Random thoughts of a rapidly ageing Englshman who wishes he was retired and living in Fance

Thursday, 30 April 2009

There again, not always

I've been having a bit of a debate with myself recently - which in itself is a challenge cos not only am I always right but I tend to challenge stuff that doesn't immediately stack up, so it all gets a bit frustrating. I mean its hard when you are arguing two different points of view and you know both are both right and wrong at the same time and so need to convince yourself that you really are right....or half left.

Anyway what was I talking about?

Going to work. Not a pretty subject so no photo's. Sorry.

I have a choice of transport. For the last 10 years or so I've split the year in two travelling differently during Greenwich Mean Time and British Summer Time.

In the summer I commute the 16 miles on a motorbike, whilst in the dark nights of the winter I've taken the rather less convenient approach of getting Jean to give me a lift to the station, train and walk.

Then last year after much soul searching I bought a little car, largely so I could go fishing without marooning Jean, and justified it by saying I could use it in the winter to get to the station (or as near as you can park without paying £6.50 a day) so saving her a lot of dashing about, etc.

I don't like the train - its horribly crowded and the people push and shove and get cross and frustrated, etc. Whats worse is half of them don't buy tickets and all in all its pretty miserable. Add to that the new "improved" service introduced a few months back which improved things by making the trains a lot smaller and not having all of them stop at our station!!!! But the good news is you can get to London 10 minutes quicker (so in just under 2 hours) if you are unfortunate enough to have to go there. That said the trains have been reasonably reliable this winter.

So as Spring approached I started thinking oh goody, time to get the bike out.

But I haven't.

Because its just such hard work.

Let me tell you about the average ride to/from work. Its 16 miles and includes..... a mere 38 sets of traffic lights and about 10 miles of dual carriageway and another couple of miles of unrestricted main road.

There are 8 sets of lights between the edge of Chesterfield and the start of the Chesterfield bypass(?!!!) (about a mile). The traffic is heavy but generally I can ride past the queueing cars without too many incidents. Then off up the bypass (another set of lights on the first island) and round another too big and dangerous roundabout and onto the Dronfield bypass where the lunatics amongst us think it clever to drive at 3 figure speeds just because they can't get out of bed, etc. Then we hit the real traffic on the way into Sheffield. Huge queues of some very angry people and traffic lights every few yards. Yes there's about 30 sets in not much more than a couple of miles.

Entertaininly Sheffields transport policy states that because they cannot make public transport a viable alternative particularly in terms of journey times and convenience, they have decided to make private transport slower, less convenient and more costly to make public transport a more competitive alternative. Not a very Green approach but then its Sheffield.

So perhaps you can see one of the reasons why I want to retire to France....the roads really are like Simon says. Its true that if I was retired I wouldn't have to commute, but the traffic and importantly the angst of those caught up in it, is terrible all day long. From LGP you've got to drive a long way to find a traffic light - Loches or Chatellerault - both a good 20 miles away.

So anyway, no final decisions or anything but I'm still using the train despite the expense and inconvenience, but I suppose the exercise is doing me good. Just goes to show, Sheffields policy may not be popular, but it works!

Ho hum, I'm getting old!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Mornings Can Be Fun

Believe it or not, mornings can be fun, despite having to get up at some ridiculous time. the routine is, alarm at 6:30, shower and up in time to take Lulu out by 07:00 for a run around (her not me, I'm too old for that kind of thing).

[Note for new readers: Lulu is a dog, not just any dog, but a Standard Poodle, not that there's anything standard about her. And she's only 9 months old, so should be calming down in another ten years].

I digress, the purpose of this blog is to show you some snaps I took last week on our morning strolls through the woods in the beautiful countryside we are lucky enough to have on our Derbyshire doorstep.
First we walk through a couple of fields with some open views......

Then over the style......

Fabulous photography eh? Actually it took weeks to train Lulu to stay still in mid air like that. If only she'd do it sitting down in the house...
Through the first wood where the bluebells are out

Then across another field and into the woods on its left........

For a run and sniff amongst more bluebells and wood anenomies.

You'll notice that its real wild woodland, with a big mix of trees, flora, etc. and not just conifers (or anything else) planted in neat rows.

Its a great way to start the day. Almost makes it worth getting up....except of course I then have to go to work - assuming I can catch Lulu!

More Decorating

A man's work is never done, partly because we never know what to do next. Or First for that matter!

In our little chateau, like all french chateaux we have some questionable wallpaper, which is really surprising.

The stairs ceiling and wall where its not wood clad has been carefully papered with what Jean likes to refer to as chinese restaurant wallpaper.

Whats more the bedroom is done in a pink birds in a cage floral type of theme.

Now it is france so perhaps not that surprising, particulalry considering it was probably done in the 70's, but bearing in mind the shower room was not even undercoated

not to mention the kitchen,

I find the loving care with which the paper was obviously put up with, a bit of an oddity. Still at least its there.

Question is, now what do I do?

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

What's Wrong With My worms

When I first met Alex he was wearing a fisherman's shirt. I can't remember the name emblazoned on it (half the time I can't remember my own so its not that surprising) however I rcognised it and therefore him as a fellow fisherman.

Well thats not exactly true.

Alex actually is a fisherman, I'm more of a bloke with fishing tackle.

Anyway we've promised each other (or to be more precise, suggested to our wives) that we go fishing and after much merging of schedules over the months, Easter Sunday was the appointed day.

So on arriving in LGP I hurried down to the florists/garden store/gun shop/fishing tackle suplies shop (its important to have more than one string to your bow) and purchased my 2009 Permis de Peche, duly filled out in triplicate and embelished with my photo and inside leg measurement in traditional french style.

Due to logistics I was appointed Bait Monitor and so acquired a quantity of astigots and ver de terres (trust french maggots to have a fancy name) for us both. So we'd would be using the same bait.

Sunday came and off we set, Alex wit a rod, coupe of bits of tackle in a small bag and a stool, me with the entire contents of Fishing World stuffed in a huge bag and nothing to sit on.

After half an hour Alex caught my usual prey...an anchovy. It might not actually have been an anchovy, but it was the right size.....I of course caught nothing.

Time passed without stopping to say hello and so we moved to my favourite hot spot, where Alex caught 3 trees to my two. Suddenly I was feeling encouraged, perhaps I'm not that bad at this after all..........

So we moved again to a lovely spot on the river down by the station. We changed tactics from astigots to ver d terres and chucked our tackle in as they say.

Alex caught 3 proper fish whilst I caugh a leaf and a bit of weed. We were 15 meteres apart using the same bait, etc.

Makes you wonder, what is wrong with my worms?

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The wonder of Crepi

A funny thing happened to me on holiday......I discovered Crepi.
Now I've heard whispers of its virtues but never actually knowingly laid my hands or eyes on any, and certainly never bought any from round the back of the supermarket.
Anyway if you like I didn't know, Crepi is one of a family of textured paints sold in France and this holiday I was feeling rash and a bit on the edge, so decided to go in for a bit of extreme decorating. Push the envelope, that kind of thing.
The thing is in a 250+ year old country cottage, not all the plasterwork is pristine and in the bedroom we have what you might call a "problem wall". Actually there are two of them, or possibly four but we'll get round to them later.
In this case its not even plasterwork. It seems to be splattered concrete on bits of stone and flint, painted sometime when my ganmother was young in strangely durable white stuff. All complete with with cracks, holes and lots of places for spiders to hang out.

What should I do? Ideas ranged from selling, to plasterboarding, chipping it off and re-building and....Crepi.

So, as we wandered around Mr Bricomarche I spotted the baffling array of Crepies (or should that be Crepii) available. After much deliberation I picked the cheapest tin which was labelled Tont Pie (turns out to mean natural stone colour), to use as a bit of an experiment. After all I could hardly make matters worse and for a tenner I thought it worth a try.

So on Monday, fortified by a rather decent Easter Lunch at Grand Ma's I set about the wall. Nicole had explained that she'd used a brush to apply the stuff to one of their Gites, whilst Barrie suggested a trowel. Knowing my skill as a plasterer I opted for the brush.

Prising the lid off I discovered that Crepi is basically paint with sand in it. How much depends on the grade, etc. but this stuff was pretty thick.

And it worked a treat.

It filled the cracks and holes and smoothed the lumps. Not a fine plastered finish of course - the wall is still pretty rough and the surface is a bit like coarse sandpaper or chaux, but its quite a transformation, and I can always paint it with something finer to finish it off.

Obviously my trial size bucket of the stuff wasn't enough to fill the holes in our bedroom wall, but I'll be back for some more in May to finish the job off.
I was so excited by the result we had to call at Leroy Merlin's in Tours on the way home to check out their encouragingly vast array of similar products. Forget boring matt/silk emulsion on your oh so dull smooth walls, they have loads of texture based products...and I'm iching to try a few more!

The only question in my mind is why isn't B&Q stuffed with this kind of stuff?

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Can't Wait

If you think my blogging has been a bit thin of late, you're right. I'm new to this you know and slowly getting inspiration - I've never even kept a diary. And the keys on this keyboard are in a different place to the one at work which drives me nuts. Why do they do that?

Anyway the thing is we're off to LGP in a day and I've been getting my head round the packing, loading, sorting and generally cramming the car with everything we might want to take. Its important we get all the big stuff for the year and most of the small stuff as next time Lulu will be coming with us. Her passport isn't valid till mid May so for this trip she's going to Barnsley for her holidays, no doubt John and Kathleen will spoil her rotten.

Now I've got to get back to being excited about what Alex and Nicole have done in our absence, and remembering how much I love being in our cottage, walking roud the village and fishing in the Claise. Oh and making plans for the decorating that somehow I might just not get round to. After all, I do need a holiday.

Spring Cleaning

The rear of our house in Derbyshire faces south, and so eCheck Spellingnjoys all the sun there is. We installed a patio/terrace some years ago when I built the pond and since then its been extended as we've developed the "garden room" as those trendy folk would have us call it. Anyway the thing is that despite all the sun, etc. we do get quite a bit (24 inches or so a year) of rain. And being in the Midlands, its dirty rain. The leaves on the bay tree get a black covering and need scrubbing before use, the terrace gets mucky and then over the winter starts to go green.

In previous years I've got the pressure washer out and squirted off areas, brushed them, etc. and frankly its hard work. I once did the whole lot in a long day and couldn't move for days. Yes I'm obviously getting old.
Anyway when I was walking Lulu a couple of weeks ago I spotted a van with Patio Cleaning emblazoned on the side. After the usual diligent enquiries a week later the deal was struck and the work commissioned. I have to say I was a bit dubious when the guy said it's take an afternoon, but he seemed happy with the deal so we asked him to get on with it!
He used a sort of hover mower rotary cleaner thing and it cleaned the slabs in no time, and didn't use any detergent which is important for the pond or spray water and muck everywhere either.
I don't know where he got the thing and have never seen one before but wish I'd bought one years ago!
We now have a sparkling paved area, pond wall and conservatory, all done in half a day by a bloke with the right equipment! Here's the finished job, just waiting for the return of the clutter. Brilliant. How easy was that!