Tuesday, August 8, 2006

08/08/06 Evil mutant chickens plot world domination ...

... and as far as I'm concerned, they're welcome.

You may relax, that was not a headline from USA Today and is thus not all that likely to be true.

Well, we came back from our week's holiday at Pesselières a couple of weeks back and I'm now sufficiently out of holiday mode to be able to write about it. Not that there's much to say, the place being about as far from the madding crowd as you can get and still have gravity in most of the rooms.

The original plan was that Sophie would come up with us, bringing Lucas and Rémi for a week's boredom amongst the sunflowers and wheat fields, but her sister turned up and announced her intention of staying quietly in Savoie so that didn't happen. Malyon was off fruit-picking in the Drôme so Margo and I and Kelly and Jeremy and his friend Benjamin headed up at the height of the canicule for a good week's doing nothing. And let the record show that we were pretty good at that. We managed a trip off to Guedélon, the chateau-fort that a crowd of loonies enthusiasts are building using medieval tools and techniques (should be finished in another 18 years or so), a stopover at the reservoir at St-Fargeau, a visit to a pottery and a cultural trip to the Marché des Potiers at St-Sauveur, but for the rest we lounged, soaked in the swimming pool, ate, drank, and watched the grass grow.

Or not, because being the canicule the grass wasn't in much of a hurry to do anything except get browner and browner. But I did manage to get astride a bike and do eight kilometers a day which is not - in absolute terms - a great deal but was at least enough to make me feel that I'd worked off some of the rosé I'd consumed. And let me get somewhere my cellphone works, and check up on messages.

The main problem when you're basically out of circulation for a week concerns the reading matter. There's quite a bit at Pesselières, but most of it is 10 year-old National Geographic magazines and the rest is an eclectic mix of French books from the 1980's with the odd sample of English airport literature thrown in. I refuse to read Wilbur Smith because doing so gives your brain pimples, and there are only so many times you can re-read Jean-Pierre Coffe's tirades on food and life before going out and persecuting small furry animals. There was a copy of "Sense & Sensibility", which lasted a day, but I was really pleased (and everyone else, including the small furry animals, was doubtless extremely relieved) when I spotted a copy of The Economist at the (one and only) bookshop of St Sauveur. In fact there were at least ten copies, which surprised me a bit - I really didn't think there would be that much demand. And as it happened I was right - there wasn't that much demand - for when we got back to the house and I settled down for a good bit of neuron-fodder I discovered it was dated September 2005. Not exactly fresh news. I was desperate, I read it anyway. Every last word.

On the return trip we decided to try the "itineraire bis", the alternative route. I'll admit it was pictureskew, but the main aim of such routes is to get Parisians off the autoroutes (thus unblocking them for normal persons) and, if possible, lost forever in the countryside. Failed with us, but it was a close shave. On the other hand the scenery is generally a bit more interesting than that around the autoroute, and one can come across some interesting place-names. I didn't have the presence of mind to get Margo to stop so I could take a photo as proof, but I swear that as we headed towards Autun we drove past the lieu-dit called "Les Pénis".

Stéphane had lavished attention on Mischief so she hardly even noticed when we turned up but I hadn't dared ask him to water the tomatoes so they were a bit crispy when I went to look at them. They survived, and the tomatoes (those that weren't too close to the ground, and avoided actually getting cooked on the vine) ripened nicely, but I don't think we'll get many more. Which does not, I admit, worry me too much as the primeur from the Drôme is at the market now so every Saturday I buy four or five kilos of sun-ripened tomatoes (which I try to remember to put on top of the melon in the shopping basket) which in fact taste better than the ones from the garden anyway.

Also in the breaking news from old Yurrup ...

After 8 years we finally concreted the floor of the middle cellar (well, Stéphane did the concreting, his uncle operated the cement mixer and I ran up and down with barrows full of concrete and made encouraging noises) and are now more or less in conformity with the law as the washing machine water outlet is now connected to the sewage system rather than just going into the ground somewhere under the terrace and from there running down the path to the stream. Not that we actually have a stream at the moment - not enough water around.

Next up in the "things I've been meaning to do for the past three years but somehow have never found time for" department is redoing the entrance hall. What wallpaper there is is "Venetian Festival" from the 1960s (or thereabouts), which needs to go anyway, and on one wall, that up which the stairs go, there's just plaster and enormous tar stains from when water got into the chimney that goes up through there. So we're going to stick fake marble lino tiles up that wall (which goes from the ground floor up to the first-floor ceiling), which means I'm going to have to build a sort of temporary platform over the stairwell so that I can actually get up there. Got everything we need (I hope), just got to get in and do it. Real Soon Now.

Ian and Marie and Elise and Caroline turned up last week to spend a few days of their holidays with us, and as bad luck would have it that coincided with the worst weather we've had for months. One day we're "enjoying" (well not really, since you ask) 28° at 9am climbing up to 39° in the afternoon, the next the high is 21° and it rained all day. Then it rained the day after that, and the day after that as well. Not that we didn't need the rain, but I could have done without the cold ... Whatever, Sunday was more or less fine and Ian decided that his visit wouldn't be complete without a bit of a walk in the mountains. I foolishly agreed to go with him, and so we set out on our little stroll - four or five km as the crow flies, but climbing 800m. I'm used to walking, but not really in shape for that much vertical in fell swoop. Not to mention coming down again, which really is not kind on your knees. Bit stiff on Monday.

Have a really nice winter ...

Trevor & Margo

PS Malyon wishes it to be known that she got 15/20 for her French bac. This is, apparently, rather good. She's also French now, or will be as soon as the judge signs the papers. Congratulate or commiserate, as the fancy takes you.

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