Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Christmas!

Please don't faint! I haven't updated my blog for many months; things have been very hectic here (French red tape, of course, which seems to have taken over my life!).

I promise that I will blog more regularly once we are into the new year but, meanwhile, I hope you all have a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year. I will be sharing the holiday with my family back in the UK; it's our first visit there for a long time, so I'm really looking forward to it.

See you soon and thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thermal Clothing will get me through this Winter

All the signs are there that winter is on the way. Autumn gives us a hint of the lower temperatures to come but, generally by the end of October, summer clothes and lightweight strappy sandals have been consigned to the back of the wardrobe, and heavy coats and jackets, along with hats, scarves, gloves, and boots, are the order of the day.

This year I am determined not just to get through the winter but to actually enjoy it, and the best way I can think of to do that is to invest in some insulating thermal clothing.

I came across Damart the other day, and was surprised to see how many items of thermal clothing Damart now have available. Damart is a long-standing name that is tried and trusted having been around for a number of years, so the quality is second to none and, by choosing wisely, I will be able to make sure that I will stay warm and comfortable throughout the winter. The blog shows their current winter collection, and you can see that they have come a long way over the years, in terms of materials used, and they make it easy to keep warm without compromising on style. If you look at the second page of the blog, you can see the latest items on the catwalk, which show just how fashionable thermal clothing has become.

Looking at the winter collection, I can see that there is a lot to choose from, from underwear right up to coats, jackets and boots to wear when out of doors. There are even different grades of warmth now so that clothing can be matched to lifestyle.

Damart will tell you more about the brand.

I thoroughly recommend thermal clothing for winter, and Damart, that well-known expert, has a wonderful collection to choose from.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Very French Wedding!

Way back in March this year, we received a beautiful invitation to a wedding, our first in France! I did a bit of research so that we would know what to expect, but I more or less assumed that a French wedding would not be all that different from a British one. How wrong I was!

A French wedding lasts for around five to seven days!. It starts with a civil ceremony at the local town hall or mairie's office. The mairie is the local mayor, and even the smallest of communes in France has one. The civil ceremony is the officially-binding one; lots of couples choose to follow it with a church ceremony, but it's their choice.

The wedding we attended  was that of our lovely neighbours, Mickael and Sonia. The civil ceremony was the first event, after which the wedding party walked to the local church ready for what we would call the 'blessing'. There was a sort of organised chaos to this; even when they reached the church, the bride and groom just wandered in with the guests, no solemn walking down the aisle with the bride on the arm of her father. The service itself was simple; there were no hymns, just a few responses from the congregation. The bride and groom had to answer three questions individually, then they had to recite something together, then they just ambled back down the aisle accompanied by a Chris Rhea song - no organ music, no 'here comes the bride', no nothing! It all seemed so, well, casual! There didn't seem to be a dress code, either; some people dressed up, others didn't, but it wasn't important at all!

Afterwards, the congregation rushed outside and waited for the bride and groom to emerge, with their gorgeous bridesmaids, Emma and Clara. Sonia's dress was really beautiful - a hooped silk skirt, on which had been sewn layers and layers of net, and a  strapless bodice which suited her lovely figure.

Here is a picture showing the back of the dress

 There was no professional photographer at the wedding itself.. The bride, groom, and bridesmaids had had professional photos taken at a venue on the Wednesday before.

Following the church service was the 'vin d'honneur' - a reception at a  'salle des fetes' (village hall) in a nearby village. We all drove there in a procession of cars with our hazard lights flashing and horns beeping , while passersby waved and cheered.   The vin d'honneur was more or less four hours of wine-drinking, after which everyone piled back into their cars to drive to the next reception, which was held at yet another salle des fetes. This time there was a five course meal and a free bar that was open until 5am the following morning!

This being our first French wedding, we were unprepared for a lot of what happened!  Every so often during the meal and afterwards, and before the tables had been cleared, some strange but manic fiddle music was played, and all the guests suddenly climbed up onto the chairs and tables, did a very strange dance which included a bit of air-guitar, and shouted a lot!  It made us jump the first time it happened, and we could hardly believe our eyes! After four choruses, the music suddenly stopped and everyone sat back down again, until it all happened again about twenty minutes later. By the end of the evening, we knew all the moves and were joining in as if we'd been doing it all our lives. We learned later that this is done to keep the guests awake! After all the food and alcohol, there's a real danger that they will doze off at the table! It certainly kept things lively!

There was a great deal of alcohol consumed throughout the day, and most of the guests had brought their bedding so that they could sleep in their cars in the car park, even those with young children! We kept waiting for the evening to stop but, by 3am, there was no sign of that, so we sneaked out and made our way home - we simply couldn't keep up with the others!

We were the only English couple at the wedding, but all the guests went out of their way to make us feel welcome, and we did have a lovely if exhausting time. The French can certainly put the booze away - I know they say that the Brits binge-drink, but I think the French probably drink even more; it's just that  they drink all day while the Brits usually save it up for the evenings and drink it all in one go!

The actual event of the wedding lasted until the following Thursday morning but, luckily, mainly for the happy couple and their families. The Sunday was spent at the bride and groom's home in boozy contemplation; on the Monday the groom had to be taken to all the local villages, drinking in each one, and the Tuesday and  Wednesday were additional excuses for friends and family to eat and drink all day. I don't see how a newly-married French couple have such a thing as a traditional wedding night to themselves; by Wednesday evening, Mickael and Sonia were completely exhausted!

All in all, it was a fantastic experience, but I am so glad that our traditional British weddings have such a lovely sense of occasion, and I'm certainly glad that they don't last as long!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For fathers who are no longer with us on Father's Day

To Those I Love
If I should ever leave you whom I love
To go along the Silent Way, grieve not,
Nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk
Of me as if I were beside you there.
(I'd come-- I'd come, could I but find a way!
But would not tears and grief be barriers?)
And when you hear a song or see a bird
I loved, please do not let the thought of me
Be sad... for I am loving you just as
I always have... You were so good to me!
There are so many things I wanted still
To do-- so many things to say to you...
Remember that I did not fear... It was
Just leaving you that was so hard to face...
We cannot see beyond... But this I know:
I loved you so-- 'twas heaven here with you!
~ Isla Paschal Richardson

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I'm still here!

I can't believe how the time flies these days, and I certainly can't believe how long it's been since my last blog post! If anyone knows how to get hold of thirty-six hour days, or eight day weeks, I'd be really grateful!

Meanwhile, here are just a few photos of life around here at the moment!

This is our building land, currently being used by the neighbouring farmer to graze his cows, so that his own fields can regrow. They've only escaped into the garden once which resulted in a hectic twilight rescue session, but they've got the hint now that the farmer has switched on the electric fence! They're making short work of the grass, and I just love seeing them there!

One of the beautiful swallows that have returned to the barn for the summer. He and his mate have already had four babies, and they are currently entertaining us daily with their Spitfire displays! They are very sociable, and often sit just a foot or two away from us, even joining in our conversations! When we're busy in the garden, they sit and watch.

The Husband found this fossil in the garden of a house he was working on recently, and the owner said he could keep it! I wonder just how old it is?! (The fossil, not The Husband!).

This is where that ugly old barn was. The Husband has tidied up the ground, and laid  around three tons of topsoil, ready for re-seeding when we get round to it.  You can see how the willow tree has flourished since the barn was taken down; now it gets much more light and space in which to grow. It has struggled since it snapped in half in heavy winds last year, but we are so glad we decided to keep it. The tree surgeon said it would soon start to regrow and I really doubted him, but he was right!

Now that the house is at the snagging stage, I will take a definitive set of photos to show what's been done (most of it by The Husband, mainly on his own with a little help from me!).

As for my crochet - well, I am doing some now and again, a mixture of charity items, mainly squares for various appeals, and presents for grandchildren, but it seems to be impossible to get more than half an hour to just 'be' these days, especially now that summer is here and the garden beckons, if only to sit and watch the swallows with a glass or three of what France does best!

I hope it's not too long before I post again. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The barn is gone!

Since we moved into our house here in France, the lovely view has been partially obscured by a really ugly old barn. It was built many years ago when the house was a working farm. Made from oak and pine timbers and sheets of corrugated iron, it was huge and slowly falling into disrepair. One third of it contained bales of very  old straw, and there were also lots of other bits of scrap that the previous owners should have taken with them when they sold the house.  We used to it store our trailer, the cars when the weather was bad, and our neighbours' caravan, so it had some uses but nothing could take away from the fact that it was just so ugly!  It also blocked the light to one side of a willow tree.

You may remember me posting about the willow tree last year - it had cracked in heavy winds and half of it had come down. We called in a tree surgeon who said that we could have it removed completely, or that it could be saved but would not look too pretty while it was recovering, but that it would soon start sprouting again. We opted to keep it - well, I've always wanted my very own willow! I'm so glad we did. It may still not look as handsome as it should, but the potential is there and, now that it is not being over-shadowed by the barn, it will have every chance to become a fully-fledged grown-up willow!

This was the barn; the tree next to it is the willow - you can see just how close it was to the barn.

Although it doesn't look too good here, the timbers were very good. A tree surgeon bought the barn because he knew he could make good use of them. It took three days to demolish because he and his helper could only work weekends. This picture was taken at the end of the first day - all the corrugated iron sheets had been removed, apart from the roof, and it was down to the bare bones. We could already see what a difference it would make to the space once it had gone, and the tree surgeon, despite the hard work demolishing it, was delighted with the timbers.  He will use some of them to make a woodstore and a tractor shed, and his helper would have the rest for the house he is restoring, so we know they will all be put to very good use.

The willow tree! Doesn't it look sad?  You can see that it is resprouting from the side that was over-shadowed by the barn. It is healthy and this year's new growth looks very good, so I'm glad we saved it, although it will be a while before it looks as good as it should!  I'm sure now that has light all around it, it will start to grow well. I shall try and remember to take a photo at the same time each month to chart its progress.

The straw that was inside the barn has been taken by two local farmers to be used for animal bedding. I was worried that it would be mouldy and rotten but, because it's been kept dry all these years, it was perfect for animals.  Our neighbours' caravan is in another part of the garden; he will be using it shortly, after which it can be stored in an old stone barn we have, alongside the trailer.  There was also another pile of timber in the barn that was no good for building but ideal for burning, so our friendly local pig farm took it away in their horsebox to be used in a woodburner. On Friday morning it was busier in this little hamlet than it has been for years - two tractors and a 4x4 with a horsebox all busy emptying what was left of the barn!

Well, that's the saga of the barn - we still have to make good the area that it was standing on, which means finding five tons of topsoil and planting with grass seed but that will be an ongoing project. The worst is over!

I will post again soon - I have been crocheting so I have photos to post of the things I have made so far this year; not many because there aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week!

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a lovely day!  Me? I've just looked up at the ceiling here in my office - now where did all those cobwebs come from?  I'd better go and deal with them!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's been a while!

This is my first post since the start of the year!  I have no idea where the time goes but go it certainly does! Life is more challenging now than it's ever been, and we've been so busy working on the house (which is very nearly finished), dealing with the world-famous French red tape (which will never be finished), and  work. Squeezing in time for the things I REALLY want to do, like crocheting, photography, reading, writing for leisure and pleasure, and so on, is very difficult because there will always be the essentials such as cooking and cleaning - not the most interesting of occupations but it would soon become noticeable if they didn't get done!

I have lots of photos to sort through - of the house, things I have just about found the time to make, and places and people that matter to me.

My very best news is the arrival of my fourth grandchild, a beautiful little girl called Megan, who weighed in at a very bonny 8lbs 12ozs three weeks ago today; her big sister, Summer, is bewitched by her, and her cousins Sam and Lucy now have a new baby to get to know.  I can't wait to get back to the UK to see them all, but the French red tape has put a hold on plans. We have nearly overcome that particular problem, and will soon be on our way.  Meanwhile, via the wonders of Skype, I can at least see them all.

Oh, and some more news -  we've been invited to our very first French wedding! Our lovely neighbours will get married in July and it looks like it will be an eventful day, with the first ceremony conducted by the local Mairie, followed by the Benedictine Nuptiale in the commune's church (which is gorgeous and situated right next door to our beautiful local chateau), then there will be a vin d'honneur at one village hall, and a further reception at another village hall, with dancing which could run long into the night - I wonder if they'll be putting on a mini-bus?!

For now, here are some recent photos

The blossom on this old plum tree in the garden, set against a lovely blue sky, looks like a big fluffy cloud.

Some gorgeous daffs that had naturalised themselves in the garden - aren't daffs the most cheerful flowers, especially after a long cold winter?

Yesterday's beautiful sunrise which developed into a lovely warm and sunny summer's day.

Well, that's my post for today.  I really do hope that I will be able to post more frequently from now on!

Thank you for reading and have a great day!