fortnight if he agreed to change gites halfway through. DH heard his wife, H, moaning to a fellow giteur (is that a word?) in the laundry room about having to move and lose a day of her holiday. DH, who can spot a need in anybody else in the world, except his nearest and dearest at about a mile distance, was quick to use his initiative and get me to contact Mrs W, who arrived yesterday, and ask her if she would go into a different gite and therefore save Dr C having to change. The gite was slightly bigger and we weren't going to charge any more, but we'd save with the cleaner - everyone's a winner!

Unfortunately, we didn't hear back from Mrs W (are you following this?) right away as she was away visiting family. Amazingly, when DH put the proposal to Dr C and his wife, they flew into a confrontational state and said that they'd paid (£30) for the new gite for the week and this proposal wasn't acceptable! He'd offered to refund the £30 but why argue? Poor bloke thought he was being helpful!

In the meantime, we hear back from Mrs W who said she'd be delighted to have the upgrade! Well, she would, wouldn't she?

All ended happily, believe it or not. Dr C hadn't been near the bar all week, but he was in there last night, with his wife and they were the life and soul. Turned out that the reason they wanted to change gites (but why was she moaning about it?) was that they were frightened of leaving their children in bed in the original gite (further away from the bar), in case anybody was kidnapped, or worse! Echoes of Madeleine.

Mrs W accepted that she wasn't going to get her upgrade, and is more than happy with "your" gite, Lesley (and Margo)!

Ain't life strange?
Yew Tree


Catalpa


The two gites in question - does this bring back happy memories?

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

A jolly good time was had by all

It's party time!

I've had my night's sleep (a decent one for once!) and shed my tears, and as Flylady says, you're only allowed to sulk for one twenty-four hour period and then after that you have to laugh at whatever it was that you're sulking about! Trouble is that my mum is now 76 and it's possible that one of her trips here might be the last time I see her, but I try not to dwell on that.

The time they were here last week went unbelievably fast - I always say that! I was panicking before they got here about how we'd fill the time and in the end we ran out of time before we ran out of things to do. We had our little trips out, to the "blue caravan" beach on the Atlantic Coast just past the zoo, as well as Les Antilles for Dear Daughter (11) 's birthday. A very small jewelry/fancy goods shop in Saujon was having a closing down sale and everything was reduced by 50%. It just so happened that we needed something for DS's girlfriend, DD's birthday and a present for my younger brother's girlfriend, so we were all 10 of us back in there three times on the same day! What a hoot!

Super U (the supermarket) did very well out of us as we had to shop every day, sometimes twice! My older brother thought he found a dead body in an old derelict house that he went to have a nosey around in but when he went back it had gone, so it couldn't have been that dead! Scared him to death!

My mum only had the one moody when we got lost in the maize field trying to find a short cut whilst walking the dog before we went to the pizzeria and even she managed to laugh at that the day after. The problem was that DH had insisted we were all in the car at 6.45 pm so we could be the first to be served when the pizzeria opened at 7pm (there seemed to be a mass disappearing act whenever food was ready or we were going out) and my mum doesn't like to be late. I also suspect she's a bit frightened of DH - no wonder, so am I!

The kids, of course, made everything happen. Aged between 11 (just) and 16 the five of them were here to have fun, and didn't they just! They camped out by a bonfire one night though I don't think they got much sleep. I still haven't got the smell out of the duvets and pillows they took outside! Anybody got any ideas?

An excellent time was had by all. As one wise person once said "Don't be sad because something is over, rather be happy that it happened at all".

Back to reality now, I've got a LOT of office backlog and an enormous changeover to get ready for on Saturday. As Mark Twain once said - the best way to get ahead is to make a start!

Have a nice day!

Monday, 13 July 2009

They've gone home - sob


Siblings of the same womb!

We have had ten/eleven - Dear Son's girlfriend came Saturday and hasn't gone home yet! - staying in our house for the past week. My mum, my two brothers (see pic), my nephews 13 and 15 with the five of us. They came last Monday, they stayed for a week, they ate, they drank, they made noise, they celebrated Dear Daughter (newly 11)'s birthday and in the end some of us cried. It was noisy, God, was it noisy. There was barely enough room around the massive table in the kitchen. They left this morning and I can hardly explain how much I miss them. This photo was taken this morning, the weather matches my mood. Silence - don't like silence.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Family reunion

Having a wonderful time, wish you were here! For the first time in five and a half years the whole of my family (mum, two brothers, two nephews and of course my own family) are all together in the same place. Big brother Michael lives in Salt Lake City and when he comes over to England for a visit, it's usually our busiest time, so we can't see each other. Glad to say he looks well, though a bit greyer than I remember him. We're all having a wonderful time together, talking about old family holidays and things that they remember and I don't (oh the self-centrednest of youth!) The kids are getting along really well and we are ten in the house - good job it's a big one!

Yesterday we went to the beach and wore ourselves out, today it's a rest day and Luna Park funfair tonight, to celebrate the end of Dear Son's (15) exams.

I'll try to get some photos and post them here.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Pickled!

Just think, if I was an alcoholic, this is as good as I'd ever feel! We've had a weekend of flowing alcohol, which is so rare nowadays that my liver's gone into shock. At leas that's how it feels. Saturday was the end of the rugby season party at the kids' and dh's rugby club. The punch was flowing freely and there wasn't enough solid food to soak it up. Never mind, thought I, as I hit the pillow around midnight (shock, horror) I've got all day tomorrow to get over it.

Sunday was Fathers Day, and DH, in a fit of sociability, invited the neighbours over for a barbecue. His day, his call! This time it was the champagne. I'm sure I had the odd glass of water to keep me on track, or maybe I dreamt it. They all left around 9 pm (from lunchtime) and then I watched Mama Mia on Sky, my absolute favourite film for a long time! I've been singing Abba songs in my sleep! Therefore, I didn't get to bed till 11 pm, still exceedingly tipsy even then.

All this is very well if you can sleep it all off, but I had to get up at 6 am as Dear Son (15) has his French Bacalaureat exam (4 hours, poor thing) and has to be at his desk at 7.45 am - that'll learn him! Dear Son (14) has school as usual so has to be out of the house by 7.15 am. So does Dear Daughter (10), but she starts at a more civilised 9 am, and even that's becoming more and more difficult. She's often eating her breakfast toast in the car on the way to school nowadays.

Only another ten days, then two months of rest and relaxation - oh, wait, that's when the summer visitors arrive - we don't have summers here - we have changeovers!

Today can only improve! Off to finish tidying the kitchen now, wish me luck!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Complete waste of time!

The clue is in the title!

Moving swiftly on, I've just started re-reading "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. It's over SEVENTY years since it was first published, and it's still in print! You can't beat it for good, honest psychology. Principle 1 is: ahem, "Don't criticise, condemn or complain." Apparently, if you do this, the other person is put on the defensive and will always try to justify themselves. I've decided to read one chapter every night, and then to really try and put the theories into practise, at least for the following day and see how I get on.

Well, this one has worked already. Dear Son (14) has been in trouble at school. One of his merry band, a lad called Andy, squirted an ink cartridge at the teacher as she was writing on the blackboard (who'd be a teacher?) and blamed Nick. Being his mother, I wasn't sure I believed this version of events, but I was summoned to telephone the teacher this morning and explain his behaviour. It was obvious I needed to know for sure how involved Nick was. My instinct was to start laying into his friend for getting him in trouble, but I remembered to listen to Dale - don't criticise, condemn or complain.

It was a stroke of genius! I just said that I was surprised that Andy had gotten him into trouble with the teacher, as I'd always thought he was a nice lad. That was it - full confession! If I'd spoken to the teacher not knowing that they had both been guilty as charged, I'd have felt a complete twit.

One long-ish conversation with the teacher later (in French, in case you're wondering - I adore my children at times like this!) it was decided that Dear Son would be PUT IN DETENTION FOR ONE HOUR! I tried to get him two hours (at least) but she said the stain had washed out and I was just being unreasonable, but would I please speak to him over the weekend and try to get him to GROW UP! Might take longer than a weekend then! He's also going to lose his mobile phone for a few days to give him chance to think, instead of constantly texting his friends. In my day, if anybody wanted to speak to me on the phone (forget texting - it didn't exist!) they had to speak to my dad first - that was enough to put anybody off!

Wonder what tonight's principle is?

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Waiting for the viewers to arrive

.... and waiting, and waiting! It's a beautiful hot sunny day, but have I been near the pool, except to sweep around it? No! Why? Glad you asked! We had a phone call earlier in the week from a French agent (sorry, can't get the link to work) who had somebody to see the gites. First ones for weeks. We have been cleaning and tidying, scaring away spiders and sweeping up flies in the baths and shower trays as well as cherries that had fallen from the tree since 8 am this morning. They were due at 2.30pm. They called from Saujon at 3.30 pm (it's only ten minutes away!) and they've JUST pulled up on the (wrong) driveway now!

I'll let you know how I get on - hope springs eternal!

More later ...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

How can it possibly be two weeks????

... since I last blogged? Where did the time go? Well, let's see, there was the "teaching" assignment I did last week at the lycée in Royan. Four hours of trying to get French kids to practise their English over two days passed the week on nicely! I'm talking about all the internet research on the TEFL websites to try and put together lesson plans. Loads of good material there, too much to trawl through really! Do you want to know what went down the best of all the stuff I got together? Well, I'll tell you, horoscopes. I printed off the horoscopes from the Daily Mirror website each morning and let them read their own out loud, and then those of their nearest and dearest. They absolutely loved it!

Second best was the pictures I hastily tore out of a magazine and got them to describe. Worst bit? I had the bright idea of spending 40 minutes or so on a current news article. Not a good week for news - the French plane crash, followed by the trial of the morons who murdered the French students, and if that's not current enough, there's always the snubbing of the queen about the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings! I erred on the side of safe and decided on the Britain's Got Talent programme and Susan Boyle. Blank faces all round! They sort of recognised Simon Cowell! Talent competition - what's that? I bravely continued for about 5 minutes in this vein before deciding to .... move swiftly on ....

On the whole, they were lovely teenagers (16 - 18 years old, as it turned out!). They were a bit slow to warm up but once you got them talking, it was difficult to shut them up. Would I like to become a teacher? Not a chance! I stressed over this ordeal (sorry, meant to say assignment) to a point where I could hardly sleep nights! I felt like I'd survived an ordeal when it was over!

I now have to report back to the teacher (in French) about how it all went! Now that's a doddle!

Sunday, 31 May 2009

I'm not panicking - yet!

As a sort of "payback" to the French government for providing us with free French lessons, (see Greta, here) I've been volunteered (with the rest of our class) to take a class of 14 year old's to practise their English with them next week. Because I'm a soft touch, I've "volunteered" twice and then found out that we have to give them a TWO HOUR English lesson! This is a first for me, so I'm racking my brains for activities this age group (I live with one, so I know what I'm dealing with!) won't find boring. My initiative is being stretched to the limits. I've got till Thursday morning and it might take till then to think of four times half hour activities. Help me God!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

I promise I'll never take you for granted again! and food ramblings!

My internet connection, I mean! It's a bit unreliable at the moment, so when I can get it to work, I'm going as fast as I can. I've never been so focused, usually I just surf the web, browsing and looking at jobs to apply for, now I've got it down to a fine art - put the website address in, scan quickly, send the application or click to another page!

A lovely sight I saw today - the baby class at Dear Daughter (10)'s school had been on a trip out to a local farm, and they'd come back with a little present - every child (around 25 or so) had been given a punnet of fresh, new season strawberries! Some of them were eating them like sweets, passing them around the grown ups, they start to appreciate their food young in this country. I'll never forget when I went on a trip out with the maternelle when Dear Son (14) was in that class, and all the kids were given a picnic that included a hard boiled egg. They tucked in with a vengeance, I never saw 3 year old kids enjoy hard boiled eggs like that - without salt! It was a real eye-opener. Another time, Dear Son (15)'s friend, when aged about 4 was tucking into a bucket of whelks somebody had dropped off at his house. He had a pin in one hand and a frown of concentration as he picked the whelks out of their shells, and tucked in!

The closest I've ever come to that was at a recent rugby club bash when the bloke sitting next to me, 80 if a day, kept feeding me shellfish on a pin which tasted exactly like bogies. I tried not to think too much about what I was eating - three chews and a swallow, as my friend Alison says! Plenty of bread to get rid of the bits. I'm still not sure what I was eating - better not to know!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Have you seen Matthieu?

We had a bit of excitement yesterday tea time when two gendarmes (complete with guns) knocked on the door. Dear Daughter (10) - actually nearly 11, answered the door and they showed her a photograph of a boy aged around 14 and asked her if she knew him! You should have seen her little face! She came racing through (I was clearing the backlog of being without my internet connection) to tell me. When I arrived, Dear Son (14) was being questioned, as apparently he knew the little boy from school. It turned out that he lives in a foster home and the two boys were together at the weekend at a funfair in our local village (within a larger group). The boy who was missing, Matthieu, had won a cap gun and taken it to school where it had been confiscated by a teacher. He'd taken umbrage at this and run out of the classroom, jumped the (low) wall and hasn't been seen since. Apparently, he's run away three times this year already. Cry for help? Doesn't seem as if anybody's listening. I feel for his mother (although she's a useless article) as this must be a dreadful time for her. Dear Son (14) seems convinced he'll be back at school this morning. Kids - eh?

Oh, by the way, the technician left his tool bag behind and had to come back for it this morning at 7.30 am. Luckily, I get up early to get the kids off to school. Shows I'm not the only incompetent one out there!

Gotta get on, there are at least six jobs I want to apply for! Oh joy!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

What a flippin palaver!

I've been forcibly evicted from blogland because I lost my internet connection almost a week ago following a power cut! Just at the worst possible time, I might add. "That" phone call never arrived (don't care - sniff!) but on top of that, we had a sudden rush of enquiries for the gites. I had to keep traipsing into town to use the computers in the library in Saujon. It costs €15 to join our local library - no wonder it's quiet down there - I expected it to be free - shows how behind the times I must be! Anyway, the technician came this afternoon (a day earlier than he said - good) so I'm busy catching up again - 600 messages in total, all but 37 of them spam! Good job I didn't get offered "the job" - what stress that would have been - it was bad enough, believe me!

One good thing - we were going to reduce the prices of the gites (again) but no need to now, I took 8 weeks bookings in the last two days! Don't understand why, but bring it on!

Here's a picture of the pool, so you know what you're missing!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Waiting for the phone to ring

I had a telephone interview yesterday with a bloke I 'met' on Guru.com. He's in Altrincham of all places, and needs help with customer support - could mean anything! I spoke to him for about 20 minutes or so yesterday, feeling extremely self-conscious and at the end of the conversation, he said he'd like to have a more "formal and structured" telephone interview with me today, in fact, now, in fact he should have rung an hour ago!

Is he stuck somewhere? Has he died? Is his phone on the blink?

Should I wait? How long for?

I've got all three kids plus a friend at home (the usual Wednesday afternoon scenario) and notes everywhere saying SILENCE and all the doors closed and I have to say that they have been extremely quiet this last hour - NOT normal!

I've got to go out to get some shopping as it's a Bank Holiday here tomorrow again - typical! Also, there are some French people due in the gites.

Stress, I wrote the book.

I probably wouldn't want to work for him anyway! His site is at lee hyphen mcintyre dot com, have a look, you'll see what I mean! (Take out the spaces, and put a full stop where the dot is!) I'd hate him to read this one day! I mean, it might all end happily! I could certainly use the money.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Minor Miracles

A minor miracle took place at the Palais de Congres in Royan (click link for piccies) on Saturday, in that 20-odd teenage rugby players (inc Dear Son (15)) set up, served and cleared away a four course meal with rum punch, red and rosé wine and children's/adults menus for 200 people, whilst also entertaining us with sketches, dance routines and a comedy routine. The meal consisted of foie gras, confit de canard with new potatoes and veg, (kids had chicken nuggets) rum baba and fruit salad and cheese. They had a chef to cook it, but they did the rest, including the washing up!

The memory of the champagne fountains with indoor fireworks will stay in Dear Daughter (10)'s mind for a long time to come. The French certainly know how to "let go", no shrinking violets present, no wallflowers! I felt like I'd landed from another planet. Glad I happened to have my earplugs in my bag. The reason for all this is that they were raising money for a trip to England next weekend to play rugby in Gosport. They raised enough for the trip and the evening was a brilliant success. Dear Son (15) was up until 3 am clearing all the tables away. He's well knackered now for his trip away - he'll need early nights for the rest of this week - fat chance!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Peace and quiet? Not!


I kept wondering whether the hunting season had started up again. Every few minutes, I could distinctly hear somebody firing a gun. I didn't find out what was going on until Woody's next walk, when I discovered a bird scaring contraption, set up to make a noise every 10 minutes. The farmer has just planted his sunflowers, and didn't want the birds to get the impression that lunch (and dinner and tea) were on him. I love the sunflowers in July, but it isn't half annoying living with this constant boom, bloody boom! Hurry up and germinate!

Above is a photo of the sunflowers taken last July - I loved this photo so much, I had it on my desktop until last week when I changed it to one of the garden

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Stormy weather

We've had a couple of days of really heavy, muggy weather here in SW France, typically followed by the most tremendous thunder storms in the evenings. I always turn the computer off and leave it off during thunderstorms, since it's not unusual to lose the power, and as we all know, computers don't like sudden power cuts.

I turned it on (very) early this morning to get the emails and had the following:

6 pm Does the gite I've been enquiring about (for the past three weeks) have a full sized bath, since my toddler doesn't like showers?

6.25 pm I can't make a decision about the gite until you tell me whether there is a full sized bath (it's on the website).

6.45 pm I'm still waiting for an answer to my earlier emails.

6.55 pm Okay, I'll have it then!

Goes to show, sometimes it's better not to add fuel to the fire of the question and answer routine that I'm constantly indulging in just to rent out the bloody gites!

I bet she changes her mind! By the way, it does have a full sized bath!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Quick, get a photo before it starts raining again!








At least all the rain we've had lately has been good for the garden. I took these piccies yesterday and couldn't wait to get them on here. I was inspired by my friend Lesley's blog, where she puts some beautiful photographs up regularly, much nicer than these. Of course, she is a professional photographer!

Things have been hectic this week. (Last week now). The kids have only been back at school 4 days (Friday was yet another bank holiday) and I'm knackered already!

I went to the doctor's on Tuesday, since I've had a very sore (left) shoulder for weeks now, and it was slowly getting worse. He gave me some anti- inflammatories and pain killers (standard treatment, I guess) and I've been astonished at my capacity for sleep since I started taking these tablets. I can fall asleep anywhere, at any time. A deep, dreaming, healing sleep. Within seconds! I've been struggling to wake up before 10 am (good job it was a bank holiday weekend!) Totally NOT like myself. I suppose it's the tablets I'm taking, but I don't ever want it to stop! Is it possible to get addicted to sleep?

I've got to dash now, I've got my French lesson at half past twelve at Royan, so I've got to have my lunch now, or I don't get fed till 3 pm! Can't last that long.

More later, if I can stay awake!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

I almost cried

My "full body massage" was this morning, 10 am at Royan. This was my birthday present from the kids and as a full body massage virgin, I had to search the net to find out what, if anything, you should wear! Apparently, not your best undies or even best clothes, since you will come out of there covered in aromatic oils. I was up early, showered thoroughly, hairwashed and all dressed in my full body massage gear, the sun was shining and all was well with the world, or so I thought. We were due to leave at 9.15 am as the traffic can be heavy this time of the year. Dear Daughter (10) was coming with us to keep her daddy company whilst I was full body massaged. The phone rang at 9.10 am, just before we were going out the door. Basically "Jennyfer" my full body massag-ist was in hospital and wouldn't be able to full body massage me until the 10th May. That's a Sunday! The first available appointment that we could both make was 23rd May. I reluctantly booked it on the calendar. Then, suddenly, my blood started to boil. It was the idea of the three kids clubbing together and paying a total of €70 between them in cash for something that was a planned surprise for a particular date. As a side issue, one of the gold heart earrings they bought me had fallen in bits in my hand when I tried to put it in. Off we went to do battle.

All was well that ended well, though, the shop gave us back the money in cash without any arguments (rare for France) and we changed the earrings for a much nicer (and more expensive) pair and bought a bracelet to match. So, I'm now a happy bunny (again) and the full body massage will have to wait. So there!

At least I've got a head start on tonight's rugby club bash.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Queen for a day!

It's my birthday today! What a splendid day it's been. I had breakfast in bed cooked by the kids, a single fried egg and a lot of marmite on toast with a pint pot of tea and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Next I was whisked off to La Rochelle for lunch here, back to find the cleaner had been in and transformed the house (I made that last bit up, it's a right tip - they might be able to cook breakfast, but tidying the kitchen isn't something they know how to do yet - or ever!) I had a lovely pair of gold earrings and (fanfare) they've booked me in for a full body massage on Saturday morning with "Jennyfer" at a beauty parlour in Royan. DH says that it wasn't that expensive, as the salon makes it's money by selling tickets for the viewing gallery. I trust he's joking. I don't feel 49, but the mirror is telling me I am.

I've had a lovely day, but I'm ready for an early night now with a cup of Horlicks! Sad, isn't it?

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Moody Wednesday

Do you ever feel that life is conspiring against you? I slept well and late, which is rare for me, in fact DH was so worried that I might get to like it that he brought me a cup of tea in bed at 9.30 am! I'd actually woken around 6 am after a terrifying nightmare, but must have gone back to sleep. I came down in a wonderful daze, not, for once, worrying about the time (the kids are still off school) and in the most pleasant of pleasant moods. My mum, who is off on her hols (again) tomorrow (she's going to the Isle of Wight) had promised to ring me up to wish me a happy birthday as she'll miss the actual day (tomorrow!) so when the phone rang at around 10 am (around her time) I answered it with a smile in my voice. First mistake! It was the bank, the same one that lost our cheque for £1500 back in January. Believe it or not, they STILL haven't found this cheque and appear to think it's our fault. I'm afraid that she made the cardinal mistake in customer relations of not letting me speak, so I put her first in the fruit bowl, then in the cupboard so that I wouldn't have to suffer the frustration of trying to interrupt her (in a foreign language). After that, the phone rang again, this time, it had to be my mum. No, it was the estate agent that's been trying to sell the gites for the last four years, ringing for a chat. I like Alison very much, but she'll never replace my mum! Oh well, I decided to take the poor long suffering dog for his walk, with Dear Daughter (10) chattering alongside me. I just walked along the road that runs between our house and the gites and I heard the very pleasant sound of children enjoying themselves. No wonder! When I glanced up, one was inside the tree house which was lying on the ground, and the other was gleefully rolling said tree house up and down the field! We watched them for a good while, marvelling at how a 9 year old girl was strong enough to push her 12 year old brother, until finally Dear Daughter (10) lost her temper and coughed loudly. They didn't react at first, but then suddenly realised what the situation was, and pulled the treehouse back up and pretended to be wiping it down. It could make you weep.

It's now 5pm and we're doing a wine tasting in an hour for said holidaymakers. My mum still hasn't rung.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

That's life!

If you're wondering why the weather has suddenly changed from being 70 degrees in the shade, blue skies and glorious sunshine to almost constant rain, wind and thunder and even hailstones, it's because the Wilce's have opened their gites up for the "summer" season and we now have holidaymakers rusting in the rain. I guess it's good for the gardens (and ducks)!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Tears before bedtime

Is he dead?


We had DD's best friend, Lucie here yesterday. The two girls were just on their way to the swimming pool (they have to cross the road) when they noticed a black thing lying on the road a little way away. Off they went to investigate, then promptly burst into tears, believing this mangled lump with black fur to be the much beloved six month old kitten, Shadow. The said kitten was nowhere to be found, which added to the certainty, since he doesn't usually stray far from home. Tears, mass hysteria and other emotions were rife. Even DH was upset as he'd got very attached to the little fellow, considering he didn't even want him in the first place!

I wasn't convinced, since the poor cat they'd found, although definitely black, seemed a lot bigger than our Shadow, but Dear Son (15) convinced me that I was just in denial, and according to him, when things die, they swell up enormously because of body gasses and such (I stopped him there).

We went on to have a full Christian burial, even to a point of throwing a handful of soil over him and putting a flea collar in his grave for use in the afterlife (he'd taken it off a couple of days ago).

I still had doubts, but when the kitten still hadn't come in for his tea (unheard of) at 7 pm, I started to grieve myself, and I have to confess that I had a lump in my throat, especially when I thought of the €80 I'd spent on having him castrated and vaccinated in the past few weeks. Poor chap was the baby of the family. Pineau (the old boy) had crossed that road successfully hundreds of times in the past 13 years, likewise Blaze (who I swore was grieving!) and Tiger, they were the ones left behind. Our little family had shrunk.

7.30 pm came and went, and Lucie's mum came to pick her up and of course had to hear the sad news. We even went as far as distracting Raphael, Lucie's 4 year old sister in case she got upset (more mass hysteria!) We'd just got started and were preparing her for the worst, when the little bugger strutted back in, bang on cue!

He was so shocked by the reaction, he turned on his heel and ran off (don't worry, he didn't get knocked over.)

As they say, all's well that ends well - but he'd better not pull that trick again!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A Rare Evening Out

Last Friday, we talked ourselves into a "Social Evening" with the local AFA (Association Franco-Anglais) in Royan. There was a fairly good turnout of 17 in Thoma's Café where they do cheap-ish food. Not very good quality, but fairly cheap. If luke warm paella at €8 or undercooked barbecued ribs €12 is your bag, I recommend it. There was enough material there for several posts but it doesn't warrant that much output. The group almost entirely made up of retired English people in their late 50's to 80's with secondary homes here who had been on a 6 week or so visit to open up their holiday homes for the summer to come. They were all going back to their main homes in England during the past week.

What struck me first about this so-called Social Evening was that everybody was sitting at a long table with their backs towards the wall, already in groups and there was no room for us, so we had to sit at a table with another couple of outcasts, but we'll say no more about that. As usual, nobody looked up or acknowledged us, so we made a point of walking the length of the table and saying hello to everybody individually just to wind them up.

Rumour had it that there was somebody in the main group who lived in our local village, so DH set off to find out more. After he'd left our table, the lady I was sitting next to hissed "Does he realise she's FRENCH?" in a stage whisper using the same tone as if the woman in question had had leprosy. "There's a lot of them around." I replied, which made her blush bright red. I didn't mean to upset her, but I obviously did since she didn't speak to me after that! Instead, she went and found herself another holiday home owner to talk at. Trouble is that once you mention that you have three children in schools here and that you're running a business and that you've been here 13 years, the other person loses interest! Dunno why!

Another thing that struck me was that nearly every woman there had grown out perms and grey roots as they aren't confident enough in their French to visit a coiffeuse here. Sad really.

What was funny was that DH struck up a conversation with "the FRENCH" woman who lived in sheltered housing on the edge of our village. She was about 10 years older than him, but in fair nick with her bottle blonde hair in plaits (I'm not kidding) and resembled Edith Piaf with her overly made up face. He was gone for quite a while but it didn't matter, I nipped off to the loo and left him to it. We decided to leave not long after, so as we were going by the main group, he introduced me to "the FRENCH" woman. She gave me a look that would have killed. I have a fair idea that she assumed that he was on his own and looking for company. Ha! Poor bloke is so naive, he had no idea why she suddenly went all cold on him and said that "Non" monsieur, she wouldn't after all be calling by for a coffee next time she passed!

You have to laugh!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Is there anybody out there?

A couple of Sundays ago, 22 people looked at my blog, including one in Malaysia! Were they all killing time whilst the roast chicken cooked? Who were they? There are only two named followers, did you look at my blog 11 times each B & L? Are you addicted? Fat chance, the way I ramble on! If you are following my blog, click on the follower's widget - it might encourage me to write for a wider audience and certainly encourage me to write more regularly, which might not necessarily be a good thing, come to think of it! You can still remain annonymous. Over to you ....

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Happy belated Easter

Hope you didn't eat too many choccy easter eggs. We had a nice, quiet, family time this Easter, barbecuing steak and playing games such as Joker Poker and Rummikub. The weather wasn't brilliant, but we Brits will barbecue anyway! We drew some strange looks from passing cars as the smoke billowed out of the barbecue! It almost rained a couple of times, but speaking as one who has regularly held an umbrella over a barbecue, that wouldn't have bothered me!

I've just read a tutorial on how to link with blogger, so I thought I'd give it a try, but I'm having a job thinking of something to link to! Here is a link to the website of the Charente Maritime for you. If you've got nothing better to do, click here! Let me know if this works by commenting, if you've got even more time on your hands.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

The customer is always right - crap!

Can anybody tell me why a person would look on a website where the prices for our gites are clearly shown, book three gites for themselves and two friends, ring up, ask for a reduction, be refused (we have to eat!) and then book the gites anyway, put the owner to the trouble of sending out a letter and three booking forms, not to mention marking the gites as unavailable and turning away bookings for the gites in question, only to then not send the deposit, and not reply to emails.

I'm giving you notice, EMMA BURCH (stupid name!) and "friends" that if you don't either send me money and booking forms or reply to my emails YOUR HOLIDAY IS CANCELLED!

Like she gives a s**t, she's obviously got something else cheaper! I hope she has a crap holiday.

Does anybody have a wax effigy and some pins? I bet she's 35-ish, cocky, smart, new-womani-sh with long blonde triple colour highlighted hair and two kids under 6 who spend more time with the childminder than their mother and their father doesn't know what they have for breakfast. She's probably patting herself on the back right now, feeling like she's taught us a lesson for being 'too expensive' (I know this is not my usual happy go lucky post, but I feel better now!)

Monday, 30 March 2009

Woody's sleepless night


The pretty spring primroses and violets on our daily walk through the woods.


The darling baby lambs in the field across the road from our house.

DD's wobbly tooth. At long last it fell out today, leaving a long thread of gummy skin -eugh! She asked me to put this up here for you all to see. Vain or what?


Now, onto the subject of this post. Ask me why the poor dog is lying knackered at my feet! Is it because of that cursed hour they put on the clock Saturday night? No. It's because of my homemade yoghurt experiment. How? Glad you asked me that, I was going to tell you anyway.

To make the yoghurt, we had to add a pot of fresh yoghurt to fresh milk and put it into the six little glass cups, (provided and complete with lids), then leave them in the machine, which then heated them gently so that the milk fermented and made yoghurt. This process takes 7 hours. We started around 5pm and left the milk/yoghurt mixture gently heating in the kitchen, where we completely forgot about it. What I didn't realise was that when the 7 hours was up, an alarm sounded to warn you to unplug the machine. You don't get an automatic cut-out for €12 it seems. Poor Woody had had to listen to this alarm (like a high pitched whistle) from midnight (we go to bed early on school nights) until I got up at 6 am this morning (which of course felt like 5am)! No wonder he's knackered!

Were we able to enjoy freshly made yoghurt for our breakfast this morning? No! The instructions were obviously in French, and we made a mistake between "dessous" (below) and "dessus (above) 20 degrees (the temperature the mixture had to be before you put it in the machine). Therefore the mixture was too cold, therefore we woke up not only to this peculiar whistling sound like a referee was loose in the kitchen, but to milky yoghurt, or yoghurty milk, depending on your point of view. You have to laugh!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Flying Dutchman just flew off!

I guess that was only to be expected. Apparently, Barclays won't lend him the money. Any cash buyers out there?

Moving swiftly on, I bought a yoghurt making machine yesterday (€12) so we're waiting for the milk to go sour as we speak so that we can have lovely, yummy, homemade yoghurts for breakfast tomorrow - I'll let you know how I get on. Unexpectedly, there's also a recipe for home made soy sauce in the recipe book they give you - now there's a thought. I never knew soy sauce was fermented soya beans. Pity they don't sell them here.

I'll come back later with my lovely Spring piccies.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Whoops!

I was reading an article on saving money in my Femme Actuel last week (a very popular French magazine that I subscribe to) - www.femmeactuelle.fr- which said, roughly translated, that many people wasted money on cleaning products, when good old Savon de Marseilles - savondemarseille.com - was all they needed. This is a much-vaunted soap which, not surprisingly, is made in Marseilles. I saw two enormous bars for 70 centimes in my local cheap supermarket, Leader Price last week, so I bought it. I'm always looking to economise on my shopping, especially in the current financial climate. I pondered for a couple of days or so on the best way to get this enormous bar of soap into a manageable form for putting in the washing machine, before I hit upon the idea of grating it with the cheese grater, which I did. I was delighted that the clothes came out clean, smelling wonderful and feeling softer than after my normal cheap all-temperature liquid wash. What with one thing and another, I didn't have time to wash the cheese grater, so I shoved it in the dishwasher as it's not used that often anyway, and we have another one. Are you ahead of me yet? Read on ...

Dear Son (15) has his girlfriend here for the weekend and they decided to make a little snack they like which involves cutting a croissant in half (the crumbs, the crumbs!) and loading it with ham and GRATED CHEESE before putting it into a hot oven and letting the cheese melt. Of course, they got the grater out of the dishwasher, without washing it, doubtless thinking that the little flakes of soap still attached to it were bits of cheese - well, you would, wouldn't you? They didn't notice anything unusual about the flavour, but I'm just waiting with bated breath for the result! I daren't tell them, of course! Ha, ha, almost a form of revenge for being a complete stranger in my own house all weekend, since the kids all speak French to each other and I haven't a clue what they're saying. This is not the "King's French" you understand (or at least doesn't resemble anything I've ever been taught) it's all delivered in slang and with a dreadful Charentais accent. I'll find out what they've been talking about from Dear Daughter (10) after the weekend is over.

Must go, I've got some more soap to grate!

Friday, 20 March 2009

The sun is shining, the birds are singing

Trouble is, it's bloody freezing! There's a strong wind blowing straight from Siberia today and there isn't much between us and there, apart from the Alps and they don't exactly help matters!

The cleaner came and cleaned today. I bought her a lovely new bottle of floor cleaner which smelt of lavender. So why has she mopped my beautiful shiny tiled floor with bleach? It stinks here just like a swimming pool. I've opened the windows and sprayed air freshener, but you can't shift it. Oh, hap, hap happy day!

Speaking of swimming pools, I'm off soon to Dear Daughter's swimming class, where I help stop the younger kids and those who have not yet mastered the art of staying afloat from drowning themselves. You can laugh, I've had more than one come up for the third time before now! I'm going to shock everybody by wearing my leopardskin bikini (not real fur, don't worry!) as I can't find my usual mumsy black number from M&S. I'll let you know what happens. This could be a laugh.

Very quiet evening planned here tonight, both DS's are out, one with girlfriend, one with friends at a school disco and then staying the night with a "mate". Dear Daughter can be an only child for a change. Hope it doesn't spoil her too much. She's got herself an MSN address now, so I'll probably not see much of her either. At least I've got the dog for company, and I don't mean DH!

Didn't hear anything back from the viewing on Wednesday - and the house didn't stay tidy for long either. It was back to looking a shambles by Thursday lunchtime. I would have blamed the kids, but they were out with their friends, there being no school as a result of the general strike. It's beginning to look like we're to blame after all.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Tidying like mad fools!

Today, we had a couple to view the new house for a change. We're used to spending hours and hours tidying up and showing people round the gites, but today we had to get stuck in this side of the road. I still haven't caught up since the kids were off school! DH tackled upstairs and I did the downstairs. I filled two bin bags with rubbish and stashed and dashed the rest! I'll never be able to find anything now. A middle-aged couple from the "north of France" arrived with the agent ten minutes late as is the way of French people. They walked round for an hour, inside and out; it couldn't have looked any nicer since the sun was on it and the garden had been tidied up too, but they didn't give anything away. She was deadpan, and he asked sensible questions, like how long does it take to cut the grass and how much is the heating bill per year.

That's that then. We'll probably not hear another word from them, but at least the house looks tidy for now.

Took Woody for his vaccination afterwards. I had a job to get him into the vet's, he remembers! Luckily for me, there was a little girl who looked just like Dear Daughter (10) who came out to see what was going on, and he followed her back in as I couldn't have forced him in there, he's much too big and heavy for me! €43 up your shirt! Why do vets assume that as you're English, you keep on nipping back and forth across the channel with the dog? I mean, why would you want to do that? If we go anywhere abroad, usually Spain, we put him in kennels, which seems much more logical to me. I had to talk him out of the "pet passport" with rabies injection at an extra €16!

Whilst I was there, I made an appointment for next Wednesday to have the youngest kitten, Shadow, castrated. Might make him less inclined to fight with the other three older, wiser and also castrated cats!

That's it for now, I have to go and get Dear Daughter (10) back from her friend Lucie's house, where she slept last night. It's seemed dreadfully quiet without her. The rest of the family are no company whatsoever - all they ever talk about is rugby! Dear Son (15) is here with his girlfriend cooking some pasta in the kitchen (they'd better not mess it up!) (they will!!) They make a lovely couple, but her mum has remarked that they're seeing a bit too much of DS, so we're taking a turn. It occurred to me that they might as well be wed since they see each other every day at school, text each other constantly and whilst they do their homework, they have MSN with webcams so they can look at each other. It wasn't like that in my day when lads ran the risk of my dad answering the phone if they tried to ring me! No mobiles in those days!

Speaking of mobiles, Dear Son (14) replaced his yesterday, it cost €269 out of his savings for his scooter (that's been put off for a while now), but it does clever things like plays games with dice which move when you shake it. You can even make phone calls on it! I'll give it a week before he loses his stylo!

I'm rambling, must get on, and more importantly, let you get on!

Well, you said you missed me!
XXX

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

It's been a while!

Wow, I'm sat sitting here all alone, Dear Daughter (10) having gone to her friend's house for a sleepover, and DS's both still at school feeling all, well, alone! Things with Dear Son (15) have at last settled down and the "smoking" incident has been downgraded to "minor misdemeanour" rather than full scale addiction. He made tea last night - spaghetti carbonara which went down a treat. It's definitely a keeper. I'm listening to a presentation on the "Dawah Technique" to see if I want to bid to transcribe it. Trouble is, the speaker keeps lapsing into Egyptian! Here is the link, just click on a CD and you'll get an idea of what I mean. There are over 30 hours of audio, don't think I'll bother, I'd hardly be able to get out of bed in the morning if that was all I had to look forward to.

http://www.hoor-al-ayn.com/lectures/muhammad-al-shareef/

Spring has finally and at last arrived, along with Lesley's birthday (Happy Birthday!!! How old would that be then?) Sorry, went off subject then. We have beautiful blue skies, warm sunshine and flowers in bloom, it makes life worth living! Watch somebody spoil it.

Speaking of spoiling things, the bank in France has lost a cheque we paid in back in January! How is this possible? I just had the bloke on the phone saying they can't find it, as if I could come and help him somehow. We're sat sitting here between Barclays bank and the Credit Agricole in Saujon who between them have £1500 of our money and do they apologise? Oh, no, they just bounce cheques and standing orders and then have the cheek to charge us interest on the negative balance. How do I stay so cheerful?

We have yet more people to see the gites - we're still showing people round until things are definitely signed, sealed and delivered. Be funny if they want it! We've also got some French people coming tomorrow to see the big posh house. We put it up for sale last summer in desperation since the gites weren't moving and then promptly forgot about it, the market being so slow. We could end up selling the lot, then where would we go? That'd be an interesting problem to have....

I'll try to get more into a blogging routine and not leave it so long next time.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Proper Poorly

It seems that the first things to go under whenever I'm busy, stressed or poorly are the ironing and this blog. Well, I've been all three and that's my excuse. I tackled the ironing yesterday, and today I'm having a go at the blog. Which I'm sure I've missed more than you have.

I was busy enough whilst the kids were at school, but now they're on half term and I'm even more busy. It seems that Dear Daughter (10) looks to me (or at least my computer) for at least half of her entertainment value. Also, Dear Son (15) has been in deep trouble, having decided that his life was so boring that he needed to escape reality by taking up a habit that involves smoking something that smells like bonfires. We tackled this (or so we thought) last summer, but he went back to it. Why? Why? The evidence was incontrovertible, so he was well and truly grounded and his mobile phone confiscated. This has meant that we have had to put up with a truly grumpy teenager. It felt more like we were being punished than him. We didn't ban his girlfriend (that would have been too much and she seems like she is a good influence), so she stayed here last night. It's surprising how much difference even one more makes to a household. As if that wasn't enough to adjust to, Dear Son (14) had a "hot date" at the cinema in Royan yesterday. I'm losing them one by one!

All this has inevitably taken a toll on my health and well being and I now have my sore chest and cough back again (that always happens when thing start to spiral out of control). It seems to be a weak spot - I blame my mother, who smoked all the time I was growing up! She's no help, having taken herself off to Mississippi on Sunday for two weeks holiday.

That's about all I can update you on for now, I've missed my blog, it's an outlet, so I'll try and come back soon.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Dutchman is circling ever closer!

What a title for a post! Those few of you that follow my blog may remember that just before Christmas, we had somebody interested in buying the gites. Much negotiation and to-ing and fro-ing later, we have now signed a piece of paper (actually more like 40 pieces of paper) called a "Compromis de Vente" agreeing to sell Chez Belliveau to him and nobody else. He also has agreed in principle to buy the gites, subject to his loan. If he changes his mind, it costs him serious money. This is a peculiarly French idea to save him from being gazumped. Come on, they're not exactly queueing up around the block to buy our gites! Having said that, we have three people lined up to view them in the next week or so. Typical! We'll still show them round, since it is quite possible that the Dutchman won't get his loan, things being what they are at the moment in the world.

Anyway, we are now one step further along in the nerve wracking process of selling the gites. We're not there yet, and we had at least two false starts with the solicitors before we got to this stage, but this now gives him what he needs to see if Barclays will actually lend him the money they promised in principle last December. As we know, a LOT of water has gone under the bridge since then as far as banks are concerned. It's still a long way off sold, but it's another step down the rocky road.

The experience has not been a positive one (for us or him). Let's put it like this, either he's a very clever con man, or he really, really, really wants to buy Chez Belliveau. Let's hope it's the second one for all our sakes.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Computer Woes!


The bane of my life - but where would we be without it?

In a rather half-hearted attempt to earn some money, I started transcribing audio files via a job agency on the internet. This led to me buying the domain name of ahem, ahem "English Secretary in France" 'cos that's what I am! Don't bother searching for the site, it doesn't exist yet!

Anyway, I spent all this morning downloading various (free - love that word) software for transcribing audio and even video and telephone calls (!) Is nothing sacred? Turned the computer off and on again as instructed - it crashed! I could not believe it. Anyway, after the usual gut wrenching panic, I did luckily manage to get it back, so now I'm backing up like mad! One big problem was emails, but I've now come across Mozbackup, which will back up all your emails for just such an emergency (I use Thunderbird, love it and highly recommend it).

Also, on the advice of a very good friend of mine (you know who you are!) I went out and got an External Hard Disk Drive so everything's on there too now. It's a pity it takes a crash and all the anxiety it causes to make me get organised. I've heard of a company that will automatically back up your computer either daily, weekly or monthly, for a price, I'm off to research it now and I'll let you know how I get on!

Friday, 13 February 2009

EEK!

That got your attention! Dear son (15) has a girlfriend. EEK! This is completely uncharted territory for us. Obviously, she's French and very pretty in a dark haired, brown eyes, perfect skin type of way. (Do you hate her yet?) She weare glasses, which give her a nice "safe" studious look. She's 16 (cradle snatcher) and in his class at school. He stayed the night there last weekend, separate beds I hope, but you can never be sure, so it'll be our turn next (definitely separate beds!) What do you feed teenage French girls? Apparently her mother's a "brilliant cook" - she would be, wouldn't she? She does something exquisite with her tartiflette apparently. Bread and cheese anybody? Or shall we shock her with a red hot beef curry - now you're talking!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The French and Their Dogs

Woody's thinking of ways to get me to take him for a walk!

One of the things I love about my life here is that I am free to take the dog on very early morning walks in the woods. The dawn breaks around 7.24 am here at the moment (ask me how I know that!) As the only English in this "coin" (corner) I'm considered highly eccentric since the French don't bother to walk their dogs, except on hunting days of course, but there's enough material there for a separate post - so that'll have to wait.

I don't pass many houses on my walks, but one that I go by from time to time is fairly typical. There's a tiny house sitting on an enormous plot of land with three massive dogs: a great dane, a rottweiller and an alsatian which never go further than the front garden and the garage where they sleep. These dogs are enraged by our passage and I'm convinced they'll have the fence down one day. I hope they aren't as vicious as they seem; they wag their tales whilst foaming at the mouth and alternately whimper and bark. Part of me (the bit that isn't terrified) feels sorry for them! They aren't alone. Whenever we cut through this little hamlet between the woods and the house, we set up a chain reaction of barking dogs!

Strangely, the nicest people I've met in France were at the dog training class where I took Woody just after we adopted him from the dog rescue home. Follow this link: http://spa.de.saintes.free.fr/

Sunday, 8 February 2009

The promised photo, mimosa and OAP's


I just thought I'd share this photo I took in the woods a couple of days ago. It gives me hope that Spring is just around the corner. Having said that, we've woken up to a Winter wonderland this morning, a hard frost came down in the night. Today is the Mimosa Festival on the Ile d'Oléron, just up from La Rochelle, or about an hour north of here. The mimosa is the first to flower in Spring, so they have music and dancing in the streets. Here's a link: http://www.st-trojan-les-bains.fr/

Dear Husband reaches the ripe old age of 65 in May. The DHSS have sent him a pile of forms to fill in so he can claim his old age pension. It took him a whole day to sort it out. They wanted birth certificates for all of us, together with marriage certificates etc. Dear Son (15) enquired as to whether he would be entitled to an increase in his pocket money as a result of this increase in our income. DH remarked that believe it or not, not many pensioners had school aged children, and surely he didn't think that the old age pension was enough to live off! Says it all, really!