Saturday, 15 July 2017

Lunch out

Friday 14th July
An even bigger trip today. We drove to Lalinde via St Foy where there are roadworks. I mention them because the traffic lights display the time you have to wait before it is your turn to drive off (which I think is a very good idea and worth adopting in England) We arrived with a couple of minutes to wait, and the car before us in the queue had roared by us several miles back! He must have waited maybe four or five minutes..

It was a perfect day for walking Tim along the canal with its huge trees – I’m never sure if it is a river or a canal. There are lock gates, but it also seems to be an off shoot of the Dordogne which is not 500 yards away. The sun was shining, but the heat was not as excessive as it has been lately. We chatted with a lady who turned out to be one of a group called Les Temoins de Jehovah. Of course, Tim was the attraction.

Then we turned back into town and headed for the market square. Lunch service was beginning, so we chose a quiet corner by a pillar under the old market hall (called the Halle) roof and sat back to enjoy the surroundings. http://www.northofthedordogne.com/lalinde.php

We knew it was Bastille Day, and were not surprised that the shops were closed and a band struck up the Marseilais (must check the spelling!) by the town’s flag draped war memorial. The pompiers de Lalinde made some kind of impromptu parade – or maybe they were just passing through and decided to open their windows and yell something en Francais!

When we order our food and drinks, the waiter, unasked, brought a bowl of water for Tim and he very nearly drained it. Bill ordered a wild mushroom omelette and I chose Fish and Chips. Yes, I know,, but I wanted to see how it would be presented. We waited a long time for it. Pizzas came out faster for people who arrived after us, but there was no hurry. My fish was very white, tasted lovely, and had a very light batter. Frites in a cone came with it, plus a single carrot served with its stalk stub, a little green salad and thinly sliced courgette and lemon, plus a herby sauce. Delicious. I ate every scrap except for feeding Tim a few frites. It kept him quiet instead of threatening to pounce on the pigeon that wandered too close to our table.

We walked down to the river, which is running faster than we’ve ever seen it in many years of visits. Usually there are sandbanks and lots of weed clumps, but right now the water is flowing very fast bank to bank. Lots and lots of swans on the opposite bank where the trees swoop down to the water – a whole flock of swans - maybe fifty or seventy, just cruising the shallows. 

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Discoveries

Thursday 13th July
Tuesday we finally made that trip into Vergt, primarily to make an appointment with the vet for Tim’s exit examination. It has to be within 72 hours of getting back to England, so we prefer to book ahead rather than risk the vert being out on a house call or something other animal emergency. Though I suppose if it were an emergency, he’d still go and we’d have to wait!)


We walked around, discovered there’s a circus in town and spent a good half hour over a drink in the cafĂ© in the square.  It is decorated and there is a large banner proclaiming Fete du gras et truffe (if I have correctly remembered the French!)

When we set off for home, we took a new route through Fouleix, and discovered a huge hole in the ground being dug. As big as an Olympic swimming pool, if not bigger. It is the same shape as the “irrigation ponds” we see in the fields, but a whole lot bigger. It deserved to be called a reservoir and it seemed as if the men of the commune were doing it themselves. The odd thing is the position of it – not in a valley as you might expect, but on the top of a hill. The region is famous for the strawberry, and over the years we have been coming, the strawberry fields have expanded enormously. Perhaps their demand for water has necessitated the construction of the new water reservoir. It’s a theory, but I can’t substantiate it!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Bones in the field

Wednesday 12th July
No editing for a couple of days. Not a deliberate decision, but it just did not happen. Other things have got in the way, that’s all. On Sunday we noticed that Tim kept disappearing into the hedge that borders the field side of the mill stream at every opportunity, and when I say disappeared, I really mean it. The “hedge” is taller than me and who knows how wide? To follow the small tunnels made by foxes and the like, I’d need a machete to slash through the bramble spikes and thorn bushes, and a plastic suit to prevent the poison ivy stings. Then there’s the stream in the middle – how deep? Deeper than wellies? Or just mud and sludge where the reeds have taken over?

A day or two before this I walked Tim around the wilderness corner of the garden near the bonfire. It is the other side of the hedge I have just described, and because two streams meet there it is often too wet and muddy to risk bogging the tractor down when the rest of the grass gets cut. So he stood there in the long grass like a pointer, staring into the far corner where the streams meet. Then he barked. Long and hard. He wouldn’t go near, so being me, discretion took over and we retreated.

So to Monday afternoon and our walk around the lake. Coming back to the house, Tim suddenly races off and does a right turn into the farmer’s field which is greening up nicely after the hay has been cut. Races alongside the hedge and then turns sharp left and out into the middle of the field,  flops down and all I can see is his head and the line of his back. I whistled. I called, he ignored me. Was he hurt, injured? Had a snake bitten him? (There are snakes. Tim disturbed one in a ditch once and it lashed out and bit Bill in the calf, but with no dire results.) Thinking an adder might have bitten him, or he’d broken his leg in a mouse hole, I set off across the field in my wellies.

Two hundred yards later, when I was within ten yards of him, he looked up, a bone dangling from his jaws. Then he leapt up and danced away from me, flopped down again. I followed him. Same thing repeated. Again and again, he ran ten yards and went back to eating. 

Furious calls of "Tim!" brought Bill, who approached from the other side but with the same result. What looked like the leg of a bird – duck, chicken, heron? – had evidently been killed, possibly inside the hedge and now foxes were carrying the bones onto the field to eat them. Tim was scooping up the still bloody left overs. We couldn’t catch him, and there's nothing more annoying than a normally obedient dog who comes when you call than a dog who wilfully disobeys you; we got so annoyed and frustrated we abandoned him and went back to the house. Within two minutes of our disappearing from view, I heard the tinkle tinkle of his name tags as he raced back across the field towards home.


We kept him on the lead for the rest of the day, because he has figured out that he can escape from the enclosed garden by going up the steps, along the garden strip above the pool and down and out through the gap at the other end. Then he’s free to explore all of France if he fancies it.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Strange creatures

Saturday 8th July
Quite busy editing – a good chunk done, and an emotional one, not easy to do in case the whole thing is ruined. But I think it is tighter now and better for it. I’ve deleted upwards of 40k words, so if I feel the story needs a little more exposition or internal dialogue, I add that. We’re hovering at 103k words now for the whole thing, which is about where I want to be.

It’s been a cloudy morning, and I walked Tim on the road, on a lead, up the hill towards Monsieur Lambert’s farm. The farmers have suddenly sprung into life around us and they’re nipping about with small tractors spiking a couple of hay bales from the field and chugging off down the road with  the bales held before them. When the sun is out and its over 34 degrees, the whole valley is silent and still.


I’ve been curious about something that wanders about the area. Animal, since it moves. Strong enough to dig a hole about the size of a tin of Heinz baked beans in the hay field and then crap in it. Perfect aim. Dark coloured, with lots of cherry stones. I recognise deer poo when I see it, but deer don’t dig holes and anyway it’s a different shape and consistency. I found another hole, near the little stone bridge, as I walked up to the farm this morning, Fresher, with no cherry stones. 

So I came home and googled for info, not really expecting anything to come up in answer to “animal that digs holes to defecate” but right away the answer came back: a badger. I’m relieved. I had been worried it might be wild boar and I didn’t want Tim (or me) to suddenly come face to face with one of them. Surrounded as we are by miles of woodland, they are bound to be nearby, but I’ve never seen one. The hunters go out after them in the autumn/winter season. There are tales galore about more hunters being wounded by gunshot than boar being killed, but I don’t know how true they are.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Ants and prize money

Wednesday 5th July
You should never complain about the weather. Today was uncomfortably hot and tomorrow promises to be the same. 35 degrees is forecast. I don’t know why, but we don’t stand the heat as well as we used to. Perhaps being down here in the valley, where we rarely get a breeze, has something to do with it. On the coast or the hills there’s usually a wind, but not here. Tim lolls about like the proverbial loppy dog. (Not that he is loppy, naturally.)

Last evening we came indoors because there was a plague of flying ants dive bombing the pool and surrounding area. Today watching Wimbledon, what do I see but flying ants? Sam Smith commented that when the queen leaves the nest they all go walkabout, but I don’t know how true that is. Is it possible they’re all in tune with one another? They’re here on Monday evening but by Wednesday those that didn't drown in our pool are causing havoc at Wimbledon.


So happy to see Rafa through to the third round, but not pleased with these people – 8 of them – who went into their matches knowing they carried an injury and would not complete the match. Klizan has had the same injury for 2 months, and one woman played while four and a half months pregnant. She didn’t tell anyone until the match was over. They must be doing it to get the £35,000 prize money, which they may very well need, but the people who have queued for hours and paid for their ticket are being cheated. Centre Court hosted two of the biggest names, Djokovic and Federer, and both of them faced players who quit early. How can they deserve the prize money?

Wildlife

Monday 3rd July
At last, a day with no rain. Just as well, since Bill ran out of socks this morning and I had no more clean tee shirts. So I hung out a wash load and kept my fingers crossed. All was well. The skies may have been grey, but it was warm and there was a breeze which sweeps through just where the washing line is strung between the house and the tree. Things dried easily enough so we can dress decently once more.  As an aside, the insecticide I bought and did not know what to do with worked wonders when I sprayed the washing line with it. Ants, nimble as acrobats, marched along from the tree to the house and then up the vertical wall and into the roof. What they do in there is anybody's guess, but then they march down again and cross the washing line - all thirty feet of it - back to the tree. I didn't like the idea of my washing having ants all over it. Within hours the march of the ants stopped. One or two still go up the wall, but they go by a different route now.

The drive is now cleared back by a couple of yards. It looks better, and the only downside is the size of the bonfire by the stream where all the cleared out shrubbery is rotting down.

The Tour de France is going by not too far away on the 11th, but I don’t think we’ll be there in support. We did wait for ages one year and in less than a minute the riders had gone by and disappeared. Like many sports, a better view is obtained by watching on television. Wimbledon begins tomorrow. I may go into Vergt tomorrow with Bill. While he does a grocery shop, I shall walk Tim around the town. It is bigger than I first thought, and full of interesting buildings and odd little sidestreets.


http://www.vergt-perigord.fr/fr/information/64908/etymologie-vergt There is some history of the town on this website, and it will test your knowledge of French!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Dark clouds

Those dark clouds have been sailing up and down the valley constantly for the past few days but luckily we've had no more crashes of thunder. We are all going stir crazy because every time we nip outside in a sunny intervals, down comes the rain again! The fields are soggy in places, the stream is roaring through and the calves that are being born in the next field are getting a damp start in life. There is at least one fledgling bird scuttling about the hedgerow – out of its nest somehow, maybe in the strong gusts of wind that thrash the trees about just before the rain comes.


I’ve been thinking about Lee Child’s advice with the book I’m editing in mind. Happily there are questions – of course the biggest question of all is will Finlay win the crown of Alba? But there are smaller questions littered throughout on more personal questions of love and loyalty. 

As I'm writing a faint ray of sunshine has found me through the window. Immediately my spirits lift. The birds are singing outside and it strikes me that they've been silent for a while. Bill is off to do some work. Tim is determined to go with him. 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Thunderstorms

More cloudy days. Today (28th June) the rain and sunshine alternate. The dark clouds that went west down the valley yesterday are now travelling east again and we’ve just had some crashes of thunder. Luckily Bill did a hedge-hacking stint early this morning and I did one after lunch. So the work progresses in spite of the weather.

No sign of the farmers today. But Bill did find the tomato plant – with one single tomato - that our friend planted in the garden way back in March! I took a photo of it. Unfortunately we have no idea what a courgette plant looks like, so we haven’t found it yet.


I got three chapters edited this morning. Sometimes I wonder if they are too short, but hey – what is the optimum length for a chapter? I think it all depends on the content and when the moment comes to pose the question so the reader wonders what happens next. 

Lee Child has an interesting note at the end of Night School on How to Create Suspense. My copy doesn’t have it, but the copy here does. He thinks it’s a misleading question, as if one were to bake a cake and success depends on the best ingredients. Authors then set about creating interesting characters with dangers and peril etc whereas he thinks the author should try and make the reader hungry and then make them wait hours for dinner. ie Novelists should ask a question at the beginning of the story and then not answer it. Page to page, line to line, imply a question and then answer it later. That way, people get to the end of the book because they want to know the answer.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Changes

More cloudy days. Yesterday (27th June) we did what I call the monastery circuit. We walked up the hill to the Gite Rural, along the top road towards the monastery and then down the hill to meet the road to Laurent de Batons. We met two other dog walkers, one Dutch, one English and Tom whizzed by in his van. By the time we walked along the bottom road it was ten past nine and starting to get really warm. Tim has been quiet all day after that walk but it totalled on 7,200 steps on my pedometer.

Early evening the thunder storm began just as we were sitting down on the bolly to eat our lapin casserĂ´le. Tim was frightened, but then became so interested in the rabbit stew that he ignored the thunder crashes. Later still the rain started, but it wasn’t the full on rainstorm we’ve seen here in other years.

 I’ve intended to try cooking rabbit for a ong, and finally did so. I followed a recipe in the Slow Cooker recipe book and marinated the meat in fruity red wine. It turned purple in colour and looked truly revolting, but frying it improved the colour to a dark brown – nothing like the photo in the recipe book! How they got it to be golden brown after a red wine marinade, I have no idea. After four hours in the slow cooker on the bolly it smelled delicious. We found it very tasty. Not unlike a meaty chicken, but not as dry.


Farmers were rushing about collecting hay bales while the thunder crashed. It has rained through the night and today the pool is rather full and the fields are greening up almost as we watch. I doubt we’ll go far today, but I should get lots of editing done.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Exploring

We had a cloudy day yesterday (25th June). The temperature dropped to a mere 28. Inside the mill, it dropped to 24.5 which was really comfortable. So we did some work – sweeping, dusting, tidying up for me and working on the hedge for Bill.

The water in the pool was still silky warm, but today it felt a good deal cooler. Refreshing and still a lovely treat. I took Tim across the stream this morning and had a plod around the field where the farmer was bashing the hedge to bits. He has been back and baled his hay, so I felt he wouldn’t mind. We don’t trample around hay fields, but wait until they’re cut and baled. I Googled  laws of trespass in France last year and couldn't find any. As long as we don’t do damage, it seems we can wander. On the practical side, I would never wander where there is livestock, because the local cattle are big beasts and don’t look friendly.


Sad to say, the newly cut field beyond the stream was uninteresting. Tim loved it, lots of new smells to explore. It proved to be almost two fields in the shape of a letter B. Imagine the I is the stream, and the bottom curve is the partly open segment from which the sparse road traffic can be seen whizzing along. The hidden segment must have been wonderful for the local deer and foxes – a perfect hideaway surrounded by trees. It will be again when the grasses grow. Although it has not rained for days, the stream is higher than it was, a good inch or two higher. I suppose the water must come up via springs. The springs in the field beside the house have never stopped running no matter how hot it was.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Lalinde

After my sad attempt at shopping in French supermarkets we decided to return home via Lalinde, which is a lovely little town on the Dordogne. It was 39 degrees at 11am and the heat hit us when we got out of the car. It was market day and the main car park was full of market stalls selling everything from strawberries to vintage dresses, but we found a spot by the lake.

We soon discovered the streets were too full of people and dogs to walk comfortably through with Tim, so we dived down a side-street. We stayed in the shade where we could as we made our way down to the pharmacie on the corner of the main square. DH and Tim stayed in the shade while I bought my Insect Ecran Familles. I asked for what I wanted in a mixture of French and charades, but the girl understood me! The Marie Rose cream they did not stock.

Across the road from pharmacie was the boulanger so I rushed in and bought some bread for lunch. Once I found Tim and DH again, lurking in the shade, we decided that the peace and quiet of home was very appealing. We drove to St Foy with the road to ourselves, and then on to St Felix and only met one other vehicle – naturally, in the most narrow part of the road.

Swimming this afternoon was amazing. The water was almost warm so I slid in without my usual hovering on the steps while I nerve myself for the cold shock of hitting the water. Delightful experience. How wonderful to have a pool of one’s own, even if it is for only a few weeks of the year.

As we cooked our beef burgers on the barbie (before you scoff, let me say that French burgers are so much better than the usual English fare. Here, they are made of beef and nothing else), we heard a tractor and a dreadful crashing noise. Sounded as if the tractor was in the field at the back the house, and when we looked across the lower patio, it almost was. The tractor was cruising the far side of the stream and bashing down the undergrowth, so now there is a view across into the fields beyond the stream. Since the stream itself is barely an inch deep though still running fast and clear, I could be tempted to get my wellies and explore next time Tim and I walk around the lake.

Our early morning walk was concluding about half six or so when we stepped onto the road between the fields and stopped in amazement. A deer bounded into view only ten or twelve yards away. Fortunately I had Tim on the lead just in case some white van drove along (they all drive like maniacs here). So we stood absolutely still, even Tim, and the deer stared back at us for a few seconds and then trotted off and bounded back into the woodland. I think it was a small Munckjack (?) certainly not a roe or red deer, but a lovely thing to see.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Shopping en France

According to the thermometer in Lalinde, it was 39 degrees today (22nd June) at 11am. Still no rain, no wind, no clouds. It was joy to drive to Bergerac and then on to Lalinde because we could enjoy the air conditioning in the car! So cool, so wonderful. 

I wanted to buy fly repellent, skin lotion and anti-moustiques cream, plus a bottle of wine to replace the one we drank the first night we were here. The wine was the easiest thing to find in the Bergerac wine section because the bottle was on display, but I failed absolutely to find a Marie Rose mosquito repellent, though I did find what I think were lotions against head lice. Not quite what I wanted.

Then the fly spray; there was one here last year, so I know they exist but in the whole of Monsieur LeClerc’s fine supermarket I could not find a similar household spray. I came out with something called Stop Insects that promised to kill mosquitos, flying ants, cockroaches and the like. Then I went to look for the apres sun lotion. Again zilch. Sun tanning lotion everywhere, but no apres soleil in sight. I gave up and bought a tube of good old Nivea to stop my skin wrinkling up in all this heat.

At home with the dictionary I discovered the Stop Insect was not quite what I thought. It kills the creepy crawlers, but by spraying the curtains, window uprights, doors, tables, pool surrounds etc etc. Not sure what to do with it now.
On the wildlife front I found the desiccated corpse of a five inch lizard languishing in the bottom of an empty blue glazed planter. I wonder if I could fill these somehow, so that they are not death traps? Poor thing must have starved to death. At least I could turn them upside down.


Another problem is that the men who come and remove the dustbin bags have not appeared so far. We remember they came on Wednesday around 10.30, but something must have happened to the schedule, or else they’re not doing it in this heat. It really is extraordinary.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Night activity

the bolly
Another day with 36 degrees forecast. We are longing for rain! Or at least cooler days, some cloud, some wind. We’re not eating much in the way of dinners, but Magnums from the freezer are most welcome mid-afternoon. That’s when I swim. 

Yesterday the tiles around the pool were too hot to walk on, so it was a mad dash out of the shade of the bolly to the edge of the pool! If this weather continues, and it is forecast at over 30 until next Monday, I shall be an accomplished swimmer before we go home.

The late evenings are very pleasant. We switch between the bolly and the balcony in the hope of catching a breeze. The farmer turned up at 10pm last night, headlights on his tractor and we thought he must be about to move his hay bales. He did the turning and baling after eight o'clock at night earlier this week and finished with two tractors whirling around in the dark with headlights glaring. Rather like watching huge fireflies flitting about. If he did, he took only one (we couldn’t actually see what he was doing because of the rather large and healthy pine tree) before he roared off back up the hill to the north. Next morning the bales were still in the field.

Two mornings ago I saw a young fox racing away from us as Tim and I returned to the house, and yesterday evening it was a small deer that legged it at the first sight of us as we left the house. Tim saw neither – some dog he! I’m pleased, actually, because if he had seen it, he’d have chased it. He nearly broke his lead this morning to attack something (unseen) in the hedge at the end of the drive. Naturally, I saw nothing, and he never caught anything. Maybe it was the scent of the deer. Or the fox.

I’ve finished reading a Jack Reacher I brought with me – Without Fail. Interesting story but a tad long-winded on the explanations, but isn't that typical Lee Child? It struck me yesterday that he's becoming more like Sherlock Holmes in the way he makes his deductions about what villains will do or why they do it. Intriguing to read, but must be annoying to have someone like that in real life! I found one of his titles  I hadn't read - Night School - on the shelves here, so I'm reading that now.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Hotter still!

33 degrees forecast yesterday, and 38 actually recorded. Today 35 is forecast, so we’ll see how high it goes. We get up early, around half six and I walk Tim well before seven. Then we do everything to keep the house as cool as we can. After that it is read, relax, swim and sunbathe – and go indoors when the heat is too much!

The second edit on Alba is Mine is going well. DH did a second day working on the overgrown hedge and has given himself a day off today. Actually he is on his way to the supermarket to do a grocery shop as we’ve eaten everything in the house. Tim is squealing as the car goes down the drive – worried that his dad is going and might not come back Or – why am I not going with you, dad?


I’ve been reading After You by Jojo Moyes and enjoyed it. It’s the same kind of writing style as Barbara Erskine – easy, effortless, uncontrived yet the reader keeps wanting to turn pages. 

The pic? That's my shadow taken yesterday!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

It's Hot!

Had my first swim yesterday. We’ve arrived after a thunderstorm, so according to the forecast, the next few days are going to get hotter and hotter. The curtains are closed to keep out the sun, and we sleep with the windows open and the shutters closed. That keeps us at a comfortable temperature as the heat of the day disappears. It seems amazing but at half six in the morning, when we wake, it is shivery cold. Soon warms up though.

Already, at nine fifteen in the morning, I have come indoors into the cool because it is too hot to pull the weeds out of the steps down to the lower patio. By weeds, I mean three foot lengths of Virginia creeper and ivy, and those horrid weeds that look like maroon spiders and grow to enormous size with tiny pink flowers. Not to mention the ants that scuttle away every time I uproot something. Somehow I don’t feel guilty about them, but I was sad to see two pathetically small lizards dead in a garden jug that had half filled with water. When I emptied it, a live fully grown lizard swept out with the water. Green and gold, he sparkled and glittered in the sunshine before he raced away into the undergrowth. Perhaps I saved his life. Anyway the earthen ware jug now sits upside down so nothing else can fall in and find itself unable to get out.


I am about to begin a second edit on Alba is Mine, after re-writing the first scene yet again. DH is out hacking merry hell out of the overgrown hedge that runs beside the drive. He did this yesterday, cleared a strip about twenty yards long and fell asleep after dinner and slept all through the night too! Must be the fresh air.