Sunday, July 28, 2013

The kitten that walked in from the Woods

Two days ago a black kitten came to La Chaise, walked in off the road and said – in kitten speak – I think I shall live here. That is:  it allowed itself to be picked up and stroked, made little near-purring noises, accepted some cat croquettes, even put up with (H)aska's sniffing. It very soon showed that it was house-trained and it wore an anti-flea collar of some recent date. However the vet confirmed it had had not been pucé. (The word means both micro-chip and flea in French.) This would have allowed it's owners to be found.

Do you like me?

As I write there is still a slight battle of territorial wills going on between the distinguished First Feline, a.k.a Cha-Cha who deigns to live with Audrey and Alexandre. But kitten is being respectful and Cha-Cha is condescending. Meanwhile, what to do?

We do not need a second mouser at La Chaise, between them Cha-Cha and the Rat-Catcher's Daughter deal with that problem. We (I) certainly do not wish to have cat hairs anywhere on the furniture, nor cat claws sharpening themslves on chair legs. And I do not want it to install itself in the gîtes – one load of kittens behind the bathroom chimney is enough.

Audrey put a note on the French for sale/want web site, En Bon Coin, with one response. I sent a note on the anglophone electronic telegraph with similar result, one response. Neither respondent has yet (Sunday evening) followed up their initial interest by promising to take the kitten which is busy making itself at home.

A Kitten could get used to living here

We are asking ourselves how it came to be on the main road in front of La Chaise. It could be lost, be too young to find its way home – that, after all is how we came by Elvis-Non, the terrible hole digging terrier cross breed. Or, sadly, it could have been abandoned by its owners, left to fend for itself whilst they went on holiday. Hopefully with a plentiful supply of croquettes that automatically replenish the bowl, also clean water. More likely not.

One last hope: Monday morning I shall telephone the nearest cattery, a boarding house for cats called 'ChatPacha' and see if anyone has called the owners to enquire about missing kittens. If not, sadly, kitten will have to go – with dowry - to the 'Societe pour le Protection des Animaux' . I do not know how long it will be kept there.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rain, rain - come again!

As irony would have it, rain ceased in the Dordogne the day we arrived home from Spain. And when I say 'ceased' I mean just stopped, went away, gradually became a distant memory. Temperatures have soared, we are in the thirties centigrade. Thunderstorms have been promised for tomorrow, Tuesday 23rd. On verra tout ça – this has been promised before.

The danger for us at La Chaise (very 'nombriliste' I know) will come if we do not have a steady and gentle down-pour in the very near future. So far the golf greens are still just that – very green. They are being watered by the Wonderful Arnold, with erratic assistance from the hated (by me – reciprocated by it) pump which is at last going to get a proper mend. Meanwhile the watering works on some mysterious 'siphon' effect between the Black Pond in the Woods and Lake Ariadne at the bottom of the valley with occasional help from town water. Don't ask – I think physics comes into it.

Oddly, the flowers that have suffered most from the heat and absence of rain are the cultivated roses. The yellow roses we planted in the old well usually make a glorious display. At present their stems are too frail to bear the heavy flower heads which break off and die. I have to rush out as soon as I spot a new bud and bring it in. Even then it only lasts a couple of days. The normally gloriously red, tough roses round the Farmhouse garden and the gîte swimming pool have lost their colour.

So far the grassland is not showing any cracks as it did in the year of the great 'canicule' of 2003. In parts it is still even growing. However the woodland is drying fast, presumably because of the water up-take by the trees. A few days ago, lunching on the terrace, I heard the crash of a breaking branch or falling tree in the woods. Quickly curious, I got up to go look see but common sense stopped me at the edge of the woods. Who wants to walk in the woods when the trees are throwing down branches? Hard hats needed for mushroom hunting – not that there will be any mushrooms if it does not rain. A local disaster.

But to compensate, the geraniums on the terrace are thoroughly enjoying this Mediterranean heat. They are a wonder. Never have they been so prolific, so luxurious, so triumphantly alive. This is their best display ever.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Work for all

There is a saying locally – or perhaps I invented it – that one artisan makes work for another.

For example: our roof tilers had the misfortune to have one ridge of the hip roof completely disintegrate. A rush of tiles and poor quality, aged cement hit the ground as they looked at it from their respective ladders and scaffolding planks. For the roofers it meant an extra day and a half's work restoring the ridge doubtless with a few curse words as well as cement.

For us it meant that the plastic water evacuation pipe that served the kitchen sink and the dishwasher was broken just where it turned a corner and dropped 10 cm. At least there were no longer any gloug-gloug noises as the sink, or dishwasher, emptied. Unfortunately the dishwater was spreading below the step into the back garden, just under the gate and next to the terrace. Fly heaven was born.

All people who live in houses (generic term including flats) know that plumbers do not grow on trees. Nor do they always come when you call. And this was a silly little job for which most plumbers would not bother to get out of bed. In fact, in true Dordogne fashion, we would be expected to fix it ourselves. But there comes a time when one opts for YDI rather DIY and we are definitely at that age.

Fortunately a new, young plumber has just set up shop – literally – in St Astier, next to our favourite butcher. He came, he saw – and drew in his breath as only artisans can.

The pipe concerned was no longer 'dans les normes', it was 8cms in diameter whereas now only 6cm or 10cms were acceptable and easily available. He said he would see what his fournisseurs could supply, possibly they had old stock. Otherwise he would think of something else.

He duly came back the following day, full of pride and armed with a full length of 8 cm diameter pipe. The job did not take too long and he was pleased with himself and I was pleased with him. I paid, he left.

Then I discovered that he had not allowed for the metal gate that closed over the pipe. It now got stuck over the new one. Sigh, but no great problem, I went and bought some washers, Alexandre lifted the gate off its hinges et voilà!

Spider webs, anyone?
Well, up to a point, because there is another job as a result of our new roof – or at least as a partial result of that work. This self- inflicted job consists of cleaning out the grange which is our all purpose store, for packaged food, clothes we are not quite prepared to junk, ditto crockery, jam-jars waiting to be filled, wine waiting to be put in the cellar. We (that is I) can sweep the floor all we want – the problem lies with 33 years of undisturbed spider-webs. I feel a bad attack of being Dutch coming on.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The long, wet road home

So a slow drive back from Spain, so hot (27 C), so sunny, towards La Chaise. A farewell picnic at the Porta Catalana, the last pit stop before the Franco-Spanish border. For once no roadworks round Perpignan! Weather still hot and sunny. We knew we were heading towards wet and disagreable weather and, indeed, the rain started as soon as we left Montauban, direction Brive. It was weird rain, perfectly acceptable for April, less so for July. Fortunately that particular stretch of autoroute is not very heavily frequented. By the time we got on to the Brive – Bordeaux autoroute the temperatures had dropped to around 18C. Never mind, we were going home.

The first thing that greeted our gladdened eyes, because it is next the front gate, was the billy goat orchid in all its glory, 112cm high  -

                        and in full flower, full odour.

 Then we lifted our eyes to the roof, the new roof that the poor roof tiler had started early May and had expected to finish in under three weeks....but the weather wished otherwise. He completed the job the day of our return, the first week of July.

 Not, I may say, without having a good look at the other roofs of La Chaise and making disparaging remarks in best hair-dresser fashion, plus fixing one or two things of which he disapproved.

Oh, the joys of a new roof! We can face the summer storms with tranquillity once again. We shall not have to find part-time, ex-roofers to come and re-jig slipping tiles, or put buckets under the worst of the leaks, see the walls getting sodden, the mould growing on the plasterboard ceilings and the curtains. Why did we wait so long?

I shall look at his final bill on Monday – Mondays are bill paying days – and see what disparity there is between his original estimate and the final bill. It will be difficult to quarrel with it for he has also done odd tiling jobs which he said needed doing, ones that could be done in the pouring rain. Also I have a great deal of sympathy for him for he does not have what the Americans call 'a slash' (as in 'model/actress'). Our pool man, for example, is /chauffage for the winter. There are wonderful ways the French state has created for adapting the tax system to this way of working – which are too complicated, too clever for any normal person to understand.

How can someone (with no /) whose work is so subject to weather variables be able to estimate, profitably, for the various jobs on offer? I had asked three different roof tilers for estimates and all were within a ball park of each other, so I felt safe choosing the one who lived nearest, came best recommended. The answer lies in careful choice of legal and fiscal framework within which to work – and a slash.