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29 July 2011

I can't believe its Friday already!

This has been a quiet week, so lots of research and writing done. At least its a start, but months and years of work to do yet.
Its a beautiful sunny day, and the second growth of roses, figs and raspberries is happening.

25 July 2011

A wet week and Australia wins the Tour de France

Monday, July 25,
It’s a grey day today – with a curtain of mist hanging over the valley so a good day to settle down and do some writing and reading. After a late night I am moving slowly this morning.
We have been watching the Tour de France a lot this week, and what a delight to have Cadel Evans win, first Australian ever, he dealt with the interviews by the French media quite well, he appears to speak French reasonably well.
Alain came for his English lesson on Wednesday and did some repairs for us. The iron frame of our aged gate had slipped sideways, so a straightening up was needed. He also wanted to watch the Tour de France.

This has been another wet week, I feel sorry for all of those who are on holidays. We see visitors walking or should I say trudging, around the valley with umbrellas up poor things. Everywhere is so green.
We had some guys here helping to move some old oak beams out of the caves, and into another wood store. John found a beautiful old bottle which had previously contained a marc, so that took us on a history trip to the Nuits St George area yesterday, Sunday. We found the vineyard area where the bottle came from, at the Château de Premeaux, home of the Pelletier family, for the past five generations. We had a great chat with the winemakers who were intrigued to see the bottle. And another purchase of wine to add to our cellar! We had lunch at a nice little country restaurant in the town of Nuits St George. This is an area north of Beaune. We got back home just in time to see the end of the Tour de France and the presentations, before going out to a midsummer party in the village at the home of some Dutch friends.

During the week we had a visit from Ian and Rosemary Sinclair for a few days, and has some nice walks and drives with them and some wonderful meals. I took them to Varennes sous Donne to the Plassard woollen mills. It used to be a spinning mill, but now just plies and labels the wool. However, they have preserved the old machinery and have put it in a museum on the site where they get it working to demonstrate to visitors to the museum. The machinery was driven by a mill race, which is very attractive and with the water still rushing through the huge old water gates. The old stone buildings are set in a beautiful park where they keep examples of different breeds of sheep. I had a self interest in this visit, as they have a magnificent shop selling all kinds of knitting yarns. I am in the midst of knitting jumpers with hoods for our Canberra grand children for next winter, and I needed some more wool. Mission accomplished.

I have just harvested salad, some more figs and an enormous courgette which got away on me, and is the size of a football. Lack of sun has slowed down the tomatoes ripening. A couple of sunny days would be marvellous.

It has been a wet week and quite a week for tv – The Murdoch show, the Tour de France and the dreadful Norwegian tragedy. What a shock.

18 July 2011

Vineyards as far as the eye can see

Yesterday we went for a wonderful drive amongst the vineyards around the Maconnais hills. We tasted the wine of five terroirs at the Atrium at Solutré, which is a kind of co-op for the Pouilly, Fuissé, Vergisson, Chaintré, and Solutré wines. All Chardonnay white, very good quality. Needless to say, we did a bit of shopping, to be enjoyed at a later date.

17 July 2011

Figs at last

Just as well I picked the figs before the heavy rain came. It is pouring down today, so we will see what is left tomorrow. I guess its an indoor day, reading or working at the computer.

16 July 2011

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It was very exciting to harvest our first figs and potatoes. We are drowning in beans, in fact the whole village is eating beans madly, we can't give them away!!

Gypsies and a wet week!

Last night we went to see a performance of gypsies dancing at Donzy le National, in the school courtyard. It was a beautiful evening, and the dancers very lively and colourful. It took a while to get used to the harsh, discordant, sometimes mournful voices of the singers. There were 10 musicians and 30 dancers, many of them young children. This is part of a program for the travelling people and to involve them in communities.

This has been a busy week, with a lot of rain. About 60 mm of rain fell during the week, it was coming down in stair rods at times. Wonderful for the farmers, for our garden and for the countryside. Suddenly everywhere looks rich and green again. Every morning there was a mist hanging over the valley, but most days it was warm and pleasant in the afternoon. We always seemed to manage to get in a walk between the down pours.

We started the week with a group of visiting Aussies from Canberra coming to dinner on Monday night – a very lively evening and a long meal. One couple have a house in the South West of France where they spend some months each year and the other couple visiting and travelling for a six month stint.
I was moving a bit slowly on Tuesday morning, but had to get my act together for my book group lunch at Cray. I didn’t contribute much to the discussion, but did introduce a new member, a neighbour of ours from Le Vernay.
Wednesday was our 43rd wedding anniversary and we spent most of the day at our computers working and reading, and Alain came for his weekly English conversation lesson at the end of the afternoon. Later we went to Château d’Igé for a beautiful dinner to celebrate. John had pigeon and I had cannette, amongst other beautiful food and wine. As we left the Château we could see the fireworks from Macon, celebrating the eve of Bastille Day, 14th July. The road home winds through woods and we saw some young deer, and a badger crossed the road in front of us. We expected to come upon the fireworks at Cluny, but they were cancelled because of the bad weather. 14th July is a big holiday here and an excuse for families and neighbours to get together for a long lunch. We had planned to go to the races in Cluny, but they were also cancelled because of the weather. We celebrated in the evening at an aperitif with some neigbours, as always it went on for several hours before we returned here for dinner about 9pm. So I guess it was kind of a wet week all round.

The garden is producing madly after the rain, we have been collecting our first potatoes – delicious – lots of beans, salad, tomatoes and courgette.
Friday we did the grocery shopping in Macon the roads chokkers with traffic – it is now full on holiday season here. This weekend Saturday and Sunday are called “ jours rouges” in other words: very dangerous on the roads. At the Péages (toll booths) there will be long queues of cars, even though there will be 30-40 booths open in each case. We try to avoid going anywhere in July and August, we leave it to friends to come and visit us!
Last night the gypsy dancers in a nearby village and tonight we have some neighbours coming to dinner. Much of the food will be from the garden. Tomorrow will be a rest day hopefully.
And next week? We are expecting some visitors for a few days, then the village Randonné Nocturne (an evening walk, with games and supper afterwards) on Saturday, followed by a midsummer feast at another neighbour’s house on Sunday. Summer is always busy here.

09 July 2011

9th July, Saturday

I cut out a page from yesterday’s newspaper about food growing in the wild, including recipes. Such as nettles, plaintain and others. I needed to find out more. As a result I thought it would be good to go next door and talk to Madame Laforet, Jacqueline and Alain, about ancient recipes and habits with food.
We had a great session, and it got Madame Laforet (96 this year) talking about life in the past and families in the village, fascinating stuff. She started to tell us about a neighbour who was always singing, and she remembered a song he used to sing. Whereupon she burst into song – wonderful. By this time Alain thought is was time to have a glass of wine (11.15am) on a Saturday morning. What fun and great old stories. The postman came in to shake hands and say he was off on holidays for a few weeks. The bread van came past and we all rushed out to buy bread. What a way to spend a Saturday morning, serious research with pleasure. Will continue another time.
They are such a wonderful source of information and history, our neighbours, how fortunate we are.
Other neighbours are coming to dinner this evening, so I will use some of my gooseberry ice cream and sorbet. The freezer is stuffed, and some of it needs to be used.
Better get my notes down about this morning’s conversation.
The gendarmes are still enquiring about the wireless pylon....

07 July 2011


Vandalism or terrorism in a small village in rural France! Last Friday night the new relay pole for wireless internet, was cleanly cut to the ground. It was quite a big pole – 30cms in diameter, and right now it is resting against a walnut tree at the side of the road, with its electronic boxes lying beside it.

The relay pole has caused tension and division in this small village. A small group of people, who did not want it near their houses, sent some very foolish fright mail around. However, it went up and now they have taken action into their own hands by demolishing the pole. The Gendarmes are in action!! I suspect no one will admit to doing the deed. It was a major conversation topic at the midsummer feast, and there have been several resignations from the village council, forcing an election in the next few months. It might put in a new regime, which would be no harm. I guess they are all trying to do their best, but of course as always in politics big and small there is inevitably a great deal of self interest.

05 July 2011

Wednesday, 6th July 2011

Wednesday, 6th July 2011
We’ll have to keep eating those haricot beans – masses of them. I got up early this morning to water the garden, only to see drops of rain on the skylights about half an hour later! However, just as well I watered, as it was only a few drops. It’s over-clouded and humid.

Everywhere dry – the food in the forests must have run out, as yesterday we saw a young deer grazing in the field close to our house, they only appear if they are desperate for food.

Our neighbour’s chickens seem to have moved into our garden, they do a great job eating bugs and love our compost heap where the make a terrible mess. However, they also eat the lettuce which makes me cranky. We were at a neighbour’s house for dinner last night and when we came home I found eggs and a couple of lettuces on the galerie. I think it must be the neighbour who owns the hen and chicks!!

I spent some time yesterday trimming the vines, and doing the odd bit of weeding, although the ground is very hard. It was too hot to work for long. Will have to get the hoe out again. Most of the fruit is finished except for a few gooseberries and the figs. The freezer is packed with fruit, and I hope to make some ice cream later today.

This morning I will go for a walk around the valley with a friend, then into Macon to do some shopping in the sales, to see if we can get anything for the children. This evening I give a neighbour an English lesson. Tomorrow a morning of felting…. with another friend, and people for aperitif in the evening. The weekend hopefully will be quiet.

03 July 2011

Chartres, Brittany, and back home to Château.
Although what we could see of the cathedral was very impressive, much of it was under scaffolding for repair and cleaning. The windows were magnificent, and the interior cool and such a relief from the heat outside (38c). There was a funeral/memorial service going on for a canon who had recently died, so we had the opportunity to hear part of a sung mass. The crypt is the oldest part of the building, and on a guided tour of the crypt, we learnt quite a bit about the building. One of the most impressive stories was about saving the windows during the war. In fifteen brief days before the Germans arrived in Chartres, the 2,500 sq metres of windows were taken out, some temporary glass put in their place, and the precious glass taken by train to a hiding place in the centre of France. After the war, they were restored of course. Looking at the huge magnificent windows, I couldn’t help wondering how that whole operation could have been achieved, amazing.

After dinner we had to wait until almost 11pm for the son et lumière. Very impressive, so many buildings with colourful images telling stories with a background of music.

The following day, Tuesday, we set off very early and arrived in Vannes in good time to take John’s elderly uncle out to lunch. Sadly he has deteriorated a great deal since we last saw him. Later in the afternoon we arrived at Méslène and had a very pleasant evening with Maria and Helen. I enjoyed walking around with Maria when she was feeding the animals, lots of gorgeous babies.

We stayed overnight at a Chambre d’Hôtes run by friends of Maria, Angela and Albert Brown. They have a lovely house in the country, and provide a great service. Everything is homemade, they are interesting to talk to and we enjoyed ourselves – this is our second visit, we stayed there a couple of years ago when we were last visiting Maria.

The next day we set off for Quimper, and met Maria’s daughter, another Maria. We were delighted to meet her very lovely family for the first time. She is very interested in John’s work on the Blake family history, and we were very much occupied with that discussion.

Friday we had a very long drive over to Vichy, but the positive side was that the journey was across country, on reasonably quiet roads, and that was three quarters of our journey back home to Chateau. Vichy has a fascinating history. It is in the centre of thermal springs, which the Romans discovered and developed them as baths. Later in the time of the three Napoleons, it was a fashionable place to “take the waters”, and I am sure Kathleen ffrench visited there with her grandmother. The architecture is very much influenced by all the attention it received from royal families, aristocrats, with very decorative grand houses. Beautiful parks and promenades between the thermal centres. After a couple of hours of walking around following the stories of history, we set off home to Chateau and were back here in no time. No rain since we left, so friends have been watering the garden, and there was lots of produce to harvest.

In the evening there was the village feast, with 120 participants, there were two sheep being barbecued on spits. A lovely evening, full of chat and fun and we staggered up the hill to bed some time around midnight.