Friday, 29 June 2012


Yesterday we went to a local village, La Grimaudiere, where there's a source/spring at Notre Dame D'Or and  confluence with the river Dive. It's a beautiful site, with a large lavoir and a delightful, quiet central village location:

I half expected to find the gently floating body of Ophelia in its crystal clear, weedy, trailing waters:

The place is, however, rather heavily touristy in its self-promotion; placards with cartoon-like illustrations referring to its own importance as one of the great sources of the world, Gargantua and Rabelais - a local lad renowned for his love of one of the many local Loire wines, Chinon.  We generally buy Rouge D'anjou at our local cave in Loudun, where it sells at 2.48 Euros the litre from the en-vrac pump. Most acceptable, smooth and good quality, I've yet to have a hangover on it, so will stick with it for the foreseeable future. Just bought a further ten litres today, in fact.

Tomorrow we're off to Bressuire for the vintage car race preview day.  Having attended the first of the Goodwood festival of speed/ revival days of this kind back in 2000, or thereabouts, 'twill be interesting to see how this compares to that event.  

At this inaugural event we bumped into both Rowan Atkinson and George Harrison.  Harrison was a lover and collector of small race-cars - God knows what class - and was pushing one around when we met him.  He was also, of course, a member of the George Formby Society and a Uke player. Indeed, his last live performance, as it were, was at a Society convention in Blackpool when he gave an impromptu performance.  I have a copy of it on CD somewhere, but it's not good quality.

Charlie has become quite laid back here, even though Rocky often pesters him and still follows him around. He's taken to lying out in the longer grass in the evening sun:

We, too, have taken to relaxing in the evening sun:

The weather has been iffy with way too much wind and rain since we arrived. It now appears to be improving and heading in the direction we expect, though.  

Sadly, while without 'tnet, another great US musician passed on: Levon Helm was probably best known as singer and drummer with Dylan's one time backing outfit, 'The Band'.  He lived- and died - over in Woodstock, NY State, where he held regular open-air gigs under the banner of 'Midnight Rambles.'  I sadly never made it to one of these gigs and never met the guy, though he had become a regular player at the Merlefest Americana festival in Wilksboro, NC, which we visited as often as possible.  This year the festival has lost three of its principal artists - Doc Watson (the festival's named after his late son, Merle Watson); Earl Scruggs and Levon Helm.  

Monday, 25 June 2012

No Woman, No Try.....

Here in France, 'tis the season of fetes galore, many being - in theory at least - fetes de musique. In practice, they tend to be rather dire events made tolerable by the abundance of wine and beer at reasonable prices.

Last weekend we went off to one being held in a nearby village: it fully lived up to expectations. Dreadful music and a real mixed bag of locals in - was it fancy - dress-up mode. There was a bit of a chill in the wind, so numbers remained low: here's J, in a coaty thing, heading for the car earlyish:

But arguably not early enough, having had to listen to this long-shot local band destroying one of Bob Marley's finest songs. The lyrics repeatedly used - an interesting but hardly improving adaptation - being:  'No woman, no try.'

The bar seeing some brisk action:

We thought that maybe we should speak to the singer at the break and put him right, but then, again, thought maybe we'd leave him to discover his mistake somewhere down the line. In any event, the song will forever be different for me at least. I will adamantly stick to the new, refreshing Froggo lyric. I'm sure Bob would approve.

This weekend, we went to a Britty thing for the first time. We, like many expats, shun others of our ilk. This time, however, we were coaxed along to a 'Fish & Chip' night at a nearby bar-garden where there were the usual stalls selling soaps, hand-crafty things and used English books. To our surprise we were not as bored as expected. It was, in fact, a perfectly agreeable evening out. The sun shone warmly, the setting alongside the river on the edge of a small, typically lazy French village, was lovely and the Fish & chips were excellent. Even Jack seemed happy, snuffling around and dozing under the tables. We met some new Engloids and others we already knew. To our surprise we know a fair few now. On Sunday, we went to a Vide Grenier/car booty thingy in a village near our new old house.

We met another pair, Alan & Gill - an ex-midwife, like J - who had been at the Saturday event and then visited their daunting renovation/conversion project nearby of a former Lime Kiln site and outbuildings.  A massive project being tackled with enthusiasm and pleasure. Alan has even re-done all of the sewage/drainage stuff - new septic tanks, filters, soak-aways etc., - himself, despite having been a civil servant in a previous life with little or no experience of such works.

We have bought a few lovely old period/vintage French garden tables and chairs plus some additional gardeny things, photos to follow when cleaned up a bit.  We're hoping to try and generate a bit of income from this by selling them online in the UK. Our daughter, LVP, is going to do us a website - which I'll plug here in due course.

Next weekend we're off to another Vide-Grenier to see what else we might find, followed by a vintage car race and rally in the nearby town of Bressuire. We just hope the weather holds out. And it will be J's three score years birthday, to boot, with a final NHS retirement!

Somebody should tell him, he's got the words seems!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Staying Alive.....

About a month since I've been on here. In that time we've sold our Spanish house - at last and thankfully - moved all the stuff from it up to France where we're in the process of buying a replacement maison and currently have a short-term rental with a rather downtrodden pool out back.

The cats seem to have weathered the move well and Jack tends to take these things in his deaf stride anyway. I've also aged another year - a few days ago - and am closer than ever to getting my hands on a bus-pass!

J retires officially and definitively on July 1st. Needless to say, she's looking forward to that after too many years in the chaos of the NHS frontline maternity services thingy.

Throughout this past month we've been without internet but are again online with French provider SFR: a good deal at just under 25 Euros  month for internet and VOIP phone services to fixed lines throughout Europe and the USA. If only Sweden could wise-up and do the same!  Never likely to happen there, though - they're just too damn greedy to allow it!

This is the place we're renting now until completion on our purchase at end of August:

It's not too bad but could do with some renovation and general updating. It'll do us nicely for a few months whatever.

We're buying an old Maison de Maitre that needs loads of work - new windows, electrics, plumbing and central heating: a lot to do but a lot of house for the ridiculous money with a large, level garden plot:

It's only fitting that we buy this place as I was a Maitre until retiring, after all! That's my excuse anyway. Sadly, I'm no bricoleur so will have to buy in necessary expertise for the  renovation works.

All in all it's been an odd month in other ways, too. We have a nice German lady interested in buying our Swedish house, so this looks likely to go soon. We certainly hope so, though it will mean another trip up North to empty the place and have the contents shipped down here: with 7,000 books that's not something I'm looking forward to! I'd leave them to a charity shoppy thingy but they are mostly English, would probably fill an entire shop, and would be of limited appeal in Scandawegia, I suspect.

Sadly, we learned of the death of two musicians we had connections with. Doc Watson was 89 when he passed on in North Carolina. A truly remarkable man, a great and important US guitarist of immense humility. He was always interested in others and a bit of a US national treasure:

In addition, LVP's friend, a genuinely lovely, generous and thoughtful musician, Robin Gibb of the BeeGees also passed over. LVP was very upset and missed the funeral, though Grandsprog, Hamish, was in attendance, we discovered courtesy of CBS:

I like the way he's giving the cameraman a bit of an evil eye here, augurs well for the future, no doubt!

Sad to see them both go.........both part of my musical background in their different ways. A privilege to meet and know.  Can't help wonder who might be next.........Arghh!!!!!!!!