Tuesday, 31 October 2017

We always mean to go to the Marche des Producteurs in Le Saillant several times during July and August. This year only made it once with Simon and Anna and their family – they have a holiday cottage in the village.

Bowls on a Wednesday carrys on as always – nice people and all played for fun – no really. Of course we don't mind if we win or lose......

Very nice to see all the Makepeaces – met up a few times and we were allowed to meet the lovely Audrey – the first grand daughter.

This blog may possibly be considered to belong to Finn, our new Irish Wolfhound puppy. We reserved him before he was born, so we were able to visit him from a week old until we picked him up at 9 weeks.

This year's opera presented by the Festival de la Vezere at the Chateau du Saillant was La Boheme. As usual we went with the Lushes, and had a very enjoyable evening.

Before picking Finn up I went to the international dog show in Brive. Finn's breeder, Pascal Douis, was there showing a couple of dogs. The showing started at 09:00, the wolfhounds were supposed to be on at 11:00, by which time everything was running an hour late.

I've been taking more photos for my then and now slideshows – it would be nice if you could believe the met man when he says we are going to have a lovely sunny day Ah well, more practice on photoshop! Next project St Yrieix!

Pretty nice weather – August very warm, and we have had an “Indian Summer” in late October.

One Wednesday as bowls were cancelled we went a little further afield with the Lushes to the lovely village of Aubazine. There is an impressive Abbey, where Coco Chanel was brought up in the orphanage. We had lunch at Le Passadou, a lovely little restaurant way off the beaten track. We also checked out a cromlech and a dolmen! A cromlech is a stone circle, this one is deep in some wood and quite atmospheric. The nearby dolmen is what remains of a ancient burial mound.

The next day was pretty well my perfect day. We went to see how Finn was getting on at six weeks – jolly well being the answer. Then to the Chateaux de Gateaux in St Yrieix for a full English breakfast. A drive for a couple of hours, taking in the chateau in Chalus where Richard the Lionheart received his fatal wound. 

Finally back to the C de G for a cream tea with the Makepeaces – I could actually feel my arteries hardening...

Judy had her second cataract operation – went very well and she will probably only need glasses to read very small print or in poor light.

We thought they had finished all the roadworks outside, but they came back and scraped off the black top surface to reveal this new surface below. We hope that's it!

Lots of mosquitoes this summer, and they love me. Sadly I seem to be slightly allergic and the bites can be quite unpleasant. A couple of years ago I was bitten on a finger and had to have my wedding ring cut off. I also proved to be allergic to some crab sticks I had for lunch! On the positive side my slight problem with a high white cell count in my blood has stabilized, and I don't have to see the specialist for another two years.

We were hoping to have a few visitors this year, but they didn't really materialize. One couple came to stay one night on their way south, and the second pair fell foul of Ryanair's appalling cock up when their flight was cancelled.

I eventually got the car repaired from the accident we had in Suffolk in June. The old boy who did it has done a brilliant job.

We did get to see Richard and Joyce, who stayed with us last year. They spent 3 weeks in the Dordogne staying with our friend Diane. We managed to meet up, and they brought their son Nick and his wife Sarah to our place. Nick and Sarah were almose straned by Ryanair, but managed to get another light home.

On the 15th September we picked up Finn. There were only two dogs in the litter, and the other one was also being collected. We had a good trip back home, and he has got on pretty well with Icare who is hardly jealous at all.......

Got lots of Amazon vouchers for my birthday – thanks everyone. As always couldn't think of what to buy, but eventually got loads of book.

Their was an excellent dog show in Pompadour especially for “Levriers “ or running dogs, so for everything from whippets to Wolfhounds. Finn wasn't able to go as he had just had his vaccination, but it was very interesting.

As soon as Finn was able to go out we tried taking him to Objat market to socialise him. He behaved very well indeed, and was much admired.

We had an interesting  visit to the Pans de Trevessac, an old slate mine near Donzenac. Although the guided tour was a little rapid for our French comprehension, it's an impressive place.

Finn is now 4 months old and weighs well over 25kg. Well he knows who's boss anyway......

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......