Monday 26 July 2010

25th July 2010

Country and Western festival at Pamiers

Yesterday evening, we all went into Pamiers to see a live band perform as part of the Country and Western festival that is taking place over this weekend. Dave and Daniel came along under sufferance…but actually found it very entertaining!! Before the live band (‘Rusty Legs’!!) started at 9.30, there was a dance floor and music to dance to. Lucy and I were itching to join in, but didn’t recognise any of the dances! Lucy managed a couple however, just by watching and following the steps – I wasn’t brave enough!!.

The live band were fun – and even included a bit of Elvis, Dire Straits….and Queen!!!….so the chaps were happy!! Eventually, a couple of dances came along that Lucy and I both knew, so we were able to join in! We also bought a couple of cowboy hats from one of the numerous stalls surrounding the square.
We were surprised to see so many people dancing and enjoying the music – and I managed to get some info on a Pamiers line-dancing group, which I will go along to in due course!!

Today, Sunday, we took the day off! The weather has been a bit unsettled all week, and was quite cloudy first thing, but we decided to risk it. We drove up to the ski resort of Ax les Thermes and dropped Daniel off with his bike at the bottom of the Col de Pailheres. We then drove up to the top of the Col (featured in the tour de France last week!). Dave, Lucy and I walked (hiked!!) up the mountain for an hour or so – amazing views but quite cool and windy – then wandered back down again to meet Daniel, who managed the ride to the top, but was ready for his lunch!!

There are more photos of July at La Maire at

Thursday 22 July 2010

20th July

20th July 2010

The other excitement this week involved the tour de France stage which started from Pamiers yesterday. We set off from here on our bikes at 8.00am and cycled down into Pamiers to see where the race was to start in the large square. There was a lot going on – people, noise, publicity etc… we wandered around for a bit, then cycled off to a quieter part of the town to watch the publicity procession, which was fun, and we picked up a few freebies – hats, fridge magnets, snacks etc!! We then cycled back over the hill to the corner near our village where the race was passing. A lot of local friends were there, so we had a chat and then found a good spot on the corner to wait for the cyclists. It was very exciting when they finally appeared - they flew along the flat straight towards us and then went by in an instant. I have to say I have never experienced a sporting occasion quite like it – hugely exciting and exhilarating while it lasted – but was over in a flash – then we all went home!!Dave and I picked Lucy up from the airport on Monday evening, so it is now very good to all have some time here together.

July 2010

July at La Maire

July and August are the months in the Ariege when ‘it all happens’!!

The weather is beautiful, apart from the odd day when the cloud drifts across from the mountains and cools down the temperature a bit. Although very hot for attempting any kind of physical activity, there is always a welcome breeze, and it has been very pleasant sitting in the garden in the shade – however we don’t seem to get the opportunity to do that very often at the moment!! This is also the season for fetes and festivals. The Pamiers ‘Latino’ festival was on last weekend, along with the fete at St Victor Rouzaud, our village. This is the local annual event of the year, lasting 3 days, starting with the ‘mousse’ (foam) party on the Saturday evening. Dave, Daniel and I wandered down there to join in with the festivities. There was a complete mix of people there – families with young children, teenagers from surrounding local villages, and a few other English families. We met up with friends Lisa and Neil, and were also pleased to meet Sara and Jeff, and Jo and Chris – us girls all decided to give the foam a go - very slimy and wet – but good fun (see photo!) !! Sunday activities included the church service and some family sporting activities, then there was a meal and dancing on the Monday. However, we were busy on the Sunday and picked Lucy up from the airport on Monday evening, so were not able to join in – next year however is in the diary!!

As for work at our house – Dave and Daniel have made great progress with the patio and at the time of writing, the base is ready for the stone slabs, which will arrive next week. The garden is under control, and the new bathroom is very near completion – we fitted the shower door yesterday, so all we need to do now is paint the floor and add the finishing touches.The new cooker also arrived today!!

Sunday 11 July 2010

Sunday 11th July

So its back to France on Tuesday for me! It has been a busy couple of weeks catching up with work and keeping the pots watered!! A heatwave in Maidenhead comes as quite a shock after the last couple of years! It is good to have Lucy home for the holidays as well and she will join us in France the following week.

Dave and Daniel have started work on the terrasse at La Maire - not the best job for the height of Summer, so they are finding alternative and less energetic jobs for the afternoons. I am looking forward to seeing the changes....and the (almost!) finished bathroom!

The Tour de France will start at Pamiers on Monday 19th July. The route takes them very close to St Victor Rouzaud, so we plan to go and cheer them on. If any of you watch it, we plan to wait on a long bend just after the village of Escosse, which is only a few km after the start.
We will wave, so if you spot us, be sure to wave back!!

Friday 2 July 2010

Tuesday 29th June

Tuesday 29th June

A final entry before Dave takes me to the airport.....
It has been a week of warm sunshine and thundery clouds building late in the day - see photos!

There has also been a bit of drama up at the farm over the last couple of days. Michel (our nearest neighbour and brother of Moise, who runs the farm at the top) called by on Monday morning to say that their elderly mother had died during the night, and that there would be quite a lot of cars going to and from the farm. Sure enough, the cars started from lunchtime onwards and all through Tuesday as well.
We felt we should offer our condolences to the family as well, so also wandered up there in the afternoon with some flowers. They were all pleased to see us - and must have been exhausted coping with such a steady stream of visitors and keeping the farm running as well. We were slightly alarmed to be invited in to see 'la mere', who was there in the house (!!!), but managed to politely decline!!
Moise was still in his work clothes and the atmosphere was actually quite jolly - and became jollier as the evening went on, probably fuelled by a fair bit of wine and Ricard! As Moise said, 'c'est la vie'!!

Daniel flies out to help Dave on Monday, then Lucy and I will join them in a couple of weeks - so we are all looking forward to having a bit of a holiday and some family time.

Monday 28th June

On the way to self-sufficiency!

The past two weeks have passed very quickly and I am due to fly back to the UK tomorrow. We feel we have made good progress, with the bathroom tiling almost finished and both our bedroom and the twin room painted and 'refreshed'. The grass is all looking tidy and the 'Roundup' onslaught on the weeds has begun.

Dave is still nurturing the vegatable patch. Sadly a lot of the seeds didn't survive the cold spell in May, and we really didn't have time to prepare the soil properly this year, but we are quickly discovering what grows easily and what needs more attention. We were able to harvest (and eat!) our first peas today, and they were absolutely delicious!! The potatoes are pretty good as well - and the cherry and fig trees are well loaded with fruit. Jam making will soon be on the 'list of things to do'!
We are buying eggs now from the farm, and have the promise of chickens, rabbit and duck in the near future as well - I'm not sure what condition we will receive them in, but will deal with that when the time comes!!! The chickens roam around our land most of the time anyway, so it is almost like having our own chickens without the expense or hassle!

We also downed tools on Sunday morning to have an outing to the 'Lac de Mondeley', (see above) which is about 40 minutes of very picturesque driving away. We had read (in the Daily Mail!!) that is has one of the best beaches in Europe. Well - the lake itself was beautiful, but the reporter must have been hallucinating as the 'beach ' was just a small area of grey gravelly sand!
Well, we enjoyed the drive and the place, but won't be swimming there!!

Thursday 24th June

Summer at last!

Well Summer finally arrived at the beginning of the week, along with the start of Wimbledon. We are finally enjoying late dinners in the garden - and wishing we already had a pool in place!! However, the interior of the house is remaining nice and cool, so offers a welcome respite when needed.

We have had a sociable stay here so far this time. The Anslow family joined us for the England/Algeria match, which was fun (their company, not the match!!). Lucy and David from the chateau joined us for tea one day, and we have also got to know a guy in the village who wants to improve his English - and help us with our French in return. We both visited our very likeable insurance broker and had an interesting and amusing conversation with him - in half French/ half English! Dave has spent a couple of days working on Sue's garden (also prone to becoming jungle-like) and Magali from Sue's office helped me complete my business application. Once this is set up and we are earning some money, we will be able to enter the French health system. The 'maire' has also been a huge help in filling in the (very confusing !) application forms which we need to complete for approval to build our balcony.

We have been happily amazed by the friendliness and helpfulness of all the local people (maybe with the exception of the sales assistant in the mobile phone shop!) Everyone has something to say and nothing is ever too much trouble for them. From the insurance broker, to local farmers, to supermarket sales assistants and security guards at the 'Brico Depot' (B &Q!), everyone has a smile or a wave and they all seem to take such pride and pleasure in their work.

Saturday 19th June

Dealing with the early summer jungle of weeds!

We arrived back at La Maire on Sunday 13th June - a good drive apart from encountering a tremendous thunderstorm in the Dordogne. I have rarely seen such torrential rain, but we battled through it at 30 mph and finally emerged safely on the other side.

On arriving 'chez nous' late in the evening, it was great to be able to open up the shutters and find the house exactly as we left it!
The garden however, was another story!! Equal quantities of sun and rain over the previous 4 weeks had provided ideal growing conditions for both grass and weeds. The grass was about a foot high, and the 'swimming pool to be' area at the back was a jungle of waist-high nettles and other very healthy looking weeds. Luckily, my flower seeds had also grown and were near to blooming - and the vegetable patch hadn't fared too badly either.

We just about managed to get the trailer unloaded before the rain started, then it didn't stop until Tuesday lunchtime!! However we soon heard about the floods in SE France and realised we had got off lightly!

The rest of the week remained unsettled, so we made the most of the opportunity to crack on with the bathroom and decorate two of the bedrooms. Much to Dave's huge satisfaction as an amateur plumber, the bathroom is now water-tight and ready to go, and the grass all cut...we are trying to ignore the weeds at the moment!