Thursday, April 24, 2014

revisits to Nic and Brigitte and on....

And then to Nic’s for a week, more of a catch up visit and to see how he’s getting on with the various projects that he has on the go.  I haven’t been to the tower for a couple of years so it’ll be interesting to see the changes.

In fact Nic has been concentrating on another property he has in the village with the idea of selling it on to finance further developments of the main building, that way he can do it properly without scrimping to get decent materials.  He has spent most of his time refurbishing the house, which is coming close to being ready to go on the market.

It has been a great week,  sorting out the ground outside and sowing grass seed for a lawn, scraping ceilings in preparation for a coat of paint, putting up stair banisters.  He enjoys me being here as I take over the kitchen and give him a good break from cooking, which he finds tedious and struggles with inspiration for meals.  I’ve loved throwing together meals with minimal ingredients on an ever more healthy theme.  Each time I visit, we find that our knowledge of food has increased and we both err towards a more natural, home produced diet.  This time cows milk products have been struck off the list, goat and sheep cheeses and yoghurts are still allowed, the reasoning being that unless very locally produced, the poor cows are now fed an increasingly unnatural diet of grains, industrial food processing waste, live inside for most of the year and are kept going with antibiotics and a range of productivity enhancing drugs.  The natural grass diet of a cow is becoming a rarity rather than the norm.

Enough of that for now.

I continue writing ten days later, having not had chance to use the wifi before moving on.  

The last week at Brigitte’s was wonderful, so nice to return and help a lovely lady and good to see that she is well on the mend after a winter of illness.  The aim was to help get the garden up and running again, but I was beaten to the post by Gareth who had arrived earlier in the year for a couple of weeks  but has decided to stay, almost indefinitely by the sounds of things, and is busy settling into the region.  

Gareth is a great gardener and he’d gotten most of it under control, a botanist by training and brilliant at wild plant foraging, so as you can imagine, our conversations were in-depth, endless and fascinating for the two of us, both learning loads from each other.  I don’t think I have eaten so many different wild plants in such a short period ever, mainly a tasting, but occasionally more of a meal, including the ever popular nettle soup and several almost completely wild salads.  

We got on and did several jobs that were much easier done with a couple of pairs of hands.  Replacing the roof on a sun terrace awning, clearing and strimming an enormous patch of semi wild land near the property and burning loads of garden waste, chatting on for most of the time. A third helper arrived too, Trina, a canadian, who helped out more with spring cleaning and sorting out the cellar and summer house whilst I was there.  It was as interesting week language wise, with Brigitte and I being accustomed to speaking french to each other whilst Gareth and Trina in the early learning stages, we swapped back and forth between english and french continually which was great for everyone.  

I was sad to leave after a week, two or three would have been much more agreeable, but I was on a promise and have had a long long drive to get where I am now.  It’s not that far on the map, as the crow flies, but climbing mountain roads takes time in a van like Percy, going up is slow and down is no better, gently does it so as not to overheat the breaks - it smells terrible and is slightly worrying when smoke billows from the wheels when you stop, so a low gear is more the order of the day.  1200m was the first pass then a long descent before climbing almost immediately to 850m and down again.  

I’m somewhere in the Ardeche, south of Lyon, high in the hills with marvelous views, helping a Belgian family build their first ever straw bale house that has only just begun.  I’ll tell you more next time......

Friday, April 11, 2014

here and there

I’ve been to the UK and back.  I spent a wonderful fortnight visiting family and friends, caught some great weather after all those storms and headed back to france with a suitcase full of soft fruit bushes.

Since then I’ve spent two action packed weeks in the mountains, spending time both with Pierre and with Clare at Lou Rider, it was lovely to see out the last of the winter season with good friends and say good bye once and for all to the chalet as it has now been sold (I’m waiting to hear for sure that it’s gone through before posting, so as not to jinx things for Clare).  We had a fairly substantial snow fall just as I arrived back in the mountains, so had amazing ski conditions for a couple of days.  The two remaining helpers at the chalet, Kieran (sp?) and Brian were excellent skiers so it made a change to have to work a bit to keep up.   

The warm weather soon put pay to the amazing conditions and the snow soon turned wet and sticky, catching me out on several occasions resulting in a couple of spectacular wipe outs.  Shaken but not particularly injured, the aches and pains have now departed and am left with the memories of some wonderful descents.  

Clare was busy cleaning and preparing to leave whilst I was there.  I gave a hand, with the tidying and ended up leaving with a van stacked full of useful items for my next project.  It’s all safely stashed in a neighbours barn in Vieuzos now, so don’t have to cart it with me for the next two months.  Thank you Clare.  We ate too, to empty the cupboards and freezers, as nothing could be left this time, a week of scrumptious food, frequently with an asian twist was a real treat and the never ending Sticky Toffee Pudding, that was always such a hit with the guests, finally came to an end.  MMmmmmm.

Somewhere amongst all the excitement I lost my camera, so no photos for the time being, unless I cheat and use some old ones.  I left my name and phone number with the piste services but can’t imagine it’ll be found in a working condition after being outside for so long.  New one ordered, it’s winging its way to me as I write, so won’t be imageless for too long.