Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Ecstasy.....

.... in the South of France. Friends arrived in La Sesquière from England this evening. And guess what they brought us?!

Nectar in a glass - London Pride!!!!Don't pop round though - there is not enough for anyone else except Richard and I.We love you Marion & Andy! Please come VERY often!!!!!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Nature's Entertainment

We had an incredible thunder & lightening storm this evening. It lit up the sky spectacularly for hours. I tried to get a photo for the blog........but not very successfully. A total failure in fact!

Only trouble was, we were without electricity on and off all evening and the next day.

But it was so incredibly beautiful.

Man has yet to produce something on a par. It made us feel very insignificant.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Listen to Mother

When will teenagers ever learn.

To listen to their mothers.

LeeLee was off to the beach with her boyfriend and his parents today.

And what did I say?!

Remember that just because they are able to safely sit on the beach all day soaking up the rays because they have the typical Mediterranean skin tone - you cannot! You are English for goodness sakes and are blond with pale skin!

Five hours at Vias Plage covered with factor 50 suncream...... .... ouch!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Life Is Just Peachy

Martine and Jean-Paul kindly gave us another tray of wonderful peaches this week - they are so generous.

When they dropped them off at our house on their way back from picking them - the peaches were still warm from the sun! And unbelievably delicious!

After stuffing ourselves with fresh peaches, I decided to have a go at making some long term things.Peach Brandy Liqueur on the left.

Then Burnt Peach Chutney (who forgot to remind me to check on the bubbling pot during dinner?!)

Followed by Unburnt Peach Chutney.

And finally Peach & Raspberry Jam.

After filtering, we will even have some Peach Vinegar in the empty wine bottle at the back.

We are all set up for the rest of the year now!
***

One line in the recipe said 'crack open the peach stones with nutcrackers and put the kernals in the pot'.

Sounded so easy. Who writes this tosh?!

Twenty minutes later and I had to call in the heavy artillery. Richard arrived with a set of water-pump pliers.And finally after much swearing, we had cracked stones flying everywhere around the kitchen and Nic catching the kernals as they descended towards the floor.

Haven't the faintest clue if they made any difference to the jam. It still was a bit runny.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Have A Gin Dearie

Been busy this week and not getting much time to post. Also the Internet has been SO flaky and every time I load a picture, it crashes for hours.

Frustrated and fed up with it.

I need a drink.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Revving Up

Our neighbour popped round tonight and as he went to leave, Xena was lying stretched out on the far side of the back room. With her head resting on her paws. Pointing at the front door. Watching him go.

He opened the door to find not only his own spaniel waiting the other side but also his two young cats. When you go visiting round here, your livestock expect to come too!

They are kittens still really and have only been allowed out of the house for about a week.

And have yet to learn that not all dogs are as friendly as their own.

The cats walked straight in between Eric's legs and made a beeline for Xena.

Ever seen a Sussex Spaniel go from nought to 60 miles an hour in a split second?!

It was a sight to behold. We have claw marks in the floor where she tried to get traction with all four feet revving up for CHARGE!!!!!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Morning Has Broken

Something woke me up early today.

I am enjoying the school holidays, and revelling in not having to get up at 6:00am every morning except Sunday, by staying up late and getting out of bed at around 10:00am each day. It's the little things like this that make our life wonderful......

However I am a light sleeper. And if I wake, I am awake. Not like Richard who can 'stir', have a conversation with you and then turn over - all the while being fast asleep. He remembers nothing the next day.

Come to think of it - that has its uses!

Anyway, this morning at around 6:30am something woke me. And I could not get back to sleep. So after tossing and turning for a while I got up.

Made a cup of tea (SO English I hear you say!).

And sat on the step out onto the terrace and just admired the view.It was so fresh and crisp, nature just waking up and not a human sound to be heard.Life is good.

And then I went back to bed and slept until 11:00am.

Jealous or what?!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Escargot .....

.... à la Sesquière.

I picked one of our lettuces for dinner tonight. It came with it's own protein.Have you ever seen a snail so small before?!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Lunch......

..... à la Sesquière, if you won the first prize at Saturday's fête!

1.3 kg of roquefort cheese before lunch. Down to 1kg after. Who says that is a glass of red wine next to it?!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Green Eyed Monster....

......Xena.There was Nic sitting on the floor stroking her cat Smokey who was curled up on a chair.

And there was Xena. Who noticed.And decided to get a closer look. And to point out to Nic that she also liked to be stroked.And to be cuddled, and cannot resist distracting anyone who shows the slightest notice of the cat!Jealous or what?!
***
Knowing that neither of us would be in a fit state to drive him home after last night's fête, Kevin stayed the night at our house.

Usually the cat sleeps with Nic, unless she manages to sneak into our room.

Last night, however, she lounged outside of one of the other bedroom doors. All night long, lurking.

And guess which room Kevin was sleeping in - Kevin, who is allergic to cats and avoids them at all costs.

Aren't cats evil!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Dancing the Night away

We had our first professional, open to the public, La Sesquière Fête tonight, organised by our new 'Entertainments Committee'. And great fun it was. The newly resurfaced boule court with its new, public, large-scale barbecue was put to good use. The Committee had also managed to get sponsorship for the evening not only from the Commune/Mairie but also from local businesses.

A long bar was set up with lots of helpers. Although we learnt early on that it was best to order draft bière from the men - the women just did not seem to understand that you cannot serve 10 inches of thick froth! Richard, who funded his way through college working as a barman, was horrified - 'how come they weren't given lessons beforehand on pulling pints' he was heard to mutter repeatedly all evening.....

A little more practise with the deep-fat fryers will improve the chips next time, but the moules au curry, sausages and quail were delicious. After that, we all got down to the serious business of dancing. And yes that is me hiding in the middle of this lot!Richard however waited in vain all evening for the slow dances. These are never on the agenda down here, much to his disappointment! We still like a smooch, even at our age!

The idea behind these evening fêtes was to attract the large number of young adults in our area, where there is very little for them to do. It was great to see so many turn up and enjoy themselves. Out of about 200 people, the average age was probably about 25.The bar was open for eight hours, serving cheap bière and pastis, but there was an obvious and noticeable absence of any agro or excessive drunkenness. A bit different to the UK now, I think.

We bought 5 tickets at the tombola - and won the first prize as well as the 5th - and there were only five prizes!

So there I was at 1:30am strolling back home (not staggering too much I promise!) with a 1.3kg chunk of roquefort cheese.

Guess what we shall be having for lunch tomorrow? And the day after, and the day after that.....
***
LeeLee invited her boyfriend to the fête tonight, and what a brave boyfriend! All our friends in the village were peering round and over everyone at the bar to get a good look at Kevin.

Before hand they had ALL told Richard that they would 'get the sufre ready' - roughly equivalent to getting the shotguns out in the UK! Sufre is what they spray on the vines to kill bugs and viruses.
***
First of Richard's tomatoes!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Touring France

The girls voted on a day out to Montpellier, and so we set off early at 8:15am.

Richard decided that we should travel in from the North-West start of the tram system (Mosson) rather than our usual South-East (Odyssieum) end. You know there is something very sad about a grown man looking forward to a LONG trip on a tram.

Anyway, to get to Mosson meant driving first to Clermont l'Herault from Bedarieux and then across to Montpellier NW.

Rather than, as usual, along the A9 from Beziers to Montpellier SE.

As we wended our way, we started to notice that (unusually) people appeared to be parking and setting up their mobile homes along the route?!

Weird or what?!

I jokingly said 'Wouldn't it be funny if it is the Tour De France..........'

OK. Funny Ha Ha. Who the hell decided to arrange the Tour De France along this route ON THE VERY DAY WE DECIDED TO USE IT???!!!

So after a happy time in town, we travelled back on the tram to the car at Mosson, AND THEN HAD TO DRIVE ALL THE WAY ACROSS MONTPELLIER to come back from the other end of the tramway along the A9.

Not happy.

Hate cyclists.
***
One for Jan. Hope you are recovering and well enough to go home soon. Take it easy.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Nails & Legs

Xena has an epileptic fit about once every six months. There is nothing to be done to help at such times, we just need to sit with her and comfort her until it passes.

Today was the day for one, and guess what I did? I clipped her nails whilst she was ‘out of it’. She woke up and wondered why she did not go clickety-clack anymore as she walked on the tiles.

And don’t say – what a rotten trick to play on her! Please!

I just wish I had had time to razor the inside of her ears as well before she came to.
***
I took Nic shopping today – she is growing so fast.

How did I (short and squat) end up producing a child so leggy and slim! And she eats everything in sight! God must be a man. No woman would give another female that metabolism.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Pretty As A Peach

A couple of days ago, Martine and Jean-Paul kindly brought round some peaches from their trees on the other side of the village. They were absolutely delicious! Unless you have been lucky enough to eat fruit 'just picked' you can not imagine how good they taste. There are only so many that you can eat fresh though, so I also bottled some today. We are set up for the rest of the year!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Bear Foot

Time for Xena’s regular trim and de-fluffing.

She hates it, but just about puts up with me doing it. She knows the trouble she would be in if she even thought about biting me!!!

One foot trimmed – three more to go. Look at the amount of fur I can get off one foot! And the size of them - more like bears' feet.
***
Our weather has been a bit variable - blazing sun and torrential rain.

The cat goes all punky when she is wet!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Barrels of Fun

We went to fill up with wine at Faugeres today, and guess what?! They were having a wine-fest in the streets!Follow a cart full of barrels…….....and you will never go wrong.

Friday, 11 July 2008

As Far As The Eye Can See....

...tarmac. All over what used to be the boule court in our village!

What are we going to do now?! Can you play on tarmac? How should I know.

Our new Entertainments Committee is running a 'do' this saturday that is going to be great fun. Live music, singing, dancing and food/booze. I keep calling it a bodello but it is a similar sounding Spanish word that they use to describe such an evening!

And that is why we have a new surface on our boule court it seems.....but isn't it amazing what it must have cost the Commune?! Just for a village of about 50 people?!

At least we know now what the lorries were doing at the other end of the village.
***
I picked our crop of runner beans tonight and they were delicious. Even if Richard claimed that they were stringy and not worth bothering with. That was just sour grapes.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Felicitations & Commiserations

Happy birthday to my sister Lesley today - hope you are having a great time visiting Jane in Germany!

***
LeeLee is shell-shocked. So are Richard and I, and so are her teachers.

The bac results were released 'to all' on the Internet today, and LeeLee did unbelievably badly.

For a student who has consistently been in the top three in her class throughout our six years in France, and who got the joint highest mark across the whole year in the mocks just three weeks before the exam - this was a bombshell.

LeeLee's marks were those that you would give to a student for bothering to turn up and write just their name (and nothing else) on the paper.

We immediately went and saw the head of the lycée, who immediately said that there must have been a mistake. But unfortunately there wasn't.

Our big dilemma is whether to let her redouble or for LeeLee to go through to terminale knowing that she has so much to make up.

We can only assume that the examiners have marked her down for every spelling/grammar mistake and missed accent. But our question to the head of the lycée was - if this is the case, why had the school not been marking her down all along so that she would know what was required!!

They are adamant that they mark as strictly as the examiners but we shall have to see. We have requested a copy of her exam papers so that the school can check them out.

LeeLee is in turmoil and not sure what to do.

If she redoubles, we doubt if there is sufficient gain to outweigh the additional age disadvantage she will have when applying to universities in the UK. Also, to sit through all the same classes again when she was getting top marks in every one of them, seems a bit skew.

But if she goes through to terminale, unless we can ascertain the actual problem the examiners are 'seeing', the risk is that her marks will be just as bad in the actual exams next year. Unless she changes school....which causes other issues.

Lots of late-night discussions in the house at the moment, and for a long time to come I expect.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

All Curried Out

What is the best thing about having home-made curry last night? Having cold leftover curry for breakfast, of course!

Disgusting? Yes.

Do I care? No.
***
When you live in a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere where nothing ever happens, and you live in a house with a panoramic view of the whole place, you get very interested in every little thing that goes on. Some people might call it nosiness, but not us....

So when we got up this morning and saw a tarmac-roller machine as well as a side-thrusting, under-carrying hoe thingimy-jig at the boule court at the far end of the village, we just knew that Richard needed to go and get bread down the hill in the car. It is too early to be Jean-Paul popping home for lunch in whatever vehicle he is working with that day in the Commune, so will keep you posted on what is going on.....
***
Richard is back from his excursion, and not happy.

There was a diversion in place outside the bakers because of some road works, and it sent everyone up Hérépian high street to the roundabout that is the pinch point in this area. Where you have to go to go anywhere - north, south, east or west.

Trouble was, a huge earth moving machine had broken down at the rounadabout, managing to block three out of the four possible exits. The only possible exit was the one that led you round the diversion again, and again, and again.

Our local police lady, whose main job is usually manning the school crossing, was dispairing!

The locals, including Richard, decided they would try and get around the obstruction the other way anyway - and found out the hard way why this was not possible!

It was such a good idea to 'pop out' of the village just to see what was going on at the boule court....

Anyway, looks like they have laid scalpings all over the terrain?! Maybe in readiness to tarmac.

But surely that is not right? A petanque court should be uneven and therefore unpredictable?

We will just have to go and chat to some neighbours....but will walk rather than drive, I think!
***
Got any bored children in the house who love colouring-in pictures?

Nic's teacher at school told them about this web site where you can find loads of pictures that you can print off for colouring. Just choose your category and scroll down. http://www.hugolescargot.com/coloriage.htm

She loves it!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Beziers by Air

My niece Lisa flew into Beziers-Vias airport (sorry, Cap d'Agde! Why on earth did they change the name - it is nowhere near Cap d'Agde and only gullible tourists would think it is!!) last week from Bristol.

Nic and I drove down to meet her, and it was so easy. Just a straight and simple 45 minute drive and there we were. At a flat field in the middle of an even flatter region.

What had been a little place in the middle of nowhere, is now a delightfully little place in the middle of nowhere with a free carpark and a new arrival/departure hall.

We knew the plane was just coming into land because it passed over our heads and then proceeded to park itself right up against the building so that it was barely 20 yards from the aircraft steps to the door into the customs' hall (OK, the customs' barrier) where Nic and I were waiting.

The plane landed 20 minutes early and it took only five minutes from Lisa walking off the plane, to getting into our car.

I LOVE this new airport - and I hope it is successful.

And I wish all the English 'incomers' who live in southern Herault would stop protesting and putting together petitions to get it shut down. The locals need and want the recent upturn in their local economy and it really bugs me (as it does the locals!) that NIMBYs are trying to muscle into the equation.
***
After picking up Lisa, I drove a couple of minutes further down the road to our favourite road-side stall - where they sell the melons that are growing in the field beside them. A whole crate of delicious, fresh and sweet melons for a fraction of the price that the shops sell them at.

Melon for dessert, breakfast and mid-afternoon tea......all week!

***
We drove my niece back to the airport this weekend after a wonderful week.

You realise that you know your nieces and nephews very much as children but not so much after they leave home and spread their wings. It was therefore super having a chance to get to know Lisa better as a grown-up, house-owning, working adult. Her parents must be very proud - she is charming and was a delightful guest. Come back soon! We got up early and had a true French breakfast on the terrace. The croissants, fruit pastries and fresh bread (with home-made jam!) were yummy - even Xena must of thought so since she nicked the remaining pastries whilst we were out! It was so early, we even got to see our mountain-climbing snails five feet up in our palm tree. The cat was jealous of the attention they got and wanted to muscle in on the photo opportunity. On the way back to the airport, we stopped off at one of our favourite beaches so that Lisa could at least say that she had seen the Med!

It was glorious - long sandy stretches and very few people. The plane arrived and disembarked it's load in record time and 20 minutes early. Everyone for the return flight was processed and loaded - before it should have officially landed! We watched it take off with Lisa on board, 20 minutes earlier than scheduled and it landed back at Bristol 35 minutes earlier than planned.

Faultless! And Ryanair!!