Here follows some anecdotes of life at La Montée Blanche. We moved here from Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in February 2013 following 10 years of preparation. The site is perched on top of a ridge which has three villages in a line – named red, white and blue! : La Montée Rouge, La Montée Blanche (white, us!) and La Montée Bleu. All three are close to the local town of Sauzé Vaussais about 50 km south of Poitiers.
A very great deal has happened since the last entry nearly 2 years ago! Main news of the moment is that the main barn which we had always hoped to renovate and move into is NEARLY FINISHED. Having waited 7 months for a French firm to start work (after paying them a hefty deposit) they turned up in March when we weren't here! The neighbours all rallied round to settle them in and a couple of portacabins later they even had accommodation to sleep and wash in. The team is Polish and boy have they worked hard. 3 months into the project we now have all the walls upstairs and downstairs completed with acres and acres of plasterboard and hundreds of yards of pipes and wires. We await the installation of the thermal heat pump driven underfloor heating, staircase and doors and we will be ready to move in .
Its cherry season with dark purple cherries dripping with flavour clustered on the trees. Raspberries and strawberries also much in evidence and the peach tree looks like it might have some decent peaches this year.
Tragedy on the chicken front. one of the 4 died unceremoniously a year or more ago and just recently a fox got in and murdered a second and kidnapped a third. We have re-inforced the traumatised fourth chicken with three new friends so she can enjoy a pecking order once again.
The High speed train line is finished on this section so no construction sounds during the day any more - we just wait ot hear what a 230mph train sounds like from 1km distance, but we will have to wait till 2017 for that!
Plums dropping off the three trees on our land ripe and ready for making plum crumble. Beans, chard, aubergines, onions and courgettes the latest offerings from the garden.
Clambered up on the roof of our barn to replace some tiles that had blown loose in various storms. disturbed a wasps nest and was suddenly surrounded by a host of dancing wasps all intent on ridding their nest of this pest. Amidst much thrashing of arms a fight ensued with serious casualties:
Wasps: Three fatalities;
Me Five stings (but I didn't fall off the roof)
Chickens are all laying an egg a day which makes 4 eggs every day for more or less free! We have a small field which we let a local farmer use to grow wheat and hey presto we get free bags of wheat for the chickens!!
Had Aubrey to stay this week! he is the son of a friend from Warwick - now a friend in his own right having given our dilapidated bread oven a hair cut. This sort of bread oven doesn't sit on the kitchen worktop but is in the garden and built of stone with a tiled roof. It used to be used by the village for community fetes in the year dot. They still have the right to use it and one day we will refurbish it but until yesterday it was covered in stinging nettles as tall as a man and suurrounded by enthusiastic hazel bushes. Hazel cannot be killed it appears. Various friends over a decade have tried to chop them back leaving little trace of life, but each time they bounce back with a smile on their faces. Aubrey leaves us for a more restful weeks holiday with his girlfriend's family a couple of hours South in Bergerac.
We were invited to our first "gouter" by our neighbours who have just had a new grandson in their family. The most important thing about a gouter is that it is at 4pm and in this case consisted of about 12 people sitting around a table and having champagne and cake for about two and a half hours. Very good for French development and very hard on the brain. Learnt that two of our neighbours had grandfathers who were brothers and one of those neighbours and a different neighbour had fathers who were brothers.
NIce spell of weather, cooler now after the heat wave of July. Work racing ahead on the new high speed train line being built 1 km away from us - huge 60 tonne "Tonka" trucks rushing across our country roads with only a sleepy man with a TINY red and green ( red on one side, green on the other) paddle as a safety precaution. He spins the paddle ambiguaously at every approaching car leaving you to guess whether you are likely to be mown down by an unstoppable force. Works finish on this Bordeaux - Tours line in 2015 with the first trains a couple of years later.
May, June, July,
Did loads of stuff, including zipping to and fro to UK to do some work with 130 Malaysian students for a Malaysian company that has been contracted to improve their employability skills. Amazing experience. Had a visit from Sarah's twin sister and her husband, mowed lots of grass, collected THE FIRST EGGS from our beloved chickens (one called Beyonce on account of her substantial bootie and the other three all Nandos as we can't tell them apart). JESS AND TOM visited bringing much happiness and joy to our lives. Also hosted about 20 members of Steve's family for various meals including the amazing Solly and Seth who just have to be seen to be believed.
Picked endless succulent cherries from our neighbour's tree (with his encouragement). Began to collect the benefits of the garden Sarah has created from a jungle including potatoes and lettuce.
A mixture of hot and not-so-hot days. Spring flowers have been very much in evidence and we went for a lovely walk through the woods which was full of bluebells, anemones and cowslips. A.A. Milne’s poem is very apt:
'In careless patches through the wood
The clumps of yellow primrose stood,
And sheets of white anemones,
Like driven snow against the trees,
Had covered up the violet,
But left the blue-bell bluer yet.'
The vegetable patch is now planted up with potatoes and onions and surrounded by a fence to keep out unwanted animals!
The renovations slowly but surely progress.
It’s been rather cold but we’ve had some warmer days towards the end of the month.
The dawn chorus starts our day and we’ve heard a cuckoo many times. Looking forward to Tweet of the Day starting to educate ourselves a bit more about the birds around us.
All our French neighbours have been very welcoming and one lent us his plough and rotavator to help us reclaim some land and dig a vegetable patch.
We were very pleased to have come across the Eglise “Maisons Vivantes” at Civray. They joined us for a freezing cold and therefore very short sunrise service on Easter Sunday morning followed by an English cooked breakfast!
Lamentations 3:22-23 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
We arrived on the 12th, furniture was delivered on the 13th and then off on holiday on the 16th courtesy of cheap flights from Bordeaux to Seville. We really enjoyed visiting a country we’d never been to before or knew the language of!
Returned to find very cold weather. The log fire looks pretty but a woodburner will be essential if we’re to keep warm next winter.
We have spent most mornings sitting opposite each other in the kitchen working on the computer and trying to keep warm – Steve working on TME charity stuff (www.tme.org.uk) and Sarah putting the cottage and mobile home on a holiday letting website (www.homeaway.co.uk - property number 1090619).
The first few days ...
Tuesday 26th Feb. Put our cottage (no 27) and one Gite live on a booking website - www.homeaway.com emptied the second bedroom of no 27 of furniture to finish of the decorations and went on an outing to see a 2nd hand bookshop but froze in the process. Weather due to warm up on thursday.
Monday 25th Feb. We have started on the new regime. First two hours on charity stuff (www.tme.org.uk) for Shtee and Website for our gites for Sarah. Two hours in the garden (although we scrapped this as there was snow on the ground) then after lunch two hours on property renovation of some sort. Mondays and Tuesdays we are following a fasting diet covered by Michael Mosely on a BBC programme some months back. This means limiting food to 500 calories each of the two days and feeling hungry. Apparnetly mice on this diet live 30% longer.
Sunday 24th Feb. Went to church for the first time - a small group of mixed French and English people meeting in a different home each week. We were VERY welcomed and stayed for lunch.
Saturday 23rd Feb Back after a week away from everything which was wonderful but in a part of Spain that was wet that week whilst France was apparently bathed in wall to wall sunshine. Ah well yer can't win them all.
Saturday 16th February 2013. SO upset by the unexpected tax bill that we think it is time for a HOLIDAY. Left Bordeaux for Seville at 9 am not intending to come back for at least a week........
Friday 15th February. Went to the local tax office in Melle to Pay 1 bill for Tax D'habitation only to be told we owed four bills for 2 x Tax D'habitation and 2 x Tax Foncieres total 1,700 Euros. THis is either wrong or else a gross miscalculation by us of what we thought we had paid.
Thursday 14th February 2013. Had our two friends Howard and Elizabeth over for lunch - our first visitors!!! THey live about 20 minutes away in Melle
Wednesday 13th Feb 2013 Furniture arrived in a large truck having been on the road since it was collected last Friday. Cheerfully unloaded by Taff and Mick including the Rolls Royce of chicken coops given to us by friends Chris and Sue just before we left.
Tuesday 12th Feb 2013 Arrived at about 9pm after a morning ferry from Newhaven to DIeppe and the 6 hour drive from there.