March 2022, Drumroll please…..the pool is open!
March 2022, Drumroll please…..the pool is open!

March 2022, Drumroll please…..the pool is open!

Sunday 27th March, the clocks have sprung us forward into longer days and Lee has got the pool super clean & looking very inviting.  Time for our first dip of the year after another month of job after job after job. Under the glass we swam at 4 o’clock in the afternoon – the sun’s rays had heated the water to 19 degrees making for a chuffin’ cold entrance and squeals & yelps of “madness” from Tracey.  After length one though, all was calm and it felt like we were meeting an old friend again – swimming mojo is back!  Followed by a hot cup of tea by the pool, wrapped up in our dressing gowns, admiring our completed lamp room, now adorned with old fire buckets and a cast iron “Beware of Trains” sign.  See below.

Weather wise, it’s been a windy old March with a couple of wet days. The wind arrived on 15th March, it’s called The Autan and it’s gusty.  It’s blown the tulip petals away which is a real shame because the tulips appear to have tripled in quantity since last year – see the photos before the Autan came.  We now have a fine selection of green stalks to admire.  The Spring flowers have brought some lovely, if short-lived, colour to the station this year and I think that our mulching efforts have helped.  The plane trees here shed their bark in huge quantities which Tracey collected up last year, crushed and scattered over the flower beds as a bark mulch. We also had some Sahara sand blown in, just as we were on external painting of the Pump House doors and windows.  Lee has painted his socks off on the huge doors & windows – the red paint has needed 3-4 coats and has taken a lot of time and we know it’s a job that will need doing regularly – the strong UV rays down here strip the colour unfortunately and the lovely Bordeaux red colour fades quickly.  Our carpenter has made threshold strips for the three doors and the doors sit nicely in their frames now with no gaps underneath for draughts, lizards or snakes to sneak under.  Have a look at the pictures anyway – the Pump House is looking good.  We’re currently cleaning up the clay floor tiles in the Pump House – it’s a hands & knees job with a hard scrubbing brush and some liquid savon de Marseille – it’s doing the trick and we’ll probably give the floor a coat of linseed oil mixed with turpentine to finish. Then the fun can start as we begin furnishing the Pump House, finding places for mirrors and railway pictures and working out how to rehang the blinds. We should be posting the interior photos next month.

Over at the Station, we’ve put a lovely old bell outside the front door and a sales rep from Orange was the first to ring it, trying to sell us a package to go over to fibre which has been installed in Sos.  We will be starting work on the wine cellar in April.  I remember writing about our excitement when we realised that we had a “cave” for wine in 2020 and it’s a project that we’ve been looking forward to.  After our first winter’s flooding when the water rose to the fourth step in the cellar, we’ve planned to raise the wine storage, with nothing being stored below table height.  Lee has a lighting scheme planned too and Tracey has a list of wine to buy!  We’ve also plaster boarded and plastered the ceiling in the Lamp Room and had several tip runs.  We have just about exhausted our capacity to sand things down, undercoat, paint and varnish and when we got invited to spend a Saturday doing tasks around the village, we wondered if we really had the motivation to join in.

Saturday 19th March, we did join in with “Journée Citoyenne” – where villagers come together for a day tidying the village – litter picking, cleaning road signs, weeding flower beds and re-planting and the like.  Lee & Tracey were allocated to the church at Sainte Maure and ended up rubbing down the metal fencing around the monument and tomb to the chap who built the church.  We are destined to always have sandpaper in our hands it seems.  It was a great day, everyone contributing what they could and taking pride in doing it – children, parents, farmers, OAPs and 2 Brits.  Then the best bit, the apero & meal at the salle de fetes afterwards with local wines, local patés & sausage served up with crusty baguettes, followed by a paella.  Then the local school committee provided coffee and desserts to raise money for the school which we supported by patiently queuing for our dessert.  I’m telling you this detail because here we are, in rural France, well into our second year and we’re still doing British things that highlight fascinating cultural differences.   You choose your pud and pay and get given a numbered ticket, then take the ticket to the pudding table to be served.  Well, won’t be long, we’ve got number 8, we thought.  It was half an hour later when number 21 was smiling and walking away with her puddings that we realised that the numbering system and queuing isn’t a really a thing here. You don’t wait patiently in line, taking your turn and trusting to a numeral system where 2 follows 1, 3 follows 2 and so on – I wonder when we’ll lose this Britishness and embrace a bit of French “va-va-voominess”?  Push in – me? Lee? A step too far, we think.  The Nutella crepes were worth the wait though!

And on the subject of gastronomy – the local strawberries from Mézin have arrived in the village shop – you can’t leave without a punnet – the strawberry scent is so strong – as soon as you walk through the shop door you smell them before you see them.  Today we gorged on them outside after lunch, in March!

There’s also a photo of the local prune tart and gateau Basque with a big dollop of creamy crème fraiche.  The cheese seller in Mézin sells the Normandy crème fraiche from a big bucket at the Sunday market – it’s divine.  They are also now selling Black Bomber Cheddar which is incredible – mature cheddar cheese from Snowdonia, Wales, down here in SW France – fendigedig!

Local trips out this month included the antiques village at Lectoure – an amazing old hospital used as an antiques emporium now.  It’s all a bit crammed in & some stuff looks like it will just decay in situ but if you don’t mind a dusty rummage around you’re bound to come away with something – like a set of narrow gauge wagon wheels – honestly, I’d rather have a packet of Burtons wagon wheels but Mr G fell in love and here they are…..

Lectoure Village is worth a trip – perched high up, surrounded by huge, fortified walls – it still looks like a stronghold waiting to fend off Barbarian invasions.  We spotted a pigeon trapped behind an iron grill in the church tower and, at the same time, the Ukrainian flag flying on an impressive gate – subdued us for a minute in thought.

 Then we found a cake shop with a charming lady who allowed Daphne in and we had grand café crèmes with a coffee eclair for Tracey and a pain aux raisin for Lee and sat in the window, watching things. (It’s starting to sound like we’re always eating cakes, it’s true, we reached the “Life equals Cake” stage very early on in our relationship and long may it continue)

We’ve also had a weekend ride out to Blaziert, another hilltop village with a wonderful picnic spot where we shared pork pie, sheep’s cheese and a flaky pastry cake filled with crème pâtissière with a flask of tea in the sun, not a villager in sight, let alone another tourist.  We all love picnics, Tracey, Lee & Daphne.  We took a different route home and discovered the chateau at Terraube – again, it seemed like we were the only people left alive in the world – where is everybody?  This chateau is magnificent from the outside – we had a feeling that one of the courtyards was divided up into private apartments but there was no one around to ask. We wandered under arches and into cobbled courtyards and around the outer walls, wondering what the heating bills are like and looking for any information boards.  A “googliez” later and we learnt that the same family have owned this chateau since 1272 and it’s a historic monument.  Anywhere in the UK, we thought, you’d be paying for the parking, then the entrance fee, probably shuffling around with other tourists following arrows and being directed out via the gift shop of course.  Come to rural South West France and discover all these fabulous vistas & spectacles for absolutely free – just bring your picnic!

All these villages are fabulous to visit with their chateaus, towers, churches and fortifications but we do love coming home to our ordinary little French village that’s a little bit rickety and oozing in simplicity, Sos.