Monday, 31 July 2017

The great packing

Saturday 22nd July
Last weekend. So a general tidying up and a sense of doing things for the last time. Bill cut the grass for the last time of this holiday, I trimmed a few branches I’d missed earlier – though some I could not reach, not even if I stood on the pool house roof! We didn’t actually do much after that, just sat in the sun, which was finally at a pleasant temperature. We don’t have much to show in the way of suntans, for many days it was just too hot to sit out in it. In between times we wandered about the fields with Tim and played with him.

Sunday I spent sweeping, hoovering and wiping down sinks and stuff. I did two stints of editing that day, and finished the last page at about 6pm – just in time to make dinner. So I can go home with an edited manuscript to look over yet again.

Monday 24th July
Drove into Vergt and visited Monsieur le vet for his exit examination. We can't get back into England without it - or at least Tim cannot. He gets weighed and then the nurse gives him a big wodge of chocolate-looking stuff laced with the worming ingredient. He loves it, woofs it down and looks for more. Then we wait and the vet comes and checks his eyes, ears, skin, teeth, listens to his chest and manipulates his abdomen and undercarriage. Tim doesn’t seem to mind. Then we’re good to go – except for a small payment – 58 euros this year, up slightly on last year.

Then back to the mill and the dreaded packing begins. Not only for me, but for Bill and Tim, too. Things get scattered all over the place in six weeks, so it takes time to track it all down. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Lost in France

Thursday 20th July
On Tuesday saw a single deer leave the sweetcorn and bound up the bank! Seems like it’s a deer thoroughfare. The heat is ramping up again, 38 degrees according to the thermometer in St George in the afternoon. We bought what we wanted at Madam’s little shop but decided it was too hot to walk around so we headed straight back home – and enjoyed the car’s air conditioning! It was cloudy all day and so hot we slept downstairs in the mill room that night. A violent thunderstorm woke me, and I watched the sheet lightning through the glass doors.

Wednesday night it got cooler after six, so we slept back upstairs and left the windows open. (We’ve tried all tactics – windows open, windows shut, shutters closed and windows open, everything at half-mast but nothing is ideal. It stays uncomfortably hot until about three in the morning and then the temperature plummets to about 16 degrees. That’s when I wake up feeling cold. In the morning we count our insect bites. I’ve been thinking of a mosquito net over the bed, but there’s nowhere to hang it. Perhaps more garlic is the answer!

Friday 21st July
Lamonzie Montastruc
A lazy morning and down to Lalinde in time for a longer walk by the canal – yes, it is a canal – le canal du Lalinde and then into the square for lunch. Bill ordered bavette, which turned out to be Charolais steak and I order the mushroom omelette. Both turned up with not chips but sliced potatoes with their skins on, curled up and slightly brown. Like chips, but not chips. Not fried. We think they must have been done in an oven, and will experiment when we get home. Tim liked them. Eight euros cheaper, even with the beer, than the other café we tried last week. On the plus side they brought water for Tim, but none for us. Today we received chilled water in a thermos bottle, but not for Tim, so we gave him water in a clean ash tray. We felt the first few drops of rain as we walked back to the car, and raced the black clouds all the way home.

The journey was longer than anticipated because instead of following the sat nav we disagreed with it and took the route we knew. Fine. But then Bill pointed to a sign for Banueil and said Shall we go that way? In the split second of decision time I said why not. Big mistake. We saw a few pretty villages, some old, one very modern, but ended up back in Lalinde. Well, no, not quite. We came out on the Porte de Cruz on the canal and had to drive nearly all the way to Bergerac before we were reasonably sure that a right turn would take us home. We ended up joining the D21 at Lamonzie. From there, a straight run home, a quick walk with Tim and then we got in and hunkered down, because the rain came down. Real rain.
On the Dordogne

Thunder and lightning, too. I went and had a nap.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

French adventures - a continuation

Sunday 16th July
(Quick note: I was unable to keep blogging, but now I'm back home again I can load the later blog post of my holiday)

The hot weather is back again, so I’m up early in the morning to walk Tim before it gets too hot. After our disaster yesterday (Tim found a deer leg and ran off home with it, leaving me in the field looking for him) we walked with him on a lead this morning and headed up towards Fouleix. It was early, the sun was pleasant and with a ten or twelve foot bank on my left I happened to be looking at it when two deer appeared. They were large and golden brown, running as if they would have bounded down the bank, across the road and into the sweetcorn field on my right. On seeing me they wheeled about and disappeared. So quickly, and so silently. It was hard to believe they were there.

I’m watching Poldark even though I’m recording it back home. (one never knows when a recording is going to fail for some strange reasons.) The story follows Demelza more than Ross in series three, though George Warleggan featured very strongly in tonight’s episode. I seem to remeber the second volume was actually entitled Demelza. Poor Morwenna has been forced to wed the slimy fat man – very much a fate worse than death.

Some other thing I notice – Demelza, Caroline, and Elizabeth – even Morwenna – they are all so skinny a puff of wind would blow them away. The men wear shirts, waistcoats, jackets and even overcoats and yet the women swan around in silk and linen gowns cut so low they must surely have caught a chest infection. Strange. 

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.

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


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 café 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?


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. 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. 


Adapting to colder temperatures now. Frantically Housecleaning to remove a month's dust, the washing mountain has diminished and we'...