March has flown by for Lee who has had another month of heavy work and has started the mowing and grounds maintenance – Fergie is back in use. It’s dragged on for Tracey who has suffered worse than ever from her tree pollen allergies, minimising the amount of time spent outdoors and needing to wear wrap around glasses or goggles wherever she goes. But on the plus side, the temperatures are warming up nicely and that means that the pool is open again – hurray!
Lee works hard to keep the pool clear and by adding the anti-algae winter chemical and by running the pump for one hour per day through winter he was able to prevent it from turning green. It’s now been “shocked” into life with the gentler chlorine tablets, the pool area and glass cover have been cleaned and disinfected and we had our first swim under the glass on the 23rd March in crystal clear, freezing cold water! Well, it was 19 degrees which we know would be easy for hardened cold water swimmers but that’s fresh enough for us – It certainly “shocked” us into life. When we jumped into that cold pool for the first time since November, after a couple of splashes and squeals, it was like you could feel your immune system getting an injection of goodness and endorphins seemed to be bursting out of our brains. It certainly energises us and while we hate that first encounter with the freshness of the cold water you soon forget about it and just think “this feels good” and when you get out you think “this feels fantastic”. In the water, under the glass and with the door closed, Tracey can forget about her scratchy, watery eyes for a while. The pollen must get dampened down and diluted inside the pool because as soon as she’s out and walking back to the Warehouse, the eyes start to stream again. So here are a few swimming and pool photos.
We started the month with our log delivery – since 1793 a “stère” has been the defined measure of firewood in France, roughly one metre cubed. We ordered 3 stères from a local 87 years young supplier. He’s as fit as a fiddle and chucks the logs from his trailer with such momentum that Lee & I couldn’t stack them quick enough to keep up with him. Our new log shelter is now housing a good pile of logs ready for Autumn and Winter.
We may have mentioned our Ifor Williams trailer that we bought with us in 2020 and that, frustratingly, we still haven’t been able to register for legal use in France despite our efforts for the last two and a half years. It continues to be a long, exhausting process within what can seem to be a dysfunctional, bureaucratic system. We even paid an agent to deal with it but they gave up. I’m sure that we’ve mentioned the nonsensical officialdom that we often face here, there are layers upon layers of it and just when you think you’ve peeled back a layer and made a step forward, they’ll bring out the Gorilla glue and fix several more layers firmly in place and you take about ten steps back. Completely vexing is when forms get returned without any explanation as to why and what needs to be done to make the form acceptable to the departmental administrator. It happens to us all the time. This is the France of Louis XIV and you just have to laugh about it.
So on 9th March, we set off to Agen with our huge dossier of trailer application forms and supporting evidence, all translated from English to French, to visit DREAL – Direction Regionale de l’Environment de l’Amenagement et du Logement. We finally located the office and got to the door 5 minutes before closing time, handed over our paperwork and came away with an uncertain feeling. Two weeks later, the dossier was returned without so much as a post-it note brief explanation. AGHHH!
Anyway, this day was also the same day as our first picnic of the year, sat next to the river Garonne, in the village of Boé, near Agen – the same day that our friend back home told us that it was snowing in the UK. Now it was a warm and sunny picnic but we had a lot of thunderclouds building by late afternoon and here are some photos of the dark, looming clouds as we found the DREAL offices in Agen – an omen perhaps? That “War of the Worlds” type concrete structure is a water tower that Tracey has a bizarre fondness for photographing.
This is the time that Clarence wakes up properly and moves from 20 hours a day sleeping somewhere inside to 20 hours adventuring outside. He doesn’t go far and he’s fascinated by all the natural wildlife around us at this time of the year – the lizards scurrying around the sunny walls and patios, the butterflies landing everywhere, the stinky beetles buzzing by, and the little green frog – la rainette – that sounds like a duck and lives in our jasmine that grows up the wall outside the warehouse. He watches the birds but thankfully has stopped catching them – we have a huge number of sparrows, tits, robins and blackbirds at the feeders at the moment. In la route de la gare, the huge plane trees are full of black woodpeckers. Here’s the Clarence montage for March – he doesn’t have a cat flap here so he scratches at the glass door when he wants to come back in and gets so cross if we don’t leap up straight away.
St. Davids Day was celebrated here with the baking of Welsh cakes for us and friends and sharing glasses of Penderyn whisky – our baker up at Sainte Maure was happy to be reunited with the Penderyn. The other picture is Tracey in a recently received gift of a traditional French housecoat, 50% nylon, 50% polyester – available at all good markets in the region. All the French housewives wear them.
Since we stopped the January dieting, we’ve made some changes to our eating habits and try to only buy bread and viennoiserie at the weekends – we really look forward to lazy Saturday mornings with a brunch of savoury or sweet crossiants or both! Here’s a selection –
Lee has been so busy that he hasn’t had time to pile on any weight but Tracey has found that “back on the bread, back on the booze” means back on with the pounds. Hopefully, some regular swimming will help burn a few additional calories and as soon as the pollen goes away, I can get stuck into gardening and back to cycling regularly. Here’s a selection of foodie pics – this month we’ve had a couple of meals out a Vietnamese restaurant in Nerac, see the beef lok lak which is divine, and another cracking meal at our Bistro Sotiate when a friend of Lee’s came to visit. We also had a great value lunchtime meal at Damazan – we only parked up to find a bakers there but noticed that the local cafe had a 3 course menu advertised for 14 euros (about £12.) and it was heaving with workers – builders, posties, office workers, utility workers – always a very good sign – so in we went. An hors d’oeuvres starter , a Quiche Lorraine & salad for Tracey and a pork dish for Lee, an ile flottante dessert and we were both very content. Days like this, we just love France. Philippe Etchebest, a famous French chef, has been in the French news recently – he dared to deviate from the traditional recipe by using cheese in his quiche – it caused a real furore amongst the food purists – it was headline news for days. The quiche here was light & fluffy, full of bacon and delicious but if it had had a grating of cheese incorporated, I wouldn’t have minded at all. Food, still the number one topic of conversation in France. I’ve included a pic of a lovely bottle of red wine too – if you ever see this 2018 in Lidl, grab it – it’s a really very good fruity Bordeaux, deep flavours, and silky smooth. Look closely at one of The Sotiate photos to see the four legged diner at the table – not Daphne, and fortunately Daffers didn’t notice this pooch, otherwise, she’d have been jumping up to sit on a chair too. The French are so relaxed about dogs in restaurants, pooches can dine like royalty!
We’ve had the pleasure of a visit from one of Lee’s friends this month – always great to see someone from home and hear all the news. Nice for Lee to have company to watch the International football too – he gets fed up of my commenting on footballer’s hair styles! Also, good for him to have a weekend off from painting and hoisting things around. The weather was good and we had a trip to Fources and of course into Sos, took him to the bakers at Sainte Maure and enjoyed a sunny breakfast outside and introduced him to Armagnac – we opened the 1982 bottle, liquid toffee – a very good year!
And on to jobs…Lee and Paul continue to refit Lee’s garage which has turned into a very long job – the mezzanine is all done and the insulated plasterboarding is almost complete – that’s the entire garage insulated then. No sign of Tracey’s laundry yet but this should be April’s task, once we collect the metro tiles ordered. Lee has fitted and painted the side door in his new engine shed and moved all his railway signs to start working out where they will go. He has a stove to fit in the corner too. A trip to the Auvergne is planned in April to collect the wagons purchased last month.
And here’s Lee finally securing the last piece of 45mm insulated plasterboard!
Another job completed that’s been on the “to-do” list for ages was fit an external light with a sensor at our Warehouse door. It’s a lovely old lamp that we used to have at our cottage in Shrewsbury and we’re chuffed with it, now shining at la gare de Sos.
We’ve squeezed in two canal / river walks this month. The first one here is the Garonne Canal from Villeton towards Le Mas-d’Agenais, Tracey cycled, Lee had a walk with Daffers. The lovely canal lock keepers house is now a restaurant – La Chope et le Pichet.
The second trip was a walk along the navigable river Baise, which has a canal section with a double lock at Graziac – we walked towards Abbaye de Flaran.
And a few local pics to finish – the donkey looks after the sheep in the fields alongside the old railway line walk. Daphne & Pasha up the hill to Sainte Maure with Sos in the distance. The wild primroses and tiny violets growing in the verges, the pansies that have just appeared in one of the flowerbeds and a gorgeous Easter Lily, now emitting a sweet fragrance by the Warehouse door. The station prepped and ready for family at Easter – Can’t wait for the Easter Egg hunt Maisie & Jude – make sure uncle Lee doesn’t eat your eggs!
Happy Easter everyone, Lee, Tracey, Daphne & Clarence at la gare de Sos.
We’ve mentioned before that Bergerac is a great little airport to fly into with car hire available (Reserved in advance) and thought you might be interested in some Saturday flight details – Ryanair, this year, are flying from East Midlands, Bournemouth & Southampton, British Airways from Southampton too and Jet2 are flying from Birmingham. We still have summer availability from 19/08 to 02/09 this year.