Sunday, 30 June 2019

Still overheated!


Crossroad advertising!
Friday 28th June A cloudy 22 degrees this morning so we took Tim for a walk up the road while we had the chance. At the crossroad a new notice has appeared. There is going to be a soiree dansant with a repas and artifice de feu tomorrow night about five miles away, so no doubt we will hear the fireworks going off if nothing else. By midday the clouds disappeared, and the temperature started going up; had a swim after 7pm and then sat in the sun for a while but soon retreated to the shade of the lower patio.

Saturday 29th June. Slept badly so took Tim for an early morning walk – 6.20am. It was so foggy we couldn’t see the other side of the fields but no doubt it will soon lift. Every field has hay bales – those huge rolls of hay like toilet rolls – dotted around. Moisture was dripping from every leaf as we walked beneath the trees. Montpellier recorded 45.9 yesterday, a European record.
But by midday the sun broke through and the temperature shot up. We did our best and added the fan to move air around, but Tim panted all evening. We hosed him down and draped wet towels over him, but he was not a happy dog.

Sunday 30th June Happily he seems fine this morning. He’s been out for two walks already, one around the neighbouring fields and it is only 10.30. No hesitation on eating his breakfast biscuits, either. The forecast is for 30 degrees today, so I may decamp downstairs into the mill room where it is so much cooler. We feel trapped by such oppressive heat; no trips out, not many pcs; thank goodness for the pool! (13 lengths now plus lots of fooling/floating around.

Friday, 28 June 2019

We're melting!

the farmer from our balcony

Tuesday 25th June The local farmer is working very hard in this excessive heat cutting his hay. Bill says he’ll be using air conditioning and keeping cool and dust free. Certainly, this tractor (the blue one) has a cab and the orange and green ones have none. The kites are circling the field following him to swoop down on escaping mice.

We walked along the cut portion last night with Tim and we both agreed that the hay crop is not as prolific as in past years. Rather thin, in fact. Must have been a poor spring for some reason, but since we weren’t here, we don’t know.

We stayed indoors most of the day (that's the classic advice for this weather) and if we did venture out with Tim we stayed in the shade, only emerging around 4pm to have dip in the pool and lounge around. 

Today, Wednesday, the heat is even greater. Yesterday was recorded as 38 degrees, today promises 39. Indoors, the temperature has shot up from 16 degree when we arrived on 12th, to 25.5 this afternoon, and that is with all doors and windows closed against the sun. Open the door and it is like opening an oven door- the heat blasts into your face. Tomorrow we might try closing the shutters.

The farmer worked all day, and came back last night, baling his hay in the dark with all the lights on the tractor as he chugged around the fields. I fell asleep around eleven, and he was still going.

Have done 11 laps of the pool (though I have to admit it is not an Olympic size pool!) and lazed around in it for a while. Very cooling. Thursday is predicted to be 40 degrees all over France. We’ve been up since 6, walked Tim several times, and cleaned up and now at 8.45, the heat is starting to rise, so the door is shut, the windows/curtains closed and we’ll see how we go.
NB Thursday the heat got to the internet connection as well - no contact!!

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Combatting the heat


Tuesday 25th June The local farmer is working very hard in this excessive heat cutting his hay. Bill says he’ll be using air conditioning and keeping cool and dust free. Certainly, this tractor (the blue one) has a cab and the orange and green ones have none. The kites are circling the field following him to swoop down on escaping mice.

We walked along the cut portion last night with Tim and we both agreed that the hay crop is not as prolific as in past years. Rather thin, in fact. Must have been a poor spring for some reason, but since we weren’t here, we don’t know.

We stayed indoors most of the day and if we did venture out with Tim we stayed in the shade, only emerging around 4pm to dip in the pool and lounge around. Today, Wednesday, the heat is even greater. Yesterday was recorded as 38 degrees, today promises 39. Indoors, the temperature has shot up from 16 degree when we arrived on 12th, to 28.5 this afternoon, and that is with all doors and windows closed against the sun. Open the door and it is like opening an oven door- the heat blasts into your face. Tomorrow we might try closing the shutters.

The farmer worked all day, and came back last night, baling his hay in the dark with all the lights on the tractor as he chugged around the fields. I fell asleep around eleven, and he was still going.

Have done 11 laps of the pool in one go (though I have to admit it is not an Olympic size pool!) and lazed around in it for a while. Very cooling. Thursday is predicted to be 40 degrees all over France. We’ve been up since 6, walked Tim several times, cleaned up and now at 8.45, the heat is starting to rise, so the door is shut, the windows/curtains closed and we’ll see how we go.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Misty morning en France


Saturday 22nd June A misty morning with steam coming off the fields and the lake in the sunshine. We spent the morning dragging out the fallen Virginia creeper so it wouldn’t block up the mil stream that runs under the house. Then a lazy lunch and a walk with Tim. It is no more than 25 degrees today, and sometimes less than that, so it was a good day for an extended walk. We did the circuit – along the bottom road, past the herd of cows lying down with their calves – what a tonnage in beef! - up the hill to La Peyrouse with its bright new sparkly dome that reminds me of the domes in Perigeaux, and along the straight to the Gite Rural, where expensive looking changes have been taking place since we saw it last and then down the long curving hill back to the mill. Nearly 5 km, a told. Too tired to do anything else after that.
Sunday 23rd June Couldn’t decide what the weather was going to be today. It didn’t look like a 31 degree day, but then we’ve been wrong before. I had a lazy morning, reading and breakfast in bed while Bill got up and went out to shift all the fallen Virginia creeper over to the big heap beside the stream. I joined him (eventually) and shifted the debris from where the honeysuckle at the side of the house had been cut down. I had made a little pile and it made a barrow load, but to be honest, by the time, I had wheeled it over to the ever-growing pile by the stream, I decided it was too hot to work today. The 32 degree forecast had come true. Bill was working in the shade on the lawn mower, which we didn’t think had been used in quite a while. After various tweaks and problems rectified, it burst into life! – much to Bill’s surprise.
After that a swim in the pool and 7 lengths accomplished. . The duck we had for dinner was delicious.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Rain and French groceries


Friday, 21st June. A day of rain, constant and dispiriting. I did a lot of writing, and then abandoned it for the delights of cleaning up the mill room lobby where Bill has been fixing architraves around four doors and painting them. There was a fair bit of water leaking out from beneath the freezer and the fridge, so we pulled them out and mopped up. When we put them back, the tiles were dry, but it will be interesting to see how long before the water seeps out again.

After three or four walks around the lake in the rain we decided to go into town because there was nothing else to do and we had run out of milk. The little shop in St Georges has closed and is up for sale, if anyone fancies running a mini market in a French village. 
We had a lazy, late lunch during which we suddenly discovered that the previous night the wind and rain had pulled the ivy off the wall at the back of the mill. It was just climbing onto the roof tiles, so that’s about twenty or more feet of ivy to clear up when it stops raining. We’re hoping that the blackbird’s nest is still in the bit that remains.
We headed off to Vergt and made an appointment with the vet to see him on 22nd July about Tim’s return to England. Then I left my two fellas in the car, sitting together beneath the tailgate, and dashed off through the rain into the Intermarche.
 I didn’t have a euro to put into the slot to release a trolley, so once inside I trailed one of those cute little red baskets on wheels around behind me. I love shopping in French supermarkets as they are so different to Tesco and the like. Bill and I had a difference of opinion about whisky; Bill said all the names would be changed to something in French and I said that wouldn’t happen, that Laphroaig would be exactly that anywhere in the world. Well, I won the argument, but they had no Laphroaig and as I went around I forgot that I was entitled to buy either chocolate or whisky for being correct!

I found the “English” section that Bill swore didn’t exist and found some ginger biscuits and some Tuc crackers to go with the goats cheese and Roquefort. I spent 46 euros, and the euro at the moment is worth 99p. Amazing when I only went in for milk and Colgate toothpaste. Oh, and French shampoo, and that wonderful lavender soap. And bread. Strawberries were on my list,too, but I couldn't find any. 

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Nature report from France


Tuesday, 18th June. The morning began grey and overcast, so we took Tim up the hill towards Fouleix before breakfast. Afterwards Bill chose to cut more grass. We now have fields that look, from a distance, as smooth as a playing field. It’s only when you get up close that the hillocks and dips are apparent, but by then it doesn’t matter because the air around you is full of the scent of mint, which grows wild here. Several varieties, and possibly other herbs that I’m not sure I can identify, though I do recognise oregano when I see it. The heat went up to 33 degrees, according to the forecast, and it was too hot for Tim, who lolled around all day. Taken out for a stroll, he lay down in the middle of the field and watched the world go by. That’s what we did, once the sky had cleared. I swam three lengths and didn’t find the water as cold as yesterday.
Wednesday 19th June. Not sure what was going to happen today – grey clouds again, but it did get out by midday. I swam 5 lengths. Improving every day. Writing another 1,000 words all of them in a storm (ie trap) situation. Bit of a contrast to what we have here, but there is a storm forecast in a day or two. There was lightning last night, but far away, and nothing woke me. I hope when it comes, if it comes, it is nothing like the last one which brought down several trees and at times it sounded as though the mill itself was coming down.
Finished reading Highland Fling by Katie Fforde and enjoyed it so much that I wished I could dip into another volume and read more about the characters.
Thursday, 20th June Today we have run out of milk because Bill forgot to get any in his grocery run on Monday. Will we do without it, or does it mean a quick trip to the St George mini market? Entirely his decision as I hate milk. Can’t stand the smell or the taste.
No storm so far, and I hardly dare say this as it is tempting fate, but not many biting insects either. Maybe it is all the garlic we are eating! I read somewhere that garlic keeps them away, but how true it is I have no idea. I was worried the woods would be silent this year after I read that France had banned all pesticides because birds were dying out. Not here, they’re not. They are singing beautifully all around us. I also feared poachers/hunters had taken the fish but have seen five fine specimens gliding lazily about like mini submarines, surrounded by what must be their offspring in various sizes from an inch to ten inches. They adults are not as curious as they were last year, when they used to swim toward us; now they disappear into the depths at our approach.
Bill put out poison on the ants’ trail and this morning the bolly was littered with dead ones. The little green lizards are about; I hope they don’t eat the dead ants….

Monday, 17 June 2019

France 2019


June 15th, 2019
Travelled down to Folkstone on Tuesday 11th through terrible rainstorms between Northallerton and Cambridge. South of Cambridge, all was fine, so we had our usual walk in Hatfield Forest before heading for the tunnel, where there was some delay. Our 3.50 crossing was cancelled, reason unknown, and the 4.20 was half an hour late – again, no explanation given. This meant we were later to Abbeville than we expected, so we simply had dinner in the restaurant and then went to bed.
I slept well, but Bill says he did not. We didn’t wake up as early as usual, so it was 8 before we went to the park of the two lakes in Abbeville and walked Tim, and almost nine before we set off south. We had intermittent rain all the way down. However, we made it to the mill somewhere between 5 and 6pm. The weather was not very good and the house cold, so we lit the big woodburner and were soon toasty warm.

Thursday. We had sunshine until about twelve, when Tom came to check over the pool and “hand over” to Bill. From then on it was clouds and rain, so we lit the fire again. Temperature inside was 17 degrees. The phone kept ringing, but when we answered we got only crackles on the line so eventually, on Tom’s advice, we disconnected it.
Friday. Tim began his antibiotics today. The weather was fine, and our first task was to remove fallen tree that was partially blocking the track. Out came the tractor and we attached a tow rope and pulled the stump out and dragged it as close to the dump as we could get it. Two ladies were picking asparagus ten yards away as we did all this, but we exchanged no more than “Bonjour,” and some banter when Tim bounced across to see them. Later Farmer Eric appeared to ask if there was “a problem,” but language proved a barrier. Still, any problems we must contact him at L’Hermitage.
Since the tractor was out, Bill cut the grass, and then it rained again. Fire lit again!
Saturday. Temperature now 19 degrees inside and rain and grey clouds outside. Bill is painting, I have written a chapter of Viking Wedding.
Sunday. Now we’re talking. Cloudless blue sky and beautiful sunshine. Sat in the sun and came in at eleven as said sun getting too hot for exposure of white English skin.
Monday. The ladies from the farm were here picking asparagus before 8.30 in the morning and they were still here at 11.30. Backbreaking work, legs splayed, bending from the hip to cut the asparagus below the soil level. Very hot, approaching 33 degrees. Had my first swim in the pool, but water very cold still. Didn’t stay in long, then dried off in the sun. Bill drove to Vergt and stocked up on groceries.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Come and meet Byrhtnoth


Today I am taking part in something called a Blog Hop. Yes, I know, it sounds strange, but the Interview my Character Blog Hop should prove a thing of beauty for lovers of historical fiction. The basic idea is that I should interview a character! Not the author, but the character. Something I’ve never done before.

Further down the line, someone is going to interview a character from one of my books (look for it on 15th June), but let me tell you which character I have selected. His name is Byrhtnoth and so far he has two books chronicling his life. The first was Bright Sword in 2018 and Bright Axe arrived earlier this year. I understand there is a third in preparation – and since Byrhtnoth is barely eighteen at the end of Bright Axe, I feel he has a long way to go for I know that he doesn’t die until AD 991.

He also has a rather elevated opinion of himself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that perhaps he is typical of men back in AD 947!  Let me tell you that talking to a rather muscular young man over six feet tall, and with a shiny axe hanging from his leather belt, is a rather unnerving experience. Given the chance to ask him questions, my first was necessary for ease of reading his story; here is the snappy answer he gave me:-

Me: How do you pronounce your name? Who named you?

What a strange question. No-one has ever asked me that before. Are you a foreigner? Do people ask you how to pronounce your name?
Forgive me. My author tells me you live, like her, in a different time where the English tongue is spoken in a different way. She says the pronunciation is something like birrt-noth in your language.
Like most Anglo-Saxon names, it is made from two words. The first, Byrht, or Beorht – it can be spelt in many ways, means bright. Noth means bold, daring, courage. It is a good name for a warrior. I think my father, Byrhthelm (guess what that means!), named me well.

Me: Are you related to anyone famous?

I have connections to Lord Athelstan, Ealdorman of East Anglia, sometimes called half-king because he is second in power only to the king (some would say more powerful!) His wife fosters the younger son of the king; the late king I should say, Edmund died last year, his brother, King Eadred rules now.

Me: How old are you and how do you keep track of passing years?

I was born in the year 930, in the reign of King Athelstan. I had reached the age of seven years when my mother died, and I left my home. I was taken to Winchester to be trained with a group of other boys. That was shortly after the Battle of Brunanburh, when Athelstan defeated all the kings of Dublin, Alba, Strathclyde and a few others. I suppose that would make me close to seventeen years. I am a man, that is all that matters.

(H’mmm. I notice he didn’t tell me how he kept track, but I didn’t dare to probe further. Perhaps that axe at his waist has something to do with it.)

Me: Are you pagan at heart or wholly Christian?

I am a Christian, like most of the inhabitants of this land. Not that I think about it much, I go to church when I have to and complain at Lent and other fasting times – I have a dislike of smoked fish. My friend Wulfstan, who spent time in a monastery, tells me when I break the rules.
Some say that the old gods are better for a warrior to pray to. I know men who do so, it doesn’t bother me.

(Not an ardent Christian, then. Interesting.)

Me: What do you think of women? Should they have equal rights with men?

Don’t ask me about women. They are a complete mystery. I suppose it comes of being brought up in a gang of boys. I met a girl last year, very pretty. She smiled at me, I thought she liked me. I thought she would like me more when I rescued her from the Viking raiders. She didn’t, although that might have been because I nearly drowned her. They say she’s too good for me, perhaps she is; her sister was married to the king - the one who died.
Why can’t she be more like Saewynn? Saewynn was her maid, she travelled with us to rescue her mistress, but they had a falling out and Wulfstan brought her to the village.  I can talk to Saewynn, she’s like one of the lads. She’s good at sewing but, can you believe it, she wants to learn how to fight? She’s not bad at it, so why not let her have a bit of fun, before she grows up to marry and have children. She says she doesn’t want to get married, although the only alternative is to become a nun. I can’t see her as a nun, like my sister, Edith. As a nun she could run a nunnery, or even a monastery; some have more power than men.
Women have some rights, why would they want to be treated the same as men?

(Funnily enough, I’ve often thought that myself.)

Me: Were you taught to read and write?

Of course I was taught to read and write; the monks at Winchester tried to beat it into us. Some absorbed more than others. I can read well enough to understand a letter, and I can write my name. Wulfstan was the best scholar amongst us. Just as well. After he was injured, he was unable to become a warrior. Now he writes down whatever I need.  I understand he sometimes reads whole books, for pleasure. Can you imagine such a thing?

(I’m siding with Wulfstan on this one – and keeping a wary eye on that axe...)

Me: Do you find it difficult to travel the country when they are so few maps?

I don’t have a problem. It’s easy enough to tell North from South, from the sun. It rises in the East – or has that changed by your time? There are roads, the main ones were built by the Romans, many years ago. I have travelled between my home and Winchester sometimes via Lundon, where there is a bridge across the river. In fact, rivers, and the sea make for easier travelling. Most major towns are situated on rivers.
I have been as far west as the Severn river, that was when we were following the trail of those raiders, then I walked through Mercia, before making my way home. I followed the old road called Watling Street, then took a ship back to the Wash.
I spent Christmas at Lord Athelstan’s Hall at Rendlesham. That’s close to the coast and I have sailed from the river nearby. Soon we head north to fight in Northumbria. I hope I go by ship, it’s easier than walking, or even riding.

Me: Do you have a picture of the British Isles in your head?

I know the shape of the land. The monks at Winchester had a map. It was made in the time of King Alfred and copies were sent to other monasteries. We boys were learning to serve the king, to become the advisers of future kings. I studied it carefully, especially the sites of the old battles. We were taught how close we came to being overrun by the Danes who came from the lands to the East and how King Alfred divided the country into two. The kings who came after, took back the lands all the way to the border with the Scots and other barbarians, and even beyond.

I know how difficult it is to protect our land from foreign invaders. The Welch to the west are quiet for now. Beyond is Ireland, where some Norse kings have settled (that’s where those raiders came from!)

Beyond the sea to the south is Frankia and other lands. We are at peace with them, at the moment. King Athelstan married several of his sisters to kings there and monks travel to foreign monasteries, even to Rome. I met someone once who had travelled to Byzantium, I wonder if I will ever go there.

It is the North that interests me. You might ask where in the north, but I cannot answer. My father, the man who named me, left shortly after my birth and never returned. My mother and I thought he must be dead, but I have been told that he still lives. I swore a vow to find him, but where to search? I studied the old map and questioned anyone who had travelled that way. I know there are great mountains and many islands, scattered in turbulent seas. I must go, but my duty to my lord prevents me. Perhaps I will find news of him in Northumbria.

I hope your questions are now at an end as I have better things to do. I see Saewynn glowering at me from the door, I am late for training. That’s if I can move after sitting here so long. If I have missed anything, Wulfstan will help you. He has been scribbling down all my words and indicates he is running out of ink.

Or ask our author. She knows everything: past, present, and even our future. I wish she would tell me if I ever succeed in my quest. All she will say is that I live a long life and will be remembered in a famous poem.

Must go, my throat’s dry, anyone got any ale?
Written at Rendlesham, Easter 947 by Wulfstan, clerk to Thane Byrhtnoth.

   Me: Thank you, sir, for answering me so well. (Quite a character, our Byrhtnoth!)

Now for the books:

Christine Hancock - author.
Bright Sword, The Byrhtnoth Chronicles, Book 1
               
Bright Axe, The Byrhtnoth Chronicles, Book 2
Ebook: https://tinyurl.com/y5w2k3pq               
Paperback: https://tinyurl.com/y5w2k3pq

Would you believe Byrhtnoth has his own website? I imagine Wulfstan must have laboured long hours over it, so please take a look. 

Not content with a website, he (or Wulfstan) is on Twitter and Facebook!
Twitter @youngbyrhtnoth 

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Interview my Character Blog Hop

Something exciting is happening this summer!


Wednesday 5 June Jen Black  interviews courageous, Byrhtnoth, of the Byrhtnoth Chronicles by Christine Hancock
Saturday 8 June – Sharon Bennett Connolly interviews wild and beautiful, Eleanor Elder, heroine of the Rebels & Brothers series
Saturday 15 June Lynn Bryant http://www.lynnbryant.co.uk/blog/Interviews handsome, adventurous Matho Spirston of Jen Black’s The Scottish Queen trilogy
Wednesday 19 June Judith Arnopp http://juditharnoppnovelist.blogspot.com/ interviews the intriguing, fiercely ambitious, Edward Seymour of the Seymour Saga series by Janet Wertman
Saturday 22 June Derek Birks https://dodgingarrows.wordpress.com/ interviews the courageously defiant Nicholaa de Haye of Sharon Connolly’s Medieval Heroines
Monday 24 June Vanessa Couchman https://vanessacouchmanwriter.com interviews the wily, intrepid Saxon in a Norman’s World, Wimer, from Sherrif & Priest, by Nicky Moxey
Wednesday 26 June Nancy Jardine https://nancyjardine.blogspot.com interviews Paul van Daan, Lynn Bryant’s gorgeous young officer from The Peninsular War Saga
Saturday 29 June Stephanie Churchill https://www.stephaniechurchillauthor.com/ interviews Marie Therese, talented singer of Vanessa Couchman’s historical novel, Overture
Monday 1 July Christine Hancock https://byrhtnoth.com/Interviews Wulfhere,  flawed but heroic thegn of Horstede from Paula Lofting’s Sons of the Wolf series
Wednesday 3 July Paula Lofting http://www.paulaloftinghistoricalnovelist.wordpress.com interviews the conflicted, yet honourable, Prince of Agrius, Casmir, from Stephanie Churchill’s Crowns of Destiny trilogy
Saturday 6 July Nicky Moxey https://nickymoxey.com/ interviews General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, determined soldier from Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of the histfic saga – Celtic Fervour by Nancy Jardine
Monday 8 July Janet Wertman https://janetwertman.com/interviews steadfast and resilient Margaret Pole from Faithful Traitor by Samantha Wilcoxson
Wednesday 10 July Sarah Dahl https://sarahdahl.com/blogposts/ Interviews Geoffrey de Mortagne, a man torn between an oath and his duty, in Cathie Dunn’s Dark Deceit
Saturday 13 July Alex Marchant https://alexmarchantblog.wordpress.com/ interviews Joanie Toogood, the rough, tough, but kind-hearted street girl from Judith Arnopp’s The Winchester Goose
Monday 15 July Samantha Wilcoxson http://samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com interviews the tormented and conflicted Munro from Turn of the Tide and the Munro Scottish Saga by Margaret Skea
Wednesday 17 July Cathie Dunn https://cathiedunn.blogspot.comInterviews Aldaith, the long-haired, muscular Viking Warrior from Sarah Dahl’s Viking saga The Current, Bonds, and Battles
Saturday 20 July Margaret Skea http://www.margaretskea.cominterviews Alex Marchant’s young loyal page to Richard III, Matthew Wansford, in The Order of the White Boar series

It is finally coming together.
What happens?
On 5th June I am going to interview a character created by author Christine Hancock. His name is Byrhtnoth.