Friday, October 31, 2008

horsing around

We helped Roquin pick his maize yesterday morning then went to help Mini-B bring one of his mares and her week-old foal down to the village from a field higher up. You'd think we were here doing an agricultural course and not trying to renovate a house! There's a little Mini-B at the end of that taut rope in the photo - legs going like a sewing machine in the mud trying to budge the horse!

It's his birthday party tomorrow in the écurie (where he milks his cows). Last year Nainbo's wife, La Blonde, went for a pee in a field, fell over and broke her ankle and had to be taken to hospital. Never a dull momento!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

if you go down to the woods today

BB went off to the Sunday Club today, leaving me to find a recipe for the 10 kilos of figs dropped off by Roquin. He returned with the news that another innocent victim, this time a young guy out riding his mountain bike, had been shot dead by a hunter in a "hunting accident" in a neighbouring département. In our region, the only four days you're allowed to hunt during the season are Wednesday (when there's no school!), Thursday, Saturday and Sunday - i.e. the days when the vast majority of the French population are off work/school/college etc and conceivably want to go out and enjoy the countryside without fear of ending up with a bullet in the head! It's unbelievable.

Mini-B came round in the afternoon to remove a wheel from the trailer he's lent us. He has various trailers for hay baling, muck spreading, mowing etc, but between them all, there are only three inflated tyres, so he has to keep transferring wheels whenever he needs to take out a different trailer. Those not in use are jacked up on blocks of wood in fields all round the village.

BB needs to empty the trailer here tomorrow so he'll have to go and get the wheel back, re-attach it, then take it off again and put it back on whichever trailer Mini-B is using. I'm exhausted just writing this!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

calf credit crisis

I was just about to serve lunch today when Mini-B arrived panting, clutching a couple of bits of old rope, and said he needed a hand urgently. Normally he removes his wellies at the front door, doffs his bonnet and gives me a bisou but today he appeared distressed so I didn't shout at him for ignoring protocol and wiping his boots on the Persian rug.

I thought maybe his C15 had broken down again, or he'd driven it over the bridge next to our house - which wouldn't be the first time! - and he needed a tow, but he explained that one of his cows was having trouble delivering and he needed assistance. His cows are his bread and butter (or rather, his pastis) and he doesn't have many, so if he loses a calf - or worse, the calf and the mother - it's a real blow. So off they scuttled while I tried not to dwell on the significance of the rope - and BB told me not to ask, when he returned an hour later to announce that the calf was doing fine and the mother was sitting up in the hay smoking a cigarette.

As we were finishing (a cold) lunch, Top Modèl and his pal turned up to help on the roof. These young kids - you have to watch them like a hawk when there's demolition work to be done. BB turned his back for two minutes and they'd started attacking the ridge beam - which is the only thing holding up the three remaining A frames - with a chainsaw and a sledge hammer. BB nearly had a heart attack!

Friday, October 24, 2008

first customer

I received the following email today:

Bom dia lady Chou, I am finding you through the intraweb when looking for french hotel and please tell me if you have special price for grandparents when inserted in the familiar group? In picture of bathroom - is that private or convivial? Are you near place of architectonic interest?

José Eduardo Santos Tavares Melo Silva


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

fish wife

We have friends coming for lunch so I sent BB off to the shops this morning to get some vital ingredients because it was windy, so he couldn't work - oh, that new excuse!! I'm on the vodka chapter of my Marks and Spencer Cocktail Bible ("the Perfect Party Companion") at the moment and thought I'd make French Leaves for apéros (2-3 ice cubes, 2 measures vodka, 1 measure oj, 1 measure pastis).

I'd woken up very early (8.30 am) and come downstairs to make a cup of tea and then became so caught up watching the McCain Obama debate on YouTube that I still wasn't dressed by the time BB left, around 10.00 (sluttish behaviour, I know, and most unlike me). Just as he was about to set off, I realised 'the' vital ingredient wasn't on his list and rushed out to tell him - as two hunters rounded the corner.

What a sight I must have looked: standing on the doorstep in my nightie at that time in the morning, shrieking "VODKA" (French translation VODKA), like an old fish wife.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

(cider) suits you sir

I'm going to start a workshop: "How To Hold Your Glass Upright". You can be standing with four or five guys, all with their glasses of pastis tilted at a 45 degree angle, and you'd think the room was listing to port.

In the old house I was permanently mopping up whenever we had visitors - Baby Chou to shoe shop ashishtant: "Do these come with kitchen roll attached?" You've seen Exhibit A and are probably wondering, why bother, but even I have standards!

On Sunday at the fête du cidre Mini-B had an obtuse moment. When we arrived he was standing chatting away to another farmer, glass of cider slopping all over the floor, when a guy in a pristine white T-shirt carrying a man bag (obviously not from round here then) came and stood just behind him. As Mini-B waved salut to us, I watched in amazement as the contents of his glass ended up all over the foreigner's shirt.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

put your hands in the air and give me all your fishcakes

Mini-B came for lunch today - Bloody Marys and fishcakes. There are only three occasions when I feel I really need to vacuum: when there's tumbleweed blowing through the house, before guests come to stay and after Mini-B has eaten here. Today, when he dropped the fifth piece of bread on the floor and miraculously went to pick it up, he asked if I didn't own a hoover! Eh?

After the incident with the Belgians (when he poured beer into his wellies), as a joke I frisked him as he was leaving - and found a fishcake in his trouser pocket.

The boys were clearing up this afternoon, burning everything that hasn't been taken away, and I suddenly felt a pang of nostalgia at seeing our first matrimonial home being torn down - even though the photos of the rooms we lived in resemble productions you'd expect to see in a criminal trial (see 'Exhibit A - Bathroom' below).

They've just finished playing at building bonfires, so now - quid pro quo - they're off to play at catching a bull.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

just call me Bugsy

We've had a bit of rain (and snow higher up) so the pace has slackened but BB was back up on the roof today lifting the last section off the left side. Nearly everything coming off is being "enquired after": the tin to cover woodpiles; bits of wood to build a shed; the old slates for landfill. Someone even stopped and asked if he could take the old storm shelter over the front door. Who needs a skip?

Mini-B is here nearly every day now since he hasn't much to do. He's winding down the milk production side of his business and paying another farmer to do his hay. If he stops selling milk for ten years he gets a subvention (subsidy) under the Common Agricultual Policy which is probably more than he would get for selling his milk. And now that all three of his tractors are broken down (as well as the C15!) due to poor maintenance, it's cheaper to get someone else to do the hay rather than fork out for new machinery.

It's that time of year when we rarely have to go shopping because every day something turns up on our doorstep. In the last few days we've been given: eggs, pumpkins, grapes, cauliflowers and a dead rabbit. Mini-B's mum offered me a live one recently - because she said it "reminded her of me"?! Didn't know how to respond to that really.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

do my ears look big in this?

The demolition of the roof is progressing quicker than I expected. I thought BB would have to remove each rafter and batten and purlen individually like he did the last time (in the house we're in now) but he's cutting the roof up with a chainsaw and lifting huge sections off at a time with the crane. And people are turning up every day to help. It's amazing what a whiff of danger will do - that intoxicating mix of power tools, a steeply sloping badly burnt roof (and probably a pastis or two!) and the guys are lining up.

Roquin came round last night with a bottle of the first grape juice from the pressoir (wine press). He had his cute dog with big floppy ears in tow - which BB said would look great in his sidecar!