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!

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……