Monthly Archives: October 2013

Snapshots – Autumn harvest

I know it’s nearly November, but as you will know from my earlier posts the weather here has been amazing and our garden has been giving us so many gifts, figs, pears, apples, almonds, walnuts, late summer daisies and conckers  which means its definitely autumn even if it still feels like summer.

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Busy Week Ahead

K: It’s Monday morning and I’m heading into Albi to try and get my car registration finally sorted. I was sure I had the system sussed, and was very pleased with myself, but there’s no way in France you only have to attempt a something like this once. It will keep coming back to bite you on the bottom until the town hall collective think you’ve realised who’s boss!

My next brush with officialdom will be this week too. We’re preparing our planning declaration in order to have velux windows put in the roof. The roof and guttering desperately need to started, but there’s no point fitting the windows at a later date, so this is holding up the whole process. Claude [The mayor], though, has offered me his help to make sure the application is complete, which is a huge relief. If we can get this completed this week, then hopefully we can appoint a contractor and get the roof started towards the end of December – clearly not the best time, but the contractors I’ve met have assured me they can work in patches according to forecast periods of good weather.

We also discovered we don’t need to apply for permission to change the windows, so we’ve started shopping around for double glazed units. I think we’re going to get a real shock when the temperatures plummet.

On the subject of lower temperatures outside, we’ve notice the start of what I have been assured is a yearly migration of field mice. One of the little blighters surprised me last week as I was about to have a shower. We’ve decided the best prevention will be to get a cat or two. Laurette [our estate agent and now good friend] has been on the lookout for a couple of kittens for us this weekend, so watch this space for a couple of new additions!

My 7 weeks off work are drawing to a close – I can’t believe it’s ending already! A week tomorrow, I will start my life as a flying commuter, on the 0830 TLS-LHR flight. I hope I manage to cope with it. Too late if I don’t!

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Another sunny week…

Sunday 27th October and it’s another stunning sunny day here in Fayssac, one of the last I fear as next week Meteo, the French weather website, is predicting the temperatures will fall by 10 degrees.Ho hum – well we can’t be greedy. The last month has been absolutely amazing packed full of beautiful sunrises, hot days and cool starry nights – it’s been great to be able to sit in the living room and watch the rose tinted moon come up to a chorus of hoots from Les Chouettes [the owls].

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Sunrise on Friday morning

I’m sat at our patio table typing this week’s recap while trying really hard not to be distracted by the view ahead.  Will I get complacent about this gorgeous view?  Mmm… I really don’t think so: I’m looking forward to seeing it on a really cold frosty day.

The hunters are out in force today – so many gun fire cracks in the distance. They are allowed to hunt on Sunday and Wednesday mornings, so no walkies for the pickle on those mornings. He has to be happy with sniffing his land and chasing the ball in the garden.

Its been a really busy week, Kev’s brother Chris and his girlfriend Iddy have been staying which is great as its motivated us to down tools and do some exploring. Wednesday we visited some local vineyards. First to be slurped were wines from one of our closest –  Chateau De LaCroux which is a mere 3 kilometres away. It’s a beautiful little family run winery selling a good selection of wine made from local grape varieties.

We bought half a case of their single variety red which is the first wine bought to start our cellar, Kev was particularly excited by this as he has wanted a wine cellar for years and now will have one, albeit in only a small corner of the stables for the time being.

On our way to the next tasting we stopped off at Chateau De Mauriac  which has to be one of the most advertised places  around here. You literally can’t go half a kilometre without seeing a sign for it, which is why we have avoided going, as we just assumed it would be very touristy and probably not that impressive. How wrong were we??? its a stunning fairy tale style chateau and yeh in the summer is most probably packed with tourists, but off season it was quiet and glowing on this sunny day. We only poked our noses into the main courtyard and decided to return another day to pay for the guided tour. Wow was all I could say. The courtyard walls were cloaked in Virgina creepers which had turned the most amazing shades of copper and red. An outdoor dance floor was surrounded by sculptures and opera was playing from the balcony. They know how to set a scene.

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On our way back to the car I (being the nosey parker I am) wandered around the side of the chateau and noticed a small gate. I peered through to a long bricked staircase leading down to the gardens. I pretended not to see the small sign saying ticket holders only and set off down the brick staircase. Told you I was nosey. I was quickly followed by the others who it seems were as nosey as me.

We were greeted at the bottom by breathtaking views of the countryside and vines, it reminded me of views we see from some of the vineyards we visit in Cape Town.

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The back of the Chateau from the garden

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The view from the garden

Onwards to Chateau de Salette  which we were told about by Lionel over a glass of wine one night at Cafe Joubert. He was going there for dinner with the owners of the wine bar. It’s a beautiful winery with  a small 19 bedroom hotel and a Michelin star  restaurant.

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Chris and Iddy reluctently flew home on Thursday and it was back to toiling the land for us, cutting down trees and burning our ever increasing mound of garden waste.

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Today we have invited the Mayor his wife and daughter for drinks and nibbles, so off I go to start preparing them.

Happy Sunday everyone.

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Amazing Sunrise

Such a beautiful sunrise this morning viewed through my bedroom window.

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Brocante finds in Albi

So last week we popped to the Brocante market in Gaillac and this week we went to Albi, the weather was so lovely and warm, there were stalls a plenty and bargains to be had and we had them.
Here’s our stash and all for under €50

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One huge lamp 45 cm wide which will be the centre light over our kitchen table with the tow smaller ones either side.
A fab umbrella stand only €5, a beautiful silver note clip and a very unusual fascinator stand which we will turn into a table lamp.

And I bartered using my new French vocab……

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Gaillac Brocante market

Every seconds Sunday in the month our local town of Gaillac has a brocante market, last Sunday was our first visit to this busy little market held in the Haut’poul square. It was only two rows long, (I’m sure it will be much bigger in the summer months) but was packed with loads of interesting bits and pieces.
Although only small I ooooh’d and arghed at lots of fab finds, but with only €15 to spend in our pocket money fund I had to choose wisely. After a few trips back and for to various stalls we found a lovely if not shabby looking old candle lamp which had a wooden pole handle to hold it with, could this have been used by a stationmaster? A little more research will be required before we will know.
We both loved this item but the problem was that is was €20, now we all know that it’s customary to barter at a market but I had two problems, one Kev hates bartering for anything, two I didn’t know how to barter in French, hmmm a quick lesion from Kev solved that problem, the word to use to ask if someone will accept a lower price I learned is Vous Prenne which roughly translates a “would you take” so off I went leaving a slightly embraced looking Kev, armed with my new French words and my pocket money to find the seller of the lamp. I quickly found him slouched in a garden seat in the corner of his stall, mmm he looks rather grumpy and a bit disheveled I thought, will if remember my simple new french words and will I gabble them so he doesn’t understand? Deep breath, look confident and ask… And I did and he said yes so we got our lamp, yeh hey that was easy, poor Kev now I know how to barter in French there will be no stopping me, now where’s the cashpoint card…..

And here it is our lovely buyer grubby station masters lamp, soon to be lovingly cleaned and restored.

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And here are some snapshots from the market.

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Amazing morning mist

Kev has just sent me two photos that have made me pang for my new home in France.
This is my first week away working in London and it’s been really great to be back in the smoke and seeing all the bright lights and fab stores but these two photos have just made me want to transport myself straight back to my house on the hill in Fayssac.

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Phill: “That should be enough for a screw”

No, times haven’t got tough just yet. Trying to drill into a wall made of solid rock got us both so frustrated this afternoon, that we succumbed to the forbidden notion of “that’ll do”. I want to make sure we do everything to the best of our ability here, and we have the time to do it as well as we can, so I never want to settle. Today, though, we had to, and a half inch screw replaced the one and a half inch I had originally picked.

If you’re interested, we were hanging my first couple of creations in Fayssac. We discovered some dusty old planks in the attic which were being used for tread-boards. After a bit of closer examination, they turned out to be oak (for marketing purposes, these will henceforth be referred to as antique French oak boards), and utterly beautiful. Phill grabbed one from the loft, and I cleaned it up, sanded it, waxed it, and turned it into a very lovely hook panel.

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There’s loads of them upstairs, so I’ve decided to make our farmhouse kitchen table out of them (when we have our farmhouse kitchen).

The week’s starting to slow to a more manageable pace – fewer early mornings, thankfully. The fosse is now completely installed and working. The poor builder battled through torrential rain last Friday, and gave up far later than I would have done in his shoes.

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Both cars have been in and out of garages. Staircase builders and stone masons have visited to measure up for quotes. We discovered an antique exhibition and second hand furniture store in Albi and spent next to nothing on 2 antique ornate beds, 3 ornate HUGE wardrobes, a mirror-fronted linen cabinet, and travelling trunk. Bargain! In among all this, Mum and Ian and I have been slowly chipping away at trees and bushes, collecting more firewood, and revealing more of the beautiful valley view, and a lovely stone wall which had hitherto been concealed.

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Mum and Ian flew back to Bristol yesterday, and it feels odd being in the house on our own again. The temperature at night has dropped. It won’t be much longer before we’re desperate for the yet-to-be-installed wood burning stove, which is sitting in the stables.

We treated ourselves to a little drive around this morning and visited a local small town, Lisle-sur-Tarn, splendid in its mediaevalness. We also popped into the local Orange shop, and our new mobile number is up and running finally (dodgy sim card, apparently). Back home to continue chopping wood, and Claude popped in to drop off a package (Phill’s fosse-friendly toiletries) and invite us to drinks on Sunday. His visit coincided with Lionel from the cafe dropping by to tell us about a plant sale at the local garden centre. All very homely, nice and welcoming. My last job of the day was to hang my new creation. How long do you think the screws should be, Phill?

 

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Barnaby pickles walnut picker

One of the things we are loving the most about owning a house in France is discovering things about the place we own.

There are three lovely trees on the slope of our lower garden which have had big green pods on them, a bit like conckers and i have been wondering what they are, i need not wonder anymore as they have split open and revealed their hidden fruits, which are walnuts, which means we have hazelnuts, almonds and now walnuts on our land, well that’s our Christmas nut selection sorted.

Barnaby Pickles loves helping out and couldn’t resist getting stuck in with the walnut harvesting.

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Dealing with French Bureaucracy (or “Not believing a word officials say”)

Yesterday afternoon we got the very exciting news that our septic-tank-fitting-contractor was due to visit today. I assured myself this would be the stage where he and the technician make the final survey and approve all the plans – after which there is a statutory 15 day delay before work can begin. So you can imagine my surprise this morning when I opened the gates at 8am to a lorry full of gravel, towing a trailer with a massive digger on. They weren’t coming to survey – they were coming to do! So much for the MINIMUM 1 month timescale quoted to me by the agency – first meeting to work starting was 16 days! My initial shock gave way to manic gathering of people to clear up the massive chopped tree which was lying exactly where the fosse was to be placed, to happiness that we would shortly have a hygienic water system.

So, this week is turning out to be a busy one. We chose, bought and fitted our big water boiler, and bathroom radiator. We chose the wood burning stove which will be fitted in mum’s apartment. We had meetings with staircase builders. We ordered a ride-on mower, which is being delivered tomorrow along with the rest of our bits and pieces from London (though I have just found out we’re going to need a third journey – not everything fitted in :-((( ). There is a massive antique furniture fair on 15 minutes from us this weekend, and so we’re off to find some nice bits for the house. And a little jazz band with dinner tomorrow night at Cafe Joubert. We have to stop drinking too at some point!

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