Sunday, 17 July 2016

Summer reading

Saint-Georges-de-Monclard, sometimes spelled Monclar, is a small commune with less than 300 inhabitants. The centre of the village has a great deal of history with the 11th century chateau, which has been remodelled several times over the centuries, the 12th century hall, period houses where you can see old wooden balconies and stone columns on the terraces of the first floor and the chapel of the Sainte Thérèse Montclar. So far I have not found out anything about Sainte Therese, but I’ll keep trying.

The weather has hit a high note today with an outside temperature of 31 degrees. It is really too hot to do anything remotely active so we’re lurking indoors where it is a comparatively cool 24 degrees. It has been a very sunny week, and probably because of that I’ve finished two books I ordered on Kindle – Lake House by Kate Morton and The Hard Way by Lee Child. Both very good in their different ways and good purchases. When the weather is cooler we’re out and bout pruning and weeding and walking Tim, but not in this heat. He doesn’t want to go anyway – except to jump in the stream and cool off.

For some reason I veered off writing the new story and began editing The Queen’s Courier AGAIN. This really is the last time. When I get home I shall transfer it to Kindle and publish it. Then I’ll turn my attention back to The Matfen Affair.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


All this holiday Tim has felt it his duty to bark furiously at any strange dog, car, tractor, lorry or cyclist. We don’t see many people simply walking, but he would have barked at them too. But yesterday about five o’ clock as I was starting to prepare our evening meal, there was an odd bark and a strange sound at the door. I looked up, and there was masculine face looking back at me – and not, I hasten to add, my husband.

A handsome young Frenchman had come to call, but the thing was that he didn’t speak English and our pigeon French was not doing too well. Ironic too that after all Tim’s barking, this young man had parked his van half a mile away at the end of the drive, walked all the way to the gate, opened and shut it and crossed the bolly to the door without Tim hearing him! Our faith in his guard dog propensities are shaken! I think he was shocked himself, for he then barked furiously and threatened the stranger with dire threats - none of which dismayed the young man. He was obviously used to dogs, as country people so often are. 

By means of odd words and mime we finally understood that he wanted to
sell us tickets to the fête in St Felix on 31st July! The ticket would have paid for the food on offer. I gather you take a plate and a fork and help yourself to whatever takes your fancy. Unhappily, after all that effort at communication, we will be back in England by then, otherwise we would have gone. The same thing happened last year, but the couple who came then did have a little English and we bought the tickets but would not have been in France on the day. One day we will get there!

Though we’re on holiday we’re watching tv in between bouts of gardening and pruning and lawn cutting because there is always something happening. Cameron hands over to May today, and Labour now has 3 candidates for the leadership of the party. Someone must have wished us with living in interesting times. We’re just about to watch Cameron’s last Question time while we wait to hear who Mrs May appoints to her new government.

Both the old buildings are in Montclard St George.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Kicking Back

Had to be brave and use some French today. We’ve run out of recycle sacs and needed more, so off to the Mairie we drove. Every small village/commune has a Mairie which runs the place and we’d been told that we could get more sacs there. I used Google translator to get a nice, polite sentence in French, copied it down on a piece of paper, and marched up the steps of the smart new building in St Felix de Villadeix. I came back down flushed with success and clutching a big roll of yellow recycle sacs. My prepared sentence worked beautifully, and I adlibbed the rest!

Afterwards we drove to St George de Montclard by way of Rabard, and drove slowly by the house we almost bought about ten years ago. We couldn’t sell our own at the time, so the deal fell through, but it was a lovely house with lots of land. Actually, the recession of 2008 convinced us we had done the right thing in staying in England, and now Brexit is about to reinforce that. There are 129 houses for sale in this commune at the moment, prices ranging from 73,000 euros all the way up to 900,000 euros. No doubt a lot of English who’ve chosen to live here will now be thinking of returning. 

Lots of things that were easy and good in the EU, for travellers and those who chose to buy homes here, may now not be so good – medical attention when required, travel insurance, UK pensions that don’t rise with inflation – in other words, an income that is decreasing rather than keeping pace with the cost of living which is not now that much cheaper in France than in the UK. (Just as an aside I bought a tin of Heinz baked beans in the Intermarche the other day. In the UK it would cost me somewhere in the region of 35p; here it cost me the euro equivalent of £1.25.) The French don't do that kind of bean, though there are lots of other bean choices.

A journalist on the Daily Politic show today called Jeremy Corbyn’s 500,000 supporters “a group hug” which I though a nice way of putting it. His people keep quoting this figure as a reason for staying put at the head of the Labour Party but just don’t seem to realise that he has to get a substantial number of the other 60 million people of voting age in the rest of the country to vote for him as well.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Noises in the morning

We’ve been relaxing and not doing much work the last few days. The little black flies have been horrendous this year, possibly because it is so damp. Lots of rain earlier in the year, but the stream is back to its normal levels now, so Tim is much happier. He didn’t like it when it was so deep. At one point I realised I was wearing long trousers and long sleeves – and still getting bitten! I asked myself why did I come to France? 

Today however, I’m hopeful the worst is over, for the air is much drier and the flies are much fewer. I’m still wearing long trousers, but it is not a conscious decision. Just a left over from a seven o’ clock walk in the dew-wet fields with Tim. We got barked at by something we never saw, lurking in the bushes, and Tim was nervous. I can only assume it was the big dog-fox dh saw when we first arrived. 

So far I haven’t seen any wildlife at all – things just keep making noises in the undergrowth. One morning last week something was hissing and spitting at me and Tim ran ten feet away. That wasn’t a fox, but it might have been a coypou, or an otter? It was on the river bank, in dense undergrowth. I saw grass moving as it vanished, but that was all.

We had a brief spell without the swimming pool. We knew it needed a new part, but were not prepared for the electrician to switch the punp off when he came on Monday. Without the pump the water doesn’t move, flies dive bomb it and little bodies, leaves and stuff floats around on the surface. We had our doubts about the electrician ever returning, but he did today, and with the new part which he fitted and voila! We have a functioning pool once more. I shall have a dip around four this afternoon when it is hot and the water has warmed up in the sunshine. 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Intermarche and Friskies

Had a good time in the Intermarche yesterday. I like French supermarkets, love checking out the kitchen implements section. I found my wine bottle-stoppers and added two blocks of lavender soap and a Petit Marseilles shampoo to my stores. The plastic box section I’ll check out just before we go home! Then off for nectarines, haricot vert, fromage, and saumon among other things. Also sneaked in a box of Pringles, some pain au chocolate and French biscuits.  I also found the squeaky toy for Tim, but it is blue instead of pink. It is a Friskie toy by Purina, but I can't find them in the UK. (The label I removed from it has instructions in every European language - except English!) Now he runs around with it in his mouth, squeaking.

Our early morning walk this morning was extended by two fields – the haymaking now completed. Cut, turned, corralled into lines and baled all in two days! That farmer was working hard. We walk around the perimeter and Tim lopes around investigating every smell, breaks into a gallop, wheels round to investigate something he missed – in other words, he has a great time. The only drawback is that there is a single track road running between the two fields, and though the traffic in this area is minimal, (about six per day!) the minute Tim and I step out, a car appears. Yesterday it was a tractor that roared down on us and he tried to attack it. Fortunately he was on the lead

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Local news

Tim doesn't like the pool
While I was saying the haymaking has not yet begun yesterday, the local farmer must have been studying the sky and maybe the calendar, because just around the time Federer faced 770 ranked Willis across the net, we heard the roar of the tractor. That would be about five thirty in the UK, but around six thirty here. (I have to keep reminding myself that I’m an hour ahead of my friends in the UK. Plays havoc with tv programmes!) Anyway, he spent the evening cutting the hay in two of the three fields and I am not suffering the effects of hayfever!

This is pay-out time for Amazon authors and I’m happy to say the electronic transfer of funds seems to be working very well indeed. Once again there is a small payment via Indian rupees, which makes me very curious as to who in that vast sub-continent is reading my books. Though several people in Australia have bought The Gybford Affair, no one has read it yet. It is amazing the way independent authors can keep track of their business.

We are keeping track of the Brexit fall out via the tv, too. As I’m typing this I’m hearing that Michael Gove has just stuck a knife into his pal Boris, metaphorically speaking, by saying he doesn’t think he can do the job. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Poolside reading

I enjoyed The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. Like The Forgotten Garden, it had a question that kept me reading right to the end, but it was a lot of words to get through. Rather like tackling a Barbara Erskine book, when the reader needs to block out a week, possibly a fortnight, during which the housework goes to pot and nothing gets done until the last page has been devoured. Worth it, but I was very glad I was on holiday and could sit up late reading without worrying about the morning.

While I’ve been here I’ve written two chapters of The Matfen Affair (which might yet be called The Fenwick Affair by the time I get to the end) and finished a plot outline. I’m glad about the latter, as I was worried about where I was going with it next. The Gybford Affair is doing well via KENP with Amazon, so I’d like to get this one out before the end of the year.

Here in France the haymaking has not yet begun and it is the end of June! Actually, two small fields on a hillside which drains well have been cut, but the meadows on the valley bottom have not. They are probably as waterlogged as our lower field, so our walks with Tim are a tiny bit restricted. Not that he suffers, for there is plenty of space for him to enjoy without restriction. The amazing thing is that I haven’t suffered from hay fever this year – not yet! Last year I could hardly step outdoors and had to get help from a very pleasant chemist in Bergerac.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Referendum blues

If the referendum proves anything at all, it is that the country should not have referendums, because people don’t vote on the simple, yes-no question they’re asked. They vote with all sorts of things in their minds, in reaction to all sorts of things in the past and with no real appreciation of the thing they're turning down. There are many hinting now that they wish they had voted the other way, because they never thought that the outcome would be to leave the EU. Duh! They thought they were the only ones to think like that? Really?

What a mess the UK is in now. The PM has all but resigned and wants no part of steering the country through something he never wanted, and why should he? Those who wanted to leave should be the ones with plans ready to take over, but it seems the Gove-Johnstone pair don’t have a plan between them. Farage is nowhere to be seen, but possibly lurks at his local with a pint in his fist. Jeremy Corbyn shambles around saying nothing much and leading no one to the vexation of his Shadow Cabinet who are resigning in droves – 15 up to this point. Corbyn insists he is staying on, no doubt convinced that the Labour Party loves him and will vote him in again if and when there is a General Election, touted as possibly November. It will be a nightmare come true if he is, because it is doubtful he will be able to form an opposition government.

Lawyers are now arguing over Nicola Sturgeon’s gleeful claim that Scotland could veto Brexit because Scotland wants to stay in the EU. South of the border some folk are saying yes – save us from this mess and keep us in the EU. While I might want that, I find it astounding that such a small population could overturn a decision made by a much larger population. Not much democracy there, is there?

Only George Osborne is standing firm, a steady figure in all this chaos. Come on Ms May, and any other suitable Conservative candidate – don’t let either one of that dreadful Brexit pair take over, otherwise we’ll be the laughing stock of Europe if not the world in having a journalist, who fell into politics by mistake, for a PM.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Supermarkets en France

Supermarkets in France are much more tolerant of misshaped vegetables than in the UK. We bought a basket of potatoes the other day and only two of them would have got into Tesco’s racks, yet everyone was firm, fresh and free of eyes. Keep Tesco potatoes a week, even in dark cupboard, and they have eyes sprouting every which way.

Apples are ginormous, with rough, wrinkly skins in some cases, but they taste delicious once peeled. Onions are huge affairs, but bananas are smaller, sometimes greener and come from a French dependency whose name I cannot recall. (I don’t do the shopping – dh does it while I stay back at the mill with Tim, the main reason being that it is too hot to leave him in the car while we both shop. He’d howl if we left him alone at the mill, and though the noise isn’t going to bother anyone, we don’t like to think of him as that stressed because we’ve left him alone in a “strange” place. So I stay and do a general clean up or something until dh returns.)

Meat is different too. French butchers favour different cuts, unfamiliar to us and often in much larger portions than we are used to, with much more fat running through the flesh. I avoid the fish tanks in the larger shops. I appreciate they keep the poor thing “fresh” but it seems barbaric to me to point at one poor crab out of ten or so stumbling around the bottom of a tank and condemn it to death. I’ve never bought one (and never will) so I don’t know if they kill them or give them to you still kicking. All in all it is just as well dh does the grocery shopping.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Goodbye EU

We chickened out on the voting results at midnight and therefore were disappointed this morning when we found the country had voted to leave the EU. Looking at the graphics on tv this morning, it seems that if London, Scotland and Northern Ireland were taken out of the picture, then the Out vote would have been overwhelming. London of course has more foreign than British nationals, so in my view can hardly be counted as representative of the rest of the country. Scotland may have its own agenda and has always clung to the EU. What is surprising is that only 72% of the population turned out to vote.

I don’t blame David Cameron for resigning as Party Leader. Who really would expect him to get the country out of the mess when he worked for the opposite decision? I just hope we don’t find ourselves with Boris as next PM. I can't think of anyone who would make me happy. So the pound has dropped the furthest in 30 years - I wonder how that makes the Brexiters feel?

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Lazy life

We wanted sunshine and now we've got it and we keep coming indoors to cool down! It is so hot I can almost feel my skin sizzling like bacon in the frying pan after sitting in the sun for ten minutes. I don't know if it is the heat, but something is making Tim very restless these last couple of hours. He's barking at everything that moves and some things that don't - and when he does it beneath the bolly the sound echoes tremendously. Perhaps another dog has moved into the area with a holiday family. There don't seem to be many holiday folk around, and there isn't much traffic either. No tractors moving except for the local farmer who feeds his cattle and checks on the calves sometimes twice a day. Looks as if the petrol-diesel scare has put some people off coming south.

Last night we entertained ourselves on the bolly having dinner and a glass of wine and discussed what the French farmers went home to eat after a hard day's work. Would it be the French cuisine we hear so much about, or would it be fish fingers and chips? I hope it is the classic cuisine! We have no way of ever discovering which, of course. (We ate well on French sausages, bacon and mixed salad with chunks of baguette dipped in the Olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar dressing. Yum!)

I have found a good book to read from the resident library - The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. Immensely long and detailed, but with an intriguing story. Still only half way through. The author has certainly not followed the advice that proliferates on the internet about keeping it pacy and cutting out back story and detail. This one is all about back story and detail!

Two sessions of weeding done this morning before 9,30am. Dh is considering cutting the grass, which is getting rather long. Whipping around my knees now, not quite so pleasant early in the morning when it is wet with dew.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Yes, Blogger, it is me!

For Heaven's sake, Blogger! You made me add a new password because you suspected I was not me! I just hope I don't forget this password when I get back home.

Weather slowly improving. Walked Tim to the crossroad early this morning. There’s very little traffic, but I kept him on the long lead just in case I needed to pull him back. Didn’t see or hear a single vehicle. He’s very protective and rushes out at the slightest odd sound, be it the cattle, the farmer’s tractor or a weird bird call he’s not used to hearing. The stream is too deep now for him and very fast running. More of the lower field is saturated, with big puddles joining together.

We’ve collected a big pile of broken branches together so that when Bill takes the tractor out, he doesn’t hear the heart-shocking crunch of wood on metal. And doesn’t the patio look smart now? Discounting the branches and the cuttings, of course.

I've remembered to reduce the pixels for the pic so it uploads faster. I hope it is still clear. 

Saturday, 18 June 2016


Two hours gardening in brilliant sunshine this morning between 9 and 11 o’ clock. We’ve cleared the lower patio, which was slowly disappearing under the plants there and now our only problem is what to do with the cuttings and weeds produced. (I’ll add pictures tomorrow.) Then the rain came down, so we withdrew into the shady interior of the mill and settled down with a cup of tea while we watched the space craft land somewhere in Russia. A blackbird with a beak full of worms is sheltering under a leafy branch and I don’t blame him, because when the rain comes down it comes with some force. Rain is forecast for most of the afternoon, but promises improvement over the next few days. I’ll get on with writing during these dull spots.

I checked my blog for last year and found that the farmers had cut the hay by 5th June, so they are well behind this year. The fields are waterlogged in low-lying areas and none of the local meadows have been cut. The grass doesn’t even look as high as it should be. Walking down the drive to the road the sound of the water pouring over the dam is quite clear – usually I can’t hear it at all. Tim has given up splodging in the stream because it comes well up his chest and he doesn’t like that. He likes it at ankle or knee level!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Promised to be a fine day today, so we’ve been in the garden pulling up weeds which grow with terrific energy here. By half eleven all the black clouds we saw yesterday, which disappeared mid-afternoon to give a brilliant sunny evening, have reappeared and at midday the rain began in earnest. It was soon all over and I didn’t bother to get the newly washed clothes off the line. I’ll count it as an extra rinse!

Rush hour in Rouen
In a way it is refreshing to have these cooler interludes. Too much high heat all day long is so tiring I don’t know how people endure it all the time. You may ask why I'm washing clothes on day 2 of our holiday – but we’ve travelled light this year with one week’s supply of underwear and we’re already more than halfway through our supply! (Left home on Monday, remember.) Given the weather there is a distinct possibility it might take several days to get anything dry, which could leave us going commando.

I’ve started on my new story. This one has a title first – The Matfen Affair, and it will, if I follow my plan, involve an old house, a wedding and a ghost. Probably what comes of reading five Barbara Erskine novels one after another.  I was disappointed with the ending of the last one – Whispers in the Sand – because there was no conclusion. It was made plain that the mystery was going to continue down through the generations and personally I did not find that satisfactory. I wanted an ending!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

France 2016

My affinity with France seems to be centred around mice. After a tedious journey with holdups for traffic accidents not involving us, and as far as I know concerning only brpken-down vehicles, we arrived at the mill around 4.30 on Tuesday to discover three of the little creatures floating in the swimming pool. Happy to report that I have not seen one since - alive or dead!

The weather is changeable. We've had reports of wet weather, and the hayfield is still uncut, the stream is running higher than I've ever seen it and there are muddy puddles beneath the trees in the lower field. So far today we've had sunbathing weather and torrential downpours, so it's a case of being flexible,

DH went out early today, around 7am to visit the local baker at St George only to find that the bakerwas not open. A car arrived at the little grocery opposite and the driver got out. "Ferme," he called.
"Ouvert? asked dh, looking at his watch. "Finis," said the man. "Du Pain?" he asked. "Oui" said dh.

 Both men of few words, especially when foreign words are involved. It turned out the man was delivering bread to the grocery, and opened up his shop early for dh. The delay was because he had to telephone his wife to discover the prices for the bread he sold dh! Back home by eight clutching warm parcels of three different lots of bread, and we really enjoyed our warm pain du chocolate with coffee.