The Yellow Wheelbarrow

Wednesday 26th

I was up at 8am and after making tea started on more work for the Google Analytics training course. Spent about an hour on it.

Got wallpaper off from next to the old oven space. Then had a bit of a go in House B. Nigel wanted to see what the internal walls were like and whether we’d be able to remove them. Also at some soft floorboards in the third room.

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Weather is brill again. Nigel is fixing up the new post box and the postie visits with all the junk mail, which we accept but he notes the ‘pas de pub’ note on the box and won’t deliver it in the future. Just as well ‘cos there is loads of it and if we were away for a couple of weeks the box would be full.

Spent time outside with Albert, he’s enjoying the sun again but I don’t trust him not to hide. Did some washing outside and hung on the wires that show the edge of the house land.

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Some glasses of white wine in the sun and then Nigel fixed up the scaffolding (not tall enough) and a ladder to look inside the gutters. However they looked clear. I got the new wheelbarrow out and put it together with a bit of help from Nigel. It is bright yellow!

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Madam deux cannes came along for her daily walk and I showed her the barrow and talked about our trip to Angouleme and the weather yesterday. She asked if it snowed! She was amazed that I was in short sleeved T-shirt and she had her woollie jumper on! More amazed when she saw Nigel had shorts and no t-shirt. She wished us ‘bonne chance’ before heading for home.

Dinner is fish from the market yesterday.

11.30pm and I may just …

I showed Nigel a piece of wood over the door lintel and now he’s breaking it off, pulling the cable for the electric door shutter off – we may never escape again, and generally making a mess.

Anglouleme Brico depot and swimming pool

Tuesday 25th

Stripped more wall paper, cleaned the wall.

Went to the Champagne Mouton market and on the way found that the boulangerie in Benest was actually open and stopped and bought bread and croissant. Seems it is open from 7.30am ’til 11am and then 4pm ’til 7.30pm.

At the market we bought some trout, mussels vegetables (pots, carrots, courgettes and a lemon), some cheese (Cantal and Emmental) and something else.

Later in the morning we headed to Anglouleme to investigate the swimming pool there (more details on the facilities later). We found it and had a look inside. It looks quite big with an inside and an outdoor space. Lots of people swimming in lanes, including special for swimming club. Will need to come back at a ‘public’ time, perhaps midday on Monday or Wednesday next week.

Next we went to a place Jane had suggested as being much better value that Mr Bricolage in Confolens or 3MMM’s in Ruffec and bought household things like sand, cement, lime mortar. This is a big DIY/builder’s place -called Brico depot, owned by the Kingfisher group like B&Q are.  They have loads of things including a special deal on a kitchen setup.  We’re not sure of our measurements so will have to check that back at the house and think about getting one (or two) of these.

Here’s their website: http://www.bricodepot.fr/angouleme-champniers/cuisine/meubles-de-cuisine

We stopped in Chasseneuil on the way back to try and find the pool there (but failed) and get some food provisions. Not having a fridge is quite an issue with the shopping as nothing lasts longer than a couple of days.

Not a good day!

Monday 24th

Well this really has been a crap day! Started OK with getting up and preparing to go to Confolens to Skype with Abi. But we needed to wait for the mobile bread lady at about 10am as we’d no breakfast stuff. So it seemed like a good idea to get stuck into further paper stripping and wall washing. So I set about clearing the remaining paper from the rear kitchen wall and the scrubbing the wall and the greasy floor beneath. Quite a good result and also energetic.

Then came to toot toot from the bread lady. I got the croissant and Nigel made the coffee. A quick breakfast and off to Confolens.

Amazingly Abi was online waiting for us and I tried to advise her on what she should do about the student finance stuff. Tried to connect to our account from here but failed. Spoke to Sammy too and she’s going to Brunel on Saturday to see Abi and will call in Glen Rock this week to check our post and see if there is anything for Abi. Abi has a ‘reading week’ beginning Monday 7th November and this caused discussion between Nigel and I about when we might return to the UK. I’d thought we’d be going back in time for Brownies on the 10th and he was definitely not ready to return before the end of the 18th. I’d also planned for SS on 14th.

Tried to send an open offie file, of our antics so far, but it wouldn’t respond properly and finally gave up.

Nigel was trying to look at telephone/internet services from the Chez Rib location using his mobile phone. Later I suggested we use my computer, but by then the battery was almost out and eventually it shut down. A little stress between Nigel and I because of the possible cost of internet/phone access in Chez Rib and me not wanting to commit to a monthly outlay when we’d not be there for most of the time.

Jane telephoned to say she’d sorted out the ‘Clause tontine’ and we needed to visit the Notaire to sign a document.

Back to Chez Rib (Bricomarche and Intermarche both closed for lunch so no shopping done). Likely to rain so Nigel wanted to sort the drainage from house B into the gully under the road. I was a little while in the house A trying to clear more wallpaper and feeling a bit down too.

Nigel asked me to help cut back the Rosemary plant and the Forsythia, which I did.  I also save the Rosemary to dry and take back to the UK as we don’t have any there.

Then I went to give Albert some lettuce and couldn’t find him. Asked Nigel to look and we still couldn’t find him. Could he have got out of the gate? No, we didn’t think so. Could he have got under the stones we’d placed around the water meter? Probably not, but we lifted them anyway. I started crawling around the garden, Nigel looked under bushes, dug where Albert was last seen … I cried, wondered if he’d got out of the enclosed garden and so wandered into the ditch, rear garden, looked across at the sun flower field … and so on.

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An example of Albert
hiding – although this was another time.

It seemed like for ever, the rain had started and was now falling heavily and I was getting very wet. Suddenly, again crawling around on hands and knees in the mud, I caught a glimpse, just below the surface of what might be his shell, quite close to where we’d last seen him! I lifted him gently, tears flowing with relief now. Then told him off and took him indoors to his box of hay and a little warm and dry.

Back to the garden to help Nigel with the drainage. It was really raining quite heavily now and I was getting wetter than ever. The drainage concept was working but needs some more work yet.

Nigel went to check the barn for leaks and I came to make a hot cup of tea. I dried my t-shirt and hair with a hand towel from the kitchen. Then I heard a buzzing near my ear. I wafted my hands around my hair and screamed. Went outside and could still hear the noise. I fluffed my hair again and then saw a hornet fall from it to the ground. I screamed again! No one came to my rescue, so I went inside and poured a neat Pastis! Nigel returned and asked if that was Tea I was drinking. I had made tea, honest. He’d not heard my screams. Nigel lit the wood burner and I tried to calm down. This was all too much for me in one day.

Nigel cooked cauliflower, drained from the water and added some cheese, butter and paprika. The water went back in the pan and he added squash and leek which is in preparation for a soup for tomorrow. While he did this, I stripped more wallpaper from the kitchen and washed the wall with cleaner. Washed the floor there too and felt that I’d achieved something. More to do tomorrow!

The Cauliflower cheese was good, some wine and here I am writing about the events of the day, slightly less stressed than I was earlier. Nearly 11pm now and time for bed. Night night.

Enjoying the sunshine – etang, abbayes, neighbours

Sunday 23rd

Got up about 9am, this is really unusual for me. All those years of 6.30am UK time to get Abi off to the bus for school and having an hour or two to myself before Nigel got up, seem to have drifted away. We drank tea, had breakfast, washed up and bathed Albert. Then we had a go at the wall paper at the back (darkest part) of the kitchen. It was was dark/dirty mostly from the smoke from the fire but also cobwebs etc. Taking it off has helped make the kitchen lighter and we think we’ll clean the walls and then do a simple covering of white/light paint to improve it further.

About 1pm we set off towards Confolens and then a right turn towards Pressac as yesterday we’d seen a sign for a farmers’ market and repas at Olga’s that indicated that it was somewhere along the road there.

However we drove along the road but didn’t locate Olga’s event. A bit sad. Pressac looked a nice place but we were drawn by signs to an Abbaye and an Etang. So we followed the signs. The Etang was first and it was a simple fishing lake, stocked with Trout. There were a few chairs and rods but no sign of the men! However, then we saw they were inside the café having lunch. We parked and walked around the lake. Very peaceful. We read the sign and it seems that you can’t catch and eat the trout, now I see no point in fishing if you can’t eat the catch. As a child I often fished off the harbour at Shoreham/Southwick and we always got to eat the catch!

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Next we drove on to find the Abbaye de la Reau, it looked great but was closed. Perhaps it was because it was Sunday or the winter or just that it is under private ownership. We will look again another day.

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Then we headed for Chez Rib and found another Abbaye at Mauprevoir. It was walled and not open either. We continued on Charroux where there was another Abbaye right in the middle of the town. It had a huge octagonal tower that looked really impressive. It might have been open but we decided to save it for another visit as it was getting late. The adjacent café/restaurant was open but had a gaggle of loud English-speaking people there so we gave that a miss too. There was a large market hall and lots of old and interesting buildings – including one where the writer ?? had lived.

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There are many more pictures from Charroux taken with Nigel’s camera.

I posted a couple of cards and then we headed toward Chatain and Chez Rib.

As we arrived back we saw one of our neighbours and so went out to introduce ourselves. We also saw Mme deux cannes. (She walks with two sticks.)

It has been a really sunny day again and so we took time to have a glass of wine and sit outside. Albert was pleased to see us and get outside again. He quickly devoured the dandelion flowers that I’d collected for him and then had some lettuce too. Later he seemed to want to go in the house. He kept trying to climb the step but couldn’t. He even fell backwards and was marooned as the path has no lumps and bumps in which to right himself. I helped him over and put him elsewhere in the garden but still he came back to the door. (There are videos of his antics.) Eventually I gave up and brought him in to his hay and box to rest/cool.

Sent Abi a text to say we’d go to Confolens tomorrow (11am for us and 10am for her) and visit the café for wifi. Have to be prepared to leave by 12 noon as then they will want the tables for lunch servings.

Then we made a salad, boiled eggs and fried saucisson, garlic and croutons. Simple but delicious.

By now it was about 6.30pm and the sun was sliding down. We went for a little walk down the lane, almost as far as Pierre Brune – until a barking dog persuaded to to retreat. Almost back to Chez nous and we saw a man collecting veg from the garden. We said hello and it seems he is the farmer who has the sunflowers on our field, He says he will cut them next week, when they face the sun.

Confolens Market & Hidden Pineau

Saturday 22nd

My plan today is to head to the market in Confolens, buy some fresh veg, meat, cheese, fish and look for the Festival du Vin. Well Nigel thought we should have our bacon and egg first, which we did. Then a lady in a white van called, she was from the boulangerie in Chatain and used to deliver to Mme Jacquet. She delivers on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. She’ll toot – thumbs up if we want her to stop or waving crossed arms if we don’t. I think I did quite well with my French, explaining that we wouldn’t always be here but we’d like her to call when we are. I bought two croissants and a loaf (boule) for 2.65 euros.

So finally we set off to Confolens about 11am. We found a small market and bought fish, squash, lettuce, tomato and cauliflower. We had to speak in French and that was good.

By then it was nearly 12 noon and so we didn’t go to the hotel/café but had a wander around the town. Looked at the boucherie, antiquities, a household goods place and then back across the old bridge to where we’d parked the car.

And what happened to the Festival du Vin?

Back at Chez rib we got brave and donned our overalls, gloves, hats, boots and went to the barn behind house A to look for the Hornets nest. We could see the Hornets going in near the second beam of the upstairs. We went into the barn and climbed the wooden ladder and onto the floor above the kitchen. We had a torch and moved carefully together to the doorway to the room over the other two rooms. But we couldn’t see a nest anywhere. We can only think that the nest is inside an old chimney that has been blocked over in the roof and inside the house. Maybe we need to talk to the nest man again. It did make us feel a little less scared and we talked about what we might do and the possibility of clearing webs and other mess out from up there.

 

Next we went to barn B and climbed the ladder to investigate up there too. The grain surround was no longer there – how strange, but we did find many dusty and full bottles up there. We bought three down with us to investigate.

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Nigel opened a bottle, we sniffed and it smelt like pineau des charentes (we recall that there were two pineau barrels when we first visited the place, which had gone by the time we bought it). Can’t understand them taking the metal for the grain store and missing about 20 bottles of pineau! It is slightly darker than the stuff we buy in the supermarket but I think that is a sign of ‘old’ pineau.

We had plans to do work but the weather was so lovely and so we sat in the sun with a glass or three of white wine. Then we decided to BBQ the fish and sweet potato. Albert was again loving the heat and varied between charging around at great speed, trying to bite Nigel’s feet and resting angled to the sun in various parts of the enclosed garden.

Noticed a text message from Abi about her student finance. We will need a trip to the café and a chat on Skype soon. I did a little pruning just so I felt I’d done some work.

Back inside and we are reading, drinking wine and typing …

French Lessons in Confolens

Friday 21st

(It appears that we didn’t take any pictures or videos this day.)

Got up early – well early for Nigel, had a couple of quick croissants and a cuppa. Then we headed to the car to go to the French lesson in Confolens. It had been a frosty night and the car was heavy with frost, so it took a while to clear it. We raced off down the lane to Alloue with the sun blazing in our eyes and then onward to Confolens. Arrived just five minutes late but not a problem as it seems the classes don’t actually start at 9.30am but that people start to gather and drink coffee and eat biscuits. We had a mug of coffee and introduced ourselves to other people. Of course they are all English and all the conversation is in English.

We picked up a copy of Etcetera and later reading through it found an advert with title – JUST BRASS 79 a British style brass band meeting every Weds 8pm – 10 pm at Limalonges. Looking for conductor and brass players. Maybe we can take Abi along sometime when she visits. www.justbrass79.fr

We opted for the intermediate group, which is probably about right for me but doesn’t give Nigel the practise at speaking French that he desires/needs. Everyone was friendly and we’ll be back in two weeks time – next week being half term!

As it was 12.30 and we didn’t want to buy lunch in our wifi hotel, we decided to give that a miss and try tomorrow when we came in for market day.

Back at Chez rib, the sun was shining and Albert was very pleased to be ‘let out’.

We decided it was time to have a go at clearing out the mess in house B and while I swept the ceiling, walls and floors in the first room Nigel took down a wooden plank that was hung like a shelf and had a go at the wall to see if we could remove it and looked at the floor in room 3 where it is a bit ‘soft’.

About 6.30pm we got in the car and drove to the Carrefour at Champagne Mouton to find food for dinner. Bought some cheese, beef, bacon, pineau and mushrooms. As we left the man we’d called to help with the Hornets rang to say he was at the house, so we got into the car quickly and rushed back.

He and Nigel went to the barn and up the steps with torches (it was beginning to get dark) to find the nest. I hid in the kitchen and hoped none would come my way. It’s been quite unnerving for me to be so scared of these creatures, not like me at all. I could hear their footsteps and conversations above me – we’ll need to do a good job on the sound-proofing front when we renovate upstairs.

They returned saying they couldn’t see a nest and so he couldn’t deal with it. We should look in daylight and if we find the nest to call him and he’ll come back and deal with it. No charge so far!

We cooked the beef, mushroom and Mediterranean vegetables (they were quite good) on the wood burner.  We had some bread with this and it was an excellent dinner.

We read for a while. I finished my book ‘Lunch in Paris’ by Elizabeth Bard, which I have really enjoyed reading and look forward to Nigel trying out some of the recipes. Then it was time to stack some wood on the fire and head for bed.

Misty Morning

Thursday 20th

It was quite cold last night, although we didn’t notice it with the wood-burner running, but outside this morning the ground was frosty and there was a heavy mist.

We couldn’t see the neighbouring houses across the fields.

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Sad Sunflowers

The nearby houses had smoke puffing out of their chimneys and we decided to keep the fire going for warmth during the day. We need not have worried as the sun soon broke through and it was hot and sunny outside. Albert took up his now favourite position in the corner above the water meter/pipes and basked happily.

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Later he found the lettuce and cucumber that I’d laid around the place for him. I’m quite nervous that I don’t know all the plants here and if I see him eating them I am worried.

 

Stripped more wallpaper today and Nigel further investigated the wall between our bedroom and the toilet room and the well behind house A which has water about 3 metres down. Does that mean he’ll want two water pumps now?

I called Jane to see if we could visit them in Aunac with a promised bottle of champagne to share. But it turned out she and Roger had to come this way this afternoon and would stop by on their way back. It was just 12 noon and as shops usually close 12-2 for lunch we jumped in the car and drove to the Carrefour at Champagne Mouton for the bubbly. Of course we don’t have a fridge and so to keep it cool we bought a bag of frozen mixed veg to put in our girl guide fridge with the bubbly.

Back at Chez Rib the fizz and veg went in the bucket and placed in the lean-to (cave, utility room, salle d’eau, tool shed …) which is a very cool place, to be ready for our visitors.

More wallpaper stripping and hole drilling before they arrived. Albert was sunning himself and we shared some nice cold champagne while showing what we’d done, asking about frelons removal and the missing phrase from the signing on Friday. Yes, I was right, the clause tontine had been missed out. Jane is tasked with seeing if it can be remedied.

After they left we did a little more on the house and cleared up the mess. Then I called a lady from Charente-Limousine exchange about joining and about French lessons and we’ve agreed to go to her class on 27th October. She also gave me details of classes in Confolens and Nigel rang the lady there and we are off to join in tomorrow at 9.30am! Shame as it is market day in Champagne Mouton and I’d wanted to go. Still we can go to our favourite hotel/café/bar and take advantage of their wifi again.

Dinner was simple Mozzarella with tomato, lettuce and French bread made by yours truly with some glasses of red wine.

 

NB Girl guide fridge is a bucket of cold water that the bottle of wine/milk etc. sit in. Then the bottles are covered with a tea towel which soaks the water over the bottles and keeps them cool.

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Wednesday 19th

Stripped off some of the wallpaper in our ‘bedroom’ some of it comes off really easily as it is quite damp but other stuff, especially on badly repaired rough concrete walls is quite hard to remove.

These pictures show the blue flower wallpaper in the ‘toilet’ bedroom, pink flowers in our bedroom and holes in walls to see if we can take the wall down!

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Hair wash!! This was over the kitchen sink using a bowl and a jug. Nigel made the floor soaking wet. No pictures of this activity!

Albert had a little time outside and seemed to like basking just outside the door today.

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Took a trip to Confolens. Spent nearly 2 hours in the Bricomarche looking at building materials etc. then to the Intermarche for some food stuffs. Then it was into town to try and find a mobile phone shop and get my phone unlocked. Couldn’t find a shop.

Next, and by now it was about 6pm, we went into a hotel/café that we’d been to in June that we know has free wifi. We ordered two double expressos with milk and opened up the computer to download email. I had over 1000 and even after an hour I’d only got 500 down. Most is junk but we’ll go back soon to do the rest. Also managed to talk to Helen and briefly to Sammy on Skype. Left a message for Abi too.

Back to Chez Rib and made dinner – a Pumpkin and Leek soup, but by the time we’d lit the fire and made it, it was 10.30pm!

A trip to Benest and the Cemetery

Tuesday 18th

I decided to wash the windows, ledges and shutters around the windows on house A. I wanted to get rid of spiders, cobwebs, shield bugs etc. It also mean Albert could wander around outside and I could keep an eye on him.

In the afternoon we walked to Benest to the Mairie. We needed to collect the ‘sac jaune’ for recycling, find out about any French lessons in Benest (there are none), see if we can get help with the Hornets’ nest (nid de frelons), set up the water meter account and generally gather any other information we can. The secretary there seemed very nice and pleased that we had prepared our French questions rather than expecting her to understand English – even though Jenny had said she understands English.

Neither the Boulangerie nor bar were open! Benest is having some underground electrics installed and it means only the workmen are around and often driving through the town is difficult or impossible.

On the way back we went to the Cemetery to try and find Mme Jacquets grave and say hello. First we found family graves (about three) for the Gothardo families (although our lady is still alive and well. The family Jacquet was almost the last place we found. Its heading was Jacquet-Foucher (her maiden name) and then the headstone referenced :

Yves Jacquet 23.3 to 26.10.1951

Rene Jacquet 1919 – 2004

Marcelle Jacquet nee Foucher 1927 – 2011

Nadine Jacquet 1959 – 2006

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It looks as though our Mme Jacquet (Marcelle) had commissioned the grave when her husband had died and incorporated his father too with her own name and later adding Nadine, who we think was their daughter and maybe the mother of the third party to the house A sale.

We started our walk back and stopped a short way out of Benest at what looked like a lavoir in the middle of a field. Took some pictures. Nigel saw an eagle but by the time he found me and we returned to take a picture, it was gone.

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3 km later we were back at Chez rib, for a nice cuppa.

BBQ again as the eating out worked well yesterday. But it was quite late and getting a bit chilly too. This time we had French sausages and some pork chops and quite a bit of Pineau des Charentes followed by red wine.

Eating outside seems to be keeping the hornets from wanting to come in, but obviously we can’t do that as it gets colder. The lady at the Mairie said to call the Pompiers (short for sapiers-pompiers a mixture of firemen and paramedics) but we’ve been reading about them and what other people have done. It seems the stuff we have might do the job but you have to spray and get away quick. That doesn’t seem possible as the nest is in the loft above house A and there is the issue of negotiating the ladder. They have long stings and we don’t want to risk Nigel getting injured. Need to look for a specialist.

When we came in I decided to start documenting our adventure to share with family and friends when we hit the internet on Wednesday, but I didn’t get past Friday!

Nigel and Albert explore

Monday 17th

Nigel got onto the roof behind house A and investigated fixing up the guttering for house B. It goes right around the back and down to a concrete trough beside barn B. It’s important not to just let the rain water fall beside the walls as it will encourage damp and cause further damage to the back corner of barn B.

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Albert and I went out there too and Albert loved the extra space and the sunshine, found some dandelion leaves to munch on and an apple – that I quickly took away. I took photos of both of them.

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I heard a car pull up and so popped Albert in his bowl and went around the front to see. It was another English neighbour. They live 10 mins walk down the road and close to Alan. They are called Jenny and Jon. They’ve been here for about 5 years. I called Nigel and we did a tour of the estate!! They were very helpful with info on English lessons, walking groups and a magazine called etcetera of which they said they’d drop some copies in to us. They brought us a nice bottle of red wine as a welcome present but as we were planning to go out in the car and they had also arrived by car, I thought we should save for later.

After they’d gone we got ready to go out as it was now getting a bit late. Then we saw an old lady walking past the house. We’d seen her before in August. We said ‘bonjour’ and then went over to introduce ourselves. She lives close by, on her own as her husband died a few years ago. She was friendly with Mme Jacquet and misses her very much. Every day she walks from her house to the road junction above us and back again for her health. A bit like my mum used to do, but so much nicer surroundings. She has two hearing aids and a good sense of humour. She doesn’t speak any English (hurrah) but is happy that we try our French on her.

Went to the lakes at Massignac; there were just a couple of people there at picnic tables. Went for a swim it was quite cold but not impossible, just did two lengths of the swimming area!

We’d planned to have a BBQ to avoid cooking in the house and see if that stopped the hornets coming in. Of course we’d not put the new BBQ together yet and this took quite some time so by the time we’d got it going and cooked some English sausages and other stuff it was getting late.

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