Sunday, 30 December 2012

Another year.....May You Never.....

Another year almost gone. It's been interesting but with some stress and much moving. Against the trends, we managed to sell both our Spanish house and our Swedish place. This enabled us to move back to France, where work has gone on apace on the house and we now have the relative luxury of central heating, and a virtually re-wired home. There's still a bit of upstairs re-wiring to be done, but basically the place is done. The wood-burner is working well and the Hens are giving us a couple of eggs a day. So we should be settling into quiet, French village life. But......

Unfortunately, and sadly, our daughter, LVP, is locked into a protracted and bitter custody/ Access (Residence/Contact in new legal tender) battle with her former partner. He simply snatched the grandsprog, Hamish, about six months ago and has refused access entirely. So she's going through the court system for an order. A lengthy process that frustrates me as a former lawyer!  Hopefully, however, all will be resolved in due course, as they say, with some certainty etc.

As a result, we've taken the decision that we must return to UK just to be closer to her for support and help. J's flying back over to UK on Jan 15th, and I'm planning on moving over a few weeks later, once the new kittens have their Passports, anti-rabies jabs etc in place. They've an appointment with a local vet lined up for January 3rd, then we must wait 21 days before they can enter UK. So, I should be over by the end of the month.

Not at all what we had planned, to say the least.  We'll probably aim for the Welsh Marches region, as it's an area we know well and where we still have many good friends. It's also not too far off from LVP in West Wales. For now, we're searching for a suitable place to rent so we can make the move as effortlessly as possible.

The weather here has been very wet, but not as bad as UK, it seems. Over Xmas it was fairly mild but windy at times.  We're off to a Hogmonay party at some nearby Brits place tomorrow evening. Frankly, given the general position, we're not really looking forward to it. But we have a generous invite so will make the best of it. If nothing else we'll no doubt meet more of the local, expat Brit population.

The two new kittens are growing apace. The little Tom, we call Ginge, is endlessly curious and constantly looking for trouble, it seems. The other, Ali, is not so timid now, comes when called and can be handled with ease. However, she doesn't seem to be putting on much weight - despite eating heartily - and is now being outstripped in size by the other one:

Her markings are coming through now, and she appears to be a silver tabby, albeit with blue eyes - so some Siamese in the mix, I'd think.

Rocky has become lazy and exploded in size to a full-grown, big cat. He's still adorable but is big. Easily the biggest cat we've ever had!

A typical pose by the stove:

Charlie, my old favourite, has not returned. I worry a bit that he might yet show up - after we've returned to UK. We'll have to leave contact details with some of the villagers in case this happens then I can shoot over and hopefully collect him. Fingers crossed. I do miss him immensely:

The village has put on a small, dog-eared Nativity scene. Tattered but a generous gesture for such a small place really:

There's also this strange creature, which we assume is meant to be a Camel, though heaven knows what else it might be:

Even the Mairie/town hall is decorated:

And finally, here's some photos of the village itself; no French village being without its dominating church, of course:

Which comes complete with a recently created, huge always empty car-park:

Otherwise, it's a pretty sleepy hollow:

And the farm where we get our lait cru/raw milk from the cows is the building on the left here. A  family unit, largely organic in nature and run by a friendly family:

Most mornings we have a visit from this cheeky, hungry chappy. A lovely Green Woodpecker:

Well, that's about it. I hope everyone has a great New Year and has survived the festive period so far.  I've enjoyed following many Bloggers; a journey of interest and amusement that varies almost daily. I look forward to continuing my vicarious travels and thank all of those Bloggers out there. Maybe we'll meet some of you sometime, somewhere down the line.

And yesterday, I had a message from a fine US Dobro player - possibly the best in the World - telling me another very fine lap-steel/Dobro man had passed on. It's been one of those years, it seems:

The harbinger:

And the poor one that passed: The harbinged (presumably):

And just for the Hell of it....a fine sentiment, whatever: and another sadly gone a few years ago. One of the greats:

Thursday, 6 December 2012

When ..... Got Stuck Up The Chimney.....

A few days ago I awoke in the wee hours to hear a frantic scrabbling, gurgley sort of noise from behind the integral, inbuilt metal chimney screen in our bedroom. All very eerie, no doubt. I turned over and slept as usual. Next morning I opened up the thing - for the first time - expecting to find, if not one of those ridiculous inflatable Santas the Froggos seem to love, a stray crow or other trapped behind it in the hearth.  As I poked around, clearing out years of twiggy debris, to our joint surprise a delightful Little Owl (Athene noctua) like this little fella hopped down  and froze when it saw me. We both stared at each other for a few surprised seconds before it took off, scrabbling swiftly back up the chimney.

He was gone, of course, long before I could lay hands on a camera. But soon after, one of the new kittens, Ali, decided to follow him up the chimney and fortunately stopped on a ledge within touching range so could easily be retrieved before getting herself into difficulty or danger. I've long been particularly interested in Owls, so this was a most pleasant surprise visit. J had thought she'd seen a Little Owl perched on a nearby building and it was probably this little 'un.  There are huge numbers of BArn Owls around here too. I've never come across so many. Sadly, there is also a string of them dead by the roadside leading into one of our nearest towns, Thouars. These have presumably been hit by traffic on the road at night while hunting.

Today we have a gloriously bright, sunny day albeit with lowish temps following an overnight frost. Still nothing like Sweden where our old neighbour, Monica, confirmed a day or two ago that it had been minus 23 overnight!  Oddly enough, we are sure we'll both miss the beauty - including temps and snowfalls - of the place, though the wine, food, weather and general lifestyle is better down here.

The two kittens are slowly adapting to life with us; the male, called, imaginatively, 'Ginge' is into everything, constantly curious. He cracked the catflap immediately and comes and goes happily. His sister, Ali, is much more timid and cautious, though she does come to me when I call her and jumps onto my lap most evenings. Today is thr first day of catflap usage. She was initially very wary of Jack but has come to realise he's not a threat. The same cannot be said for Rocky who, to our surprise, has suddenly grown enormously and will chase the pair of them at the drop a hat.  Sadly, there's been no news of Charlie - my all time favourite Swedish  cat - who has now been gone for the better part of two months. I still miss him terribly and hope he returns though the odds must now be stacked against it!

J has bought and planted three trees for the longer term in the garden: a Catalpa, Liquid Amber and 'Silk Tree' ( Paraserianthes lophantha.)  We also have our thirty-plus years old Pomello in a pot. Somehow or other It has survived all the moves and a few years in Sweden:

We've bought loads of wood to keep the fires and stove running and have oil and a new heating system in situ with only two pipes and electrics now to be connected. Then we'll have central heating. We could do with it now and hope to have it before Xmas.

We've had a bit of rain too, so the garden - or weed-patch - is a bit muddy for now. Hopefully we'll get over that soon. Maybe we'll even have snow!