Winter’s a-comin’

We woke to frost one morning last week; it hadn’t been forecast quite so soon and all the tender plants were still out, including the citrus trees. 

By the afternoon the weather was gorgeous, brilliant blue sky and lots of warm sunshine; time to move the citrus to their winter residence on the terrace, then we’d put up the greenhouse around them.

We moved small tender plants indoors and cleaned the terrace, then Nick strapped himself into his new back support corset, finding new sympathy with women from the 18th century.

For the next two hours we pulled and pushed, levered and shoved and eventually got one tree onto the edge of the terrace. It was becoming quite apparent that this wasn’t going to work; it’s horrible to have to admit it, but we’re getting too old for this level of physical exertion; and it’s not going to get any better in the coming years.

The sun was dropping and the temperature with it, we had to find a plan B; a dig through the cabanon revealed some fleece, which we wrapped around the trees for now; they look like Halloween decorations, but it gives us time to decide what to do next.

Oh, the joys of getting old 🥴☹️🥴

Back into lockdown

Along with many countries, we’re in lockdown again. The same rules apply as last time; we can only go out for work, shopping, doctors visits and one hour a day for exercise, within 1km of home.

Nick took it very seriously last time, not leaving the confines of our land for the whole two months; thank goodness he’s a little more relaxed about it this time. We can go shopping by bike, so when it’s a small enough shopping trip, we do so, frequently “getting a bit lost” on the way home. We also have a short, 5km, loop through the village; Nick can get round this 6 times in the hour, though for me, 5 times is an achievement.

Once Nick’s back felt better, we got back to work; I’d never really liked the paint job I’d done on the bedroom furniture, and Nick had since added a top to the chest of drawers that fits right into the corner, as well as plinthes around the base of the chest of drawers and the bedside chests. So we emptied the drawers and I repainted it all, a distressed finish on the bodies and a crackled effect on the tops. I’m much happier with it now.

I’ve never had a proper dressing table mirror, and have used a tiny, stand alone mirror, an eighteenth birthday present, for the last 40 years; so Nick decided it was time to put that right. He’s making a swivel mirror on a stand that will have two little drawers in; most of it will be painted to match the chest of drawers, but the mirror frame and drawer fronts are to be oak, treated with vinegar with rusty nails soaked in it, which ebonises the oak, then rubbed with liming wax. It gives a beautiful finish. Worth waiting 40 years for? Probably. I’ll post pictures when it’s finished.

Having completed all the painting I could, I spent a few days cleaning, then the next few weeding the potager prior to covering it for the winter. I planted broad beans and mange tout, barrowed the contents of one compost bin onto the potager and raked it over, then turned the next compost heap into the empty bin. I was on a roll, there was no stopping me……. until my back gave out the next morning.

I really should know better by now, but at least spending a few days in bed gives me time to read; PG Wodehouse, Joanne Harris, Isabelle Allende, David Mitchell….. It’s a while since I’ve managed a book a day.

Bedside chest
Bedside chest
Mirror support, needs painting
Mirror frame, ebonised and limed

Why do the French make everything so complicated?

Everyone goes through patches in life where nothing seems to go right, and that’s been the case for us over the last few weeks, leading up to our second lockdown.

It started when, having worked very hard with Kieran, then spent 2 days chopping firewood for winter, Nick hurt his back.

He couldn’t get out of bed, so I called the doctor, whose receptionist informed me that the doctor doesn’t do house calls and Nick would have to go there; I don’t know which bit of “he can’t get out of bed” she failed to understand. It transpired, however, that she told the doctor, who tried repeatedly to call us, but the phone wasn’t working and he didn’t know where we live.

After two weeks in bed, it began to ease, much to our relief. The weather had been unusually foul, wind and rain every day, so at least he hadn’t missed much cycling.

Our internet and phone had been hit and miss for a while, so this latest failure convinced us to change internet suppliers. I sorted a new contract and set about cancelling the old one, but they don’t make it easy. It’s claimed that you can cancel online, so I tried, only to be told half an hour down the line that they’re only joking (ok, it didn’t exactly say that, but that was the message); but I should try by phone. So I tried that too, with no option of speaking to a real person; but they didn’t recognise our phone number – the one they supplied. After much searching ( their FAQs don’t, of course, cover “how to cancel my contract”, though they do show how to cancel your cancellation of contract!) and a lot of head scratching, not to mention the air becoming a bit blue, I eventually found a site with an address to send a recorded delivery letter to and, joy of joys, an example of said letter.

I copied it out, signed it and put it in an envelope. The whole, delightful experience only took a little over 4 hours!

I took it to the post office, along with a couple of parcels, one of which was fine, but the second, carefully wrapped, was unacceptable as it has to be wrapped in cardboard, not paper. I bought a box and asked about the recorded delivery letter. “Oh dear, it’s the wrong shape of envelope, this envelope is too short for the label”. The best idea would be to buy a special envelope, whereby I’d get an email on receipt of the letter; all I had to do was take it home, fill in various things on the PC and bring it back. I explained that I didn’t have time for that – surely I could do it on my mobile, couldn’t I? Yes, of course, she’d even help me. What I had yet to learn was that she’d never actually done this; I spent the next hour and a half (no exaggeration) in the post office, my phone being passed from one member of staff to another as they failed to make it work. They tried on their own phones and the computer, but with no joy,  till eventually the boss came in and sorted it in only half an hour. Afterwards she told me that I should have installed the post office app, then it would have been so much easier and only takes a couple of minutes.

As I left, they all thanked me for my patience, so at least we parted on good terms, but Nick thought I’d left home.

So, between these nuisances, the birthday present for my granddaughter in England which arrived here when I know I clicked her address (thanks Amazon) and various other irritations, it’s been quite a frustrating few weeks.

Fortunately Nick’s back is lots better now and we were able to spend the last day before lockdown cycling; the weather is back to normal for the time of year, with warm, sunny days and beautiful autumn colours. The freezers and cupboards are full of home produce, the wine rack is well stocked and we’ve plenty to do, so the next few weeks will pass quickly enough, I’m sure.

First lunch stop
The voie verte from Mont de Marsan to Villeneuve
Second lunch stop – well it was a 100km ride!