Saturday, 28 February 2009

MY KIDS LIFE IN FRANCE, the big move.

Life here in France is kind of....trying to think of an appropriate word....sleepy, if you like. It's very laid back, not so much of the hustle & bustle, and nobody is ever in a rush. That is something which can be a little frustrating at times; example, when your waiting to get served in a shop and the customer in front of you just wants to chat, trouble is the storekeeper chats back with absolutely no worries that there are other people waiting to be served. Whilst I'm tapping my foot in impatience, the french just wait without batting an eyelid. The kids love it here, and although they miss the family back in the Blighty, they prefer it here. They are all bilingual, which will be a bonus to them when they are older. They love French Cuisine, snails, frogs legs, mussels etc. They love the weather, it's very mild here in the Vendee, and the location of our house could not have been better placed. We live in a small village, about 600 inhabitants, but we are very near to the town, city and most importantly the beach.
It was a very big deal when we moved, I was absolutely petrified. We sold up everything, even the furniture, bundled the kids and suitcases into the car and headed for the channel Tunnel. The twins were just about 18 months old and the eldest was 5 years old, and we were headed to the south of France, in our clapped out car, to stay with my parents until we decided what to do. Yes, decided, I forgot to say that we made this move without a plan, nothing to buy, no work, no plan. There was a plan B, I always have a plan B, plan B was back to the drawing board!! Thinking about it, we must have been mad, raving bonkers even, but we did it and once we were on the road in France the reality of it all suddenly sunk in. What had we done? We had just sold up everything, and had no idea where we would live, what we would do or even what we wanted to do! We had the money from the sale of the house, but prices were going up at that time and in the south things aren't cheap, I suddenly felt very sick!
It was a long drive to the south, we had to make lots of stops along the way, for one to feed the twins but also to let the car have a rest, it had started to rattle since we passed Paris. By the time we reached Clermont Ferrand the children were getting very restless, so we had to endure repeated renditions of "The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round" for the remainder of the journey. I don't think I've ever been able to listen to that song since. It was dark when we finally chuntled our way through my parent's gates, we were all tired and hungry, but I sighed a sigh of relief and as I saw my dad come out to welcome us, I felt an enormous sense of security. Everything was going to turn out just fine.

Friday, 27 February 2009


Ah, the weekend at last! It's strange, the weeks seem to fly by but the days are long, and the weekend seems to take soooo long to come around.

The weather is very warm again today, I hope it's here to stay. The washing even dried outside, which it hasn't done for ages. I'm hoping that this is a sign we will have a good hot summer, for our customers sake mainly. Oh yes, just another couple of months before the GITE is up and running. There is still availability if anyone's interested! It's a lovely gite, (or HOLIDAY COTTAGE if you are unfamiliar with the french word), large and spacious, with all the mod-cons but at the same time keeping it's rustic appearance. It sleeps 6, 3 double bedrooms 1 with en suite bathroom, separate bathroom, very large kitchen/dining room and lounge. Satelite TV, DVD, PlayStation, dishwasher, washing machine it's got the lot. It also has it's private terrace & bbq and garden. Within the grounds there is a lovely private swimming pool. Anyway, enough blabbing about that, if you're interested see my post 05 February 2009 for photos and a link to our site.
So what to do this weekend. Have a lie in for one thing. The children want Mexican Fajitas, (not sure if that's spelt right), for dinner tomorrow night, mmm, nice but messy. I'd better write down what I need to buy as the last time I made those I used "the force" instead of a shopping list and forgot half the ingredients! In consequence I had to make it up, and substitute things so it ended up being nothing like fajitas. It was a bit like making Chili Con Carne but without the Chili and without the Carne, all you're left with is the CON bit, except that in Spanish, (or Mexican, whatever, it's all Spanish to me!), CON isn't even a foodstuff, it means "with", so basically, you then have to turn to plan B. I always have a plan B. In fact, the children are so used to me using "the force" that if they know I've been shopping, they may ask me when they get in from school, "What are we having for dinner tonight, mum, PLAN B??".

Thursday, 26 February 2009

HOLIDAY WEATHER OR EASTER BREAK, and when is Mother's Day?


Today in the Vendee is beautiful and sunny. It's warm and not a cloud in the sky. The children are all at school, so the house is very quiet and still. The only sound is the insects fluttering through the air, trying to find the warmest spot, and the birds twittering to each other in the trees. Look, a wasp, a sure sign that spring is on the way, and not a moment too soon

I guess that many of you are beginning to think about booking your holidays, if it's not already done. Or maybe an Easter break before the big vacation. We can't have summer holidays as we have a gite, and we have to be here for our customers on their holidays, people like you. Puts the children's noses out of joint a little, but we enjoy our family holiday in October. It's actually quite a nice time of year to go away, provided you choose your destination wisely. If you're thinking of holidaying in the Vendee, France, check out our holiday cottage, just click on the link:

Mother's Day is fast approaching, 22 March, and I just don't know what to get my mum. What do you buy for the person who has everything? Penicillin?? Only kidding! I'm trying to think of something different, different from the usual flowers thing, something that she can keep and won't die. Maybe I'll make something, my dad, (god bless), always said, "the best presents are the home-made ones 'cause it shows you've taken time and care". Mind you, I can guarantee she will be able to keep it but I can't guarantee that it will stay in one piece, I never was very artistic! What will you give your mum? I need some ideas!!!!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


So we've got the pancakes out of the way, thank heavens. But just when you think it's all over, just when you think you've got a short break before the kids start asking more things, just when you think you can walk around the supermarket without the "Can we have? Will you buy?", the stores are stacked with Easter Eggs! Really, everywhere you go there's temptation for youngsters, (and chocoholics), posters, eggs, bunnies, chocolates, and, exceptionally here in France, the chocolate bell & chocolate chicken, (never quite figured that one out!). Wait a minute! Easter's not until April! That's almost 2 months away, unless I'm stuck in a time warp or something. And to top it all, today is the first day of Lent, aren't we supposed to be giving up things like chocolate? It gets earlier every year, and so does the drain on my finances. I mean, they're not cheap, at least not over here, and in France you don't even get anything in the middle of the egg! I like stuff in the middle. I'm a stuff in the middle person. I remember when I was young rushing downstairs on Easter Sunday to see what the Easter Bunny had left for me. Ripping the egg out of the box and shaking it to see what was in the middle. My kids rush downstairs to see what the Easter Bell or Chicken, (?), has left for them. They too rip the egg out of the box and shake it. Unfortunately they just end up with broken chocolate! Never mind, they enjoy it anyway. Oh well, can't wait for the end of April, I suppose all the Halloween & Christmas gear will be filling the shelves then!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009




A little bird told me that Gmail is currently experiencing a few "technical errors". A lot of the system appears to be down, and there seems to be a bit of a panic on, as many people rely on Google mail for their work, or even just as their mail address. I noted that they have posted an up-date on their support page stating, "We are aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a number of users. The problem occurred during the night at approximately 1.30am Pacific time. We're working hard to resolve this problem and will post up-dates as we have them. We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused." So, for anyone requiring up-dates, check out the support page, but I'm sure it will be up and running soon. By the way, I've just checked my Gmail and mine is working, and I live in France.

Monday, 23 February 2009


So the Brits did very well at the Oscars, especially "Slumdog millionaire", I can't believe that was going to go straight to dvd, originally! And our lovely Kate Winslet finally got her Oscar, her dad must be so proud. And as for "Dancing on Ice", well, Ray & Maria did it again! What a performance, some truly amazing skating from a young lad who has never done it before, he's a natural.

The kids have gone back to school today...yippee...the holidays have drawn to an end. It was a bit of a shock to them getting up at 6.30am, (and me), after 2 weeks of lie-ins. They all complained, and it's a Monday which makes it worse. They should make the first day back at school a Thursday, then it wouldn't seem so bad. In fact, maybe Mondays should be abolished altogether! The weather today is glorious, I think it's warmer outside than in. This is typical as it was like this on Saturday, so we decided that we would go to the beach on Sunday afternoon. When we got up yesterday morning it was overcast, but the sun did come out at lunchtime. However, as soon as we arrived at the beach the sun did an about turn and the wind whipped up, and it felt cold. We had a nice walk, well I say nice, it would have been nicer had the wind not blown sand in my face and made my hair look like some giant hoover had just tried to suck it up! The walk did have a positive side, though. It tired out not only the children, but the dog and in consequence all four of them dropped like flies on the sofa upon our return, so I was able to cook dinner in peace. Well worth the wild hairstyle!!

Sunday, 22 February 2009


Although the children are bilingual, as am I, and although we have the choice of either French or English TV, the number one choice is always English. This is mainly because French TV is either live, (and they manage to screw it up each time), or because it's re-runs of very old programs such as "The Love Boat". But today is Sunday, not just any old Sunday, this is a busy Sunday, at least as far as celeb watching is concerned. Today we have Jade Goody's wedding at lunchtime, Ray & Maria dancing on ice tonight, (I could watch that young lad skate until the cows come home!), and then, sometime during the night, the long awaited Oscars. Fortunately, we all have roughly the same taste in TV, this means that we don't have to spend a fortune on separate ones for each of us! But they don't enjoy the Oscars so much. I remember my daughter piping up one year, "Why do they keep calling it Oscars? It's not Oscars award, it's hers!!". That was a couple of years ago, she understands it a bit better now.
My no2. son has a friend round this morning, and it's funny listening to both French and English voices at the same time. It must be very confusing for their friends, because although they speak French to them, when brother or sister arrives on the scene, they will converse in English to them. Thus the poor French kid gets a kind of Franglais mixed in with his own language, and looks at you dumbfounded. Mind you, could be good if they're learning English at school. That is the beauty of a child being bilingual, they can switch and change languages at the drop of a hat, even mid-sentence. I speak 3 languages, French, English & rubbish, the latter being the better of the 3!
Should there be any Americans dropping by, you'll know the results of the Oscars before me, however, I will know the results of Dancing On Ice before you, so I'll up-date tomorrow. That said, you probably don't know what Dancing On Ice is, apart from it's obvious name, maybe I should try to get a preview up on the blog, but then again, unless you are familiar with the UK celebs that are in it, you probably won't want to know what it is.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

I was confused by the reaction, but the final vote is..

On the road at last, it does seem to take ages to get out of the port. Driving through customs was the worst, everything was so tightly packed into the boot of the car it was like a jigsaw puzzle, and I quivered at the thought of being stopped and asked to take everything out! Not that we had anything to declare, well not anything they would be interested in anyway, but that it would take us the rest of the holiday to get it all back in again! Fortunately we were not stopped, and off we went. "Daddy, you're driving on the wrong side of the road!" no. 2 son said, "no, no, that's how it is in England, that's why they have their steering wheel on the other side of the car". I have to admit, after 10 years it was a bit daunting driving on the left, bit of a bummer when you want to over-take, but there was no chance of that today, the rain poured down and the fog got thicker the more in land we went. By lunchtime it had eased off and we were able to see the rolling English countryside, in fact we had lots of time to look at it as we were stuck for about 2 hours in traffic. The only time you get stuck in traffic in the Vendee is when there's a tractor on the road, so the kids were unfamiliar with this and couldn't understand why we weren't moving. They started to get bored very quickly, which usually leads to them poking one another, and very soon turns into world war 3. I swear if I ever hear the words "are we there yet?" one more time I'll crack!
We got all sorts of inquisitive questions from them as we (finally) got moving again. "Why do the houses look so different, they're all stuck together?", and, "why are phone boxes red?", and even, " why are there so many CCTV cameras on the streets?". Houses in France are mainly detached, mainly villas, and somewhat Mediterranean looking. You don't see many phone boxes in France, either you go to the Post Office, or you have a mobile. CCTV in the street is something I have never seen in France, although I'm sure big cities must have some. I was quite shocked to see them on almost every street corner in England, even in small villages!
Another strange thing they found was that everyone spoke English! Yes, that may sound odd, but when you've lived in France for so long and are used to hearing people speak in French, that's something you do notice. I had to get the "Yellow Card" out a few times, though, when remarks were made about passers by and I had to keep reminding them that in England everyone can understand what they're saying!
After a hectic week, (I say hectic as we had loads of family to visit), we were back at the port, jigsaw puzzle and all, in the rain again, sat in traffic again and once again hoping the customs officer would not want to dismantle the boot. "So, what did you like about England the best?" Unanimously - 1. Family (understandably)
2. The fun fair we visited ( a bit confused)
3. Sweets (very confused)
What about the scenery, the people, the culture, the history?? "Too much traffic, strange houses, rain & fog, freezing cold and too many people understand us".
"So what's the vote then? France or England?"........"FRANCE!!!!"

Friday, 20 February 2009

From France to England, via hotel & car ferry

So the kids have got so used to the French way of life even their expressions are French, you know, tone of voice, eating habits etc.. Mind you, the eating bit is good. I hear stories about the English school canteen service, and what they serve, chips mainly, and the French way does appear to be a lot healthier. Ok, so it's quite expensive, but worth it. They get a 4 course meal; starter, main course, cheese or dairy product and dessert or fruit, and they are very varied and typically french meals. I could never imagine English schools serving up black pudding, offal, beef tongue, mussels and things like that, (although apart from the mussels I wouldn't eat it either, shhh, don't tell the kids!). But it is good that they try these things, and they actually enjoy it, trouble is I keep getting bamboozled into cooking exotic dishes you'd normally only eat at a restaurant!
Last October we decided it was time to take the plunge and visit the family in the UK. Not that we hadn't wanted to before but we had a food store before moving to the Vendee and it was open 7/7 and 364/365, (excluding Christmas Day), so we never really got the chance. And since living here we have been so busy working and renovating the gite & house, that time just slipped past. Anyway, we finally went back there, ooh the kids were so excited, they were going back to their roots!
We drove to Calais and stayed in a Hotel the night to get the ferry the next morning. That in itself was an adventure for the kids, the first time, (that they can remember), ever being on a ferry boat. As you can imagine, we didn't get much sleep that night due to giggling children who didn't want to go to sleep, so we arrived at the port 2 hours early, bleary eyed, and got an earlier boat. I'm not sure what they were expecting to see on the other side of the Channel, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't what they were expecting. In fact, it was pretty hard to see anything due to the rain & fog, "This is England, kids, what do you think so far?". To which I got no comment..............
PS. Thanks to Aji for dropping in and leaving a lovely comment.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

A kids life in France, from a parents point of view

I've often wondered what our children would have been like if we had decided to stay in the UK. Would they know more or less? Would they have been happier there? Given the choice would they have wanted to come to France? Well, they had no choice in the matter, they were too young, but even if they had been old enough I'm not sure that they would have had the choice anyway. Our eldest found it very hard in the beginning, as he had already been to school in the UK and also his English was pretty well established, so when we dumped him into a french school it was a pretty scary thing for him. We had considered a bilingual school, but felt that it would be more beneficial to be thrown in at the deep end in place where he had no choice. He had to communicate with the french kids & teachers, or not talk at all. It sounds very cruel, but believe me it was the best choice. The twins found it much easier. Apart from their own "between twins only" alien language, (which only they understood), they spoke neither English or french as they were only about 18 months old at the time. They all slotted in rather well, and their second language quite quickly became an even first with English. We did, however, make it a strict rule that unless we were doing homework, we spoke only English at home; I didn't want them to lose their English. The only problem now, of course, is that they keep on correcting us, which can be very embarassing!
The school day over here is very long for them. The eldest leaves at 7.20 am and is not back until 5.30 pm, although he doesn't have school on Wednesdays. The twins leave at 8.00 am and return at 5.45 pm, and they do have school on a Wednesday morning. In the winter, they never see the shutters on the windows open . It's dark when they leave, and dark when they come home! However, in the lovely summers we have, they often play in the garden, (we have a large one, 7200m2), until 11 pm, providing there's no school the next day! I was slightly worried about them learning to read and write in English, but needn't have. As soon as they acquired that in french they taught themselves it in English. Really, it shocked me too! One day they had the TV remote to see what was on, and they just started to read the synopsis!! Great, I thought, I don't need to worry about that now! They've just started to learn English in school and guess what...They get full marks each time, handy that! And how do they feel about their life in France? And what about their friends? And what did they think when we visited the UK for the first time in 10 years? That's another story for tomorrow!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

I'm getting old & things aren't what they used to be

It's becoming increasingly difficult to up-date blogs, or even do anything on the computer in our house at the moment. We have a laptop, a computer in the office, a computer in our no. 2 son's room and a computer in our daughter's room, but that is evidently STILL not enough, especially at the moment as it's the school holidays. By the time I'm up and running in the morning, my daughter is on hers, my husband is on the laptop and no.2 son is running between his and the office computer complaining that he can't do certain things on each so he needs 2! Mind you, watching my daughter, who is 11, on the computer makes me feel very old. She can very skilfully chat on messenger to 10 people simultaneously, surf the internet, play games and sell her old toys on a free advertising site all at the same time! Talk about multi-tasking, it's all I can do to listen to 2 of my kids talk at the same time! In consequence, she's a whizz at computer studies at school, go girl. But she really made me feel past it when she asked about the computer I had as a girl........."Er, we didn't have things like that then. In fact, dvd's, cd's, flat screen tv's, mobile phones, ipods and all that sort of stuff, didn't even exist. We didn't even have a video player, although they DID exist then". To which she replied, "Did cars exist when you were little, mummy?"........HELP!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A thought for today

Hi I'm back. My daughter found this short poem this morning, and I thought I'd share it with you as it's kind of nice;

Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is a mystery,
Today is a gift,
That's why we call it "the present".
Things will look up again.

Hope you liked it too!

Ghostly happenings or just stange but true?

I have a kind of odd situation, and would be grateful of any logical comments. A couple of days ago I was on the laptop downstairs, surfing the Internet. I decided to come upstairs to the main computer to check my mails, but I couldn't get an Internet connection. Strange, I thought, as I had just been on line and as we have broadband it shouldn't be a problem. I checked the phone, that was working, but still no connection. When I checked the computer socket connections, the plug had come out. How could that be, there was nobody in the house but me, and the socket is not within knockable reach. Anyway, I plugged it back in, it worked, and I thought nothing more of it......Until the same evening it happened again, the children were home but none had been in the office! It has since happened on 4 occasions, not just with me but with my husband too, the last occasion being last night! What is the secret of the self-disconnecting plug?? I can't think of any reason why this keeps happening. Do we have Casper living with us? Or is there a simple logical explanation?? I would love to hear your comments, this is really bugging me!!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Jade Goody getting married


I was so pleased to hear that Jade Goody is to marry soon. I think it will be good for her sons, (not sure if he is their father), to have a dad after she has gone. mind you, I was talking to someone yesterday who knew somebody with the same type of cancer, she was given just months to live as well and now, 5 years later, she is still living as normal a life as she can. They put her on the cancer "super drug", (don't know what it's called, if anybody does would be grateful for a hint), and it has kept her going much longer than anticipated, unless they got it wrong in the first place. And thinking about it, I do remember watching Patrick Swaze, (is that how you spell it?), on GMTV as he also has terminal cancer, and they gave him months to live a couple of years ago, but he's still making films now. Let's just hope that things turn out the same, or similar for Jade. On a lighter note, the sun is shining here in the Vendee, France, and they've announced pretty much the same for the rest of the week. This is good news, as it's about time I started to do some gardening, (yuk), as the Gite will be ready for opening in a couple of months. Oh and by the way, I forgot to say on Saturday, I didn't get a truck load of Valentines cards as I expected...not! But I did get one card, from my other half.......Ahhh, so the subtle hints worked for a change!

Sunday, 15 February 2009 will be

I'm getting a little confused with all this blogging. I've only got 2 blogs, but somehow I keep getting muddled up with what I'm doing, so if you find any of my cooking recipes on this page then you know why. I thought maybe it was an age thing, but thinking back, I was doing exactly the same thing when my twins were born. Those were the days when you had girls nappies and boys nappies, (pink ones and blue ones). How many times did I get up in the morning only to find my son in a pink nappy and my daughter in a blue one? It wouldn't have really mattered if the nappies hadn't been specifically designed to catch the flow of wee either upwards at the front, (boys), or downwards to the back, (girls). In consequence, both had soaking wet clothes and bed linen, which only made my job harder! And it was hard enough already, with my eldest, who was just 4 at the time, biting at my ankles. I have a video of me tending to all 3 at the same time; sitting at the table feeding my eldest with my right arm, ( I know, he always was a fussy eater), with one baby in my left arm bottle feeding, and rocking the other baby with my foot in the swing chair. The worst was going out, getting the babies and the eldest in and out of the car. I didn't use the pushchair for school trips, it was easier to leave the twins in their car seats and carry them in, plus it was good weight training. But, as I had to put one down on the pavement so as to put the other in the car, (or take one out), I always had this great fear of leaving one of them on the pavement by accident, or that someone may swipe one of them when my back was turned. Thankfully that never happened, and I always made a mental note of counting the children before driving away, silly thing is I still do it today! But the hard work paid off, the sleepless nights passed quickly and the twins grew into two very different, in fact very opposite, lovely individuals, and my eldest is equally as lovely. One thing didn't change though.......the amount of washing they create!!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

A thought for Jade Goody and family

Happy Valentines Day! On this special "Love" day, let us just spare a thought to Jade Goody and her family, may they have the strength to get through their heartache. Also to the families of those who lost their lives in the tragic air crash in New York, and to anybody else who may be suffering in any way. I may not have been lucky in the lottery last night, (no, we are not making a detour to Paris!), but I am lucky to have a wonderful family, all of whom are healthy and happy. Have a good day, whatever you are doing, and take care of those precious to you.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Am I feeling lucky?

Balls!! That's all I've got to say. I dreamt about balls last night, and I've been seeing balls all day. I didn't, unfortunately, see any numbers on the balls, but figured that it might be a sign from a higher place so I went out and bought a ticket for the Euromillions anyway. And it's Friday the 13th, not sure if that will bring good or bad luck, but hey, I won't be any worse off if the luck turns sour. Like they say "you gotta be in it to win it!". The kids want to go ice skating tomorrow, so when I told them we might not be able to go, (in case we need to do a quick detour to Paris to pick up the cheque), they weren't very happy. My daughter lay face down on the floor thumping the carpet, my n° 2 son stamped so hard up the stairs that the light fittings came down, and the eldest son said, "yeah, I mean cool, like... whatever". Wicked mum soon turned into a princess with a halo when I said that if we were lucky enough to win, I still wouldn't take them, but I would buy them an ice rink instead........Yeah, right...whatever!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Todays the day, I feel good here in France


What a glorious day it is today! The sun is shining, the sky is blue and there's not a cloud to spoil the view, (sorry, I couldn't resist that one, however it's not raining in my heart). But it is such a lovely day, only 8 degrees in the shade, but in the sun I could even have the terrace doors open. I awoke with that "I'm gonna conquer the earth" feeling, and conquer I did. First I conquered the housework, then I conquered the washing, then the lunch, then the sibbling disputes, then the supermarket, then the more sibbling disputes, now the blog up-date and later the dinner! Wow, how's that for a bit of conquering. And what of the after the cooking conquering, I hear you ask? Well, then it's conquering the putting my feet up, snuggling amongst the cushions and falling asleep in front of the tv. All this energy because the sun is shining, well maybe, or maybe because I went to bed very early last night and clocked about 12 hours sleep! Probably not a good idea to do that every night, but it certainly did the trick last night. What have you conquered today? And what was it that inspired you, sleep, sunshine or just that feel good factor??

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Am I losing it, or is it blogging the blogger

I'm sitting here not sure what to write about today. You know the feeling when your mind is a complete blank. It doesn't help when the kids have got a million friends round and are running riot left and right! I've just sent them all out into the garden, not sure if that was the right thing to do as they're playing football and it's very muddy. I suppose I'll have a million angry mothers on the phone later. Well let them have them all screaming around theirs, and I'm sure mud will become a trivial matter. But I'm still blank. Seems to be happening alot, lately. I shook my head the other day and I swear I heard a rattling noise! Must be all this blogging, it's making me hear things....or maybe there really is something loose up there, whichever, I'm sure it's not serious. I've got Deal or No Deal on the tv, (sad), and having a giggle at them all dressed as hippies for the special "Love Week" for valentines day. Wonder how many valentines day cards I'll get this year? Last year the postman couldn't fit them all in the post box, and we were out at the time, so he donated them all to charity and I never got to see them. At least that was the tall story I got from my other half. Wonder what story he'll come up with this year?

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Very strong wind, they weren't wrong!

Last night at about 7 pm the wind started to whoosh up. They had announced high winds but the day hadn't been too bad so I assumed that they had got it wrong, at least for our area. By about 9 pm you could here it howling through the shutters, something that I have become accustomed to as it is often windy here, and the house is very old. At 11.30pm I decided to go to bed and went to let the dog out for his nightly doings. As I opened the shutter I could feel the pressure of the wind pulling against me and all of a sudden WHOOSH!! The shutters flew out of my hands, the swing chair on the terrace was doing somersaults, the table was up side down and there were bits of I don't know what debris floating past my nose! The dog, as you may have guessed, did an about turn and sat quivering behind the sofa for fear that he may get blown away. After wrestling with the shutters one last time, I decided to go to bed in the hope that it would have eased off by the morning. I'm not sure what I was expecting to find this morning, but it certainly wasn't what I did find. The wind had ripped through the terrace fence, completely destroying it, and the neighbours new fence too now resembles firewood. The front of the house looked as if a tornado had whipped through leaving a path of debris, rubbish & broken roof tiles behind it. One roof tile had landed a foot away from my beautiful car, my prize possession!! There were trees down in the road, and all my plant pots were eventually found on the other side of the village in a tree! Thank goodness I didn't have any underwear on the washing line!! The satelite dish was blown up-wards so when I switched on the tv I was no longer tuned in to English tv, but some other foreign network that I didn't have a hope in hell of understanding. A little un-prepared to say the least, so next time they forecast "Strong winds", I'll batten down the hatches and remove anything not securely fixed from the garden, and, of course, put my car in the garage!!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Pancakes and Valentines

Valentines day is drawing near again, (has it really been a year already?), so it's time for me to start dropping subtle hints to my hubby! I'm not kidding, 2 weeks before our wedding anniversary I have to dig out my wedding dress and parade around the house in it every evening in the hope that he'll get the drift!!That usually does the trick, except that I don't own a valentines dress so I guess I'll have to don some wacky glasses like my friend above!
And then we'll have pancake day, or Shrove Tuesday, on the 24th, will you be doing any of the races or tossing, (I'm sorry if that was badly put!)? I tried it last year, thought I was being cool for the kids, but I'm still trying to peel the remnants of those darn pancakes off the ceiling to this day! Think I'll give that one a miss this year, and take the kids out to a Creperie instead.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

It's cold outside, but warm in here

Ah yes it's cold outside. but I've got roast pork and roast potatoes in the oven, the fire is roaring and my wine glass is full....can it get better than that? Actually, yes it is cold, but it is now 6.30 pm, and I must add that although I awoke to Jack Frost's sprinkling, the sun came out, the temperature rose and it has been a beautiful day...more than I can say for some. There's something very cozy about cold Sunday nights and roast dinners, can't quite put my finger on it, but I reckon it's because as a child I always dreaded Sundays - "family days" - but the "family" bit always meant nan & grandad coming round, (or vice versa), and all the grown-ups falling asleep after lunch or dinner, and us kids having to tip-toe around trying not to make any noise! AND no shops were open......perish the thought!! Anyway, thanks to mum & dad,(god bless him, well maybe not god, he was an atheist!), I now realise just what they meant when they kept saying: "you will see when you've got children, you will learn to appreciate Sundays as a day of rest".....and , boy, were they right!! Now I just have to keep telling it to my kids!!!!!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Credits, loans, mortgages...what a financial state

Just a couple of ads, the sort of thing we are all familiar with these days, unfortunately. But I was wondering just how bad it is where you live. I know that financial crisis, job losses, credit cards, loans and mortgages are quite a serious problem at the moment in the UK. Everywhere you turn there are signs; "Free Quotes", "Interest Free Loans", "Buy now, Pay Later". And now the "Loan Sharks", who cunningly entice you into taking out a loan for that dream whatever it is you want, (or even to pay off another debt), are apparently sending in the "Heavy Mob" to sort you out if you don't pay up on time! I know that if you can't afford it you shouldn't take it, but people do, all the time, and with the current financial situation you'd think there were "less primitive" ways of doing things, after all this IS 2009. I think that they make it too easy to get credit and loans in the UK. Here in France the Credit Card has not long been introduced, and it's not easy to get a hold of one, unless you're rich, famous or related to Sarkozy. In the UK you can phone up a loan company and get an instant loan, when I say instant I mean in the few minutes you are on the phone. In France it's a little more complicated:

1. Meet the financial advisor.

2. Get together a dossier supporting your intentions and repayments.

3. Submit dossier to the bank.

4. Wait for about 2 weeks to be notified that your dossier is incomplete.

5. Re-submit dossier to the bank.

6. Wait for about another 2 weeks to be notified that the bank is going on holiday, and you will have your answer in about 2 weeks.

7. Finally get your answer, and even then depending on the amount you want to borrow, you may need a guarantor.

So, how does it all work in other countries? Any input??
PS. Thanks for checking in Delphine, and you have a good weekend too.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Jobs, crazy frogs and the National Health!



It has been an interesting day so far. Due to an incompetent national health insurance stuff-up, I have been trying desperately to get my husband re-covered, (as he always was before), for the last 6 months, to no avail. So, today I decided to march right in to their office and demand something be done, as they had just sent me a HUMONGOUS bill. I plonked the bill on the desk, and just said, "I can't pay this!". They expect me to pay a National Health bill when he is not even getting National Health cover?? Turns out the lady couldn't understand it either, so after a bit of ear bashing and bartering, they finally accepted they were in the wrong...sorted. But it also turns out, to my extreme content, that they have miscalculated the bill and we should be paying half the total amount!!! What a result! When we got home the phone rang, and to my utter surprise it was a reply to the job application I made, (if you weren't aware check out post entitled "give us a job"). She gave me a tele-interview, (I just made that word means an interview over the phone; take note OED!), and will, hopefully, call soon for a proper interview. So good news all round, and whats more it's the weekend tomorrow, YIPPEEEEEE!!!!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

From a cowshed to a gite in the Vendee, France

FROM THIS TATTY COW SHED.................


So we arrived in the Vendee region of western France, and decided to, with the help of my husbands parents, create a "Gite" for summer rental. The above pictures are what it looked like to start with.....not really very appealing to holidaymakers! My parents-in-law came over to stay for the creation, as it was my husband and his dad who were undertaking the works alone. And so in the January the hard work began, for them and for me, as I juggled looking after our 3 children and a full time job. As soon as planning permission arrived it was all hands on deck, as we wanted to have it finished for the summer season, and as you can imagine, with just 2 workers, and given the state of the barn, this was going to be a long job. We have loads of photos of the works in process, but I won't bore you with all the details. They worked very long hours, which was particularly difficult for my husband as I also worked from 9am to 4pm then from 6pm to midnight sometimes later, (that's Hotel/restaurant work for you, but that's also another story), so he was left to cook & look after the children in the evening. Anyway, to cut a 5 month story short, the gite was finally ready for occupation the day before it was occupied, and even on the very day we were still hanging pictures etc...We had put out our first advert on the Internet a couple of months before, (with our fingers crossed that it would be ready in time!), and the very next day we had 15 calls for bookings. Unfortunately, most of the people wanted the same week, but we did manage to fill up the whole summer. We are very pleased with the end result and have had so many lovely comments about the quality of work, not that we are in any way blowing our own trumpets!! Anyway if anyone is interested, check out more photos on the Owners Direct site.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Doodle 4 google

I hear that google announced a "Doodle 4 Google" competition in the USA, inviting school kids to come up with a logo. The cash prizes will go to the winners schools. A good idea, but will we ever get one in Europe?? I can doodle.........maybe I could enter......just a tad too old, I fear!!

Monday, 2 February 2009

London transport at a standstill

Yes folks, it's official. The only way to get around London today is on a pair of skis! As I predicted yesterday, everything has shut down due to the snow, even, to my dismay, the underground??? How does snow affect the underground?? I can only presume that all the tube drivers couldn't get to work! Sports shops will be doing a bomb all over the capital, that's if they themselves managed to get to work. Why wasn't Britain prepared for this? Afterall, they've only been telling us that "the worst winter in 18 years" is coming for the last week, so why didn't they do something about it? The snow didn't get as far as our part of France, although they have said that there is a 50% chance of a few "flakes" tomorrow, so we'll see.
We used to live in the south of France, it didn't snow there too often, but when it did, boy did it snow. But even then, they were always prepared, the schools never closed, (much to the childrens disgust), the roads always gritted and cleared and transport ran as usual. I mean, how do people manage to survive in the Netherlands, Russia and Alaska? Maybe they all ski around too, or maybe they are just used to, I suspect it's because they prepare themselves. It was nice in the south, but very barron and very hot. It was also such a long drive to visit the UK, so we decided to move up country to the Vendee. The climate here is nice, and the people are very friendly. We live in a quiet village, but it is so close to all you need; 30 mins from the beach, 10 mins from the town, 20 mins from the city. I guess we were quite brave to make the move at the time, especially with 3 small children in tow, (they were 6, and twins of one and a half years). Well, either quite brave or quite stupid, whichever way you look at it! At least the children are all bilingual, and me "biensur", and my husband is still trying, very trying!!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Siberian cold front and white Washington.


Yes it has to be said, the freezing weather is not good for us, least of all our hair, or so the guys above tell me! I think everyone is being hit quite hard this winter. Siberia is moving to the UK, we hear, so they're on "red alert" for heavy snowfall and high winds that could actually blow the north of England clean away. So I guess the UK will come to a standstill come Monday or Tuesday, no trains, no school etc. I heard President Obama on the news this morning and it seems it's pretty much the same in Washington DC, He said that his childrens school had been closed this morning due to...(hesitates), "A bit of ice!!", his own words. Great fun for the children, not so great for the parents, not unless you're a teacher, that is! I got up this morning feeling lucky so I rushed to check my lotto ticket and sure enough my feeling was confirmed.....for the first time I HAD WON!!! Not a fortune, mind, in fact it was only 2 euros, but that's besides the point, I HAD WON. And 2 euros is my money back AND enough to buy another ticket next week, this could be the start of something big!! Er.... any feelings on what numbers I should play?.......Any tips anyone??....Hello, is there anybody there??