Friday, 27 June 2014

Reflections

There are some fascinating buildings in this region. Old farmhouses, built with style and fitting into the countryside as if they've grown there. The terracotta tiles are a mellow shade rarely seen in the UK, and blend beautifully with the cream walls and golden stone.
New houses built by incomers follow the same style but look distressingly new in my eyes with all their sharp corners and knife-edge angles. They need a century or two to "weather in."

As I sit here eating breakfast indoors ( because it is still chilly at 7am) I can watch the sun rise over the pond. Steam rises from the water, which glistens gold. We've passed the half-way point of the holiday, and have maybe ten days left before we pack up and head for home. The sky is a wonderful pale blue, and I confidently expect that by 11am it will be too hot to do any physical work. I'll have to go and take Tim for a walk. He's agitating - he's ready to to go.

Just have to record how Rafa scared me yesterday. For half a dozen games I thought he was going to succumb to Lukas Rosol again. As someone said, the odds against it happening  again - 2nd round, same place - were astronomical. But in true Rafa style he hung in and found a way to win. Vamos Rafa!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

What to do on holiday

Holidays are a good time for reading. My latest is, or was, The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill, all 550-odd pages of it (in paperback format). It was interesting, with a slow-burn curiosity rather than a gripping must-know-NOW feel to it. The opening chapters hung together but only just and in the weirdest way that is only explained by the very last chapters. If I had not been on holiday, with lots of leisure, I might not have continued with it, though having one of the narrators be a criminal psychiatrist was an interesting touch.

It is 10.15pm and the light has finally gone out of the sky. I forgot to do my blog this morning and the reason for that is Wimbledon, so I'm doing it now. There is always something to keep an eye on, hence the pic on the right. The days are busy with small things, such as walking Tim, weeding, swimming, making meals and sweeping the dust out of the house every day. With the heat so tremendous, we have most windows open all the time, and the dust blows in, especially if the digger boys are here, as they were yesterday afternoon. Today - not a sign of them. It would be good if they would just finish the job, and then we could do some tidying up once they've gone. But one digger is still here, poised by the pond, no doubt frightening the frogs into fits and the hay field is reduced to blank soil. Behind the house, the patch called the garden - more in hope than reality - is like a rough sea, all hills and hollows. It obviously needs more work.

La Brande - restaurant
I'm loving Wimbledon. I was struck by the American habit of giving their female players forenames I think of as surnames -  Sloane  Stephens, Taylor Townsend, Madison Keys to name but three. I'm also wondering if tall children are positively encouraged to be tennis players. They all seems so huge these days. We desperately need a top-up on groceries tomorrow and I was tempted to join dh for the drive to Vergt, but maybe I'll stay behind and get everything done so I can watch the tv. After all, Rafa and Fed are playing tomorrow. By 11am it is too hot to do anything more than laze in the sun, and after a half hour, there's a real danger of sunburn. So I don't feel bad about being indoors.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Happy Holidays

So far, we haven't seen a single mouse. There are few lizards, which Tim chases, so they keep out of his way. I’m pleased to report he hasn’t caught one yet.
The kites, the herons, the foxes are still about, and there are rumours of “a big stag” wandering about the area. DH saw a roe deer walking down the drive early one morning. Evidently there are red deer here, too.

Yesterday I cleaned the steps from the upper level to the lower patio. There were so many ferns and weeds choking the steps that it was only a matter of time before someone broke an ankle. The wild strawberry plants spread out tendrils that can catch the unwary. In the fortnight we’ve been here, the weeds had grown long the edge of the bolly, so I culled those too, and then started on the drive. An excess of energy! Now part of the drive is as wide as a three-lane motorway in comparison to the unculled half. I think the driver of the loader that brought the digger would have liked the whole of the drive done. He's taken to driving across the field instead! I hope the farmer doesn't mind.

Two diggers worked all day Friday and made huge changes to the field and pond. Saturday was quiet, and so was Sunday. DH found a small frog in the pool filter Saturday morning, whirling round and round in a six-inch circle. He was dead, but whether it was the dizziness or the chlorine, who knows? Sunday morning another frog was motionless at one of the filter inlets, but he was luckier. The filters were switched off, and he was still alive. I suspect there will be an outrage of frogs unless something is done to control them. We’re told that there should be carp or pike in the pond to eat the frogs. 
The weather has been glorious since we got here, but this afternoon we were melting in the heat when it suddenly began to rain. Oh, the relief! It didn’t rain long, and not very hard, but it certainly lowered the temperature. There are thunderstorms forecast for tonight or tomorrow morning, and I’m looking forward to them. In the middle of the day we’re comatose, Tim included. It makes me long for rain and cool air. When we go for a walk, we creep from one patch of shade to the next and amble about when we’re in the sun. Even at 7.30pm we come home longing for a cold shower. 

The thunder and lightning came overnight and woke us up. It also switched all the power off in the house. DH had to go downstairs, torch in hand, to throw the switch again. Creepy, with thunder outside!

Today, after the storm, it is grey and cloudy. Half a dozen baby frogs, some less than an inch long, were in the pool. It's beginning to look like a plague of frogs now that the mice have vanished.  

 One digger has been removed from the site, but otherwise, no work in progress this Monday morning. Annoying not to have it finished today. I shall concentrate on Matho and his edit, which is coming along in a very satisfactory way. I’m not rushing it. I want to get it right. The internet connection here fails with appalling regularity from midday onwards, so if I don’t get my PR and social networking done before them, it’s gone for the day. Must be very annoying for the locals, and certainly makes me appreciate what I have back home.
Also, Wimbledon begins today! Yippee! Wine, Pringles and Wimbledon! What could be better?


Friday, 20 June 2014

The tallest tree in the valley

Today is going to be noisy. There are two diggers working outside, one pushing down trees and the other smoothing out the "spoil heaps" that was excavated when the pond came into being. They do look like spoil heaps, too, because the land here is rocky with limestone. Farmers in England would think it was terrible soil, but it seems to grow exceptional crops. Tim is mad to be out racing round and round the machinery, but obviously we can't allow that, so he's pacing about indoors like a caged lion in spite of the fact that he's just had along walk up the hill to the Gite Rural. 

I waited and waited to get a picture of the old tree coming down. The two lads who were trying to fell it must have thought I was an idiot. I waited the best part of an hour while the digger pushed and battered and the lads chainsawed the old stump into submission. Then one of the lads darted away, Tim barked as if someone had come calling at the door, and I went to look out. There was no one there. When I got back to the window, the stump was down. Call me paranoid, but I think it was a plot...

It had been a beautiful tree. Two years ago, when we were last here, it towered over the mill, the tallest tree for miles. The leaves constantly whispered in the breeze that drifted along the valley. Now it is a grey wreck beside the pond, and an old stump that went several rounds with modern machinery before it finally gave in.

So I'm sitting here behind open windows with closed curtains, writing my blog and drinking a small bottle of Kanterbrau beer. It's a biere blonde at 4.2% alcohol, so I don't think I'm in any danger of being drunk when dh arrives back from Vergt with the groceries, The thing is, the beer is beautifully cold out of the fridge, and I was hot after my walk with Tim. Better than starting on the wine at 9am in the morning, don't you think?
Time to get on with my novel,

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Into the water we go...

I found The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro on the shelves at the mill, published in paperback in 2013. The cover did not attract me, but the back blurb did, and I was not disappointed with the story. It is one of those dual time stories set partly in 1928 and partly in 1955, and it keeps shifting between the two. It is fairly easy to guess the main thread, but discovering how it all came to pass keeps the attention. "...a journey which takes Grace through the streets of Paris and into the seductive world of perfumers and their muses..."

Vergt was quiet and peaceful yesterday morning. I took a couple of pics from the car as we zoomed through the countryside, and they'll appear here in due course. I have no idea what was in the big box on top of the van - in fact I was so busy taking the pic that I didn't notice the box until I looked at the photograph later! A new, very sophisticated kiosk selling home-made pizzas has made its appearance since we were here last, and a brand new veterinary practice where I had good fun trying to make an appointment for the 8th July. French numbers always confound me, but fortunately the receptionist had an appointment diary in front of her, so I could see the correct date and time.


We got the PH+ and put it in the pool and later I had a brief swim in the heat of the day. Most refreshing, but it took me ages to get into the water. The steps into the pool were deeper than I expected, and I wanted to find the depth before I plunged in. Cautious, that's me. Once I was in, it was fine, but each new bit of skin shrieked at the shock of cold water. Yet it wasn’t really cold! Odd how the mind works. I can't remember when I last went swimming, but fortunately, it is something once learned, never forgotten. You just don't swim as far...

Monday, 16 June 2014

A new week


Sunday was a quiet day, and the sun clouded over about midday.  Gusts of cold wind gave warning that change was on the way, and we retreated indoors, opened a bottle of sparkling Saumur wine and watched the men’s final at Queen’s Club. The day was cool enough to give Tim two normal walks on the lead, which we both enjoyed.

Monday morning is sunny, but seems a few degrees cooler than the past fortnight. The farming family are already busy picking asparagus and it is only nine o’ clock.  Tim is barking furiously at the farm dog which has had the temerity toll on his back in the dry grass cuttings on the drive. 

We plan to go into Vergt today to get some PH+ for the pool. (These swimming pools are so demanding!) Vergt is the nearest small town about ten minutes away in the car, with a population of about 1,700, though that number may include the whole commune rather than just the confines of Vergt. While we are there we plan to make the acquaintance of the vet, since we must see him before we return to England.  As I understand things, it is a case of a formal check to confirm the dog is healthy, a tapeworm tablet, and a signature on Tim's pet passport. Oh, and a fee of 50 euros. 

Until I've been and taken some pictures with my trusty little camera, why not type Vergt, France into your browser and look at the images that come up? (The link to it was so long it kept breaking in the middle!)




Saturday, 14 June 2014

Lazy Saturdays

Saturday morning and we expected a quiet day.No such luck! We woke at 6.15, went back to sleep, got up at 7.15 and took Tim for a walk while it is still wonderfully cool. By the time we came back, there were three men working around the mill. For third day in a row, Marcel the fireman was back to incinerate yet another pile of dead, years old wood. Tom and Rob had come to continue putting up the boar/deer fence, and Rob had brought his new puppy - Tara.
Tim, naturally, was very keen to make Tara's acquaintance, but she was only seven weeks old and so tiny we had to put Tim on a leash for a while. By the end of the morning, they were making tentative gestures at being playmates.

The heat continues. The sun has blazed down ever since we got here and by last night we were just about comatose with it. Farmers are working long hours getting the hay cut. Tom and co work until 11am and then knock off for the day when it is this hot, so now we have the mill to ourselves again. Peace reigns. Except for the frogs croaking in the pond. Or maybe it's the jays squawking in the trees. One thing is for sure - we rarely hear a car. A tractor, maybe, or a thing that cuts the hay and lays big rolls bound up tight behind it. I saw two cyclists steaming along the road in the afternoon heat yesterday, and thought them mad fools. Perhaps their speed cools them down...they were dressed in skintight lycra in pink and white and black, with helmets to match. It's too hot to sunbathe, but at last the pool is ready to use, colour me cool today.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Working in the heat

If you like the kind of holiday that visits lots of new places and eats in lots of different restaurants, then this isn’t the spot for you. The mill is set beside a small river in a valley north east of Bergerac and there are no diversions anywhere close at hand. If we want a good meal we would drive to Lou Peyrol, but because this is Tim’s first visit to France, and he’s not very old yet, we will forgo that pleasure. Leaving him on his own in a strange house would not be kind. Apart from that, we mow grassland, hack at the accumulated greenery, divert springs, build bonfires and cook our food on the barbie. I have to say it is healthy food, too. DH did the shopping last week, and to this day, a sweet biscuit has not passed my lips. He didn’t buy anything from the patisseries counter, either. So the diet has been fresh meat, salads and fruit. Oh, plus a morsel of cheese with coffee.

The mill’s owners have not been here for six months due to a health problem, now happily solved, and boy! does it show. I swear trees have grown twenty feet since we were here. It doesn’t help that we didn’t come last year because we’d just got Tim, so we are looking at two years growth and change. Some trees have died, some have fallen, a lake – a hundred feet, not yards as I think I said earlier – has been formed. Lots of change, yet everything is the same, except for the pool.

Left unattended for six months, a pool of sludgy green slime had collected in the pool cover.  Once the cover was off, the pool had to be cleaned, scoured, hoovered and the filter system has been running constantly since we got here. “Three days,” they said, “and it will be clear. You should be able to see the bottom.” 

Well, we can just see the bottom of the pool now, but the water still isn’t crystal clear. It seems to me that pools are a lot of work.  “If you are here all the time, no problem,” we were told. “If you leave them, much work.”

We were gently kippered yesterday, and it looks like the process will continue today. A man has come to burn les bois. There’s a huge stack of dead wood in the middle of the field. Dead trees, odd fallen branches and no doubt some rubbish lurking in the middle. Within minutes of this man’s arrival there was a huge bonfire and clouds of smoke coming back toward us on the breeze. He stayed with it for four hours, patrolling to see the fire didn’t get out of hand. At midday he left, and I should think he was pounds lighter than when he arrived. So much heat! I was perspiring just sitting in the sun. I stood on our balcony and watched the local farming family picking their asparagus by hand and felt hot just watching them.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

What's a bolly?

The day before yesterday was blazing hot – 32 degrees C. Too hot to work by 11.30am, so we lazed about and dragged ourselves through the day.  Yesterday we woke to a grey overcast sky  and got to work right away after breakfast on hauling away all the overgrown shrubbery we had cut back from the drive over the last two days. The drive is now a good third wider, and dh is getting more confidence in driving the tractor. 
The temperature was reasonable  ~ 23 degrees indoors, so probably a bit more outside, especially when the sun shines. But there is hazy cloud cover, which gives some protection to delicate skins like ours! I'm happy to say that the channels I dug have drained some of the big puddles that are a result of the spring, which means less mud for Tim to splatter about. I enjoyed myself splodging about in wellies, wieldsing trowel and spade ~ perhaps I should have been a water engineer instead of a librarian.
I stayed up until 10.20pm last night finishing off the Jack Reacher novel. Persuader, first published in 2003 in the UK. This must be about the fourth Reacher novel I’ve read and I’ve only just noticed that they are written in the first person.
I looked at the first page again and it is only when I got to the last line that  that the personal pronoun “I” appears. Everything Reacher sees and thinks is described, and described in detail, but it is definitely first person narrative.


It gives me an interesting slant for the action sequences for Matho. I’m thinking I’ve maybe glossed over the action and ought to give more detail. Not that I can write reams about Glocks and Uzis as Child does ~ talk about info dumps! But there must be some detail about sixteenth century weapons I can latch onto. And it is about time I got down to doing some writing - Ive been here a week today.

The  picture is of the bolly, or half of it. Most old French houses in the region have one and they are a boon, because  the family can sit out there and enjoy the warm  weather without frying to a crisp in the sun. A bolly is all about shade, built out of green oak  and extends the size of the house. It's like an outside room. I took the picture on the first night here, and the bolly wasn't exactly the tidiest place, but today it is much neater! We sit there for our evening meal, and enjoy the view across the fields.The view you see in the pic leads to the drive.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Mud and frogs

The first casualty discovered yesterday. A large lizard - well, about twelve inches long had his tail had been intact - was discovered in the filter of the swimming pool. The poor thing must have got in when the pool was being built and then found himself trapped. I have no idea how long ago that was, but certainly some months. On a happier note, dh rescued a small lizard - about three inches this time - flopping about in the pool itself. Maybe they can swim, but I doubt it would have got out unaided even if it found the steps. These swimming pools are lethal to wildlife.
David and Jenny talked of a pond they'd excavated, and I imagined something about fifteen feet across. I ought to have known better.  The pond is something like 200 yards long and  thirty yards across. Already frogs are populating it. We thought the croaking came from ducks, since there are plump mallards around, but were told this morning it is the bullfrogs making such a to-do. A man with a digger is supposed to arrive today to level out the "spoil heaps" of excavated soil and rock and insert a land drain from the spring to the pond, so the frogs had better watch out. On the other hand, he was supposed to arrive on 15th May, so we'll not hold our breath. The spring is draining naturally, as it has for years, and causing a wetland area which Tim discovered with great glee. He romps through the mud and green slime and splatters frogs in every direction. I ought to take a photo of this black dog who tries to leap on us until we get out the hose pipe and hose him down to find the white dog underneath. A man further up the valley captured a thousand frogs - don't ask me how - from his pond, and sold them to restaurants. It seems even frogs can be a cash crop.
I'm happy to say Mr Greener is back. He's been missing for a year or two. Mr Greener is a chaffinch (I think) and he has a distinctive line in song, which repeats over and over. The last line always ends in the phrase "it's greener." I know, its stupid of me, but I'm glad he's back.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Sizzling hot days

Another blazing hot day. I feel some sympathy for the ladies final in Paris where Shriekapova plays a young unknown from Rumania, but hey! they're getting well paid for an afternoon's work. OK, so it's a fortnight's work, but its still a darn good rate of pay. I wish someone would tell Shriekapova to stop shrieking. I avoid watching her, and many of the women, because of the racket (sorry) they make. Somehow the men's grunts don't impinge so much, probably because they're so much deeper toned.

The pool is gradually clearing, thanks to Tom's work. The fence to keep boar and deer out of the pool is going up. I can't imagine a deer or a wild pig swimming in our pool, but there you go. Local laws say that the pool must be fenced for safety reasons. but the workmen who were due to smooth out the rubble left from excavating the pond have not been. Nature is gradually taking care of the job instead.  There are frogs and I saw two small fish swimming about today. I've done some washing and it dried in half a day. DH mastered the tractor and grass cutting machinery, so we now have somewhere that looks a little less like a wilderness than when we arrived.

I am glad to report DH suffered no after-effects from his snake bite. I've been ultra careful about walking through long grass since that incident. What am I saying? - it's all long grass here. I take a stick, but what would I do with it? Still, I feel better for having it with me. The way Tim leaps about in gay abandon, no self-respecting snake would stay within two miles of him. At the moment he is flat out, dead to the world. The heat is getting to him. We've drunk a few bottles of French wines since we arrived, and tonight we'll be doing duck steaks on the BBQ.

I have a Jack Reacher story to read, do I ever get to it, Just before I came away I read a new Sarah Bolton called Like this, For ever. Very good thriller done from a juvenile viewpoint and the cop's viewpoint, and there was a twist in the tale that surprised me.  I tried to load a picture to the blog, and the laptop could not cope. So now I've reduced the pixel size to almost nothing to see if it will upload a photo.
 PS No matter what I did Explorer would not upload a picture to Blogger. So now I've changed to Google Chrome and have just uploaded a picture of the drive leading away from the mill - before the grass had been cut!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Snakes and tralvelling

Our first full day in France and dh got bitten by a snake. Since he's still with me, and feeling no effects whatsoever, we can only assume it was a harmless variety. Tim pounced on a patch of grass by the roadside and next thing we knew, there's a snake on the tarmac among us. Tim was pulling to get at it, I was hauling him off and Bill got bitten above his wellies, which admittedly were only calf length rather than knee length. Two little puncture wounds as proof he wasn't mistaken. The snake vanished before I could get a good impression of it - except that it was fast, an olive green colour and seemed to have vertical stripes running along the length of its body.


Apart from that incident, we've had a splendid day with sunshine from early morning till a few minutes ago. Tim has worn himself out running from one to the other of us and generally keeping track.


Our journey was beset with hazards. The Channel tunnel was blocked by a stationary train, so we had three hours to hang around before we finally got going. (Never found out why there was a train stuck in the tunnel....) The weather was poor on the journey through France, and we miscalculated and hit Rouen at 8am  - rush hour. Big mistake. We had forgotten to turn on the sat nav, and hit the wrong road. Someone advanced beyond his zone at traffic lights and when they changed, we could not move because of him. Car horns blared all around. Huge frustration and when we did find a road out of Rouen, it was not in the best direction for a speedy journey. Tim was fed up and howled and yodelled and whined for a good two hours...We finally arrived about 4.30. We opened the door, out he bounded and loved it! He's notstopped running about since!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Domestica and writing

Drowning in domestic things with no time for blogging for the last few days.  Getting ready to go to France, and that is where my next blog will come from just as soon as I can get myself set up electronically. We've also been very social this week. Everyone seems to want to make the most of the warm evenings with the happy clink of wine glasses and conversation. Last night we enjoyed an enclosed log burner in a neighbour's garden. It provided a lovely glow, kept us warm and also kept the nasty little flies away. I recommend one for any garden.

Almost done with the washing and ironing. Now the problem is what to take and what to leave behind. Then of course there's the tennis from Roland Garros, and I'm watching every Rafa match because, as I say to my long suffering dh, you never know when it might suddenly be his last match. Not that I'm ill-wishing him - I want him to go on for years or as long as he wants to. There's Djokovich to keep an eye on, and Fed to watch when we get the chance. It all takes up a lot of time, and then there's Tim to walk. The thing that is suffering is my writing, but that will soon be rectified. The one I suppose I should watch is Murray, but he is so graceless. I know his tennis is good, but I  always want to shout at Andy - Stand up straight, get your head up, move like an athlete....why he shambles around I can't imagine. There's nothing wrong with his physique or his looks, and yet he refuses to present himself to best advantage.

Viking Magic is out and doing well on Amazon Kindle, so I'm concentrating on  Capture a Queen. That's the  one that has been going on in the background of my life for so long now that you would think there would be nothing to alter. But I'm amazed to find I'm still editing. Simplifying text, making it flow more elegantly, tightening the drama where possible, changing a few -ing endings where I spot them. Also, cutting where I think it needs it. I'm hoping to have this finished and published on Kindle this year, hopefully in the autumn when people start reading on cold winter nights.

I'm also wondering about Createspace. It would be nice to have a book in my hands again and Capture a Queen is aimed at Historical fiction rather than historical romance. If anyone has comments on Createspace, do let me know.