2008. The Beginning

APRIL
26-04-08 Le Grande move Part 1
“Fuck, fuuuccckk, FFFUUUCCCKKK”
That is the sound that signifies the loss of the £100 deposit on your rental van.

So far it had been a very long but rather uneventful trip, (apart from an ‘I thought you had the reservation numbers’ moment at the overnight motel in Boulogne) but here 10 miles from our new front door it all started to go a bit pear shaped.
My Lovely and quite wonderful cousin had offered to drive our belongings from the North-east of England to the West of France, via Edinburgh and Luton (logistics have never really been my strong point and I think if our belongings and weekend babysitters were anymore scattered my head would have exploded), and after 3 days and 1500 miles we had arrived at the estate agents to pick up the keys to our new place. Sadly, for us, our English speaking estate agent friend was out on an appointment so after a fair bit of nodding and pointing and mutually exchanged blank looks we had signed the contracts and were given the keys.
Off we set with a bounce in our step back to the van. The ‘big town’ where the estate agency is has a beautiful medieval basilica and some wondrously twisty tiny streets. And a modern but very low railway bridge. as we approached Hubs and I were too busy clutching the keys and each other to be paying too much attention, but as cousin started muttering things like ‘should fit’ & ‘didn’t hear the chains'(you know the chains that are supposed to trail on your roof if your vehicle is too high, but are always wrapped round the barriers several times and all hang at different lengths, those ones), we turned our attention to the rapidly approaching concrete. With Hubs now immortal words ‘ I don’t think it’s going to fit…’ came the distinctive sound of twisting metal impacting on concrete and the expletive stream from cousin.
As he tried desperately to reverse the van out of the bridge (I’m not sure which sound is worse, crashing in our scraping out), a small crowd of onlookers had gathered to applaud his heroic efforts. With a mighty surge we were free and reversing up the hill and trying to find another way out of town.
Hubs later told me that he thought I was really angry as I didn’t say a word, but in all honesty I didn’t think that bursting out laughing would add a positive to the situation so I clamped my teeth together until the urge subsided.
We pulled into the supermarket car park and got out. Cousins optimistic statement that ‘it doesn’t look too bad, I could probably bash that out’ was not echoed by the look of sheer horror on Hubs face. It was, in the words of the hire company ‘a really bloody big dent’ in the roof of the van (and that was after cousin had spent two hours the next morning hammering it out). Still the purchase of baguettes and beer lightened the mood and we traveled the last short distance to home.
And what a home, as far distant to Luton and London as you could get, and not a knife amnesty bin in sight.
As we started to unpack our worldly goods a sense of peace overcame me quite suddenly. I stood under the apple tree in our front garden and started to cry some very happy tears. We were home at last.

Le Grande move Part 2
So, home at last. Almost as soon as I had the front door open the van was being unpacked, and boy what a pack it was, if you can for a second imagine the contents of a 3 bedroom house compressed and compacted into the back of a transit van, (sadly minus our WONDERFUL chairs which are now residing in a garden shed in the north-east – we’ll come for you soon..), then you will realise that there was barely a centimetre left unfilled. As I surveyed my new domain, I suddenly remembered the last thing I had packed very carefully in the van – I ran to the front garden, but it was too late. There on the road was Hank.
Hank has been with us for a long time; since hubs and I set up home together he has been part of the family. He survived a multitude of home moves and with each move he has been rewarded a new home of his own and has thrived and grown with us. I remember when we first got him, he was so small you could hold him in one hand, and by the time he was packed this time he took up an entire bag for life.
Hank is our cactus; Hank was now battered and broken on the road outside our house. It’s not the first time that Hubs has dropped Hank (accidentally of course) but judging by the state of him I fear it may be the last.
After clearing the wreckage as best we could, and removing a multitude of cactus spines from our fingers, we carried on unpacking. Several hours later with hubs and cousin dispatched on a quest for beer and tobacco, I was in unpacking heaven. Most of these boxes had been packed over 6 months ago and been in storage and each was a voyage of discovery. But we do have WAY too many vases
Upon the return of the hunter gatherers we tucked into the best bread, cheese and beer I had ever tasted (until we met Sophie the baker, but that’s another story). Exhausted we all retired to our mattress, leaving cousin locked in a battle to the death with a flat pack desk (the desk won by the way), we were ready to fall into bed so we switched the light out, and fell into each other. Literally. It was SO dark, you really can’t see a thing, as we crashed and stumbled around the room trying to find the light switch again, the view from the window stopped us in our tracks. Stars, so many stars, thousands, millions spread before us in a sky that you wouldn’t believe. It might seem like a silly thing to ask, but when was the last time you really saw the sky? Not with an ever present dull orange glow, not the occasional bright pin spot amongst the aeroplane lights. But a real dark black sky with the cosmos laid out before you. I urge you all to find some time, and go as far away from civilisation as you possibly can, and just look up.

27-04-08 Back already
It was with a heavy heart that we locked up the house the next day. Time to return to England, return the dented van and collect the small one. Try as I might, the night before I just couldn’t figure a way to get small one to France without me having to go and get her. The miles passed in relative quiet and sooner than I would have liked we were back in the UK speeding towards London to drop off hubs in a random suburb of London, just off the m25, to find his way back to pimlico via the night bus network. On we sped to the m1 desperate to get to junction 10 to overnight at Luton. We were celebrating with each other that in about 10 mins time we would be drinking coffee and eating pasta, and commiserating that it would probably take hubs a hell of a lot longer to get across London than it would for us to get ‘home’, when the traffic started to get heavier and slower. We had just passed junction 9 on the m1 when we ground to a halt. A total stop, 4 lanes at that point and those seeking a quick escape on the hard shoulder were also out of luck. We scanned the radio for any sign of what it could possibly be causing this standstill, we were thinking a multiple pile up at least, and I mean it was 10pm on a Sunday night. 10 minutes later we had managed about 100meters at a crawl and tempers were starting to fray, there was still nothing on the radio and as if to stick the knife in we could still see the slip road of the previous junction in the mirror. It was about an hour later that we received news that hubs had made it to Leicester sq and was waiting for his last bus of the evening; we on the other hand were still some way from the next junction. Then we eventually came upon the cause of the delay my gast was indeed flabbered. No accident or emergency, just plain simple good old fashioned roadworks. For nearly 2000 miles we had slogged across Europe with not so much as a tiny tailback to impede us, and here 4 miles from our destination we were well and truly stuck. While my cousin vented his spleen about the government, the road traffic agency and anything else he could think of, I decided that the only sensible course of action was to sit back, have a smoke and wait. We made it to my friend’s house at 11.45pm; just minutes before hubs rang to inform us he was safely back at the flat. 36 miles in just under 2 hours. I know it’s important to do roadworks and I know that on a motorway the best time to close an entire section of the motorway (and divert all traffic off at the slip road round the roundabout and down the other side to rejoin the motorway), would be late on a Sunday night, but I really wish it hadn’t been at our junction.

 

MAY
05-05 I want to go home now
So after a few days back in the UK, at my wonderful friend JJ’s house, all I could think about was getting home, we finally booked our passage. I decided that the easiest, and cheapest, way (as we still had no car) was to National express it from London to Paris overnight then train From Paris to home. The evening came and we set of for Victoria coach station to bid farewell to hubs (who had to stay and work), and wait for our coach. And wait, and wait, and wait…over an hour had passed since the scheduled departure time, and moo who was already having a late night adventure, was getting cranky(in case you have never had the joy of travelling via Victoria coach station it’s really not that nice – although much better than Milton Keynes…). The coach finally arrived and we managed to fight through the surge of bodies rushing to get their luggage stowed and grab the best seats, and after a tearful farewell with hubs, we were finally on board. I had picked a couple of seats behind an elderly quiet looking man and opposite a young man who was either on his way from or to (or possibly both) a festival, and it was fair to assume he would be asleep most of the way. We set up camp for the night and as we left the station I noticed that moo was already asleep, I planned to join her as soon as possible. What I hadn’t counted on was the old man’s bottle stash overhead clinking together at every bump twist or turn in the road…so much for sleep. We were already against the clock to get to euro tunnel in time for our train, but the driver assured us that as long as there were no hold ups we would just make it. And we did make it to the departures area with minutes to spare, just a quick flash of the passports and we’d be through, or so we thought. Immigration and customs boarded the bus and took all of our passports for checking and as the minutes ticked by we all gathered there must have been a problem, other than the fact we had just missed our train. Immigration returned without our passports and requested that we all leave the bus retrieve our luggage and wait in the customs hall for further instructions. The young traveller beside us was now in a cold sweat frantically searching through his pockets whilst trying to locate the nearest dustbin that was out of sight of the customs office. It was now just after 2am, and moo was not at all happy at being woken and moved, but I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to our bus driver, who wrapped her in his coat and hushed her back to sleep as I faffed about getting luggage and buggy from the bus (and on the way back onto the bus), you have no-idea how much that small act of kindness meant to me. By the time I made it into customs the search was all but over and done and I was waved through the formalities by a very understanding young French officer who took one look at me and the now sleeping again moo, and decided that we didn’t look like the smuggling type and saw no need to wake her up to put the buggy through the scanner – god bless you Monsieur – so we were sorted and re-instated with our passports and told to get back on the bus. As we left the room we saw the cause of our little delay. One of the passengers had 4 enormous suitcases packed with fake designer goods, from perfume to shoes, handbags to jackets none of which would now make their final destination of the Paris market stall which they had been intended for. As we got settled back into the bus moo woke up briefly and stated that when we got to France there would be chickens in the garden, I’ve no idea where this thought came to her but she was most adamant that this would be so, I tried to dissuade her but she would not be told. It was then I saw the young traveller from the seat opposite trying to be nonchalant as he searched the outside bins for his recently discarded stash. From the big grin on his face when he got back on I’m guessing it was a successful search.

06-05 part 2
In the end we had to wait another 2 hours in the eurostar coach park, but at least I managed to get some sleep! The rest of the journey was thankfully uneventful and as I watched the sun rise on the road to Paris all of the tiredness seemed to melt away. We were nearly home. Of course the delay meant that we arrived in Paris at 8.30 am instead of the planned 6.15 so traversing the city on the metro was a little busier than I had hoped for, but the commuters on the midweek metro were courteous, and extremely helpful with carting the buggy up and down the steps at the interchange and allowed us as much space as they could in the carriage. They were all either very accommodating or rather unnerved by this loony tourist who had obviously had no sleep, with a ton of baggage and a small person in tow at rush hour in the centre of the city. Either way it was a pleasant journey for us. We arrived at the main station and on seeing that we could rush for a train that was leaving in 15 minutes or get one in an hour I opted for a coffee and a croissant and a sit on the grass outside in the sunshine. It was a beautiful sunny morning and all was well with the world, I had coffee and moo was having a run about on the grass chasing the pigeons. We made our way to our platform in plenty of time and finally found out where we were supposed to be sitting, it was a busy train, but moo contented herself with colouring in and eating strawberries and telling anyone who would listen that ‘we do live in France now, and we’ve got a chicken in our garden’. Try as I might I could do nothing to persuade her that there would be no chicken. We changed onto the local train at Le Mans and less than 2 hours from leaving Paris we were standing in the estate agents. Well we would have been had we not arrived at 1pm, bang in the middle of lunch. It’s a curious thing to realise that here they still close for lunch, not only that but lunch is 2 hours long. We headed instead to a local hotel and sat outside with a beer and baguette (well I did, moo had juice) and relaxed in the sunshine. I could get used to this. When 2 o’clock rolled round I headed back to receive instructions from our friend J, at the agency, and then headed off to the bank and the insurers to get the legalities squared. Even given my alarming lack of French it all went rather smoothly, particularly as moo has decided to have an afternoon nap during proceedings. By this point I was itching to get to the house but as we had no car I was waiting for a lift from J, who had another appointment so I went shopping for provisions at the local butchers and bakers and epiceré (a store for everything you can’t get at the butchers or bakers). At last J had finished for the day and we were on our way home. Moo and I were both so excited, the drive through the countryside passed in a blur and before we knew it we were there. Home. As I opened the front gate moo let out a squeal of delight as there in the front garden, under the apple tree, was a big fat brown chicken.
07-05 Meet the neighbours
It was the best night’s sleep I’d had in ages. I woke early to the sound of the church bells and the sight of a clear blue cloudless sky. And moo was still soundly sleeping in her new bedroom. Perfect. I wandered around gazing in wonder still actually not quite believing that we lived here. It would take a while to sink in. I decided to venture on to the back step for a morning coffee, and sitting there in my pyjamas was where I met the neighbours. We had introduced ourselves briefly during our hasty moving weekend to the couple next door, who had themselves only been there a few weeks at that point and were around about the same age as Hubs and I. Mr. A came to welcome me and joined me on the step for a chin-wag (I feel I should point out at this stage that Mr. A is originally from the UK, just in case you thought that I had managed to master French overnight in my sleep- oh how I wish – His girlfriend ,Mlle A, is French and works locally as a teacher,). We chatted for a while, and I was introduced to the dog and 2 cats, who wasted no time on formalities and wandered into the house to have a good sniff around. MR A had noticed our lack of vehicle and insisted that we come with them on their weekly supermarket trip the following day so we could get some supplies in till we found our feet (and some wheels). MR A is a very quiet young man and quite shy and I gathered from our conversation that he had suffered from the strains of a hectic crowded life in the UK and was seeking some peace in the rural life. As I proceeded to fill him in with my life story so far, we noticed that our other neighbour, Mr. G, (who is somewhere around the 70 mark) had started work on his spectacular garden. It really is a sight to behold (especially for someone who has just arrived from city life). The dazzling array of fruit and vegetables, surrounded by some of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. He noticed us sitting there and called out a loud good morning. I went to the fence and decided to unleash my well memorized phrase. ‘Bon matin, Monsieur, s’il vous plait, pardon ma français, c’est n’bon pas. Mais, je suis savouir lentement’ he replied ‘ah, bienvenue, Madame….’after that I was lost, I think he said that he hoped we liked the village and enjoy our time here…or something like that anyway. I’ve got so much to learn. At that point Moo appeared at the door and declared to the world that she needed a big poo, so I excused myself and got on with the business of the day. A little while later we ventured out into the back garden again for a sit in the sun. Mr. G was in his garden and I called to him to introduce moo, he rushed over to say hello, moo was a little shy until Minnou arrived. Minnou is a tiny dog and as he sniffed around this small strange person she found her voice and said to me, “mummy he’s a really ugly little doggy”. Fortunately neither Mr. G nor Minnou speak English so my blushes went unheeded. It was then that Mr. G produced a bunch of gorgeous lilies from his garden as a small welcome for us. I was so touched. The small gestures of kindness from people mean so much and it made me feel so welcome. After only a day in our new home, I felt more settled than at any time during the last 12 months. All we need now is for hubs to get some time off work so he can come home too.
09-05 Storm runnerawayers
When hubs was home we took a stroll to the local village to stock up on provisions, we decided to have a short break for coffee before the walk home. While we were sitting outside in the warmth of the afternoon sun we looked up and approaching us was an immense wall of black cloud heading our way. Fast. We paid and I manage to communicate to the tabac owner that there was a ‘grande l’orage'(big storm) on the way, ‘ah oui, vingt minutes je pense pour ici’. When I told her we were walking home she looked alarmed and urged us to ‘promenade, rapide’. We took her advice and set off at a pace through the country lanes. It was about a 30 minute walk and she thought we had 20. hmmm. As we hurried along still sweating in the glorious heat and sun of the day the wall of cloud drew ever nearer, and we watched in awe as the lightning hit the hills not 10 miles away. The whole of the landscape changed before our eyes, the dark clouds seeming to turn the hills and forest into a flat, but still strangely beautiful monochrome drawing. As the church came into view we lost the sun and the air around us took on that charged quality, even Moo was impressed and told us that the air felt tingly on her skin. We reached the gate as the clouds broke and we were drenched by the fattest rain I have ever seen. In the 20 seconds it took to get from the front gate to inside the house, we were all soaked to the skin, but elated to be home. The lightning flashed and the thunder did indeed roar. So now that we were home what did we do? We all piled out into the back garden with heads up and open arms dancing in the rain. As the storm began to pass we noticed Mr. at his back door waving and laughing at 3 happy drowned rats.
12-05 Meeting new friends
The people who introduced us to this area and helped us find our house have a holiday home nearby. Sadly when Moo and I arrived, they were not on holiday, so we really were on our own. Mlle A, from next door, has been absolutely wonderful to us since we arrived, making sure we were OK and taking us to the supermarche to get provisions. But it was time to wander. We made tacks to the nearest village (2.5km), and it was a beautiful walk. It took us about an hour (at Moo pace) and I think we stopped to say hello to every cow on the way. We made our way to the village bar, L’homme vert, which had recently been re-opened by an English couple who had moved to the area a few years previously. We introduced ourselves and had a coffee with them and they made us feel instantly welcome (like any good innkeepers should). We chatted for ages and were filled in on the local area and people, but the walk home beckoned and we said our farewells, with Moo declaring her love for her new best friends, and an invitation to coffee at their house the next time we were in the village. Well the next time came round a couple of days later when I discovered I’d run out of bread and milk (so many years of living over a shop does not prepare you well for rural shopping!). We arrived, not really sure if the coffee invite was genuine (well we’ve all said ‘oh you must come round…’), but thankfully it was and we sat with her and one of her friends, (another ex pat too, there’s quite a lot in this neck of the woods) a rather beautiful blond lady. BB just happened to live at the other end of our village and offered us a lift home which we gladly accepted. On the way we stopped in to see her babies, Morgan and Alan. Morgan is a beautiful horse, but rather shy of strangers, and Alan is the friendliest rowdiest donkey you could ever hope to meet. (She does have 2 real babies too, a boy of 9 and a girl of 11, who sound quite lovely). Moo was utterly enchanted and when BB said we could come to see them whenever we wanted I got the feeling that we were in for a few more long walks. On the short drive home to the village BB was so very interested in us and how we had come to end up here and again invited us to drop in whenever we liked and meet the family. And you know what I actually believed her. I really hope I’m not wrong about her, but I think I may have just bumped into my new best friend.
17-05 Parents visit
It was the day I had been waiting for, my parents were visiting me in my new home. My parents live in America and make an annual pilgrimage to visit ‘the children’ once a year. When they were planning their visit we didn’t even know if we would have found a house, never mind have moved in, so the fact that they had a 4 day window and a hire car made my heart leap. They had managed to catch up with hubs in London in the midst of his hectic work schedule, and they were so excited for us. Moo was up even earlier than usual, and running around getting all her toys ready to show ‘grama’n’grampa’ even though they weren’t due to arrive till about 5pm that evening. Then came the phone call to tell us that they were at the ferry waiting to get in. except that wasn’t the call they made. They were at the ferry port on time, sadly the ferries weren’t. The French trawler-men were on strike and blockading the French ports and no ferries were crossing that day. The port staff were assuring everyone that the ferries would be running again within the next 2 days and that tickets would be valid, as my parents were due to fly back to the states in 6 days this did not console my mother, or me when she told me. I was straight on the phone to hubs in tears and moo was all of a sudden wondering why mummy was crying. I was SO disappointed, but hubs and I were trying to work out a way to get me back to the UK before they flew home. Meanwhile my dad had turned tail and headed as fast as he could to the Euro tunnel terminal. They managed to get there just as the police were closing off the route. God bless the police man who waved my mum and dad through, the last car that day to make it to Euro tunnel without a reservation. They did manage to get on a train (but refused to tell me how much they paid – which means it was hideously expensive), and without any more incident they did indeed arrive at our house just a couple of hours later than they were due. As my dad put it ‘I had my wife and my daughter in tears, do you really think I wasn’t going to make it’. Thankfully after such an emotional and expensive day I’m happy to say they like it here. It was such a pleasure showing my parents round, and finding new and interesting routes to and from the local towns. As I don’t have a car (or as it happens any sense of direction) I wasn’t really terribly sure about the way to and from places, and we managed to revisit several very picturesque villages more than once, in fact sometimes more than twice. But they were very pretty. My parents were extremely generous as ever and spoiled moo and me many times over, and the 2 best housewarming presents came in the form of a strimmer and a strimee, thanks dad. The weather was fantastic and we managed an afternoon on the beach. Moo dad and I were all mucking about paddling in the lake and mum was pretending to throw water on us all. And then mum fell over on the sand and couldn’t get up and Moo decided that was the perfect time to run to the lake, fill up her bucket then empty it on grama’s head. That’s my girl.
25-05 I’ve got a car!!!
With much re jigging and reworking I decided to return to UK with mum and dad in order to buy a car. The French second hand market is a bit too pricey for us at the moment, so it’s back to search on good old e-bay. Once again relying on the hospitality of my good friend JJ. It was a tense time for me as my time window was a very short one, but I spotted one I wanted and to cut a long story short, I got it. Hurray! I had a few days to acclimatise myself and get to know the car before I undertook the epic journey home. To say the car was a dream was an understatement. We bonded immediately and soon he was no longer just a car, he was Gordon. Although I had only passed my driving test a month before, I was confident about the Drive through France, what was worrying me more was the drive through central London beforehand. There was no avoiding it; we had to stay in London the night before the ferry. So off we sat on Saturday lunchtime (brilliant timing I know) first into north London to collect some keys, and then through marble arch and Victoria, yikes. It went alarmingly well till we got to just before marble arch. No great drama, we just got stuck in traffic. It took nearly an hour to travel the ¾ of a mile to the arch itself and then about 20 seconds to get round it. Again we got snarled up at Victoria, but the journey passed without incident, I even managed to reverse park right outside hubs Flat, my driving instructor would have been so proud. And so the next morning to Dover and the ferry. (I much prefer driving in London at 6am on a Sunday). We got to France and Moo, most obligingly, slept for over half the journey and before we knew it we were home and the only issue I had on the way was having to jump across to the passenger window at the toll booths. Some may say that undertaking such a drive barely a month after passing your test and only 3 days of having a car was foolhardy, and they would probably be right, but it’s in the genes. The day after my brother passed his driving test he drove from Germany to Scotland! And I have to say after delivering us safely home, Gordon is well and truly one of the family, and I’m looking forward to many more adventures with him.

 

JUNE
03-06The circus parc
Finding things to do to keep moo amused is an ongoing battle, she’s a bright kid who will sit happily colouring in for hours on end and playing with ‘her guys’. But trawling round banks, DIY shops and supermarkets is not top of her list of fun to do. So I decided to find a park. that in itself was not too much of a problem as there are plenty of parks around and there are many dotted around the ‘big town’. We had stumbled across a few in the last couple of weeks but as I was parking Gordon in our’ regular spot’ behind the bank. I noticed, for the first time a park behind the car park, it looked like a good one (primary coloured plastic turrets are always a good sign), so off we went. Imagine my delight when we arrived at ‘the circus park’. Complete an 8ft ringmaster, 2 strongmen (‘holding up the slide) and a big sandpit (amongst other attractions). after an inspection for sabotaged/burnt out equipment and broken glass and discarded needles, and then remembering I don’t have to actually do that anymore, we played and played on the equipment, that given the height and lack of bark chippings would doubtless given the HSE and a few nervous mothers sleepless nights, till mummy needed a little rest. It was while I was sitting on the bench that I noticed that one of the aforementioned strongmen was wearing a thong – I kid you not, only in France!! Then things took a dramatic shift. Moo was climbing the ladder to the ‘big slide’ when at the top (about 2.5m) she lost her footing and plummeted between the rungs. All I heard was a scream. In slow motion I ran to the slide to see her heading head first towards the ground. Somehow (and I’m still not sure how) she reached out and grabbed a passing rung. She managed to hold on long enough to right herself and slow momentum before losing her grip and landing on the ground, feet first, closely followed by her bottom. All of this happened in about 2 of the longest seconds of my life. As I reached her she was starting to realise what had happened and wailed. As I checked for blood and broken bones a lovely man came rushing over to see if she was ok, and somehow by the grace of God she suffered not a single scratch. She was crying from shock rather than pain. I comforted her as best I could and started to pack up so we could head home, but moo was having none of it. after a swig of fizzy pop, a few smarties and a cuddle she was demanding to be released and allowed back up on the slide, when I said no she pulled the saddest face she could muster and said’ but mum, I didn’t get to slide down so it wasn’t a proper turn, please mum’ I tried to coax her onto the smaller slide, but she was adamant. I watched her race back over and climb, very cautiously (with a nervous mother shadowing her every step), to the top. And with huge grin she ran across the wobbly bridge and threw herself down the slide. The lovely man returned and asked if I was ok, I replied in halting French. I think so. As he proffered me a cigarette, (it was at this point I realised how much I was shaking), and shrugging in a way that only a Frenchman can utter ‘ah, les enfants-what can you do?’
07-06The area
I guess I should really say a little something about the area we live in. We are situated just across the border of Mayenne province in western France deep in the heart of a national park forest. Our village is incredibly small. The official population is 238, but I think they must be counting the chickens in that. The length of the village can be walked in about 20 minutes at a slow amble. We have a mairé (mayor), a village hall, a school (for 7-11year old) a public loo and a church, which doesn’t have a Sunday service but caters for the christening and wedding blessing needs of the village, and I am led to believe, holds a Christmas mass. There are no shops here, but 3 times a week a van from one of the local bakeries services the need for bread (and rather delicious cake) for the surrounding area. (The gathering at the bread van is also a fine way to meet the locals). And it just so happens to stop outside my gate. Oh yes, and the street lights go out at 10.30pm. The nearest shop, bar, post office, tabac and 2 bakeries are within 3km and the nearest town is 8 km. 6Km away is ‘la foret plage ‘. No I haven’t got my French wrong again, it is ‘the forest beach’. A wonderful natural lake in the local forest, which has a small man made beach. Heaven on our doorstep! At la plage you can swim, fish take out a pedalo, have a lake cruise, go fishing, have a hike in the forest, camp, eat drink and be entertained. Or just take a picnic and lie on the beach. The scenery all around is stunning, from the medieval castles to the grand chateau to the small bakers shop that was built in the late 1700’s. It really does feel like stepping back in time. I can’t wait to get a bike and start exploring!
12-06 L’ecole
We arrived to attempt register moo at the local l’ecole maternelle (pre-school up to 6yrs old), in the neighbouring village, with great trepidation, and a stack of paperwork detailing our every move since she was born, would we get a place for her, would they be able to understand this nutty woman jabbering in very poor demi-french and just how many forms would I have to fill in? What would prove more pressing however was would there actually be anyone there? No. Not a soul. So back to the car and swing round the corner to almost run over the entire student body as they were crossing the road on the way back from a field trip. Not the best of introductions. So back to the school and this time success. With a cursory glance at the paperwork and only 5 forms to fill in, moo will be registered to start at school in September (they actually asked if she wanted to start next week, but too much to-ing and fro-ing needs to be done still).. she even had a little play with her new school mates to be who took great delight in running up to her and saying ‘eloo leetle gerl’.It is a charming little school, in the village square, with very well appointed and modern classrooms and a large outdoor play area and much to Moo’s delight, a big sand pit. With less than 40 pupils and 6 teachers it is a far cry from schooling in UK. The school that Moo would have gone to (well the one we would have wanted her to go to at any rate) had a ratio of 17 pupils to 1 teacher, which is actually very good. They are most excited to have another English speaking child at the school (BB’s son finished in June after being there for 2 years). And at Moo’s they expect she will be fully bi-lingual by Christmas (oh how I wish it were me!)
15-06 Compare and contrast
-Last Saturday I fought my way through central London traffic in a car I’d owned for 3 days sitting for ¾ hour on Edgware road waiting for the impending hell of marble arch, to the sound of muse on the cd player, arrived at a tiny, and somewhat odorous, (sorry love, but it did smell a bit), bedsit in Pimlico and was charged £2.50 for a tin opener at the corner shop (on a side note, how can you live in a flat for over a year and not own a tin opener??). Today I went to the local beach to the sound of Muse on the CD player, paddled in the lake, played beach ball, sunbathed and built sandcastles, came home watered the garden and watched the football. Regrets? NON!
20-06Cherries
We have a cherry tree in our back garden, a really big lovely cherry tree. I watched from the window with anticipation every day as the fruits got fatter and started to redden. My head was full of cherry pies, crumbles, jams and bottles of preserved cherries at Christmas, yes there were that many! Each day as I put out the washing I would look with longing and anticipation, I had even arranged to borrow a ladder so I could reach the higher ones. OK perhaps I sneaked the odd one (or 2 or 3), and my they were delicious. I described to hubs their progress each day and even promised to make him a homemade cherry cheese cake for his birthday when he got home next so sure I was they would be ready. One fine summer evening after the regular inspection, I decided that the very next morning the tree was to be stripped and pies would be baked crumbles would be crumbled and jam would be jammed (and a big bowlful kept for the birthday cake of course). The day dawned bright and sunny, I flung the shutters open to look upon my fruit. ”Nooooo”. I actually cried out in horror. The tree was black and alive with squawking birds feasting on my treasure. I ran to the garden – a vision in my spotty pyjamas and flapping dressing gown- to try and ward them off, but as much as I flapped my arms and yelled they just sat there unperturbed and fully aware that this deranged barely awake woman could do nothing. After a while I realised that it was no good and I retired defeated to watch then sate themselves on what should have been mine. Not that I was bitter. When they had gorged themselves to the point that they could barely lift their fat bellies they slowly flew off twittering at me with scorn and contempt – I’m sure they had a mocking glint in their eyes when they passed – I went out to survey the damage. Hanging from the tree, were nothing but stalks and stones, yes, they even left the stones hanging on the tree. Alone amongst the stones hung one solitary cherry, so I quickly plucked it from its branch and stored it in the freezer. Hubs did get his cherry cheesecake, well a promise is a promise, sadly the cherries were purchased from our local supermarche rather than picked form our tree, all aside from the one solitary frozen cherry that sat proudly in the centre of the cake. Better luck next year.
29-06 87 ½ bloody miles for a happy meal!
Never assume that just because it’s a big shop in a retail park it will be open on a Sunday, because it probably won’t be. As I found out when we drove 30 miles to Le Mans. I had promised to take moo to mcd’s if she was good in the big shops when we looked for a fridge. She was thrilled and delighted when we arrived and the only bloody place open was the golden arches. (Of course none of the staff spoke English so we immediately felt as at home as we used to in London…) so one very happy meal (and a rather nice little cakey thing) later. Off we went home again. Now the eagle eyed among you will have spotted that its 30 miles to Le Mans yet we drove nearly 90. I did get a tiny weeny bit lost on the way home, ironically we got lost leaving the same retail park a couple of weeks ago when my folks were over, but this time I got lost in a new and exciting way and ended up in a terrifyingly complex one way system. The one way being of course the wrong way. By the time I managed to find somewhere to pull in that had a signpost we were proper lost – thank god for the map book!! So all in all I’m not lovin it, we did get a balloon though and it has to be said that the staff did actually all smile….

 

JULY
01-07 Weeds
I’ve never really been much of a gardener (well the 2sq meters of concrete we had in the UK hardly constitutes a garden) so now with 2 gardens to care for I’m finding it…..a challenge. Thanks to my lovely parents and their housewarming gift of a strimmer (amongst lots of other things) the lawns are looking at the very least respectable. But I decided that there were far too many weeds and I really should pull them up properly. it took bloody hours to do the, smaller, back garden but I was thoroughly pleased with myself for the effort I had taken and patted myself quite firmly on the back. For the next few days I decided to concentrate on the front garden. Digging and replanting the two small beds, cutting back the hedges, pruning and weeding in between the roses and sorting out a couple of hanging baskets for the empty brackets either side of the front door. Again with pats on the back all round I decided to check on how wonderful the back garden must still be looking. 3 days, that’s all, 3 days and the bloody things were sprouting up all over the place, many more than before in sure, bigger and stronger mutant, if you wish, dandelions, dock leaves, nettles and the bindweed seemed to assume that my pulling up all those other pesky weeds was merely to make space for more of it. The green mist descended and I started pulling up leaves by the handful. It was a full half hour before I was rational to realise that this was a futile exercise. So from now on when they get too out of control, reach for the strimmer. Apart from the nettles, I really hate those nettles…….
04-07 How will you manage?
As I have said before, none of us speak French. The last time I actively studied was at school, which is now about 20 years ago. When we decided we were going to move to France we loaded ourselves up with lots of language book and CD combinations, and decided that as we had So much time we could pace ourselves and learn a little each week and before you know it we would be chatting away with the locals without so much as a ‘je ne comprend pas’. We started well and I actually found that I remembered a lot more from my school-days than I thought. But after a couple of month’s real life began to get in the way and gradually it seemed more important to get other things done. After all there was plenty of time, but the months sped by and before you knew it we were about to move. Oops. Suddenly the books came back out and we tried to cram, but it was on the whole a pretty naff effort. I decided that what I now needed to do was try and learn some useful phrases to tide me over. The most important and most frequently used being. ‘Pardon ma Francais, c’est ne bon pas.’ So how do we manage? My ‘I’m not from round here’ chat is not too bad, and I’m a dab hand at ordering coffee and cake but when I’m going somewhere specific (estate agent, bank, school, etc.), I write a list of questions and comments that I’m expecting to come up and take it with me. At this point I would like to offer up a prayer of thanks for the on-line translation services that are available, babelfish-I salute you. I can also thoroughly recommend the visual dictionary published by Dorling Kindersley for those inevitable point and smile moments! When I arrive with my list I attempt to ask the questions myself and if my pronunciation or ‘allo allo-esque’ accent draws a blank I can then apologise and show them my cheat sheets. This approach seems to be going down well with the locals as at least they can see I’m trying, and not just blundering on in the belief that as long as I speak English slowly and loudly that eventually they will understand. Today I managed a 20 minute conversation in the parc with a lovely lady, about family, work, plans for school and holidays, without a cheat sheet in sight! It’s not much but it’s a step in the right direction. Of course Moo is learning quicker than both of us her vocabulary already outstrips Hubs’, and it is my hope that when she starts school in September it won’t be long till she’s teaching us!
07-07 The breakdown
Gordon broke down on Saturday. We had been to a local market and decided to have a nice drive out to show hubs some of the area before he went home; we parked in a nice little village and had a little wander around, got back in the car and, well nothing. Nothing but a completely dead battery that is. We tried the traditional push start but to no avail so I checked the phrase book and went into the bar and asked if anyone had any jump leads. No one did, but a group of 5 young men having a drink there got up and came with me to the car. Again they tried a push start, put no luck so one of them got in his car and went home to get his cables. Not 5 minutes later we were on the way home again. What nice chaps. The bigger problem was that we had to get hubs to the airport the next morning. After finding no available public transport options I decided to see if the local landlady had really meant it when she said ‘if you ever need anything – just call’. I explained the situation and she said to leave it with her. 5 minutes later she called back with the answer to our prayers. One of the regulars was actually going to the airport to collect some visitors and would swing by to pick up hubs on the way. Problem number 1 solved. That just left me to resolve problem 2. The car. This afternoon, I walked down to try and catch BB picking her kids up from the local school, and as soon as she saw me she gave me a great big hug and asked me what she could do to help. When I told her I needed a battery she put us in the car and drove us to the local garage to pick one up. Not only that but she came back to try and help me fit it. We put the bonnet up and looked for a while and realised that the few tools we had managed to scrape together where wholly inadequate, but fortunately at this point one of my neighbours came out with his tool kit and changed the battery for me. Just like that. So we are fixed again and on the road. The people round here are just so kind. I can’t quite get over it.
09-07When is a bed not a bed?
We have bought a new bed. We have never had a ‘new’ bed before, so when we planned the move we decided that the old bed had to go. It had seen better days by the time we inherited it, so with a new house was to come a new bed. We had been camping out on a mattress for a few weeks when the leaflet was dropped through t he mailbox. SOLDES (sale) at one of the local furniture stores, how could we resist? So off we went and there was a lovely bed on sale just waiting for us. We ordered the frame for delivery the following week and waited with great anticipation. The day of delivery came, and the time of delivery came….. And went. I re-checked the delivery note (with dictionary to hand just in case I had made a mistake), but no, it clearly stated ‘vers 14:00’. At 5pm decided it was most definatly not ‘around 14:00’ any more and decided to be big and brave and phone the shop. With a couple of small hitches and a few repetitions I managed to gather that almost amazingly the driver was ‘just leaving’ as I called. So half an hour later he arrived with a very small box. I checked the small box and it did allege to contain our bed so I unpacked it and stared assembly. When it was done I stood back to admire our lovely new bed frame. And indeed it was lovely and new and a frame. A frame with no base on which to rest a mattress, just a hole to put it in. As it turns out it most French beds require a ‘sommelier’ which is a sprung base that you place inside a frame. This was new and exciting information for us, but a little late. On return to the shop the following day I noticed that none of these sommeliers happened to be in the sale and the cost of one would no longer make our bed the bargain that we had hoped. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and visited the DIY store located rather conveniently next door. With a car boot full of wood I headed home to salvage our bed. A few hours later I was rather proud of the fact that I had actually fixed the problem (I know essentially it was only a few planks screwed on in strategic places, but let me have my moment), and that night I slept on our lovely new bed. Next week Hubs gets to join me!
12-07The breakdown Part 2
The time had come for me to fulfil a longstanding obligation. My sister was going on holiday and I had agreed to look after her children while they were away. So we packed up Gordon and off we set for the ferry. The journey went smoothly and we made good time and we arrived at Boulogne in plenty of time so I decide to fill up with fuel before we hit UK shores. I stopped and did not start again. With the assistance of another very kind Frenchman (there are thankfully a lot of them about) and another set of jump leads I got the car to the port where I had decided to try and get another jump start onto the boat and fall to the mercy of the staff to get me off again. After a delay of 3 hours waiting for the blessed boat we got on without a hitch and sailed. The staff were wonderful and assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem getting me off and I was duly jump started and away I went. For 6 miles all was well. Then I lost power. On the A20, which some of you may know as one of the busiest most dangerous roads in the UK. It was around 9pm. I called the cavalry (my sister) who set out to rescue me. But in the mean time a passing driver had called the local police to inform them of a stranded car and they arrived not too long later to help (quite why I didn’t ring them in the first place I don’t know, but hindsight is a marvellous thing). I have to say the police were quite wonderful. We were taken into the police car – much to moo’s delight, and were going to take us somewhere warm to wait and cosy to wait, They contacted my sister and told her what was going on and when they discovered that she was not too far away they gave her directions to where they were taking me and moo. Then they saw a passing AA man, flagged him down and persuaded him to move Gordon to a safer spot off the A20 and he assured me that if I rang up and joined the AA in the morning he would sort out getting my car to me at my sisters (thank you Carl – you truly are an angel). By the time this had all happened my sister was almost there and moo was fast asleep so the officers decided just to stay with us and deliver me to her. I can’t really say how much I appreciate what they did for us that night, but I am truly thankful to them. As I sank into my sister’s car I thought the drama for that night was over, but it was not be. About an hour later I got a frantic call from Hubs to say that his mum had been contacted by Kent police to ask if she knew the whereabouts of a the lady who owned the car as it had been found abandoned in a lay by and the owner was nowhere to be seen. After a couple of calls to the police central office I managed to figure out what had gone on. ‘My officers’ had not yet logged the details of the evenings escapades and another patrol had passed Gordon abandoned in a lay by, assumed he had been stolen, looked up the registration details and called the last telephone number I had whilst living in the UK (which happened to be my mother in laws house ). So after another few calls reassuring both hubs and mother in law that neither the car had been stolen or myself and moo gone missing, I was at last able to relax. And await the delivery of Gordon the next day before I had to panic again and try and find out what was wrong.
24-07School run madness
What a week. It started with the delivery of Gordon and lots of tutting and sighing (in that special way that only mechanics can). He was dumped onto the drive and I was left with lots of dire predictions as to his demise- well whatever it was it was going to have to wait till hubs got paid at the end of the week anyway, so I tried not to think about it too much. My sister took me out for a drive in her enormous car (which was quickly christened ‘Lucy’) and was a little disconcerted with my little dashboard card bearing the words ‘UK and LEFT’, but as I said to her it was better that I had a small reminder than revert to ‘FRANCE and RIGHT’. They set off the next day with lots of bags and big smiles and I enjoyed the peace and quiet and the chance to catch up with SKY sports news. Then came the first dreaded school run. I thought I should set off about 15 early so I’d get a decent big parking space for Lucy and not have to walk too far to get the kids. When I arrived the lane was already packed with parents and the largest collection of ‘Chelsea tractors’ I think I have ever seen. I ended up about a ½ a mile from the school gates. The next day I decided to leave 20 minutes early with the same result. The day after that I decided to have another cup of coffee before I left. I figured that unless I made camp for the day in the car after dropping them off the ‘prime spots’ would all be taken at least an hour in advance, and life is just too short as it is. As it was nearing the end of term there wasn’t too much in the way of homework to battle with but my sisters instruction for a strict 7.30pm bedtime went out of the window rather quickly (sorry sis, but I struggle to get Moo to bed at that time, never mind 4 of them!). We did get to participate in lots of fun end of term activities though, sports day being my favourite. As I watched the teachers and parents struggle to make order out of chaos my own school sports day memories came flooding back (oh the horror of being ‘the fat kid’ in the sack race), so I quickly banished them and watched my lot through tragedy (the dropping of the beanbag) and triumph (silver in the 100m). But my how the egg and spoon race has changed, I mean plastic eggs with bean bag yolks – where’s the challenge in that? The real challenge lay at home, the sheer logistics of mealtimes was frying my brain, it seemed whatever meal was prepared at least one of them didn’t like something and secondary menus were required at almost every meal. I decided I needed a bit of a rest and each of the children got to create and prepare (with a little help) a 3 course meal. I have to say that they did exceptionally well with their choices and preparation, but were none to chuffed when I pointed out that washing up was part of the deal too. God was smiling on me as the end of term was met with a spell of glorious sunshine and a paddling pool was placed in the garden along with some water pistols and as long as I kept a big stack of towels at the ready all was well. And harmony reigned in the house and I patted myself on the back for managing so well. This child minding thing is doddle.
26-07Bedrooms
All of a sudden sis was due back the next day so I decided it was time to tidy bedrooms – that’s when the real trouble started, of course as a child myself and my siblings always kept our rooms immaculate and on the odd occasion they were untidy we cleaned them without a word of protest as soon as mum said the word. (OK so that’s not strictly accurate, but I’m sure we were never this bad- OK maybe once or twice). About an hour after I sent them upstairs I went to check on progress. M and H were playing a board game in M’s room and L was lying on her bed (with most of the contents of her wardrobe) reading a book. I wagged my finger and told them to get on with it and went back to the hoovering. After about another ½ hour there was a sudden scream and all hell broke loose. M came running downstairs in tears clutching his head. H was upstairs shouting and slamming doors and L was trying to figure out what had just happened so she could fill me in. When ice had been applied and children deposited in their respective rooms to calm down I decided to call a lunch break. (I never found out exactly what happened, but I did notice M taking a wide path whenever he saw a certain large, hard headed Dora doll, especially when it was being held by H…). Harmony was restored over lunch and just as the kids settled down to watch telly for the afternoon I reminded them that none of them had actually tidied their rooms yet and sent them back upstairs. All seemed to be going well until the girls began a dispute over ownership of just about all of the items still left on the floor. I took the only route I knew on this one by taking a bin bag and threatening that anything left on the floor would end up in said bag if it was still on the floor in half an hour (thanks for that one mum). Half an hour later all of the rooms, including floors, were tidy. I was in the middle of congratulating them when I noticed that L’s bed looked a bit lumpy. I pulled back the duvet to reveal every single thing she had ‘tidied’ in the last 4 hours lying on top of the mattress. Nice try. The other kids went downstairs to watch a movie as I left L to her tidying once more. A mere 7 hours, and several new grey hairs, after the initial request the bedrooms were finally tidy. I need a drink.
29-07-08How much?
my sis and her hubs arrived home, tired and happy and full of stories and presents, and I relinquished my care of the children with a happy sigh (and just in case you’ve got any idea’s I’m SO not doing it again next year), and my thoughts turned once more to Gordon. The general opinion on his condition was that the alternator had given up, and indeed the AA man on call confirmed the diagnosis and recommended a local garage. After a jump start from Lucy and a 10 minute charge I followed my sis to the garage. If you happened to be behind me that day I sincerely apologise for my lack of indication, but I didn’t dare risk anything electrical. We dropped him off and left him to the mercy of the garage. After much sighing and sucking of teeth about availability of parts I opted for pleading to try and get him fixed before our ferry deadline, and was assured that they would try their best to fit him in. I was hovering around the phone all day waiting to hear news. When the garage rang they said that yes indeed it was the alternator and yes indeed they could get the part, but as it was a special model and not the normal type (isn’t it always…) it would, of course, cost a little bit more. Not really knowing anything about cars and the associated cost of repair (well I have only been driving since May), I was astonished to hear that it was going to cost close to £300 – that’s more than we paid for the car…. after my sister had picked me up from the floor and agreed to help out with the cost (thank-you, thank-you, thank-you). The repair was authorised but they still didn’t know if it would be done that day. So a bit more waiting. 5.30 came and went and we decided to have some tea as it was obviously not going to be ready till the morning. As soon as we sat down to eat the garage rang to tell us he was ready. We picked him up and parted with a big chunk of cash, but it was such a joy to have him back and healthy again. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed him. So we got him back, and loaded him up ready for the off next day, but not till he’d had a proper welcome back from Moo, I guess she had missed him too. Early next morning we set off to Dover to get the ferry and collect my very best friend (and Moo’s godmother) who we were taking home with us for a holiday. It was so good to be going home and driving Gordon again. The main road to Dover along the south coast is a pig of a road as well as being super busy and it took nearly 3 hours to negotiate the traffic. Not for the first time I longed for the wonderful Auto routes and almost traffic free roads of my home. Aside from a little travel sickness on the ferry, the rest of the day’s journey was smooth and again Moo obligingly slept for a large part of the trip. Soon we were whizzing along towards home and I actually felt giddy at the prospect of getting there. At last we arrived in Mayenne, and a dusk drive through the forest was a perfect way to end the day. It’s SO good to be home again.

 

AUGUST
01-08-08 It’s my Birthday, sshhhh!
Happy birthday to me! How on earth can I be 35. The day started in the best way possible, a lie-in. Mrs M had woken up with moo and taken her downstairs and joy of joy let me stay in bed. I was roused a little later with a tray of fresh coffee and toast lots of cards and some lovely presents. I eventually made it downstairs (sporting my fetching new slippers, hand picked by moo) and the spoiling continued. I was treated to a pedicure, a lovely lunch and had time to sit on the back step and read a bit of my book, I had such a lazy day – bliss. We went out for tea at the local pub and had a lovely meal in the village square rounded off quite nicely by coffees to the sound of choir practice. I almost had a fight with Mrs M about paying, but I’m bigger than her so I won, although she did threaten to tell the whole bar it was my birthday so I beat a hasty retreat. Its not that I hate birthdays or anything I just don’t like a fuss being made and what better excuse for a fuss and at least anther round than a birthday. But I managed to escape. Moo was swiftly put to bed on our return home and me and Mrs M sat up till the wee small hours putting the world to rights. Such a great day. The only thing missing was hubs, but he’ll be home in a few days.
04-08-08 “ no way sweetie, they won’t come in the house”
OK so a little while ago Hubs and I were having one of our romantic looking at the stars from our bedroom window moments when all of a sudden we had an up close and personal fly past by one of the bats who live in our attic. To say it was a bit of a shock would be underplaying the incident. As our heart rates returned to a vague normal and I nursed my sore knee (which I’d banged on the heater as big brave Hubs leapt from the window whilst pushing me to the front in the manner of a human shield), we assured our selves that whilst this was a close encounter that would be as close as it ever got. Oh how wrong we were. I was sitting on the downstairs windowsill, again looking up at the heavens when I felt a whoosh of air on my face. With the totally redundant cry of ‘oh shit its a bat’ I leapt off the window ledge and ran for the door, quickly pursued by Mrs M, who noted that “for a big lass you cant half shift”. So there we stood in the hall listening to the sound of a bat flying round the living room, whilst almost peeing ourselves with laughter. We bravely decided to have a look. So there we were, two grown women standing in the garden peering through the other window ( you didn’t think I was going back in there did you?) desperately hoping that our new house mate would find his own way out. After a few minutes it didn’t seem like he would so Mrs M decided to take action. She said that she had heard somewhere that if you threw a blanket over a bird it would stop flapping and be able to be picked up and moved so presumably the same theory would work for a bat *. I found her a blanket and armed my self with a broom – I don’t know why really I had no intention of whacking it, but I think I wanted to appear useful and a broom was the only thing to hand (apart from the strimmer and even I knew that was excessive).We returned to the house and knew that we had to get in quickly in case it was still in there and managed to get out of the room into the rest of the house. We charged in to find that Eric, (he had a name by this point), had left the building. With a huge surge of relief I closed the window and collapsed into a fit of giggles. As pointed out to Mrs M, we are SO suited to a life in the country….. *I have no idea if this is an accepted theory for the purpose of bat removal, or if it was a half remembered snippet of information about something else entirely, so please don’t try this at home!!!!
07-08 Mr A
Talk of our neighbour ,Mr A’s has been spreading. Each time we see our other neighbour Mr. G, he is keen to inform us of the latest (not that I actually understand most of what he’s saying, but he doesn’t seem to mind). Mr A suffers from severe bouts of depression and has trouble coping day to day, and his behaviour has been quite unpredictable. Sadly it has become quite a topic of conversation amongst the locals. And it all came to a head yesterday. I was out picking apples, for chutney, when 2 gendarme cars pulled up accompanied by ambulance and the officers went into next door closely followed by the mayor (who is also the landlord). The appearance of the gendarme in the village is a major event, we are more used to tractors and ramblers, and all of the village curtains were twitching as Mr A was led shakily into the awaiting ambulance. The Mayor (also our landlord) then popped into our house to assure us that everything was OK, and Mr A had gone to hospital and that nothing very serious had happened. I wasn’t entirely sure why he had done this, although it was nice to meet him, until a little later when I realised that as the next door neighbours we would be the first port of call for the ‘concerned’ locals. Mr G led the enquiries and we told him what the mayor had told us and all though he quite obviously wasn’t satisfied with the mayors explanation his amble up the road did seem to be fuelled with purpose. But I suppose that is just something that comes with living in a very small community. Having lived in the anonymity of a city for so long, you forget what it’s like to have every aspect of your life open for discussion. And particularly ‘incomers’ like us, it does make you very aware of everything you do and how it will be viewed by others. Something which I haven’t really done for a long time, and maybe that’s a good thing. The flip side is I know that if I ever needed help with anything I could ask my neighbours, because I know who they are and they know us. When we lived in London we were in a flat for 2 years, and we met the neighbours the day we moved out. I really don’t know what happened next door, it’s none of my business, I just hope Mr A gets the help and rest he needs. Our prayers are with you.
12-08 BB
I met my Beautiful Blond friend soon after I moved to the village, and I liked her instantly. She was open and warm and very very funny. Over the course of the next few weeks I bumped into her a few times and we got to know one another a little, then she came to my rescue during Gordon’s first breakdown. I bought her a little bunch of flowers to say thank you and delivered them to her in her new house (when I found it!). And so began our coffee times. When you pop round for a coffee here or drop by to say hello you have to allow at least an hour or so, its just that kind of place. But with BB that soon became 2 hours…or so. She and I get on so well, and in such a short space of time. I have really found a very good friend. She is a real inspiration to me as she has overcome a lot in her life, before and after she arrived in France,and yet she is just one of those people who always has a smile on her face and whatever may be going on in her life, when you pop round she is always welcoming and always puts the kettle on (even when you get her out of her nice relaxing bath – oops). She has been so helpful with my many ‘ what do I do now moments’ of which there have been (and will be) many. I know it helps hubs to know that when he is away I’ve got a good mate around, who will always be there to help me out or just drip feed me coffee and cake. I just want to say a big thank-you to her for helping us feel so at home here. And she really is beautiful you know inside as well as out.
16-08Off to see the wizard
Moo’s had a rotten cough recently and she was still feeling a bit poorly so we decided to have a ‘movie in a duvet’ morning (you really cant beat a snuggle under the duvet on the couch and a good film when your a bit feeling a bit rough). So we persuaded her out of the 200th viewing of toy story 2, and into a first time with the wizard of oz. I was dispatched to the bakery and Moo and hubs set about getting the film on. By the time i got back, Dorothy was just being swept away by the twister, and i was told in no uncertain terms to keep the noise down. I’m so glad i got back when i did, as i was able to witness the look of sheer delight when Dorothy opens the door to the wonderful technicolour world. It’s been a long time since i’ve seem her so captivated by anything, and whilst she barely said a word throughout the film ,except to seek reassurance that it was ok to be a bit freaked out by the wicked witch and her flying monkeys (i’m 35 and they still bring back the chidhood nightmares..), and to ask why the great oz was being such a meanie. But as the credits appeared she couldnt stop talking and asking questions and re-enacting bits of the film with many toys retrieved from her bedroom to fill the in roles (there were only 3 of us). There ensued an empassioned discussion about who was our favorite, and who wanted to play at being the witch was hotly contested. For the whole day we were badgered to watch it again and again, but managed to resist the plea’s. its now day 5 and we’ve seen it 3 times, and all the special features at least twice, we have a ‘wizard of oz colouring/song book (thank you world wide web) she has learned the words to over the rainbow and sings it on a loop, is DESPERATE to own a pair of ruby slippers,and tomorrow we are going to watch it in French. Oh my. its a real joy to watch her get so excited by the magic of a film which is nearing its 70th birthday, really proves its status as a timeless classic (remind me of that when i’ve seen it a hundred times and will actually hurt people who dare to even hum follow the yellow brick road in my presence) And just for the record, Moo thinks Dorothy is best (closely followed by Glinda), Hubs is all for the cowardly lion, but as we all really know deep down the best one is definatly the scarecrow.
22-08 Missing my man
Hubs works away a lot. Now that he’s gone full time free-lance he can be working for any length of time in any part of the world, but we don’t really ever know very far in advance where and when the contract will be. We have to be very flexible in our arrangements. (the thought of planning a holiday gives me nightmares). During the time of the big move he was on a full time contract in London, but managed to get a few days off to help with the unpacking, oh yes and to see the house for the first time! At the moment he’s on a contract in the UK which is 2 weeks on 1 week off, so he manages to get home quite regularly, although this is a relatively new schedule for us, and the breaks up to now have been a lot longer, and we do so miss him when he’s not here. But Moo and I have gotten quite used to operating as a little unit,and I’m sure I unintentionally exclude Hubs at times, just because we are so used to our own dynamic. It’s hard to be starting over in a new country when most of the time we’ve been on our own and the number of times that I’ve wished he were here to lean on a little are too many to count. When I tell him of our little adventures I can almost hear his heart breaking with longing to be with us. But for now that’s the way it has to be, and its a damn sight better than it used to be. He would arrive home after midnight and crawl into bed. I’d be up and out to get Moo to nursery and me to work early next morning and if we were lucky we’d get to grab a coffee on my lunch break while he was on his way back to work, and our only full day off together would often be interrupted by a call into work. So hard as it is, the time we now get to spend together as a family is proper time, quality time. We are so lucky to be able to have the life we do, but we worked very long and hard to get here. He’ll be home in another week,but I do so miss him.
25-08 L’ecole – take 2
So on the advice of someone who shall remain nameless, I had submitted Moo’s school forms to the local Mairé’s office and waited for them to get in touch, well the weeks flew by and still no contact, so I decided to go and see if all was OK with her admission. Well all was not OK, not only do they have no record of the forms but it’s not actually them that deal with schooling – aarrrgghh! So off I trooped to BB’s house to utter my familiar cry of ‘help’. Of course she knew just what to do and gave me the number of one of the teachers at the school (who’s wife also happens to speak perfect English – phew) and I arranged a meeting to see if she could still attend. I had been reading with horror on the internet that all applications MUST be received by mid June (which I thought I had) in order for your child to attend the following September. I said a quick prayer then off we went with the (thankfully) photocopied forms. I arrived at the school and was received most warmly by the staff who were in making preparations. I hastily explained my error with the forms and asked if there were still places available and if it was not too late to register. There was a great deal of puzzlement and I thought my mangled French had let me down again. So I showed them my cheat sheet of questions, and still they looked a little bewildered. The director (headmaster) then explained to me that of course Moo could attend, and I should not worry about anything, as there is not really a problem with places or registration. I handed over the forms which he promptly handed back telling me that the forms were ‘not so important’ and should be handed in in a week or two or 3 or whenever we had decided exactly how much we required of the school. And as long as they had a copy of her birth certificate and her assurance scholaire, she could begin at any time we liked. You see the maternelle system is voluntary, children are not legally obliged to begin formal education till 6, and although recommended, it is by no means obligatory, but when your child becomes clean (out of nappies), they are eligible to attend. You get to choose how long your child attends each day , whether they have a lunch at the canteen or at home, and you even get the option of after school care thrown in at the garderie and a school bus. I had been unable to find the fee structure anywhere and again my requests for information were regarded with amused bewilderment, you see the only thing you have to pay for is lunch, if they stay for it. Even the garderie is ‘gratuit’. (although that is by no means the case francewide, it is still free here). I explained to them a little of the childcare and nursery costs in the UK and they were horrified at the expense. I also explained about class sizes and competition for places and they began to understand why I had been so panicky when I arrived and why I had such a long list of questions! Moo’s teacher introduced her self, and she explained that she was looking forward to teaching Moo French but only if Moo taught her English in return. I explained this to Moo who thought that this was a wonderful plan, and gave her new teacher a big hug (charm factor 10). So Moo will be starting school this coming Tuesday, (just mornings for the moment) And she cant wait.
And do you know what, neither can I !
28-08 Boobs
Top tip, when conscienciously applying your chlids sun cream on a baking hot day by the shores of the lake, dont forget to put your own on. especially on those tender spots that don’t see the light of day till the swimming costume gets an airing.Ouch. so its ok to go topless on the beach here, well no-one seemed to be batting an eyelid at the number of boobs on show anyway. Not mine you understand, i really dont think France is ready for that particular horror. But as we strolled along the beach it bacame apparent that topless is ‘pas de problem’. There seems, in general, to be a lot fewer issues with body image here, with a vast array of shapes and sizes cavorting around without a care. As a member of the ‘rubenesque’ brigade i have always dreaded summer and beaches in particular, being very conscious of my white wobbly bits and always striving to keep as many of them undercover as possible, but even after this short a time here i feel a lot more relaxed about my now (ever so slightly) brown wobbly bits, even to the extent of buying atankini to replace my almost victorian previous swimsuit. Dont get me wrong i’m not about to get the girls out on display, there are some wobbly bits that will always be white, but it is nice not to be noticed or pointed out as so often has happened in the UK when the dreaded swimsuit season started.i do however think that some of the young ladies in question were rather dissapointed at the lack of interest as there seemed to be an awful lot of rather un-necessary strutting about on their part…
31-08 Welcome home – we’re going out!
Hubs is home today – WOOHOO! I love this day, and already have a little pattern. I always wake up early and get ready (it’s one of the few days I actually think about what I wear and try to match) try to contain Moo, who has been up since dawn asking me when we are leaving, and feed her some breakfast. Then I make some sandwiches for in the car and pack an activity bag for Moo (colouring book, pens and a few of whichever of her toys are in favour on that particular day). Then if we are lucky and she’s running on time, we get some bread, and maybe a little cake, from the bread van. Then its off to get my beloved. It takes between an hour and a half and two hours to get to the airport, roughly about 2 plays of the ‘wombles CD’ (its no wonder I’m going slowly mad). The excitement of having Hubs back home makes the journey back fly by, even if I take the wrong exit at what has become known as ‘that roundabout’, which I have been known to do on the odd occasion ( I KNOW its the 3rd exit, but there is a sometimes overwhelming compulsion to take the 2nd). We got home with no dramas and after a big long family hug and a coffee, I set about making the tea whist hubs and moo roll around on the floor. Around 4.30 there was a knock at the door and one of the neighbours appeared. I was just about to fetch my car keys as he normally pops over to tell me I’ve left Gordon’s lights on or all the windows open again. But this time he was asking us over for a coffee. I told him we’d be over in a few minutes, and went to tell Hubs. We were both excited and a very nervous. It is the first time we had been invited in. We are on good terms and he’s helped me out a number of times (he was the white knight who changed Gordon’s battery for me what seems like a lifetime ago), but to be asked to the house was something else, and both of us wanted to make a good impression. Whist the ‘dropping in’ culture is alive and well here, you don’t ever just ‘drop in’ till after you have been invited. We went over bearing a gift of apple chutney, (whist trying to think of an accurate translation for it) and were welcomed into their home. We were introduced to his partner and the children and had many kisses of varying number form each of them ( I still haven’t figured out how many you are supposed to give to whom and why, but I’ve developed a good hover position). After about 5 minutes Moo disappeared upstairs with the kids and that was the last we saw of her for several hours. Mr M but speaks very good English Mme A doesn’t speak any, but I managed to have a few good exchanges with her without the need for Mr M to translate (I must be getting better and I was complemented on my accent so I am proper chuffed). The coffees were drunk and the next ones poured, then I knew we must be doing OK because out came a gateaux. Before we knew it it was getting dark and we had covered a vast array of conversation through politics , cinema, sexuality, local schools, world travel, the cost of living, crime and we even discovered that the French foreign legion have the same reputation as the welsh when it comes to sheep…..then we discovered that the other love of Mr M’s life (apart from Mme A that is), is cars, racing cars. We were taken upstairs to look through pictures of the various events he had attended and lots of cars. He then mentioned that there was an event at Le Mans on Saturday and if we would like to come he would get us tickets and we could all go together. We jumped at the chance, not just to see the racing at Le Mans, but at the invitation itself. By this point in proceedings we noticed that Moo, although still happily playing was almost asleep so we said our thank you’s and goodbyes and after a wonderful evening, went home . I am so happy as I write this. We’ve got friends, proper French friends !!!!!

 

SEPTEMBER
01-08 Transfer window
Today was the last day of the transfer window – football you know. We are a mad keen footie house here, but none more so than Hubs. All day he was hovering over his laptop, refreshing and refreshing, awaiting news of any last minute deals that would enhance the rest of the season. When it got to 11pm (10pm UK time) he was coming to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to be big news for us, but enjoying the sport of watching the pain and pleasure of other fans as they awaited news of the big money deals hanging in the balance. As a football widow I was not alone, judging by the amount of times that fans site servers crashed and the fact that just one football comments page had over 20,000 in one evening, there were many of us around the world. By the close of the window at midnight (GMT) many fans from many clubs were feeling the same, summed up by this quote ‘ I feel like its Christmas morning and all Santa left was an orange when I wanted a space hopper’. Unless of course you support Manchester city, when it’s like all your Christmas’ rolled into one. And now with the rumour mill going into overdrive about the departure of our manager, it feels like Santa stood on the orange as he was leaving.
02-08 Moo’s first day
After a very rough night’s sleep for all concerned (moo was having a nightmare about a big green dragon with a popping head – I don’t know either) I awoke this morning in a state of nervous anticipation. It took a fair amount of coaxing to get moo up and dressed, then down to breakfast. By the time teeth had been brushed we had already gone through ‘I don’t want to go to school, I’m really excited to go to school and then back again. I was probably more nervous than she was. Hubs was reassuring her that school was fun and it would be a lovely day, whilst I was trying not to appear too anxious. We got into Gordon for the short drive there and let her listen to her favourite wombles track on the CD player as a treat (captain of the skies in case you were wondering). We got there, found the other children and headed to the school. I think the reality of all the children speaking French started to dawn on Moo and she started to get a little clingy, and in all honesty I just wanted to bundle her back in the car and run away, but as we got into the class room I found her coat peg and showed her her name and this seemed to cheer her. We said bonjour to her teacher, who gave her a hug and a kiss and I said a quick goodbye and turned to leave (before I caused a scene), and she immediately went and sat at a table with 2 little girls and began to play. She didn’t even give me a second look, which was probably just as well as I was beginning to blub! This took me a little by surprise to be honest, as I didn’t think I’d be all that emotional. This is after all what we’ve been thinking about and aiming for since we arrived here. But no, it was me that needed a big cuddle and a hankie from hubs. I’m so glad he was here for this it would have been too awful to be doing this alone. We got home and I’ve been sitting here for the last 2 hours watching the clock and counting some of the slowest minutes of my life. We have been trying really hard to occupy our thoughts and conversation with everything but how she will be getting on. And although we have covered a diverse range of topics, all I can really think about is Moo. I really hope she’s enjoying it and not finding it too hard, I am full of a mothers worry. Still only another 45 minutes till I can reasonably leave the house to go and collect her. Only another 44 now……
Happy to report that Moo had a good first day at school, PHEW! a few tears when she fell over and hurt her hand and was asking for mummy, but other than that all was well and she declared that she has a new best friend who was called the rainbow girl (I don’t actually think that is her name but you just never know (there is an ocean in the next class so there could well be a rainbow too). We also met some other parents who have recently moved to the area so we have, I think found some instant allies!!
04-09 Football woe and a ‘nice little walk’
So after much speculation rumour and consternation our football manager has indeed parted company with our club. It is a black day in our household. Our visitor at the moment cannot quite believe how much of a shadow has fallen over Hubs. I did actually think he was going to weep. Big Red is not a footie fan herself, so she just doesn’t get it. But it’s more than just a game. (Really it is). He is however using his pain constructively, and is channelling his grief into painting our bedroom, which is coming on a treat! Big red and I decided to leave him with his pain and take advantage of a rain break and take Moo for a walk around the ‘foret plage’. It was lovely and it really is very beautiful. After about an hour though Moo was starting to grizzle a little so we had a bit of a rest then carried on, thinking we only had a short way to go. As we rounded what I thought was the last corner, we then discovered that the lake had another bit to it that you can’t see from the beach side. So our pleasant little stroll turned into a 3 hr hike. It was still very lovely, but I have to say it was a bit further than I had intended. I was knackered by the time we got back to the car as for a fair amount of the last hour I had a Moo on my shoulders too. I can recommend the walk but I’d also recommend something a bit sturdier than flip flops. I’m off to soak my feet.
04-09 My Aunt
Today I found out that my aunt has had a stroke. It’s quite a bad one and we are all very worried. My cousin is with her at the hospital and is keeping us all posted as to her condition. I would appreciate if you would say a little prayer and keep her in your thoughts.
06-09 Le Mans
Despite dire predictions and recent day’s weather the day dawned with not a cloud in sight – hooray! The rendezvous was set for 11am at a large supermarket in Le Mans where we were to meet up with Mr M, Mme A & Beautiful Blond (and associated children). Mr A had told us that the plan was that the ‘boys’ would go on to the circuit and the ‘girls’ would do a bit of shopping and catch up. When we got there however we soon realised that this was only Mr M’s plan and Mme A & BB had no intention of being left behind at the shops. We shopped for lunch (while Mr M agitated and looked at his watch muttering under his breath about missing races) and then made our way to the vehicles to assemble the convoy. You see the only person who actually knew where we were going was Mr M. I decided that BB should be next in line (mainly so if we lost him I could blame her) and I would bring up the rear. So off we set at a furious pace through the suburbs of Le Mans. Mr M was desperate to get to the circuit but thankfully so were lots of other people, so whilst we almost lost him at a few roundabouts, we managed to keep the convoy intact. When we drove past the signs for the circuit however I started to wonder if we were in fact heading to the races after all, through BB’s car I could see that Mr M and Mme A were having a …discussion, shall we say, and after a couple of more twists and (non indicated turns). We pulled up outside a block of flats. Mme A got out and headed to the flats and Mr M got out and headed for our car. He pulled open Hubs door and insisted that he got out of the car he said he was “sick with his wife and her talking and you are to come to my car and we go and see the racing now”. Hubs was a little unnerved to say the least and stayed put. It turns out that Mme A wanted to stop by at her mother’s as she lives very close to the track and Mr M was not entirely convinced this was the best idea…..after only a minute or so we were on our way again heading back to the track. We arrived without further incident and parked. Then came the discussion about where we would have lunch. Mme A wanted to have it by the cars, but this time Mr A won and we headed to trackside for our picnic. The races were well under way as we lunched and watched the cars thundering past our position. Not really being a motor sports fan I wasn’t entirely convinced I would enjoy the racing part of the day, but I found myself jumping up and down with the rest of the crowd cheering the drivers on. As soon as lunch was over we headed to ‘the village’ in the centre of the circuit where there were numerous attractions for the children and lots of very sexy cars to drool over for the adults. And lots of pairs of free ear plugs being handed out for the races later in the day. Mr M was keeping close eye on the clock and was having increasing difficulty herding us all in the right direction, but we eventually made it to the stands and got a prime spot in the stands. The children all had ear plugs hastily inserted, (although it took quite a bit of time to convince Moo that we weren’t trying to put bugs in her ears, we got there in the end), ready for the start of the next race. The formula 3.5 (baby formula 1 cars). As the cars lined up on the grid the noise was immense, I don’t think I have ever heard anything that loud. Then a few seconds later I heard something much louder. The race began and I thought my stomach was about to drop out. The concrete beneath our feet was shaking with the sound. I had a quick look at Moo, who was up on Hubs shoulders, to check she was OK and she was grinning from ear plug to ear plug! The cars zoomed off and we were left in stunned silence Mr M turned to us and grinned. Now I understand why he was so keen to get us to this spot for this time, and I’m so glad he did. In less than a minute the cars were round again. BB Hubs and I quickly got the hang of 1 minute conversations. We were having a great time but the sun was shining and big red was having a problem with the heat (and she wasn’t really into it either to be honest, which was a shame) so we moved back to the kids play area while hubs got his fill of a bit more vroom . We pottered around for a bit and watched a couple more races before we called it a day and tried to find our way home. It was a wonderful day out with family and friends and I can’t thank Mr M enough for the tickets. It was such a thrill for me just to have a day like that. I can’t tell you how long it is since hubs and I have had a proper day out with friends, and I can thoroughly recommend Le Mans race track as a great fun day out – well unless you don’t like racing and have exceedingly pale skin…..
09-09how to break a mothers heart
I am officially part of our village school run. There are 3 kids here who go to Moo’s school so Mr M has devised a rota and this is the start of my week. We collected and set off to school, dropped off the 2 for the other classes, and as I took Moo in she started sobbing, proper big fat tears and cries of “don’t leave me, I want to come with you, I don’t want to stay here mummy” were ringing in my ears when I finally managed to achieve separation. I was on the verge of tears all morning as I took big red to the station to catch her train home, I don’t actually think I said a proper goodbye as I was actually feeling sick with worry. I tried not to hurry the shopping but my anxiety got the better of me and as her collection time approached I was a bit of a nervy mess. I arrived at the school 10 minutes early (I had forced myself to drive the long way) and saw that all the children were outside in the sandpit, but no sign of Moo. Little K spotted us and waved and shouted for Moo, who emerged from a throng of children with a big smile on her face came to the gate and shouted “I’ve had a brilliant morning mummy” and disappeared with her new amie’s. Kids don’t you just love them.
11-09it’s all going swimmingly
Today was my first day as a helper at l’ecole. I handed my forms in to the teacher on Tuesday and had a phone call on Wednesday just to confirm that I was sure what I had signed up for. Yes indeed I had just volunteered to be a helper at all of the swimming school sessions. We arrived early at school and I was given a list of do’s and don’ts for the sessions (helpfully translated for me with the aid of a bi-lingual mum!). I was given 3 children to help get changed and watch over in the pool. When we got to the pool, (a very nice new indoor heated one and not the outdoor one as we had feared). I just about managed to catch the shoes and socks flying at me and get them stored before 3 sets of clothes appeared to be all over the floor at my feet. The kids were so excited as we went up to the pool, and moo was one of the first into the water. For the younger ones it was a splashing about session while the older ones got on with the serious business of swimming lessons. After our half an hour it was time to get the kids out showered and into clothes, except all my kids clothes were muddled up and it took a while to decide just exactly who was supposed to be wearing the Spiderman pants, as they had all staked a claim (including moo). So next week I shall take a bit more time at the start and make sure each child has a proper pile, not one big jumbled mess. And next week I get to go in the water too, if I pass my swimming test that is. I have no idea yet what this test will involve, so I’ll let you know if I pass, fingers crossed.Moo was delighted that I got to come swimming with her, but a little less delighted when I told her she still had ½ an hour of school left when she got back. This was a great opportunity to for me to chat to some of the other mums, well listen to them to be honest, I was delighted to find that I understood much of what was being said, (a very long and involved discussion about what the fillings and price of the crepes will be at the school fete on Sunday) but I’m not yet brave or quick enough to join in other than the odd comment about chocolate sauce and the price of flour. It was nice to be involved though. My new best friend (bi-lingual mum), was translating snippets for me, and when the informal meeting broke up we had a nice long chat in French and English about who we are and what we do and I’ve decided that hubs needs a more normal less confusing job, it’s hard enough to explain what he does in English never mind in French!! So all in all, a successful first swimming trip for all concerned.

12-09Waiting…
I’m not very good at waiting. Never have been, and I guess I never will be. But this week has been particularly tough. I mentioned before that my Aunt has had a stroke and is seriously ill. Every day I have been waiting for news of her condition. I’ve been checking my e-mail every hour even though I know I will only get news at night. My parents flew back from America on Wednesday to be with her and her son at the hospital. My mum thinks that the hospital has been waiting too. Waiting for them to arrive. My Aunt has not been conscious since Friday and yesterday she suffered another stoke and x-rays reveal that she has also contracted pneumonia. The hospital is as certain as they can be that nothing more can be done for her. So now we are waiting for her to die. It looks so awful in print. I have never experienced this before. Death of a loved one yes, but never like this. Blessedly it has always been quick. We all knew she was in a very bad way, but when my parents flew back I think we all knew just how bad. Waiting to hear that dreadful news. Waiting for her to die. My heart aches, I want her to be at peace, but I don’t want her to be gone. I want to see her again, I want Moo to know her as I did, but I don’t want her to be in pain. It will be a long night for so many. Tonight my prayers are with those who wait with you.
14-09JJ’s here
And so the revolving door of the ‘chez nous’ guest house is in action once again. I have had just about enough time to wash the sheets, clean the floors and add a little extra air to the air bed, and our next visitor is here. JJ arrived this afternoon after an overnight ferry and a long ambling drive through the French countryside-some people will do anything to avoid the toll roads…. It’s so good to see her, it’s only been a few months but I’m so happy she is here. Moo has been bouncing around since about 6.30 this morning, even though we knew she wasn’t due till mid afternoon. JJ has been a very good friend to us and we have used and abused her hospitality many, many times so it’s nice to be able to offer her some in return. (She has put us up and put up with us a great many times and I have spent far too many evenings chewing her ear off about a great many things). JJ and I first met about 6 years ago when thrown together on a show in the west-end, and although we weren’t that close to begin with we have become great chums over the years. She is one of life’s do-ers and nothing that you ask is ever too much trouble, and is one of the very few who have earned ‘key rights’, and I’m really looking forward to spending a quality couple of weeks with her.
16-09surrounded by snot
Everyone’s got a cold. Hubs is suffering back in the UK and sounds totally bunged up and miserable every time I speak to him. Moo is so full of bogies she can hardly breathe and is having great difficulty sleeping through the night without coughing her lungs up and even our latest visitor has a terrible hacking cough. There seems to be no way I’m going to escape this one and even as I type I can feel the tell-tale signs of a migraine-y headache approaching with accompanying ‘tickly’ throat so I’m packing myself off to bed with a big mug of hot blackcurrant and a couple of ibuprofen. Fingers crossed.
19-09swimming test
This morning I had my swimming test. All parents who accompany the children to the pool have to make sure they can actually swim before they are allowed in the pool with the kids, and today it was my turn. I was eager to get it over with but found out I wouldn’t get tested till the end of the session, so I hung around poolside supervising. It’s a fantastic complex with a very small pool for the very little ones and those who are not too happy in the water yet, a medium pool for the, well, medium kids and a large pool with a big splashing about area and separate lanes for those who actually want to just swim. There is an outdoor pool with slides and a large landscaped play area, but we don’t get to play with those at the school sessions. Moo was having a great time splashing about in the little pool, but when her teacher suggested a turn in the medium pool she jumped at the chance. So on with the arm bands and in she went. I was busy watching the little kids when another assistant beckoned me over to watch. And there was my little Moo trying to swim on her own. She has always loved being in the water but always freaked out a bit when we held her in the ‘swimming position’. But there she was bold as brass, lying flat kicking her legs (still with her hands down on the bottom guiding her for the moment) and grinning from ear to ear. I was so proud. And then it was my turn. I was taken over to the ‘big pool’ and my first task was to retrieve ‘an object’ from the bottom then I had to swim with it 50m. I am pleased to say that I passed my test and received a round of applause from the entire school who had all been watching – no pressure then. Back at home JJ had taken herself off in Clint (her car) for the day to explore the area, so Moo and I pottered about quite happily in the afternoon sunshine. We were playing with the neighbours cats when Mr A came into the garden. He has been in hospital since early August and although he looks a little pale, he looks a lot better than when we last saw him. We had a little chat about how much the kitten has grown, and what we’d been up to, and I gave him a big hug and told him it was good to see him home again. Then we went back to sanding down Moo’s stick collection (so we can make then into light-sabres in case you were wondering).
19-09My wonderful Aunt
Early this morning came the news we had all been expecting, but dreading. My wonderful Aunt has passed away. She is so very special to us all. From the earliest memories I have of her the word that springs immediately to mind is elegant. She was such a classy lady, every inch the major’s wife, but always ready with a big grin and an even bigger cuddle. She would always be impeccably dressed before leaving the house and wouldn’t dream of facing the world any other way. I have coveted her wardrobe and her sense of style from a very early age, if I ever achieve that look -even just once- I will be happy. Some of my happiest memories are of the time that we made my wedding dress. My aunt my mother and me standing round a table full of satin and tartan cursing the pattern that called for such ‘stupidly complicated bloody roses’. The endless afternoons we struggled to complete the telegraph crossword, and the joyous moment when I told her about the cunning link between the first 2 across clues of the ‘quick’ crossword which she had never noticed before. Sitting with her watching newsnight, waiting for her to start shouting at the ‘bloody politicians’, a favourite evening sport. Hearing her laughter when playing with Moo. Too many memories for such a small page, I wish that Moo had more years with you, I wish that I did. I will miss you so much.
22-09 We’re jammin, we’re jammin, we’re jammin yeah.
The weather has been glorious for the past couple of days and on our travels we have seen lots of people out with their big baskets picking mushrooms and apples and berries. Now as I don’t like mushrooms (or have the first ideas which are good to eat and which can poison you), and we have a heavily laden apple tree in the garden we opted to go and pick some blackberries. We headed off out of the village towards the recycling area, (might as well combine two activities), to forage in the hedgerows. We spotted a few quite likely picking spots on the way and made note to stop there on the way back. After we had emptied our bags we spotted a likely looking lane and wandered down to commence our search. JJ went off at a pace while I tried to stop Moo getting stung to bits by nettles while she was ‘helping’. I gathered a few and then spotted the ripest most succulent blackberries I’ve ever seen hanging above me, way too high to reach. Undaunted I cast about for a large stick to see if I could hook the branch and bring it towards me, but there was nothing to hand. As JJ returned with a good number in her pot already, I showed her my find and we hit upon a plan. In Scotland it’s called a ‘high shooder’ (I didn’t say it was a good plan). So rather precariously I managed to get JJ onto my shoulders and we wobbled our way over to our hoard she stretched and wobbled and managed to get one or two of the lower ones but I have to say she was a bit of a wuss and wanted to get down almost immediately, it was only a scratch for heaven’s sake. We decided to give up on that spot and head back to the ones we had seen earlier, and with out to much further ado, but quite a fair number of scratches and thorns in our fingers, we were the proud possessors of 1.2kg of freshly picked berries and violently purple fingers. With a quick whizz out to super U, for some special jam making sugar, and a quick pick of apples from the garden, we commenced our jam session. I haven’t ever made jam before and I always thought it involved alchemist like techniques to produce it, but after just 10 minutes of cooking, (well I say cooking, all you do is throw the fruit in a big pan, chuck in a bag of ‘jam sugar’ and boil it for 7 minutes-that’s it), we were ready to jar up the first batch of home-made ‘confiture mure’’, and even if I say so myself it’s quite delicious. So while it’s cooling and setting JJ and I are already planning the next batch for her to take home, I can see several variations coming on…. However I have just discovered that we have no bread for morning toast, bum.
27-09 high in the sky
So JJ is on her way home, her 2 weeks are up and she’s on her back to get the ferry tonight. It’s been lovely to see her and I’m really glad she was here when my auntie passed away, it was good to have someone with me till hubs got home. So finally we are just family again, and as lovely as it to have people come and see us it’s also very good to have some family time at last. We decided to do some adventuring and set off in Gordon with a map and a vague location in mind. We had been told that there was an adventure/nature park in the region and wanted to check it out. The drive through the countryside was breathtaking, almost overnight it has become autumn, and the lanes and hedgerows are becoming vivid with the colours of flame. Burnt oranges, reds and ambers mingled with the still mostly green foliage, I can’t remember the last time I was witness to such a stunning display in nature. We wound our way through the villages of St Jean, St Georges, St Paul, but sadly and to my all time regret there was no St Ringo to complete the set. We didn’t really know what we were looking for so at the first sign of a full looking car park we stopped and went for a wander to see what we could see. We found a small wooden children’s play area and let Moo have a little frolic around whilst we tried to see where all the people who had parked their cars had gone (there were a lot of cars, there must be something in this forest..). As we stood and looked around we heard a whizzing noise above us getting faster and nearer. We looked up just in time to see a body hurtling through the air towards us at breakneck speed and then, thankfully, just over our heads and slam straight into a tree. After a second or two of mental adjustment we noticed that the aforementioned body was in fact harnessed to a zip line and the aforementioned tree was clad in green crash mats. We had arrived at ‘arbre & adventure’. As we took in our surroundings properly we saw that there was a vast network of zip lines, rope bridges, swings and ladders traversing the upper regions of the trees and a large number of bodies climbing, swinging and zipping between them. As we found our way around to the entrance we passed a cycle hire and horse riding centre, walked through glorious vegetable and fruit gardens passed a lovely looking café and picnic spot getting more and more excited at the prospect of returning soon , sans Moo, and spending a day whizzing about in the sky. We picked up a leaflet and were quite impressed at the price of a day’s equipment hire and were happily planning our return trip until we noticed that the season finished on September 28th, tomorrow. NNNOOOO! How gutted are we, we found a fantastic day out and we can’t go till May next year. Oh but I can assure you we will be going, I am not missing a chance like that, and come may you will have a full report of the flying Scotswoman!!

 

OCTOBER
01-10 Can it REALLY be October already?
How is it possible that it’s the first of October? The days and months seem to whizz by. Moo has been at school for nearly a month already and the talk is now all of winter setting in and dare I mention the ‘c word’ – I can’t even think about it yet never mind talk about it. Well it’s been a busy few days, Hubs and I managed a bit of quality time pottering about with Moo and doing a bit of shopping in Le Mans. It’s a fantastic city and we have barely scratched the surface, the shopping is fantastic (with a multitude of shoe, handbag, lingerie and chocolate shops it’s my idea of heaven) and it’s a great place to wander with lots of little arcades tucked away waiting to be discovered. We also managed to get some chairs. We have a distinct lack of chairs in our house, due to lack of space in our little moving van we had to leave our 2 wonderful black leather armchairs (just like Blofeld’s chair in the James Bond films), in my mother in-laws shed to be collected at some unknown point in the future, and our folding kitchen chairs got stolen from a lock up we had, (along with many other lovely things), just before we moved, so all we have is a sofa a pouffe and an exercise ball called into emergency use when we have visitors! We got a lovely table a couple of months ago, and have been dithering over chairs, through lack of choice and funds, ever since. But we saw some very cheap chairs and decided that they will do for now and when we finally have enough cash for the chairs we really want they will do very nicely indeed for the garden. So we were finally able to sit together as a family for a meal at a proper table (the coffee table is now just a coffee table again). It’s the little things that make such a big difference, I’m so ridiculously happy that we have chairs. I even did a little happy dance round the living room. Then yesterday we had the day of gloom, when Hubs had to go back to work in UK. So we packed ourselves off in Gordon and set off on the road to Tours airport. It’s a bit of a trek at just short of 100 miles, but the easiest for him to fly in and out of for now, and auto route most of the way. After we had dropped him off and said our goodbye’s I decided to go a different way home and see what the ‘local’ roads were like. After a few miles of roundabout frenzy, the route was a joy. Taking in about 15 or so little villages, all festooned with beautiful flowers and the roads in-between were a glory of Autumnal splendour. A joy to drive, and although it took about ½ an hour longer it was actually 15 miles shorter, and no tolls to pay either, even the ‘getting back through LeMans’ bit was easy and I discovered another whole new retail park ( must give my beautiful blonde friend a call and see if she’s up for a jaunt next week….). I would seriously recommend getting off the A roads and onto the D’s if you happen to be driving through France at any point. It might take a bit longer, but the joy of the journey makes up for the time.
04-10 Aaaattisshhhouch
Yesterday I sneezed, nothing too dramatic you may think, but I was sitting at a strange angle and I pulled a muscle in my back and it REALLY hurt. I tried to take it a bit easy so as not to make it worse and had a nice hot bath and an early night, and when I got up this morning it’s not quite as bad. It’s not the end of the world or anything it’s just a pulled muscle and with a little rest and heat I’m sure it will be fine. It does however bring into sharp focus the realities of rural life. I am fortunate enough that it’s not so bad that I can’t drive, should I need to, but what if it was. Although we are reasonably close to a village with a shop if I’m poorly enough not to be driving I’m sure I wouldn’t fancy the walk. And what would happen to Moo, with hubs away a lot it’s always been a worry for me. I’m feeling bit ‘far away from everyone’ today. But then I haven’t lived that close to any of the family for a good number of years, my mum and dad have lived in America for the last 4 years, and I know that should anything ever so dramatic occur, any one of them would be here as fast as they could. We may not be geographically close, but I couldn’t wish for a better bunch to be related to. And I do have some lovely neighbours who I know would help out in any way they could ,in fact one of them saw me limping to the mail box this morning and was most concerned and offered to get supplies in from the supermarket for me if I needed anything. And there would be no shortage of volunteers to look after Moo I’m sure. I’m still getting used to the idea of friendly helpful neighbours to be honest. It’s not that I didn’t have nice neighbours in the UK it just took an awful lot longer to get to know them, and I’m quite sure that if I hadn’t had a small child it would have taken a whole lot longer (the ability of a small person to communicate with anyone, is quite startling!). In fact when we lived in north London we had a flat for 18 months and met the neighbours the day we moved out. You just seem to get to know people quicker here. Perhaps because the pace of living is so much more relaxed, people have more time to stop and chat. In fact if you are ‘just popping in for a coffee’ you need to allow minimum of an hour. I’ve just talked myself into feeling a lot better about things! I’m sure when I get up in the morning things will seem a lot better again and my eeyore mood will have shifted. I think I just need a cuddle. 2 weeks and counting….
05-10 Happy birthday big sis
Oh my Lord, how old are you !!!!! It comes to us all I know, but you’ve got a good few years on me. I hope you have a fantastic birthday and a great holiday. You deserve a break and goodness knows you need all the rest you can get now you’re getting on a bit. I know it’s said that you should never reveal a lady’s age, but she aint no lady she’s my sister….I wouldn’t be so cruel. In all seriousness have a great time on you hols honey. Love from your (much) younger sister.xx
06-10 Attention Aux Poux, and other emergency’s
Today is our wedding anniversary. Happy day with lots of fond memories. Maybe next year we might get to celebrate it together, or at least in the same country would be nice.
Moo brings home a little book with any information that we parents need to know. Today’s note, even with my limited French, sent a shudder of fear through me. Attention Aux Poux. The dreaded head lice have reared their ugly little heads again. (My head is itching just writing about them). So it’s into the medical kit bag to retrieve the comb and conditioner. We are no stranger to head lice as Moo will catch them from anyone and anywhere at one point during her nursery days in UK I was seriously contemplating giving her a crew cut as I was having to treat 3 times a week every week, (and believe me this was no fun at all with a girl who doesn’t even like to have her hair brushed), but Hubs put his foot down on that one, well he didn’t have to do it did he. We have been officially lice free for 11 months now, but at the sight of that little green comb, she still ran a mile! After I had caught her and bribed her with some jam tarts for supper, I am pleased to report that we are still free of the little beasties. It wasn’t too traumatic and she we actually laughed a lot at the thought of me looking in her hair for poux, which of course in the mind of a nearly 4 year old sounds exactly like poo. This leads me quite neatly on to our other emergency situation. Yesterday Moo locked herself in the toilet. She was being terribly independent and went to the loo and decided to lock the door. It was the hammering and screaming which alerted me to the problem. She had locked it ok, but the lock is a little stiff on the return and she couldn’t get it undone, despite the coaching from outside the door. She was starting to get a little hysterical so I tried to calm her down enough for me to dash out to the shed and fetch some tools. One hastily deconstructed door handle later the situation was resolved and a very scared looking Moo emerged gave me a big hug and said ‘thank you for rescuing me mummy’ and promptly burst into tears. We had a little chat and she has promised that she will never ever do that again, (till the next time I expect), but the relevant tools now have a new home in the hall, just in case.
08-10 What’s in the box?
Not long after we moved in Moo was in the garden playing with the neighbours cats and Mmlle.A and I had a conversation along the lines me-‘yes it would be nice to get a cat for moo one day’ MmlleA-‘well I’ll keep a look out for you’, me-‘yes maybe in the future we will get a cat’. And we thought no more of it every once in a while since the she has joked that she ‘hasn’t found us a kitten yet’ or ‘no kittens being born yet’. A few weeks ago she came and told me the sad tale of a cat that had lost all of her kittens, and said ‘it’s a shame perhaps one could have been for you’. I agreed that this was indeed sad, and reiterated that one day we may indeed get a cat of our own. That day was today. At around 7pm there was a knock at the door and MrA &MmlleA were at the back door with a small box in their hands and big smiles on their faces. ‘Here is you kitten’. Oh. OK then. I pasted a big smile on my face and looked in the box, a small furry bundle with lovely big blue eyes looked up at me. I got it out of the box and it promptly climbed up my chest, over my shoulder and down my back. As MrA retrieved the cat I was told that it was about 6 week old, they didn’t know if it was a boy or girl, and apparently it used a litter tray. Bit of a shame I haven’t got one really. Or anything you need to own a cat. What DO you need to own a cat? MmlleA appeared with some kitten food, some litter and a toy, as she realised we were totally unprepared for the appearance of a cat. Then Moo arrived to see what the fuss was all about outside. The look of sheer joy on her face when I told her that this was our kitten is beyond description, and put all my doubts about cat ownership firmly into the dustbin. She is already deeply in smitten with our kitten. So inside we went and I hastily arranged a blanket in a box and filled up my newly purchased paint tray with litter (no painting tonight then…the bedroom will get finished one day soon), and sorted out a couple of bowls for food and water. The kitten prowled around sniffing out its new surroundings while I rang Hubs and informed him of the new arrival. He was as bemused as I was, but happy that we finally have a pet. I am sending him a picture tonight so that later we can discuss naming – I have already discounted most of Moo’s suggestions as being either too weird or not something I would really want to be shouting out in the garden, but I’m rather taken with the name ‘shazzam’ it’s quirky (a bit like us) and rather fittingly describes its arrival into the family. After I had managed to wrestle Moo into bed, I came back down to find the kitten snuggled up in ‘bed’, looking thoroughly at home. As I pottered about making coffee it decided to have another prowl, and spent a good half hour fighting our sheepskin rug and poking about under the furniture. I managed to grab it for a quick cuddle and an investigate, it’s a girl, and she is now fast asleep in her makeshift bed. I’m slowly warming to her and I’m sure in no time at all I’ll be boring everyone to death with cute cat stories and posting ‘amusing cat pictures’ everywhere. You see I always imagined my first proper pet would be a dog, (called Colin – long story), and here I sit as the almost proud owner of a very cute little kitten with no name. I’ll let you know what we decide to call her.
11-10 It’s very hard to type with a kitten on your keyboard..
So we are all getting used to the changing family dynamic, most of all having to enforce the new door shutting and toilet lid down rules that all of a sudden apply. After a quick trip to super U kitty now has a bed and a proper litter tray (not that I’ve done any more painting yet, but I promise I will soon hubs, it WILL be done by the time you get back), and a few toys donated by the cats next door. We have also had to invest quite heavily in flea powder as she came with a few friends in tow, but hopefully they have all gone now…. My cat mum credentials must surely be a lot higher now as I have even made her a carpet clad climbing post, it’s amazing what you can do with a few bits of left-over wood and half a broom handle. Oh yes and we have had a family conference and decided on a name for her. CHIMNEY. That’s what happens when you let a nearly four year old have the casting vote, mind you I wanted to call her shazzam so who am I to judge. She is a very happy little cat and has taken to us well, a little too well when I’m trying to type and she’s chasing my fingers (still it’s a good excuse for typo’s….). So apart from playing with the cat and fighting fleas the last few days have been quite busy with school swimming, and then school photo’s yesterday. We had to get up extra early in order to have enough for me to have time to fight Moos hair into plaits for the occasion. I’m dying to see the pictures but I have no idea when they will be ready, so we just have to wait. As a reward for letting me tidy up her hair, I took her to la plage yesterday afternoon. It was a beautiful afternoon, but surprisingly we had the beach all to ourselves so we were running about, building sandcastles and soaking up the sun. On the beach in shorts and t-shirt in October, brilliant. (OK so the lake was a bit on the brrr side, but I can’t really complain). Today is another beautiful day now that the mist has finally cleared so we’re off to take some autumnal pictures soon to be uploaded. I hope whatever you’re getting up to today you have a lovely day too.
13-10 Lessons learned
Over the weekend I have learned many things. Most of them quite funny.
I have learned never to get distracted when your paint tray is resting on a step of your ladder.
I have learned to always make sure that your dust-sheets are actually covering the things they are meant to be covering.
I’ve learned that white emulsion actually comes out of our carpet quite easily (thank the lord).
I have learned not to bother paying the extra money for ‘1 coat’ paint – 1 coat, Mon derriere!
I have also learned that the day after your back starts to feel better is not necessarily the best time to start climbing ladders and decorating.
My biggest lesson however came from my big sister. I received an e-mail, from someone I respect and trust, about the danger associated with certain lipsticks and that ingredients in said brands were carcinogenic. I did what was asked and forwarded this e-mail to many of my friends thinking how awful this was. Fortunately my big sister was on my e-mail list and is a lot more conscientious than I and actually checked the content of this e-mail and found it to be entirely false. She let me know in no uncertain terms that I had been party to spreading mis-information, so I immediately sent out another e-mail to correct my mistake. Of course if I had checked in the first place I would have known this for myself already. It is all too easy to be taken in by these things and do what would seem to be the right thing, when in fact upon reflection all I was doing was spreading propaganda for a rival cosmetics company. SO please do as I say and not as I do and check any e-mail forwards you get for accuracy before hitting that forward button. Thanks sis, Lesson learned.

I also learned that I am becoming unusually obsessed with taking photographs of mushrooms.
18-10 Friday, already?
It’s been a very busy week with not much happening, if that makes any sense at all. I have been in a painting frenzy and not only have I done the gate, I’ve finished the bedroom (I even make a new lampshade), and I’ve given the toilet a much needed make over. The blue palm tree wallpaper is no more (thank the lord), and has been replaced by white with some rather attractive floral ‘vinyl wall art’ (posh stickers). Gordon has had a good old spruce up and at least a kilo of sand hoovered form his carpets and a large amount of unidentifiable mung removed from around Moo’s car seat. I’ve also managed to get in touch with some old friends who I haven’t spoken to in years- gotta love the internet. I’m absolutely knackered, but extremely happy. Hubs is home tomorrow and if that weren’t exciting enough, he’s bringing AJ with him. AJ is my step-daughter, and she is fab! She’s 12 (going on 16) and is turning into a wonderful young lady (and Goth, at the moment apparently). It’s such a long time since Moo or I have seen her, circumstance and moving house too many times have gotten in our way too many times. Of course she has spent time with Hubs, but I haven’t gotten to give her a hug for the longest time. Moo is on cloud 8 & 1/2 right now with the dizzy heights of 9 expected when I’m trying to get her to eat some breakfast before getting in the car in the morning. We are so very fortunate with our circumstance with AJ in that there is no bad feeling between the 2 families, AJ lives with her grandma and we have stayed with each other many times in the past and I hope that will continue in the future. In fact I would go so far as to say we are actually good friends. I have seen so many family’s torn apart by bitterness as soon as the word ‘step’ comes into play and I thank the Lord on a regular basis that we are not one of them. I’d actually just like to take this opportunity to thank AJ’s family for welcoming me and Moo into their lives with open arms and making it so easy for us to be a part in her life. It could all have been so different. So it will be a busy week with lots going on and, I’m sure, plenty of material for the blog!
22-10 Never on a school day…
OK so every other day I have to go in and wake Moo up for school so why then on a Wednesday (when there is no school here) does she wake up early and hassle me till I give in and take her downstairs? One of life’s little mysteries…We have had a few fantastic family days so far, doing, well, not really very much to be honest, just being together is enough. On Sunday we had joy with the weather and headed to la plage, I wasn’t really sure if AJ, being a street-smart 12, would be still into buckets and spades, but it wasn’t long before castles were being built and destroyed and great works of sand art were being created (hubs got a little involved with the sand sculpting…). After a fruitless search for conkers (decoration and gaming purposes) amongst the oak trees we headed back home for a hearty tea and an early night. Getting Moo to school next morning was not the easiest thing in the world but we made it with seconds to spare. Moo has been ever so excited about AJ coming and has obviously been telling her school friends about her big sister and by the time we went to pick her up there was a big crowd of children waiting and waving at the door. The afternoon was taken up with supermarkets and grocery shopping, and the ‘kids’ were swallowed into the world of X-box star wars Lego for a couple of hours. (Whilst Moo’s star wars knowledge is at a satisfactory level, AJ does need a re-education in the ways of the force, I thought hubs was going to cry when she claimed not to know what a wookie was). Yesterday after school we headed off to ‘family village’ on the other side of Le Mans for a bit of retail therapy. What a great place, fantastic shops a couple of restaurants and a park for when the kids get board. We shopped until we almost dropped then headed off to McDonalds as a ‘treat’ for the kids (we decided to wait a little to eat…), and I managed al the transactions and conversations in French today without too many mistakes of blank looks so I must be improving. The kids were happy with their meals, (no trades description breaches there then), and we headed back home through Le Mans rush hour and a REALLY big rain storm- oh joy- and home. With Moo and AJ finally in bed Hubs and I settled down for a cosy night in front of the tele watching ‘spaced’, an old favourite of ours (that has some rather spooky co-incidences with our own lives), that always makes us smile. We really don’t ask for a lot in life, a day out with the kids and a cosy night in front of the tele. Hopefully now we are getting a bit more settled we will get to have a few more of them. Well, the sun is now up and I don’t see why every else isn’t so I’m off to rouse the troops and see where we end up today.
25-10 Where has the week gone?
All of a sudden it’s Saturday evening and tomorrow I’m taking hubs and AJ to the airport. We have had a brilliant week, but oh so quick. AJ has had a good time and is already looking forward to the next visit. We didn’t do that much really, but having time together as a family is such a rarity that even going to the supermarket together was a pleasure (OK well maybe I’m stretching that a bit, but you know what I mean!). We managed to get out and about a fair bit – weather permitting, it’s not all sunshine and beaches – and discovered a few more medieval castles littered about the place but I have to admit to thanking the lord for the creator of the x-box games console as it kept 2 children (and hubs) happy during the rainy days. Thursday was a great day for me and my French practice. I volunteered (I think I did anyway…) to help out one of the other mums with a baking afternoon for the kids in Moo’s class. The theme was ‘Halloween’ and the subject was ‘muffins’. It was quite reassuring when I got there and saw the recipe and method up on the board and could actually understand it, and I managed to take my little group through with minimal assistance, the most used phrase of the afternoon being, ne touché pas (don’t touch!). But it all went off rather well and muffins were baked, iced and left to be eaten the next day on the last day of term (as it was Moo got a pumpkin one and was NOT impressed at all – c’est la vie…). It was nice to be involved and speaking in only French for the afternoon, and also seeing Moo at school and realising just how much she already understands. In the evening we had all been invited to Dinner with my muffin making friend and her family to celebrate our triumphant cooking class! Mme W is from this area, but has lived all over France only very recently returning, and Mr W is a Canadian, who has lived in France for many years. They have two delightful children who go to school with Moo. We arrived and the children proceeded to run around like mad things for half an hour before dinner making conversation a little tricky, but as soon as they had their food, things were a little more civilised! We had a fantastic evening and have made some fab new friends and I have somehow volunteered (I think…) to cook a haggis supper on burns night. Although I flatly refuse to cook it in the traditional manner, once a life time is quite enough for that….. (For the curious amongst you the traditional manner is to cook it in the stomach lining of a sheep, and I am NEVER doing that again, MY stomach is turning just at the memory of that cold day in Wisconsin…..). But for now half term is looming for Moo and I, but before that we have one last night with Hubs and AJ so I’m off to enjoy.
26-10 Through wind and sleet and rain and hail…well almost!
So today was the day for the airport run, what with it being half term all over the place and the airline’s propensity to quadruple the fares during these 2 weeks (I kid you not), we were off to a different airport where Hubs had managed to find a couple of flights that we didn’t need to sell our souls to afford, I had been to this one before (130 miles North) and although it’s not as nice (or short) a drive as our normal route, it’s not too bad and we made the journey in just over 2 hrs., in fact we were so early that we decided to pop to St. Malo for a coffee before heading to the airport. Sadly for us there was a sailing festival there today and everybody and their aunties appeared to have ‘popped there for a coffee’ and all the car-parks (and side streets and flowerbeds) were already occupied. So we turned around and headed for the airport coffee bar instead. Although St. Malo does look rather beautiful and we do plan to return on a slightly less busy day, we may even get a parking spot. After our encounter with the highwayman who runs the airport bar, (I mean 10Euros for 2 small coffees and a coke, it was like being back in London), we said our goodbyes. Moo was particularly upset today as she has had such a good time with her big sis and we’re not sure when she’ll get to come out next (although she did say she wants to come back as soon and as often as possible which is wonderful for us, hopefully next time her grandma can come too). I always get quite gloomy when I say goodbye to hubs, but it’s only a couple of weeks till he’s home again, and hopefully this time he will be here a bit longer. When we left the airport I decided to try and find another way out as last time we ended up getting stuck on a bridge for half an hour…well I found the right road, sadly I was going the wrong way……but not for too long! We got back in the right direction and had only lost about 40 mins so it wasn’t too bad as we headed for home. Just around the point where we got lost last time (I take no responsibility for this as I had 2 navigators in the car with me and neither of them knew the way either), the heavens opened and in about 10 seconds the visibility was reduced to about 2 meters so I decided to pull over and wait it out. Another 20 minutes. When it eased off again we set off and with no further problems, other than lots of other cars going WAY too fast in the rain, we almost got to the ‘home stretch’. Just as the road turns from local dual carriageway to Auto route I saw a line of gendarmes directing traffic away from the A route and on to the really really local roads! By this point it still raining and getting dark and I had no idea where I was. I only passed my driving test 6 months ago and having a little one who is normally in bed by about 8pm means I don’t really drive at night, in fact I think I have only driven twice in the dark before and it they were only ‘down the road’ trips so I’m not very experienced at driving in the dark, as for getting lost, well that happens to me constantly so I wasn’t too worried about that! I decided to follow the signs to the nearest big town as I’d been there before and if I could get to the centre I could find my way home. Sadly the centre was closed off tonight. So I decided to head for the next big town…….Thankfully I got to that one and nearly cried when I saw a signpost with my local town on it. At last I could actually say I knew where I was and where I had to go. As I headed out through the country the fog closed in around me like a big blanket and once more the visibility was drastically reduced, I just thank the lord that the van I was following was going my way or I dread to think where we may have ended up. So the last 25 miles was done at around 20 miles an hour, but at last I saw the lights of our little village and our church appearing from out of the gloom. I can honestly say I have never been so glad to get out of the car. Through all of this my little Moo was a superstar, she is a great traveller anyway (just as well really), but not once did she whinge or complain, she never even objected when I switched the Wombles CD for Muse (bad weather, getting lost, fog AND the wombles was just too much for me to cope with tonight). After informing Hubs that we were at last safely home and dispatching Moo to bed with a big cuddle and a long story, I looked at some news and discovered that the reason the A route was closed was due to a big pile up during the sudden rain and that’s round about where I should have been at the time if I hadn’t gone the ‘wrong way’ out of the airport and so although I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, but I’m very relieved that I haven’t. I’m off to bed now to recover.
30-10 part 1 WOOOOHOOOO.
There are not many times since we have moved here that I have been jealous of things in the UK, but all the reports of snow from people have had me sulking a bit. However when I woke this morning, all jealousy vanished in an instant. All was white and thick snow was still falling, (no worries about what to do today). When Moo woke up she was, as usual, most reluctant to get dressed, until I told her to look out the window…..quick as a flash she was up and trying to get clothes on! So we are off out to have a play! I will report back with pictures later…..
30-10 part 2 Snowmen and snuggles
What a fab day! The snow was indeed falling thick and fast so we ventured out fully kitted with the hats scarves and gloves I bought on a whim yesterday. A quick walk down to the Mairé’s office to dispense with the formalities of bill paying was rewarded with a nice chat with the administrator and the Maire himself (who also happens to be our landlord). My French is improving slowly and we managed to chat about the weather and consistency of the snow, (a bit on the wet side), and it’s snowman building potential – the general consensus was not good, and Moo even managed a few words concerning le bonhomme de neige (that’s a snowman by the way, I told you I was improving!!!). Despite the prognosis we set out for home marvelling at how beautiful the village looked today, well I was marvelling and Moo was pitching snowballs, with a determination to build. And build we did, you can see the results on the photos page. His name is Vincent. A few snowballs later and the wet had soaked through our gloves, and my shoes, enough to warrant home time. Marshmallow-cornflake cakes were made and refrigerated, a pot of soup was prepared and consume, the duvets fetched from upstairs and when the hot chocolate was ready the afternoon movie could begin. Now most almost 4 year olds I know would choose a nice cartoon film, maybe a toy story or perhaps even a Shrek or Madagascar, but not Moo. Today’s movie of choice was ‘Return of the Jedi’ – I blame her father entirely! With the emperor dispatched and a rather involved discussion/explanation of Boba Fett’s job and transport (coming soon to the Mooism’s page…), it was time for tea, a play with chimney a quick bath then off to bed. Another day of half term filled, only a week to go!

 

NOVEMBER
02-11 Toussaint, Truffles and Trees
Halloween came and went without any incident here, (there’s not much point in dressing as a pumpkin when there’s no-one to show off to and trick or treaters don’t come out this far), but we did have a nice pumpkin soup! The next day is of course Toussaint, All saints day, and, as my friend who is currently touring in Austria realised, is a European National holiday (except in the UK) so we had a rainy bank holiday spent visiting friends and drinking spiced wine (well not Moo obviously….) lovely. And yesterday was a big day for my big sister who officially launched her new business CHOCALLY – http://www.luxurytruffles.co.uk selling handmade luxury truffles and cards. I can thoroughly recommend the truffles they are REALLY good. Sadly, as yet, she only ships to the UK so I’ll just have to wait to get some more…. Today we decided to take advantage of no rain and headed out for a mystery ramble on one of the woodland trails near our house and see where we ended up. We ambled up the hill and took a new path winding our way through the trees and stumbled upon the loveliest little chapel, set in the midst of, well nowhere ,really. It is tiny and to our great delight open. We stepped inside, fully expecting it to be totally empty, but it was fully kitted out with statues of our lady and St Anthony, (my personal favourite!), an altar and fresh flowers. We sat for a few moments in the stillness of the woods and said a small prayer of thanks. From what I could gather from the available information it was built in around 1860 as a refuge for the lost and weary (hence St Anthony, who is the patron saint of lost things, the poor and travellers -which is also why he is my favourite!!). As we journeyed on we found yet more statues of our lady hidden away (yet perfectly tended) in the wood. And most unusually for here statues of the empty cross. There are literally hundreds of crucifix statues dotted around the local area but this is the first time I have ever seen an empty one. The walk was a joy and we were out for around 2 hrs before Moo began to tire and start tripping over so we called it a day and headed home just as the hunters who were out today began to warm up and the sound of gunshot echoed through the trees (They were out on the other side of the wood so we weren’t too close). Moo was slightly alarmed when I told her they were probably hunting deer, but reassured when I told her that it Bambi didn’t live in France….It still seems strange to me to hear a gunshot that is not followed by a police siren, and as Hubs commented when he was home last week, the last time he saw a man walking down the street with a dog and a shotgun, the last thing on his mind was to stop and say hello…same planet, different world.
05-11 Re discovering my favourite books – no wonder I’m tired!
Since I discovered that my little computer’s charger was broken and not charging, (there are 2 current suspects, one almost 4 year old child and one almost 4 month old kitten – it’s even money), the luxury of wifi has been taken away and I am ‘chained to the mainframe’! No more surfing in bed for me for a while. However the lure of the internet does not prove as strong as the lure of bed and a hot water bottle and I decided to have an early night for once. So I thought 9pm was just TOO early to sleep so I grabbed a book for ‘an hour’s read’. Now anyone who knows me knows that I find it very difficult to put down a book once it’s started (even if I have read it a few times before) and last night proved to be no exception…. Now the charms of the Harry Potter series are not by any means limited to myself, but did I really have to read the whole if book one, and maybe just start book 2, (well 150 pages is a good start….), it was only the advent of the 3am chimes that shamed me into putting it down (well after I had finished the chapter). Even though I was fully aware that Moo could be up at any time after 6 (thankfully she decided to have a lie in too), I still kept on reading. It’s not like I don’t know what happens. I just love reading. I have recently reread the excellent ‘his dark materials’ trilogy by Phillip Pullman, and one of my favourite reads ‘Perfume’ by Patrik Suskind. My favourite book of all time however is a children’s book written by Anna Holm called ‘I am David’. The story of a Jewish boy, set during the 2nd world war, and his escape from a concentration camp. It is a wonderfully moving and hopeful tale that I have been having read to me and then read since I was about 6 years old. My dad gave it to me when he came back from one of his ‘work trips to England’ I think. It has my name written in crayon on the first page and is one of my most treasured possessions. And it has been at least a year since I read it so I think once Hogwarts is out of the way again I have the next one lined up ready to go! Apart from reading, there have actually been a few other things going on. We spent the day yesterday visiting people who were out ( really, we tried 4 visits and everyone was out), then realising that all the driving meant we were going about on mainly fumes so had a slightly nervous drive to the local garage to get Gordon a much needed drink. Moo and I decided to give up trying to visit people for the day and head home for a movie and some pop-corn. Much as Moo wanted to watch another star wars I felt it was time for a more traditional kid’s film so back to Pixar and the realisation that toy story has so many star wars homage’s in it that we may as well have watched star wars anyway! Then I managed to speak to speak to my big bro somewhere in America fixing planes for the RAF, and wish him a happy birthday. Although he was busy and it was a short call it was really good to speak to him, and hopefully when he’s a few time zones closer we will catch up for a bit longer. (If he remembers the fact that you can ACTUALLY make calls, and not just receive them….). As for today, well it’s bonfire night ,but not in France of course so no fireworks here, and the USA have elected themselves a new president (so a few firework there I would wager). And its time I was getting on. We are going to try and do some visits again this afternoon; hopefully someone will be in today. And we really do need an early night tonight as school starts again tomorrow (WOOHOO!) and we are swimming first thing, that reminds me, must shave my legs…..!
08-11 Rain rain go away.
There’s no getting away from it, I’ve had a miserable week. I have had a proper case of the eeyores. Probably something to do with the weather and the fact that I’m missing Hubs so much. Its normally OK, I mean I miss him all the time when he’s not here, but I can normally slap on a happy grin and get on with things, but somehow this week it’s been so hard. I feel like my left arms have been cut off. Moo has had a grotty week too with a few nightmares (mostly about French speaking kangaroos carrying lightsabers being chased by giant ginger marbles – and no, I don’t know.) and a case of the sniffles that were threatening to turn into the real thing but thankfully haven’t yet. But at least she has been excited about getting back to school. I’ve been hit by a big fat week of insomnia, (it happens occasionally and I just cannot sleep whatever I try) so lots of reading and I’m really starting to wish I hadn’t lent out my Harry Potter 6 & 7.
We have managed to make a couple of sorties this week. Off we went to the circus parc (see photos page!) only to find that after a couple of weeks of closure it was now no longer the circus parc as it has all been ripped out and replaced and is henceforth to be known as the ‘OZ parc’. I’ll get some photos up soon and you will see why. And at last I managed to sate my, some would say obsessive, desire for conkers. It started about a month ago (around the time I redecorated the smallest room). We had a lovely little brownish grey glass vase which I had a notion would look nice filled with conkers. Easy I thought, just take a walk around, there will be loads scattered around. But I seemed cursed never to be in a place where there was a single conker tree, oaks a plenty, beeches as far as the eye could see and when I did happen to stumble upon a conker tree the most I managed to find were one of two sad lonely rejected looking things, but into my pocket they went. By this time the vase stood at only about ½ full I decided I had probably seen the last of the conkers for the season. The day we did find a large sprawling conker tree in the area the ground was covered in snow. But one visit to the OZ parc and my pockets were bulging at the seams (it’s always the day you don’t have a bag with you…) and Moo was happily skipping around shouting ‘you’re bonkers for conkers’, and I think she’s right. But still my vase is now full, and although it is rather reminiscent of one of those ‘guess how many xyz’s in a jar and win a teddy’ type things. Even if I do say so myself, it looks rather nice.
14-11 Time flies
I can’t quite believe I’ve missed nearly a week of writing. I so meant to update, but things just seemed to get in the way. We have been busy with school, shopping, making pies, watching films and getting cross with you. Moo has spent large part of the week on the naughty step for various reasons, most of which have involved the cat somewhere along the line or her new favourite thing to do which is yelling and stamping of feet, not a very attractive quality, nor one that will endear her to her already grumpy mother. She has started to get a little better today but the threat of losing birthday presents seems to be sinking in at last. (Thank goodness it’s going to be Christmas after that and I can threaten her with Santa bypassing her bedroom soon, lord knows what I’ll do after that). The cat is starting to drive me a little insane as she is desperate to get outside, but vet bills for jabs weren’t in the budget this month – heck we didn’t have a cat when this month’s budget was dreamt up. and as many times as I have been tempted to throw her out the window…….Drusilla is bearing most of the brunt (she’s a little dragon tree in the front hall now with nicely lacerated trunk), but her little cute kitten feet are Wolverinesque in their ability to transform into daggers of pain at any second. It’s not too bad when you’re wearing jeans and a jumper, but pyjamas are a whole different nightmare, I look like I’ve been running naked through a bramble hedge, not a nice proposition whichever way you look at it. We spent a very quiet remembrance day together visiting the village memorial and explaining to Moo why we were there, and what we were doing. From the mouth of a child came the wisdom ‘mummy if people just talked to each other they wouldn’t have to fight any more’. I couldn’t agree more.
I have been taking another look through the poetry book, (the ode less travelled, by Stephen Fry), that Moo’s godmother, and my best friend, bought for me 3 years ago, I didn’t get through much of it before, I wasn’t feeling terribly poetic at the time, and it’s been packed and shipped around the world since then, but I’m really enjoying it although I have been finding myself forming my speech in iambic pentameters for the last few days and seeing if anyone notices, (go to the naughty step now young lady, falls rather neatly don’t you think?), but as both molly and chimney are as yet unaware of the linguistic subtleties I think I may be barking up the wrong tree, and I assume that if I try and engage Hubs in a conversation about Shakespeare’s use of the form he may well start gibbering uncontrollably. Speaking of Hubs, he’s home at the moment for a few days (particularly for Moo’s birthday on Sunday). Then we lose him again for a week then. Oh joy, he is home for a few weeks till the next job starts. We have been taking advantage of our time together and had great fun making a ‘school birthday’ cake for Moo to have this morning with her classmates (pictures to follow…). And we have had an offer that we couldn’t refuse from some of our friends. They have offered to have Molly for the evening and so we find ourselves in the position of having ‘a night off’ with just the 2 of us. Sheer luxury. So we are trying to think of something to do now….. I’m sure we will come up with something, but it’s actually quite difficult to think of something when you haven’t had a night out for such a long time, and you have no idea what is open in the evening! So we will have an adventure I’m sure. We will be full on preparing for the Moo’s birthday tomorrow as we have another cake to bake and presents to wrap and cards to write and trying to keep her contained till the big day. A full report to follow.
9-11 OUCH ! I’ve just re-located my big toe.
I didn’t lose it you understand. I was carrying Moo upstairs to bed when our beloved chimney decided to entangle herself around my feet, and I lurched forward and instinct took over and I realised that if I didn’t slam my foot really hard against the step I was going to fall over and drop my little lady. Fortunately we were near the top and I was able to unceremoniously dump her on her bottom. Unfortunately the process of slamming my foot against the stairs didn’t agree with the alignment of bones in my big toe. I was panicking as I thought it was broken at first, but then realised that if I acted quickly and decisively I could pop it back. I nearly said a bad word. Poor Moo was wondering what was going on and asked me if banging on the floor really helped ….. It did. Just as well the cat had the sense to scarper. So a couple of funky painkillers down and I can just about see straight again. I hope it’s not to blue tomorrow, I’ve got swimming in the morning.
19-11 So many things…
It’s been too many days since my last update, apologies, so much going on. I had intended to do this much sooner but things just kept happening! So firstly, our ‘date’. Moo was thrilled to bits to be having a night with her 2 school chums and we didn’t get so much as a backward glance when we left her. We headed off to one of the local towns in search of a restaurant to have a belated anniversary dinner, and we hit the jackpot. A tiny family run place that serves the MOST delicious food I’ve ever eaten. I can’t even begin to explain how good it was, Snails to start, and oh boy were they good. Beef for main, and I have to say that the beef here even beats the Wisconsin Beef – They sure know how to cook round these parts, and I’m not going to try and describe the chocolate pudding as I couldn’t do it justice. It was a bit on the pricey side, but my mouth is still watering almost a week later so worth every cent. The restaurant was absolutely amazing, the staff extremely pleasant and I’m sure we will be visiting again (on a very special occasion anyway!). We headed back to the local Pub for a coffee before collecting a totally zonked out Moo. It was such a joy to have a night out together, and I look forward to more. (And just so you all know the cost of B&B includes a night of babysitting!). Saturday we had a VERY lazy day, but thankfully were out of our pyjamas by the time BB popped in for a coffee and a catch up (and if she’s reading this she will realise just how lazy a day we were having…!). The rest of the day was all about playing and shopping for birthday tea (burgers and chips – that’s my girl), and making sure presents were wrapped, cards written and cakes baked. The last of which was done by Hubs, his first attempt at cake, and a marvellous success. And at last the big day dawned, our little lady is 4. Where has the time gone? After a leisurely muck about upstairs we descended to the present pile in the kitchen much wrapping paper related carnage ensued, along with cat running round the floor in oversized envelopes. Much fun. There were many clothes (I thank you) a winter snow suit (again I thank you) some playmobile figures (including a playmobile advent calendar – brilliant, Moo was a little disappointed she couldn’t start opening it now, but consoled with the fact that she was going to get a toy every day in December!). A new leap-pad with half a dozen books (some in French), a princess Jasmine Barbie which she has been after since watching Aladdin (nice one AJ) and a purple Lightsabre (what have we done?). Not a bad haul. Whilst we were having breakfast and present opening it became clear that there was a major event occurring in the village as between 30 – 40 cars were angling for parking spaces outside the house (normally its noteworthy if there are more than 5 or 6) so in the best family tradition we went out for a nosey. It seems that here remembrance day is commemorated on the Sunday after the 11th as the church was packed to the rafters and the surviving soldiers were carrying their flags into the service. In the interests of keeping a ‘happy’ birthday we decided not to attend the service (that and the fact we were all still in our slippers and half way through a present pile), but we did attend the commemoration after the service at the war memorial. It was a deeply moving experience and one which I am glad we were a part of. Mr G, (our back garden neighbour), was bearing a flag with a chest full of medals and after the ceremony came over to shake our hands and seemed very pleased to point us out to some of his comrades. I’m not sure that many of the ex-pats get involved with things like this and it seemed to make a great impression on the locals that we had made the time. For me it’s a no-brainer. Remembrance should be observed wherever you are. It’s not just about honouring the dead – although this should be done, it’s about remembering that the armed forces are still out there, and politics aside, they are doing their job for their country. It’s not just about what we have lost but what we have gained through the sacrifice of others. I sometimes lose sight of the fact that this was an occupied country. This village and all of those surrounding were full of opposition troops. Many brave people sacrificed everything and suffered terribly for the greater good, and I think it’s a poor show if we can’t spare half an hour to remember that fact. So there. Anyway back to the birthday. The rest of the day was taken up with playing with presents and eating sweets, with a quick call out to the local pub to receive yet another gift and drink coffee with the landlady, always a pleasure. Birthday burgers were made and consumed, with a vain effort on my part to introduce some salad to the burger fest, and the cake of wonder produced alight with a ‘4’ candle (yes I know – 4 candles…) and 4 wonderful sparklers. What joy on little Moo’s face. Bedtime came all too soon. The day after was an early start to get Hubs back to the airport (slightly delayed by the fact that 20 minutes in we had to about turn and retrieve the forgotten bank card), but we got there in time nonetheless. Dinard is a dismal shack of an airport by any standards and at 3 Euro’s 50 for a coffee it outranks most of them for cost as well. Goodbye’s were said (but not too tearful this time as its only till the week-end – yeah!), and Moo and I decided to make a day of it and visit St. Malo as we were practically there anyway. What a lovely town. The beach was empty and the walk out to the fort was just possible thanks to the ebbing tide. We clambered over rocks and collected a myriad of shells, and only got slightly wet feet. We then took an amble into the old town and got thoroughly lost in the tightly packed maze like interior with brilliantly named streets (the street of the dancing cat being our favourite of the day) and, thankfully, the odd signpost directing us back to the beach. Lunch was had and after yet another torturous drive back, (no fog this time only driving rain and I only got slightly lost). We crashed out after tea and had an early night. I woke up on Tuesday feeling like I’d been squashed by a rhino. I ached from head to toe, my head was pounding and I could barely keep my eyes open. Moo’s school time saw me firmly back in bed. The day passed in a bit of a haze and I spent most of it in auto-pilot till I could sink back into my bed. Thankfully today I feel better. I’m just putting it down to birthday/driving fatigue. Only one more airport pick-up for Hubs on Saturday and then he will be working in mainline Europe for the next 7 months and can get the train home!
24-11 Star wars Lego 2 has taken over my life!
My Name is Hils and it’s been 12 hours since my last game of star wars Lego. It used to be a game ‘just for daddy’. Then Moo had a turn on the x-box with daddy. Then Daddy went back to work and mummy had to figure out how to get it switched on for Moo to have a play, then I had to ‘help’. That’s when it all went wrong. For the first time in my life I actually enjoyed trying to play a computer game. I have been hubs’ wingman for many years giving strategy advice, and giving, almost always unnecessary, advice about impending trees, but actually playing games has never been something I enjoyed. Until now. There’s something about blasting those little Lego men to bits that is extremely satisfying!!, While Hubs was back in the UK I got a little carried away to be honest and now I realise how time just slips away when you are in a virtual world. Anyway I have now finished all the bounty hunter missions (to hubs great disappointment) and found enough gold bricks to have a run about in Lego city. I do feel slightly guilty that I haven’t actually done anything this week but it’s been good to rest my toe, which is fine now by the way thanks to lots of ice. I am now the proud possessor of Moos 1st official school photo, and it’s a beauty. (Of course), just have to get some frames now…. The best part now is that Hubs is home till mid December (apart from a 2-3 day stint training in UK) and we are all looking forward to a wonderful family time.
29-11 It’s starting to look a bit like…
The trees are going up around the villages, the lights are being strung across the streets and it’s starting to look a bit like … NO NO NO it’s still too early, Focus woman. I do love the festive season, but I have to reign myself in if I start getting festive too early, then I peak way too soon! It’s been an interesting few days here with a very short power cut that managed to kill our big computers power supply (it just went off and didn’t come back on again), so we had a couple of days without big brother, but had my little notebook to keep us going (but I couldn’t update hence a big chunk today!). So we had to go to Le Mans to pick up another, (and some surge protection for next time or this could start getting REALLY expensive). So we are now back in business and I have actually put some new pictures on as well so do swing by the photos page and have a look. The main bone of contention in the house of late has been the cat or rather the ******* cat as she has become known. You see we are not really cat people, but she was rather thrust upon us so we now have to become cat people, but its hard work. We are dog people you see, all of my life the family has had dogs and I love dogs. They are so much more affectionate than cats, much more personality. Anyway whilst our little chimney has been litter trained for, how shall I put it, solid matter, liquid matter on the other hand seems to be a much more problematic area for her. I have spent the last few weeks following her round and mopping up. Not terribly pleasant. Especially as I sometimes miss one or two only to be alerted when I can smell it and have to track it down, she has a few favourite spots so it’s not too hard to find, but getting to it usually means moving at least one piece of furniture. And the smell when you come down in the morning, well, let’s just say it’s not good. I have tried all the training methods suggested to me, but nothing seemed to be working. She also has a rather catlike habit of attacking the bottom of your legs, not really a problem in jeans, but when you switch to PJ’s it’s a whole different level of pain (especially when, like Hubs’ ) they are shorts. Her recent fascination for chewing cables hasn’t been endearing her either (one computer adapter, one phone charger). The last straw was broken the other night as she was in major play mode careering round the room attacking everything that moved, or was plugged in. When she decided that the x box cable was her mortal enemy and pulled it out of the back of the machine just as hubs was about to finish chapter 4 of 6 in story mode of the empire strikes back , I thought it would be the end of her. Let’s just say it’s a good thing that the only thing in reach was a notebook and pen or I fear we may have neither a cat or an x box left to tell the tale, (for anyone who has played this game it’s the Degobah level – say no more). We banished her to the hall and had the big ‘what are we going to do about that ****** cat conversation. At that moment and time I was all for putting her in the car and liberating her in the woods, and had it not been for the fact that it was freezing cold and raining and I was in my PJ’s I think I probably would have. (Mum, Dad, now I understand about the rabbit). In the end we decided that we should give her another chance, but her banishment would be complete. She is now a permanent resident of the hall (allowed in at our discretion, and when Moo forgets to close the door). But I think she may well have been listening to us as this morning she was peeing in her litter tray and we have yet to find one in the hall…… But as for now I must away to steam a haggis. We have guests for a ‘traditional Scottish meal’ tonight, and I must get on or they will end up getting a bowl of porridge and not much else! I will endeavour to update more regularly in the next few weeks, hopefully the computer won’t die again

 

DECEMBER
01-12 Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Woohoo, it’s December, I can officially start getting Christmassy now – YEAH!
But first I have to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY AJ! We are now the proud (step-for me) parents of a teenager, oh the joys. Hubs is already having nightmares about boyfriends, although to be honest if I were a potential boyfriend it would be me who would be worried…… This morning is of course the first day of advent and as such was the grand opening of day one of the advent calendar. This year we opted for a playmobile calendar and although it took a certain amount of time to construct last evening we are thrilled with the results. It really is amazing. 24 boxes each with a little toy inside that completes a large forest playmobile scene, this morning was a tree and two little birds. It’s so cool, and the value for money is excellent, and already has been worth it for it helped as an incentive to get Moo out of bed and dressed this morning with slightly less fuss than usual, and that has to be a good thing. (I now appreciate your struggle mum). This afternoon we are off to a local(ish) Christmas market so I’ll report back after that.
02-12 How soon the Christmas spirit can disappear…
Well the Christmas market trip was a disaster. It was cold, a bit drizzly and Moo was in the worst mood. It wasn’t even a ‘Christmas’ market, just a big normal one, so no comedy decorations to laugh at either. She was OK for about 10 minutes, and then the whingeing started, and kept on going, and going and going. She was on fine form. Then after we had enough in the market we needed to go the supermarket, and full scale tears were unleashed with added shouting. We did all the talking to and trying to distract but the tears continued. As we are all incredibly stubborn we carried on around the shop regardless, but it was a joyless experience for all concerned. When we eventually got back to the car, the journey home was a sombre one. The rest of the day passed in much the same manner and quite frankly bedtime couldn’t come soon enough. Hubs and I decided that the best course of action was to settle down and watch a film as we both needed a bit of an unwind after a stressful day, and ‘Batman Begins’ was just the ticket. After that we hit the sack, for about 10 minutes until Moo woke up for some unknown reason, and started kicking off again. I went to fetch her a drink and as I tried to stop the ****** cat getting into her room and ended up getting a bite and a handful of scratches for my trouble, not the best way to endear me especially after the last couple of weeks . She is extremely fortunate not to have found the short way down the stairs last night. I just about managed to calm myself enough to go back and try and sort out Moo, who by this time was yelling for her drink, and eventually she settled down and went back to sleep. So far today has been good, but its only 10.30 and she’s been at school since 9, so we will see what the afternoon brings. Ho Ho Ho indeed.
16.30 – All is well! We decided on big diversions today and so far it has been a roaring success. This afternoon we have built a rocket, oh yes, we are in fact today rocket scientists. The cardboard construction is a masterpiece of engineering (and I only had to gently remind hubs once that it was for a 4 year old and it didn’t actually have to fly…although with my, quite frankly, superb flaming rocket boosters on the back I wouldn’t be surprised…….) We are currently touring the universe with a couple of stops off in Hartlepool and Wisconsin for lunch and tea, sorry if we missed you. We now have to go and give our flag to Jabba the Hutt, so you must excuse me.
08-12 its beginning to look a lot like……
The Christmas spirit is alive and well again. Harmony is restored and all is well, whilst not exactly a ‘silent night’ (due to molly’s dreams that “a French person took my seat in the car and wouldn’t let me back in”), it was a reasonably peaceful one. So for me the ‘airport run’ is finally over with Hubs no longer going back to work in the UK, he had to do a quick trip back last week to finish up and pick up his tools, but that should be it for a good few months now. We have him at home for another week then he’s off to Antwerp till Christmas Eve. So I’m guessing it’s a week of frantic shopping and list making before he disappears back to work. Yesterday was the grand decorating day and as we retrieved Christmas (a holdall that we travel our Christmas’ in, that has been packed since January 07) from the shed we realized quite quickly that we were going to need some more decorations. We have got downstairs almost done and the tree looked lovely – I say looked for good reason, at the time of writing I can hear that ******* cat behind me clambering around up the tree with the sound of baubles bouncing on the floor at regular intervals, so I’ve just decided not to look. The situation with that ******** cat has improved since we started keeping her mainly in the hall and she seems to have finally grasped the concept of pee-ing in her litter box rather than the floor so the trip to the woods has been postponed. I must say though I’m looking forward to the end of January after she’s been ‘seen to’ so we can finally let her out (we took the decision to keep her in till then as apparently cats can get pregnant from around 4 months old – about now- and there are an awful lot of tom cats round here, and as annoying as she is better just one of her than a whole load of kittens!). So this afternoon we will be on a quest for more decorations to wrap up the house in. We need something for the gate and the fence, although much to my surprise and delight we already have a small tree outside as our house is on the village decoration route and accordingly we have been Christmassed up! It is so pretty round these parts as every little village is decorated and it really is just so lovely as you drive through all those little pockets of festive cheer, although I’m fairly sure we have come across a little rivalry between the maire of our village and the next one, as every time we go through they seem to have a few more lights or trees, then the next day we see our maire out with his little band of happy elves (otherwise known as tenant farmers) fixing up yet more stuff in the village….I can see it ending with tears and tinsel. I am really looking forward to doing the rest of the decorating, I’m seeing lots of wreaths and ribbons, I do however draw the line at a burglar Santa You know the ones I mean, where you have a jolly old Santa scaling the walls of your house or breaking in through an upstairs window…there seem to be an awful lot of them round here. Hopefully there won’t be a storm as mostly they get blown off the walls and left dangling in curious positions looking rather like a hangman’s gallery and really not very Christmassy at all… still better than the one that our UK neighbours had whose trousers were a bit to baggy and whose head used to fall off …. Talk about emotional scarring…..
12-12 Papa Noel, fog and a sudden realisation
Papa Noel came to the village on Wednesday. We had a note in Moo’s schoolbook telling us to be at the village hall at 4pm, so after a quick trip to Le Mans mid morning to get Moo’s Christmas present, we headed back thinking that there would be a Santa on a tractor going through the village handing out sweets. How wrong we were. Our neighbours came calling at the appointed hour and off we all went to the village hall to find it packed with most of the village, young and old, and a party about to happen. Pere Noel dutifully arrived on a beautiful horse drawn carriage and all the children came outside to have their pictures taken with the great man. However Moo was rather overcome by meeting a celebrity and had an attack nerves and refused even to look at him, no matter how much he tried to make her smile! We all went inside and Papa Noel sang a karaoke medley of French Christmas hits and proceeded to give out bags of sweets to all the children and still Moo refused to smile. It wasn’t until he managed to magically produce a box of smarties from behind her ear that she gave in and showed off her dimples. Hot chocolate and brioche all round, a present of a book for all the children from ‘the village’ and we were on our way home again after a thoroughly pleasant hour or so. Moo was still a little unsure about meeting Santa, and was a little concerned as to the whereabouts of his reindeer, but after a few well chosen words about the reindeer resting up for the big night she seemed content. This week has been all about fog. Dense Murky fog. Everywhere. Blankets of the stuff covering the whole area. Whilst it does look pretty, it sure makes it tricky getting anywhere, but we ventured out to the parc at the lake yesterday to help Moo run off a bit of energy and were rewarded with the glorious sight of half the lake frozen and the forest on the opposite bank shrouded in fog. The pictures really don’t do justice to the view. As Hubs so rightly says, ‘every day I see something that takes my breath away’. We hurried home as I had a chocolate cake to make for our guests who were coming in the evening. We finally had our neighbours over for an evening of coffee and cake (and possibly a little Christmas cheer…). We had a marvellous evening of ‘franglais’ conversation (fortunately Mr. speaks much better English than we speak French, but we did manage a few gentle conversations with Mme.A without the need for too much translation!!). They are such a wonderful family and we are so happy to count them amongst our good friends here. But it was during a conversation with Mme.A about getting ready for Christmas that I had the sudden realisation that I have not actually done any Christmas shopping yet (apart from Moo and my parents…) and really there is very little time left to do it if I want anyone to actually receive anything, although I did manage to track down a pack of Christmas cards (which is a lot more difficult than you may imagine), but sadly I haven’t actually managed to write them yet. And for the first time in our life together Hubs has actually finished his Christmas shopping before mine has even begun. Well it has been a year of big changes….
16-12 Like a bottle of 3 day old coke, strangely flat.
Well that’s all the Christmas shopping done (except for Hubs – always a challenge) and posted the cards are mostly all on their way and a list of ‘lunch’ shopping has been drawn up. But I’m feeling rather deflated at the moment. Nothing is actually wrong, just a bit low. I’m guessing it’s because Hubs is back at work and we have been playing text tennis on the phones today as we have managed to just miss each other all day (not helped by the fact I left my mobile at home today instead of taking it with me – oops). It was so good to be at home all together the past few weeks and, although I am used to him being away, the house feels empty. But life goes on and after school we decided to visit our friends who own the local bar, ( L’Homme Vert ). Mrs HV was at home and we enjoyed a nice chat and coffee, then went to visit the chickens. Moo is fascinated by chickens, which is quite a turn around as she used to be terrified of them when she was little, but we spent a pleasant half hour watching her chasing them round the garden and feeding them. I am actually considering getting some chickens in the spring as the taste of fresh eggs is just SO delicious and they have to be the lowest maintenance ‘pets’ in the world! But we shall see. I’m not even sure if we are allowed to keep chickens in the garden so I will have to check with Mr. Marie before I get too carried away with the notion. As they are going back to the UK to see family just after Christmas we stepped into the breach and offered to feed the chooks for them, a good practice run! Then Mr HV appeared and casually mentioned that he hadn’t actually sorted out anyone to feed his horse yet….. He took us up to meet Picasso and, most importantly, showed us how to turn off the electric fence. He is a friendly beast and we had a good get to know you feed and stroke and were showed the ropes for feeding. It was so good to be around a horse again. I used to ride a lot when I was younger, and I loved it. Moving to a big city put an end to riding for me and I haven’t been for years, but I do so love them. I just happened to casually mention this while we were feeding him and Mr HV kindly offered me a ride when the weather improves, so I jumped at the chance and I’m already longing for the spring. We named our price for looking after the animals, a family sized jar of Marmite – just about the only thing we miss, (you can get it here but it’s SO expensive and I try to avoid the ex-pat section of the supermarket!), and tootled off home to colour in pictures of Santa and eat biscuits. Tomorrow is for posting the rest of the cards and finishing the washing and visiting the park. I believe there may be another Santa lurking around with his sleigh in the big town too so we may well seek him out.
18-12 And the word of the day is ‘brouillard’.
We never did get to see the other ‘pere noel’ as Moo has contracted ‘the’ cough. Not ‘a’ cough you understand, but ‘the’ cough. We have been waiting for it as all the other children in her school have had it and it was only a matter of time. By the time Tuesday evening had arrived she was hacking like a miner, so much Vicks was rubbed and calpol administered and off to bed for a fitful night’s sleep, followed by a grumpy cross day with only one small excursion that was supposed to be to the post office, but as we got there and I realised I had left the ‘post office bag’ on the sofa, I gave up for the day and we went for a quick turn around the park instead. More vicks and calpol and a plea from the heart to sleep in mummy’s bed saw us both in bed by 9pm. This morning she was much better and had only a slight tickle so back to school to get re-infected she went! With the school run complete I took myself off the big town to see if I could find something/anything to get for Hubs for Christmas. I trawled the latest hopeful shop and although I managed to pick up some lovely festive nibbles, a present for daddy from moo that she’s had her eye on for a while, and given ‘Santa’ a rather tasteful helping hand for myself, still nothing for Hubs. I’m seriously running out of time now. As I left the big town I was a little surprised to see that the morning brouillard, (that good old fashioned fog to you and me), had not yet burned off, but was not too perturbed as it sometimes hangs around till after lunch then was confident it would be either the same or gone by the time I wanted to go to ‘la poste’. Boy was I ever wrong. By the time after lunch arrived I looked out the window to check conditions and realised that I couldn’t actually see my garden fence, which is only about 10m from the window. Uncle Peter and Record shop John, I’m afraid you may not get your cards till after Christmas. So another afternoon of house bound activities beckoned. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it previously but when Hubs was home we decided that the biggest problem with the ******* cat (apart from her mere existence) was that she was bored. So hubs (the big softie) decided to buy her a lead…..(as I know I have mentioned before, none of the toms round here are ‘done’ and I really don’t want any more kittens, so she can’t be out on her own till she has been ‘done’)… so he thought a lead may be the answer. Moo and I took her for a test drag around the front garden the other day (it didn’t go too well) and decided to try and repeat the experience today and see if we fared any better. Well it was slightly better and she didn’t seem quite so reluctant to be tethered, but I thought we had lost her when moo slipped over on some soggy leaves, dropped the lead and chimney made a break for it, fortunately she’s not too bright and managed to get herself wrapped up in some bushes so we were able to catch her again quite easily. The rest of the afternoon was spent in relative harmony with Moo getting into her ‘bunny game’ which is a CD ROM called Jump Ahead , for kids learning French, which I have to say is brilliant for Moo and me, while I pottered around watering plants, tidying up and humming Christmas carols. Then we had a wonderful video chat with mum and dad on Skype. It’s so good being able to see them and I know they were both over the moon to see and speak Moo who proceeded to show them the playmobiles she has had so far from her advent calendar, even chimney made a guest appearance. I was starting to have quite warm feeling for the cat by this point, she has only broken one bauble today. Then I went upstairs and discovered why she has been so quiet. She’s been digging up grand-dad. She has always had a good relationship with grand-dad and left him alone, even when I moved him upstairs and decorated him for Christmas, she didn’t seem that interested, but for some reason today she went for him. He doesn’t get in the way and he’s never a bother so why today? who knows, what I do know is that it took me ages to get him right again, and to be honest he still looks a bit peaky and I’ve had to move him into the comparative safety of our room for the time being. And chimney is once again ‘that ******* cat’. Having just re-read today’s entry I feel I should perhaps point out that grand-dad is not in fact a long suffering relative that we keep hidden in the upstairs hall, but a much loved rubber plant.
27-12 Where has it all gone?
So that was Christmas 2008. Well I know I haven’t updated for awhile so I’ll try and recap first and hopefully you will forgive my tardiness. On the 20th December I went to turn on the computer again and, well, nothing to be precise, it’s been broken again. I have no idea why so I just told Hubs and then ignored it. Of course as Hubs had my little computer with him in Antwerp I was left without t’internet till he got back late on the 23rd. In all fairness you haven’t missed very much, Moo had a dreadful cough and didn’t really sleep for 2 nights, then I had a sickness bug and didn’t really sleep for another 2-3 nights so I’ve been very tired and grumpy (especially the night Hubs rang and all I could hear was a bunch of crazy Belgians singing ‘a viva espagna’ at max volume). On the 22nd I started to feel vaguely human again and managed to sleep, so went out on the 23rd to finish my Christmas shopping and I finally managed to get e pressie for Hubs – hurrah! Then it was home, eat, then off to Le Mans to get Hubs. It’s defiantly silly season for driving lots of nut bags on the road a fact compounded by the sighting of around 10 ambulances on the journey (on a normal journey we would be lucky to see 1), and the fact that someone nudged into the back of me while I was driving along towards a roundabout. They do like driving up close here, but this was a little too close. No damage to Gordon (or I doubt the other car, but as they didn’t stop I count be sure),I could see him coming so was ready for it, but the other driver got quite a shock when he realised he had made contact, hopefully that made him pay attention for the rest of his journey…. ) Without further incident we made it home and crashed out. A long few days and now the chance to rest at Christmas, well after the late night assembly of Moo’s Present – I emptied the box, took one look at all the bits, called over Hubs and went to put the kettle on. And after that it really was restful and peaceful, and the weather was gorgeous. After the grand unwrapping we took the Moo for a ride on her new bike at the local plage, and I have to say that she has taken to it like a natural. Then we had a stroll on the beach then home to eat my own body weight in lovely food! The rest of the day was spent recovering, playing buckaroo and catching up with relatives. Nice. Boxing day isn’t boxing day here just the 26th and we headed off to see if we could get a few bits and bobs in the sales at Le Mans, but we weren’t really in a shoppy kind of mood so we didn’t actually buy anything for us, just bits to fix the computer (which took some days yet…) and by the time we were returning it had grown dark and I made the rather disturbing discovery that I only had one headlight in full working order so the driving was a little more arduous than usual, but we made it and after moo had gone to bed attempted to watch what Hubs says is a brilliant film, Frost Nixon, but after many failed attempts we gave up and reverted to Star wars Lego. A great way to lose hours of your life, but great fun too. Hubs bought us a new game for Christmas and we are battling through it at the moment s I’ll let you know how we get on, (although I will be avoiding ‘HOTH’ till we have gained invincibility). All in all I can say that we had a very merry Christmas and we are most defiantly looking forward to a peaceful new year.

A Bientot.

 

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