It’s hard life, but not as we know it Captain.

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Welcome to all those that have joined my blog over the past couple of weeks, good to know that you are joining fast and furious now! And I know that a lot of you have just moved over, or are thinking of chasing that dream, and having that adventure; so this blog has you all in mind.

I live in the Pays de Loire, which is primarily a farmland community; and I now understand why farmers wives have boot rooms and clean their kitchen floors so often; or just say “Sod it! It is just a piece of dirt!” because I have never cleaned so much in my life. If you don’t clean, because you are decorating, or busy writing a book you find that you will have dead flies accumulating on your window sill and many dead beetles that have made their way in under your front door, only to die once they  have made it!! It is like they are saying “I know lets squeeze under that old door and then die once we get in there, won’t that be fun!” Silly sods!!

I will be honest I looked around my house the other day and, having five cats and two Welshies, realised that their was what looked like hairy tumbleweed cascading down my stairs. So out came the hoover and the resolution that I must clean something other than my kitchen every day. Then along came my book edit that was due, and my blog posts which, as you know, are often left behind;  or the bedroom to finish decorating (if I say so it is starting to look fab, so watch out for other posts!), and embroidery to do for the pillow cases I am going to put on my friends bed when she comes out to visit next week, and it all went out of the window. I cleaned last week, and have come to realise that I like the sound of hairy tumbleweed Schloooping up my hoover. I like to watch the balls of fur hiding in the corner and saying to them “No good hiding! I have found you!” In an accent reminiscent of an American cowboy!! So I am going to save the cleaning for the end of the week just before my friend arrives.

But seriously living in the country means you have loads of fresh air, but also loads of dirt. In the winter there is the mud and the leaves, and the mold from where the roof needs repairing, and in the summer there is the dust, and the beetles and the flies. But when I look out of my window whilst sitting at my desk and I see this …….

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And this…..

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I welcome the dust, and the critters that the countryside brings.

But life is more challenging out here just to survive, if like Rich and I and so many others you are surviving on a small budget. You have to buy logs, and if you have a burner the chances are you have to chop and split them, in fact the bigger you buy them the cheaper they are so we have bought one metre logs and will have to chop them down to thirty centimetres. Hay ho, burns the calories!

Then in the winter you have to argue who will go out in the cold and get them in, we bring them in by the wheelbarrow for my wonderfully designed log cabinet (all designed by me!!)

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But you still have to stand in the cold unloading them and carrying them in! Then there are the twigs for kindling. Yes you can buy kindling but once you have lived out here on a budget you come to realise that you are burning something on a bonfire that you can use and then going to buy it! Which in anyone’s book is madness.

We have chopped down fourteen pine trees since living here, and chopped up less than half of them. The time has come when they must be cut because they have been seasoned for two years. Add to the the cob nut trees that have been cut back with still more to cut back and chop and leave in the garden to season for three years (Oh yes I am a member of woodcutters incorporated and all that entails!)

Rich and I have come to understand the importance of preparing for the winter, with this being our third winter here and after the HUUUUUUUGE electricity bill we had after the first winter here. The old stone houses are beautiful folks but they are cold!!

There is the lawn to mow, the pots to water, the walnuts to gather in September (let alone the cob nuts!)The trees to trim, the hedges to cut, the chickens to clean out. The cherry’s to gather in the spring, the leaves and cava apples to scoop up into the compost, and the big old fire to have in the autumn. So before you move here, ask yourself do you really need that much land? We have just under an acre and trust me, although others have said that our “garden is not that big!” (methinks that might have been the green eyed monster!) just under an acre is enough. Also if you are new don’t forget the potager that you are going to do, see just call us Tom and Barbara and Ooh Matron it’s gone Pete Tong and you may change your mind!

Every day I clean my kitchen thoroughly because my cats jump onto the work surfaces and God knows where they have been or what critters they have been handling.

Add to all of this the house repairs, the decorating, the replacing of electricity cables and putting up lights, which my lovely husband is brilliant at – this is the last set of lights he put up for me over my sink, using the beautiful 1940’s lampshades I found in a vide grenier.

 

Don’t forget the knocking down walls, putting the waste in the compost, shabbying of the chic furniture, and then changing your mind and doing it again! And trust me life will be busy, and I haven’t even mentioned work yet. Then there is cooking because there ain’t many takeaways that deliver out here! And even if there is can you afford them? And most importantly of all there is the drinking of wine!

You will have to buy gas bottles, and make sure you have a spare; and it is another job.

But would I change it?

Never in a million years. My life is rewarding, I know why I have to do something and what I am going to get from it, without a pie chart, or report that people don’t read, or take any notice of in sight!!

So my advice to anyone moving out here for a more relaxed way of life….

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Especially the line ‘Ponder the difference between want and need.’ I think that says it all.

Look out for more to come

 

Moisy

Coleslaw and the best addition for sooo many things Italian!!

I know what does Coleslaw and Italian have to do with France?

Well many moons ago someone, whose feedback I welcome and value, suggested that I give out some recipes for the food that I have learnt to cook in France; it was in response to my blog about how I can really cook now because I have had to learn to improvise, and work things out  for myself, to achieve the food that we like and miss from when we lived in the UK, but none of it is French!! (For those who wish to view this have a look in the food in France category of my blog. Anyway, I digress….)

There will be recipes for Mois’s  Chinese (yes you can get it over here, but we are working on a budget) Mois’s kebab, spicy chicken burgers,  Mois’s Italien – get it!! I see adverts on the TV and think mmmm that looks nice and then I work out how you could make them and add my own spin. For example the paprika burgers that are being advertised on UK TV at the moment (yes we have satellite!) but look out for that recipe because I have again added my own spin. We are trying them tomorrow.

I have always been able to cook, I am not committed to cooking, would not want to enter Masterchef of anything like that, but I have always understood cooking, and for me it is all about the taste. So if you want to follow the recipes that I am going to blog about be prepared, there will be not exact measurements, because you have to taste your food as you cook it, so just follow the ingredients and make it to how you like it.

Here we go…

Coleslaw – or should I say the American kind?!

A dear friend of ours dished us up this coleslaw one day and Rich, who is not a fan of coleslaw, nommed it (that is Essex for ate it all and more!) We both loved it and the recipe is simple:

White cabbage, cut as thinly as you can – think about it you don’t want great big hunking bits of cabbage in your mouth! Put the cabbage in a large bowl that gives you enough room to stir it around for when you add the sauce.

The Sauce:

Mayonnaise

Dijon Mustard

Rice wine vinegar

Sugar.

Basically put the ingredients (not the cabbage) into a bowl and mix it together until you get the flavour you like, some may like more sugar, some may like more mustard whichever way you like it, but trust me it is gorgeous.

Then look at your cabbage and decide if you have made enough of the mixture to cover the cabbage, and then add to the mixture and make some more because you can bet your bottom dollar you haven’t!!

Add the mixture to the cabbage and make sure all of the cabbage is coated.

Simples!

Nom away…….

 

The best mixture ever for Italian dishes.

So as always I was watching TV and I cannot take credit for this, the great chef Michelle Roux Junior gave me this idea. He said that the mistake people make with garlic bread is that they do not add parsley. Yep parsley!!

You will need at least two bulbs of garlic – seriously it is not garlic bread without garlic.

A large bunch of parsley that is as deep a green as possible.

Buy a what is called in France a Hatcher – basically a blender.

Put the peeled (I feel I have to say this as I know that some people will just take things literally) garlic into the hatcher/blender with the parsley; you may have to do this in batches so make sure you have garlic and parsley in together not individually or they will not blend well. Then hatch/blend away.

You can put this mixture in containers in your fridge and then add it to butter (a lot of butter! Garlic bread without butter is NOT garlic bread) in a bowl and put it in the microwave. Once the butter is melted stir the mixture and then spoon over your cut bread, wrap in tinfoil and put in the oven on about 180 degrees for about 15 minutes and nom, nom, nom,nom…..

But I did not stop there, I added fondant cheese (the most wonderful ingredient I have found in France and more of that in future recipes!) to the mix loading the bread and voila! You have cheesy garlic bread.

Then I thought to myself that mixture would be great added to my spaghetti bolognaise, parmejano chicken (my recipe for that is on it’s way), you add it to roast potatoes the list is endless. I have even made a flavoured oil with it – look out for my oils later.

So go on I dare you this weekend – give it all a go, and please ….. let us all know how you got on I really want to hear you comments.

Happy cooking

Moisy

 

 

A wobble, a birthday, and people who care.

As you all know from my previous posts we have had serious problems with no water.

I always said that my blog would be an honest blog.  I set it up to inspire people who always say “Oh I would love to do that, you are so brave, but I just couldn’t.” Or those who say “I want to do that but I am scared.” to consider the adventure, consider living life to the full, as one of my favourite quotes says “my aim is not to live life and die with a perfectly preserved body, but to slide into the grave sideways shouting “holy shit what a ride!!” But to do this, to inspire people the honesty is essential and I am going to tell you today about a recent wobble. Rich’s recent wobble.

Since living here we have had what some may say bad luck, or as other’s say lessons to teach us how to move forward in life, and if you don’t listen to the lessons they will just keep happening, over and over again, worse and worse until you sit up and f*****g listen! What have our lessons been?: When we moved over we bought a truck specifically to help us with our life here. It was only a 2009 model and had only 59,000 miles on the clock. But the engine blew up less than a year after we got here! We had checked the oil, done all we had to but the engine still blew up!! But… a dear friend sourced a van for us, and do you know what? It is better than the truck ever was, and the truck sale helped us pay for the wood last winter!

Some of my readers may remember that in the March after we moved here we had a storm, and as our house is perched on top of a hill (hence the views you have to take the good with the bad!) it took our kitchen roof off; and then the insurance company refused to pay out because they said we had not maintained the roof, we had only just moved in! So we are going to learn how to replace our roof at the end of this summer  that has to be a good thing right?!

Then we had a tornado go through the garden and rip some of the trees apart and decimate our gazebo. We burnt the wood from the silver birch in the spring as they season so quickly they will rot if not used. We got firewood from it.

Whilst we knew our cesspit did not conform what we did not know is that it leaks into the cellar. So we have put some things into place to help this, not least spraying the cellar floor with bleach. You do what you have to do. We have learnt you won’t die from it!

Rich has had people tell him that they want him to work for him so many days a week and then been dropped without any explanation. But looking back they were not particularly nice people to work for and our lesson was that we only work for people who are polite and all the rude and ignorant bastards can sod off!! We did not move out here to humour arseholes any more!! (That has to be a positive right!)

In the past month as you know we have lost water – which is now on it’s way to being sorted out thanks to good friends, and we have a temporary fix; and whilst driving home from work the brakes went on Rich’s van and he was over a fourty minute drive away- but a wonderful friend fixed them for him the next day.

But at the end of June, beginning of July Rich began to feel down. He tried to be his normal cheery self but you could see in the morning as we sat in our ‘morning corner’ with our cup of tea that he was miserable. He would huff and puff, and when I tried to be positive he would just shrug; but I knew that he was in a bad place when he commented how easy it would be to hang yourself from a tree in our garden! In fact it frightened me. I asked him to tell me something good about living out here and he looked at me and thought for a while and then said that he could not think of anything.

I know that many people read this blog because they want the inspiration to make that change, I know because they contact me and tell me. But this blog is about explaining that wherever you live, no matter how good life may appear there can still be times when life just gets on top of you. Do you know the thing that pushed my husband over the edge, despite all the shit that has come our way (literally at times)?  He went down when the wheelbarrow got a puncture and when he fixed it, it went down again and could not be repaired. Seriously! Despite everything else it was the wheelbarrow getting a puncture!!

I have asked Rich if I can write this post and he has agreed because we know some people out there (as do we all) who are really struggling and we hope that by sharing what most people think will be perceived as a weakness it will help others, because trust me we all struggle at times.

The amazing thing was that I shared this with close friends and my sister and so many people rallied round. My sister called Rich and had a chat with him, our friend Karen called Rich and had a chat with him, my lovely and dear friend Jan just turned up with seventy five litres of water and a bottle of wine (perhaps she thought it was best to emulate Christ!) She sat in the garden and had a big chat with Rich. Another wonderful friend (who is considered as our mum over here because she acts like it!) called us from another continent when I emailed her and told her what had happened to Rich’ she talked on the phone to him for over fifteen minutes and told us to go and live in her house whilst we had no water. The kindness and love that they  they all showed really helped Rich, but I have to say here folks, because he listened to them. They showed that they cared about him, and showed him love and support; and for people who know people who need that please remember it is invaluable.

So on the Saturday it was Rich’s birthday and the night before we went for a drink with a friend, who came because he knew that Rich was down, and some other friends who we have met also came down to celebrate his birthday.  It was a quiet night but enjoyable.

The next day on his birthday  Jan was not allowing Rich to wallow at home. She turned up with her wonderful friend Jacques and made us get ready and go out with them into Ambrieres. We went to the Tabac (a shop in town where people can buy tobacco products, papers, cards, have a drink, and place a bet on the horses.) We had a lovely time, had a couple of drinks and Jacques (a truly lovely man who can speak many languages) showed Rich how to put a bet on (you cannot bet more than two euro fifty at any time.) It really cheered Rich up and brought him back out of the doldrums, because it reminded him that he is on an adventure.

As we left the tabac to purchase a baguette for some late lunch I suddenly had one of ‘the’ moments as I looked up at the houses around us and thought “Wow! I live here!”

There are a couple of reasons for this post, one is to those who are thinking of making the move, remember it is hard, but by God it is exciting. If you accept that sometimes you will feel down, that you will struggle and feel overwhelmed, then it won’t bite you on the arse quite so bad. At the end of the day whatever crap comes your way in the words of a dear friend “it wouldn’t be an adventure without a pot hole or two!”

The other reason is a message to other people we know who are struggling with life at the moment, and I know it is so hard to see the good when you are down that black hole of despair. But look at all the good things I have put at the end of each piece of crap that came our way. There are good things! Crap happens! But what lessons have you learned from it? Don’t believe that spin doctor in your head when he tells you that everyone else has got it cracked, they haven’t the spin doctor is lying!!

So a big thank you to all who helped us, a big thank you to all who read my blog, take care of yourselves.

Look out for some more – hope this helps some people.

Moisy

The commune in which I live and how it has changed us

When we lived in England Rich and I were never really ones to be actively part of a community. We always felt that to be part of a community in England involved other people wanting to force their opinions, and what they wanted down our throats; it also seemed to always end in things getting snippy and everyone wanting to know everyone’s business. I do believe that some of this is an English attitude (and as always folks I am not making a sweeping statement because I don’t know everyone in England! I can only speak from my experience.) but you only have to look at the way that English people behave on some of the Facebook sites out here to see exactly what I mean. You would think that everyone out here would wish each other well, support each other, but they don’t as you well know from other posts I have made. But enough of them! The point I am making is that Rich and I were always wary of the so called “community.”

But since moving here we have changed, we have been taught by our French neighbours and so many others (yes lovely English people we have met) that you can create your own communities and you can support each other just because you want to without any agenda. Let me explain….

When we moved here we thought that our house was called Montaigu, we have since come to realise that it is our little hamlet of three houses that is in fact called Montaigu, each house, if you like, is Montaigu. We think that our house was built around 1812, because our barn is dated above it’s religious artifact, which you can see if you look closely at the pictures below, there is a small arch which contains a small statue of the Virgin Mary, to the right of the barn, she is there to protect the barn from evil and harm (which it has to as the roof has not been replaced since about 1900!!)

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We also know that our house was in fact the farm house for all the land surrounding it at one time, and that the other two houses here were in fact other barns that were part of this house.  Others have told us that it was the part of the land and properties of the chateau that is along the road from us. but after some research this is not accurate as the chateau was not built until 1872.

Chateau tertre

However the land may well have been owned and sold as one piece of land at some point.

So that is the history, let me explain the commune. ..

Despite the fact that we live in the commune of Ambrieres Les Vallees, there are often smaller communes in each town and as our houses are outside of the town that is why the three houses are classed as a smaller commune; and our wonderful neighbour and friend Marceau (other pseudonyms are available!) is in fact the unofficial patron of our Hamlet. That is why he helps everyone including Rich and I.

It is Marceau who invited us into his house many moons ago to welcome us at Christmas time,  with his beautiful partner Nadine. It is Marceau who called the man to come and empty our cesspit and told him to use his well water to clean it out. (Posts about all are available in he archives.) It was he who has allowed us to use his water so that we have a functional house again, and it is he who yesterday turned up and gave us (yes gave) a thousand litre water tank so that we harvest our rain water. Up he came on his tractor with this bloody great tank and helped Rich carry it into our garden. It is set up and collecting water as I write. Although I have been learning French it is Marceau who always slows down and teaches me many aspects of the language, and it is friends of Marceau who have taken us to their hearts and welcome us into their home.

As we have lived here we have watched help out other neighbours Lily and Marin (no real names are used) to dig out a massive trench in their garden to erect a fence, to move their raised vegetable beds, or to clear their ditch and many other things. He really is a kind man and he cherishes the commune in which we live.

Last week when we asked him to help with the water he asked if we loved living in the commune and we said we did. We explained that we understood that he must have been worried when he realised that English people had bought the house, because would hey interact? He smiled and said that he had been but that they were happy that it had been Rich and I (how wonderful is that?!) We explained that we appreciated that they had welcomes us so much and that we watched their homes if they were not there and he explained that they did the same to us, that they have embraced us into their small community and for that we feel blessed.

The difference that we have found however is that despite him doing all this for us, and others, they do not interfere, they do not want to know your business, French people are very polite and private people. They respect others space and privacy but are there if you need them and Rich and I have come to realise that we love ‘that’ feeling of community. We would do anything for them.

We have come to realise that this adventure had spurred us on to  form other communities as well, without realising we are doing it. Remote communities that have sprung up, with friends that we have been out of touch with for years, who have been inspired by our adventure, inspired that we have had the bravery to do it, and who have supported us when times have been hard, both with words and deeds, and most importantly with no agenda; and yes, they are all English. What have Rich and I learnt? That this, too is a community, and they know that we are supporting them back, with no agenda; and the courage to do this has been given to us by French people. They truly believe in fraternity (mutual support within a group).

We have small communities with other people we have met here, not least my wonderful friend Jan, and my kind and lovely friend Louise. I know that they are there if I need them and they know that I am there if they need me.

We have one other very special friend who wishes to remain nameless, who has helped us immensely and I know loves us so.

But let me not forget one other community that has become an important part of my life and it is this community- the community that is all over the world that read this blog. For that I am truly grateful and please do not be shy, I would love to hear your feedback.

So for those, who I know read this because they are thinking about the adventure, consider this ….. you get so much more than you realised when you take that chance including a change of thinking!

Look out for the next post – and welcome to the newbies, I note you have been reading the archives, please, read away and share with others.

 

Moisy

 

Bats and flat caps

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Last week after a hot day of over thirty four degrees, and a lovely cool evening of twenty eight degreesm we sat in the garden, under our walnut tree, looking across the valley. The sun was just setting and the bats that live in our roof had come out to play with a brilliant display of aerobatics right about our heads.

Rich and I have come to love bats (which is a good job as Rich counted sixty eight coming out of our roof the other evening) and the reason for this was a sad story from last year:

As is necessary in France we do have those horrible sticky things for catching flies hanging in our house, Sadly a necessity when you live in the countryside when the temperature is often reaching over thirty degrees. But last year a poor tiny little bat came down our chimney (this was avant log burner and chimney protector) and it got stuck on the horrible, horrible tape. We could not leave it there to suffer, this tiny little creaturem so I donned my gardening gloves and tried, as gently as I could to remove it from the tape whilst it cried piteously. It broke both of our hearts, this often misunderstood creature was so tiny and so pretty and we could not help it as much as we wanted to. We took it outside after removing it from the sticky tape but I am not sure if it survived. Since then, since coming so up close and personal with these creatures we have realised how beautiful they are.

Bat

So last night we sat watching these beautiful  little creatures with smiles on our faces, and we felt blessed. In we trotted to have our showers and some food, it was so hot we left our windows open,  and as I sat there watching the TV, whilst Rich was in the shower, drinking my red wine (of course!) I felt good. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw something swoop, and there it was a swooping bat in the living room (No that is not a new breed of bat!!) For those new to my blog you may want to read my post from last year “The bat, the cat, the ninja and the welshie.” For those followers who have been with me some time you may remember this post!!)

Now much as I love bats, and much as I know, since holding one in my hand, how tiny they are, when they are swooping about your living room with a wingspan of at least five feet (or so it seems) they can seem pretty daunting!!

“Oh shit!!” I said as I calmly got up, ducked about four times and headed for the door. Then I thought “I need to help it, there is a bloody fly sticky strip up in the living room!” And I turned from ducking woman to woman on a mission. I went into the kitchen and found the bat we use to swat the flies and also Rich’s flat cap (much as I love bats I don’t want one caught up in my hair!)

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In I went into the living room where pandemonium had ensued: The Welshies were jumping all over the furniture trying to catch the bat and barking their heads off, with me shouting “shut up, shut up” which was frightening the poor bat even more.

God knows what the neighbours opposite were thinking! I had all the lights on so they could see in the window and what they could see was a woman in a  flat cap in temperatures of over twenty eight degrees, two dogs jumping all over the sofas barking the woman screaming shut up and ducking every now and again whilst swinging a fly killing bat in her hand!! I am convinced that they look out of their window sometimes and think “Oh! The mad English are at it again!!!” I am sure that they say “Come and look at the English darling, they are having one of their mad turns!

There I was swinging the bat at the bat (there is a pun there somewhere!) trying desperately to stop it flying into the dreaded sticky fly catcher. I had opened our big windows fully …

 

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(Please note this is a before photo, I have not repainted them white!!)

And I proceeded to shush the bat out of the window. But then I got really brave and suddenly thought to myself, “take the hat off you stupid cow, it is only a tiny terrified bat!” So off came the hat, the dogs got chucked out in the garden and I proceeded to say to the bat “Please go out darling, please don’t get stuck on that.” With that Rich came down with a towel round his waste and said “What are you doing?!” The bat answered him as it swooped at his head!! “Oh shit!” he said “Quick I need to get some clothes on!!”

So off he stomped back upstairs, quickly got into some jim jams (pyjames for those from other continents!) and came back to help me rescue the bat. Bless it, it was so tired it kept landing on the beams, and eventually Rich the fearless caught it in a plastic container and let it out, to fly the night skies again. The bat lived to see another day.

As I have said before, all part of living in the country!!

Look out for more to come, and please share and rate this post with the star rating system at the top of the blog, I would really appreciate it.

 

Moisy

 

Une leçon de vie atout votre eau

This means ‘a lesson in life, treasure your water!’

So it has been a month since I last posted, and what a month it has been!!

It has been hot here since the end of May and our friends Mary and Den came over just as a full heatwave hit, with temperatures of thirty eight degrees in the day and thirty degrees at night. So we filled the paddling pool up, and sprayed the dogs but in the back of Rich and my mind was that we are on well water and it has been really dry here for months. So much so we re-used the water from the paddling pool to water the plants and veggies.

And then the worst happened! I came home from staying at a friends to find Rich stressed to the max because although the pump was hammering away and pumping as hard as it could (sorry it sounds a bit like a porno!) the water pressure in our tank was not going up. So we opened the well and whilst we could see water it was a long, long way down and way below the pipe line that fed our pump. Our well had in fact run dry.

Most of you know we are working on a tight budget and could not afford (or so we thought as the little spin doctor in our mind told us) to have mains water connected to our house. France is so vast water is not automatically available and the road has to be dug up for the pipe and you have to pay for that. On the Facebook sites there are horror stories of the cost and we just thought “That’s it! We have no water, we are f*****d!!)

But I am not one to give up easily and I calmed Rich down and said that we would manage; and we did. We went and bought numerous five litre water bottles and used them. Our dear friends all rallied around us, some offered us showers in their homes, one even offered us to live in her home because she is away. Our dear friend Jan brought round three twenty five litre bottles full of water twice and offered us baths at her house. In fact the kindness and generosity that we received from so many people was overwhelming.

We bought a new plastic watering can and then filled it up by boiling some water and adding cold and then stood on a plastic stool and showered each other – you had to move bloody fast but we did have a laugh, especially my poor husband who is over six foot tall and I am only five foot four inches! He had to crouch for me to get the height! We even ordered a solar camping shower from Amazon. The loo was filled up by the garden watering can.

When we first moved here we had no facility for water in the toilet so we bought this…

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It is an eighteenth century tap, where you fill the copper pot and then turn the small copper tap and hey presto running water (was probably state of the art at the time.) Thank God we did  because Rich set it up in the kitchen, by tying it to our existing kitchen tap, so that we could wash our hands after handling food.

There are launderettes all over France in every town and for eight euro you can have an eighteen kilo wash, so off I went to use their facilities.

What it showed us both is that we have resilience, we are both in our fifties and lived through the summer of 76 when England suffered a drought to such a degree that water had to be ferried from the north of England to the south, and the water was only available by stand pipe at the end of the road. I can still remember queuing with my mum with every available thing we could find to ferry water, buckets, watering cans, bowls and saucepans; and Rich and I did wonder how young people from England would cope with something like this, as we just seemed to slot back into what we had learnt all those years ago.

But I am not going to lie, I missed not having a washing machine, or a dishwasher, as it seemed as if I could just not get the plates as clean; but most of all to not have running water is awful, and made us both realise how much we have taken water for granted. We won’t ever do that again. As we were ferrying in over a hundred litres of water that friends had allowed us to get from their taps Rich started to say “here is Richard, he has to walk three hours a day for water!!”

So after prompting from friends I contacted the water company and it appears that there is a way for us to have the water connected, and a way to pay. I should have known that there is always an answer, and I am glad that I listened to good friends when they nagged me to bite the bullet, not be afraid, and find out.

So I called the water company and managed, in French, to arrange for an engineer to come out and for them to send us the relevant documents. We do not know how much it will cost yet as you have to fill in a form to ask for an estimate (only in France!) which I have done. After three days of waiting for the engineer to arrive, and a bank holiday and weekend in the middle, a lovely young man came out and advised us to ask our neighbour if he would agree to a temporary meter to be fitted to his pipe so that they could bill us separately. Of course our neighbour, who is tres gentile and our friend agreed and the next day we had water.

I cannot begin to explain the feeling of not having water readily available to you, especially hot running water, and I can honestly say that I am ashamed that I did not treasure something so simple, I should have known better!

So now we are using shorter programmes on the washing machine and dishwasher, not because of the water being metered but because we have had it rammed home to us  what a precious commodity it is.

The other thing I have come to realise is that we are blessed with really really good friends (they know who they are) and each other, because we met this challenge head on, as a team, and with a sense of humor. (Although Rich did have a bit of a wobble.)

I am back folks, thanks for continuing to read my blog, there will be more coming as I have to raise my profile now, I will be sending my book to some publishers in September (and no, it is not about this adventure but another adventure that Rich and I had ten years ago that inevitably brought us to France)

If you like my blog please share and get it out there, I will be forever grateful.

Moisy

 

The mini bus of life

When I started this blog the aim of it was to help those who were questioning their lives and where they were going to, perhaps, make a drastic change, or to listen to what life was saying and question where they were going. I have always been honest and told you about our adventure warts and all, and also about what drove us to make that change and live the life we are now living in France. (For those new to my blog please look at the posts under the reflections tab.)

So I have been promising this post for some time it is my theory on life, and how I look at my life now and choose to live it.

As we all know whether people like it or not we are on a journey (I am sick of all that crap about the J word, or that people shouldn’t be saying they are on a  road, you ARE on a road between being born and dying, and what type of journey you choose to take will depend on how you look at what life really is.!!)

So..Picking up on the fact that we are on a journey I have come to think of my life as a mini bus, it has 14 seats and as I go along the road I need to decide who (really who if I only have 14 seats) would I have on my mini bus who will influence my life, the decisions I make and the life I choose to live; and, most importantly for me,that they are people that do not judge me!

For those readers in far flung countries who don’t  know what a mini bus is it is a van with 14 seats, some at the front where you get on, and then rows of two seats with some at the back double doors for an emergency exit.

Your mini bus of life meanders along the road of life with many stops. At some people will get off because their adventure, or life, is going in a different direction to yours. They are not bad people they just need to go down their own road, and the road of life is not a straight road with no avenues or lanes along the way, there are many. Now  this is where people don’t get it, they get upset when those people get off, get offended, try to keep them with them, keep them happy, when in fact if they really looked they have been going in a different direction for a long time and some of those people have not been making them happy, for some time!  But when people get off a persons mini bus of life the person gets afraid and starts to question what they, themselves, are doing, think that it must be something about them, when it isn’t! Let go people because, believe me, someone else is doing the driving!

With regard to this I always stop and evaluate who is on my mini bus now, (sometimes I have considered having a very small trailer on the back!) but I have resisted temptation because you cannot keep everyone happy all the time, and, in all honesty, you will drive yourself nuts if you try. You need to look at the people on the mini bus and if they are right for you at this time of your life, if they are not  then drop them off at a stop; you never know you may let them back on at a later stage in life when both you and they have grown as people and learnt from what life has shown them.

I know from things that have happened to me over the years, and as I have got older over the past few years in particular, that over time I have let the wrong people influence my life; I had a great big red bus full of people that did not give a crap about me, and only had their own agenda. People who wanted to tell me how to live my life, and even who to live my life with! When I was younger I let them do this, I listened because I wanted to keep them happy, but now I realise that no-one has the right to tell anyone how to live, seriously, it is their life. So needles to say I don’t have people like that on my mini bus.

In addition since moving here some people have never contacted us again, and I realise that our decision to have an adventure possibly touched a nerve with them because they live each year as they lived the last; go on holiday at the same time, to the same place, with the same people, and if you choose to take an adventure such as ours then you need to understand that those people will get off your mini bus, because you frighten them because they want to stay “safe”. In these instances is for the best that they choose to disembark.

The people who mean the most to me have seats at towards the front, the people who influence my life and care about me have seats in the middle and those who are starting to get on my tits have seats at the back double doors so that if I need to I can pull the handle and let them fall out the back onto the road (and sometimes the oncoming traffic!!)

In addition I always leave four seats empty, why would you fill your mini bus full when you do not know what life will show you, and who life will send your way? It is very true that you have to let go of the old to make room for the new! You also have to leave room for people who come back into your life, for me others have got back in touch, some over fourty years later (Trish), who is has a firm seat on my mini bus; others, my dear friend Russell have not only got back in touch but have seat at the front of the mini bus. When he sent me music to listen to that had not been released when we had lost touch, It was clear that  he still knew what I would love, knew over the 18 years that we lost contact that I would love Mary J, David Gray, and so many more. I have written of the music he sent me before because it truly made me realise that we have always been friends, he just had to get off my mini bus for a while. I look at it that he got off at stop number 18 and got back on at stop number 36 (18 years later!) Also another dear friend who has recently become close again after many years, because life points you in the direction of the people you have to let on your bus, and this time I have got on her mini bus.

I know that some friends who I love very much have dropped me off at a stop because I am on a road in France now, and I get that, it is not because they do not love me, or still care for me, it is just that right now they do not have room for me on their mini bus because they are letting others on instead. I understand.

The point I am making folks is do you have a bloody great red London bus full of people? Do you think that having lots of friends and people around you makes you happy? Do those people affect the way you live your life? Are you going out to places when you don’t really want to? Doing jobs for them when you don’t want to? Spending money that you don’t have because you feel that you should be able to match up to them? Staying where you are to make them happy? WHY?

Really folks, look at your mini bus of life now and ask yourself who really matters to have a seat? Keep you mind open to letting others back on when necessary. But remember you only have 14 seats!!!

Something to think about.

 

Moisy

 

The Cucumber Saga continues

Now for those who have been following my blog you will understand why we now have a whole part dedicated to the growing of cucumbers.

For those of you new to my blog, welcome, and you may want to look at some of the posts in “The Good Life” tab, and also “Ooh Barbara it’s gone Pete Tong!” and you will understand my obsession with cucumbers.

I love cucumbers, but the ones in the shop taste nothing like the home grown cucumbers that you used to be able to buy. So after successfully growing them once I intended to grow many when I moved out here. But last year I planted courgettes by mistake (someone in the supermarket had a huge laugh swapping all of the labels around!!) Then, this year I bought two cucumbers and before I had a chance to plant them they died!! So I thought “Sod it!” And I went out and bought a cucumber for the huge sum of five euro that already had tiny, tinky (or as the french would say petit, petit) cucumbers growing on it; and guess what? Success!!!!!!

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I now have seven cucumbers growing on my plant, and have already scoffed this wonderful specimen that I picked a week ago. In fact it was so delicious that my husband, who’s throat I normally have to shove salad down, made himself a ham and cucumber sandwich without any prompting from me. That is how delicious home grown cucumbers are.

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I am so proud!

But seriously my plan to revert back to growing peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers in pots on my terrace, that reaches over fifty degrees all day on hot days, is working. So watch this space for more updates.

As some of you know we also have a mass of cherry trees, some which come to fruit sooner than others and Rich went and picked these last week, all of which have been shared with our neighbours.

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So next year I will be one step ahead and have enough jars to make cherry jam. I am learning fast that French people let nothing go to waste, and I love that concept. Nothing goes to waste in our house, the chooks have the leftovers, the vegetable peelings go on the compost, along with the middle of toilet rolls and tea bags, and we eat what we have got. Only the other day I could hear my dear friend in my head when I reached for a basil plant saying “What are you buying that for when there is  basil available in my garden?!” I put it back!

But I do also have mint growing in pots and in the garden, and my little herb garden just outside the door made from an old sink from my Edwardian house that I brought over with me from England,  has chives, rosemary and trailing thyme. I also have sage in another part of the garden which was in the herb garden by was struggling in the heat and had to be moved ..

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We have seven peppers currently forming on the pepper plants and I am hoping that, due to the heat, I will actually succeed in growing red peppers this year. The tomato plants are starting to have tiny little tomatoes on them, and we have a variety of both large tomatoes and cherry (or cocktail as they are known in France).  Add to that the three to four eggs a day that we get from the chooks and we are on our way to a “Good Life”, just so long as we don’t get sick of eating eggs! My next foray in cooking something new will be a fratata, with chorizo, onions, and peas.

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In the autumn we will have a ton of walnuts from our huge tree and cobnuts from the host of cobnuts that line our chemin. None will go to waste this year, we will share them with friends and neighbours.

This is one of the many things that I love about living here, it makes you think about everything you use, and how you can work with nature, who will give you all you need if you let it.

Some readers have asked for some recipes they will be coming, watch this space; and they may well involve cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and cherries!! I will this year also make an attempt at cooking a walnut cake.

Moisy

 

 

 

The Hedgehogs, the Welshies, a ditch, and pyjamas!! Oh the mad English!!

As you know we have been really busy and the Thursday a couple of weeks ago was no exception. We were working hard with a friend in her garden in over twenty four degree heat, not getting home until 6pm; we returned to the house which looked like the “before” house on a programme where obsessive compulsive cleaners come to clean; the kitchen was full (and I mean full) of rubble, dust everywhere, I could stand it no longer so we set about taking wheelbarrows full of rubble up to our dumping spot (you all have a dumping spot in your garden in France!!)

By 11pm we were finally showered and ready to sit down with a glass of wine, dinner was in the oven, and watch one of our favourite programmes. Given the time, and that our neighbours have kids, Rich went out in his pyjamas (comprising of a pair of shorts and T shirt) to get the dogs in; they were nowhere to be seen in the garden! So he came running back in to get a torch (remember if you choose a house in rural France you need a torch because it is very, very dark!) and collect me in my pyjamas (consisting of a pair of cropped white trousers with white hearts on them and a pink vest top)  to help him.

As we got outside we could hear a commotion going on in the ditch just outside our garden. (In rural France there are no main drainage systems unless you are in a town or city so most gardens have ditches at the side for excess water to drain away). Now picture the scene…..

…we had been remiss and not cleared our ditch since living here so it was waist high in nettles, grass, that sticky grass and brambles; and where were our Welshies? In the bloody ditch trying to get a hedgehog!! There was snarling and barking and grunting going on, neither of them had their collars on (because we take their “clothes” off when it is time for bed). So out of the garden we went and Rich, my hero, plunged into the ditch, nettles brambles and ticks and all!! My role was to shine the torch.

Both of our neighbours were still up and we live in a hamlet that is literally a circle, so they were looking at us out of the window and I can imagine the conversation now: “What are they doing now?!”

“They are running about in their ditch”

“What have they got on?”

“Their pyjamas!!”

“Why?”

“I don’t know they have their dogs in their with them! Perhaps it is a cultural thing!”

“Oh ze mad English!!”

In the meantime Rich had managed to get both dogs, who had moved a large log to get out of the garden under the fence, and we brought them in where I made them both sit and told them, in my best stern voice, that they were very very naughty.

Harley looked distraught, but Wiglet looked like she couldn’t give a shit!!

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With that I opened the door for one of the cats and out she ran again, with Harley in hot pursuit followed by Rich and I. In my best stern voice I shouted “Do you want me to get cross again?” It worked! They both stopped looked at me and ran in,  straight up the stairs to bed. Rich looked at me and said “you frightened me then!!”

So we went in and hit the wine, turned the dinner down and decided to watch the programme on +1!!

What happened to the hedgehog? It snuffled away.

What happened to the ditch, we cleared it out the very next day!!

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And when we went to lunch with our neighbours? They thought it had all been hilarious and very entertaining, and they had wondered what the hell we were doing!

All part of the adventure….

Moisy

 

 

 

A wonderful afternoon in France

This weekend I found myself looking at the sun going down and thinking “Wow! I live in France!”

Our French friends (some of whom are also our neighbours) had invited us to lunch. Rich and I had no idea what to expect so we dressed up (a rare thing these days for two people who spend most of their time in old holey tracksuit bottoms covered in mud!) and off we went with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation.

In many ways France reminds me so much of Ireland; first we went to the home of  Martin and Nadine (privacy has been respected here) M and N invited us in and offered us a drink and aperitifs, even though really we were not staying at their house but going on to the home of Manu and Edith (privacy again respected.) But despite this out came the aperitif dish with nuts, small cheeses, and olives and out came the drink of whisky and a fruit flavoured drink for the ladies. (Always I am offered a sweet fruity alcoholic drink.) After that we were then whisked away to the home of M and E.

It was a beautiful hot sunny day, over twenty eight degrees, so we were invited to sit on the patio and out came the champagne and more aperitifs, of crab balls with cheese inside, melon, small square cheeses (the ones available in England, they are very popular in France), there were mussels, garlic, peanuts, and cherry tomatoes. After drinking two bottles of champagne it was into the the conservatory to sit at a beautifully laid table and out came various coleslaws, cous cous, and bread.  After that came  ice cream as a mouth cleanser (no not sorbet), it was in a glass with the deadly calva (home made apple brandy) pouted over it. I could not drink the calva, seriously I would have been on the floor!

Then on to the main course of beef steak cooked on the BBQ, a selection of vegetables consisting of green beans, thinly sliced potatoes, carrots and peas which had been cooked and then fried in butter (delicious), with a pepper sauce available as you wished; this was then followed by meringue, ice cream and macaroons in all different flavours (which are Richard’s favourite so he was in his element.)

They are really lovely our friends and thanks to my wonderful French teacher I could converse quite well with them (we took some of the printed leaflets from the French lessons to help Rich.) Due to this we got onto the subject of speaking French and much hilarity was had when I recalled the first time I had met Martin and told him that we had five cats and commented on the weather by telling him I was hot. This may sound innocent except chat (cat) is pronounced Cha, you do not pronounce the T. If you do pronounce the T you are actually talking about your fanny (vagina!!!) Also if you want to say you are hot you simply say it is hot, if you say I am hot you are actually saying that you are hot stuff and want sex!!! So when I first met my neighbour I told him that I had five fannies and wanted sex!!! Add to this he was wearing his “petit, petit shorts” (the ones we all rib him about) and God knows what he thought. Much hilarity was had about this and also at the fact they kept pumping Rich full of macaroons because he said he loved them!

After a wonderful afternoon it was all back to Martin’s house (in the small hamlet where we live) for a game of boules. It is the second time I have played and the second time I have been in the winning team. In fact Martin asked if I had played before because I was doing well and I really think it is because my Dad Paddy (bless him,I am sure he was looking down on me with pride) was very good at bowles.

As I sat on their veranda in the hot evening sun,  I looked across the rolling hills, whilst listening to our wonderful French friends chattering away with the family members who had now joined us and thought “Now I am truly living in France!”  It felt both wonderful and surreal.

A perfect day with the finishing touch of the  bright orange harvest moon that was hanging in the sky as the night drew in.

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Moisy