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….

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

For a quiet period where we try to stay in out of the cold and not do much – quite a lot has happened.

Rachel came to visit! We weren’t able to do a lot but we did have a very nice afternoon tea in the café attached to the Lamy Chocolate shop in Brive. Just feel those calories. 

Sadly she could only stay a few days but it was great to see her.

Our washing machine decided to finally pack up – tripping the circuit breaker each time we (we? – Judy) started it. Our local electrical shop took it away twice to try and fix it, loaning us a machine each time. It finally packed up, and the shop offered us a new one with all we had paid for the repairs deducted. Shop Local!

This year I was asked again to go to the village of Grun Bordas in the Dordogne to lay a wreath at their war memorial to honour a Stirling crew shot down over the village in 1944. Judy and I are always touched how the locals still remember and honour these young men.

 Judy had the operation on the cataract in her right eye on Thursday 21st April. In for 1230, all done and out just after 2. Jude will still need some assistance with her left eye, but now she spends most of her time with no glasses at all. Brilliant!

A trip into Brive to the latest Coen brother’s film, Hail Caesar, with George Clooney. In VO (Version Originale – i.e. English) of course. We both really enjoyed it.

I found a couple from the Dordogne who do floorplans and property photography, so as I have officially retired I offered them all my elevated photography gear. It cost a fortune, but as the market for it in rural France is somewhat limited I was glad to give it to a good home.

Talking of photography I am continuing with my “post card project”, where I find an old postcard and then try to take a photo of the same scene. Sometimes I can actually overlap them, but they also look great in a slideshow fading from one to another.

I had my 18 month cancer check-up – no change, all very OK. When the doctor asked me my weight I muttered it embarrassedly, but she said that with such things it is always better to be over than underweight. Result!

Managed one of our picnic days out while it was still a little wintery. Went to the village of Gimel les Cascades, then on to the village of Correze. Had lunch on the Suc au May, the highest point in the Correze. Still quite a lot of snow about – in mid March. Strangely nobody else about.

In our village we have an organisation called “A.S.V.S”, which both makes a record of the history of the village and the surrounding area, but also ensures that the older parts are properly looked after and even restored. I bought a copy of their history of Voutezac, and translated it for my own use and that of friends. I sent a copy to the Society and so we were invited to their meeting a couple of months ago. There was a video of the village in the 1990s, and information on their work – for example this used to be a wine growing area and they are saving the small stone huts which the vineyard workers used. I have also translated a walking guide to the village, to keep visitors busy.


            (A C
hâtellenie (the property of the lord of the chateau) – a Parish – a Commune)

(Third edition, revised and supplemented)
Translated by David Clifton

This booklet has been prepared based on the following works:
• A Dictionary of Parishes, by Father Jean Baptiste POULBRIERE
• A History of the Parish of Voutezac, by Father Marius ECHAMEL
• A History of Limousin and the Marche, by Joseph NOUAILLAC
• Corrèze as the crow flies and in a zigzag by L. Dautremen
• The Corrèze, by Abel HUGO
• Name places of the Corrèze, by Marcel Villoutreix
• The Lemouzi review
• Original documents from the archives of VOUTEZAC

Deliberately written without too much scholarship, it has been drawn up by the ASVS (Association for the Protection of Voutezac and its sites) with the sole intention of preserving the history of the inhabitants of the commune.

Invited by friends from our neighbouring village of Vignols to a “Repas des Ouefs”, or a meal of eggs. The organisers go door to door in Vignols and everyone donates fresh eggs. The first course was devilled eggs. The second a nice plain omelette. Third a potato omelette. Followed by a mushroom omelette, then a herb omelette…..Then some cheese with no apparent egg connections, finishing with a crème caramel. Phew!

For our 43rd wedding anniversary we treated ourselves to a meal at Brive’s only Michelin starred restaurant – Le Table D’Olivier. As you would expect a memorable meal!

 One Sunday a couple of weeks ago as we went to Objat for our visit to the market, we came across the annual agricultural show. Here that means cattle, and more specifically Limousin cattle. All very well behaved they were too!

Also a couple of weeks ago was the SSAFA AGM and training day. Great to meet other people from all over France working or the charity. Learned a few things, and was updated on what they are doing at HQ in London! Went to dinner with everyone in the evening, but had to get home and miss the second training day as Jude had her op that day.

Summoned a few days ago by David and Rhonda Lush to take photos of a baby tawny owl on their balcony. Used time lapse facility on camera and obtained some 250 shots of what appears to be an old sock. Forbidden to tap on the window or throw anything at it...Eventually it deigned to stand up and look at the camera, before going back to sleep.

Off on our hols tomorrow!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Well it’s been quite a mild winter so far, touch wood! We have had a couple of days of snow, some quite heavy, but it has never settled. So much depends on where you live here, a few hundred metres in elevation can make all the difference. We recently met an English couple who were house-hunting, and they were quite surprised when I told them to invest in an altimeter!

I finally sorted out where my sinus pain was coming from. Our dentist got me to have an MRI scan (had to wait almost a week!), and eventually decided it was “just” a bad tooth. Out it came, and no problems since.

We haven’t had too many days out – while the weather hasn’t been too bad, it’s been quite grey and cold. We did have a very enjoyable day in Perigueux, window shopping and having a nice lunch.

With the fall in the price of oil, the cost of diesel for the car and heating oil have both fallen quite sharply. We topped up with heating oil before Christmas, and while the price stayed low, we filled up last week. Sadly the exchange rate has rather been against us – ah well its all swings and roundabouts!

The old favourites continue – I still manage to get to our bowls club most Wednesdays – followed by lunch out to undo any possible health benefits. The library seems to be in the depths of hibernation – not sure if it will actually wake up again!

Christmas itself was very quiet, just the two of us. We treated ourselves to a really nice meal out as our present, went to 6’ieme Sens in Brive. So many restaurants, so little time!

We recently discovered an ex pat organisation called Connect 87 which meets up in the town of St Yrieix, just over the border in the Haut Vienne, only 40 minutes away. I had never heard of them, but went to one of their monthly meetings to sell poppies for the British Legion for Remembrance Day. We were astonished to find some 60 people there! It was actually founded by some Dutch people, for English speakers. As well as the social meetings they also have a theatre club, choir, book club, gardening club and other things. Very sociable they are in Dept 87! Anyway they bought all my poppies.

I have carried on with my new hobby of finding old postcards of local views, and taking a photo from the same place. Great fun and Jude says it would keep me off the streets, except that is where the views are….

Our washing machine decided to trip all the electrics one evening. Called at the electrical shop in Objat, they came out the same day, took machine and lent and installed a temporary replacement. Two days later all fixed and re installed. Great service, shop local!

Judy had a problem with what we thought was an eye infection. Saw our doctor on a Tuesday, he tried to get an appointment with an ophthalmologist, but as he couldn’t get one as quickly as he wanted he gave Judy a note to take to A & E at Brive. Went next morning, seen very quickly by duty doctor, who referred Judy to duty ophthalmologist. She did a number of tests, and told Jude to go and see her boss at the hospital in Tulle that afternoon. More tests and she told us that Judy has cataracts in both eyes, and they have probably been present for over 10 years. She has referred her to another hospital for an operation, just waiting for a date. Before the end of the week Judy had also had a Doppler test on her carotid artery (went to hospital, got appointment for following week – they called us back in on mobile and did it same day) and blood tests.

Been for a few good walks, up to the other side of the dam at Le Saillant – when it was first built it powered the trams in Limoges! Also the standard walk around Lake Poncharal – Icare is definitely a water lover.

 Played around with my camera – is one Judy enough?

Also used the facility to take photos at intervals automatically, so took 300 of the bird feeder every 10 seconds:

The annual village report came out, the usual 64 pages of accounts and reports. The commune has an annual budget of over one million euros! Happy to find out that our Auberge, which shut about a year ago, has been bought by the commune who are now looking for a couple to run it - this certainly worked well with our boulangerie. Once again our house is on the front cover - no really, down there in the bottom right hand corner.

We have a number of people coming to stay soon, and lots more invited – just thought I’d give an idea of our accommodation in the overflow block…..running water…what more could you want?

 Just joking. Rachel our daughter is here at the moment – she’ll probably need a whole blog just for her….