August has seemed like a holiday month. We downed tools and prepared for visitors. We left the house and animals in the capable hands of the housesitter and her family and went back to UK for David and Jess’ wedding. The wedding was lovely, very personalised and such a happy, happy day. Jess was radiant and the reception venue picture perfect.
My 4 boys scrubbed up well – I was very proud of them.
What’s more, my dress finally fitted me and I didn’t fall off my shoes!
Then they all descended on Quatre Chemins. Dave and Jess, having been over for Christmas, has seen some of the internal house changes, but had last seen the summerhouse as cowbyres, complete with dessicated cow pats. Eds and Sam had only seen the house in it’s original condition, prior to purchase. So, Rod and I were really excited to see their reactions and see it all through their eyes. And that’s when all the hard work and expenditure became worth it. They were blown away by the changes and loved it. Lots of excited hand-rubbing all round. Their enthusiasm really lifted us and made us quite proud of what we had achieved – a lot of it by our own toil. Maybe, just maybe, it really will be up to the mark for letting and bring in some much needed income as a return on the investment. Swapping teaching and management for our own business of French property rental was the dream – the reality is getting closer! I hadn’t posted any photos of the “honeymoon suite” so as not to spoil the surprise for the family, but now, to give a flavour of our recent endeavors………..
There is still a lot decorating to do – all of the ceilings in the main part, but that will get done over the autumn and winter. The windows look out over the rubble that will eventually be the terrace, but then, I don’t suppose the honeymooners noticed that!! I actually am looking forward to moving in to it myself! Our little summerhouse.
It was so lovely having all 3 boys together again. I do so miss them, and it has been a whole year since we last saw Sam and Eds. The house has been filled with noise, bodies, banter, food (temporarily) and lots of laughter. But we were certainly out of touch with living with the 3 boys! Within 30 mins of arriving, there was a net across the pool and a game of pool volley ball ongoing. Were they always this noisy and splashy? By the end of the second day they had also put up the darts board, made a set of cricket stumps, put up a badminton net, bought a football, a proper volley ball and a basketball net, played table tennis, table snooker, hit golf balls into the lake and rigged up a sound system to the pool for pool partying. Were they always this hyperactive???
Whilst all this frenetic, competitive activity was going on, Jess and Jules, grateful that they weren’t the ones having to return the balls/field/bowl/race/encourage/admire/time/measure, made the most of the sunbeds and the quieter moments in the pool. How come us 3 girls can swim a length without causing a ripple, and the boys can half empty the pool?????
And all of this required huge inputs of energy in the form of food. Constant food! The spare fridge and a second freezer were brought in to action to help with the catering quantities! Bless. I have always enjoyed feeding the boys with their healthy appetites – it just took a bit of getting used to again!
Discovering that the paella pan fits on the gas plancha!
Among the many things that I’d had delivered to the UK to bring back with us was a comprehensive set of unbreakable acrylic glasses for the poolside. (The thought of broken glass on the pebble pool terrace or, worse still, on the pool liner was just a nightmare). I was just as keen as our guests to christen them! It was hard work, but someone had to do it!
Trying out the cocktail glasses…….
And then the champagne glasses…..
We also managed to fit in a trip to Eymet night market while they were all here. We went early and grabbed a table by the mill pond, overlooking the weir, and they all went off on forays for food. The weather had just settled down and it was the start of a long hot spell, so it was perfect for sitting out and picnicking. Moules, pizza, poulet roti, duck sausages …. Yum.
Dave and Jess’s 3 days sped by and Eds and Jules volunteered to take them to Bordeaux airport for their early plane for their honeymoon proper, and then spend the day in Bordeaux. Our forays into Bordeaux had been straight to Ikea and Leroy Merlin, but we had driven up along the old quais and had recommended the attractive old riverside quarters as worth a recee. Our cosmopolitan urbanites loved it. The cafe culture and bijou shops. Jules declared it her favourite European city so it must have had one heck of an impact. Ever the travel agent, she came back with a city map and has kindly marked a route round the old part with quaint squares, chic boutiques and pavement cafes to recommend. (Unfortunately Rod now thinks that we don’t now need to recce it in person!!!) One more to add to the guest list of “Things to do”.
Eds birthday fell on the day of the Gasconnade in Lauzun and we had already got our tickets for that. But then we found out that the Duras Wine tasting was also on the same day. It just had to be done! So, pressies by the pool. The morning going around the huge annual Vide Grenier in Lauzun. (Sam, true to form managed to buy plastic rubbish!) The afternoon wine tasting in the chateau in Duras (you buy a Duras wine glass for E2 and that is your entrance ticket to the wine tasting! There are 20 vineyards represented!). A quick nap for some, cool off in the pool, then party time! The E20 ticket includes aperitif, 5 course meal, coffee, wine and live music. The tables and chairs are all set up in the streets and you take your own cutlery, crockery – and drinks if you wish. (I did wish, the complementary wine went down OK with Sam, but I prefer something matured in glass rather than plastique!) It was a lovely atmosphere and a lot of fun.
Duras wine tasting
Boys singing Champs Elysees!
Sam added to the activity list by trying fishing. He bought a E9 plastic rod (!) and went to Lauzun tabac to get a 24hr licence. As he’s never fished before, he got some bait tips from Rob, who took pity on him and also lent him a proper rod. It seemed to work. On his first ever attempt, Sam caught 4 fish – now he thinks it’s easy!
The 10 days with Sam also flew by, and it was sad saying goodbye, knowing it will be at least a year before we see him again. Bambino, I miss you.
We then had some lovely days with just Jules and Eds, getting to know Jules better. It seemed much quieter with just one boy – or at least it did to us. To Jules, now the only available playmate, the pressure was on to play badminton, boules, throw the ball for pool dives…………..That girls patience and good humour in the face of Jenkins hyperactivity deserves a medal! They also borrowed my car and went to Barcelona for 2 days for a quick city fix – QC is very rural!!!
As ever, there have been downs as well as ups, and we have had a couple of unpleasant incidents this month too.
The first was the complete failure of the ancient soakaway for the house. We knew that it would need remedial attention before next summer, but had hoped to put off any expenditure until “later”. But what could cope with 2, could not cope with 5. A pity that our brand new sparkly fosse by the barn was only catering for 2 people! At least it only affected family, who have had to do worse than shower under the tap and , where possible, pee outside. So, the Poolman is on standby to come as soon as he gets back from holiday to discuss options and find an economical solution (says she hopefully) and the poo lorry has paid an emergency visit. The rest of the solution you don’t want to know!
The second was a painful lesson in pool maintenance. With a family of four, then our 5, all suncreaming up in temperatures in the mid to high 30’s, the pool, almost overnight turned slightly cloudy and the liner slippery. We have the drainage in place for a pool shower, but not the funds for the shower itself, so that, again, was going to be a project for next year. The boys had all dived in, and had warned that it seemed slippy. So, as I stepped in, I was thinking to myself “take extra care because they say its slippy” when whoosh, my feet went from under me as though on ice. I came down on the edge of the pool across my back. Fortunately across the side, not the spine, and fortunately not my head. But, bad enough. Boy did it hurt. On a Sunday, followed by a Bank Holiday, so all the doctors closed. But by the Tuesday I was beyond waiting for an appointment to the doctors surgery. In tears of agony at every tiny movement, and crying at the effort of getting into the car, Rod took me to hospital in Villeneuve. A 30 minute journey I would be keen to not repeat! Fortunately nothing was broken, but a lot of muscle trauma. 4 heavy duty painkillers and anti-inflammatories and repos, repos, repos for at least a week. Easier said than done when not wanting to waste any of the precious time with the boys. Even now I can still only walk for a short distance and can’t bend or twist. Whilst it seems a wonderful excuse not to do any housework or chores, it is quite frustrating! So, a solar shower for getting rid of sunscreen before swimming is now high on the to do (or the to spend) list. Currently application is banned before swimming. Just as the temperatures are now topping 40!
Internet research for a remedy indicated that we needed to “shock and floc” the pool so Rod went off in search of the necessary chemicals. Duly measured out and added, we then left the pool filtering all night and it was back to it’s sparkly aquamarine self again. Wish my back was sorted as quickly!
Come on in, the water is lovely again! And a new use for the lilo – a pool bar!
The third involved an unexpected and unwanted visitor to the pool. There I was, sitting on the top step (prior to the slipping), in the water cooling off, waiting for Rod to fetch me a Pimms. Look carefully to spot who joined me!
Safely captured and released into the lake.
Rural life eh?
The final one was the curious incident of the pig in the night.
Rod went down to feed the pigs on Sunday morning, and came back to report that Tiny Tim was missing. This was odd because, since we had electrified the enclosure, we had put paid to his escapes. The battery had only been recharged the previous day. Having checked the perimeter for breaches of security, and declared Colditz secure, Rod and the dogs went searching. 40 mins later I could see Rod coming up from the lake, shoulders down and something – definitely not a wriggly pig – in his hands. He had found TT. Or, to be more precise, the charred, bbqued remains of him in a fire pit down by the lake. Some-one had taken him, slaughtered him and cooked him. (Monty found the severed pigs head in the lake the following day.) Also around the fire were empty beer and vodka bottles. Some party. So, we called the Gendarmerie. They came out within 30 mins and spent an hour and a half investigating the area. At least they took it seriously. This is a rural area and everyone has animals. The gendarmes were very certain that it would not have been locals. I know it seems hypocrical of me to be so outraged, as TT always was destined for the freezer, but I pride myself on managing the slaughter to be as humane and stress free as possible. This, I’m guessing, was not! Also, it is theft – TT had an actual monetary value – E150. And what made me quite jumpy was the thought of boozed up louts with very large knives, hanging out around our land. So, the rural idyll has been a little tarnished.
As a consequence, and on the advice of the gendarmes, we moved the 3 remaining pigs. Until the fruit harvest is over (and itinerant Eastern European workers have left the area!!!!!) They are now by the drive, with access into the barn, where the sheep used to shelter. (For now the pig enclosure is open and the sheep go into the pigsty to get out of the sun! If anyone comes near them, they will leg it! ) So Eds has created a new wallow and a pig bed for them. Bless!