December Blues

Most of the time, life goes on as normal, then all of a sudden things change in a moment. The difficult changes are usually a loss of something, good health, money or even of people or animals. For us it’s been a loss of good health and the culprit is cancer. That cancer word is always scary, when your doctor is French it is more complicated, despite having a reasonable grasp of the French language,  medical language is another mountain to climb. Thankfully the French health system is excellent, tests, scans, medication, doctors appointments all race past but then the waiting starts and every day feels like a week.

For me, thank goodness for the normality of routine chores, there’s nothing quite like cleaning out the poultry houses and checking the hens for parasites to keep your feet on the ground. The dogs need walking, the horse needs riding, though thankfully with him being in livery at least I don’t have to muck him out too. The household chores of fetching logs in for the burners each day and cleaning the floor in the kitchen every morning because the dogs or cats are moulting to say nothing of Mollys little dead mouse gifts are perhaps not a joy but at least a distraction.

So life goes on and our animals as always make us laugh, especially Merry who lives her little life at full speed, chasing the cats who don’t seem to mind even when she catches them, bullying poor Echo who is too kind to keep her in order and teasing us.

Christmas is rapidly approaching and I’m not sure we are up to celebrating it, though……..looking at the little face below maybe we can.

Holidays are over

September brought our holiday time, almost three weeks, driving from France down into Spain, from Olite to Almagro to the south of Spain to stay in Ronda. I think was fair to say we were disappointed in Ronda, our villa was quiet and comfortable though a little further from town than we had anticipated. Ronda itself  was too touristy with coach trips everywhere even in late September. There was an end of the season feel which we are used to in France but did not expect it in Spain.

From Ronda we took two nights to reach Barcelona via Elche and Tortosa. The parador at Tortosa is definitely worth a stay. It sits on the top of cliffs over looking the river Ebro and the town below a stunning vista, a great place to stay with lost of ancient places to visit.

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Barcelona was interesting but generally seemed a bit tired, we stayed in a very central Appartment which was great for walking almost everywhere but were surprised that the main aroma in the city was that of drains! What would this city be without Gaudi.

The last leg was from Barcelona to Albi for a night, a brilliant drive where we saw the last glimpse of thep1000927 sea and headed towards the hills and mountains of France. Albi is stunning with its handmade brick cathedral and the Toulouse Lautrec museum and gallery. Then to Cahors for another night, a visit to the bridge and a wander around the town.

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The final overnight stop was Bergerac an old favourite for us where we were able to stay in our customary places, the Hotel de France and a meal at La Villa Laetitia which never disappoints.

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A brilliant holiday but perhaps too much driving, we stayed in some beautiful places, ate and drank wonderfully well, it was definitely a holiday with friends to remember.

Puppy love

Merry is settling in well with the rest of the menagerie, she is more likely to be chased by the cockerels than chase them…….a good thing! She bullies dear Echo unmercifully because Echo is far too kind to her and Molly the cat also lets her get away with a lot of naughtiness! I recently bought a water pistol, following a friends advice and it is great deterrent when she is attempting to hang off Echo’s ear. Today was also a milestone as Merry managed to swim out of her depth in the river, reach the far bank and with her head held very high, swim back, what a clever girl!image

We have now had several weeks of high temperatures, the river is running very low, the lawn is now brown and we are watering the veg to keep them going, no sign of rain on the forecast in the next week!! It’s very tough watching plants die but you can only keep a certain amount going, the woods around us are parched and it looks very autumnal. A hen died yesterday for no obvious reason, I think it must have been the heat as she was healthy, wormed, without parasites and a good weight, I make sure they have plenty of water and shade but sometimes nature just has its own way.

Finally … Here comes summer

p1000852After dreary weeks of intemperate weather, the sun finally came out and the blue skies reminded us of the long warm days we came to expect of the French summers.

Two daughters, their husbands and two grandsons arrived for a week of holidays. It has been truly amazing to see the difference to the peace of Gachet with the real explosion of noise and activity that small children bring. The amount of special equipment was staggering, with a gazebo, high chairs, toys of all sizes, cots we needed a degree to assemble, how complex does it have to be, changing mats and so on. Thank goodness for the space we have so they can stretch their little legs and us ours. The air has been full of happy voices, laughter, squeals and occasional cries of tiredness but even the noise of the birds has been drowned out temporarily. We’ve been on outings to La Rochelle and its aquarium, the local market in all its larger holiday splendour, Niort for a bit of sales shopping, a walk to the local fishing lake rustic play area but spent most of our time in and around the pool, heated to a wonderful 30 degrees. The sun has shone.

The animals have coped well, with Merry pinching any small toys she could grab and the boys happily pinching hers but she had the advantage of being able to run rings round them. Echo wandered happily around them and unsurprisingly for a lab was always present at meal times ready to persuade then that she needed food far more than the boys did. As to the cats well they made themselves scarce just appearing for their food or a bit of affection when the boys were in bed. The time has flown past.

How quiet it all is now they’ve gone.

Croatia holidays

imageAt the end of May I went to Croatia with a friend. It was my first trip to the country and one of several firsts I experienced over the week. We flew from Nantes with Volotea air which is a Spanish budget airline and was also I must say, an excellent experience. Pleasant and helpful crew who spoke 3 languages, a clean and spacious plane, a tasty sandwich and a smooth ride.

Dubrovnik is a stunning walled city and the surrounding area hilly to mountainous with a glorious coastline winding it way round. We stayed about 3k from the main city at the top of a hill, carrying our bags up this steep and pothole riddled drive made it feel like mountaineering. After 3 days of doing this regularly we, being middle aged ladies, began to get fitter and the climb seemed easier.

We walked everywhere, beach, supermarket, restaurants, the 2k of the city walls, took a coach trip to Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina, and a boat trip to visit some of the Elaphite islands. It wasn’t all health kick however, the local red wine was great, a local chocolate cake amazing, and we soon leaned the word pivo for beer.

A great holiday, Croatia is well worth a visit.

 

Merry times ahead

Merry our new Jack Russell puppy has arrived, none of our other animals are speaking to her as yet but I’m sure they will get over the shock of another member of the family! She is full of bounce and fun and an affectionate little person.

 

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Bella, A sad day

Sadly today we lost our canine companion of 12 years. She had a second episode of a slipped disc and this time the steroids didn’t help. She had a good life, rescued as a puppy, she lived with us and a companion jack Russell called Daisy. They were great friends always egging each other on to get into mischief.

When we moved to France and retired it was doggy heaven, fields to race round and endless mice to kill, a small river to swim in, no fences and lots and lots of walks. She had a litter of 4 puppies at the grand age of 7 though sadly only one survived, so she grew up with her mum and stayed with us.

Poor Bella had 2 operations for cancer a couple of years ago and a hysterectomy for a pelvic infection shortly after the second one, she was a tough cookie, but the most loyal and loving dog I have known. We will miss her. ❤️

Jumping for joy

imageHere’s in Deux Sevres the Easter holidays have started for the schools, nowhere near Easter of course but it’s the two week vacation. Our local stables fill the holidays with activities, one day riding courses, picnic rides out into the lovely countryside, and small competitions of dressage, jumping and even beauté (sounds so much more attractive than turnout).

Yesterday was the jumping course, looking at theory as well as practice, with a mixed ability group of children adults and horses. Sarah teaches in French and works hard to give the riders confidence and despite the occasional fall, they all improve their jumping position and courage and manage a course of jumps. Next week there will be a jumping competition for them to test their new skills.

Sunni my quarter horse is taking part, he too has increased in courage and ability. When we first had him he was terrified of anything new and living at the stables has learned to cope with pigs (horror of horrors), different riders, working in a school either out or indoors and jumping. He has an old leg injury which caused him to stumble occasionally, his leg has got stronger over the months and he now only slips if turning sharply. He now loves jumping and has gone gone from walking suspiciously and unwillingly over single jumps to enthusiastically leaping over a course of jumps. Jumping for joy!

2016

Oh dear, I have just realised that I haven’t added to this blog since last August. So much has happened in that time, holidays in southern Spain near Cadiz and Carcassonne in France last September, visits to the UK, improvement in my painting skills, riding the horses, managing a bit of sailing,  Christmas and more. I have been so busy I forgot to keep things up to date.

Life races along but we always have time to observe what is around us. In the autumn I was amazed to see a terrapin, about the size of a domestic tortoise in our river. I thought I was hallucinating initially but after racing back to the house and checking out the local wildlife books, it seems that Terrapins are fairly common in small rivers and ponds here in France. How fantastic to see one after all this time. I have seen him a couple of times since in a deep corner of the river where the dogs like to swim so now I look out for him.

Today was the first day of the fishing season and as usual we have fishermen wandering along the fields and garden closely by the river, stopping for a while to cast their hooks in the hope that there will be a fish just waiting below the surface to grab it. It is always a flurry of activity for the first few weekends, then all goes quiet and the fish get to relax for another year.

 

Water sports

This summer we have spent a lot of our time either in or on the water. The weather has been brilliant all summer so we have spent many whole days sailing out of La Rochelle. The marina tends to be scorching so getting out to sea is a great relief, heading either to Ile de Ré  or Fort Boyard, the winds are variable and though we may go steaming out from the port we may struggle to get back in and have to use the motor. On our return there is a customary stop in a small bar near the marina for refreshment then we head for home.

At home we finally have a fully working new pool heater so it is bliss to just be able to fall into the water to swim or even just to float and relax away the aches and cool the body. Thanks to the glorious weather the heater only comes on for short periods which means it will be more economical this year.

When family and friends visit the terrace around the pool is the entertaining area and for the more energetic we play water ball and get competitive with the scores. So glad we live in France.P1000662