Time: 08:30. The Weldom van arrives! With our missing gutters from yesterday.

Unfortunately this meant that I was no longer able to pontificate at length to LSS explaining the exact procedure for installing guttering. Instead, I was forced to actually get on with the job.

Despite several showers of rain (“Oy! Do you mind waiting until the gutters are installed?”), I am pleased to report that half of one side of the house is now gutted guttered. This was the easy section, as the roof is very low on this side. I didn’t even need a ladder.

Tomorrow (after our weekly shopping trip) we will tackle the slightly higher section of the roof.

At least we don’t have to water the garden this evening.


So, the Weldom delivery was due at 11:00. LSS went to do the aged FIL’s washing whilst I cleared a space in the outbuilding-which-will-be-the-garage for the guttering and accessories, making a table from a wide plank of wood across two trestles. This is to store the lime until it’s ready to be used for the plastering; the earth floor tends to be a bit damp!

Well, 11:00 came and went, and at 11:30 LSS phoned them.
“Oh, we’re terribly sorry, we forgot all about you. We’ll try delivering tomorrow.”

So, dear Readers, if you need to do any DIY in France, don’t go to Weldom.

Steaming lightly from both ears, LSS stomped off into the garden, taking out her frustration on the few remaining weeds, which didn’t stand a chance. After lunch, we drove into town to post a couple of letters, buy a few more seed potatoes, and visit the aged aunt to collect our redirected mail. No shower today, because we had a bath yesterday. No point in overdoing these things, is there?

On the way back, we stopped at the town’s retirement home to collect some forms for the proposed future re-homing plans of the aged FIL. Back at home, LSS then phoned the borehole digger, as it had been a month since we enquired about getting a quote for our own borehole water supply. At the time, we were told that the earliest he could visit us would be some time in June! This has now improved slightly, and we may be able to get a visit towards the end of this month. LSS then called Weldom again to see what time they would be delivering tomorrow, and was told that the van was now ready and would be leaving in ten minutes (this was just after 5 pm). Sure enough, the van arrived within the hour. Finally! We have our guttering!

Or so we thought until the driver opened the back of the van. The only missing items were, in fact, the gutters.

Profusely apologetic, the driver promised to return with the missing items first thing (9 am) tomorrow morning. We’re not holding our breath.

Wildlife diary: 4 fox-cubs playing together in the lane. I was walking to our postbox to post a letter; they disappeared rapidly into the undergrowth as I approached. Oh yes, there’s a rather nifty postage system here. The inside of your letterbox has a small round bi-coloured dial, white and red. If you need to post a letter, you just put it inside your postbox and turn the dial so that the red part shows through the little plastic window. When the postman delivers your mail, he takes the letter. As long as you’ve remembered to put a stamp on it of course!


Today we planted the fruit bushes, strawberries and tomatoes that we bought yesterday. I’ve noticed that rabbits are now trying to assist our house renovation plans by excavating a cellar under the house. However, as they did not request planning permission from us, I regret to advise that these digging operations must cease forthwith.

I had noticed that the aged FIL had a live “humane” rabbit trap in one of his outbuildings, so after visiting him, we brought that back with us. A careful examination revealed that, even though a bit rusty, it still worked. Unfortunately we don’t have any carrots, so I have just set it up empty in front of one of the rabbit holes in the hope that this particular rabbit will be a bit curious. Or stupid. Or both.
“What’s this thing?”
“Can I eat it? No, apparently not.”
“Can I walk through it? Oh yes I can.”
“Oh bugger.”

I also brought back a couple of tall metal poles, as LSS has been requesting a washing line for a while now. I dug a fairly deep hole for the first one, set it up, and anchored it to a metal stanchion with some fencing wire. Then I attached the washing line. Unfortunately I then discovered that the distance from the metal post to the side of the outbuilding (where I had drilled a hole and mounted a steel eyebolt) is 10.17 metres. Length of washing line? 10 metres. Oops. Still, I used some more fencing wire to make good the shortfall. We’ll see if we can buy a longer washing line the next time we’re in town.

Wildlife diary: I returned from the half-finished washing line installation to discover an adder (Vipera berus) trying to get in under the kitchen door. It was a juvenile, only about 15cm long. I picked it up with the ash pan and brush, and carried it to the back of the garden where I threw it carefully into the long grass.

It was very windy again today, so once again we carried the bathtub into the kitchen for our Sunday wash.


LSS visited the aged FIL to try and get him to walk a few steps, with the hidden agenda of doing some washing at the same time. Whilst she was gone, I positioned the newly-assembled scaffolding underneath the hawthorn tree next to the outbuilding-which-will-eventually-be-the-garage with the aim of trimming a couple of the upper branches, because they were growing into the garage roof.

Ooh, I don’t like working at heights with a chainsaw. Still, I took my time and am pleased to report that the garage roof is now branch-less.

In the afternoon we went into a shop called “But” in Romorantin. We had received some advertising pamphlets in our postbox, and had noticed that they had a special price on a gas oven. Now the one currently in the kitchen is falling apart with rust and only has two gas burners. The other two burners on the hob are electric, as is the oven. Now my Mum had a gas hob-and-oven when I was growing up in South-West-Africa, and in my opinion it’s a much more cost-effective method of cooking than using electricity.

Visiting this shop restored our faith in shopping; as the experience was exactly what we wanted. We went in, and saw the oven. A sales assistant came over. “May I be of assistance?”
“Yes please, we’d like this oven. Do you have any in stock?”
“Yes we do. Will you be taking it with you today?”
“Yes we will. And we need one of these connector pipe thingies to connect it to a gas bottle.”
“Certainly, I’ll just print your invoice, you pay at the cashier, and your order will be waiting for you at the counter marked ‘Despatch’ outside.”

Marvellous. Now at last we can finally use all those recipes which say “heat oven to gas mark 5”!

On the way home we popped in to a garden centre, and ended up buying some fruit bushes and other plants. Blackcurrants, redcurrants, strawberries, raspberries and tomatoes. And sundry vegetable seeds.

Finally, even though it was a bit windy, we had a barbecue. Pork chops this time, and they weren’t tough!

After dinner, LSS lit the gas burner on the old cooker hob in order to heat some water in the kettle for the washing up. Several minutes later, an odd smell was starting to permeate throughout the kitchen.

“Can you smell burning plastic?” I asked.
“Yes, now that you mention it,” LSS replied.
Noses twitching like bloodhounds, we finally found the source. The dirty dishes and cutlery had been placed next to the gas hob, with the plastic handle of one of the knives overhanging the heat source. Oops.

This week, LSS spent considerable time during the weekly shopping trip selecting things for the aged FIL that she thought he’d like to eat, having previously asked him if he fancied anything special. “No,” he replied. “I’m not fussy.”
Unfortunately, this turned out to be more or less a waste of time.
Some bananas. “Non. Take those away, I won’t eat them.”
A minute steak. “Non, I won’t eat it. Take it away.”
A croque monsieur (toasted ham sandwich). He ate half of it, then decided it was too hot and didn’t want to eat the rest.
Ham? Too salty. Take it away.
Rillette (a sort of minced pork paste) – he used to like this. Not any more.
A pack of ‘Vache qui rit’ (Laughing Cow) cheese slices. He used to like these. Not any more.
Even when it comes to bread – he used to eat 8 loaves a week, now he only manages half a loaf. This is unheard of for a Frenchman.
A packet of grated carrots, perhaps? – ah, finally, success. He ate that.
Other than that, he’s not fussy. Still, we’re not complaining. Our ‘fridge is full.

One lot of foodstuff LSS discovered in the aged FIL’s larder was pots of jam. We presumed they had been purchased by the late MIL many years ago because the price labels were still in French Francs. We took these back to our house because the aged FIL isn’t supposed to eat jam (and this is another of those things he’s said he doesn’t want to eat).

So, breakfast time arrives, some bread is toasted, and we examine the first jar.
Label: Plum jam. It didn’t taste too bad for a 15-year-old jam, I suppose.
Several breakfasts later the pot was empty.
Next pot: Labelled Strawberry jam. Surprise! This was plum jam too. Oh well, we ate it.
Several breakfasts later, this pot was empty too. We then looked suspiciously at the third pot. However, this one was conspicuously labelled “La Confiture d’Amelie. Framboises.”
In other words, raspberry jam.
Oh no it isn’t. This one was plum jam too. We deduced that the late MIL had made a large batch of plum jam, and had run out of pots. Guess which jam we won’t be making for a while?


It didn’t rain last night, so the trip to the Honda dealership in Blois was without the slippery incidents of last week. We arrived just before 9:00, booked the bike in, and then sat and waited. And waited. And waited.

They had a radio station playing over the speakers installed in the showroom; and I wasn’t really paying too much attention until my subconscious mind suddenly said, “Er, what was that?”
I focussed on the music, and there it was again. A French band, who obviously thought it was cool to use some English words in the refrain of their song. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite “get” it.
“On veut du green, green, green, green, green, green washing
c’est nous les as les pinnochio du marketing
on veut du green, green, green, green, green, green washing”, they warbled.
I listened in amazement, and when we got back home I had to look up the lyrics on the Internet to be sure they had said what I thought they said. They did.

“We want some green, green, green, green, green, green washing.
It is us the number one Pinnochios of marketing;
We want some green, green, green, green, green, green washing.”

So there you have it; if you can make more sense out of it than I can please let me know.

Finally at 12:30 the bike was ready. Well, they were about to close for lunch, so of course they now wanted to get rid of us as quickly as possible. I was presented with the invoice.


The size of the bill meant they were obviously making up for being so helpful last week. 3.5 hours labour to change a headlight? I estimated it would have taken me 45 minutes. Tops. AND I could have found the headlight cheaper through my own website. But as previously mentioned, the powers-that-be demand that any work is carried out by an official Honda dealership, and they require duplicate stamped forms to ensure that this is the case.

However, interestingly enough, the hourly labour charge was 45 euros. Including VAT. In Britain, it was 75 pounds. VAT still to be added.

Just saying.

Of course whilst we were in Blois, Leroy Merlin attempted to deliver an order we’d managed to place online three weeks ago. (It was for some aluminium 5-metre scaffolding; as I’m going to be installing gutters on the house I didn’t particularly fancy trying to do this whilst balanced on the top rung of a stepladder; so decided to obtain a proper platform on which to stand.)

Having failed to find us at home, the delivery lorry drove to the village, and stopped at the first premises they came to (an agricultural supplies company) to ask for directions to the post office left luggage department. This is where our luck changed. The cashier/administrator/secretary knows LSS; so she told the driver that she would sign for the item, and they could just leave the (rather large) parcel there. She then telephoned our number, and left a voicemail saying we could collect the parcel at our convenience. This was incredibly helpful of her! I suppose this is one of the advantages of living in a small community – everybody knows everybody!

I spent the rest of the afternoon putting it together – it was one of those “Fold Flap A under Tab B and insert into Slot C before installing Bolt D” jobs. But in French of course. Still, the little pictures came in handy. It’s now assembled and at least looks like the picture on the packet. Whilst I was doing this, LSS planted more stuff in the garden including something called salsify which I’ve only ever heard of. I presume it’s edible.

Wildlife diary: Crickets have started making an appearance in the kitchen. They’re big black things, and seem to hop in through a hole in the doorframe. Of course they are swiftly helped outside again with the aid of the broom, but generally lose a couple of legs in the process. I know it’s just not cricket, but the message does not seem to have spread throughout the cricketing fraternity yet.

I’m pleased to report that the fly traps are now fully functional, and gradually filling up with drowned flies. However, flies are still coming into the kitchen. Strangely enough, there aren’t any in the aged FIL’s house. Mind you, this is probably because he never opens any windows. Not to avoid any flies entering the house, but because fresh air Is Something To Be Avoided At All Costs.


Once again, it has been a lovely sunny day. LSS has progressed with the garden and planted a couple of rows of King Edward potatoes which we brought over from the UK, and a row of French potatoes whose provenance has been lost in the mists of time. (In other words we haven’t a clue what sort they are). A row of carrots will also hopefully soon be pushing their leafy green foliage above the soil.

A couple of pots of specialised tomato seeds have also been started. Some yellow tomatoes with the unlikely name of “Yellow Stuffer”, and some which are apparently called “Black Russians”. Hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t name them.

I cut some more wood into stove-sized pieces, and then sorted out our outdoor bathroom, installing guy-ropes to keep the wooden posts supporting the army groundsheets upright in the face of the prevailing winds.

We celebrated today’s labours by having a bath in the late afternoon sunshine. It was absolutely great; and the breeze was pleasantly cooling instead of freezing our wet skin like it did recently.

In the dark recesses of the outbuilding-which-will-eventually-be-the-garage, I came across one of the aged FIL’s rifles. It takes .22 short cartridges, which explains the small metal container of these which I found when clearing out one of the cupboards. The rifle is a single-shot type, but the stock is a bit short for me; I guess he’d had it since he was about 14 or so. Obviously, like everything else he owns, it was extremely rusty. I checked that the barrel was clear, inserted a cartridge, held the thing at arms’ length, pointed it into the garden, cocked the hammer, and pulled the trigger.
Oh dear. Misfire. Surprise, surprise, not. Cocked the hammer again, and squeezed the trigger.
Sigh. Cocked the hammer again, and pulled the trigger for the third time.
Ah, ok. I’m afraid this thing would be more useful as a tool for knocking in fence posts. My .177 Diana air rifle would appear to be more powerful. (And more reliable. And more accurate. And there’s not a spot of rust on it even though my Dad originally purchased it in 1969, and I inherited it in 1980. Did I mention that I look after my possessions?)

The rifle has gone into the pile of other stuff which will be taken back to the aged FIL’s house, for him to do with what he wishes.

Today was finally Bramble Revenge Day. As it had been nice and sunny yesterday and today, I thought the pile of bramble debris was looking a bit drier, so went over to it, checked for any hedgehogs (sadly not) and lit a match. Whoof! They were certainly dry enough! In fact, as I’m typing, I can look out of the kitchen window and the pile of ashes is still smoking.

Tomorrow we’re off to Blois again to have the ST1100 headlight changed. Hopefully it won’t rain overnight – I took a walk along the access lane this afternoon to check if there was any post (there wasn’t) and the road is looking much less muddy and slippery than it was last week.

The thing I like about living in the countryside, especially after sunset, is the silence. Although if I’m entirely honest, it’s not completely silent. Yes, there are no traffic noises or neighbourhood hi-fi systems or televisions. But there is a constant “ribbit-ribbit-ribbit” from the frogs in the pond, the “chirrup-chirrup-chirrup” of the crickets, the occasional call of an unidentified bird, and the “squeeeeeeeech” of an owl as it contemplates whether it should deposit its snow-white guano offering onto the stepladder leaning against the internal garage wall, or onto the garden tools leaning up against the aforementioned stepladder. (This seems to depend on which way round the barn owl is perched on the rafter).

(Note to self: block up the holes in the eaves of the garage to prevent owls entering. There are several other outbuildings they could use quite happily, so it’s not as though it’s Owl Discrimination Month).

There are also a profusion of beetles around at present. Excluding the previously-mentioned Colorado beetle, these vary in colour from jet black, through irridescent browns and greens, to one particularly catwalk-conscious specimen which had an irridescent green body, and a bright, irridescent pink abdomen.

And the swallows have arrived! I saw one perched on our television aerial this afternoon. A couple of hours later one flew in at the open kitchen door and straight out of the open kitchen window, much to LSS’s surprise.


This morning we waited around for the nurse to visit the aged FIL for his weekly blood test, then went into town to get his prescription filled at the chemist. Although the aged FIL pays nothing for his medication (as it’s all covered by his health insurance), I’m sure his prescriptions are making a substantial contribution to the balance sheet of the local pharmacy. All I know is, my arms are getting tired from carrying the sundry bags of medicines from the pharmacy to the car each week.

Whilst we were in town, we did some food shopping; LSS posted off a cheque to Hyundai France for the Certificate de ConformitĂ© for her car, and I bought a 35kg bag of cement. Not lime mortar this time, but ordinary grey cement. Oh how excited I was with my purchase! I couldn’t wait to unwrap it when I got home. No, not really. That was a joke.

I need to make some concrete foundations for our rainwater recovery system, which will consist of 6 x 510 litre barrels. These will be connected together, but also need to be raised off the ground by about half a metre in order to make it easier to fill a watering can from the tap, or connect a hosepipe. I’ve decided that the barrels will rest on a platform of wooden planks – well, I say planks; they’re actually left-over roof trusses which I spotted in one of the aged FIL’s sheds. The platform will have three brick support columns, which means these columns will each need a concrete foundation because the soil is very soft and sandy. I calculate the total weight of the rainwater storage system to be in the region of 3.5 tonnes.

After a grey start to the day the sun emerged, so in the bright sunny afternoon we planted the elder trees we were given yesterday, and then LSS started the garden; sowing a line of lettuces and one of radishes. We’ve already encountered two of the pests with which we will have to deal; a cutworm (which I put in a plastic tray and left on top of a wooden barrel in the hope that a passing bird will find it an attractive snack), and a Colorado beetle. I was fairly sure it was a Colorado beetle, and doing a quick Internet search for photographs of said beetle revealed that it was, in fact, a Colorado beetle. They love potatoes even more than we do.

So we’ll need to keep an eye out for these little critters. Apparently you can buy a special preparation to get rid of cutworms; it consists of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. Not that we’re actually going to be able to find it here though. There doesn’t seem to be an effective control for the Colorado beetle; we’re hoping that planting rows of marigolds between the potatoes will encourage natural predators like ladybirds – although whether a ladybird larva will tackle a Colorado beetle is a matter which is still up for discussion. I suppose it all depends on how much roadwork and sparring practice it’s done.


As punishment for enjoying the lovely sunshine yesterday, we’re subjected to a day of constant rain. It seems that if we want to get any work done around here, we’re going to need to grow webbed feet.

We took advantage of the weather to go and visit the aged aunt to collect our redirected post and have a shower. After lunch, we paid a visit to a couple of people we have been meaning to see since we got here. Firstly the neighbour, J. She’s well over sixty, lives on her farm on her own, but seems quite content with life. When we arrived she was guiding two of her four cows into a different field with the aid of a stout wooden stick. A lifetime of work has left her somewhat bent, and she wasn’t particularly tall to start with; so in order to employ the customary French greeting method (kissing the cheeks) I almost had to kneel.

She has the most luxuriant moustache I’ve ever seen on a woman.

She offered us coffee, and after chatting away happily for an hour or so, we purposefully happened to mention that we had planted a couple of elder trees. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “You like elders? You must have some more. They’re an absolute pest here.” She led the way to an overgrown track at the side of the farm and indicated several young elder trees. “You’re very welcome to take these.” She eyed the spade in my hand. “Oh, good, you have a spade.” She eyed the metal washtub which LSS was carrying. “Oh, good, you have a bucket too. But that won’t be big enough. I’ll go and get some plastic bags.” She trotted off through the rain and returned with three large plastic fertilizer sacks. Shaking the rain off my hands, and then drying them surreptitiously on my jeans, I dug the spade firmly into the soil next to the first tree, nearly shattering my wrist as the spade hit major resistance.

“Ah, yes, there’s a road running all the way along here, just underneath the surface” she explained.

So we now have a galvanized bucket and three plastic bags of elders to plant. As soon as it stops raining, that is.

We then visited Friend F, someone with whom LSS had once worked. Last month we were in the village trying to sort out the domestic assistance for the aged FIL. LSS was using her mobile phone to speak to someone who had been exceedingly difficult to contact. Of course her mobile phone battery chose this particularly important moment in which to expire, so we dashed over to visit Friend F, to beg the use of her phone. Unfortunately once the phone call was over, we had to dash off somewhere else, so it was literally a case of “Thanks for the use of the phone, must dash, we’ll catch up later,” being called over her shoulder as LSS ran out of the door. By way of apology we took Friend F a bottle of home-brewed Elderflower Champagne, and we spent a couple of hours catching up with all the local news and LSS explaining everything that had happened since we’d arrived in France.

We arrived back home at around 9.30 pm. Still, at least we got some things done today despite the rain; not only do we have a bucketful of elder plants, we’ve also now put ticks next to all the names on our “people to visit” list.


So, France has a new President. Thank goodness we don’t have the TV connected. But the euro has decreased in value against the sterling, which is good news for us!

In today’s post we received our second quote for connecting us to the village water supply. The first quote was just under 10,000 euros. This quote? A few cents under 20,000 euros! It looks like we’ll be getting a borehole instead.

Oh yes, and the fly traps arrived in the postbox too. These are basically small plastic buckets in which you put some tasty (for flies that is) liquid bait, and then hang up outside. Apparently it takes 48 hours before they start to take effect.
Well, LSS had cooked some very old pasta which we were going to feed to the fish, and had left it outside to cool. About thirty seconds later, some twenty-odd flies had immediately drowned themselves in the hot liquid in the saucepan, so I’m starting to think we should have used the pasta as bait in the fly-traps instead.

Today the sun appeared for the first time in ages! So we were able to have our long-overdue barbecue this evening. However, even though the meat had been marinating for two days in readiness, it was still unbelievably tough! Tasty though. But did I mention it was tough? We won’t be buying that particular cut of beef ribs again. Well yes, all right, it was at a very reduced price. Now we know why.
Still, the toughness was alleviated by having three bottles of Martin’s Wallop between us. (This is the brand of our home- brewed beer, which weighs in at a respectable 6.3% ABV). This is a record, as we normally only drink two bottles between us. It must be the air here. Well, that’s my excuse.

LSS took advantage of the sunshine by driving the rotavator through the garden again this afternoon; it should just about be ready to receive the first seedlings/seeds. I think radishes and lettuces will be the first plant life to experience our pH-tested, rabbit-poo enriched soil.

With the trials and tribulations we’ve experienced with the aged FIL recently, LSS was starting to wonder whether we’d done the right thing, thinking she would have been better off staying with the small company for which she was working (she was the Sales Office Manager). Well, she received an email from one of the remaining staff there, saying the company would soon be closing its Reading office completely, making the staff there redundant, and moving oop North to Lincolnshire. So at least that took care of any remaining doubts she had!

Wildlife diary: On the way back from visiting the aged FIL, we saw a coypu. It leaped out of the water-filled ditch and ran for cover, then changed its mind, stopped, and stared at the car. Other than that, I’ve noticed that the rabbits have now started excavations under one of the outbuildings. I can picture the cute little fellows wearing little blue waistcoats, and tiny miner’s helmets complete with lamps, Peter Rabbit style.

Anyone got a ferret we could borrow?


This morning LSS visited the aged FIL again. He’s now being looked after three times a day, which has eased the burden on us tremendously. She managed to get him to walk from the bed to the kitchen; a distance of about 5 metres. Still, I suppose it’s progress.

Two days ago he decided that his diet should consist mainly of prunes, so unfortunately one of the carers had to deal with the inevitable result.

I analysed the soil from the garden and was fairly pleased to discover that the pH was 6.5 – slightly acidic, but nothing too serious. In fact potatoes prefer a slightly more acidic soil, so we’ll see how they do. Potassium levels are low, and so is the nitrogen level, so I think we need to dig a lot more rabbit poo into the garden, as well as planting some of the Leguminosae family (beans and peas – these add nitrogen to the soil). Phosphorous levels are in the high range, probably due to the aged FIL’s penchant for buying superphosphate in large quantities. See, that’s the thing I don’t understand. The farmers/smallholders of a certain generation planted vegetable gardens in profusion. But they were told that in order to get decent crops, they needed to buy lots of chemical products from the agricultural suppliers. If you added up the cost of all this stuff, and included the labour, it would actually have been cheaper for them to have bought all their vegetables from the supermarket in the first place!

Due to the rain this afternoon, we once again had a bath in the kitchen. So much for having a barbecue tonight.

Wildlife diary: The frogs are now out in force around the pond. Not much big game around today. I have noticed that when the sun is shining, the lizards frolic up and down the south-facing walls of the house. Most of them are tail-less, having no doubt had a close encounter with the cat.

We took advantage of a gap in between rain showers to examine a couple of large wooden barrels, which were originally used for storing cider many, many years ago. I removed one end of each of them by the simple method of tapping the wood gently with an axe, and we rolled them closer to the pond where they will probably fill up with rainwater in a very short time. The idea is that one of them will be used by LSS to brew some concoction of nettle soup (not for consumption, but as an insecticide/fertilizer for the garden). The other barrel will be used for holding any carp we catch once the weather has improved enough to go fishing. (I’m not that keen on eating carp straight from the pond as they taste somewhat muddy; hopefully if we put the freshly-caught fish into a barrel of clean rainwater for a few days this will help to get rid of the muddy taste. I think it’s worth a try.)