Saturday, November 14, 2015

Prospection and pollinators and a great new property

13 November 2015

13 degrees feeling cool and damp

The old orchard in the top meadow had been full of half dead fruit trees which produced half a dozen pock marked fruits and OH had pruned them, fed them, taken away the grass at the base, netted them to keep the deer at bay, and they were still languishing.  They were now just dimples in the ground, filled with mole dug fine friable earth.  

In the meantime a young oak took root and has grown to a very attractive, apple tree sized, tree.  The new apple trees we bought were too young and have yet to get going, in earnest.  We have learned from our mistakes and have bought three year old stock which is better shaped and developed and will start to produce in about two years time.  When, hopefully, it can be enjoyed by someone else.

The Reine des Reinettes, the pollinator, went in the centre.  We then filled in the gaps with a Belle de Boskoop and another whose name escapes me.  We then put the new apricot, a sturdy creature with a lot of promising buds, into the new orchard.

OH then went fishing and I went down town to see a property owned by someone who lives a very long way away.  The keys for the property are currently with four agents, three of whom have refused to show me the house and one who is never there to answer his phone. A friend had come over from nearby the coast and she was waiting for me at the terrasse.

The house is tucked away behind the Tresor Public and consists of a ground floor studio with bathroom and loo and separate meter and entrance door, and an upper two bedroomed flat with great large terrasse.  The walls have been stripped back to stone and the whole feeling is light and spacious.  Took lots of photos and then took the lady to see the estate agent who is never there and he was there, for once, and she told him that I need to have access to the keys.  He didn't bat an eyelid and said, of course no problem, keep them til Tuesday.  I have been asking him for for over a month for a diagnostic report for a client we have in common and he has completely ignored me.

We had a coffee and she left and I went to see the NZ ladies and they were out buying a car.  Negotiations must have been tough as they both sounded breathless.  There is an awesome amount of work going on at their house and their newly painted white walls have received a topcoat of grime.  Back home, made dinner and entertained dog.  The phone rang and it was the ladies and could I come down now if I wanted to talk to their friend who is interested in buying an investment property.

I was down there like a shot.  The friend works for the same company as the NZ ladies and their US friend who is also buying in town.  She is from Sri Lanka and has passed most of her life in Oz.  Took her to see the house I have just taken on and she was impressed.  Went to a bar and waited for the others and had a kir (jurancon white wine and crème de cassis) and ate peanuts and talked about rental potentials.  The NZ ladies then came down and had another glass of wine and then really had to go home as eyes were starting to cross and it was dark.

Drove very, very carefully and found OH already back and the dinner on the point of being ruined.  Ate the bits we could get off and left dog to chip away at the casserole.

Friday, November 13, 2015

It shouldnt have been her....

12 November 2015

13 degrees

Decidedly cooler this week but still blue skies and no wind at all.  Leaves now thick on the ground but many still glowing on the trees.

OH said we would 'just do a bit' of updating and as usual it took forever so it wasnt until nearly 11 am when I escaped down to the market.  Still full of tourists.  Found my friend and had a coffee and caught up with the news.  She was looking well and her mad froth of curly hair was tinged cinammon colour from her various holidays.  We became friends after she and her then fiancé bought with me about two years ago.  Wonderful farmhouse.  Probably the buy of the decade because the owners just wanted to go.  Her son has the same christian name as our eldest.  I dont know anyone who has an eldest with this name who doesnt periodically have crises with them.  I should have named him Rupert or Thomas. They seem to have much more stable lives.  Filled her in with the doings of our kids.

Her sister died of cancer in July of this year and she said how she had to go with her neice to find and fit a wedding dress.  Said how it had broken her heart that it was her doing this and not her lovely sister, that it was she who would be there for her neice on her wedding day and that she would feel the space on the pew next to her where her sister should have been sitting.

Went around the market and bought big bunches of radishes, purple plump bulbs of garlic, artichokes the size of baronial staircase finials, oranges all the way from Andalusia and long loaves of bread, their crusts almost black and fissured.

Was on the way home when I bumped into the NZ ladies who had just arrived.  They were sitting at a table next to one of my partner agents, who had given them his card.  He looked embarrassed and said 'oh I didnt know they were YOUR clients'.  Arranged to meet them tomorrow and left them joshing my colleague about the Rugby World Cup results.

Got a text from RJ to say he had had a falling out with work and was writing out his notice. Informed OH he would have to sort it out.  I am too close and too stressed.  He rang RJ on Skype and established that he would not be resigning, that he would wait until the New Year and then look at a number of establishments before chosing the one best for him.  He has 20 years of management experience, thank heavens.  I just have 26 years of pissed off mother experience.

Had to have a sleep.  Felt completely wiped out.  Later took dog around the lake and bought two more apple trees.  

My slippers have completely disappeared.  It has been three days now.  Where on earth can they have gone to?

Armistice 2015

11 November 2015


13 degrees

Normandie poppies

Early awake with mist hanging like lavender veil over the lawns.  6.30 am.  Again. 

Yesterday received a call from the French agent to say that her client (bolt in the neck woman) had made an offer of 48k on our little flat.  20% below asking price and way too low.  Didn't really like the look of her in any event.

OH was very keen on restocking orchard so we went around the various garden centres and nurseries.  Bought a Reine des Reinettes which is meant to be a good pollinator and also an apricot tree.  I was not keen on spending on trees which we literally will not see come to fruition.  Weren't we selling up within the next year?  He said you never know and I was very unhappy because as long as we are here, he will want me to carry on being an estate agent.  I can't carry on putting on my motley - I just can't.  It is threadbare.

Today, down town at 10.45 and drank a coffee.  Bar was heaving with locals.  They never even stopped to draw breath at 11 am but carried on jabbering about inconsequential things; the price of things, who has done what, banalities.  So disrespectful.  The clients arrived just after 11 and I showed them the Tin Tin house.  They were from Argentina and thought, being cash buyers, that if they found a house they like in France, they could buy immediately.  Ha!  They have so much to learn.  They didn't seem taken with the house.

Then to the cenotaph where 150 or so somberly dressed locals were gathered.  The adjoint was giving a speech.  Pompiers sapeurs were standing at ease, their hands folded behind their backs, skin brown from the summer, gold wedding bands dully gleaming.  The members of the society of Anciens Combatants

The last post sounded and the flags were held low.  Brightly coloured chrysanthemums frothed around the foot of the grey war memorial with its cockerel topper.  Another person stepped forward.  The flags were raised to the vertical.  He read out the names of all the local men who had fallen in the First World War.  After each name, 'mort pour la France' from the lips of the present Darrigrands and Dartiguepeyrous, the Betouigts and Begbeiders, the Lancelots and Lasserres.  The sound reverberated around the Place and hung on the still dank air.  A band played the Marseillese and then a selection of gay tunes.  Small children jigged and fidgeted.  

The adjoint then declared that we would drink a verre d'amité and everyone cleared off with some alacrity to the Mairie.  I stopped at the crystal shop and was drawn to a piece of orange calcite which promotes joie de vivre.  I could certainly do with it.  I feel as miserable as sin.  To paraphrase Blackadder, 'I am as miserable as as a sinner in Sin City on Sin Special day out'.  'Wear it next to your heart' said the lady, so I tucked it into my bra.

To the Mairie and admired the collection of paintings on exhibition.  Some very good and some you wondered how people had the audacity to put them on public display.  A friend appeared at my elbow and took me up to the Function Room where a long table was set out with lots of wine, a couple of bottles of Coca Cola and many plates of violently coloured nibbles.  The children were making short work of them.  My friend told me of the problems she had been having with an old lady.  My friend had been helping her out as had another British couple.  The helpers had been falling out and some very acrimonious texts had been passing back and forth.  I really don't know why she bothers.  It was very funny in any event.  Her last communication with the old lady is when she had rung her up and been told to F off.  She is a venomous toad and currently in the UK, hacking off her children.

Got home to find OH had gone fishing.  Prepared tuna and potatoes dauphinoises and spoke to potentially good buyers arriving next Tuesday.  Walked dog.  Birds silent and no wind at all.  Weak rays of sunshine and smell of leaf mould.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A time of passing over...

10 November 2015

20 degrees - mist netting the tree tops

Armistice Day tomorrow and my thoughts lingering on death and passing.  This is something written back in 2008

As funerals go, Sarah's was wonderful. It was a very un-French sort of affair, with a lovely cold buffet lunch and drinks put on for the mourners after the church service, in the dining room of one of our small local hotels. The room had been decorated, if that's the word for when there's a funeral, with pictures and mementos of Sarah, when she was still full of health and before the brain cancer that had been discovered a year and a half earlier finally ended her French adventure. 

Sarah's close family, her lovely, kind, and devoted husband, along with her grown children and their families and friends who had come from England, who had come to France from Britain for the end and the funeral, were still a bit red-eyed from the service at the church, but the overall feeling was that the sad part of the day was finished with, and we could all be relieved that Sarah was no longer suffering, but finally gone in peace to be with her maker. After the somber church service, luncheon was more a celebration of her life.

Most of the guests were English ex-pats of a certain age and wealth, with a assorted other anglophones, and a handful of French guests as well. The conversation was mostly in English, with the French who knew the language joining in, and the ones that didn't trying their best or being translated to. The wine and spirits and the good conversation helped us to forget the bad and remember the good, about our own lives and fortunes, as well as Sarah's. 

Patés, rillettes, saucisson, with tiny, whole, too-vinegary cornichons awaited us. Mounds of paper-thin slices of Bayonne ham, platters of cold roasted chicken, pork roasted with slivers of garlic poked into the meat, and the most rare and bloody of thinly sliced, very tender beef. The food was beautifully presented, and a giant river salmon, poached whole and served in aspic with a creamy dill sauce, was the star of the repas. A rainbow of salads; grated carrot with garlic, beetroot and chopped onion, potato, sliced tomatoes sprinkled with green onions and Basque peppers, shredded celery root and mayonnaise, eggs mimosa. Crispy baguettes with sweet butter, and a dozen assorted cheeses. Then there were small, individual French apple tarts, profiteroles, croissants, pains au raisins, chocolatines, and strawberry mousse cake, served with strong hot French coffee or English tea.

Cases of the best Bordeaux wines, as well as some of the best of local ones, were served along with a bubbly Champagne and hard, sweet cider. It was lunchtime, but there was also whiskey, Porto, and pastis, and sherry or fortified wine for the ladies. I recall a good afternoon spent in agreeable, polite and interesting conversation, the delicious food, and, much later, weaving my way home on foot in the sunshine of the afternoon, slightly tipsy and thinking 'Bonne Voyage, Sarah!', in my head.

French funerals, at least the ones that I've had the honour of attending, are not at all the same. Sarah's funeral was as different as night and day to the one I went to in an old farmhouse, where the open wooden casket was propped up on chairs in the one big room with the only fireplace, that served as both a dining room and a sitting room. The mourners standing, their backs against the walls, with their hard, sombre faces and their tired eyes trying not to watch as the widow of two days draped herself, crying, over the casket. The old granny, mother of the dead, close in her bedroom off the big room, under the goose feather blanket in her bed, not being able to face any of it.

Then the hearse came and the friends of the dead helped to carry the coffin out through the narrow door and down the garden path, past the mournful hounds and the milling chickens, over the iron fence and into the vehicle. The service in the church was a short one, then the friends again carried the coffin, to the cemetery, where there was a gaping, unevenly dug hole waiting, with the excavated earth piled by the side. Ropes were wrapped under and around the casket, with hands helping to lower the dead into the grave, the coffin tipping, slipping in tipped-up and sideways and the helpers losing their footing in the crumbling earth at the edge of the pit, while the barren, childless wife wailed and cried out the name of her husband over and over, until she finally fell into a faint and had to be taken into a car to recover, carried in much the same manner as the coffin had been, and by the same friends.

There was no buffet luncheon after that funeral, no conversation or fond remembering of the dead. Only getting into the car and driving back to the farmhouse to make sure the the granny was okay, and then going back home. Weeks later, while at the farmhouse to visit, it could be seen that, while the widow was managing, the old granny was not, and had almost overnight become elderly and frail and weak. She'd come out of the bed, where it seemed she'd been staying since the funeral, to join us at lunch, but all she could think to speak about and lament was that her son had been taken to an early grave by an accident with a truck so big that the driver hadn't even noticed or stopped after killing her son. She didn't last much longer, and died soon afterwards, leaving the widow with only one old spinster aunt for company in the house and help to milk the cows and force-feed the ducks.

By contrast, Sarah's end had been long and drawn out and painful, full of uncertainties at the prognosis and dashed hopes. The family, however, saw the brighter side of things, and were grateful to have just having had come over from Britain to France to live, and where the diagnosis of brain cancer was pronounced. The way they saw things, with the state of the British medical system as compared to the French one...Sarah had had eighteen months of excellent hospital and home care, and had been able to do many of the things that she had always wanted to do in France, whereas had she been diagnosed in Britain, she would've been lucky to last four months. A glass half full, rather than half empty.

The church service, too, was a study in contrasts, with the local French vicar sharing the altar with the family's English one, who had been flown in for the occasion. So it turned out to be a bilingual, bi cultural mass, with the best of both traditions and customs being practised in our lovely old church. There were eulogies spoken by friends and family members, mostly in English, and we were taken on a trip of Sarah's life, from the time she was conceived and born as an illegitimate baby, between wars, and left on a doorstep...through to her marriage and years of being a homemaker and then a student...all the way to her finally fulfilling her dream to live in France, where she'd been for only a month, before the cancer was diagnosed.  Her husband told me that she had started to feel unwell on the plane, coming over to start their new life.  And he had thought it was nerves and reassured her.  I had known the couple as house hunters; Sarah a fine whisp of a woman, her husband tall, stooped and serious.

The congregation of mourners were mostly the same ones that went on to the luncheon, afterwards. However, there were three little old ladies, sitting together on the hard wooden pews and clutching bibles and hymnbooks, that were unknown to most of the people at the funeral. I knew who they were; one of them was a retired nun who lived at the retirement home, one was a lady that spent most of her time helping the vicar at the church, and one was a lady that sold vegetables at the local farmer's market on Thursdays, but I didn't know why they were there.

The three grey heads, dressed in the most severe of black, including thick black stockings and black lace shawls, the former nun wearing a thick silver cross on a chain around her neck, bobbed on a pew about halfway down from the altar, right at the end, by the aisle. They had been among one of the very first mourners to arrive, and many of the others in the church, including Sarah's family, looked at them with a puzzled glances as they walked past to take their seats. I was just on the other side, slightly behind them, in the perfect position to watch not only them, but the reaction to them being in the church for this particular funeral.

The ladies were enjoying themselves, watching everyone as they passed and seemingly (I couldn't hear them) making remarks amongst themselves on the clothes and colour choices of those attending, and they looked a bit confused at the order, and languages, that the mass was celebrated in. Their hymnbooks were in French, and ours were supplied in English, which caused a stir among the three of them, and a bobbing of heads all around, but soon all were getting the hang of singing, them in their native tongue, and we in ours...after all, the music hadn't changed, just the words.

After the service, as everyone was standing around outside the church, watching as the casket was being loaded into the hearse, one of them came up to me and worriedly asked why they were taking the body away and where was the burial going to be. When I explained that Sarah had wanted to be cremated, and was being taken to the crematorium, she looked so disappointed. She then went back to where the other two ladies were standing, a bit apart from the crowd, and explained, and then they all looked crestfallen.

I understood, then, that the old women came to any funeral, simply as a form of entertainment. It made me remember the stories of paid mourners in the old days, who were paid to come and cry, in order to buck up the attendance and make the dead person look more popular. 

What happens in France, from what I can gather, is that funerals for people who wish to be cremated happen AFTER the cremation, when the mourners gather, together with the urn containing the remains, for a funeral mass, after which there is the actual funeral, or placing of the urn in the crypt, if that's what is to be done with it. Interestingly you are not allowed to keep the ashes yourself, or scatter them in a public place.  Instead they must be in consecrated ground or kept in a state facility.

Meals such as the funeral luncheon that we had don't seem to be the done thing at French funerals, either. Although sometimes the immediate family will invite especially close friends of the deceased back to the house for a coffee. In a way, it's a shame that these old ladies didn't get to come to the lunch at the restaurant, it would've kept them talking about and entertaining themselves with the memories of it for years to come.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

You have to give a little....

Monday 9 November 2015

24 degrees.  A golden day

Spent the morning going through all the little bits and bobs that have been hanging around and needing doing - signing and stuffing things into envelopes, filing, writing cheques, finding flu documentation and getting rid of sundry papers.  Quite a lot went into the bin. Sorted out the mountain of papers stuck to the fridge, posed on top of my hardly ever looked at cook books and ones getting wet on top of the fridge.  Married pen tops up with pens. Put the new pegs on the line.  Tripped up over the dog many times.  Put away all of the laundry.

Uncharacteristically, felt very flat and depressed.  Don't know why.  None of my clients are currently torturing me.  The weather is glorious.  I am on top of work things.  A friend suggested we meet for a coffee and then go the Salon de Noel at the end of the month. Perhaps because things are winding down.  Looked at the golden leaves on the garden and remembered a walk with a friend and her dogs.  She had rung me up and asked

 'Do you want to go for a W A L K?'
 'Why are you spelling out walk?'
 'The dogs are listening'.

Wrote a card and wrapped a little white hydrangea heart for the lady whose house I sold to the young couple from China.  She is moving out today and the Acte de Vente will sign within the next ten days.  Arrived at hers to find her youngest son talking to an attractive French girl.  The furniture was all gone but still a lot of stuff remained.  She is actually leaving in a couple of days time.  I hope she is going to apply a phenomenal amount of elbow grease because the place was seriously grubby.  Garden a mess with weeds everywhere.  

We had a cup of tea and I read the meters and, oh God, she has lost all of her electricity bills.  Lets hope EDF can find her by her very strangely spelled surname. Normally they require the PDL number on the electricity bill.  She had found the water bills and the rates bills and the domestic waste bills.  I stuffed them in my handbag and produced her card, with a flourish.  She looked confused and said why the F was I giving her a Tax letter. Retrieved it and produced the right envelope.  She was very touched and gave me a big hug.  Left after an hour.  The end of an era.  Will no longer be able to pop in when I am in this town and enjoy an hour in the garden and conversation.  She says she is not having a leaving party.  She has no one she is sad to be leaving.  Strangely, she is not staying with her sister who lives nearby but in our town, miles away.  Her sister is an odd bird.  The only thing they seem to have in common is their shockingly bad language.

Back home and OH is busy clearing out the old fruit orchard and chopping down non producing trees.  He has stacked wood around their bases and is burning them out.  The smoke lies low in the orchard and wraps itself around the trees.  Dog wants a walk.  Make sweet and sour chicken and look at FB.

I had been asked by an American lady to participate in a Secret Sister where you give a present to someone whose name is at the head of a list and then pass the list on to six of your friends who then give a present to the head of the list and put their name in second place.  As an experiment, this was so revealing.  Within minutes, people were telling me it was a scam.  I got emails and PM's and phone calls.  Interestingly I was contacted by three people who were happy to do it but whose friends and family flatly refused to have anything to do with it.

Since when did we start listening to something written on the internet (Snopes scams) and stop listening to our hearts and intuition?  The SS asks that you spent 10 dollars on someone recommended by someone else.  You then pass it onto your friends or people you know.  For me, the SS is about the spirit of giving, spreading a little happiness, perhaps getting to know new people.  It does require trust that people will pass on the list, putting you literally first to their friends and contacts.  Can people not trust strangers even to the extent of ten dollars?  The three people who said yes to me saw it as something fun and one said she thought it was paying forward and another said the world would be a better place if we were all more willing to give.  One sent off her present immediately.  My SIL asked why on earth would I be interested in joining in with something like this?  So much was told in these simple words.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ready for a bit of quick/quick

Sunday 8 November 2015

27 degrees - just a little bit bonkers....

Up late and sat in bed together and watched the yellow leaves, shiny as cellophane, dancing on the tall trees

OK I will admit to having turned up the blue quite a lot - it is more like the paler blue in reality but it does help to throw the yellow into relief.  The 'ball' shapes are mistletoe.

Reviewed my efforts of yesterday.  The individual skeleton leaves had glued themselves to the plastic and may not come off.  Still sticky.  The skeletons in the bracelet were setting nicely.  Need to find a way of getting it out without cracking.  The tiny fungi look amazing. The ginkgo leaves are a bit hazy and sticky.  Wonder if I have dried them enough.  The acorn cup with semi precious stones has promise.  It occurs to me that I could bling up the Queen Anne's lace and do it as sparkly earrings for Christmas....

Have developed bad Instagram habit and keep checking for new comments and followers. What I would really like to see are new SALES!  Sigh.  Everything is always slow/slow.  I am so ready for some quick/quick.

Watched the last episode of Downtown Abbey.  The end of a number of eras, apart from the Christmas special to come.  Mary Crawley is the most infuriatingly buttoned up woman although I did have a lump in my throat when she was at Matthew's grave.  My favourite ever scene from Downton was where Matthew proposed in the falling snow.  Magical.

Her suitors since Matthew died just havent been engaging, or easy to differentiate.  All I can say is that Julian Fellowes had better sort out Edith's happiness in the Christmas Special or I shall seek him out and poke him with sharp sticks.

Delicate lace and another day will have to do

Saturday 9 November 2015

24 degrees  the incredible weather continues

Morning.  Spent an hour or two photographing my other finished pieces around and about in the garden.  OH said why was I carrying on making stuff and it was starting to pile up in my craft room and I didn't want to get 'stuck' with it.  Thanked him for his words of encouragement and started hanging things on trees to see what effect that would have. The light was excellent and no shadows.  Must find way around model problem.  Very hard to take photos of jewelry on oneself and also my hands look ancient.  Applied lots of cream. Hands then looked ancient and greasy.  Resolved to wear gloves for all household tasks and gardening from now onwards.  

Went into bathroom to see if I could take photos of myself in the mirror, wearing the heart pendants.  Had just organised my hair and got my chin at an angle where it didn't look double and found a suitable top which didn't distract from the pendant when OH shouted and I had to help him find the top of the fuel tank on the sit and ride tractor which had, mysteriously, disappeared.  It was under a large and filthy pallet.The rotivator also wouldn't start.  Despite the fact I am weedy, I also had to have a go at starting them.  This didn't do much for my hairdo. 

Got back into bathroom and rearranged hair.  Cheeks so red that they were not clashing with the pendant.  Splashed face with cooling water.  Recraned neck and positioned iPhone to get the snap.  OH shouted again.  Back downstairs and more pulling on starting handles with me immobilising various machines with my insufficient weight.  Dog tried to run off with some passing horsemen.  Made drinks.  Made lunch.  Felt very tired.  Had siesta.  Light was then not good and made the rest of me look as ancient as my hands.  Another day will have to do.

Later on, received a phone call from the local agent who had just revisited our little rental unit and she said she was moins optimiste after revisiting with the lady and her parents. Relatives always do their best to put people off.  Not too concerned, the lady really does not have the budget and we are in no rush to sell.  It let well last year and was certainly the easiest money we earned.  And all I had to do was some cleaning and bed changing.
the most delicate of lace

my lace babies, set out to dry

A little bit blinged up