Monday, 1 September 2014


According to the French tourist industry Summer is officially open. We went out for a picnic yesterday – the last Saturday in August – and many cafes, campsites and attractions seemed to have shut already. I think that the coming Monday is the Rentré, or back to school day. Anyway we had a very enjoyable picnic, topped off later with wonderful ice cream sundaes at a café on the bank of the Dordogne in Argentat. We had the picnic in a small parking area which was at the start of a path leading to cave in the cliffs overlooking the Dordogne, and which had been a hideout for one of the earliest resistance groups. 

Back to chronology.

First things first – Bertie is fine. He hasn’t looked back since his operation, and seems to be in pretty good health. He also has some competition, of which more later.

At the end of June we decided to take a short break, and had a couple of nights in a really nice hotel on the Atlantic coast. We had a nice easy run down, stopping in the town of Cahors, where we visited the lovely bridge. 

The hotel was the Hype Hotel in Biscarosse, built and run by a French / Rhodesian couple to their own specifications – highly recommended. Biscarosse is only a couple of miles from the sea, but is on a large bay, and is, of course, the home of the French seaplane. The villages on the coast south of Biscarosse itself were all fairly well developed, all sand and surf. There aren’t any harbours on this stretch, so no quaint undiscovered fishing villages. Arcachon to the north is the large town and port, and reputedly very attractive. I say reputedly because when we went there the holidays had obviously just started, and the place was absolutely bursting at the seams.

On the way back we came through the small town of Eymet in the Dordogne. At first glance this is a delightful bastide town, but it has the reputation of being the most “Anglicized” town in the Dordogne. Some estimates say up to a third of the residents are Brits, and certainly all the shops are carefully bi-lingual. It gave the idea for a ghastly TV programme called “Little England”, in which a plummy voiced presenter talked of “Blighty” and introduced ex-pats who really, really missed their fish and chips and beer. Very false, and we are well aware that the producers induced people to do and say things that were for dramatic effect, not veracity.

Just got back in touch with two of my long lost cousins, Di and Trish Hetherington, after over 30 years. They now live in Dorset, so we are looking forward to meeting and catching up one day soon.

I have been keen on getting another dog, so we could integrate it with us while Bertie was still around. We went to look at some German Shepherd puppies, and they were really nice. However although I have always liked this breed, I found that I was not really enthusiastic, so we didn’t take it any further.

Sadly Judy’s Mum passed away in July, so we travelled to England for the funeral. Obviously a very sad occasion, but at least closure for the family as she had not recognised anyone for many years. Nice to see people, we promised again to try and meet up in happier circumstances. We had some time before our flight home so had a day out, visiting the Air Museum at Duxford, the village of Clare where my father came from and up into Norfolk. We dropped in on Florence Gardener, the widow of an RAF friend; it was really nice to see her. On the way to Stansted we went via Cambridge. It’s a lovely city, but we were glad we were there early, as we left at about 1130 it filled up rapidly and we passed loads of coaches bringing more visitors in.  

One of our favourite walks is along a footpath above the river Vezere in the local village of Le Saillant. It leads to a hydro-electric dam and generating station, and until recently they were shut off for security reasons. You can now cross over the river and return down the road on the other bank. During July and August you can finish the walk in a little café, which only opens for these two months.

We had another of our picnic days out and visited the very interesting Gallic and Romano-Gallic site at Tintignac, about 30 minutes from us. We had known about the site for some time, but it has only just been properly opened to the public. It is very much a work in progress, although the archaeologists have made some superb finds.  There is a small amphitheatre which has yet to be excavated, so it’s a place to return to. Looking for somewhere to have our picnic we ended up at another Roman site at Cars. On the way back we found a rather lonely looking Chateau at Mazeau, privately owned but easily accessible.

Voutezac had its annual peach festival, literally dampened by a huge thunderstorm. Luckily it was all under cover, so we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as usual.

So no GSD puppy, what could I look at next? Yes, back to wolfhounds! I found e very good breeder who has 4 or 5 litters of puppies a year, so as he is just south of Limoges we went to visit him. Really nice dogs, he has about 10 adults and he had two litters as well. Judy and I really like the cream wolfhounds, so asked when he might have any cream pups. He is expecting two of his bitches to whelp in September, and they have cream puppies. So that would be my Christmas present sorted!

Janie Busch held a Jazz evening at the Chateau where our library is, and we all piled in to help out. Judy makes a great barmaid, and says that she really appreciates it when all the drinks and food are all priced at 1€. The music was very well appreciated, the only problem was that it was planned to be outside, and an hour before the start the heavens opened. Everything was moved inside; luckily Janie has a music room just off the library! The evening broke even, which was a pretty good result.

We had planned for some friends to visit, but sadly one couple had to be cancelled when we  flew to the UK. The other friend, Nick Edwards, was on a short cycle tour and stayed with us for a couple of nights. He was head boy at my school, so I suppose that swapping school stories was a change for Judy from RAF ones.

The cancelled couple were the Ayliffes, who were RAF friends. Alex’s uncle had died in a Mosquito crash in 1944, and it was the 70th anniversary. It all happened in a tiny hamlet some 3 hours south of us near Agen. We thought it would be a quite low-key affair, although we knew that a number of Alex’s family would be there. When we arrived in the hamlet just after 10, we had missed the mass in the local church, but caught the ceremony in the cemetery with the obligatory speeches. There were a large number of locals in attendance, as they were also honouring the resistance fighters who had rescued the Mosquito pilot and buried Alex’s uncle. Back to the church for a brief speech, then everyone went to the local town, where there were lots more speeches and wine and nibbles. We did manage to speak to Alex and his wife Jilly, but they had to leave for the arranged lunch (for 120), so we set off home again. A long day.

 One Tuesday evening we went to the Le Saiilant marche des producteurs with our friend David. His wife Rhonda is back in her home state of Texas for family reasons, and we all miss her and make sure David is fed. He claims to be fading away, but we aren’t so sure! Anyway the marche des producteurs involves a large number of tables, lots of stalls selling bread, meat, salads, cheese, wine, chips etc and a number of barbecues. You just turn up, grab a space and buy and cook what you want. Being married to a Texan we naturally let David do the barbecuing honours, and he did very well. A good evening, although it would have been much better with Rhonda there.

 Rachel was back in UK for a visit, and nipped over to France to see us, which was very enjoyable, if too brief! We had a very good day at Pech Merle the caves and grottos near Cahors. Judy and I have always been very impressed by the cave paintings, and I think Rachel was too. We were also invited to Dave Makepeace’s birthday party, and were delighted to meet up with his daughters and their boyfriends.

After dropping Rachel off at Limoges airport for her trip home, we continued on for a couple of hours to the Charente Maritime, near Cognac. I had seen an advert in Leboncoin, a web site where almost everything, from cars, to houses to pets can be advertised. It said that there was a Clumber Spaniel puppy looking for a new home…..Say hello to Icare! His owner had changed jobs, and could no longer look after him during the day. Icare (French for Icarus) is 10 months old and settled in with us and Bertie better than we could have hoped.

Yesterday seemed to be the day for car rallies, there was a steam of lovely cars going past over several hours. They varied from 1920s models to modern Ferraris and Aston Martins. There were even some cars we have owned ! Well a couple of 2CVs anyway!

So as summer is supposed to be over, the weather has improved and the sun shines. Lots more fun to be had yet!

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