A Winter’s Tale – David Essex

16.11.18 – 12.12.18

As mentioned at the end of my last blog, the garden work has happened. It’s been a long time coming! I’d always planned to take out the dead conifer hedge in the front garden. (The property is enclosed by walls, mostly about 10′ high, although some are higher). The wall in the front garden, for some strange reason, had had a conifer hedge planted in front of it. I hate conifer hedges with a vengeance. This hedge, like so many conifers, had died and because of years of neglect; brambles had grown through it, tree saplings had set themselves and grown to well over 12′, the azaleas had toppled and grown horizontally and masses of ivy had grown up the wall. So – Operation Digger! It only took one day the dig out the roots and pull up the old shrubs. Also, (thankfully) the hole where a rotted tree root (felled many, many years ago), has been filled in and I no longer have to fall in it when tortoise hunting! Since Operation Digger, my gardening lady, Sue, has cleared 95% of the ivy off the walls and I can begin to see a blank canvass. I’ve not really any idea of what to do with it all yet, but I think priority will be a new path. Also in the front garden is an old, de-funct air heat pump. This also has to be removed, but it’s not going to be cheap as only a specialist can do the job – there are refrigerant chemicals in the works. Just another 500€ at some point in the future.


I’ve been back to the UK. It was Owen’s birthday and I needed to see my Dad. I spent a couple of days sorting out my Dad’s spare room which had become a dumping ground for redundant equipment and deliveries of essential supplies. There are things in there that are no longer used and should go back to the NHS but apparently it cheaper not to have them back because they need cleaning and sterilizing. No wonder the NHS is losing money. I’m sure there’s a niche in the market there for someone to develop a business. What a waste. I also updated his clothes, bedding, PJ’s towels etc etc.  He seemed as well as could be expected, but it’s hard seeing him weaker and so tired.

I managed to catch up with one or two people; a good excuse for coffee and a meal out!

Louise managed a day off work on December 7th (Owen’s birthday) and he drove up to Grantham to celebrate his day. Because of train times and journey times we were slightly limited as to what we could do, but nevertheless it was a lovely day. Another nice meal out in the evening.

Travel was a bit overshadowed by the gilet-jeune protesters. I added extra time into my journey, knowing some people had been stuck in blockades near the airport. I wasn’t affected, but it was early morning for the outbound flight and the protesters were around but the roads were open Similarly on the way back, as soon as we landed someone said the A20 was disrupted, so I diverted through Limoges and avoided the problem.

I’ve bought a new phone. Dual SIM. Haven’t got it set up yet, as the new SIM issue is taking a little sorting out. And actually, even when I have them, I won’t have a clue how to do the set up. It’s probably going to be a long and painful Skype! Hopefully I will keep my old number. Current phone is on it’s way out (actually, it’s been on it’s way out for some time now).

In an attempt to reduce heat loss through my single glazed kitchen doors, I’m making a blind. I’m not at the end stage yet. The difficulty is going to be fixing a batten to the ceiling/walls (granite). Not at that stage yet – I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. My little helper has been sticking her paws in…….

Christmas plans have changed. I was hoping Louise and Owen would be here together, but travel costs are too high. So I’m not feeling very festive – don’t think I’ll bother with decorations this year. Feeling a bit Bah humbug.



















Autumn Leaves – Eva Cassidy

22.10.18 – 15.11.18

Autumn begins. The tortoise hunt begins. Please can someone invent a ‘where is the tortoise in the garden?’ tracking device? As we had snow one evening, about two weeks ago, I thought I should get the tortoises in and start their hibernation procedure. Surprisingly, I found Marigold first (possibly changing the name to Barry-gold, as we now think it’s a he!). The other one, Freddie, was no-where to be seen. The golden brown falling Autumn leaves, perfectly match her shell colour. My garden is about one-third of an acre, and I pretty much know where to look for them. They are creatures of habit. However, over a week, and probably more than 8 hours of searching, I couldn’t find her. A friend even came to help and I asked someone else to lend me an extra pair of eyes too. After desperately raking the leaves out from under the hedge, my back was aching, so I changed tact and walked round the front garden again. Guess what? I’d probably walked past her several times before, but she’d turned round in her hole and was moving to face outwards. If at first you don’t succeed………..  can you spot her in the picture?

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A family of 6 (older members, no children), booked in so they could visit the accordion festival at a nearby town. (http://www.chamberet-festival-accordeon.net/) The event was held over a long weekend of four days. My guests told me they would be back late/early morning, which they were for the first couple of nights. Not a problem; I always hear people come in late and then get up and put the lights out. The late timing (2.45 a.m.) was quite remarkable given that Grandpa, was actually 97 years old!! He even made it into one of the local papers! Lovely people, although I couldn’t understand their accent!!!


The weather is now beautiful. The colours on the tress are amazing, despite some gales on a couple of nights, the leaves have remained attached. This is the view from one of my attic windows.

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Nothing worse than receiving an official letter, telling you that if you don’t comply, you are subject to fines and imprisonment. So I summoned my courage and phoned, only to be told it didn’t apply to me. What a waste of postage. Twice. Blame Brexit.

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Major garden work starting soon……… watch this space.

Life Is A Roller – Coaster – Roland Keating

20.9.18 – 21.10.18

The last few weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster.


Sad times. There’s a Jaffa shaped hole in my life. My beautiful, old, companion died. He was 21 years old. He was also the little friend who was always there, regardless of ups and downs (and there’s been a lot of those). I loved him to bits and will miss him more than anyone can imagine.

On the nicer side of life: I’ve actually had a holiday. Part one, was a short visit to see a friend in the south of France. Completely different scenery, architecture and dramatic mountains. Bit of a drive, I’m pretty certain GPS took a longer route than needed, but we (Owen and I), enjoyed the trip. En route home we crossed the spectacular Millau bridge.


Part 2 was a week in Cyprus. Doing nothing. Sat in the sun and read a lot! Also won the hotel Bingo – ha ha! Never played before and won 80€ (meal out treat).


Part 3: spent a day in London with Louise. Lovely to see her flat and where she lives. Bit manic though – I must be getting old. Anyway, did some shopping, went to Greenwich, had our nails done etc etc.

Some of you may have read on Face Book that I have had special visitors in recent days. The 3 great grandsons of the original people who built and owned my house, came to stay. It was the first time they had been together here for 60 years. It was quite emotional for them and special for me to host them too. We talked a lot about the house and I have learnt many things about the property and how it was used (e.g. the current utility room was actually the main kitchen, which makes no sense at all!)B fam 1

I’m falling apart. My tooth had to be fixed (not great to go on holiday with a temporary filling which partly disintegrated). Also, finally had a large synovial cyst removed from my right foot. This didn’t quite go to plan either: the Dr couldn’t get the needle in to do the proposed spinal nerve block (‘local anesthetic’), so ended up having a general anesthetic and staying in overnight. My back hurt more than the main op! A few days of dressing changes by the local nurse should do the trick now.

Owen has returned to Suffolk for the time being. So extra quiet in the house now.


A bientot! Going to miss you being around xx














































The Ugly Bug Ball – Disney

1.9.18 – 19.9.18

Well I guess I should get this blog done sooner rather than later, as the next three weeks are going to be out of the loop. In fact, I hadn’t realised it had been three weeks since the last blog, I thought it was two. Time flies! Question is – can I remember what I’ve done in the last three weeks???! Probably not.

The mower problem wasn’t the tyres (as such) more the inner tube. This has now been fixed and the mower has gone to the local garden machinery shop for a service. Anyone want to buy two brand new tyres for a mower or go-cart?

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Visitors have included exotic animals, friends, family and a Workaway guy.  https://www.workaway.info/) Lovely to have them all here and also I’ve greatly appreciated extra pairs of hands. My scrubby garden is now cleared and looks a million times better (thanks Rhoddri). Ideally I think it should be rotivated next, but that is beyond my ability. The plan is just to grass seed it so all that has to be done is mowing. The big laurel hedge at the front of the house has also been cut and the view of the town is vastly improved!

A couple of surprise visitors  …..


Praying Mantis



It seems people still think my house is on the market. There is still a very old ad circulating online; goodness knows how old it is. I’m not selling! But it’s interesting to think people would want it. Should I say name your price?? Ha ha.

Loads more jam in the cupboard – peach this time. The peaches were windfalls and I’m not too sure how good the jam is, time will tell. I made peach, spiced peach and peach and vanilla. I also made watermelon jelly. I spotted some seedless watermelons in the supermarket; I don’t normally like watermelons because of the seeds, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve decided that I still don’t like watermelon – it’s obviously not the seeds that are the issue, it’s the taste! Anyway, rather than waste it, I looked up a million and one things to do with watermelon and tried the jelly. It’s quite fragrant and light. I’ll give it to some guests next breakfast and get their opinion. I might make some peach chutney, but I’m running out of time now before holiday. I’m also hoping to make green tomato chutney, maybe tomorrow if I can fit it in.

I attempted to pay my Tax Fonciere online this week – only to find a request for a sum of money for a person I’d never heard of in my personal space/online payment. Same surname, but he lived in the Charante region. So it was a trip to the Maire’s office; I spoke to two very nice ladies, but they had no idea why this other person was o my account either! They told me to call back next day, which I did, to find they’d enlisted the help of another person to solve the problem. After various checking and searching ID’s/spouses/names/dates of birth etc etc we’re hoping the problem is solved. Watch this space. (I wouldn’t object to paying the other guy’s TF if he pays mine – his was about a quarter of mine!).



























Let Me Sleep – Texas

19.8.18 – 30.8.18

Well the last two weeks of the main Summer season have gone with gusto. I thought last year was busy, but this year has surpassed that. I have just about managed to tread water and keep myself organized with food, washing and cleaning. In fact,this week has been quieter and I have actually managed to clean my own bedroom and the rest of the house. Catch up energy time. Friends and family arriving next!

For a little while now, I have been frustrated with some pretty pillow cases that match a Kath Kidston duvet cover I bought some time ago. The pillow cases were so badly made, they were skimped and twisted, I couldn’t even iron them flat. So I decided to dismantle them and re-vamp them using some other material that I have. The first trial didn’t go too well but the second one worked and I’m quite pleased with the result. No more squiffy pillow cases. I might even make another pair.

I’ve had a bit of a disaster with my ride-on lawn mower sale. I decided to re-advertise in a different place – the local supermarket. And someone phoned me. They came to look at it and said straight away that they would have it. As it had stood on the garage and not been used the tyres were very flat, but as I had a foot pump I said I could fix them. When it came to the day for collection, I realised that the tyres were so flat, they’d perished and split and couldn’t be inflated. I tried to phone the guy and explain but he still said they’d come and get it. I couldn’t put him off. But of course, they couldn’t move the mower, it was too heavy and after a lot of pushing a shoving and trying to put in/out of gear with/without the brake on, they gave up. Neither could I start the engine. I felt such a fraud. after they left, I borrowed a battery charger, but 24 hrs later, it still wouldn’t start. At which point, I put some petrol in the tank and solved the problem! The wheel problem wasn’t helped by the fact that the local repair man in town was on holiday for 3 weeks. However, I now have two new tyres, purchased on ebay and efficiently delivered, ready to be put on. I offered the guy his deposit back, but he still wants the mower. Hopefully it will be sorted this week! (and while all this was going on I managed a double booking – arghhh. Fortunately problem solved pretty quickly).


The steam train made its final run of the Summer last week. Made me feel quite sad.

Not mentioned before, but I had a big issue with a couple of American guests earlier this Summer. They made a considerable booking some weeks before they were arriving; a booking that was financially excellent business for me. However, they only stayed one night and she said she couldn’t sleep on the memory foam mattress and that they were leaving. Which is what they did. OK, so everyone is entitled not to like something, I’m philosophic about that. The issue came with the booking company, who admitted to making a mistake on the cancellation policy and instead of charging the required 350€ from the guest, they didn’t and then said they were going to pay me 150€. I don’t think so booking dot whatyourname. After several phone calls and emails, it looks like I’m going to get the agreed refund. I’ll report when it arrives – watch this space.

Last but not least – I’ve booked a holiday. First one for over 10 years.














































Oh, What A Night – The Four Seasons

29.7.18 – 17.8.18

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It’s an early morning start today – a guest needed to be on the road as they have a long drive back to the UK; so up at 6.30 a.m. Everyone else is still sleeping. However, August has been its usual extremely busy month. The town has held a ‘festival’ this year – first one since I’ve been here. Festivals are common in French villages throughout the Summer. Eymoutiers seems to have finally caught up with the tradition. And with quite a launch! A large red and white tent was erected on the market square last weekend and this held most of the main events; other events were in the art centre etc. It seemed popular and one of my guests was the mother of a soprano singer who was part of the festival. It was good for the town, it brought in many tourists. For me, the downside was the lack of sleep for 4 nights, as the last event of the day started at 11 p.m. and involved very loud music until at least midnight – 3 a.m. on the last night.


Current state………..

When I moved into La Belle Maison, one of my finds in the attic was a very old sofa. It was covered in some manky loose cover, which, on removal, revealed an antique piece of furniture. Albeit, in need of restoration. Some time ago, one of my guests, who was an antique dealer, said she thought it looked in good condition and probably only needed re-covering, rather than stripping back and re-stuffing etc. Finally, I have found someone local who can do the job for me. As I plan to use the sofa in my dining room (next decorating job!), I’m going to have it done. Need to get my head around colour schemes now.

I took Owen to a Marche de Producteurs a few days ago, These events run in villages throughout the Summer. They are mainly social events, there is no British equivalent to compare them to really. People go along to the village, which will have set up trestle tables and benches under big awnings. You join the extensive queue, buy some meat (well, the carnivores do), take it to the BBQ area where it is cooked for you. Everyone sits down, with their bottles of wine, bread etc and eats together. Often there is music – French accordion is very typical. It’s good fun. Owen enjoyed it; we were invited back for coffee. It was a great evening – enhanced by the fabulous weather.

I’ve been trying to track down some typically French gypsy jazz (??) type music. I’m not having much luck, as I’m not sure of the genre and I certainly don’t know the names of musicians that I can reference to. At the moment, I’ve ordered a cd of the soundtrack of the film ‘Chocolat’* It’s not exactly what I want, but a few of the tracks do fit the bill. *One day I intend to visit Flavigny -sur-Ozerain, the location where the film was made.

Have a listen….. (hope the link works)


Oldie cat Jaffa has been poorly. I’ve had him to the vet’s a couple of times in the last 8 weeks. The problem is not so much his thyroid, but his teeth. His teeth and gums are in a bad condition and he can’t eat at times, he’s in so much pain he won’t look at food. And with his condition, the one thing he needs to do is eat. I thought the vet might say there wasn’t anything he could do and we’d have to make a decision. (There’s no way Jaffa could withstand an anesthetic at his grand old age – almost 21). However, the cocktail of antibiotics and anti inflammatory worked and he’s picked up on both occasions.

I’m thinking back to a year ago: my party! It was such FUN! So many friends, terrific band (The Honky Tonk Men) and,as far as Owen was concerned – plenty of profiteroles!

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Bon appetite!



Congratulations – Cliff Richard

12.7.18 – 28.7.18

It’s so hard to work in this heat! As in the UK, temperatures here have been top 20’s/30’s over the last couple of weeks. I resorted to to doing my ironing at 10 p.m. with the fan directly on me. It was quite refreshing actually, I got piles done. Literally.

Louise’s flatmate, Helena came to stay for a few days, on a Workaway basis. It was great – we even managed to strip the wallpaper in the utility room (or rather Helena did) AND she re-organised and tidied everything. Nice brown paint underneath. Not. The utility room in my house is always the most untidy room – the place when everything gets deposited. Hopefully now I can plan ahead a bit and decide what I’m going to do with it; I’m thinking maybe an office/study.

We made the effort to go to a couple of places in the evenings. Owen took some great pictures of the sunset at the top of Mount Gargan. One of my favourite places.  http://www.tourisme-hautevienne.co.uk/node/38 


The weekend of July 13 – 15th, was a very hot, busy and noisy weekend. On Friday 13th the town put on a concert, a tribute act to the late French rock star, Jonny Halliday. (Probably the French equivalent to Cliff Richard). I think it took longer for the sound check than the actual performance. If he said un, deux, ehhhhh once and sang about 4 bars of a song once, he must have done it about fifty times. Hilarious.


Saturday 14th July was of course, Bastille Day, with all the usual events – huge vide grenier (car boot) throughout the town all day, music, bar and fireworks in the evening.


And Sunday ……….. World cup football final. We watched it on a big screen in the grounds of a nearby hotel. (Well watched is a bit of an exaggeration, I couldn’t actually see anything because the sun was too bright). It was a good atmosphere. Celebrations – music, singing, air horns, car horns etc going on until at least 3 a.m. I was well in bed by then, trying to sleep.I guess there were a few hangovers in the morning! Allez Les Bleus!

I’ve discovered a new place to eat in Chateauneuf La Foret. It’s a place I’ve been meaning to go to for a while, so finally went with a friend the other weekend. Not knowing the set up there, we sat waiting in the shop part, wondering where everybody else was – turned out we were supposed to go through the shop and kitchen to the court yard behind! Anyway, great meal and pretty set up. Will definitely be going there again.   http://www.ziboinboin.com/

More jam – this time damson. Just picked up the windfalls and made 3 big jars. The tree is laden, so there’s going to be plenty this year.


New website – Owen’s re-vamped things. (Still got a bit of tweaking to do, but it’s much fresher now). Good work O! http://www.labellemaison.net/

WOO HOO – EXCITING NEWS!!  How did I forget this big piece of news??  (probably because I wrote the blog at gone midnight last night!).  La Belle Maison has a mention in a travel book!) German guests booked because of it! The translation goes along the lines of…  “the name of the guest house speaks for itself, it’s really wonderful. The same can be said of the guest rooms, one is very chic the other is grand and noble with antique and detailed furniture.”