Preparing for an olive grove

A couple of terraces below the house the trees, mainly ashes, have been growing at an alarming rate.  Jackie and I have agreed that he should remove these to make way for a line of olive trees, which he will plant in the spring. The idea is that eventually they will grow sufficiently to hide the road and my neighbour’s house below, as well as defining the edge of the cultivated terraces around the house.

I’ve given in to Jackie – as I usually do – and allowed him to remove two old apple trees.  I was a bit sad as one of them had reasonable apples this year if you ignored the thick skin.  But he was very contemptuous of them and says he will plant other further along the terrace.  Surprisingly even he has preserved an ancient pear tree, contorted by the oak which was smothering it and which he will prune later on.  The eucalyptus which the family planted over Chris’s ashes also survives.  It has had a tempestuous history – literally – having snapped off at least three times in violent storms, but it is showing a determination to survive.

On Monday Jackie will coe with his bulldozer to uproot the tree stumps on this terrace.


Lunch on the Causse

I had lunch twice in the village oft Blandas, just before the Cirque de Navacelle, first with David and Barbara Hart (as a thank you for looking after my jacuzz) and then with Hans and Margaret (as a thank you for all the many things they do for me).

Even when the weather is indifferent, this drive up to the Causse, the high plateau that I see to the south of me, is magnificent.  Looking back you see the whole panorama of the Cévennes stretched out, and the sauvage loneliness of the limestones of the Causse is a lovely contrast – something which Chris always loved.

The restaurant in the centre of Blandas does a really good job of an honest, well presented meal.  Here are Hans and Margaret enjoying theirs:

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Visiting Deborah – and her dogs

My first drive further than Ganges; I went to visit Deborah (my hospital pal) in Monoblet.  It was great to see her, her two dogs got on OK with Poppy (although the Beauceron, Funny, was exiled most of the time in the garden), and we had a delicious meal of mussels.

Repas de Bréau

I was one of about a hundred pensioners who attended the Bréau Christmas lunch – nearly a quarter of the people on the electoral register!  Even though this is not really my sort of thing, it was a jolly affair, so hats off to the conseil municipal for organising it. The food was reasonable, the music not bad (although horribly loud).  Not so much drunk as in past years…

And here is a movie clip.


Building shock

This winter’s building project is to upgrade the bathroom in the gite (our original house) which is seriously sub-standard – damp exterior wall and shower which does not drain away properly because the slope to the septic tank is inadequate.

I’ve just had a site meeting with Stephen who is doing this work, and it has turned into a seriously major project.  He has knocked down the partition between the existing loo and shower room and exposed part of the back wall.  I always knew the back wall had been built against the rock face and had suspected that the bitumen, now 20 years old, might be leaking.  The problem turns out to be not the bitumen, but the totally inadequate brick wall which, by its porous nature, has allowed poisture to soak into the bathroom against the tiles and plaster.

Stephen is going to have to take apart the tiles etc, build up the brick wall and add a substantial layer of non-porous insulation – which should make the bathroom less chilly!  He is also going to get a Polish joiner to replace the single-glazed windows by fixed double glazed ones.

As to the plumbing, Stephen is going to hae to excavate the floor and run a pipe from the shower across the room to join up with the lavatory down-pipe.  (The lavatory has worked since we put in a sanibroyeur – muncher).

All of this is on top of the originally envisaged plumbing and electrical work to instal a new loo, basin, shower and lighting and heating.  Stephen charges by the hour and I tremble at the thought of how much this is going to cost. Of course the original work was very basic indeed, as it was intended to be just a simple summer house. But there is no point putting in a new bathroom without rectifying the probems of damp and cold.


Winter replaces autumn

Just found these photos on my camera, taken three weeks ago:

Well those last days of a rather short autumn were brutally ended by the violent, icy north wind battering us for the past few days.  This has not been accompanied by rain, though the mountains above us now have a snow coating.  Every so often the winds abate temporarily, for example during that half hour of sunrise (view from my sitting room):


Olive tree project

Just had another congenial coffee with Jackie, mon paysagiste.  On est d’accord that he is going to uproot all the huge ash trees that are threatening to block out my view to the east and require expensive maintenance and replace them with a row of olive trees. (Much more fun than tackling the problem of windows needing painting…)  As Jackie said, I have to make sure I live another ten years to fully enjoy the benefit of mature olive trees.

Luckily we both share a passion for olive trees.  Last year Jackie picked a huge crop from my existing trees (and gave me back a bottle of oil from them).

This year has been disastrous for olives – as for the local onion crop.  But hopefully next year we might have normal weather.  (Just at the moment the house is being buffeted by violent glacial northerly winds.  But at least it means the sky is clear; last night there was a beautiful fullish moon and now you could be kidded into thinking that we were enjoying a glorious day – provided you are hiding from the wind. Over the past few days temperatures have dropped from about 15 to 5 degrees midday, and I have already seen snow on the mountains above us.

Dental trauma

Why is nothing straightforward?  I had thought that the long awaited restoring of the missing front crown was going to be a simple affair, lasting perhaps half an hour.  Oh no.  After the initial unpleasant injections in the roof of my mouth, I endured 90 minutes.  Then – two lots of x-rays and one set of impressions later – the dentist said he could not understand why the crown had come out.  He told me to come back in the afternoon (horrors – this meant more injections).

When I got back he was very pleased with himself; he had spent the lunchtime simulating restoring the crown into its implant base, using a model of my mouth made from the impressions and had worked out what angle to work at.  So the afternoon was not quite so bad, and here – after three long months of not wishing to catch sight of myself in a mirror, is the result:

The doctors’ big fear was risk of infection spreading to my hip graft.  So I hd a huge dose of antibiotics and I’m glad to report, no infection.  Replacing the three-tooth bridge on one side is however something for the distant future, as it requires a tooth extraction and implant 🙁  So Christmas will involve eating only on the left side.

La Brasucade

In the old days….. way back when we first came to live here, the village events at Serres were jolly, convivial and well oiled.  Inevitably, the old hands, Pierre Combernoux, Marc Martin, Thierry Istre and Lulu Vaquier, used to bring a wonderful ambience with their jokes, stories and songs.  Well Pierre and Marc are no longer with us, and Lulu is old and frail.  The old families are disappearing and the newcomers to the village do not bring that same sense of community.

This was all too evident a week ago, when a communal meal was ‘organised’ (in quotes, because the organisation was zero).  I don’t know why it was called la brasucade, as that is traditionally barbecued mussels; instead grilled sausages and merguez were offered, and mountains of chestnuts (that alone is enough to lure me along!). But little more than a dozen people turned up, most without an offering of something more to eat and drink.

I felt desperately sad at the absence of villagers, the complete lack of organisation, charm or joie de vivre.  The village as we knew it is no longer there.