Saturday, June 25, 2011

Is There Life Without Broadband?

A new week and still without broadband which ceased functioning on Friday evening after torrential rain. We don't know if that was the cause. UKTelecom is closed now until Monday so we shall just have to wait until after the weekend for the engineer.

A vide-grenier in Flagnac this Sunday. It is being held in the grounds of that picturesque chateau on the way to Decazaville for those of you who know what I am talking about. A bit of French 'culture' for our workawayers although I suspect that boot fairs are known the world over but with different names. A few purchases were made, crepes and beer were sampled and the route home over the plateau via Conques. We had never approached Conques this way before and were astonished by this vista of the place:

As we arrived at the town we had to drive over the Roman bridge. It looked impossible but we made it. Remind us S.L.B.'s to take you that way on your next visit.

A view from the church

The lads were impressed with Conques. Bart felt he needed to try out this sarcophagus for size:

A perfect fit!

No engineer arrived to fix the broadband connection on Monday and as Bart leaves on Tuesday for the UK he needed to get train times and a ticket for Paris so we tried Maurs internet cafe so that he could log on and transfer money for the purchase. No luck. We all went into Figeac again on Tuesday to log on there and to see Bart off. We shall miss him and his gentle guitar strumming.

The three of us returned to Maurs for lunch in La Bascule. In the evening Yan gave us a viewing of a film on his computer - an animation - Mary and Max. Unusual, but brilliant, a story about the unlikely penpals Mary, an unhappy eight-year-old, resident in Melbourne and Max, a middle-aged New Yorker with Asperger's syndrome.

Work continues inside, if wet and outside, when dry. We are still waiting for Axel to come and fix the chimney before we make a start on painting the kitchen as I suspect it will be a sooty job. Jim has had to prop up the hole as debris kept falling down into the kitchen.

No engineer Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. I have rung them everyday and given them the benefit of my thoughts. It is an English outfit so I don't have to watch my language. It would seem that they have put in a request to France Telecom and we just have to wait. They are short of man-power, vans etc. Their excuses, not mine. If you feel inclined to rant about British Telecom try France Telecom, it is no better.
However on Friday morning just as I had made the coffee and called Jim and Yan down from Peter's place (on the walkie-talkie) the phone rang - the engineer was on his way. It was a comedy really - he repaired the pig's ear the previous engineer had made of a junction and fixed the fault that existed but then told us that the neufbox was broken and needed to be replaced. I rang UKTelecom - again and explained. I was told to reset the box and restart my computer and everything was hunky-dory after that - nothing wrong with the box at all.

Our English neighbours from the next village, Caro and Dennis,  surprised us Friday afternoon by a visit just as I was taking a tray of scones from the oven (I told you I was baking, didn't I?). A very pleasant interlude and we invited them for a meal next week. They were enthusiastic about my Shakespeare plan so I must get on with the details of that.

I did the banking, read 40 emails - mostly rubbish, (not yours) wrote my blog, downloaded this weeks instalment of The Apprentice (I think Helen will win) and watched it whilst ironing - yes - I have that here - it's not all a rural idyll.

Whilst getting in the washing one evening this week (more ironing) I saw a buzzard fly over the house with a large snake waving from his claws. Amazing!

I believe I have now identified the flower from last week. It is Legousia hybrida, Venus' Looking Glass. The illustration in my Keble Martin is not very good and the specimen in the forest is rather weedy which is why I didn't spot it. As Sherlock Holmes said "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"

Bottled up three large jars of pickled walnuts. I hope they are edible this time. I think I picked them early enough.

Today, Saturday Jim and I drove over to the Poterie du Don to see the current exhibition of sculpture by Susan O'Byrne. I had previously seen some illustrations of the items and had thought I might buy one. Ha! Not only were the figures life size but they had a larger than life price tag. €4000 for the stag!

They were made of porcelain paper clay and quite beautiful and there were some smaller items - birds - the least expensive being €85 but I decided I could live without one. Bought a jampot instead.

We had a barbecue this evening - usual raw or burnt offerings and as the three of us sat in the gloaming drinking beer and enjoying the mixed aroma of barbecue and chestnut blossom Rufus disappeared into the stables and started barking. Jim went to investigate and watched him flush out a rat and kill it. Well done Rufus! I gave him a sausage off the barbecue.

We then watched and hour and a half of the BBC version of Our Mutual Friend. Very dark, complicated and confusing. Yan was non-committal when we asked him if he could work out what was going on. More tomorrow - it lasts six hours.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Do You Have Leeks in China?

The writing and publishing of this blog was delayed because of a breakdown of our broadband system for nearly a week.

This week has been one of comparisons. With the arrival on Sunday of Bart, from Tasmania and Yan, who is Chinese, on Wednesday we have been talking about some of the differences between our cultures. As Yan, is studying at Bremen University we have added Germany to the mix. Some of our discussions have been interesting and I am sure as our relationships develop they will get more so. Both of the young men are quiet, helpful and polite. I foresee no problems.

One result of having the two workawayers here is my cooking skills are being revived. I am trying to provide meals which represent both British and French cuisine without being too ambitious. Afternoon tea has become a fixture and I am having to work hard keeping pace with the amount of cake needed for two hungry workers – three, if you count Jim. So, Lemon Drizzle Cake, Chocolate Courgette Cake and Welsh cakes are being produced along with some new efforts. I, of course, am on a diet so will not be eating any much.

Before we collected Bart on Sunday off the train from Toulouse we went to the pottery fair at Bouluech that we attended last year and it was just as good.

We bought two bowls, some porcelain buttons and a teapot.

Bart’s first experience of Auvergne weather was torrential rain so we set him to removing the wallpaper off the landing. The weather the rest of the week has been mixed but Bart has earned his keep by strimming the rest of the nature walk and cutting logs. Since the arrival of Yan, Jim’s vegetable garden has neat and tidy paths – finishing the job that Ben started and is nearly weed free!

We had planned for the morning out on Thursday showing the lads the market in Maurs but the heavy rain put paid to that so we gave them the morning off and dashed in ourselves to get essential groceries. Instead we went into Figeac on Saturday morning to visit the market there and to have lunch.
We tried a new restaurant Les Anges Goumandes, at the end of Rue Seguier. We had the menu de jour of three courses for €11.50 which included a glass of wine. Very good and the place was full of interesting d├ęcor and gentle jazz was played as we ate. Recommended.

A view of Figeac
View of Figeac market
I have a problem this week: I have found a flowering plant that I can’t identify. There seems to be only one example although I have searched extensively for others and I have never seen it before. I cannot find it in any of the books I have here, nor online – if anyone has any ideas I should be glad to hear of them. Here is a picture:

The plant is about 30cms tall with a lax habit. The purple flower is small - about 1cm across with five petals and a calyx with five, long, pointed sepals - you can just see them in the photograph.The leaves are simple and entire (no serration or unevenness) and are alternate. I am totally mystified. Just email me, please, with your answers.

My patchwork increases – 50 blocks now and I have begun to sew some of them together.

The second project has also made some progress, it now has a lining inside:

My pickled walnuts have also been transformed. Here they are drying after two soakings in brine. They have turned black.
Walnuts drying after their brine bath

The grapevine, pumpkins and sunflowers are growing although still no flowers on the latter two plants but several bunches of grapes coming along nicely. Potatoes are being produced from the vegetable garden along with spinach and salad leaves. Peter’s Black-Eyed Susan still flowering.

And to finish with a cluster of chestnut blossoms whose scent fills the evening air - delicious!

P.S. By special request - a picture of Rufus for Joni.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

To the Guillotine?

Foire aux Cerises at St Constant at the weekend. Last year it rained and anyway we were taking a visitor to Toulouse airport so we missed the Sunday events. We went this time but did not need to buy any more cherries. There wasn't much else to see and Rufus was freaking out with the smell of the cattle they were auctioning so after a beer we left.
In the afternoon we thought we would try the Foire at Linac again. Last year we did the Saturday and found nothing of interest but on the Sunday this weekend it was a different story. Lots of stalls and people. There was an exhibition tent displaying a collection of old photographs of past inhabitants of the village. I love these old pictures and occasionally buy them for sources of detail for costumes. I took a photograph of some of them:

Aren't they splendid? I love the expression of the groom top left.

Another attraction  was the medieval fair and here are some pictures of that:

I cropped this one to remove power lines across the top!
The sky looks angrier than these combatants and it rained heavily shortly afterwards. We had made it to the car by then.

Love the shoes!
 A good afternoon out and I managed to get a few pictures for my next calendar - 'Portals of the Auvergne':

On Monday I tackled that bucket of cherries. Several jars of jam, two of pickled cherries and four bottles of fruit in strong liquor (Prune and Ratafia).  I was so chuffed with the result that Jim went out and picked a bowl of wild strawberries which I also turned into jam.

I have organised two more Workawayers who are coming next week. Bart from Tasmania, a guitarist who arrives on Sunday and Yan a biology student from China. He is at Uni in Bremen, Germany. 
I hope to get the boule piste done this time. Cyprien has taken his ponies out of the Redwood field where the boule piste is to be although there is still a lot of long grass.

My laptop is fixed - no charge. It would appear that the motherboard failed - a known problem and the manufacturers are footing the bill. It is now on it's way back here. I have a small dispute ongoing with the courier because it took six days to get to Cardiff and has still not reached here after four. It is supposed to be a three day service. I know we live out in the sticks but we are only 20 minutes from the nearest station.

Today (Saturday) against Jim's better judgement but I was keen we went to Capdenac again for the 'street theatre' L'Autre Festival Derriere Le Hublot. You may remember it in my blog last year. We agreed we would not pay to see anything this time. The weather was fine and we needed to pick up some paint in Figeac anyway.

The main experience for us was something entitled Potages et Potagers which you would expect had something to do with vegetable gardening. I suppose it had - loosely.
It was free and we had to be at a certain place by 16.15pm and only the first 20 people would be in. It appeared after a long wait (we got there early) that we were getting a ride to an allotment down by the river in a cart drawn by a tractor - most uncomfortable. The three elderly and large ladies who pushed in front of us in the queue took one look at it and declined. We felt as though we were in a tumbril.

Me struggling to get out of the truck on the return journey
Anyway the tumbril took us to a large vegetable garden down on the banks of the river Lot. Jim commented that he wasn't impressed with the vegetables. But that wasn't really the point of the show. We were all expected to sit on these chairs:

- which we cheerfully did after the uncomfortable ride - and facing the vegetable garden and two 'actors' who proceeded to construct the artistic installation. There were some jumping beans but I didn't manage to capture those on camera. 

 The whole event was accompanied by a verbal soundtrack but as it was in French and we only understood one word in ten the content remained as elusive and intriguing as the rest. The event was rounded off with an invitation to look at the allotment and to sample some refreshment set out for us - a kind of vegetable drink - not unpalatable.

Jim raising his glass
A very relaxing hour if a little perplexing - shall we try the street theatre again next year?

The gem of the week was a visit to St Santin de Maurs d'Aveyron for an evening concert. The programme was Mozart, Bach, Saint Saens and Handel played by Olivier Pons (violin) and Helen Linden (violinchello) and the string orchestra 'Figeacordes'. An excellent evening although it finished well past Jim's bedtime. Typically French it started twenty-five minutes late- they have no sense of urgency and consequently it was half eleven before we left.

Olivier Pons conducting the orchestra

The village of St Santin is worthy of mention as it has one foot in the Cantal and another in the Aveyron. This results in it having two churches, two maries and, as it happens two bars. Here are the two churches - we attended the one on the left.

On the work front Jim has been mending and replacing fences and fence posts and I have now done 40 patchwork blocks. I have also started some pickled walnuts.

The pumpkins and sunflowers are growing well although no flowers as yet. And the grape vine has nearly reached the top of the pergola and has several bunches of grapes on it.

And to finish - a word about comments. It is nice to get feedback if only to have my spelling, grammar or facts corrected. To make comments on my blogs you need a Google Account. Google 'Blogger Account' and select 'Create Blooger Account' from the list and fill in the form. This does not cost and you won't get a lot of spam but you will be able to make comments and even create your own blog which is fun - give it a go!

Ragged Robin

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Last Sunday we made the trip to the Volcano National Park. Despite our worries the Pas de Payrol was open and the world and his wife were all there.
We took a picnic and found a good place to eat it at - useful to remember for next time as the restaurants are all so crowded when the weather is good.
We didn't do anything but drive around and look at the scenery. I think Ben would have liked to walk but really we hadn't organised the day to allow us enough time to do that.
Here are some more photos of the area:

Ben had made his plans to leave on Wednesday so he used the Monday and Tuesday to finish painting the gite door and doing some puttying around the windows. He also did some good work on the weeds on the nature trail. We shall miss him when he has left perhaps we will get another Workawayer.

I have made progress on my quilt - 25 blocks done - only another 45 to go! Here are a few of my favourite ones:

The gite border is looking good - everything is flourishing although we have to keep watering it in dry weather. The grapevine up the pergola is growing well and even Peter's 'Black-Eyed Susan' is making a brave effort despite it's shady position.

On Friday Anais, Flora and Amelie came down and asked us if we would like to go up to the village and pick some cherries. Apparently it is a good year for them. Cyprien had already brought us a bucket down earlier in the week and I had made Cherry Clafoutis and Cherry Clafoutis - what else to do with them?

We had read a poster advertising an exhibition about snakes in the museum in Decazaville so on Saturday morning we thought to combine it with a shopping trip.
We had difficulty locating the museum and after taking a tour of the town because of duff directions from a postman we found it opposite where we had parked. An excellent and interesting display of snake info and some about the coal mining in the area. A place to remember for further exhibitions. I picked up a leaflet about a jazz concert in July which we would like to go to.

We went to Cyprien and Marie-Therese's Saturday afternoon and, of course, we were invited in and given a small dish of Agen prunes in alcohol. Wow! Delicious. I must have a go at this. Afterwards we went with them and picked the cherries. 

Jim say this is not a good picture because you can't see how many cherries there are on the tree
That's because they are all in this bucket. I have dug out recipes for cherry jam and pickled cherries. Any other ideas?

We watched all three films in the series 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' - Jim says the books are better.

My broken computer finally arrived in Cardiff to be fixed. Sent by courier via DHL