A Brief look back at 2013

Tuesday 31st December

A momentous year in some ways, culminating in getting married.  And at my age, can you imagine that.  And at this time of reflection what do we really think of the year just gone?  Not too much really, politically it was a frustrating year; the economy finally turned a corner and yet for the vast majority of people it feels just as bad.  Labour frustratingly and tantalizingly showed flashes of genius and instant popularity, but only glimpses.  The real story was the rise and rise of UKIP.  I may be wrong but this time I suspect they will really start to make headway.   And while it may help Labour in some seats they are stealing votes from them too.  It is as if a dam is slowly bursting, and it is at last respectable to be anti-immigration, which in it’s turn is simply a euphemism for racism, especially against Muslims.  And that is really depressing.

House prices are starting to rise again, and this against the shadow, the threat, the elephant in the room of interest rates being kept like some sort of pressure cooker lid, offering us all the illusion of cheap money.  I can’t help thinking it will all turn out badly.

A degree of skepticism is creeping in too about climate change.  Fracking holds an illusive promise of cheap energy, but at what environmental cost one wonders?

And so I could go on.  I won’t be sad to see the back of 2013.  2014?  Who knows, could be better…could be worse.

A Very Pleasant Day

Monday 30th December

Issigiac in the morning; market day, and this has always been one of our favourite markets.  It was fairly quiet, especially compared to the summer when this is the busiest market for miles around.  Still some nice stalls and some good regional produce.  Issigiac tends to be a bit touristy, a bit arty, with some lovely little shops selling handmade clothes and pottery.  We bought a Jaloussie and an Amande Croissant in the Boulangerie and took them to a nice café we like.  Here in France it is quite okay to take your own food into a café, they don’t mind a bit, whereas in England you wouldn’t dream of it.

We had been invited round to some people we met last year in Eymet for dinner, and had a lovely meal with them.  They had also invited an Australian couple who had just bought a house in Eymet too, so lots to talk about.  We have made more friends here in just eighteen months than either of us ever made in London in forty years.  Maybe it is that we are all ex-pats, maybe it is the food and wine, maybe just the very sociability of the place.  Whatever it is, it seems that people are just far less reserved and will talk to and make friends much easier than back in England.

Both of these couples have given up everything, in England and Australia, to start new lives in their retirement here in France.  We on the other hand are still using our house as a holiday home.  It is very tempting to think about doing the same and living here permanently, but somehow I think we won’t.  We both like enough about England to want to spend at least part of our lives there.   And it is the very contrast, between our busy lives in London and the peace and quiet here that we love.   I am not sure that a life of doing very little but eating and drinking and socializing is what either of us really wants.   Maybe if we had a definite project, such as developing a property or a small business, then it could work.  Still a couple of years or so to make our minds up, meanwhile we have the best of both worlds.

Pity About The Weather

Sunday 29th December

I was feeling decidedly better.  No sign of a headache and though a few nasty coughing spells in the night and a runny nose this was certainly an improvement.  But I know from my partner who I must presume did me the kindness of road-testing this cold before passing it on to me that it can hang around for weeks.  But if this is as bad as it gets I am okay with that.  But oh – what a poor day weather-wise.  So far it had been quite sunny each day, an occasional shower, but a clear clean feel in the air.  Today it rained. Il Pleut.  All day long, persistent rain and cold and dark broody skies.  You just know that this isn’t going to clear up at all.  I suppose it must be the tail-end of the storms Britain suffered on Boxing Day.  Luckily there was no wind at all driving the rain, but I still felt cold outside.  We like to do Villereal on a Saturday, they have a nice market and a coffee shop full of noisy bustling French people where you start to feel really at one with the locals.

We wandered from one rain-sodden stall to another, everything looked damp and dreary.  My feet, my own personal Achilles heel, got colder and colder.  I was wrapped up warmly but when my feet get cold the rest of me suffers.  I cannot abide cold feet, and spend ages choosing thermal socks each year.  To little avail, I just think I have poor circulation in the feet department.  Anyway all the way home despite the car heater on full I felt cold.  And it was off to bed and another sleep before I got warm again.

So, the days drift by here in our idyllic little French paradise, even the hours seem to drift slowly by, whereas in London it is always rush and bustle.  And despite having a cold we are quite happy here.  I did download some bank transactions for one Restaurant and did about an hour of work and the thought of returning even though four days off is a bit daunting.  I can see us spending more and more time out here as the years go by.

Slight Improvement

Saturday 28th December

I woke up grotty, just as I had gone to bed grotty, and then took a Cocodomol and went  back to bed for a couple of hours.  I could just about cope with the blocked nose and sore throat and phlegmy cough, it was the headache that was the killer.  And unlike me, I hadn’t packed any Neurofen.  I find these days that when I get an approaching Migraine headache it is only Neurofen that will shift it.

We went for a walk in the afternoon, and despite feeling awful the warm Winter sunshine felt good.  I called in at the Pharmacie and was as usual surprised to find it packed.  The French do love their pharmacies, which always seem terribly expensive to me.  The same French women who will baulk at paying more than a euro for a lettuce in the market will happily pay ridiculous sums for all sorts of lotions and potions in the pharmacie.  I managed to persuade the woman to give me 12 Neurofen, which are only issued here on doctor’s advice.

I took two on returning home and took myself back to bed. My head was pounding, I was cold and shivering despite a quilt and two covers and was just drifting off to sleep when I heard people talking downstairs.  Some people we met last New Year’s Eve had called round to see us.  I literally dragged myself out of bed and downstairs.  And surprisingly after ten minutes or so I started to brighten up.  Ad then all of a sudden the headache was gone, and I felt so much better.

I can put up with a runny or blocked nose, I am used to a sore throat and know it will pass, but that battering headache is just too much for me.  So, at last I am feeling a bit better, let’s hope tomorrow is  better still.

Feeling Grotty – Write Your Own Blog

Friday 29th December

Here are the words to use, in no particular order:

Sore Throat; Blocked Nose, Headache, Achey Limbs, Head in a Blanket…..

At last and two weeks late my partner’s vicious cold which certainly laid her low has finally blossomed.  Christmas Eve I felt that first tickle in the back of the throat; yesterday I felt a bit groggy all day and put it down to an excess of Vin Chaud.  But this morning it was a struggle to raise my head from the pillow.

Spent a lot of the day sleeping, either in a chair with a throw thrown over me, or in bed itself.  So, hardly a blog at all today I am afraid.

Tomorrow is another day – who knows – I may be feeling better.

The Reinvention of the Outside Toilet

Thursday 26th December

My Nana used to have an outside toilet, in the winter it was bloody freezing and you didn’t hang around.  A quick poo and grab a sheet of torn-up newspaper, wipe, throw and yank the chain with nary a glance over your shoulder.  And the house I had in Leyton also had an outside loo, rarely used until we had the side boxed in as a conservatory and the loo, now part of the house, was renovated and renamed the downstairs toilet.

Here in Eymet we have the guest room in the garden and separated from the house by about 10 yards of paving slabs.  It was an empty storage room but we had electricity and water and a shower, hand-basin and loo installed.  And now it is our very own outside toilet.  When we have no guests we often use it (it might be considered churlish to dash in there while they were asleep). And it is simply brilliant.  Unheated and obviously not part of the house you can have a quiet moment’s reflection while the colder temperature of the place doesn’t half help the business in hand.  Also because it is separated from the main house you aren’t bothered by how much smell you create in the process.

When indoor lavatory’s became the norm everyone literally turned their back on the old-fashioned outdoor khazi, but in their way they were a great invention.  Like animals we don’t actually like to poo in our own dens, so what could be more civilized than a short walk outside to have a poo.  Of course weeing is far more acceptable to do indoors; the indoors loo is just one step up from the potty, which again we used at Nana’s; thankfully it was her task to collect and empty them each morning.  I imagine that quite a lot of couples don’t always flush after peeing, especially when you have crept out at three in the morning and don’t want to wake your partner.  But if you need a poo at that time, the outdoor loo is a Godsend, you can make as much noise as you like, stentorian farting included, safe in the knowledge that no-one can hear you.  Have a nice day.

And a Merry Christmas to All

Wednesday 25th December

At last you can breathe a sigh of relief, the turkey, (or in our case the roast chicken) is in the oven, the potatoes and parsnips are par-boiled, the sprouts are ready too.  The great thing is that despite only having six different cheeses and a mere five chutneys and the fruit and nuts are looking a bit depleted after last night’s binge you can actually say “Christmas shopping is over until next year”.  At last.  Now open those presents and tut-tut at the socks and gloves you have been bought, when you spent so much time and effort in finding exactly the perfect present for the perennial sock-giver.  Sit back with a glass of Champagne (we are in a recession after all) and flick through channel after channel of rubbish looking for just something that might be a touch entertaining.

The weather outside is frightening, throw another log on the fire, or turn the thermostat up a notch, pour yourself just one more glass of port to go with the only six cheeses and crackers, adjust the paper hat slightly over your eyes, and drift off into a well-deserved nap.

That’s what I’ll be doing, so Bonne Noel, Joyeaux Fetes, and Bonne Annee too.  Twenty Fourteen is just around the corner, yet I can still remember as a boy looking at the date 2000, and wondering – I would be forty-nine then, what on earth would life be like.  Not so bad as it turned out.  But it goes bloody quickly I can tell you, so enjoy it while it is here. Merry Christmas to you all.

Sorry About the Weather

Tuesday 24th December

Driving down we had strong wind and rain north of Paris, just like in England but by the time we hit the Loire it was sunny.  Down here in Eymet yesterday it was a clear bright crisp Winter’s day.  And we turned on the news to discover that the weather was awful back home.  Torrential rain and wind, trees blown down, travel disrupted, trains cancelled and a pretty miserable time for you all.  Despite and trying to suppress that slight vicarious pleasure one feels in London when for example it shows Scotland knee deep in snow, we do feel sorry for you.  If it is any compensation we will be receiving the tail-end of the storm in a couple of days or so.  But so far the weather here has been good, cold at night and an occasional shower but mostly bright.

Yesterday we stocked up on food, potatoes, real carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, choux de bruxelles, cauliflower, dried dates and figs, olives and all sorts of little luxuries.  We unpacked our little tree and put it in the window.  It is one of those led built-in jobbies, with different coloured lights flashing at different times.  A bit dizzying and almost hypnotic if you look at it too long.

We are having a problem with the heating, as the oil-filled radiators keep knocking out the circuits, but we are off today to buy le solution Francais – le Calor Gas Heater.

So we will be snug as bugs in a rug, which we hope you will be too even in your stormy weather.

Triathlon Complete – Nous Sommes en France

Monday 23rd December

The Marathon is over, at least for 2013.  The last two momentous weeks are complete.  Having the family meal, the moving of the furniture, the making-up of the chairs, the cooking for seventeen sitting down for lunch, the exchange of presents, our announcement, then the remaining few days at work, Christmas parties, Friday – day of all days, the frantic getting dressed, the last minute dash out for new tights for my partner, the wedding itself, completely unrehearsed and barely thought about, the photo’s, the breakfast in the park, the getting ready for the evening party, the cooking of the huge gammon, the laying the buffet table, the welcoming of guests, the rushing around as wine waiter, the announcement of our matrimonial state, the making of endless lattes, the dropping exhausted into bed at 1.00 a.m., the clearing up, the washing of glasses, the trip to the dump, the moving back of furniture, the loading the car, the cleaning the house, the early to bed, the even earlier getting up, the filling of the thermos flasks, the drive to Folkestone, the two hour wait because of technical difficulties in the tunnel, the long drive through France, the rain, the sunshine, the rain again, the nightfall, the last stop, the first sign for Bergerac, the first sign for Eymet, the arrival at our home, the switching on of heaters, that first fresh cup of tea, the emptying of the car, the slog up to bed….

And now all is calm in our little French home, slowly getting warm.  Rested, relaxed, showered and warm and ready to buy a few goodies for Christmas itself, which compared to the Triathlon we have just completed should be a quiet little affair.  We hope.

No Real Blog Today

Sunday 22nd December

Up at 3 a.m.  And away by 4.00

Waited at Chunnel for 2 hours as there was a delay

Half way to Paris – just managed to get an internet connection, so this is all for today

Sorry folks.

Part 3 of the Triathlon is in progress.

More tomorrow