Saturday, May 24, 2008

shoot the dog

I'd decided that I would concentrate on landscaping the garden behind the house this summer and do less in the vegetable garden because it demands so much time but this morning I woke up feeling guilty and decided to make a trip to the garden centre.

On the way into town I got stuck behind a foreigner (a Parisian with a 75 plate*) who was having difficulty negotiating his Range Rover along the narrow winding road but I didn't mind because there was a pleasant smell of wild garlic wafting in through the window.

When I got to the garden centre I went a bit mad (too much garlic) so now I have not only enough potatoes to feed Ireland circa 1845 but also aubergines, peppers, chillies, courgettes, red onions, peas, beans, celeriac, tomatoes, carrots and beetroot for the donkeys - plus a dozen aromatiques for the herb garden. I've ended up with more than last year.

I've taken to listening to my iPod up at the potager and yesterday as I was hoeing and unconsciously swaying away to George Michael ("shoot the dog"), M. Le Juge (host of the dinner party from hell) suddenly appeared at my shoulder and gave me the fright of my life. As I removed my iPod from my back pocket to adjust the volume he said: "Oh. You are listening to music. I thought you were having an epileptic fit."!!

* The last two digits of a French number plate denote the département in which the car is registered, i.e. where the owner lives. From 2009 there will no longer be a local département code, only a sequential number, so you won't be able to tell where drivers are from. Shame.

Friday, May 23, 2008

double handling

Ah yes. The controversial issue of 'double handling' - the process of going to a great deal of effort to do a job - then re-doing it a few weeks or months later. Last winter we spent days building some very impressive wood piles from the trees we'd cut down only to have to take them all down and rebuild them a few feet away so that we could build the new garage. Unforeseen circs BB says. Bad planning I say.

The trench for the telephone line is another case in point - except this time it was 'triple handling'. We initially paid someone to dig it to put in the water pipe to the new house, thinking it would be cheaper and less hassle than doing it ourselves. Wrong. It was the first (and last) time we've hired someone to do something BB is (semi) capable of doing. 'Digger operator' was obviously low on the list of Matey Boy's job skills because as I sat at the upstairs window working at my computer, a dark shadow in the form of an out-of-control digger careered down the slope towards me and the (badly rotting) column holding up the roof. I came within an inch of ending up in the bucket under a collapsed roof. For weeks afterwards our front garden resembled the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme.

To get electricity to the garage across the road, BB had to re-dig the same trench a few months ago but it turned out his digger operator skills weren't much better than Matey Boy's because he hit the water pipe and this time we ended up with a swimming pool in the front garden. I was blamed for not being his banksman, even although I was out of the country at the time. He summed up the episode over the phone with: " Cock-up! Arse! Wet!". He's a man of few words, BB.
This last - or should I say third - time (because you never know!) there were no dramas but it now looks like we're building a motorway through our property, such is the state of the garden.

Friday, May 16, 2008

stud of the dump


Those are the dulcet tones to which I awoke this morning. Gone are the halcyon days of: "Would you like a hot beverage my love?"

It took me a minute or two to get my bearings, because our new bed arrived yesterday and we moved the bedroom to the other side of the house. Because I didn't immediately spring into action, BB arrived at the foot of the bed and dragged me off by both feet. Isn't that grounds for divorce?

When France Telecom came the other week to move the phone lines, they refused to pass the line to our house underground because "it wasn't part of the original brief", thereby leaving us in a worse position, with the new line directly above where the crane is going to be. BB, with the aid of M. Poire's mini-digger, is having to dig a trench himself - for the third time in the same place* - before they will come back and move the line again.

I had to stand in the trench in my nightie, wiping sleep from my eyes, holding a marker to denote where the water pipe is, to avoid hitting it - again* - with the digger. It's times like this when a Wimpey home holds a lot of attraction.

The arrival of the new bed and the subsequent shifting of rooms was another excuse for a clear-out yesterday. I do love a good clear-out but unfortunately BB refuses to throw anything away. So I waited until he disappeared in the van to see Poire and then chucked everything I wanted rid of in the car and raced to the dump. The very nice (and handsome!) man there helped me unload, enabling me to get back before BB did.

* See next posting

Monday, May 12, 2008

brace brace

We went to the Sunday Club yesterday (a few of us go round to Nainbo's on a Sunday morning before lunch for a coup de blanc) and it seems I have purchased one and a half donkeys. When Nainbo said he was buying one, I offered to pay for the price and upkeep of a second, since I'd read that you shouldn't keep one donkey on its own. They become lonely and start calling out for a friend (and end up annoying the neighbours). So Nainbo has bought two jennies - and it turns out one is pregnant! They arrive tomorrow and I can't wait to see them.

I've been on the Donkey Breed Society website which says that "shelter is vital at all times" and invites me to "view examples of well made shelters and enclosures", non of which resemble Nainbo's. BB was called upon (in his capacity as a structural engineer) to give his professional opinion and all he could say was "with that level of craftsmanship I wouldn't let him cut my finger nails."

The front stanchions (legs) rest in two five-litre plastic mayonnaise buckets filled with concrete and as we stood next to it in a gentle breeze the roof swung round and hit BB in the head, prompting him to suggest "a bit of torsional rigidity" (a "brace" to you and I). Hay ho (or, hee haw), at least they'll have some shelter from rain, wind and flies - which is more than a lot of the poor beasts have round here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

the wall

I finally got my tatties planted at the weekend, but only after being led astray for a second time. I started digging on Saturday morning but then our friend and ex-neighbour M. Souffleur De Verre arrived just after lunch with a bottle of wine, so work halted. I managed to get them all in on Sunday but I think I've planted too many. There will be enough to keep us going for about two years. Good job I like potatoes. Some of my favourite dishes from this region include potatoes, one being tartiflette which is made by frying onions and bacon then adding pre-cooked potatoes and some white wine and cooking it all in the oven topped with Reblochon cheese.Yummy! And excellent winter food after you've been out skiing.

BB has started removing the old tin from the roof of the mill and my big project now is to landscape the garden behind the house. I'm building a six metre-long stone wall to create a flower bed to hide the grease trap and this afternoon I dug out the foundations. I'm completely exhausted so after my veggie curry (no potatoes!) I'm off to bed.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

car wash

The plan to plant my potatoes today went out the window at the car wash this morning when Nainbo, who lives opposite the salle des fêtes, turned up and invited us to eat chez lui. After a long boozy lunch of artichoke (with a lovely vinaigrette made with chopped boiled egg and chives) followed by roast duck and cauliflower gratin, I got ready to leave saying I had housework to do - the reasoning being that if I couldn't hoover in a straight line no-one would notice, whereas if I planted my potatoes crookedly I'd be the talk of the steamie for the rest of the summer. (BB's parting words were: "Why are you bothering with housework? My parents arrive in six weeks and you'll just have to do it all again then"!!)

Nainbo's just finished building a shelter for the donkey he's about to buy and asked me to go on the internet to try and find him one "avec une belle tête et deux cils".

Me: What? A donkey with a nice head and two eyelashes?

Nainbo: Non - docile!

Ah - the faux pas with the language. The most embarrassing one was when I went to buy some stamps at the post office in town but there was a huge queue so I went next door to the librairie (where they sell cards and newspapers etc) thinking that they might sell them there. The shop assistant looked at me like I was a stupid tourist and nodded his head in the direction of the post office, so I explained "il y a une grande couille dans la poste", to much tittering from everyone in the shop. It was only later when I told BB about the incident that I realised that what I'd said was "there's a large set of testicles in the post office"!