It’s Only Words…..

Weather here remaining rather unseasonal – more like Wales, really: rain and wind in equal measure though it has now improved (over past few days) to normal summer stuff with temps around 29/30 most days. Thankfully, this is scheduled to continue. So, Summer has finally arrived!

Charlie and Rocky spend most of their time outdoors, as do we. Though, it must be said, we tend to guzzle much more vin rouge than the cats. Or the resident hound, Jack! Which is as it should be.

J has gone over to UK for a few days to see our daughter, LVP. She flew from La Rochelle to Bristol this afternoon and will be collected from the airport by LVP and then off to her new place outside Carmarthen. We were both over a few weeks ago helping her with the move. A very tiring and taxing time for all. Not helped by her car packing in with a seized alternator pulley half-way through the move!  Her new place is lovely, with a pub just along the road and fine views Southish:

And one of those Welshy roadsigns:

In the course of moving, lots of odd stuff turned up. Including these two bundles of CDs, one a CD/DVD double disc set of BeeGee music and the other a triple album pack. These came direct to LVP from Robin Gibb, who of course died recently. She has no interest in the music, so I now have them:

In addition we have these two odd items. The blue jumper is J’s and was a gift from Robin Gibb:

The cardigan, however, was Barry Gibb’s and, again, came from Robin. It weighs about a cwt and probably explains why he was never one for trying the Jaggeresque moves on-stage. Just lifting an arm while wearing it takes some effort! ‘Tis a Ralph Lauren, hand-made woolly thing. Looks more suited for a Scandawegian winter than a hot, steamy TV studio or stage. I can imagine him wearing it for one of those cheesy, Xmas specials: tree sparkling in the background, logs crackling in the hearth, fake snow etc.  I’ll certainly be using it in that way this Xmas.  Maybe we could have a BeeGee Karaoke evening, as we now have two thirds of their clobber hanging around.

I suppose there will be some ardent BeeGee fans who would covet these things and maybe that’s what we’ll end up doing with them – passing them on to some BeeGeeGeeks. If that’s the right moniker.

The sale of the Swedish house is still lurching along slowly but looks likely to go ahead. It means another trip North to empty the place and move it all down here to France. But we’ll wait till we complete on our purchase here otherwise we’d have to double-handle everything. Not a good idea.

We made it to the local vintage car race thingy in the nearby town of Bressuire a few weeks ago. ‘Twas a fine event, with a fair number of Brit entrants, all of whom were made most welcome and their steeds much admired:

1934 Aston Martin Ulster (I think):

UK owned 1924 Delage:
A local 1933 Citroen:

Lovely ‘Blower’ MG:


1956 (one of my own favourite cars) Jaguar XK140:

And this superb Jaguar C-Type engine – pure power with beauty (in my eyes, anyway):

And these people race these priceless cars: you’d need BeeGee bucks to take that risk in my view!

And you can’t have an event like this without the odd Alvis.  A make we once had a couple of back when we had income from law. Miss the cars and the income but not the law!:

A ‘Graber’ coupe:

A lovely 1932 12/50 TJ

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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.  

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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 wrong……… seems!

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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!!!!!!!!

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A Cold Barbie…..

Today was bright, with some cloud earlier, but a chill wind and temps never getting much above six degrees. Despite this, our neighbours decided it was time for a BBQ: utter madness, I’d say, but probably driven by the kid’s demands:

Sara, the eldest girl, even found the strength (?!) to try playing a bit of outdoor guitar:

Roger visited this afternoon to say he was returning to Germany on Wednesday. He is not going to spend Summer here and has found some work with a friend refurbishing MacDonalds in Germany.  It seems to be a good contract so he needs the money and feels it is time he returned to his homeland for a while. He expects to return to Sweden next year but not until Spring.

The daylight hours are lengthening noticeably now. This is a shot I took a few nights ago at just after 22:00:
The setting sun and basically pretty clear daylight. It will continue to get brighter from here on in for the next 5 weeks or so, till the solstice. Already it is lightish at 02:45, as I noted last night when I lurched off to the loo for a pee!
Mr Fox is still making his evening rounds, usually calling at about 20:00 or so each night. Tonight he came past and I spotted him from the study window. By the time I got out with his pre-prepared tucker he was out of sight. I clucked and caught movement from the corner of my eye and he turned and came straight towards me. I showed him the placky tub thing I’m now using and which is similar to the things I used last winter, and he immediately walked straight towards me without hesitation or fear. I put it down, said hello to him and walked onto the porch while he boldly carried on and scoffed most of the food, a mixture of dog food, rice and a Swedish oddity, ‘matvete’ – literally ‘wheatfood’,  pretty disgusting in truth but not if you’re a fox, it seems!
I was really very pleased at how confident and trusting he was this evening. Makes it feel like it’s worth the effort. And, in reality, it’s a privilege to be able to get so close to such a beautiful, wild creature. At least they are not hunted here:

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More Of This Needed…..

A splendid day here. In full sun at 17:00 we had 24 degrees; it certainly felt deliciously warm outdoors – probably around 18 degrees or so where I sat with a book, a cuppa and a few bikkies.

I took Jack for a longish walk this afternoon, round the lakes and then off for a coffee-break – Fika, in Swedish – at Roger the German’s place:

The view from Roger’s terrace, front of house:

He is located just before a smallish lake, very pretty and now greening-up nicely.  En-route, Jack and I passed about another five or six lakes. I had hoped to see the Störlom/Black-Throated Divers and had assumed they’d have returned by now. But there was no sign of them, yet, though I did see one yesterday in a lake a few miles off. Instead, today, I saw a pair of Whooper Swans seemingly laying claim to the Black Throated’s usual preferred swimming-hole:

Together with a pair of Golden Eye Ducks, of which there were plenty on most lakes:

                                   And another, again with Golden Eyes (three pairs, no less):

                               And yet another, looking a bit moody as cloud drifts over:

Jack decided it was time to have a paddle at this last one. He wandered to the edge and simply dropped off into fairly deep water. After a few minutes of no doubt freezing paddling/swimming he struggled to get a grip and back out of the water. I couldn’t help much as it is boggy, water-logged ground at this point and I was less than keen on joining him!
We passed the local village fishing hut and camping area. This is maintained by the locals, who provide free firewood etc. The hut itself has tables,  benches and a wood-burning stove inside. It is never locked and used to be freely available to anyone who wanted to use it. Now, however, after it was a bused a few years ago by some migrant berry-pickers, it is asked that it be booked locally. It shouldn’t be used as a sleeping place but the area outside may be used for caravans, motor-homes or tents etc. There is even a loo not far off.  The forest floor is covered by a thick carpet  of Blueberries, Lingon Berries and a peculiar Swedish delicacy, Hjotron. Itinarent pickers arrive each Summer to pick these for commercial interests in the South of the country. When first we came here, this was mostly Ukrainian pickers, then latterly Poles and now often Thais or other far-eastern visitors. Occasionally Sami are also involved and they seem to have an astounding resilience to mosquito bites and hard, back-breaking labour!  Despite problems in the past, the hut/stuga  is still available to fishermen free of charge:

This sign is in the parking/camping area outside and has information about the geology, wildlife etc of the nature reserve area:  The flower decal is of a local pansy which grows prolifically throughout the forest and is in fact a woodcarving done by one of our neighbours, Per Togget:

This morning there were three Curlews, a handfull of Cranes and a gaggle of Canada Geese in the fields in front of the house:
This one was obviously the Guard Goose:

Even when the others had wandered off across the road to another field, he stayed put, keeping a wary eye out for danger or threats. Endearing, I thought.
It was a treat to end up with such a lovely, bright, sunny day. This morning at around 08:00 there was a fair bit of damp mist lingering, especially in the forest:
At another nearby lakeside, we came across this guy. He’s a fisherman who lives about 25 Kms off. Every year, as soon as the snow is going, he tows this caravan and sets up for the summer at another area provided and serviced by locals for the use of visitors. He causes much head-scratching and some irritation by this annual behaviour. He generally monopolises the area and prevents others from using it for months at a time, until he tows it away again in Autumn. Last year he had a bit of a scare when a Bear and Cub called and rattled his caravan, pawing at the wheels and clawing the door. Some locals thought/hoped that might see him off for a while, but no….he’s already back in place:

The view he enjoys, over yet another lake:

And part of this same lake, our own swimming hole, just out of shot, secluded and private in a small gently sloping bay just to far-right of this piccy:

J ahs again returned to Wales today. She left yesterday as it’s a long way off to the airport and stopped overnight in a hotel nearby. Our daughter, JVP, is unexpectedly in hospital in West Wales, so she has gone to see what can be done etc and help out on her discharge, which should be either this evening or tomorrow morning.
En-route to the rail station in Sundsvall we saw a Woodcock not far from the house when it ran across in front of the car, followed by a Stoat, a Long-Eared Owl hunting roadside, a Black Grouse and a Hazel Grouse. Today, for the first time so far this year, there is a pair of Pied Flycatchers in the garden. They’ve been checking out the nest-boxes and usually settle down in the garden for the season. Woody is still around and seems to have found a novel way of making a racket/din:

At the top of the pole there is a metal plate. He drums wildly on it at times, presumably enjoying the unusual, metallic sound.  Later, he was back to his usual place on the feeder:

Foxy is still coming round every evening. I’m now convinced it’s the same one I was feeding many wintry months ago. He is coming closer and closer to me, presumably expecting tucker. He knows when he’s onto a good thing, I guess:

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It’s Spring Again…..

Back to Spring weather again today. At 08:00 this morn we had plus four degrees and now, at about 15:00, we have 15 degrees and lots of sun. It was a glorious morning, blue sky, sun and no wind. We’ve had a touch of light rain but otherwise a splendid day, so far.

Morning view from garden:

And even the neighbours have been seduced by it and dragged out the summer garden gear:

Yesterday evening, we had a visit from a fox. It sniffed all round the garden, grubbing up tasty morsels, and gradually made its way round to the front of the house:

Eventually, it hopped up onto the porch and had a good root around, as I watched from the hallway:

I took a bit of Jack’s tucker out and  clucked aloud. It came from the midst of the blackcurrant bushes and waltzed straight over to me, keeping about two meters between us as it watched me scoop nosh onto the grass for it. I went into the house and it immediately set-to, scoffing the lot in no time.  I like to think it’s the one I was feeding in the cold depths of the previous winter when I was here. Then, there was a young fox I fed on a daily basis. Given this one showed virtually no fear of me or my presence, I can’t help but wonder…..

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