I bought a soil test kit a few weeks ago from Amazon, and on Thursday last week finally got around to taking a couple of samples from the garden. At least we’ll be able to determine whether the soil is acidic or not, and how much more rabbit poo is required. Unfortunately the weather was not letting the soil samples dry properly, so yesterday evening I put them in the oven to dry out. Tomorrow I’ll have a look at the pH reading.

This morning we fetched a parcel from the Post Office – it was my chainsaw chain sharpening machine! Yesterday after we returned from Weldom I filed the depth gauges down a bit – they were still in factory-supplied condition despite the fact that the aged FIL had sharpened the chain cutters to less than half their original length. For the uninitiated, when you sharpen the chain of a chainsaw, not only do you need to file the cutters to leave a nice sharp edge, but you also need to check the height of the anti-kickback depth gauges – if you don’t do this, your chain can be as sharp as you like but it won’t cut butter.

I’m please to report that it now cuts through wood with great rapidity, leading to less wear and tear on both saw and operator!

Unfortunately at 3pm the heavens opened again, putting the kybosh on our plans to have a barbecue tonight. Fortunately we always have a plan B, and LSS had fired up the wood stove in order to make one of her special dishes, a corned beef pie.

Around 4 pm I suddenly remembered it was our wedding anniversary. Fortunately LSS had forgotten this as well, so I wasn’t in trouble. 7 years as a married couple, and 14 years together in total – my, doesn’t time fly!

Today’s wildlife diary: zero sightings of anything due to the rain, but I did notice that some rabbits had been digging holes in the field opposite the house.


At last, some progress. Not without some minor mishaps; but progress nevertheless.
The day started as usual; raining. Still, we had to be at the Honda dealership in Blois at 09h00, so by 08h00 we were suitably dressed and on the bike, ready to go.

Unfortunately we only covered about 50 metres before the mishap. In order to get to a tarmac road, we have a farm track to negotiate. Although this is a public road (and presumably maintained by the public purse), it’s not much used; with the result that it’s covered with grass. Rain + soil + grass = very slippery surface.
Rain + soil + grass + motorcycle = motorcycle lying on its side on the grass. Now lifting a nearly 300kg motorcycle from the horizontal position to the vertical requires a special technique, which involves planting your bum in the middle of the seat and using your leg muscles to right the motorcycle. I’ve done this before successfully, but never on grass. Unfortunately grass does not provide a decent surface for the grip of motorcycle boots, so I was forced to use more back muscle than leg muscle. So as a result, I’m typing this sitting precariously upright on a hard chair, as sitting in any other position hurts.

Anyway, with the motorcycle the right way up again, we proceeded slipperily (that’s not a word but it should be) along the grassy track at less than walking pace until we finally reached the tarmac surface. Unfortunately the tyres didn’t seem to have much grip for the first few kilometres, so we proceeded at a very sedate rate. Once we got to the Honda dealer, we handed over all the paperwork which Honda France had sent us. They wanted all sorts of details; make and model of the spark plugs and ignition leads, type and size of tyres, exhaust part numbers, headlight part numbers, indicator part numbers, stop light part numbers….. the list went on and on – I kid you not.

Fortunately the chap behind the counter took pity on us. “Look,” he said. “If I write down all the part numbers like they’re asking, you simply won’t get a Certificate de Conformité at all. Because, for example, you’ve got Avon tyres fitted. They’re not the make specified by Honda, which is Bridgestone. You don’t have Honda exhausts; you have custom-made stainless steel ones. Which I can quite imagine will last a lot longer than the ones fitted by Honda, but are not the type that Honda specify. So, as we happen to have a standard ST1100 in the workshop, what I’ve done is taken the part numbers from that and written that on the list. However, you will need to have the headlight changed. Although the beam of yours is not deflected to the left but a straight-ahead type, the French requirements are that the beam is deflected to the right.”

Suitably grateful, we made another appointment for next Friday to have the work done. (Now a simple thing like changing a headlight I could of course do myself. “Oh no you can’t,” they exclaim. They need to stamp a different piece of paper stating that the work has been done in an approved dealership.)

The trip back home was much better; although it was still raining at times the tyres seemed to have cleaned themselves up and had much more grip, so the trip was obviously much more enjoyable.

Once we got back to the grassy track though, I made LSS get off and walk for the last 50 metres. The added weight at the rear would probably have provided more grip, but I thought I’d try negotiating the tricky section without a passenger. This was fortunately carried out without any further incident.

After a peaceful lunch, we drove off to Aubigny to visit Weldom. Again.

This time, the manager was in, and greeted our request for a discount with the customary intake of breath through pursed lips. However, after some inconsequential chatting about how bad things were in France and the state of the world in general, he mellowed a bit, and the result was that not only were we able to actually pay for our order, we got a discount which was the equivalent of having free delivery, and everything has been promised for Monday 14th.

We may finally be able to get some work done!

(P.S. No wildlife diary today, simply because we weren’t here most of the time!)


Sunshine at last! Lots of lovely sunshine.

Today’s wildlife diary: those bloody cuckoos are starting to get on our nerves. We’re hoping the cat will sort them out but no luck so far.

The morning didn’t start too well. The LSS called Weldom again and was put through to several different people, none of whom had any knowledge of the quote we’d requested. Finally she managed to speak to the original youth who took our order, and whilst on the phone to him she received the quote by email. Obviously he’d forgotten to hit the “send” button last week and had hurriedly remedied this oversight.

We checked the quote and were pleasantly surprised that everything appeared correct. Now for the next challenge; paying for it!

LSS called Weldom back and spoke to the youth again, offering to give card details over the phone so that the order could be placed.

“Ah, non.” Shock, horror! “You want to do what? Pay for it over the phone? Ah, non, we can’t do things like that here. You need to send us a cheque.”
At this point LSS lost patience. To cut a long story short, we’re going to have to go to Aubigny tomorrow to physically put the card in the card reader in order to pay for the goods. The good news is that the manager will be there tomorrow, so we are going to have STERN WORDS with him and demand a discount.

We were then surprised by the arrival of LSS’s cousin and nephew; they had dropped in to visit the aged FIL and he had (once again) complained that yet more plugs had stopped working. As they couldn’t find the key to the “office” containing the electricity mains switch, they came to ask where it was. It turned out it was in the usual drawer in the kitchen, but they had missed it.

A further visit to the upstairs space revealed yet another junction box with a loose connection. I stayed well out of the way.

I took the advantage of the visit by digging around in the toolshed to find a chainsaw sharpening guide (the metal bar to file the anti-kickback links). I managed to find one, but I think it’s for a different size chain. Sigh. More internet ordering I think.

We then drove to Brinon so I could collect my new bank card and chequebook. I was able to use the card, but still can’t check my account online as I’m still waiting for the login details.

As we were in Brinon, LSS took the opportunity to visit the aged FIL’s doctor to renew one of his prescriptions and have a chat about his condition (that of the aged FIL, not the doctor). The outcome was positive; the doctor said that the aged FIL should not be living in his current conditions but should instead be in a retirement home where he could have proper care. So that particular branch of paperwork is the next thing we’ll need to tackle.

Because the ST1100 is booked in to the Honda dealership in Blois tomorrow for an examination to determine whether it is a legal vehicle for French roads, I wheeled it out of the barn this afternoon to check that it was ready for the trip. I discovered that the back tyre was flat, as I’d managed to pick up a screw in the tread. It must have been on the trip down because the head of the screw had been worn shiny. Fortunately I always carry a tyre plugger on the bike so I soon had the puncture repaired. The bike was extremely dusty as well; it’s been parked in the barn for a month! We managed to find our hosepipe reel, but had an entertaining twenty minutes looking for the plastic connector which connects the pipe to an ordinary tap thread. Eventually we found one, connected the hosepipe to the ballon (the one which you have to switch on the pump for every 5 minutes) and gave it a wash. LSS decided to wash all the mud off her car as well; the roads leading to the property are farm tracks, and with all the rain we’ve had they’ve become quagmires. I’m pleased to report the sides of the car are now once again green instead of mud-brown.

P.S. For those of you who contacted me about yesterday’s post in which I mentioned having a couple of glasses of wine, and how did I reconcile this with being as self-sufficient as possible without spending any money, I didn’t buy it. The late MIL (Mother-In-Law) was a compulsive shopper (there is a name for this disease but it escapes me at the moment). Anyway, we discovered some wooden boxes in a disused outbuilding at the aged FIL’s property. They contained bottles of plonk, (I won’t call them wine) all at 1997 bargain-basement prices, and all with the distinct possibility that they had become bottles of vinegar. (The late MIL hardly ever drank wine, and the aged FIL has said he won’t touch them).

So, you understand, for health and safety reasons we need to make certain whether they have turned into vinegar or not.

So far, not.


I kept thinking I should start a blog. The ideas flow thick and fast as I get through my first evening glass of wine, but by the time I get to the second glass I can no longer be bothered. However, today’s the day I finally start. I’ll need to do some retrospective entries to explain how we got to this current state of affairs, but that will be for another day!

Today’s wildlife diary: 1 roe deer. And the three pheasant. Again. And the two cuckoos are still calling.

Today was yet another frustrating day regarding doing any DIY. LSS (Long-Suffering Spouse) phoned Weldom again to check the status of our quote. Unfortunately the only member of staff that deals with quotes had gone home, having worked this morning. Well, France does have a 35-hour week of course. So we have nothing to report on the getting-the-house-liveable front. We’ll have to phone again tomorrow.

Still, the good news is that the cat seems to have lost the two ticks she picked up last week. We noticed them on Saturday, and having been unfortunately a bit slack in the anti-tick and anti-flea regime for the past month, we had to take drastic action and put some of that spot-on stuff on the back of her neck. This time she didn’t go into a scratching frenzy like she did the first time we used it, so maybe she’s getting used to having Fipronil coursing through her system. It also stands to reason that today was the day they decided to die and drop off, because this morning we bought a tick-remover tweezer thingy from the chemist. Oh well, we’ll be ready for the next lot.

Even buying a new chainsaw guide bar was a problem today. The local chainsaw-and-general-agricultural-equipment shop didn’t have the right size in stock and would have to order it. Back home, I managed to find one online from a shop in Alsace, at 2/3 the price I was quoted locally. Even with added postage.

Today’s post consisted of a letter from HSBC telling me my pin for the new card which they had now received, and saying I could now collect my card in the local branch. French official correspondence is amazing; it has not evolved since the 17th century! The letter concluded: “We pray you agree, Madam, Sir, with the expression of our most distinguished sentiments.” I think even Charles Dickens would have said “Huh?”

(For the purists out there, here’s the actual wording:
Nous vous prions d’agréer, Madame, Monsieur, l’expression de nos sentiments distingués.”)

Oh yes, I also ordered some ecological fly-traps online. From Ebay this time. Well, that’s another thing you can’t buy locally. I’ve noticed that now the weather has started to warm up, there are more and more of the little buggers around. The thing is, there aren’t too many of the flies at the moment, but they breed like, er, flies.

We just finished our dinner of turkey leg stew, reheated on the kitchen range. It’s a cantankerous old thing, a Rosiere by name. (The range, not the turkey leg stew). According to the chimney sweep, “they go on for ever!” Oh no they don’t, mate, because the aged FIL’s (Father-In-Law) gave up the ghost just before winter, and it was a more modern one than this old thing. He had electric heaters going in every room all winter, and we’re all waiting with anticip…..ation for the electricity bill. We’re taking bets on it being bigger than the Greek national deficit.

This afternoon, as it had finally stopped raining, we tried lighting the pile of brambles in the garden. We’d been eyeing this with distaste for several days, waiting to get our revenge. Unfortunately we discovered that the pile was still too wet to burn, even with the application of some petrol. So we’ll need to wait a bit longer.

Oh – and one other thing; after dinner, LSS asked “Would you like an apple?”
“Yes please”, I replied.
It was a good job she looked twice before handing it to me, as it happened to be a turnip.


When I was small, and Christmas trees were tall… (the first of May always reminds me of the Bee Gees, don’t ask me why, but time has passed us by.)

Wildlife diary: Three pheasant (the cock bird with two hens in tow), the roe deer, and a surprise! I happened to glance out of the kitchen window beyond the pond, and saw what I thought was a dog lying in the long grass. The swift application of the 10×50 binoculars which are now kept handily on the kitchen table revealed that it was in fact a young fox. A few minutes later it was joined by another youngster, and then Mum arrived. They obviously have television in their den tuned to the BBC’s Wildlife channel, because David Attenborough recently did a documentary on the polar bear.

Bear (hah!) with me a moment, I’ll explain. One of the articles described and showed the polar bear hunting seals, and bouncing heavily on the ice to break into the seal’s lair. Well, this is what one of the fox-cubs was doing. I didn’t see any seals, but I’m sure he thought they were there. The two cubs then chased each other up and down for a while until their mother was ready to take them off hunting. Strangely enough this entire episode was also watched by the pheasants, who were standing still in amazement. The cuckoos are still calling to each other.

This morning we paid yet another visit to the aged aunt of LSS to collect our redirected mail and have a much-needed shower. This time we came prepared, with a bottle of vinegar and some caustic soda. The shower head went into a small bowl filled with vinegar, where it stayed whilst we all had some coffee. Some of the caustic soda was sprinkled down the shower drain where it did a sterling job at increasing the rate of drainage. Now one can have a shower without having to jump around to get wet, and without the shower basin filling up with water. Well, the aged aunt is over 80, so at least there was something we could do for her!