Monday, 23 January 2017

Running a bit late with the blog, unfortunately my PC developed a nasty case of the blue screen of death, got to love Microsoft! Anyway, I was able to find someone to rescue all my stuff, and it’s been transferred to a nice new laptop.

Asked by the local RAF Association to attend another ceremony in the Dordogne. It was in a hamlet called Beleymas, near Bergerac. It was to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first drop of Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents and equipment into occupied France.  We hadn’t realised quite what a big deal it was – the two road blocks manned by gendarmes gave us our first hint.  The French Veterans Minister attended the ceremony, and there was a very good turnout.

Our village Auberge goes from strength to strength. We often have our post bowls lunch there on a Wednesday, and several of our friends have eaten there and approved. Fabio has had several special evenings – the Soiree Boeuf Daube and the Italian evening were both memorable. A couple of days ago we had an evening meal there for Judy’s birthday, and that was excellent too.

We have been selling poppies again this year for the British Legion, and thanks to all our friends and acquaintances at Vignol Bowls Club and the Connect 87group we raised the superb sum of 275€. When we attended the 11th November ceremony in our village we gave out a number of the small poppy badges, which seemed to be much appreciated. We have also become adept at explaining their significance, although many people here saw TV reports of the display at the Tower of London. A chap in uniform standing with our mayor spotted is wearing the poppies and asked to be introduced to us. He turned out to be the Prefect of the Correze, someone jolly important. He asked if we could let him have one of the small badges too!

I have been doing a lot more of my photography, trying to match old photos of local places with how they look now. I have made some of them into short(ish) animated sequences, and they can be viewed of YouTube. For some reason, they haven’t quite gone viral yet.

I eventually sorted out my state pension. After filling out a form listing everywhere I had ever lived and worked they graciously decided to give it to me. Ah well, every little bit helps!

The last of the autumn weather was lovely, we took Icare out for a few nice walks.

We have finally got our act together and our new windows will be fitted in February. As we are in a conservation area we had to submit a load of forms to both the local planners and the historic buildings watchdog. We got a letter back from the planners to say that we had made a mistake on the form which would delay everything by a month. I wasn’t surprised, in fact I would have been more astonished if we had got it right first time. However, I was quite puzzled to find that my error had been not saying what village I had been born in!

Went to the village of Aubazine to get some pictures, weather brightened up, so I got some reasonable shots. After taking the photos we had a quick walk round a disused quarry, which apparently had a cromlech near it. We couldn’t find it, but of course we had missed it by about a hundred metres. Lunched at the Auberge le Passadou, which is very remote but does an excellent and good value lunch, one to keep in mind when we go cromlech hunting again (it’s a type of prehistoric structure of course).

Had a flu jab and promptly went down with a bout. I got over it after a week or so, but gave it to Judy –the weather wasn’t great, so it was a good excuse to stay in.

Did some more of my photography in the local village of Donzenac – the first picture I took an elderly couple came out of their house, and asked what I was doing. I explained and they showed me a copy of the postcard I was using stuck to their mail box!

We got a note in the mailbox to say they had been unable to deliver a registered letter. Went to post office (in the Mairie) today, picked up letter which is from the Mairie and about our windows!!

Annual choir concert in the church - perhaps this year we can say that enthusiasm exceeded talent!

 Christmas very quiet, although we still amazed the lady at the post office with our 45 cards for UK. Really not the same in France. We spent the day itself just the two of us, and had some friends around on boxing day and the day after.

One sad task was when I was contacted by the RAF Association and asked to buy some stuff and take it to an ex-RAF engineer in Brive hospital/ We got the things to him, but unhappily he died a few days later. Nice to know at least the RAFA had his back.

An enjoyable evening going to the cinema in St Yriex with the Lushes to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Great fun.

On New Year’s Eve we had a little trip to Objat to see the lights. Not quite Regents Street, but very pretty, and we also took some photos of the ones in Voutezac.

 We’ve just had a nasty cold spell, with the temperature overnight dropping to minus 7. One Sunday our normal visit to the market was cancelled as I discovered that the road outside our house was covered in black ice, when I took the dog out and went base over apex. The day we had our oil delivery, it snowed….

When we went to pick up my new laptop we also visited a couple of nearby chateaux -  Montbrun and Brie. Obviously shut at this time of year, but very impressive. Montbrun (shown) for sale at 15 million euros if you’re interested.

Brive did a deal for three New Year games at a reduced price. We went with the Lushes to see Brive play Grenoble one cool Saturday afternoon. Then they were playing Worcester in a European Challenge Cup game on the following Saturday at 9pm. We had one look at the weather forecast and wimped out. The next Saturday was another European game against Newport, luckily on a lovely sunny and comparatively warm afternoon. Brive actually won all three games.

We have a bird feeder on the balcony which is normally very busy. However we had a new visitor recently a dormouse. We haven’t seen him for a while so I guess he is back asleep again.

Just finished working on my photos of Allassac and uploading the result to YouTube…it keeps me quiet.

Happy New Year!

Friday, 28 October 2016

We have finally decided to replace our windows, if we don’t do it soon some of them will fall out! We got a number of quotes, and settled on one. We live in a conservation area, and knew that we would have to get permissions. I put in all the forms at the Mairie, and settled to wait. The historic buildings people are happy, with some guidelines at their appearance. The local planner sent a long letter saying that approval normally takes one month, unless there is a problem with the paperwork. There was. I hadn’t filled in the form correctly where it asked in which Commune and Department I was born. Even the lady in the Mairie thought it was amusing…Just have to wait now.

The Vignols Short Mat Bowls Club continues to thrive, and make for a very enjoyable Wednesday morning. We had our annual lunch at a local restaurant, and I was astonished to be presented with a cup for the most improved player! I don’t think I’ve ever won a cup before! OK, I was starting from a very low base!

We enjoyed a very pleasant visit from my cousin Joyce and her husband Richard. They seemed to have a good time as well, probably because they went out on their own a number of times and didn’t have to listen to me in tour guide mode! They came with us to the Auberge for my birthday dinner, a really nice meal and a lovely cake at the end with my name on it.

 We have been to a couple more RAFA ceremonies. We were asked to go to Grun Bordas again, as the niece of one of the Australians on the crew was in Europe, and we were able to have a ceremony at the memorial they could attend. As always the locals were in attendance, and it was very moving.

Last week we went to another ceremony near the village of Beleymas in the Dordogne. There is a memorial to the first air drop of agents and equipment by SOE (Special Operations Executive) in 1941.  A government minister from Paris attended, so there was lots of security. Again a very moving occasion as there were many people there related to people involved on the French side. I saw a report of the flight from the RAF records – 10 hours in a Whitely!

We went on another picnic, visiting the very impressive Roman remains at Cars again. I think Icare looks very at home! We found a nice lake to have our food beside – there are so many of these, as Correze is so far from the sea they often have artificial beaches as well.

Pompadour hosted a dog show for les Levriers, that is running dogs, everything from Whippets up to….let’s see…. Irish Wolfhounds.  It was great to so many in one place!

Another picnic took us to the Dordogne and the chateau at Rastignac, which is apparently the building the White House is based on. Because it was used by the Resistance the Germans burnt it down, so it’s actually now a reproduction and is divided into apartments. 

With Amazon vouchers I got for my birthday I bought a machine to scan in lots of our old slides. Some really nice ones we hadn’t seen for years! Lots of photos of family members in their youth. Watch this space little brother.

The sign that winter is on it's way - the grues (cranes) flying south. There were hundreds that day, and you could hear them before they came in sight.

It's difficult to believe that we have now been here over seven years! Still love it as much as ever!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Best news lately is the reopening of our village auberge, the Cadran Solaire. Our Mairie has realised that if the shop and the auberge were allowed to shut, it would be a step towards the village slowly dying – as have so many small villages, so they bought and refurbished both of them.  We have eaten there several times and the food is very good, and, at least in the summer, we can sit outside in the evening and have a drink.

Judy’s sister Gill and her husband Phil came all the way from Madeira for a visit. I hope they had a good time, because we really enjoyed having them. I have to say that I haven’t done much bus-spotting before, but it’s always interesting to scream to a stop in the car to view an interesting example! We also had a trip on the steam train line at Martel – that’s always lots of fun. Gill and Phil can reach anywhere in Madeira in 45 minutes, so I like to think they were at least impressed how big the Correze is!

I have managed to get in touch with three chaps I knew from my hall of residence in London during my too brief time at university. All three now live in France and not just that – in chateaux!

Harry Bockmeulen and his wife Anna live in the Chateau Claude-Bellevue near Bordeaux. There they have a commercial vineyard, and produce some seriously good wine. While Harry works away most of the time, Anna runs a very luxurious B & B – helped by her son who is a cordon bleu chef. We enjoyed meeting up again and hope we can keep in touch!

John Bostock and his husband Chris have an even larger place further south of us not far from Carcassonne. It’s an amazing place – a large house, a guest house and a gite. They hope to plant vines soon too. We had a great lunch a caught up – a very enjoyable day.

We were able to visit John and Chris because we had to go to Toulouse airport. Our friend Brian – an ex-navigator of course – got his airports a little confused. Anyway he stayed with us for almost a week, and he caught the train back to Toulouse….One of the places we visited with him was Gimel les Cascades, named after its famous waterfalls. Judy and I had been to the village a few times, but never actually seen the cascades up close. They are quite spectacular, but there are a huge number of steps to climb down….and up. Glad there was a café for a drink afterwards.

We have another friend with a vineyard and chateau the other side of Bordeaux – we should see him in the autumn.

Once again we enjoyed the village’s annual Peach Festival. We had a really nice meal with our friends Rhonda and David, and the next day we watched the inter village games, which seemed to be appreciated by everyone.

A couple of weeks later we went to a concert in Brive, one of the music and art events organised by the Festival de la Vézère. We saw the very talented opera singer from South Africa Pumeza Matshikiza, accompanied by the Orchestra of the Republican Guard. A great evening.

A few weeks later we went to another festival event, the opera Cosi fan Tutti, at the Chateau du Saillant. As last year a very well presented occasion in a wonderful setting.

After a final visit to the ophthalmologists Judy’s cataract operation has been declared a great success – I have even had to remind her to take her glasses with her when we go out!

We went to a couple of the Marché des Producteurs in Le Saillant this summer. Really nice to go with friends, meet others there and eat and drink lots. Just like a huge picnic!

As the summer draws to a close we had one more visitor, Paul Cannock popping in for the night on his way south. We took him to the Auberge for an aperitif, and discovered that Paul, who speaks perfect Italian, and M Ferrari the chef, (and very Italian), had both been on the same Italian air base. A small world.

Enough for now. I will save the fun events at the Chateau de Bellefond, our search for new windows and my winning a prize at bowlsl for next time. Always keep them waiting for more……

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Off for our holidays – two weeks in England.

Uneventful drive to Coquelles next to the Euro Tunnel. Having Icare with us does mean we have to ensure we stop more often! We spent the night in an Ibis, where dogs are allowed in the room for a few euros. Icare behaved himself perfectly; Jude just says she now has to cope with stereo snoring. The French riot police – the CRS – use the hotel car park as their vehicle area, and also stay in the hotel itself. Really secure parking! 

The train trip was fine, just the normal culture shock to drive in England again – there are so many cars! I am sure the SE of England is full. We had a very nice lunch with my cousin Joyce and her husband Richard, and managed to persuade them to visit us later this year.

We crossed through the Dartford tunnel (having remembered to pay on line first of course) and so on to the cottage in Orford.  We were very pleased with the cottage, it was a perfect size for us and the quay is only a hundred yards away. Plenty of lovely walks for the dog as well, and Orford itself is a very pretty village. Also a pub 100 yards away!

No rest though as the next day we drove to Leigh on Sea to see Nick and family, and it was lovely to see everyone too. The next day was Esme’s 14th birthday and the day we were there she was having a party for 40 + 14 year old girls. Sadly we had to leave before they arrived…..Jake did door duty, and Nick and Lisa retired to their new shed/workroom at the bottom of the garden. Just out of sight….

Back to Orford where the next day we had Sunday lunch with Carol and Terry – great to see them both.

We had some very enjoyable days out from our cottage in the surrounding area. We particularly enjoyed the complex at Snape Maltings, missed the opera but some very nice shops and cafes.  We also visited Aldeburgh and we had a proper seaside day – horizontal rain!

Another good place to visit was the village of Dunwich – or rather looking out to sea, where most of the village disappeared under the waves over 700 years ago.

We caught up with an old friend, Florence Gardener, in Norfolk, and while discussing mutual acquaintances realised that another old RAF chum lived virtually on the route back to Orford, so we descended with very little warning on Adrian and Liz Richardson.

Back in Suffolk we found a lovely old ruined abbey at Leiston, which we pretty much had to ourselves. We went on to Southwold, another very attractive coastal town.

After a week in Suffolk we moved on to Gloucestershire, where we stayed at Fossebridge with the Thompsons. Here we were able to catch up with a lot of old friends – including the  Titcheners, Romney Pargeter, the Ashforth-Smiths and the Wiggles, as well as visiting our old haunts of Filkins, Burford, Stow etc.

We also ventured to Marlborough where we caught up with Dave Lockie. We had lunch by the Kennet and Avon Canal and then Dave took us to the modern long barrow where the ashes of his late and much-missed wife Juliette are. A beautiful place.

 We had another very enjoyable day out in Dorset to see Posy. When we went to the local pub for lunch we were very surprised when someone came in with a Clumber spaniel puppy – probably the only two in Dorset in the same place!

Our last trip was to Newent in Gloucestershire the home of the International Centre for Birds of Prey. It’s a very good day out, with a large number of birds to see, an excellent series of flying demonstrations and a very good café! I first went there in 1968 to help out when I slept in the summer house – it has changed a bit!

On our last day we took the cross country route to Folkestone and had lunch in the Crown Inn in Chiddingfold, the village in which Judy lived as a girl. Back through the tunnel, another night at the Ibis and the long drive home.

The weather on the way home was hot and sunny – it has pretty much rained ever since!

Judy’s eyes are still fine after the cataract operation. She has had another check and a got a prescription for new glasses. They seem to be very expensive here – opticians only sell glasses, they don’t do the eye tests. Judy had one lens replaced and it was 140€, of which the state insurance paid just over 4€. Luckily the rest was covered by our top up insurance.

Soon after we got back we had a visit from the McGahans, Malcolm being an old friend from my police days. Sadly because of threatened ATC strikes they had to leave early, so I hope they enjoyed their brief time with us.

We had a nice day out in the Dordogne as I drew up a floorplan of a large house for a friend who acts as a project manager. The place needs a lot of work, but including outbuildings and attics over 13,000 square feet plus a fair bit of land, near a river, for 640,000€ seems like a pretty good deal. Not surprising it was snapped up by a couple of London lawyers!

Back to the normal routine - bowls and lunch out with the Lushes – great!

The English Library had a social evening at the Chateau de Bellefond a couple of days ago - a quiz night with fish and chips. It seemed to go off pretty well – we had 22 keen quizzers. More social events to come as we (hopefully) go into summer.

A brief rest for couple of days, then friends for dinner on Friday and lunch on Sunday, followed by a visit from Judy’s sister Gill and her husband. It’s all a bit like hard work….