Thursday, 1 November 2018

One of the few drawbacks to living here is the number, and viciousness of the local mosquito population. To be fair I seem to be particularly susceptible, and I have had a few visits to the doctor when I have reacted badly. Luckily the mozzies like me much more than Judy – so she has been fairly unharmed.

I have been keeping up my photography, both to make the sliding then and now photos and slideshows. Good fun in the summer! I have visited some lovely villages to do so. See my YouTube channel at CliftonDJ.

Our new Renault is going well, there is plenty of room for the dogs in the back, and it is a very pleasant car to drive. All the modern features take a bit of getting used to – key-less door opening, automatic lights and wipers, but they do make life easier.

We found a real bargain in a local brocante, a French school map of the UK. Always nice to know how others see us!

Healthwise, (apart from the French insects hatred of me), we have both been pretty well. Judy had a cracked tooth, which has been repaired with a crown. We also went to the optahlmologist – Judy for her cataract operation to be declared fine, me just for a check up. Very few opticians here give thorough eye checks, only ophthalmologists, who are very busy.

We had a very enjoyable visit from Barrie and Leslie Munday, old RAF friends. We showed them the delights of the Correze, and they seemed to enjoy an evening at the Marche des Producteurs and another at our village Peach Festival. Really nice to have such enthusiastic visitors!

We decided it would be a good idea to apply for Cartes de Sejour – basically French identity cards. Got all our paperwork together, including the only translation we needed, of our marriage certificate, and took it all to the Prefecture in Tulle. Two of the things we had to prove were that we had been resident for over 5 years, and that we had sufficient income not to be a burden. We had lots of photocopies of electricity and local tax bills, plus proof of pension and bank statement. We also had our income tax bill to show the address, and the (helpful) lady at Tulle pointed out that if we brought her copies of the income figures on the back of the bill, that would cover that aspect. Quick dash home, copies made and back after lunch. Everything accepted, fingerprints taken and we were given a receipt – just waiting for the actual cards.

Being France everything is done differently in each department. The Dordogne, which adjoins the Correze, only accepts applications by appointment, and won't even make those at the moment. In the Haute Vienne to the north of us you send off all you copies of supporting evidence and if it is okay, they make an appointment to speak to you. Guess we have been quite lucky!

The weather has been pretty good over the summer and autumn. Last Thursday we were in Brive and the temperature was 26 degrees. Since then we seem to have moved straight into early winter – yesterday (October 29th) saw 3 degrees here, and snow in other parts of the Correze. Today there is a severe snow warning in place for the Correze – the department starts at less than 100 metres above sea level, and climbs to over 970 as you move towards the Massif Central. Ar 214 I think we are safe for a bit!

Just a quick moment to do the proud grandfather bit – Jake has started at University of East Anglia reading history, and Esme got 5 grade 7s, 4 grade 8s and a grade 9 in her GCSEs and has moved to Grammar School for the sixth form.

A few weeks ago we had an art exhibition which took over much of the village. All the artists showed there work in the streets and alleys of the old part of the own, and it was cleverly named "Remp'arts". We had an artist outside our house, and he made a delightful sketch of it, which we bought from him.

One weekend a year there is a Jour de Patrimoine, when many historic places are open to the public which are shut or private for the rest of the year. We went to Segur le Chateau, and joined a guided tour, the highlight of which was a visit to the Chateau itself. It is still in private hands, and the owner, who I understand is a duke, showed us around. There is a lot of building work going on to repair and stabilise the older parts, and we had a brife glimpse inside the Chateau itself as we moved from one part of the grounds to another.

The village has started English conversation classs once a week, and I am doing my poor best to supply the English side. Much harder than I thought!

We have had several enjoyable picnic days out while the weather was nice. Particularly memorable was a picnic overlooking the lovely village of St Leon sur Vezere, after which we visited a wild boar farm near the town of Le Bugue.

The annual Levriers or running dog show came to Pompadour again. I didn't show Finn, but we saw his breeder who said he looked fine – but need a good brush. Very embarassing.

We don't forget Icare – still "top dog"!

As always at this time of year I have been selling poppies for the Royal British Legion. I have two tins, and have been moving them around a bit, so I am quite optimistic this year!

The History Society in our village have commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the end of the Great War with a superb exhibition in our village hall. There are boards with the names of all those who fought, details of the 88 who died, and many mementoes provided by their relatives. I was asked to provide some details of the history of the poppy, which I was very touched and pleased to do.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Well it has been the wettest and greyest winter since we arrived here – not so cold, but without many sunny days rather more depressing.

We've been taking Finn out as much as possible to get him socialised, he's coming on pretty well. One trip to Brive proved a little too much – it was the day that the carnival came through town. Everyone throws confetti at all the floats – a bit too exciting for an Irish Wolfhound Puppy. We found some youngsters dressed up for the occasion – one of them as a wolf. I think that he eventually understood my explanation of what a wolfhound was bred for, but he refused to actually be hunted. Still not totally sure he appreciated my sense of humour – not alone there then!

For Valentines day we had a lovely dinner at the auberge, heart shaped dessert and all. We were even given our engraved aperetif glasses as a souvenir!

On our travels we have now found an American cafe in the small town of Excideuil, about an hour away. Nice people running it and a welcome bit of variety.

I spent a lot of time car hunting, and could never find exactly what we wanted. And Finn kept on growing....

Talking of Finn – to answer the usual questions I am asked when I am out with him, I have had a special sweatshirt printed – seems to help!

I have carried on with my photography, and am now concentrating on creating pictures that have the old and new views side by side, and you are able to slide between them:

I got in touch with a friend who lives near St Emilion and has his own commercial vineyard to ask why apple orchards were netted against hail, but vineyards aren't. Still not sure of the reasons – but he told me that he was selling the vineyard, and offered me a couple of boxes of wine for free. I had a nice drive to see him, gratefully accepted the wine and bought a couple more boxes – and very good it is too.

When our friends the Makepeaces were here at Easter I decided on a religiously themed day out – Mr M is an ordained C of E vicar. First to the
Grotte de St Antoine in Brive – an ancient site of pilgrimage that is now also a Franciscan monastery. A surprise less than a kilometre from the centre of Brive. Then onto the lovely village of Aubazine with its beautiful abbey and monastic buildings – which never seem to be open when we are there. From there to much more ancient beliefs – in the hills above Aubazine are a Dolmen or burial mound and a cromlech or stone circle. Finally on to a very nice restaurant nearby – Le Passadou. I like to think that we satsified the inner and outer person....

Judy and I then treated ourselves to a short break in Venice to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary. We flew from Toulouse, and had five very enjoyable nights. The B & B we stayed in is a lovely old house dating from the 15th century and furnished with antiques right on a bend in a canal. In fact it's name Ca Malcanton means the palace on the dangerous bend!

We walked around a lot, went to lots of museums and art galleries, took some trips around the lagoon and generally had a wonderful time. Oh, and we ate far too much! One surprising highlight was the cemetery island of San Michele – a fascinating place to explore.

The inscription reads ..."who left us in peace"......

Back home and picked up the dogs – as always when Debbie looks after them they seem to have had a wonderful time!

Soon after we got back Finn managed to damage the tip of his tail. I am not sure why a dog needs blood vessels right at the end of his tail, but I can
assure you that when he then wags it, the house soon looks like a crime scene. Impossible to bandage it, so we got some spray on bandage which seemed to work. Apparently this is known as “Happy Tail”! Anyway we have managed to teach him to sit....

We are still trying to get out and explore the lovely area we live. We recently took a picnic to the Lac de Vassiviere, about an hour north of us. A beautiful large lake, which probably gets very busy in the tourist season. As there was a bitter wind blowing we had an excellent lunch in a hotel looking out over the water, and took the picnic home.

I had a couple of nights away in Bergerac for the AGM of SSAFA France and some training sessions. Very enjoyable socially, and I did learn quite a lot, but the Data Protection lectures were hard work!

Judy got me up (comparatively) early one morning as Finn had ripped up his bedding in cage and wound it all round one hind leg. He then tried to get out of the cage through the hinge side of the door. Bless him he kept very still while we spent 15 minutes carefully cutting him free. He never snarled or growled once . The cage is now in the cellar and he sleeps on a single mattress we had spare!

Fabio the chef at our village Auberge likes to have themed evenings every so often. We gave the Tete de Veau a miss, but the 7 hour cooked lamb sounded wonderful – and it was. Only two slight reservations about the evening; it was supposed to start at 20:00, we started at 21:30 so didn't finish eating until 23:00. Then it was Fabio's birthday, so we all had to have a piece of birthday cake and a glass of prosecco. We got to bed about midnight and my digestive system protested a little!

With all the rain we have been having, mixed with warm sunshine our garden is getting a little out of hand. If I don't tackle it with strimmer very soon I'll have to buy a machete...

At last we've bought a new car – new to us that is. It's a Renault Grand Espace and the dogs love it. There is so much room in the back Finn doesn't lie down – he just keeps on walking. It drives very well and has a few of those modern touches such as automatic wipers and a built in Satnav. Bliss!

Monday, 12 February 2018

I contacted Pascal Douis, Finn's breeder to ask a couple of questions. He answered them, then asked if I had realised I had forgotten to sign the cheque paying for him......We went to see him, and he both approved of how Finn was looking and accepted our signed cheque. Whoops..

As you can see he has taken up his rightful place in the family right from the start!

In November I sold poppies for the British Legion again. Always a good response in a pretty small British community – able to send in over 140€.

As my friend David Lush had hurt his ankle, I took him to Toulouse Airport to pick up his wife Rhonda on her return from Texas. An easy run, and a very nice meal in the restaurant overlooking the runway and the Airbus factory. Rhonda arrived on time as well.

We had a few problems with our waste water system, you really don't need to know the details. The problem was in a long pipe which descends through our garden, so we were lucky to be able to cut this out and connect up to the new sewer that has just been laid in our road. I say “we”, but some nice gentlemen did the work for us, for a large, but not begrudged, sum of money.

As the year drew to a close the mosquitoes didn't. I still appear to be rather allergic to their bites, so I'll be trying different sprays to see if anything puts them off. And no, they don't bite Judy.

On our way back from lunch in Pompadour we diverted to look at the birthplace of Pope Innocent VI, who was pope when the papacy was in Avignon in the 14th century. The site is now a 19th century house and two huge blocks of stables – it was connected to the National Stud in Pompadour. I fact I did a plan of the whole thing several years ago.

I have been carrying on with my photo slideshow project – showing our part of France in the past and today. I have actually created a Facebook page :

For Christmas we decided to buy ourselves a new TV. Of course one of the connections was a different type, so entailing another trip to Brive to get one. Then I found one on Amazon for a quarter of the price.....

It really has not been the best of winters. We normally expect bright and sunny and fairly cold. Well so far we have had a bit of snow and lots of rain falling from a grey sky. As I write this we have just had some snow which actually settled for a couple of days – although it has all gone now.

Interesting trip to the Saturday market in Brive just before Christmas. It was absolutely packed, and lots of people were buying their truffles!

We spent Christmas itself very quietly, just the two of us, and had some friends for lunch on boxing day. We did have a tree though!

Having pretty much retired from the exciting world of floorplans, I was surprised when a former client asked me to do one for her as a favour. She project manages and the job was a lovely and very empty house near the village of St Cyprien in the Dordogne. In fact the house is pretty nearly in the Dordogne – just 10 metres or so from the river. As the house is being heavily refurbished, my plan helps to decide where to put up / knock down walls etc. Judy came too with the dogs and we had a nice lunch and gave the dogs a couple of good runs.

As I think we may need a slightly larger car, I have been hunting for one for months. As soon as I decide on one model I spot another one – so no great progress yet. Also, because in France you only pay tax on a used car when you re-register it, the frugal French keep their cars longer and second-hand prices are markedley higher than in the UK.

We had a a very enjoyable meal out with friends for Judy's birthday at the Table d'M in Uzerche. Highly recommended.

To keep up his socialising we try to take Finn into Brive. While Judy went shopping in the sales (her birthday present – what a coincidence) Finn made lots of new friends. My comment that he is only a puppy and just 7 months old are always received with amazement!

Just in case you are worried he is growing quite nicely:

A quiet few months – I'm sure we'll have a busier time in the months to come.