Saturday, 29 July 2017

We've had a busy couple of months, a trip to UK and the ongoing saga of the roadworks outside our house, now hopefully all done.

To show that I do keep busy I took a number of shots of our bird feeder, mainly to try and catch the woodpecker that was getting a free lunch. Don't be under the impression that I sat there for hours in a hide – I set my camera to take a shot every few seconds and left it on a tripod to it's own devices. Looking through 800 shots for anything interesting is really quite boring, but we did get a few good pictures. The one of the edible dormouse (seriously that's it's name) was take though the window.

On to the roadworks. Madame la Maire had promised that it would look very nice when it was finished – and it does. We were a bit worried at first as our garage was left inaccessible, but they came back and sorted it out. It's very nice to be able to park by our house again.

I have carried on with my photography and produced a couple more of my “Then and Now” YouTube creations. It is amazing how much more of places I see doing this. Search for cliftondj on YouTube. 

A few weeks ago the Circus came to town – at least to Vigeois, the village where I play bowls. They camped in the car park of the hall we use, and I have to say that Billy Smart really doesn't have to worry. The tent appears to have room for about 30 customers, and the animal contingent comprised a couple of goats tied up to graze around the hall, and a llama left to wander around which wanted to join us inside.

We had a very enjoyable two week trip to UK, seeing family and friends without actually driving all over England.

We started off by getting into the mood for the cuisine to come and had lunch at the KFC at Chartres. Yum. Then to the Ibis in Sangatte, a room with the dog, and a very short drive to the Tunnel in the morning and an almost empty train.

Straight to Leigh on Sea, where we saw Nick and family, and picked up Rachel who was over from New York.

We had stayed in the cottage on Orford last year, and it was as nice as we remembered it – Rae stayed for four days and seemed to enjoy it too. Icare certainly enjoyed all the walks he had by the sea. We had visits from Judy's sister Carol and her partner Terry, Jim and Angela Wiggle (sorry about the spare bedroom Ange) and our friend Posy.

We also visited a couple of old friends from our days in Norfolk – lovely to see Jenny and Florence and to visit the Chequers again!

We tried not to drive too far, but had a couple of trips to Southwold, to Lavenham and to Clare, where my father and grandparents lived. We also visited Sutton Hoo, the ancient ship burial site.

A very strange place was Shingle Street – a real end of the world settlement just up the coast from Orford.

In a part of the country that had numerous airfields in it during the Second World War it seemed natural to visit a couple of aircraft related museums. The first was the Cold War Museum at RAF
Bentwaters, which was a USAF A10 base. Some good exhibitions and a long chat from a retired US airman in the operations room – I tried to tell him that I was doing much the same just up the road, but he wasn't really listening. I was able to point out that a picture of an AEW Shackleton was wrongly labelled – Judy pretended she wasn't with me. Strange to see that they have a presentation to explain what the cold war was – seemed so recent to me.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton was quite different – buildings full of aviation memorabilia of all sorts – some interesting and some not so. I turned a corner to find the very sad looking cockpit of Victor K2 XL 160, an aircraft I flew in many times. Sad.

Icare had so many walks that he was quite filthy, so we took him to be groomed. He looked lovely, but next day had an upset stomach. Pharmacies in France stock a number of products for animals, Boots in Woodbridge seemed rather puzzled at being asked for something for canine constipation....

One slight problem with the cottage was that the house next door was being renovated, so there was quite a bit of noise and dust. When they actually drilled through the common wall I mentioned it to the agents, and to their credit we got a 20% refund.

On our way back we had a reunion with some of the lads who used to work for me when I was an operations officer at RAF Honington - really great to see them all again. They tried to recreate a photo from my leaving do from all those years ago.....

Via Nick's again, nice barbecue and a sleepover! A gentle drive through Kent taking in a bit of tourism in Canterbury and Rye and quite a lot of shopping and through the tunnel again. Strange how the drive from Calais to home seems to get longer and more tiring each time!

When we got back the roadworks had almost finished, but a day of tarmac laying prompted a spontaneous day out in the Dordogne, with a very pleasant lunch out and an afternoon in, then to Bergerac, where they were preparing for the Tour de France. This is a statue of Cyrano de Bergerac, who actually has nothing to do with the town at all....

A couple of weeks after we visited him Nick and Kev came to see us – well mainly to watch a day of the Tour de France between Perigueux and Bergerac. They seemed to have had a pretty good time.

Judy had a check up at the ophthalmologist and he says she has a cataract in her other eye, it will be operated on at the end of August. Having had one done already she is really quite comfortable with this, and is looking forward to having really good vision. She already helps me out when I don't have my glasses!

We will have a new addition to the household in about 7 weeks. Finn is an Irish Wolfhound puppy, and when we saw him he was just a week old and his eyes were still shut. Oh the fun to come!

One day he'll look like his dad...

We recently had a Quiz and Fish and Chips night at Ch√Ęteau Bellefond – seemed to go very well with nearly 50 people attending. My quiz was generally thought to be rather on the difficult side – much better than too easy!

Voutezac had it's Peach Festival last weekend. As always the evening repas was very entertaining – first course served just after 9 and the dessert at 1130.

The next morning we drove to a RAFA Hog Roast near St Jean D'Angely in the Charente. A very enjoyable evening. We stayed in a really nice B & B in the town, dog friendly and lots of walks.

In fact Icare has recently stayed in several hotel and B & B rooms with us and behaved very well, but this doesn't excuse his opening our bedroom door several times last night and coming in to give my ear a friendly lick! Little does he he know of the friend soon to be joining him.....

Friday, 12 May 2017

We have been very thankful for a comparatively mild winter this year, although it has been a bit wetter than normal. Still we seem to go through our central heating oil pretty rapidly – buying a new tankful and paying for it all at once really squeezes the wallet!

We bought some tickets to watch Brive Rugby play – discounts for three games. We chickened out for one game as it was a freezing cold night, but did get to watch them play against Grenoble and Newport.

For Judy's birthday we had a very nice meal at the village auberge – special birthday cake provided!

I suppose being fairly rural we should expect a few power cuts, and with some high winds we had a few this month – a pain as of course the central heating stops as well.

Went to Brive to watch Lala Land, a very enjoyable film. Afterwards went for an Indian meal in what I believe is Brive's only Indian restaurant. Not a great success – our American friend Rhonda is not a fan of Indian food and this didn't convert her!

Since my last effort I have been taking lots more photos to produce my short then and now videos, plus I have updated some of the older ones. If you want to see any go to YouTube and search for cliftondj. 

Our new windows were fitted in February (well almost all of them). Tim and Barry started fitting them when we had a power cut which lasted overnight. Luckily it came back the next morning, as we had planned to take a short break and leave them to it!

We headed off south and found a very nice hotel to stay in near the town of Mirepoix in the Ariege – we had been there several times before and its a lovely area. The hotel has wonderful views of the Pyrenees from our bedroom, and we had three very nice nights there.


As well as Mirepoix we visited a number of other places, including the impressive town of Foix, and the breathtaking fortress of Montsegur. Well it would have been breathtaking if we hadn't stayed at the bottom...

Another interesting day out was to Carcassonne. Again a magnificent mediaeval city, perhaps a little over restored, and very much a tourist magnet. Still a must see though.

On our last night we met up with our friends the Nobles at their holiday cottage in the delightful village of Esperaza. Nigel was in the RAF with me many years ago! With them we visited the village of Rennes le Chateau, famous in modern legend for tales of buried Templar treasure – very Dan Brown!

The Nobles


Back home to find all the windows bar one fitted – the house now seems very quiet. This is quite lucky, as soon after we got back they started digging up the road outside our house – work which is still ongoing as I write this in May. First they laid a new water main, filled it all in, then came back and dug it up for a new sewer. The road itself is often shut without notice, which can be a real pain. Our Mayor assures us it will all be worth it!

Shrove Tuesday – Judy made some delicious pancakes, and I almost managed to persuade a couple of friends in UK that as dedicated ex-pats we ate them with Marmite!
We have tried to get out for our picnics as much as we can. One good day ended up at the Gallo Roman site at Cars again – the 2,000 year old picnic table! Occasionally we chickened out, as we did a couple of weeks ago when we chose a very rainy day to venture out, and ended up eating in a restaurant – we did have the picnic for supper at home.

Bent over one day to put my socks on and my back “went”. Very painful for a few days, but gradually cleared up by itself, and hasn't reappeared thank goodness.

Our Auberge has carried on with its special evenings – a Couscous Night was very enjoyable!

For our 44th anniversary dinner we went to La Treille Muscate, a restaurant and hotel in a very old building in the lovely town of Uzerche.

Our village historical society had an evening meeting, at which I learned I was a guest speaker. In fact we just showed my short video of Voutezac then and now. It would have been rather more impressive if there had been sound with it. The main talk was about the bridge in Le Saillant, just down the hill from us. There were several references to the various times Les Anglais and Le Prince Noir had “visited” the area, and a few pointed (I hope humorous) glances in my direction. Interestingly the current chatelaine of the Chateau du Saillant, Madame Lasteyrie, was there. She is the sister of ex President Giscard D'Estaing. The Lasteyrie family have owned the chateau for over 600 years. Revolution? What revolution?

The couple who run our lovely Auberge, Fabio and Marie, got married a few weeks ago and very kindly invited Judy and me and Rhonda and David Lush to the wedding(s). It's in the plural as here the only legal wedding is that held in the Mairie before the mayor. The church service after is presumably more a blessing. We were all asked to wear clothes from between 1890 and 1950, and the groom wore a kilt! No I have no idea why! During the ceremony at the Mairie the couples dog, a very laid back golden retriever, wandered in and lay down under the mayor's table – she never blinked! From there to the church to be met by two highland pipers! After that the vin d'honneur back at the Mairie – a great day.

One very busy day to describe last week before I sign off. Had to wait in for an oil delivery – when he came he couldn't use his normal spot because of the roadworks, so he just parked in the centre of the road and carried on. Then to check chez Makepeace at Malavaud and read the meter. Almost sure I switched everything off....

From there to lunch at le Tilleul de Sully in Montgibaud a lovely restaurant in a tiny hamlet. Wonderful food. From there a walk around Uzerche – very photogenic. Then to see Janie at Chateau Bellefond for high tea – her welcome to all her friends on her return from the USA. Just couldn't do it justice......


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!