Monday, 31 May 2010

Médecine du Travail

Today I had an appointment with the Médecine du Travail. It all seemed a bit officious, with a letter that demanded I attend for a medical examination (it is obligatory in France if you are employed) and telling me to bring a sample of my urine, my glasses and all information on vaccinations and medical history.

I had thought about going to the chemist to get a sample bottle, but in the end I couldn't be bothered and ended up sticking a small olive jar in the dishwasher which I though would suffice.

The examination started with a hearing test. I had to wear headphones and push a button when I heard a buzzing noise and release it when it stopped. It was bizzare. It wasn't really like a buzz, more like what I imagine tinitus would sound like, and although it changed in volume, didn't really seem to have definate stops and starts. It seems I passed though, so I must have heard something.

Then it was a bit of a quiz about my medical history before an eye test (thank god for contact lenses) and she never even asked if I needed glasses or not. My height and weight were checked, "Faire attention!" was her only comment on my weight, which I was pretty pleased with considering I probably weigh as much as some of the horses at work, and then it was on to listening to my chest and checking my knee joints worked.

Apparently my ability to reach down and touch the floor was 'formidable' and the only things of concern were an elevated blood pressure (it always rises when I am being checked by a doctor) and the need to have an up to date tetanus vaccination. It seems cases of tetanus in France are very high and doing my job it is recommended you have a booster yearly.

It was only as I was rummaging through my bag in the supermarket I realised I still had an olive jar full of pee on me. Thank God I didn't drop it!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Carpenters mate

Today I am feeling slightly fragile after a drinks evening last night. "Have a day relaxing" says my other half. Goody! Thinks I, perhaps a chance to watch a the film we borrowed months ago and haven't got round to watching - so I suggest we watch it together. "After the footy maybe * " says he, "England are playing today if you don't mind" (cue rather pathetic face).

So how come I just ended up in the barn, ear defenders on, helping push 28 pieces of oak through a planer thicknesser*. Relaxing sure isn't what it used to be.
I am a seasoned carpenters' mate these days. I know not to pull, push, twist, lift or drop anything passing through the machine (500 times, each time taking a micromillimetre off).
The drone of the machine and the whine of the dust extractor were doing nothing for an impending headache.

The broody hen continues to turn me prematurely grey. Thinking about it (rather depressingly) I suppose not even prematurely given I am now mid 40's.
Yesterday she left the nest for something to eat and the loo, and then went back into the original chicken house where there were no eggs at all instead of her purpose made broody box in the shed.
So I spent yesterday afternoon making a new wooden and chicken wire door for the shed so that she can leave her eggs but is confined to the quite large shed area for a leg stretch etc. I also covered the open window areas with wire to stop the others popping in to push her off the nest. If it wasn't for my liking of little yellow bundles of fluff I think I would have given up on her by now.

Yesterday there was fete and vide grenier in the village, and when I popped into the boulanger I was given a scratch card with my bread, and I won an extreemly tacky insulated drinking mug with 'Ronde des pains' written on it. Still, nobody else seemed to be winning anything and our boulanger asked me to be sure to parade around the village holding it up so that everyone could see that there were in fact winning tickets to be had. There were ancient tractors on each street corner, and several stalls. I managed to purchase some zebra striped tomato plants for Neil at a very reasonable 40 centimes each which pleased him greatly.

I suppose I should go and plant them as it has stopped raining for five minutes. Everyone else seems to be showing off fantastically cultivated vegetable patches. I'm glad the camera isn't working so I can't show you how disorganised my beds are. Maybe I should do some weeding - is that relaxing*.

*still no question mark. Note to self - buy new computer when buying new camera. That's two lottery tickets then.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Stupid bird!

I got home from work this afternoon and did my usual rounds checking on all the beasts at chez moi, and found that the hen that had been sitting on nine eggs had managed to tip all the eggs out of the nest, breaking one and damaging some of the others. This must have sent her into a state of shock as she was sitting trance like on precisely nothing.

I had a hunt round and found seven more fresh eggs, and arranged them in a deep nest of hay and put them back into her box, wedging them with more hay so that the same thing can't happen again.
I decided to cut her some slack, as she is not quite one year old yet and this is the first time she has gone broody.

I am still without camera, which is driving me nuts as I snap away all the time normally. I keep looking out for bargains on the Internet, but even the bargains aren't in my current price bracket. Remind me to buy a lottery ticket!!

The horse that arrived a couple of days ago has settled in and is now investigating means of escape. I found her in the garden when I got home (as one of us had been a bit lapse at shutting an internal gateway). I say garden, but in truth it is a wilderness behind the house and could do with a bit of equine mowing.
I have asked her owner what she is called and she said a completely unpronounceable dutch name, so at the moment I am just going out for cuddles and calling her 'gorgeous'.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Mr Fox strikes again

My excitement at the birth of a new fresian was slightly tinged yesterday when I found a pile of feathers at the bottom of our field. The day before one of our ducks hadn't made it home and then yesterday this find led me to suspect the duck hadn't wandered off somewhere to sit on eggs, but had met a slightly more grizzly fate.

One of the things we love is to see how 'free range' our chickens and ducks are when they have liberty to head all over the field and down to the stream, but this comes at a price as I guess that they are prey to foxes.

So far we have lost remarkably few, so we had decided it was worth letting them have their freedom and I do hate to see birds 'cooped up' in tiny runs with no sustinance.
Maybe we will have to think again - at least until local foxes have finished feeding their cubs and the chasse reconvenes.

I have managed to fry my legs today by being a typical Brit in the sunshine and falling asleep on a lilo in our inflatable pool. I only woke up when I snored so loudly I nearly fell off the lilo. No doubt an uncomfortable night beckons!

Sunday, 23 May 2010


I had to borrow a camera to share this with you.
A little colt (male) foal born about half three this morning. Need names beginning with A if you are feeling inspired.
Gorgeous isn't he!!

Saturday, 22 May 2010


I'd love to put a photo on of how the hall is looking but I can't because my camera has packed up. I can't believe it - rarely a day goes by normally without the camera being attached to my hand at some point or other, so now it feels very strange to be without it. I've had a look on the internet for a replacement, but they are all hugely expensive and it will just have to wait.
Also rather frustratingly, just as we want to release some of our money to move on with the work here the blimmin stock market crashes - was it waiting for us to finish the hall or what!!
I could be acquiring a new horse in the field next week - my friend has rung to say it might secretly appear and reading between the lines I think this is a horse she has had her eye on for some time and has bought without her husband knowing. Us women can be sneaky at times!!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


I have just been up to shut in the chickens and ducks and became aware of a strange noise. Underneath an oak tree in the garden I could hear a loud drone, which sounded like the noise of bombers in an old war film. On closer examination I noticed loads of May Bugs flying around the tree making this noise.

Of course I rushed back to "Google" the May bug and found out that they are more commonly known as Cock chafers - and that they feed on oak leaves. The larvae are the mysterious white bugs that we often find in flower and vegetable beds.

I also read, and I quote - A 19th century recipe from France for cockchafer soup reads: "roast one pound of cockchafers without wings and legs in sizzling butter, then cook them in a chicken soup, add some veal liver and serve with chives on a toast".

I don't think I will be trying it any time soon!!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

I caught a carp today

I caught a very large carp today. A mirror carp apparently. I say I caught it, but basically I just reeled it in.

Margaret and Keith (he of ace stonework and tiling fame, she of extreemly homely gite fame - see link on left) suggested we had a days' fishing today and I agreed it was a good idea if only to give Neil a day away from the house, work, and all possible planning of jobs.

I took a good book (as I was prepared for a day of general boredom) but Neil suprised me by hooking two massive fish in fairly close succession.

"The next time one bites I want you to reel it in" he said. I recognised this as a thinly veiled attempt at getting me interested in the art of fishing - and went along with it. I managed a fairly long fight with a bloody huge fish, but it doesn't really float my boat so to speak.

We had been home for less than 2 minutes when the first invitation for drinks arrived and we went to Nicolines' for a few glasses of vino, whilst discussing the possible use of her lake.
Then we went home - supposedly for dinner and decided that our cock (ridiculously named Stiffy) was abusing one of the hens just a bit too much and decided to take said hen to live with our friend Judith (see previous blog) for a cock free existance.
This lead to even more drinking as Denis and Jane were already there having returned from their Spanish motorbiking adventure. I am already not looking forward to work tomorrow.....

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The saga of the aga

We have just had a ceremonial lighting of a gas ring on our newly installed cooker. It's very exciting!

Actually it's not an Aga - although it has been made by Rangemaster - part of the aga group, and aga did rhyme with saga, so forgive me.

We bought our cooker in 2007 - back when we were living in England, dreaming of our future here in France. It is only now - after much niggling by myself that Neil has finally agreed it should be installed (two years after the warranty ran out).

Arguements For

We haven't had a roast dinner for months
We haven't had cheese on toast for months
I am fed up cooking on a two ring camping gas stove
Wouldn't it be nice to have yorkshire puddings etc etc........
It has just been sat there, in the kitchen, wrapped in plastic looking at me.

Arguements Against

The house isn't finished therefore more dust to be made, and dust = damage.

I decided, after much collusion with my friend Judith that the time was right to unwrap said cooker whilst Neil was away in the UK. Most decisions of mine are made at this time, whilst he is unavailable and unable to talk me out of things. Judith being my mate is always on hand to agree with me and help talk him round when and if necessary.

We believed we had bought a dual fuel model - gas hob, electric oven and I asked the electrician to come over to install the big cable required to power our large ovens before Neil got home. I was at work when the electrian turned up, but when I got home he said "Roz, your electric oven.."
"Yes....." I replied.
"It's gas" said he.
Ahhh. That was not what we thought we had bought. Three years down the line and in the wrong country we are not in a great position to argue the toss on this one. So gas it is. This however should have alerted me that this was not going to go smoothly.

I decided to take the gas line off the cooker that we had been using and disliked - it being gas and capable of burning everything from the bottom within seconds.

Stupidly I hadn't thought to take a spanner ( I don't know how I thought it would be connected) so the next time I went back with a set of spanners. This time the largest spanner wasn't large enough so I then went back for a third time with an adjustable spanner and hurrah - the cable was mine. Unfortunately the cable and the cooker did not appear to be compatible.

That day Neil was due back and luckily was quite relaxed about the cooker being unwrapped. We then spent yesterday trying to source the piece we needed, and double checked with Rangemaster that we could use this set up. We were frowned on greatly for having exported the cooker (I have seen it here but for three times the price)but we were told that with the use of gas ptfe (tape that you wrap around threads)we should be able to make a safe secure connection.

Gas ptfe is just like water ptfe but thicker. We looked it up on ebay UK and could buy three packs for £1.50, but as obviously I was now on a roll and time was of the essence we decided to try to get some locally, and on the third attempt Neil found some in a local store, whilst I waited in the car outside with Tess.

I managed to lipread his words as he walked out of the shop - it went something like "greedy, robbing French ba******!!!!!". In France it is over nine euros for one roll. So that didn't get purchased.

We are going to order some gas ptfe from the UK and in the meantime Neil has made the connection with water ptfe and so far, (touch wood everywhere) it appears to be working.

The other day I had bought a pork joint to roast, but in exasperation Neil put it in the freezer last night. I must go and buy another one!

Monday, 10 May 2010


Another mad busy day - I spent a fair bit of time with the older stallion at work today who is bandaged up after an operation on a tendon sheath in his leg. The bandage was covered in fresh blood and it took me ages to find that the blood had actually come from one of his teeth as he had obviously been ripping at his dressing.

Our third foal arrived a couple of weeks ago and has been given the stable name of Alfie. He is another chestnut and absolutely gorgeous. We are now awaiting the last foal who will hopefully be born in a couple of weeks.

When I got home at lunchtime our electrician had arrived to continue work. It's been really handy having people in working whilst Neil has been away - it has meant that I have had dog sitters in most of the time and Tess appreciates not being on her own.

After that I had to go and get more bags of tile adhesive, which is proving to be nearly as expensive as the tiles. I drove to the local Bricomarche who didn't stock what I wanted so I had no choice but to go to our local builders merchant who seems to delight in ripping off all those of us who can't or don't want to drive into Limoges. I need to source a cheaper supplier before we continue on with the barn.

Then I had to go and feed my friends' stallion and mares and chickens.
My friends have headed down to Spain to try and find the sun - which did make quite a lovely unexpected appearance here today.

After that I had to help another friend move her three young colts from one field to another, which was about a four kilometre walk (she hadn't told me it was mostly uphill) and as she is a very tall dutch person it was quite a route march for me - a tubby short british person.

I finally got home and had to clear up after the electrician, water the veggies and flowers, cook some tea, feed the cats and dog, put the chickens and ducks to bed, have a shower and now I'm just about to go up to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Come home Neil!!

Ok, I want Neil to come home now. I have been really busy with work, the house, the animals, other peoples' animals etc etc etc and running this place (and myself) is no mean feat for a person on their own.

I had a skype conversation with Neil this evening. He is decidedly worse for wear having been at the pub all afternoon and in celebration mode after his team (Chelsea) won some kind of championship or something (I am a very bad wife - I should probably know what they won).

The cats are continually hassling me for food and the eggs are piling up as, although I love having chickens, I don't eat eggs very often!! I have my very own easter egg hunt every day, as they seem to hunt a new exciting place to lay all the time.

A duck went missing again last night and I gave up looking for it. This morning it happily waddled out of the chicken house with all the hens.

I think I need Neil back to restore some order in this place!!

Friday, 7 May 2010

"You took on something when you bought this place..."

Is what Keith said to me as we discussed the work still to be done chez nous. I must admit that at times we have struggled and have been so lucky to have had advice (mostly from Martin) and friends who have been so happy (I hope!) to help. I still believe though that one day we will have a house to be proud of.

Although unfortunately this is not my kitchen (pah!) these are the slate tiles we have chosen for the hall and barn. I chose them because there are colours in them that are echoed by the local stone.
It's a shame we couldn't buy them locally. These were about £18 a square metre, whereas we couldn't find something of anything like the same quality for less than 100 euros a square metre locally. Hopefully by the end of today some of them will be on the floor.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I have finished off a bit more of the wall and as usual couldn't resist sticking a basket with flowers in onto it within seconds of putting the wood treatment brush down - poor Neil despairs of me

Keith has put a render on the wall so that the staircase can be fixed and mounted and he is also going to put some of our floor tiles down so that the bottom flight can go in, so it feels like things are happening here.

Just as well that things are happening inside as outside we have even had a flurry of snow today - snow!! I have had to rush out and cover the pumpkin seedlings with some lemonade bottles to try and protect them a bit. One minute sunshine, the next arctic blasts - what's happening with this weather!!!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Winter appears to come back and it is howling an absolute gale outside. At least that gives me the perfect opportunity to get on with the inside jobs that I keep putting off in a vague attempt to get a tan (no chance of that today or any other day soon by the look of the meteo).

I've finished putting the lime and sand mixture on our little torchis wall. It now needs a good tidy up and the wooden sections finishing off.
It's taken ages because I can't seem to perfect the technique and have ended up just squidging the mixture on with my hands and as a consequence it looks very rough. Authentic Neil says. Rough I say!!

I started on the right hand side so the sections on the left are still drying, hence the patchy dark sections.
Hopefully Keith is coming to render the wall with the arch in it, which no doubt he will make a fantastic job of and make mine look even rougher!! I don't mind though, I'm sure it will look fab once I have hung a few little bits and bobs on it!

Saturday, 1 May 2010


I received the following by email from my dear friend Jacqui and thought it would be nice to pass it on to anyone who takes the time and trouble to read the blog. I hope you have a lovely weekend....

En ce jour du 1er mai, nous vous offrons ce petit brin de muguet en espérant qu'il vous porte bonheur.