Monday, May 30, 2011


Roses growing wild in the 'Sleeping Beauty' Garden
SORRY - this is a bit late.

Firstly, more about Ben, our Workawayer. who is a Canadian from Vancouver - my favourite city. He comes from a family of six and is a graduate in Maths and Earth Sciences. He is an extremely agreeable young man, easy to cater for and, as we have discovered, his French is far superiour to ours - well to Jim's anyway - mine doesn't count for much. He has been helping Jim around the domaine with tree removal, stone ferrying and gardening in general. He has also made a start on re-varnishing the exterior woodwork. He also cooked us a delicious meal one evening and does his share of the washing up. All a great help as well as providing us with some company. Apart from the work we have also made an effort to show him the charms of the Auvergne and the friendliness of our neighbours.

The details of the organisation that introduces hosts to Workawayers can be found on
Ben playing with Rufus
As previously mentioned we took him on Sunday last to a vide-grenier where he purchased a few items and on Thursday he experienced Maurs market day and lunch at La Bascule - a five course artisan's menu du jour for €12 including wine. The day's special was Lange du boeuf - very tasty.

However the highlight of the week was Saturday evening. 
We had earlier agreed to attend  a Fete des Voisins held in our local church and afterwards in the Marie. The first part was La Disparition de Li Sheng le poet - a performance by recitation by Odile Gesse, an elegant and beautifully dressed lady of senior years, of some story about the adventures of this poet. It involved, so far as I could make out, something about tigers, falling asleep on the banks of a river, dreaming and a good deal of hard work on the part of the poet, who, it seemed, triumphed in the end. 
The recitation was interspersed by some rather dreary music performed by Clothilde on the violin and Caroline on the double bass. 

Any lack of appreciation on my part was down to my inadequate French. Ben filled us in afterwards on the details we had missed, On the whole, it was quite entertaining, particularly when a fly settled on the actress's arm and walked up and down. At this stage she may not have known what it was but she did nothing to reveal that she was aware of it until it moved to the end of her nose. Only then did she enlarge the dramatic gestures being given during her performance to effect a fly-brushing movement which  sent the fly elsewhere.

I suspect that the twenty or so villagers who were also present, including our friends, the Dalmons, where also nonplussed about the drama presented which was organised by the present mayor..

As we had arrived at the church in plenty of time and nothing seemed likely to happen for a while Ben took the opportunity to walk around the village to take some photographs. He was almost immediately waylaid by a villager, who asked him if he wanted to view his room of passions! (translation from the French). I don't think Ben was able to refuse and was taken into a nearby house and shown a room full of interesting bric-a-brac and collectables including this old motorbike:

I think Ben was given a further invitation to visit one evening and have a chat. The villager seemed to be a 'character' and one we hadn't met ourselves before.
Waiting outside the Marie for supper to be laid
Anyway, afterwards we all went down to the Marie and had a buffet supper and (several) glasses of kir. This is where Ben's knowledge of French became apparent. He conversed easily with the villagers and Marie-Therese and Brigitte who sat opposite him at the table asked him many questions. He was later offered strong liquor, an aniseed based drink which he tried and pronounced delicious.
I think we were all agreed that it was a very good evening and much consolidating of our relationships took place and perhaps some improvement to our French also.

Martine preparing the salads

Inside the Marie having supper

So what of my project mentioned last week?

Here is the next step:

The basket covered with polyester batting
I have covered all six baskets in the same way using scraps left over from my quilt making as the joins won't show when the items are finished.

I have also started a new quilt. Here are the pieces washed and drying on the line. The fabric has to be washed to pre-shink it and then, of course it has to be ironed, then cut into strips.

Strips cut and laid out in sequence of  light to dark

Tomorrow (Sunday) we plan to take Ben up into the mountains to see the  volcanoes. The weather has been fine all the week and should be good tomorrow although bad weather is forecast for next week. Can we believe it?

Coquette and Tanya in the River Field

Sunday, May 22, 2011

On Our Own Again - but not for long!

White Admiral on the Spurge
We returned Peter and Jennifer to Rodez last Sunday. We made a day of it and went via Belcastle. The village is medieval in character, with cobbled streets and lauze-roofed (stone tiled) houses. The bulk of the village and the castle (Château de Belcastel) are situated on the steep North bank of the Aveyron river.  It was nominated as one of the most beautiful villages of France.  
Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, is an independent association, created in 1982, which aims to promote assets of small and picturesque French villages of quality heritage. As of 2008, 152 villages in France have been labelled as the "Plus Beaux Villages de France". Belcastle was indeed, very attractive as these photographs - taken by Jim, show:

Communal Bread Oven

A free week in the Gite if you know what this is.

Add caption
Interesting detail on a balustrade

View of the Castle from the bridge
Statue outside the Marie

View of the village from the Castle

Monday saw the demise of my laptop. On Tuesday we drove into Figeac hoping to find somewhere to get it repaired. We asked at the shop where we bought a printer and the proprietor groaned when we told him it was a Mac. He doubted we would find anywhere local who could do it. I have decided to send it back to the UK to the place to bought it - AT Computers in Cardiff. 

Somewhere we remember seeing a UPS depot but have forgotten where. No record of it on the Web. We will try other towns next week when we are out shopping or showing Ben the sites. Ah! Who is Ben? 

Some of you may remember that I had considered Woofers for help with work around the domaine. I did nothing much about getting any and one of Peter's sisters recommended So after all our visitors had gone I logged onto the site and registered as a host. Within 12 hours I had heard from a young Canadian called Ben, fresh out of college and newly arrived in Paris. We seemed to suit and on Friday we picked him off the train at Maurs and he is here for 10 days. More news of him next week.

Two more projects started. Jim is making a small herb garden out of these tubs.

and I plan to do something with this:

I have six of them - they come with speciality potatoes in them and are about 14cm x 22cm. Any ideas?

We found one of these in the dustbin. No - it is not a rat - look at the tail.

A Vole - probably Field
This morning (Sunday) we introduced Ben to the French version of a boot-fair - a vide-grenier. This one was in Leynhac and not bad. Ben purchased some French cups and a fistful of foreign money in notes which he said was worth a good bit more that the €3.00 he paid for it. No more stuffed animals, alas. Jim bought a rusty bill-hook blade.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Three Sisters

The Finished Pergola
Peter has an interesting extended family. He has a sister and several half-sisters who have never previously met each other. This was to change on the occasion of his 65th birthday which fell on Monday 9th May. One sister, Vicky came over from Suffolk on Sunday and is staying at the Moulin for a few days and two of the half-sisters, Sarah and Alyson were motoring up from the South of France where they live.
Invitations to the party have been sent to friends in the village and to some English people in the next village. The pergola has been festooned with bunting and the tables and chairs arranged. Champagne and the makings of Kir have been bought and food prepared. One of the sisters said she is bringing some cooked duck. The weather, despite rain and a storm forecast, remained warm and sunny. So here we are, partying at Moulin du Clout.

Under the bunting
The Three Sisters - Vicky, Sarah and Alyson with Peter
Brigitte and Alexei
Peter, Dennis, Caro, Jim and Sarah
Alexei, Didier, Marie-Therese and Cyprien
Caro and Jim
Two Sisters - Alyson and Vicky


The tent cake
Marie-Therese's Cake - Gateau de Fournoules
The Birthday cake was shaped like a tent because Peter is directing the next production at CADS - Temporary Shelter by Rose Tremain adapted for the stage by Peter with Rose's enthusiastic endorsement. It will be performed 13th - 16th July at the Market Theatre, Cowbridge. It is about camping in France.
Our neighbour, Marie-Therese, brought a local speciality of her own making and it was delicious - none left!

I think we were all agreed the evening was a small triumph - French and English was spoken and we had a good evening. 
Before the sisters returned home the following day we were invited to the home of Dennis and Caro in Lessal which is a barn they have converted. It is spectacular - unfortunately we do not have any pictures yet. The also have a farmhouse which they rent out and the website for this is:

Work has resumed in the domaine. Jim and Peter have been trashing the new growth on the nature trail and trimming unwanted trees and branches. Jim has been trying out his new waders.

And this is one of the growing pumpkin plants:

One of Cyprien's ponies now in the upper field
We returned Vicky to Rodez on Wednesday via a visit to Conques for lunch, the weather remaining gloriously warm and sunny. On Friday we decided to look in at the pottery exhibition at the Don Pottery. 
The potter is Cormac Boydell and we all liked his work.

 Fortunately, most of our first choices, the more expensive stuff, had already been sold but we were tempted by this:

As you can see it now has a little red spot on it but we couldn't bring it home as the whole exhibition is presently going to Paris and we will be told when we can have it.

Peter and Jennifer's last day has been spent mooching around the domaine as we awoke to heavy rain which has continued most of the day. We are hoping that tomorrow will be fine as we would like to return them to Rodez tomorrow afternoon by way of Belcastle for lunch where we have not yet been.

Jim's vegetable garden

May Day

This is the post that disappeared - I have re-written it.

Sunday was May Day and I picked some Lily-of-theValley, (the French called it Muget) to give to Marie-Therese and Brigitte along with their invitations to the party next Monday.
I used part of the poster I designed for Temporary Shelter as the picture as it seemed appropriate.

We took a trip north to the village of Saint Illide as there was a vide-grenier there. Very pleasant journey of about an hour and a half taking in the picturesque town of Laroquebrou with an impressive chateau. It looks worth a visit sometime.
We spent about an hour at Saint Illide but didn't buy much. Jim is looking for a one-hole leather punch and I am always on the lookout for small stuffed animals - a little friend for Martin. we were both disappointed on this occasion.

Vide-grenier at Saint Illide
Most of the week was spent get ready for our visitors on Friday and the party next week. I have been busy sewing the bunting to put up around the pergola.

One evening when we walked up with Rufus to Peter's Place we saw this:

At first I thought they were 'processional caterpillars' (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) and was horrified. They can be lethal to dogs and very unpleasant to humans who come into close contact with them

'Traditionally, the nests are found in the pine trees and their home is usually positioned on the sunny side of the tree and can often be spotted from a distance where the pine needles have turned brown.

On closer inspection, white candy floss woven on the branches and delicate silk bags can be seen decorating the trees. These are the nests of the procession caterpillar, protecting them as they grow and keeping them warm. So called because they travel nose to tail in a line, processional pine caterpillars are quite small, but they present a major danger to trees and animals, and can cause a severe allergic reaction in humans. 
The caterpillar’s ‘fur’ is where the danger lies. It is in fact a layer of poisonous harpoon-like spines that remain toxic even when the caterpillar has died. 
The hairs can also become detached and float in the air if the caterpillar is disturbed, creating the risk of inhalation. Care must be taken when walking dogs in areas where the caterpillars may have marched as there is a possibility that some hairs may remain on the ground.'

After further investigation I decided that they were simply the Eastern Tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) which are harmless except to the trees they inhabit. The webs are woven on fruit trees, particularly the wild cherry and several webs can denude the tree of leaves. As we have recently planted a new orchard and the domaine has many old fruit trees of various kinds we decided to get rid of the web. Jim cut it down and burned the contents. Since then we have seen several more, mostly out of easy reach.

We drove to Rodez on Friday to collect Peter and Jennifer off the plane from Stanstead. On Saturday we made our usual visit to Figeac taking in the market for a few vegetables and then Carrefour for party food and champagne. On the way home we stopped at Bagnac for the excellent five course lunch there for €12 including a bottle of vin ordinaire. We decided it was the best meal we have had there so far.

Back to Bagnac on Sunday for a plant foire and vide-grenier. We bought a few plants for the garden and then Jennifer spotted this:

Another Pine Marten
The stall holder wanted €20 for him but we haggled and managed to get the price reduced to €15. He is quite a bit larger that Martin who has has a sex and name change to Martine so that the new one is now called Martin. We are running out of mantleshelf space.

Peter's sister Vicky arrived Sunday afternoon and the bunting is now in place and the champagne cooling in the fridge.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Missing Blog

Hi Folks

Blogger has had a  malfunction and recent blogs (including one of mine called May Day) have been temporarily removed. We are told that these will be restored in the fullness of time. Watch out for it. I had also written the next blog in draft form (The Three Sisters) so I hope that will be available on Sunday.

Meanwhile here is a picture of Jim in his new waders: