Tuesday 27 April 2021

Confinement . . . Lockdown . . . thing.

My God, it's vague this time in France. The only time I've seen a gendarme was a small clutch of them in a wood doing, I don't know what, BBQ? possibly a drug stake out . . . there are some seriously addicted rabbits around here.

A couple of days ago I drove Mark to the station in Saumur so he could go to Geneva for a gig (slightly further than the allotted 10km) but that seemed to be okay with a attestation for work. I was at that point in a different department - in fact if I step over the road outside our house I'm in a different department; could that be a problem for dog walking? Possibly. 

On the way back from the station I called into a shop called Action which specialises in unnecessary items, which appeared to be open despite the fact that all shops selling unnecessary items are supposed to be closed. I hate the shop but they do have the cheapest ever sofa 'throws' which are perfect for dog grit/soil, general filth as they can be washed and dried in about an hour. Mais quoi! They had covered about a third of the shelves in plastic which was adorned with notices stating these particular items could be bought online. So . . . I could buy: plastic plant pots, hair ornaments, deadly looking sweets, plastic guns, pillow cases, gnomes, air freshener, crisps, pretend bamboo, plaster buddhas, cushions, etc, etc, but not a sofa throw, mugs, a trowel, envelopes or pants. Who decides all this? Are pants less essential than gnomes and air freshener? I would probably say absolutely none of it is essential and that I could perfectly well make do with using an old duvet cover - in fact, I will.

Also, is any of this going to make a difference? There are plenty of people who would or will spend much time fondling tableware in close proximity to each other, same for cakes, shampoo, and meat! the numbers of people hanging over the refrigerated meat section in Super U in joint salivation was quite astounding. Last time I went in there a week ago, all underwear was sectioned off with that sort of police incident tape, now its all untaped - go ahead, feel, compare, choose, loiter . . . in fact the only bit sectioned off appeared to be slippers and towels . . . Maybe they have to do a type of rotation to enable fans of pants or slippers or gnomes or place mats to have their fix. 

I suspect there is no plan with regard to shops, or the government. Right, off to find an old duvet cover.

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Uri Gala

 As opposed to Uri Geller.

                                                              The eyes have it...

Our dog, Gala, is blessed with similar metal-bending powers, albeit on a very small scale. As with most owners we have made sure she has her name medallion, engraved with phone numbers etc, firmly linked to her collar. As she is, on the surface anyway, rather . . . light on common sense this is even more important to prevent dog loss. The other dog, Bali, will run off if able and return some time later licking her lips after raiding some unspeakable bin or other. I've seen her running fields away but she know where she lives. Gala does not, or at least pretends to forget. We shall no doubt never know for sure...

Gala pondering on the meaning of life

She has had four metal medallions within the last two years, one bone shaped, three, just yr regular round ones. Each time they have mysteriously dropped off the collar, despite making sure the rings are strong and secure enough. On the last attempt, Mark attached it with a small but heavy duty sprung clip - the sort one might use halfway up a mountainside in order to not revisit the Earth's crust unintentionally. And yet again she has managed to lose it. It seems actually impossible, unless she can, with two paws, fetch pliers and painstakingly undo the thing. She obviously does not want to be labelled for some reason. Fair enough, she is 'chipped' unless that's also been stealthily removed...

                           Gala communicating with the water gods through a humble tap

                                                                and with the Earth gods

We once had a Dutch B and B guest who studied Gala's head for some time and said: "I like very much the drawings on the face." It's true, she does appear to have certain sketches within the velvety fur, and I'm sure one particular one has been slowly developing into an eye shape over the last few years. Do we perhaps have a sooth-sayer, a great seer of everything, the knower of the ultimate truth within our modest pack? 

                                                     The third eye - (just off center)

Perhaps Gala does know the answer to everything. Why not? Her general behaviour appears more rational than most persons in power on this maligned planet... 

We will be opening personally-tailored dog psychic sessions with Uri Gala when she has decided the time is right. 

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Taking the plunge

So, last summer, during lockdown after selling up in the South of France and moving more northwards, we bought a house after one visit... as you do. It was a 'coup de coeur'  (blow to the heart) as the French saying goes, and it still is; a wonderful, characterful place with the most intriguing and beautiful garden. The house was at the lower end of our budget so we knew there would be work to do, and there is, and of course, much more than we anticipated. We've done a few of the essential repairs - re-fashioned chimney as it was in danger of collapse, a renovated dormer window (Lucarne - or the wonderful name of sitting dog, window) leaky velux window and smaller renovation - floor boarding the top floor and re-doing, in a budget fashion, the top bathroom, etc.

Now, it's the really serious stuff. The things that need to be accomplished in order for us to make an outbuilding into a rental space - something vital since most of our other plans have temporarily (or possibly not temporarily) dissolved due to the pandemic. For about three months I've been wandering into the afore-mentioned space, vaguely attempting to clean a few of the blocks of tuffeau (the local white - or should be - stone) before wandering out again with fear and angst settling into my bones at the enormity of it all...

We got quotes and have gradually got used to the scary nature of their contents, finally picking a local building firm. They've been here for two weeks now and are actually a pleasure to have around - chatty, always turn up when they say they are going to and explain everything in detail that they are going to do. A little like that comforting way that a really good dentist will - now, this here is a stone-chainsaw, and this a 50lb lump hammer, and that, a very special stone drill. Don't worry, everything will be absolutely okay and it won't hurt at all - just your bank balance will be rather sore...

Yesterday and today the head builder and his main 'colleague' worked on demolishing quite a lot of stone to make a large doorway, and digging out the floors to an even level to eventually put down insulation and concrete. It's fascinating seeing the plans (tentative scribbles on an envelope) come to life; just looking through the newly made openings gives one a strong idea of how the spaces will work, even imagining the  rooms as they will be, salon, bedroom, bathroom, etc.

Although feeling fairly useless most of the time apart from handing our team cups of coffee/glasses of water, we did prove our absolute worth as reptile tamers today... I was just settling into a spot of writing when there was a fairly anxious sounding rapping at the main door. Mark answered and shouted up something like: 'help needed!' Horrible visons of the second in command-builder trapped under a beam or similar in my head I reluctantly left my office (bed with hot water bottles) and found Mark removing a large stone from the corner of the room, the two builders hopping from one foot to the other, eyes wide, expletives issuing forth. They had uncovered a large nest of snakes, obviously a favourite spot in that room as I had often come across one sliding along the floor at dusk towards its den. We lifted all eight of them into a carrier bag, dropped it and all the snakes wriggled forth, builders practically screaming. Made a second attempt with a 'bag for life' and hastened to another outbuilding to set them free amongst wood and damp debris where I hope they will be suitably housed. 

Apparently snakes keep rodents at bay and having had experience of the latter involving chewed water pipes etc, I'd far rather welcome snakes to lodge with us...

So, the work continues and I still haven't calculated where we're at with all this, but less budget and things moving positively forward rather than a bigger budget and being paralysed with renovation fears feels distinctly more exciting.


Tuesday 13 April 2021

Wednesday 7 April 2021

Tuesday 6 April 2021

A bientôt

Our son has just left in his new (old) little white Clio. One of those crisp starry mornings when one stands, face up to the sky and wonders about it all. The plough/saucepan was exceptionally bright, a couple of satellites passing at that slow but certain determined satellite speed. The hug gave reason to it all. It's always odd that parting moment but he'll be back again soon.

Some weekends just pass, a routine and pleasant blur of time: jobs, garden stuff, writing, music, dog walks, a bit of tentative thought about what we are doing/will be doing as Covid has, as for nearly everyone, I'd imagine, disrupted plans . . .This weekend with its extra day has been one of those times when all the hours counted.

                                    Son explaining impossibly complicated carpentry instructions

Sunday morning. I'd forgotten that our friend Jean-Paul was going to appear to dig out the pond with us, and he duly did with wheelbarrow of waders and tools. Breakfast hastily finished we joined him, Ezra in waders, Mark barrowing mud and me raking it around trees.

Ezra and I managed to fit in a favourite activity, a road trip; a small one but nevertheless as fascinating and memorable as ever, incorporating various abandoned buildings, disused railway tracks, the spectacularly blue 'Lac de Rillé' and the handsome chateau de Gizeux.

Easter Monday was a day of forest dog walk, lunch with the wood-burner on - weather has backtracked a little into winter - wood cutting and chainsaw instruction. Through his carpentry/roofing studies Ezra has developed a quiet confidence with such tools... Tea and cake, chat and all the comfortable familiarities settling back into place, shared jokes from over the years, happily remembered milestones or just everyday stuff.

So, sitting in bed after the early start with large mug of tea, writing this and thinking of him heading southwards in the small white car, listening to his eclectic playlist. See you soon.