Sunday, 28 June 2015


Friday 19th June saw my first test of the pool, and Saturday my first swim. Both days were hot and sunny, forecast to be 25 and 26 degrees respectively. The hay bales have been collected and two of the asparagus rows have been dug over and what we think are fertilizer pellets seeded in the soil. All done by tractor! The clover patch is now over eighteen inches high and the sweet corn closer to two feet. When we first arrived, they were tiny green sprouts in large rows across the curve of a hill or meadow. The hay meadow itself now has bright green grass over a foot high. We watched from the balcony room, with the door closed as a hare bounced across it the other evening. Tim saw it, barked and 100 yards away the hare turned, ears straight up and stared in our direction.

The greenery is rampant here, so we’ve almost completed a cut-back of the drive so we can drive in without the car being scraped by brambles and young saplings. Then its off to the river. When Tim goes river-running, which he does several times a day when it is hot, he disappears through a tunnel in the nettles and other greenery and all I hear is the splash-splash as he runs up and down the river. I see his head occasionally as he jumps to see if I’m still there, but otherwise, he is out of sight. So in two of his favourite spots, I’ve cut back the greenery and can now see the river and Tim having fun. Back home we’d call this river a stream. It’s rarely wider than six or eight feet and though there are deeper pools and stretches, Tim runs where the water is less than chest high on him and there is a gravel bottom. Until he stirs it up, the water is lovely and clear with turquoise dragon flies zooming about.
Monday 22nd June. The longest day passed without incident if you ignore the fact that the Black family were almost extinguished. Picture us walking Tim down a narrow road towards a classic + crossroads. Brilliant sunny morning shortly after 9.30am. Out of the trees to the south blasts a white car which charges straight over the crossroads without stopping or even slowing down and revs up the hill towards us. I had two seconds to get Tim out of the way of the car before it blasted past us. He didn’t slow down to go by us and certainly didn’t stop but powered by on his merry way. I wished him a puncture. Actually I didn’t, but I should have done. It was all over so quickly we weren’t even shocked. Another two seconds and he was half a mile up the road.

23rd June More swimming, pics taken as if we need proof! The drive cut-back finally complete. Only problem is the size of the bonfire has increased by a third with all our cuttings. Tim only has a few toys and I mislaid one of them yesterday. A Kang rubber chew thing inside an old Argyll pattern sock of DH’s was a favourite and I went out into the garden to throw it for him. (Tim, not DH) First throw, huge effort to get it across the grass and make him run – and the wretched thing flew vertically instead of horizontally, tangled in the branches of a 60 foot tree and stayed there.
I like French farmers in this region. I don’t know any of course, but I like their farming methods, which I see all around me. Instead of the arable-livestock divide I’m used to back home, here there is often a mix of the two. They don’t stick to one or two main crops either. I’ve mentioned the asparagus, but barley grows on the hillsides and there are potatoes, sweet corn, courgettes and sunflowers growing along the valley bottom next to the field where the cattle wander about. The soil is very fertile. Plums, quinces, cherries and walnut trees grow in the hedges and fields. I’ve been picking up the green walnuts that drop off in the faint hope that I may have some walnuts in the autumn. The deer get the plums and fallen cherries and quinces, and then we see deer shit full of cherry stones. The river seems empty of fish this year. I haven’t seen a single flash of a tail. The fishermen have been too greedy.

Wednesday 24th June Deep blue skies continue. The water level in the river goes down daily, as you can see by the little vid. I’ve cleared more undergrowth from around the base of the tree and have discovered two more chunks of fallen trees. There was a huge storm in 1999 that brought down mature trees all along the valley. I always knew of one trunk still in the river, but now I know the whole trunk is still here – in three chunks. Oddly enough, when we did our Lapeyrouse circuit, we noticed that trees had been felled all along the river. We assumed local land owners wanted to stock up their wood piles. Or maybe people who know more about trees than we do decided they were too old and needed to come down. Last year in the same spot we heard a terrific tearing crack and looked round in time to see a major branch fall about seventy feet, crashing through lower branches as it went down. Back in 1999 a walnut tree came down in the storm and narrowly missed the mill; had it fallen to the north instead of to the east, the mill would have been in ruins and we would probably not be here enjoying it. Since then two more walnut trees and a pine have been taken down as a precaution against just such a disaster. Trees can be dangerous.

25th June Nothing but good weather to report. Cloudless blue skies from morn to evening and so hot we spent a good deal of the middle of the day in the shade. Some nights we have decided against a BBQ because it has been too hot to stand/sit in the sun next to a BBQ, but by 6pm it there was some cloud cover and it was cooler. By the time we sat down on the bolly to eat, there was a mini plague of what we call flying ants. One crash landed in my salad, loads of them speckled the surface of the pool and I swept them up off the bolly. No idea where they came from or why. DH turned on the hose and showered them away. An hour later, no sign of them. All the insects in France seem twice and three times their normal size. A hornet of some kind, about an inch and a half long, landed on the saucer of freshly grated Parmesan cheese at lunch time. I recoiled in horror and left it to Dh to step in and remove saucer plus hornet. He came back minus the hornet; said he nudged it away with a finger (gulp!) and it flew off into the bushes. There is another type that buzzes around but rarely lands, but when it whizzes by your ear it is startling. We’ve nicknamed them the B57s in honour of the large bomber planes.

28th June Nothing to report as good weather continues and the heat is such that we get up early and walk Tim, then spend the day creeping from one spot of shade and coolness to another until about four or five o’clock when it becomes more bearable. I’ve been taking stock of the books I’ve read while here; First of all it was JoJo Moyes One Plus One. Then The Salt Bride on Kindle (Lucinda Brant) followed by Joanna Trollope Balancing Act, Lee Child 61 Hours in spite of the fact that I’d read it before. The Abduction by John Grisham, Not Dead Yet by Peter James (on Kindle) Jason Foss When the Dust Settles (also on Kindle).

We’ve been watching the unpleasant scenes at Calais and thinking we’ll have to run that gauntlet soon.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Relaxing on holiday

The good weather crept back in over the last few days and yesterday was a scorcher. Today looks like being the same, so I've been out with Tim and done a bit of cutting by the stream so he can get into the river without all those horrid ticks (tiques en Francais) latching on to him. I've also hoovered the whole top floor of the mill, shaken the bedroom rugs and am sitting here feeling very pleased with myself. The curtains are shutting out the sunshine but the windows are open and the warm air is flowing freely. Oh yes, and the washer is doing sterling service with the sheets which will be hung out and dry by 2pm.
Small things amuse small minds, I hear you cry. Well, yes, but then this is a very relaxing holiday. No stress beyond keeping Tim indoors while the farmers come and cut their asparagus because if we don't he'll run out and bark at them - and he's found that the gate stops him going in one direction, but if he runs around the back of the mill there's open access to the lane and the asparagus field. Sometimes they bring their dogs with them; the first day there was a stand off with a young black and white collie who looked ready for a fight.  Maybe they would have played, but the girl seemed alarmed by the confrontation. I don't know if it was
because her dog would fight, she thought mine would, or (more likely) because she didn't want them gallivanting all over the carefully tended asparagus plants. It is back breaking work, harvesting the asparagus. Spread the legs, bend at the hips and prod down into the furrows with what looks like a chisel but is some kind of a hook that slices the white shoots about nine inches below ground. They come almost every other day and go away with baskets and buckets full. No wonder asparagus is expensive. Treat yourself, buy some, cook it with garlic butter and think of French farmers as you eat it!

I've included two views from our walk yesterday. The top one is the Gite Rural where I presume you could stay for a holiday and the second is the field full of poppies we passed on our way home. We explored the first mile or so of a VTT otherwise known (I think) as a chemin or path but I decided I was improperly dressed to proceed. I needed stronger shoes as the grass was ankle high and wet beneath the trees and also I had bare arms and the flies were just waiting for an unsuspecting victim. Fly spray, and strong shoes required before I go back!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

We have a Pool!

Ironically, now the good weather has gone, the pool is open and almost ready for bathing. We've had a couple of days of thunder storms and plodding about in wellies and waterproofs but the forecast is for scorching days again starting on Wednesday. Two small frogs had to be rescued from floating gently round and round the pool on the first morning. DH's tally of mice captured and killed is now standing at six and we have not heard the patter of tiny feet nor the clang of a mouse-trap for several days, maybe over a week. At least it seems to do the job instantaneously as I haven't heard a single squeak of surprise or pain. 

Local dogs visit and play with Tim. One is Baloo, a rather large black and white collie who lives at the first wooden house up the hill. The other is a brown labrador type who is only interested in plunging in and out of the pond and the river. The other visitor is rarer but easily the most playful; an Alsatian cross of some kind I would guess who doesn’t wear a collar. He is great fun and motors around like a motorcyclist on a race track.

We’re off to Vergt in the morning as we’ve run out of food and I need to get some Activyl Tick Plus at the Pharmacie. Not chuffed that the surgery gave me the Activyl that deals with fleas instead of the right stuff, so poor Tim has been getting a tick almost every day, and we have to manually extract it which isn’t easy. Damn things don’t always come out whole. At least they sell it in pharmacies here. Back home it’s on prescription only.

Friday, 12 June 2015

A Change in the Weather

The good weather broke yesterday with thunder, lightning and heavy rain storms. From pic a to pc b in 5 minutes flat, and then the rain came sweeping in. This morning it is still raining, so we’re in for a wet couple of days. Makes a change from the blistering heat of the last fortnight. Hopefully it will take all the pollen out of the air because even Tim started sneezing yesterday. We had to bring him indoors before he stopped. Only DH is immune – not a single sneeze from him.

Partly because of the heat, which was excessive and had us cowering indoors some days, and partly because of Tim, we haven’t been out and about in the locality. He’s a good, affectionate dog but the one thing he will not do is walk calmly on the lead. However long it is, he wants to be a yard further on and investigate every smell in double quick time. He can lift me off my feet with no effort, none of which would go down well if we took him to town or anywhere there are crowds. Much simpler to walk him off-lead around the hay fields, now cut, or do the local hour-long monastery circuit where only the odd car is a worry. The other thing is that we’ve been coming here for 15 years and we’ve been to most of the local beauty spots, so there isn’t a huge incentive to drive anywhere. The downside is that it doesn’t leave me with many photographs for my blog! I may have to raid my expansion drive for pictures taken in previous years.

On the other hand, work on my re-write of my Viking story is going well. I’m experimenting with first person POV for the female character. In the previous version, now withdrawn from sale, I never gave her POV at all, which was probably a big mistake. I gave her actions and let those speak for her. That method was not a success; no one liked her and as a result no one liked the book. The beauty of Kindle is that I can take it down and re-write it, then publish it again. So, upward and onward!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Hot weather

The hot weather goes on. Yesterday there was a breeze, which made it much more pleasant to be out and about. The storms that were forecast for today have now moved back to the coming Thursday. All the hay has been cut, dried, turned and baled so now we have 17 bales taller than me in the field, and we can walk around the perimeter without fearing that we are doing damage. Tim loves it - all those new smells to investigate. I love it for that reason and also because my hay fever has vanished as if it had never been.

Rafa couldn't do it, Andy couldn't do it, so it's all down to Stan Wawrinka this afternoon. I hope he can succeed. Until then, I'll be checking The CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR  one last time.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Hot Days

The time is 7 55am and I'm sitting here writing my blog with all the windows and doors open and the sun is beating down. Goodness knows what the outside temperature got up to yesterday - we stayed indoors where the living room temperature rose to 26 degrees C. This morning it is 22 degrees. Consider that when we arrived it was 16-17 degrees....and that the mill has three foot thick stone walls. Wi Fi is only available in the living room, (or downstairs in the mill room) because the walls are too thick. Evidently the floor is not quite so strong!

The farmers work early, knock off in the middle of the day and start again about seven in the evening and yesterday they had my sympathy because it was still too hot to sit out even then. I felt some sympathy for the tennis players, too. Though I have to say that Serena gave a most convincing display of being about to faint away until she needed to hit a convincing shot and then all her reflexes kicked in and the most complicated shot was executed with ease.

I have been diligently working away for a couple of hours every morning on The CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR and have reached the last stages of publication via Kindle. Things appear to be going well and as long as the Table of Contents comes up as I expect, then I'm done. Publication Day is the 20th July.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Howling gales

Howling gales blowing down greenhouses back home while I enjoy wonderful sunshine here in the Dordogne. I ought to feel guilty, but I don't because we're highly likely to get the same winds at some point in the next month or so.

The farmers are busy cutting hay here, so the air was full of pollen yesterday. From a distance it looks as if the tractor is surrounded by a golden cloud and very romantic until you get up close. The tractor comes within twenty feet of the house at one point so for me it is imperative to dart inside and close all the doors and windows. This time I forgot to get the washing in as well, so had to dash out again and clear the line of a the few garments that were there. Then we stood inside and watched someone else working hard for a couple of hours while the kites circled overhead and dived down on unfortunate creatures whose home was being destroyed.

Fortunately while we were in Bergerac I visited the Pharmacie next to the Intermarche, bid everyone Bonjour, which is very important in France and in my halting French explained that I had hay fever - les rhume des foins. The lady guided me through purchasing tablets and eye drops and this is the third day I've taken the pills and they work very well. The itchy eyes are almost worse than the sneezing, so I'm very glad she guided me to the right products. I don't get this in England unless the pollen levels are exceedingly high, but here I do, every year.

Taking a Risk

  Poised on the cliff edge about to take the leap! No thoughts of suicide - oh no! Or perhaps only in terms of covers for my e-books. I am a...