Thursday, 28 February 2013

Preparation for a long trip to France

So I am just about to leave for nearly three weeks in France.  My project file for the French house has nearly 30 pages of detailed things that need to be done.  These range from the complete decoration of two rooms - the downstairs shower room and the room we still call the boy's room - to little things like attaching the name sign to the end of the drive.

There is a major furniture order due - the outdoor furniture which will need to be assembled.  There is a visit planned with our website designer and then, in week three, a few day's visit from Jerome and Yvette.

This latter visit should occur when the house is just about finished, so feedback from them will be interesting.  We are going to see their possible barn purchase again and also do some brocante shopping, with a rough plan to develop this into a small import business.

The draft pack of the car has revealed that the car will be actually packed to the rafters.  One of the kitchen units will be taken, plus loads more towels, linen, pictures, DIY stuff, etc.

I am actually really excited about have such a time to focus fully on the project.

Reading Spinoza for the first time in a while

While looking at some philosophy lectures loaded on Youtube, I came across a prograame on Spinoza - four philosophers debating various aspects of his thought.  It has been some time since I last read much about Spinoza and so, with my forthcoming trip to France on the near horizon, I have decided to focus on him for the next few weeks.  So into the packing goes the Nadler biography, the Cambridge Companion and The Courtier and the Heretic

On my two year course in the history of philosophy at university, Spinoza was the philosopher that I studied most (followed by Kant, then Leibniz).  And the last twenty years or so have definitely seen a resurgence in interest in him.  I am very pleased by this development - it is fair to say that much of my own views come from Spinioza, especially the role of reason in overcoming psychological issues. 

Also found and packed for the trip is  Tariq Ali's film "Spinoza - apostle of reason" from years ago.  Very keen to see that too.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Viv Albertine and BBC Punk programmes

While listening to a recent Gideon Coe radio show on BBC 6, I was very struck by a new single by Viv Albertine - I want more.  Of course, in my formative music years in the late 1970s onwards, she featured heavily in my listening due to the Slits album, Cut.  What a fine record that was.

And now I have her recent record, The Vermilion Border, to listen to - downloaded from this morning.  She always looked really great in the Slits - in fact me and many of my friends at the time really liked the idea of going out with a girl who looked like she did then.

And she is still rather lovely now - something she hints at in one of her songs on the new record - "Confessions of a MILF".  I have followed my listening to this with a listen to the deluxe, 2 cd version of Cut, who would have thought there would ever be such a thing

Definitely a MILF if you ask me

A couple of days ago I was watching a 3-part programme on punk that had been screened on BBC 4 a little while back.  There was a section about the Slits in part 3, along with a great set of clips of Public Image Ltd - I had forgotten how good they were.  But I was also struck by how many of the artists interviewed appeared in their lounges by a beautiful fire places - they are all middle class now, even Penny Rimbaud (sort of) and the guy out of the Pop Group (despite his combat jacket - which he probably wears when he goes trout fishing)

It reminds me of the other punk girl we all fancied when I was at school - Pauline Murray of Penetration. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

A week in France Part 2


Wife is so settled in to cleaning the kitchen that she is not keen to come out on any tourist like trips, so I went to Saintes alone this afternoon.  My main issue was to buy a "wifi enhancer" from the Orange store.  Much to my surprise, I am able to get it working first time and our house broadband now extendes through most of the house, but in particular, to the main lounge, the terrace and the area by the pool. 

We have dinner out at Le Scorlion and excellent it is too.  Langousitine ravioli, followed by rump steak and the really awesome tripple dessert that I had a few weeks ago. Sadly they are full for Valentine's Day on Thursday, else we could have gone there again.


Into St Jean this morning for the market and to have a bit of a wander round - the first break from work during the day so far.  We bought delicious pastries and macaroons.

Another job today - to trim up the dining area and take a few photos for the house website.  I have now finished the doors upstairs and am working on the re-paint of the stairs, replacing the rather horrible purply-brown colour they were with a rather nice grey.

Another large meal tonight after a satisfying days work - chicken, chorizo and rice - followed by four episodes of "Big Bang Theory", our current favourite show


More jobs to plan work on for later visits.  I am returning in two weeks time for a longish stay of nearly three weeks and have all sorts of stuff to door.  The priority is the upstairs bedroom after the work is done to knock a door through the thick stone wall, plus the downstairs shower room.  But I am also keen to look at my latest plans for the new kitchen in the other part of the house - "Petit chats".

The current kitchen in Petit Chats

Finally, the office is tidier

But there is lots to do in the downstairs bathroom

Another upside today when we get our first booking for the summer season.  This is enough to cover half of our on-going costs of owning the property but conrtibutes nothing yet to the refurbishment.  Now we just need another 10 weeks of bookings and we'll be very happy.

A nive meal in for valentine's day - we have salmon and prawns for starter, cook chicken with peppers and left over rice from last night and have two delicious pastries for dessert.  And we finally finished the 8 pistachio magums which we bought earlier in the week


We are packed up and ready to leave by about 10:00 and I had hoped we could have a nice drive round the area - maybe go and see Jerome's proposed barn purchase.  But there is thick mist everywhere and we can barely see 50 metres at times.  Still the vines do look nice.

So we heading for St Jean and a quick walk round before meeting Grant and his wife at L'Annexe.  In the Ellis Park cafe, we got talking to an old lady who was leaving the area after 10 years to move back to the UK.  She was complaining about how the English ex-pats wouldn't include her in anything because she was single.

Lunch was good fun - and lots of ideas to think about from hearing of Grant and Karen's experiences.

Then off on the long drive back to Caen, kept going by Gideon Coe and Marc Riley radio shows.  And a trip into the IKEA at Caen where we bought rugs and things.

Just before we arrived in Caen, the brakes gave out on the land rover!  Most likely a fluid leak.  We inched onto the ferry and assumed that if we got off the ferry ok, we could then call the AA to tow us home.


We had some brakes when we rolled off the ferry and as it was 6:30 in the morning, we took a chance that the roads would be quiet and we could inch home.  Braking just once in the first 80 miles of the journey home, we got back home ok.

A week in France Part 1


A slight nervousness today as we departed for a week in France.  In the past, Wife has not always had the best sea legs and tonight would be her first ever overnight sleeping crossing.  And in addition, Wife was also very excited about the trip.  This is her first visit to our house in France since we bought it and she is now very keen to make her mark on things.

So we have a nice meal on the boat, two half-bottles of wine, and a quick drink in the bar where we talk to a rather odd couple who are on a weekend cruise to St Malo sponsored by a local radio station.  I would probably preferred not to make small talk with them.  But when quiz night starts in the bar, we make our excuses and are off to the cabin for the night.  How well would it go?


The answer is - not bad at all.  A decent night's sleep for both of us and a complete absence of any seasickness.  Indeed we are both up for a big breakfast on the boat.

This morning's journey is the familiar St Malo, Rennes, Nantes, motorway to St Jean route.  We are down at St Jean by 12:30 or so and go straight to the house.  I persuade Wife to let me take the covers off the new sofas and open the shutters before she goes in for the first time.  It was actually August when she last saw the house and the first go round it again is rather overwhelming.  By now I am pretty used to it all, but it was quite a revelation for Wife.  The work I have done is greated with much enthusiasm so that's good too.

We spend a couple of hours sorting out our stuff.  I unpacked the huge amount of stuff we had crammed into the land rover - four side tables, lamps, towels, suitcases, DIY stuff, etc and then assembled the rest of the new IKEA bed that we are going to use.

Then off to the Leclerc supermarket in St Jean for an initial stock up for the next few days and also a chance to buy some cheap red wine for me from the Cave and to have a quick look in the brocante. 

I had hoped to have a meal out at Le Scorlion tonight to celebrate our first evening together at our house but it is fully booked so it is Le Cabanon instead, and actually a very good meal indeed.  For the next couple of days we are working more or less none stop on the house, so we are now suitably charged up.


Wife has started on the huge task of cleaning the kitchen and organising all our stuff in it.  I am initially working on the doors upstairs; a repaint and re-fitting of door handles. 

In the afternoon we are visited by Grant, our property manager.  He and I have our usual run through the pending work while Wife expresses concern about the cleaning of the outside of the house, especially the terrace.  But all seems in hand to me. 

We now have a large dining room table assembled - another IKEA purchase - and are beginning to see how the whole area will fit together.

I cook a variation on the meal that Jerome did for me a few weeks ago - frozen fruit de mer cooked with shallots, garlic and creme freshe and served with rice and a salad.  We are both really hungry after a full days work - always a nice feeling I think


An improvement in the weather over night and some blue sky.  Work continues on our various tasks but I take a few minutes to go out for a brief walk and see the donkey in its field across the road.

We are joined for lunch by two cats who sit on the kitchen window looking in as we eat.  The tabby was around when I was here last time and we think it is an un-neutered male, which would be a very bad thing to let in the house.  I hadn't minded it wandering around before, but now it is banished.