Tuesday, 8 September 2015

On my regular visit to the doctor to pick up the prescription for my blood pressure tablets (it’s the pace of life here!), he told me that I had to go to see the cardiologist in Brive. He quickly explained that this was just a check, he doesn’t have an ECG machine in his office. So two visits, one for an ECG, one for a “stress test” on a fixed cycle machine. All went swimmingly (and seen before the appointment time on each occasion), back again in 10 years!

On one of our picnic sorties I aimed for a location in the Dordogne which seemed to be interesting and have a picnic area, the Chateau d’Herm. Found it, at least I thought we had. In fact I had pulled into the car park of the Coteau d’Herm, which is a naturist camp site. Close but no…..Found the Chateau a few kilometres on, and it was shut for June. Eventually found another one (no shortage in the Dordogne) at Commarques, a very impressive ruined fortress. Then tea overlooking the river in St Leon sur Vezere, and home via Amand de Cole, with its huge church (defensive purposes for the use of). A lovely, and interesting, day!

The English Library ticks over. We have decided to become an “on-demand” library, as being open for only two hours on a Saturday won't suit many people. Also we had so many surplus books that we have got over 700 in our dining room, and have declared ourselves a branch library. Not exactly a rush so far…

In mid-June our friends Ian and Di Harrop asked if would like to meet up with them in the Loire valley, near the town of Sancerre for a couple of days. They were having a wine-hunting trip; we just enjoyed a very nice break. We stayed in a delightful hotel overlooking the Loire River, and visited a number of beautiful towns and villages. We also had a couple of really excellent dinners! A very pleasant break with great friends.

Being a nice friend myself I was happy to take our friend Rhonda to pick up her husband, David, at Limoges airport. Nice run up the motorway, shopping in the Asian Supermarket and lunch in the centre of Limoges. Pick up David and home. I think it was mean of them to laugh so much when I got the speeding ticket a couple of weeks later! It’s incredibly easy to pay on line, and no further points on my licence.

I have got a new hobby. I found a site that has pictures of old postcards and I have been selecting ones of our local villages, and trying to take new photos from the same point. I have also tried “merging” them, with mixed results! Very interesting…..

 Once again we went to the Peach Festival in the village. The high spot for us is the evening meal, served in the arcade by the Mairie by the festival committee. For the first time we went with friends – David and Rhonda, and they really enjoyed it. There was another group of our friends at another table too. The food was booked to start at 8pm, so we got our first course at 9, and left before the coffee just after midnight. The music was great (accordion and trumpet) and lots of enthusiastic dancing. The next night they had a drum troop playing in the road by the church, and they were brilliant.

 When we came to France I set up a small business doing floor plans for estate agents under the scheme called Auto Entrepreneur – a very simple regime where you declare your income every quarter, and they take about 28 per cent straight from your bank account. As I hadn’t done any business for months I decided to cancel my registration, and with much trepidation went to Tulle (the departmental capital) and the appropriate office. It was really easy, I signed various bits of paper, paid 18€ and that was that. Of course three weeks later one of my old clients contacted me and asked if I could draw up a floorplan for her….

During July and August a number of local villages have a weekly evening Marche des Producteurs – where a large number of tables and benches are set out, barbecues lit and you can either take your own food or buy it from a the stalls of local producers, meat, bread, fish, fruit, vegetables, wine etc. Great fun with friends, especially if the weather is friendly!

Someone pointed out that I had a puncture on a rear tyre on the Alfa, so I pumped it up and drove slowly to the local tyre depot. There the receptionist first said they would repair the tyre, but I said that as the other one was badly worn I would rather replace both. A bit surprised she offered me a price for some Michelins in stock, which I was happy with. But no, we can get you some cheaper ones! No problem and the price I worked out later was virtually identical to that in the UK.

When we go out on our picnics we try to have somewhere to aim for, even if we are diverted by sites en route. A few weeks ago we decided to go to Perigueux, and find a C & A clothing store we had been to some years ago. Sadly when we found it, it was full of the most awful tat. However we had our picnic near a lovely little village called Ajat, which has a huge church, chateau open if you ring the bell and a very attractive looking auberge. In fact the auberge looked so good we went back the following week, and very good it was too.

Found another clumber spaniel owner in Correze! Jenny and Bob Arber live about 40 minutes away, and we dropped in for a coffee on one of our picnic days. Bob was an RAF nav, so we had plenty to talk about. They have a very old clumber bitch, who basically ignored Icare as he whizzed around. Off from there to find  apicic spot at one of the highest points in the area – lovely views and we had it all to ourselves.

Talking of dogs there was the annual Brive Dog Show – the real thing – hundreds of dogs of every breed imaginable and their owners – all taking it very seriously. Saw some nice wolfhounds, but the clumbers had been judged and all gone home by the time I got there.

That evening Judy, David and Rhonda and I had an evening at the opera. There is an arts festival in the area every year, held under the name of the Vezere Festival, the Vezere being the river that runs through the area. On this evening a performance of the Marriage of Figaro was held at the Chateau de Saillant, a couple of miles from us and in our commune. The chateau has been in the De Lasteyrie family since 1320 – what price the French Revolution? The opera was held in a converted stable block, and was really enjoyable. An Austrian composer, Italian librettist, French chateau and all sung by an English company!

A few months ago I got back in touch with one of the lads who worked for me when I was Operations officer at Honington. He lives in Surrey, another of the boys (boys?) lives in Orlando Florida (working in real-estate and as an Elvis impersonator) and another in Peterborough. The latter, Nigel Noble, got in touch to say that he had  a place in France near Carcassonne, and would we like to meet up halfway. We RV’d in the gorgeous hilltop village of Puycelci, an old favourite of Judy and me. It was great fun to meet up with Nigel and his family and catch up on old times. The boys are having a reunion next year, and I am invited as long as I grow the moustache again!!

Enough for now – must try to enjoy the last of the hot weather!