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With so many exciting things just around the corner, I think now is a good time for a catch up. I remember joking to my sister, a while back, that if my blog is full of chat about the garden, its been a slow news week. However, the garden is where I spend a large part of my time and so this week has been a slow news week, but a lovely one, nonetheless, spent mostly in the pool or the garden!

After our fantastic few days with Amanda and Erin, we then welcomed two old friends from Bath. Blimey, it was so nice to see them and be able to do a huge catch up on everyone. Our friends came loaded down with Dairy Milk, our drug of choice, and a fistful of dollars:

Having people to stay reinforces friendships more than any amount of meeting for coffee and its interesting to see our house/gardens/new life from a different perspective. Each set of visitors has a completely unique experience, which keeps it box fresh for us too. The new thing this time was to finally do the walk around the lake near Castelnau and to talk about local history, the Vichy line for example, which divided France into occupied or unoccupied areas in the Second World War.

The area around the lake is beautiful:

and our friend left his glasses on a bench and they were still there when he went back for them, which is most likely the norm for france profonde, but still amazes us Brits. He navigated back to the lake using a wonderful app called What3words, which uses words instead of numbers to pinpoint a location to within a square metre. For instance, I am in my kitchen writing my blog and my current coordinates are:

Refurbish, toenail, leered

and Liam is at:

Arachnid, emulate, payback.

If you had this app, you would simply type in those 3 words and it would google direct you there. Hours of fun!

Anyway, back to my blog. We had a great night out in Auch and my evening culminated in a cafe gourmand

It was my best yet, I think. Those are fresh apricots, bottom right.

All too soon, our friends headed off to the Dordogne and we got ready for more gîte guests, which apart from rushing around changing sheets etc, also means we give the lawns a quick short back and sides, so it all looks its best. All my swimming means I am slightly better at steering the Beast (aka the huge lawnmower) but I still get towed along a bit, feet flying behind me in the air!

While I was shooting past the Acaia at top lawnmower speed, I noticed it is sprouting its crazy flowers again:

And I briefly noticed the wild Bryony in the hedges

Yes, its a weed, but I do love its twiddlyness.

And, I’ve been meaning to tell you about Wasp. For the last few weeks we have been trying to discourage Wasp from building her nest in our letter box. Each time we collect the post, we open the door (its an American style one) and Wasp flys out, leaving behind a chunk of freshly made nest. She is so industrious and so far has built a conservatory, utility room, tv room and an annexe, which we chip off daily with a twig. We have tried spraying vinegar in the box, but it didn’t deter her in the slightest. We are in awe of her tenacity really and would let her bee (!), apart from she would sting us, given half a chance.

She so far flys out, tries to dive bomb us and then sits on a nearby leaf, glaring at us.

All the wheat fields are being harvested at the moment and nights can be tricky, what with the heat, the combine harvester trundling up and down, lights blaring, till the early hours and also the tick tick of the irrigation systems. But, its also really interesting to be so surrounded by all this activity. I am in awe at how hard the farmers work. They just keep going till the job is finished. This evening we stood in the garden and watched as the farmer made hay/wheat/ straw bales. They trundle down a row of um ,wheat (?), like they are vacuuming, then reverse, grind the gears, and out pops a big bale!

I guess I had never thought about how they were made before!

The maize is coming along too. It has completely obscured our view of the mountains from downstairs, but, to be fair, we haven’t seen the mountains for weeks now, anyway. My artist friend, Amanda Addison, gave me these gorgeous paintings and it is as if she painted them from our kitchen window. Here is one of them:

Excuse the crazy photo angle, but it’s getting late… here’s a pic of Monsieur Shields standing in front of the maize to give you an idea of the scale of the maize:

Well, I shall leave you with a recent photo of me cuddling my friend’s dog, who, topically, is called Bradley Wiggins!

He is a lovely little dog; one day I shall smuggle him out in my handbag!

Well, my dears, I must get a modicum of sleep, so shall bid you good night!

Bisous,

Madame Becs 😍

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Hot strawberries

With one set of visitors just gone and more arriving tomorrow, I feel in a state of liminality:
transitory, in-between state or space, which is characterized by indeterminacy, ambiguity, hybridity, potential for subversion and change.

I mention this because I have been interested for a while in the moments before things happen and it turns out there is a word for this transitional state. And not only that, but books on the subject and it is particularly explored in gothic novels. In my case, I simply mean that my feeling of continually being on holiday carries on, only with a different set of people. I wonder if anyone else feels a bit flat when people go? I quite often leave preparing the gîte for the next set of people for a short while, as a way of feeling like our visitors are still here. I probably don’t say this enough, but its so great to have visitors and I am incredibly appreciative of them coming so far to see us. I feel richer for every encounter.

My oldest friend and newest friend met each other over aperos on our terrace and I love that my old life and new life sit so comfortably together.

Ok, enough navel gazing, what have I been up to?

Well, the fête at Esclassan was very uplifting:

As you can see, we are all quite relaxed and a bit giggly ( in my case, any nerves were calmed with beer). We gathered quite a crowd and sang our hearts out. It was a scorcher of an evening and everyone sat on long tables and ate and drank under the setting sun. This is the second tine that we have sung in a social setting and it feels very much as if we are simply out for the night with our mates, having a great time. Next gig, Trie sur Baise for the Tour de France!!!

I mentioned the Cafe Guingol by the lake in Lupiac last week. We went there for dinner with our friends and were most impressed. We had beautifully cooked salmon and tuna kebabs and lush sauce and salad and pud and a band played and it was so nice to be somewhere really relaxed. We were all a bit sandy from swimming in the lake, but so was everyone else. I love the long summer evenings! Here’s a nice arty picture of the beach; look carefully and you will see it says No Swimming!

You can do paddle boarding here and we watched two men paddle past, with a dog sat in between them, looking very relaxed. I recommend this cafè/beach very much; its a great place to take guests.

My friend and I took Liam to the airport on Monday, then spent the day in Toulouse. I am a big fan of how easy it is to get around; tram from the airport, get off at Arennes, then metro into town.

We met friends of Amanda for lunch, one of whom just happens to be a Buddhist monk! She went to Chelsea Art college with him back in the day. Well, I’ve never hung out with a monk before; I wasn’t sure what to make of him initially, but we all just clicked and we had a great time:

As you can see, it was another boiling day, so we headed for the river and found a cafe that overlooks the weir, just by the Abbatoir gardens:

There’s a walkway where you can get right down to the weir

and it is refreshing to be so close to the spray.

We strolled over the bridge, in search of tea and cake and turned left and walked bang slap into a Tango festival!

Amanda got scooped up to dance:

This photo is only showing a quiet moment but it really was packed. I was entranced. The music is so concentrated and rich and mournful and the stately way the dancers moved, sometimes cheek to cheek, sometimes barely tounching and all of them lost in the moment. Transformed by tango, everyone became beautiful, their muscles stretched, legs twined, hands barely touching.. it made such an impression on me.

I need to wrap this up, but just want to show you my enormous sunflower

and the flip side of summer, a hail stone from the crazy storm we had the other day

The garden feels much restored from the watering its just had, with everything breathing a sigh of relief. I was wandering around the garden in a haze of hotness just before the storm broke, eating random things, as you do, and I popped a strawberry in my mouth, that was boiling hot from the sun. Well, it was the most delicious strawberry ever! Spookily,there is a recipe for roasted strawberries in my Sainsbury’s mag:

I shall most certainly be trying these. Yes.😋

Cripes, its hard enough to sleep in all this lovely heat, but we also can hear the peeping of our resident midwife toad. Its every ten seconds, like a peepy mini fog horn. Gahhhh!!! I shall have to hurl a pillow out of the window at it!

Many bisous,

Madame Becs 😍

Go on, lick a scorpion!

One of the lovely things about starting a new life in a new country is that you learn all new customs. I enjoy researching a little bit about everything I hear about and then I pass it on to my blog readers. Last Thursday was the summer solstice and also the

Fête de la Musique. A quick google told me that this all day music celebration, where musicians play for free and are encouraged to play in the streets, was started in 1982, in Paris by Jack Lang and Maurice Fleuret. It is now celebrated in 120 countries, although I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing of this in the UK?

Anyway, we went to Auch and had a really cracking time. The streets were thronged with people in Old Town and musicians had set up in doorways and in front of restaurants:

We just wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere, drinking beer from the pop up bars, then headed down to the river, admiring the view on the way:

Then, we followed the music till we found a stage set up in the municipal park and plopped down to listen to some wonderful world music:

What a great way to see in the longest night of the year!

I’ve had a creative week, churning out chilli jam:

and…. halloumi! This is one thing we find we really miss and it is hard to find in deepest France. A friend gleefully announced she had made some and I was so taken with this idea that I immediately ordered everything I needed from Amazon (vegetarian rennet, muslin, calcium chloride, cheese salt) and prowled through the recipes on the internet.

It is scary how much milk you need. This is what 8 litres looks like:

And here is 8 litres of curds and whey:

Mmmnnn. Yummy.😲

But, it all came good and turned into damn fine halloumi, that really does squeak when you eat it. Here is the finished product

Our only criticism was that it wasn’t very salty, but I can adjust that, easy enough. I really enjoyed making it too, although choosing a boiling hot day to embark on cheese making wasn’t the smartest move! Luckily, I just grab my cozzie and dive into the pool when I get too hot, so didn’t suffer for long.

The halloumi goes really well with my chilli jelly and looks so pretty, but you feel like you have licked scorpions when you eat this ( ‘quick, jump in the pool to cool down!’) 😤 My fingers tingled for days after cutting up the chillis, even though I wore gloves.

We have totally adjusted to outside summer living and spend a large proportion of our time searching for shade. Luckily, the terrace is an ideal place to while away the scorching hours; we tend to start that side of the house, then migrate to the front later in the day. But despite the heat, we love using our wood burning stove to cook on; the smoke does a good job keeping the flies away too. Here is our Sunday brekkie:

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

On a good friend’s recommendation, Eden and I headed over to visit Lupiac, the birthplace of D’Artagnan, one of the fabled Three Musketeers. We instantly fell under the very sleepy spell of this pretty little town:

It gently combined the desire to capitalise on such a legend and to still remain a pretty market town. Look at this signpost showing important D’Artagnan points on the trail.

If you have ever been to Land’s End, just at the tip of Cornwall, you will know what I mean about over marketing. By contrast, this place is beautiful, elegant and dignified. We should have visited the museum (another time), but instead, noticed the poster for the D’Artagnan festival in August

as we headed for the beach! Yes, you read this right.

This bar, right on the edge of the lake, has its own sandy beach

It felt like we had time travelled to The Bahamas!

Here I am swimming in the lake, with teeny fishes. The temperature was the same as our pool; not quite as crystal clear, but refreshing, none the less. Its funny; signs everywhere said No Swimming, no dogs, but pretty much everyone was in the water and a sweet dog was sniffing around.

And, the cafe? We only had ice creams, beer and tea

But it was such a glorious place to hang out

that I have booked a table there for Sunday night as friends are coming to stay, so shall let you know what the food is like. It gets excellent write ups on Trip Advisor.

On the way back we admired the huge marshmallows at the side of the road:

Our exciting news for the week is that our campervan has been allocated her french number plate! Citoyens of Masseube and Panassac will soon be bemused to see us whizzing around in Bleubelle:

Probably chugging around is a better descriptor, rather than whizzing, but, we are chuffed to bits!

Looking forwards to our choir gig at Esclassan fête on Saturday:

Come along and support us and have a glass of chilled rosé!

À bientot,

Madame Becs 😍

Beer Flamingo

Just when I was thinking about placing an order for these:

the weather has finally turned a corner:

This is more like it 😎

The fields around us are variously turning green or golden

I am yet to see any sunflowers, although the two I planted from seed are growing tall and strong.

Eden is very taken with the pool and has insisted on us swimming every day regardless of the weather. We have therefore now swum in the rain and also in the electric hush before a storm broke (‘let’s just wait till we see the first flash of lightning before we get out’). I can’t remember if I showed you our new addition to the pool

And look at Beer flamingo:

Oh, our shower has been fitted by the pool too:

Its a very clever gadget; the whole thing is a solar panel and already we have had hot water from it. Yesterday, when I was bright red from gardening, I stuck my whole head under the shower, which was turned to cold,obvs, and it worked a treat. An unexpected bonus.

Swimming cools you down. Minutes before our guests arrived for our anniversary tea party, we all had a quick dunk in the pool and emerged, calm and refreshed ready to party. It was a gorgeous event; lots of bubbly and cake:

and it was so brilliant to be amoung friends and neighbours. Everyone was chatting with everyone, which is the benchmark of a good party. And, what a great way to celebrate our milestone: we have been here a year! A year in which we have experienced incredible highs, lows, extreme weather, found new friends, quietly missed our old friends…but the whole time we have been so happy to have moved here. Our arms are black and blue from all the times we pinch ourselves to check if we are dreaming. This sounds fanciful, but we still have moments when we realise that we are really, finally, irrevocably here.

Other big events this week? Well, this was pretty huge:

Since 1977, this race from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean has been held just before the Tour de France. Stage 2 ended in Masseube and our tiny town pulled out all the stops.It is such an honour to have such a prestigious event here and incredibly exciting to watch:

Our choir, Contempo, has been selected to be part of the entertainment for the Tour de France stage in Trie sur Baise in July. We gave a wonderful performance on Sunday at the choir event at Monastery des Carmes in Trie.

I love the way that we all wore colours that matched the stained glass. I have mentioned before how inspirational our choir leader, James Fitzgerald, is. He makes us smile when we sing and we all feel uplifted!

Staying with the cycling theme for a mo, I thought I would do a film recommendation. Eden tracked down a wonderful, beautiful and poignant animation, Belleview Rendezvous:

An elderly grandmother brings up her melancholy grandson, who becomes Champion, famous cyclist:

She foils a dastardly crook plot and meets the fabulous Triplets of Belleville. Its so haunting and the music is hypnotic. We rented it from Amazon for three euros. I give it full marks.

Our garden is exploding with tasty things. You might remember I was puzzled as to why we didn’t have any hazelnuts on our trees? Well, I still don’t know why, but our trees are now laden with nuts, in their frothy green cases:

I’ll just show you this picture of Oakley, one of the puppies our friends Phil and Nick are fostering. I got lots of cuddles from him and his brother Beau, yesterday:

Well, thats about all for now.

Thank you for reading and have a good week,

Bisous,

Madame Becs 😍

Nifty five point turn

Every time it rains here, which is a lot, I think how much the garden is loving it:

However, I think us humans are getting a bit fed up with it. This is today’s weather warning map:

I set off at the Krackov to pick Eden up from the airport and three times had to change my route because of scenes like this:

The next time it happened, I could see that events were unfolding quite quickly. People stood around, looking worried as a lake of orange water swirled around. I executed a nifty five point turn and headed for high ground. On the way back I kept to the motorway and would advise anyone travelling to Toulouse to do the same. It is somewhat galling to read that the UK is anticipating 3 months of tranquil Summer:

I am a tad confused. I thought we had moved to the South of France, fabled land of warmth and al fresco living 😠

Actually, this week has had its moments. We ate outside twice this week:

And on the subject of food (as you know by now, my specialist subject), look at our beautiful salads:

Nasturtiums are so tasty and you can eat both the flower and leaves. They taste a bit like radishes. We also love the mange tout and eat them straight from the plants. Pick and chomp!

Oh yes, my new toy arrived:

Its a brush cutter, henceforth to be known as Basil, and wreaks havoc on brambles! Yesterday we cleared an area bigger than our entire garden in Bath and uncovered a healthy fig tree underneath all the grot. I have ended up with ten huge mozzie bites though, which are rather red and itch soooo bad, I feel like gnawing my arms off!

This week’s highlight is a choir performance in a monastery in Trie:

This will be a lovely thing to do on Sunday afternoon, so please come and support us!

Unbelievable though it is, this Saturday is our first anniversary of our move to France! Sadly, its a bit too far for friends and family from the UK, Germany, Fiji, Australia and the US to join us but we are hoping lots of our wonderful new friends that we have met here will come and celebrate with us. Each and every one of you has made us feel so very welcome and helped us settle into our new life.

Please come to Aux Vignaux 2, Panassac on Saturday 16th between 3pm and 6pm and bring a plate of cupcakes, egg and cress sandwiches or similar, a bottle and a fold up chair…we’ll provide the ambiance, sunshine, Pimms. And please come even if the weather turns ropey; we have a covered terrace and lots of room inside.

Looking forwards to bookgroup this week. We will be discussing

I adore it so far, but need to hurry up and finish it.

What are you reading at the moment?

Oh, before I go…if you like quizzes, you might want to have a look at HQ from the app store. Apparently everyone is playing it at the moment. Enjoy!

Bisous,

Madame Becs 😍

Electric Roses

As I mentioned last week, our holiday season has started. We welcomed our first guests, my lovely neice and her boyfriend:

We had a fantastic time with them and went to Spain for tapas and up a mountain and down again to the spa…all pretty much in the pouring rain!

Here is La Mongie:

It was so revolting that we had to eat our picnic in the car. The rain was so heavy that even the shoats (sheep/goats) were seeking shelter

But…all the rain turned the pretty, trickly waterfalls into majestic cascades to rival the Niagara Falls!

Predictably, no sooner had I taken visitors #no.1 back to the airport, then the sun came out for visitors #no.2! They had fabulous weather and we did the whole eating outside, entertaining outside thing that is so lovely this time of year.

We did Lourdes and it still impressed me. I do like the underground car park, I mean chapel

and we were very taken with a shop called St Lawrence O’Toole

Could there really be a saint who was an amalgam of Peter O’Toole and Lawrence of Arabia, we debated in the shade by the holy popcorn vending machine?

Well, it turns out, yes. Meet St Lawrence

known for his mediating skills between the Irish, Vikings and the Normans in the Twelfth Century. Who knew?

We had a terrific night with friends on the Saturday and we finally tried Champagne Soup and cracked open my homemade Elderflower Champagne. The evening passed in a sparkly blur and I woke still smiling…

In between all this socializing, we attended our first Panassac social, just for us Villageoises et Villageois. It was held in Monsieur Balducci’s wonderful, shady garden, just opposite the school and we were made to feel very welcome. Bottles of wine, beer, whiskey and pastis appeared out of a huge cool box; we couldn’t stay for long, but I look forward to our next village do in August and just hope some more French has made its way into my head. I can manage an hour and after that, it all putters to a halt, as if my clockwork mechanism has wound down!

All this having a good time takes its toll after a while. To cope, I booked myself in for a massage at Pour Vous salon, which is at my friend Tracy’s house, just before you get to Masseube:

I had a very relaxing Indian Head and Back and Shoulders massage; at times I swear I could have nodded off! The whole experience was very peaceful and I felt incredibly well tended and relaxed for a good couple of days after and slept like a baby! Tracy does a whole range of treatments, including aromatherapy and Swedish massage, facials, spray tan, manicures and pedicures and its so handy the salon being virtually on my doorstep. If a Boden/JoMalone/Waitrose opened as well, in Masseube, I would literally lack for nothing in my new life! (Sigh of happiness and deeepp relaxation 😆).

I have another batch of elderflower champers on the go, but my next major project will be to make Green Walnut wine, as recommended by our good friend Sir Paul Waite. I did a quick google; the traditional day to pick the walnuts is St John’s Day, Juin 24th, or at least it is in Provence. You steep the bashed lime green walnuts in a mixture of red wine and Eau de Vie and leave till Christmas, then drink it and fall over!

I popped a batch of borage flowers in ice in the freezer today; they look so pretty in a gin and tonic.

I currently love the red roses the best in our garden, the colour is electric:

Even the seed heads of the peonies are pretty

And the St John’s Wort is glorious!

On that note, I bid you farewell and wish you a happy and fulfilled week.

Before I go though, Facebook and I are having a break, probably permanently, but I can still be contacted via messenger, Hotmail etc.

À bientot mes amis,

Madame Becs 😍

Its early evening here and the light is just starting to fade. We’ve been in the garden all day, chopping hedges and bamboo stumps and cutting the grass. After a well deserved swim and home made pizza, I settled back into my comfy garden chair and dived into my latest kindle addiction, Rachel Abbots… meanwhile, Liam is playing with bonfires. Well he was, but just heard a family of sanglier (wild boar) snuffling the other side of the fence ( squeak, squeak, snuffle, snuffle, mumble, flumble grunt), did the sensible thing and ran for his life, followed by the cat!

So, a nice, peaceful day, preceded by our first Chasse Dinner! First things first, it was great fun. Our choir sang before aperos were dished out and I reckon everyone enjoyed our performance. It was very special to be in a totally full Salle de Fête and hold everyone’s attention (mostly!), then to have them join in with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

I did really love the vibe and I am impressed with how bonded we are as a group with James, our choir master. There is a definite sense that we would walk over hot coals if he asked us to, while singing, of course! This season we are also singing at Esclassan’s Fête and at Trie sur Baise, in a monastery. Singing is great, makes you feel happy!

Having sung for our supper, the aperos came round along with plates of crisps. Every table was dressed with greenery and fresh cherries and champagne glasses with fuschia coloured napkins.

You take your own plates and cutlery, but there were plastic bowls and spoons to use if you forgot. Peach liquor went down the hatch first,and gallons of wine followed. You could have filled our pool with the amount of wine we all drank. The chasse were our servers and their practised eyes spotted when one bottle was emptied and in a flash another one arrived. The hubbub in the room was tremendous; everyone was talking and smiling and laughing all at the same time!

We ate the soup ( hopefully it was veggie bouillon with tapioca pearls) and filled up on bread. We passed on the terrine and cornichons and gamely munched on a plate of spuds and carrots as our main

and fell upon the truly delicious salad and cheese course and had seconds of the pud

Then, I kid you not, bottles of fizz were plonked in front of us and the room filled up with muffled pops and corks flew…bloody marvellous. And, it still wasn’t over. Jugs of coffee were brought out and then the gnarly hunters walked up and down the tables with bottles of Armagnac and some sort of strawberry digestif. I totally enjoyed myself and look forwards to the next community event. Congratulations France, you know how to make people feel very welcome and valued!

We had gîte guests this week and had a great evening hanging out with them; they have just bought a house here and will be neighbours from mid July. The house market here is very buoyant at the moment and more and more people are arriving. Its a funny feeling to be the ones dishing out advice; can you believe it, we have nearly been here a whole year??!!

Our pool continues to be the new centre of our lives. We seem to be falling into the pattern of swimming about three times a day:

Our new inflatables arrived:

And we have put up fairy lights by the pool for that all important festival vibe:

Because our house is surrounded by fields and our neighbour’s house is a fair distance away, we can play music really loud too, just to complete the picture 😎.

The garden is revealing more of its secrets. This week, all the roses have burst into full flower

and the peonies are luscious too, all full blown and blowsy

But perhaps my favourite flower is the philadelphus (mock orange)

It reminds me of my childhood home in Norwich and smells so beautiful. Next week I will show you the St John’s Wort, which is just starting to flower and I can’t wait to see how stunning it will look in full throttle mode. All the plants here are so abundant, so joyful. Our vine is positively dripping with mini grapes

and….best thing of all, we have loads of cherries!

The tree next to this one is preparing to shower us with another batch as well; it seems to be a week behind its neighbour. I am in heaven! I love cherries and this more than makes up for the slugs eating our strawberries!

I’m off to Toulouse bright and early tomorrow morning to pick up visitors; expect a bumper blog edition next week!

All the best,

Bisous,

Madame Becs 😍

Three degrees

Despite knowing that our pool would happen, it still felt at times as if we would never quite get there. The weather has been so awful and cold and I felt so guilty seeing Wil, our pool guy, out in driving rain…

But…its happened!

Here is the moment when Liam and I first turned the tap on:

and here is the water starting to fill the pool

In the end it took 3 days to fill up and we were able to finally see how pretty the pool is.

Without the heater switched on the temperature was 14 degrees, colder than the sea, so we continued to admire the pool at a distance.

Then the heater was connected, the robot was plugged in, the filter was switched on and…our pool has landed!

She is a beauty!!!

After two days of heating, the temperature has reached 27 degrees and swimming is a total breeze! There is the faintest shock of lightly chilled water hitting your skin, you count to 3, then launch yourself and as quickly as that you adjust to being in. I cannot bear freezing cold water and am so happy that we decided to have a heater. We have lights too:

Our life will revolve around the pool I think. Currently Liam and I are both sitting in the shade of our parasol; he has finally achieved his dream of working by the pool! Next week I will show you the inflatable pineapple lilo and watermelon rubber ring we have ordered 🍍

Other news? I did my stall at the Teapot and had a lovely day meeting even more nice people, including the lady who had the goats that were here when we first viewed our house. You know that theory about 6 degrees of separation, where you can connect with anyone through 6 ‘friend of a friend’ connections? I think that here, its more like 2 or 3 degrees of separation at most. Probably more in Dordogneshire, but it honestly feels like everyone knows everyone here. Here is my stall:

And here is a mouthwatering selection of cakes to be munched at The Teapot:

This Friday, the choir that I’m in is performing its first concert at a Chasse Dinner. I am really looking forwards to this, as its our first experience of this local institution. Yes, it is a celebration of the hunter, yes, meat is the main dish and we should perhaps be horrified and running a mile in the opposite direction, but it is also a local custom and the hunters perform a valuable service to the community. Wild boar have three litters of piglets a year; that is a massive influx of boar a year. Hence, action has to be taken. The dinners are lots of fun and we are to sing for our supper and, incredibly kindly, a vegetarian option is being provided for us. You have to take your own plate, knife and fork; my eyes will be on stalks. At last, a proper, authentic french event, not an expat thing.

I’ve moved on from making elderflower cordial and am now half way through making elderflower champagne. I’ve just added a pinch of yeast as no fermentation is happening. I have such fond memories of elderflower champagne. Many years ago I was lucky enough to go to a Midsummer’s Eve party in Sweden and we ate garlicky crayfish and drank homemade elderflower champagne. It all sounds a bit like a scene from Wallander, doesn’t it?We are holding a First Anniversary tea party in a few weeks to celebrate our arrival in France and hopefully my champers will be ready to drink then. It is incredible to think that we have nearly been here a year. We are asked quite regularly if we are happy here and if we have ever regretted our move. Honestly, its brill here and we have no regrets, not even teeny ones!

We have gîte guests this week, then my neice and her boyfriend are coming to visit, which heralds the start of Visitor Season! How exciting! I feel like bursting into song!!

Have a lovely week,

Many bisous,

Madame Becs 😍

Bathe like Cleopatra

Today is a Very Exciting Day! Our pool liner is going in, which means we will be swimming in our very own pool, very soon. Very, very excited….

Here is an action shot:

Today is one of those exquisite, ‘gin and tonic clear’ days, where the mountains are out and proudly showing their snowy peaks and the air smells of green things and blossoms. We are still getting the odd drifting speck of fluff from our huge Cottonwood tree. Being still so new here, we couldn’t work out what the floaty stuff was, collecting in candy floss piles:

‘Its like blooming Shaun the Sheep out here’ muttered Liam as he waded his way out to his outside desk.

https://www.britannica.com/plant/cottonwood-tree

With all the birdy, jungly noises and the hazy heat and with ‘snow’ gently floating on the breeze, it has felt at times like we were actually in a virtual reality game, or in a level from Hurdy Gerdy (ps2)

To top it all, we have literally just seen and heard a hoopoe. They sound a bit like cuckoos, but with only one note:

I am delighted to spot that we have peonies about to pop:

and the carnations smell divine too:

On one of my gardening rampages I was to be seen chopping down buddleias like a demented thing; obviously I have kept a couple for the butterflies, but these were raging out of control. Then, the penny dropped. I was actually hacking down elderflowers:

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/elder/

What a numpty! I hastily sellotaped all the branches back on, gave the trees a pat and my reward is that there are masses of flowers. I have made my first batch of elderflower cordial and shall be making lots more. I love the stuff! I would bathe in it like Cleopatra, if I could! Here’s a recipe:

Aux Vignaux Cordial

In a large pan, dissolve 1 kg of caster sugar in a litre of water until gently boiling.

Then add the juice of two lemons, zest of an orange, some chunks of fresh ginger and loads of elderflower heads (carefully check there are no bugs hiding away), stir, cover and allow to infuse over night.

Then, carefully strain, cool, drink with copious amounts of bubbly!

We have had some gorgeous sunny days and the hammock has come out of hibernation:

But…the flip side of the heat is that it triggers thunderstorms of such ferocity that all you can do is dive under the covers and pray 😵 Two big branches came down this week, which is sad and slightly reduces our plum/cherry/fig harvest.

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This week we had two more bank holidays:

VE day when the end of the Second World War is remembered and then

Ascension Day, which is the 40th day of Easter and Christ has ascended.

We variously: watched Netflix ( Wild, Wild World, really gripping), All 4 ( new series of Friday Night Dinner 😁), ate chocolate and lit bonfires in the garden.

Growth is to be observed in the field next to us. In the next few weeks the corn will grow like triffids and we will no longer be able to see the mountains from ground level. For now, little green shoots are poking through and occasionally the farmer whizzes around the field on his quad bike dispensing um…weed killer…water…advice?

It does look fun!

I’ve gone a bit further on my salt dough Odyssey and this week I have been mainly making hares:

and Fat Dawgs

Our friend Al’s business is going well and she now has an online booking service. I shall obviously need to road test a massage to be able to report back fully:

We have just had to enact a daring Lizard rescue; I had to distract the cat with a saucer of milk, while Liam helped Lizard escape her catty jaws:

Well, she says, stretching, I must

love you and leave you. Have a wonderful week!

Bisous

Madame Becs 😘

Here hare here

Our garden is very agitated at the moment; wind is shaking all the chestnut blossom onto the floor and still the rain is falling. There is nothing to do, on days like this, but to do inside things. I’ve been making Noody Ladies out of salt dough:

and am very pleased with the results. I’m making stuff for my stall at the Royal Wedding Fête at The Teapot, just down the road. So far, there’s precious little to go on my stall; better get cracking!

The problem is that when the weather is gorgeous, all I want to do is be outside doing stuff in the garden. This week we tackled a job that has been on the back burner. You might remember how thick the brambles are along the perimeter fence? Very, btw, at least 8 metres, I reckon. We have been slowly clearing it all away and in some places, have been able to get right next to the fence.

To celebrate our 19 years of marriage, we spent the day working on the garden and were able to finally cut away the peripheral crap and a)let light into the garden and b) finally be able to enjoy the view! Thus, on our anniversary, we were able to finally watch the sun set from the end of our garden, as we clinked glasses of rosè!

Rosè, did I say? A friend recommended we visit Cave à Papa in Seissan (local wine supplier) and pick up some of their wine. Always keen to sample local produce, we motored along and found the owner and his family having a delicious smelling dinner in the next room. No matter, we were waved in and had a quick look around. I was really struck by the lovely labels:

We spotted a local fizzy wine called Eden (perfect tipple to celebrate a rather special birthday this summer) and happily left with a wine box of 5 litres of rosè for 11.80 euros. Outside the Cave we did the maths…result? Super cheap wine. But is it any good?

We had friends round and I placed myself in charge of dispensing the wine from the robinet (tap), issuing squirty top ups whenever needed. Yep, I can report, its very nice wine. The morning after, when I woke still fully clothed I mused to myself thats its also extremely potent stuff. Perhaps I won’t sit right next to it next time?

While we were puttering around the garden, we spotted our local hare (‘Here hare here’. Withnail reference) just looking beadily at us. The cat strolled up for a sniff and the hare legged it, but was later seen next to my potager, grrr.

Its nice for us that our Wedding Anniversary is always going to fall on a bank holiday here in France. Not only is 1st May an important day celebrating the formalisation of worker’s rights but also it’s known as the Fète du Muguet and the custom is you greet people with little bunches of Lily of the Valley; it symbolises marital harmony. This dates back to the court of Charles IX :

The young king was indeed given a sprig while visiting the Province of Dauphiné in spring 1560.

He found the practice very endearing.

In spring 1561, he therefore decided to give a sprig of lily of the valley to all the ladies of his court and said:

Let it be done so every year”.

The custom spread like wild fire throughout the Kingdom of France!

We checked out the Tzigane Festival just down the road. What we didn’t realise was that you couldn’t just wander in; the inspection of wristbands would have not looked out of place at Glastonbury. So, reluctant to fork out £40 (sorry, euros), we hung out in the bar area and listened to a cool gypsy band there. Vivacious and swirling rhthyms made beautiful people rush to strut their stuff. We tapped our toes and clinked glasses; happy nights! The singer in the band was belting out soulfelt, smouldering tunes, while all the while,raking the crowd with hawkish eyes, a lot like Bad Santa!

I could chat all night, but we have another episode of Escape to the Chateau DIY to watch…so here’s another of my rainy day creations to marvel at

and I wish you and yours a marvelous week!!

Bisous,

Madame Becs 😍