Well, I’m back. So apologies to those of you who were suffering withdrawal symptoms caused by the lack of updates!

My sister spent three weeks with us, and as a result we had the opportunity to do a lot of things we would not normally have done; like visiting castles in the area. We’ve been to Chambord, Chenonceau, and visited the Game Fair in Lamotte. The latter was a bit of a disappointment really, as the majority of the exhibitors seemed to be advertising safaris to Africa (which, as you can imagine, is really “old hat” for us). We also visited the French Open Equestrian event where we watched various things like show-jumping and dressage.

We went to Sancerre for the obligatory wine-tasting, as well as taking a stroll around the town itself. The planetarium/radio telescope array in Nancay was quite interesting although not really geared for foreign tourists; all the displays being in French. For once I found myself in the role of translator, so my French is obviously not as poor as I thought. Actually, thinking about it, all the places we visited – with the exception of Chenonceau – did not cater for non-French-speaking tourists. Chambord offered an iPad-type thing (for a fee, of course) which enabled you to select a foreign language; but all the notices on the displays were in French only.

Another day trip saw us going all the way to Burgundy to visit a mediaeval castle which is currently being constructed. Er, that sounds a bit odd. If it’s currently being constructed, how can it be mediaeval? Well, it’s actually a castle which is being built using construction methods from the 13th Century. This is the largest experimental archaeological construction in the world. The castle is called Guedelon, (http://www.guedelon.fr/en/) and the BBC actually did a television series about it. If you happen to be in the area I can recommend going there; we’ll be going back again!

One little job I managed to do whilst my sister was here, was re-install the electric fence around the horse paddock field (as well as cutting the grass of course). This turned out to be a bit of a waste of time, because once again, our paddock field is devoid of horses this year. We had informed the administration at the Equestrian centre in Lamotte regarding the availability of our paddock, and we actually had one enquiry regarding the stabling of a pony. But nobody actually turned up. And yes, we did try advertising its availability online on Leboncoin.fr, a French site for classified advertisements. Unfortunately our advertisement was removed because we’re not a registered business specializing in paddock-hiring. Another example of the weirdness of the French system. So if you know of anyone visiting France with their horse, point them in our direction!

Speaking of horses, the horseflies have been out in force this year. My sister contributed some of her expertise in handbag-making in order to repair one of the two horsefly traps which had come apart. The plastic skirt (pictured here : horseflytrap) has now been re-made using an eyelet tool (the thing that is used to put the holes and eyelets in shoes for the laces). And it is a much more effective and long-lasting join than the duct tape I had previously used. The diameter of the skirt has been enlarged as well, as Horsefly Trap Version 2 now uses a child’s plastic hula-hoop.

With the very hot weather we’ve been having recently it’s been a major effort to get anything done, especially in the afternoons when all we want to do is snooze. However the advantage of all this sunshine is that the solar panel is maintaining the temperature of the thermal store at around 60 degrees : free hot water. We’ve also been to the DIY place BricoDepot in order to purchase the windows for the bathroom. Now I need to make a couple of formers in order to cast reinforced concrete lintels; once these are installed I can then create the openings for the new windows. I also treated myself (courtesy of a present from my sister) to a planer/thicknesser, which will be put to good use smoothing the wood extracted from old pallets.

Apparently there are currently water restrictions in place due to the lack of rain. It’s fortunate we have a borehole, so we can still water the garden. Next week I intend taking advantage of the low water level in the pond, to repair the one remaining eroded area next to the fence.

Also, my stock of beer has been depleted somewhat, so I currently have another batch brewing. It should be ready in time for our next visitor, friend V. She lives in Paris and has stayed with us before as a bit of a break from the city. We’re planning on taking her to see Guedelon castle – it gives us an excuse to go back; and this time we’ll try the mediaeval restaurant food. When we visited various attractions with my sister we took our own sandwiches. The price of food and drink in these touristy places is horrific. For example, €3 for a can of Coke which costs a mere 48c in a supermarket.

In other news, the tiles have now been installed on the roof of the rebuilt garage at the aged FIL. And Mrs. Bunny had her smallest litter to date; 4 kits. They are now eating their little heads off, so we’ll soon be separating them from their mother. Then she can go back to Neighbour J to visit Mr. Bunny again. As for her previous brood, only two females are left. All the others are in the freezer.

On the To-Do list for next week is a visit to a town near Tours. Called Saint-Avertin, it is apparently THE place to get travertine tiles (for the barn floor). We’ll see what we can find…

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