Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Frosty in France

A beautiful clear sky last night.  Around midnight it was fantastic star gazing conditions.  In this part of France there is very little industry (it is mostly farming) and so virtually no pollution, either particulate or light, so the skies are really clear.  Looking south from our terrace, Orion was glorious as always, while Jupiter was just rising in the south-east.  Beautiful.

So overnight the temperature fell to -4, the coldest I have experienced down here for some time.  The rain water that had collected on the tarpaulins that cover the outdoor furniture had frozen into glass sheets.  Oscar the donkey looked rather forlorn as he surveyed his frosty field.

Yet by lunchtime it was 18 degrees as the sun burned through.

What it is to experience a slightly different climate to the UK!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Last night's movie watching

I have been away from home for a couple of weeks now and am rather missing Wife, though we try and talk most days.

Last night's movie was a slightly odd Canadian adult comedy called My Awkward Sexual Adventure from 2012, in which an uptight accountant enlists an exotic dancer to instruct him in the world of sexual adventure so he can win back his previous girlfriend who left him because of his sexual ineptitude - a possibly funny plot.

Actually I rather enjoyed it.  I suspect much of that was due to me wishing wife was here with me.  She would look great in either the Alice-dress worn by the previous girlfriend or in the bondage scenes.

Cute outfit - the girlfriend back from a night at a costume party

The exotic dancer seeks to teach the accountant to be more dominant - my Wife would look good in this situation!

Time to start posting again - current music likes

I haven't posted for ages - no good reason.  So it is time to get back into a routine - a few posts per week at least.

I am in France at the moment, working on our new house.  Not much time for music listening but I did hear a Mary-Ann Hobbs show the other day with a stupendous piece of music by E.S.T. called Elevation of Love.  I have listened to that a dozen times in the last few days.  It is actually a track from years ago (the early 2000s?).  I shall have to investigate this more.  I did discover that the pianist is dead though - a scuba diving accident some years ago.  Shame

Also listening to the collected works of Nouvelle Vague - bossa-nova-styled cover versions of punk and post-punk songs.  I am particularly taken by two Youtube videos of them playing their versions of New Order's Bizarre Love Triangle and the rather-saucy Depeche Mode song, Master and Servant.  Not sure if the lead singer is the same in each case (they do change singers often).

Master and Servant - very slinky look

  Bizarre love triangle

Monday, 15 September 2014

Alpe d'Huez cycle ride

Perhaps the biggest high point of the year was our trip across to the Alps to meet up with Wife's brother who wanted to attempt a cycle ride up Alpe d'Huez.

Brother-in-Law is in late stage cancer and it is unclear what the immediate future holds.  The long-term prognosis is not good but he is hanging on well.  He has become a fanatical cyclist and was really keen on this attempt.  I used to be a keen cyclist but had to really get back into it to be ready for the trip.  I started training seriously in July and clocked up a few hundred miles before our September trip.

We arrived in the Alps to heavy rain on the Tuesday and we drove up Alpe d'Huez to get an idea of what we had let ourselves in for.  It was far more daunting that we had thought, though this might have been due to the bad weather.

But on the next day, it was lovely conditions and we both managed the ascent to much glory.

Brother-in-Law produced a rather excellent video which is now on Youtube called "Jonathan R and Andy G take on Alpe d'Huez"

Me labouring up on my 90 minute ascent

And at the finish - I have just arrived while Andrew has had five minutes to recover!

French Holiday - Sept - Brother and Sister in law

The second part of our September holiday involves a visit from Wife's brother and his wife.  The first part of this takes place in the Alps and features our glorious cycle ascent of Alpe d'Huez.  For the last few days, we are back on the west coast and have a very nice break.

Lots of sun, some nice meals (in and out), some more cycling and much relaxing

The photos below were taken with my Go-pro video camera - a most impressive device and one that is justifiably making its mark on the world

French Holiday - Sept - Wife's parents

Our September holiday is a tale of two parts.  For the first week we are joined by Wife's parents, which has mixed results.  daughter is not greatly pleased but the week passes without too much incident, possibly because Daughter has a friend come a visit, which distracts her a bit.

Wife's parents have become committed Franco-philes over the last six months.  Not sure i'd be too happy if some of their more-far-fetched plans to spend time here ever came to fruition - But rather than worry about that now, I will just assume that they won't come to fruition.

Some nice days again as usual

And for a few days we were joined by a kitten - almost certainly the daughter of the male tabby that we used to see around the house last year.

The kitten was christened "Rosie" by daughter.  She disappeared after a week with us and hasn't been seen since.

A nice trip out to Saintes with Wife's parents

And a trip to a Sunday brocante market, where I bought lots of pictures

Daughter and friend visiting Oscar the donkey


Catch up 5 - recent reading and music

Hardly any time for serious reading this summer.  In what little time I have had, I have re-read several old favourites such as Mathiesson's The Snow Leopard, Feyerabend's biography Killing Time, Garber's Academic Instincts, Safranski's biography of Heidegger and Rowland's biography of Giodarno Bruno

Briefly I looked at the possibility of going trekking to the area where The Snow Leopard is set - apparently it is now a fairly routine trip for people to do.  It wasn't in the early 1970s!

Very few new books - one that stood out was Hellbron's biography of Galileo

My music listening has been focused on Gideon Coe's rather excellent radio shows, though I still have my monthly subscription to emusic.com and download my full lot each month - I just rarely get a chance to hear much of them.  One new band I have really liked was Bo Ningen, more noisy Japanese.

Another highlight was Iggy Pop's BBC 6 radio shows.

Catch up 4 - France in July

Our summer holiday this year was spent at our main house in France just before it was then rented out for 6 weeks.  We had just about finished the renovation of Petits Chats and so were able to rent the whole house to one group for two weeks, which was good.

Overall then, our house income was marginally up on last year.

Our holiday was partly spent sorting out the purchase at Louzignac and partly on getting the main house ready for the summer - for instance we spent a lot of time cleaning the pool.  But we did manage one or two days out as well.

Wife cleaning the bottom of the pool with her broom.  Later it turned out that the best technique was to use a Karcher cleaning with a long jet attachment

Lovely weather for our stay (and for most of the summer).  Sunflowers everywhere this year.

We went brocanting on Oleron on one occasion and still see the re-sale of this sort of stuff in the UK as being a possible future source of income

And our main house looks lovely as the peak season approaches

Catch up 3 - Daughter.'s summer

Daughter finished the first year of her M Phil at Oxford and has come about one-third of the way down her year, which is borderline distinction and which she was pretty happy with, as there is a higher focus on maths in the first year, which is not her strength (such a judgement being relative to her very select peer group of course).

She then spent most of the summer in Central America on her latest tour of many countries.  So we didn't see her for some time.  But she seemed to have a very good time doing that, and made a new very-close friend.

Her next priority is to sort out a suitable dissertation topic for the second year of her M Phil and then start the process of being accepted onto the D Phil.

Finally, she was voted onto the committee of her college common room and therefore gets to stay in her current halls of residency for another year, rather than have to find a place of her own.

So all pretty good really . . . .

Catch up 2 - Louzignac purchase

The purchase of our second house in France was completed in July.  At the last minute, we also acquired a share in a field nearby, which was a bit odd.  So now we are really into the planning of the renovation - detailed budgeting, discussion with various people about specific things we can't do ourselves, etc.

I am trying to tighten up the budget a little and to do more of the work myself, rather than use other people.  Every piece of planned work is also being scrutinized to ensure that it is a value-enhancing thing to do.  For instance, swimming pools are rarely value-enhancing and so this idea has gone.  On the other hand, converting the workshop into an additional lounge with an extra bedroom and bathroom upstairs is a hugely enhancing idea as it increasing the habitable space.

So loads to think about there then

Wife having lunch at Louzignac on the afternoon we completed

Our strip of the field is about 100 metres long and 10 metres wide, roughly where Wife is standing.  We could have picnics there - or maybe a small music festival!

Catch Up 1 - House rental, etc

Rather disappointingly, we have had remarkably little interest in renting our house out and we are getting close to having to decide what to do with it.  We had rather assumed that by now we would be thinking about an imminent move to spend a year or so in France, but that might not be able to happen at the moment.

So do we go stick with our current arrangement in which Wife works in the UK and I start the new French project alone?  Or can we think of any other idea.

We have received lots of thoughts on the subject from Wife's clients, who generally seem to think that the estate agent are wholly to blame.  On the other hand, Wife's clients are also pleased she is currently not going, even thought they bought her leaving presents in the summer!

So maybe the house will come off the market in a few weeks time and we will do some more re-painting over the winter and try again in the spring.

A tremendous disappointment given what we hoped to be doing now.

First post for ages - a catching up plan

A rough idea for a catch up plan - given that things have been too hectic to post anything on a regular basis.  I will try and write something on each of the main current themes, then start again with regular posts.

But it is really busy at the moment - who knows if this plan will work or not.

It would a shame for things to just peter out . . . . .

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Big changes are a foot

Last weekend we put our main UK house on the market for sale.

We are planning a complete change in day-to-day life.  We will split our time between our other UK house and our newly-refurbished house in France . . .

and will spend our time renovating the new property we are just about to complete on in France

It will be 20 years this August that we moved to our current house.  Though there are many happy memories associated with it, it seems that there is very little that is really holding us to the area any more.

For me, the biggest wrench will be to never be able to have a concerted period of time fishing the Thames at Duxford, like I did in 2012.  I have tentative plans for one last campaign during July and August when my hay fever has hopefully cleared up.  I had always thought I would be still fishing at Duxford when I was 75 years old - not stopping when I was 51.

For Wife, she will miss the seasonal changes associated with the birds that come to our garden

But these should be compensated for by our new adventures - or so we hope.

Bloomsday 2014

I normally try and go fishing on June 16th each year - it is the first day of the season and the day after my birthday.  But this year (like last year) I have rather acute hay fever and I have postponed fishing for a few weeks.

Instead, Bloomsday was largely spent reading Kevin Birmingham's rather excellent book about the publication of Ulysses.  I hadn't realised that the USA was such a censored country until the 1930s.

It is over 30 years since I read Ulysses, one summer break from university and I remember little of it.  The scene where Leopold Bloom is cooking kidneys which he enjoys for the faint tang of urine, for instance.  I once used that line at a lunch - it did not go down well, and no one knew it would a line from Ulysses.

And Molly Bloom's stream of consciousness soliloquy.  I mainly know that now from Kate Bush's song, The Sensual World.

We own three copies of Ulysses it seems - plus a version on the Kindle.  Maybe I should dip into to it again.  But the complete audio book is 45 hours long - so maybe a complete read isn't on the cards

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Watching lots of "Northern Exposures"

While I am away in France again, Wife is at home watching the current series of Masterchef and catching up on Call the Midwife.  Daughter is watching Game of Thrones and the occasional Masterchef.  While I am watching series 3 of Northern Exposure, my all time favourite TV show.

What a treat to be able to watch two or three shows a night with no interruptions.  I always felt Northern Exposure was the sort of show that needed to be watched properly.

I always felt that Chris was one of the characters on TV that was most like me - in one episode he even says that as long as he has his music and books, he's fine!  A philosophical DJ - I could have been really good at that!

Maggie is also such a great character - very few tomboyish female characters occur on TV.  Spoilt only by the discovery that Janine Turner is something of a Tea Party activist these days

And I also have rather a soft spot for Adam and Eve - the really bonkers couple. 

Despite having all the episode on DVD and also on computer files (and probably even video tape), I have never actually watched all the episodes.  I have saved series 5 and 6, though I don't know why - maybe my sadness of knowing that the programme was winding down by then. 

But on this trip I am close to the end of series 3 and also have series 4 available.  But I still don't know when I will watch 5 and 6. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

And we got two tickets for the Kate Bush shows

On March 28th at 9:30am I was poised over my PC ready to click on the Kate Bush ticket ordering site.  Three minutes, and one scare later, I have acquired two tickets for the last night of the run - oddly enough, the only night we could be pretty certain to be able to go to.

A few minutes later, a quick look suggested that the whole lot had sold out, apart from a few "hospitality" packages costing over £400 each.  So pretty lucky I'd say.

Back in 1983 or 1984, I met Kate Bush.  She is the most famous person I have ever kissed!  And the other day I found my signed copy of The Dreaming - "To Jonathan, Lots of love, Kate x x"

Later on I discovered that our friend Dave is seeing five nights from the series, but he is an ex-roadie and knows lots of people in the industry.  His contacts obviously came up trumps.

The trip to France with our parents

Sunday departure

So the much heralded trip to France with our parents has finally arrived.  This could well be a pretty stressful trip and they will take some looking after.  My mother is 80 this year and has a whole raft of medical conditions, the main symptom of which is that she becomes breathless really quickly when she does any sort of physical activity.  Wife's parents are in their mid 70s and more mobile than my mother. 

We are on our way around 5:00, all 5 of us wedged in the land rover and with the roof box full to bursting.  Our first problem is getting my mum safely to her room as she has trouble with the flights of stairs on the ferry.  But we take it easy and she is soon settled in and decides to go straight to sleep rather than have a meal on the boat.

Wife's parents are extremely excited by it all and want to set off exploring the boat after our meal.  Luckily I have the excuse of the long drive tomorrow, so I can get an earlier night


Well I had a good nights sleep but everyone else seems to have found it a bit bumpy.  But regardless of this, everyone is up at the right time and we have time for breakfast.  The 4 hour drive down is relatively uneventful and we just have one stop on the way.  And we just about have enough room to get a few bags of shopping into the car on the way down.

Everyone really loves the house, helped by the sun having come out and it being quite warm.  We can have lunch outside on the terrace. 

A quiet afternoon at the house sorting stuff out and a chance for Wife to see what I've been doing to Petits Chats on the last trip.


Everyone had a great night's sleep apparently - indeed Wife had her first full nights sleep since we were last here in February.  My mum also had a really good sleep.  I, by contrast, was up before 6:00 so I could do some work on Petits Chats.

Grant and Simon were round this morning to work on the terrace, while we went out for the day to La Rochelle - the first time Wife has been there.  It is sufficiently off-season for us to be able to park in the central car park, which is just as well as my mum is finding walking hard going already.  So Wife takes her parents off for a walk round the back streets, while mum and I have a leisurely stroll along the sea front, stopping to buy some presents in a "Products Regionaux" shop, before settling in a nice lunch spot for a drink.

Wife and parents stumble across us some while later and luckily we can all agree on food to have here.  It is not long after we are settled in that just about all the waterfront tables are taken across all the restaurants.  I have moules-frites, one of my favourites

Walking round after lunch is not so good as mum is soon over-tired, but we gradually make our way back to the car after what is agreed was a really nice trip out.  Everyone sleeps on the way home.


Everyone has another good night's sleep and is more-or-less up and doing by 9:30 ready for a trip into St Jean to go to the market.  As usual, the highlight purchase is "Victor" bread and "mousse de canard".  French markets are always a real treat and everyone is impressed with what's available. 

We have a drink at Ellis Park and meet Dave, our estate agent friend, who tells us that everything is going well for our new purchase and that the paperwork should be done in a week or so.  Wife is very excited by this news.

We just have time to call in the garden centre for grass seed and a few other bits.  And I can also pop in the local cave for 2 litres of 13% vin de table.

Lunch is taken on the terrace again and is a real treat. 

We have a quiet afternoon at the house, with some work on the lawns - weeding and re-seeding.  Wife and I have time for a quick walk up to see Oscar - our first quiet time during the trip so far.


Another trip to St Jean this morning and a more-thorough look round the garden centre.  We have bought 20 lavender plants to go in by the terrace (when it is done)

I had hoped that Wife and I might be able to have an evening out together this evening but Wife's parents want to come too (my mum was happy to have an early tea and go to bed early after watching a couple of Lovejoys on tv)

So we head out in time for a drink at Ellis park and then to the Annexe for our meal.  Wife's parents have the very unimaginative choice of vegetable soup followed by an omelette - but at least they have experienced another French meal.


Another long day out with a trip down to the Isle d'Oleron.  This is via the rather lovely village of Mornac which turns out to be largely closed today.  But we drive on to St Pierre, where there is a fantastic cake shop

Lunch is a bit of an effort with my mum ordering a very large salad and then finding that she didn't like the cheese and that it had mushrooms in it (to which she thinks she is allergic).  She made a big fuss about having the mushrooms picked out and then got it into her head that she had been brought the wrong salad as it had loads of things she wasn't expecting.  But actually it was correct and she just hadn't spotted that it had the other stuff in it (including the mushrooms)

Wife was keen for us to then find somewhere where she and her parents could have a little walk, so I selected randomly the coastal village of La Cotiniere which actually turned out to be really nice.  My mum stayed off the beach but seemed to enjoy just sitting and looking at the ocean view.  I spent 30 minutes taking photos and Wife and her parents got their walk - which they seemed to enjoy a great deal.

Our last meal is back at the house - Wife's favourite of chicken with peppers, onion and chorizo


Another trip into St Jean for the market again.  We met Dave again briefly, and Wife was able to get me to buy her a few things at "Dressing with Lisa" which she seemed very pleased with.

We depart around 3:30, stop for food near Le Mans and get to Caen in plenty of time.  Quite a week!


Wife's parents have talked about nothing else but France since we got back and have been totally thrilled by the whole experience.  Indeed my mum also really enjoyed it.  Both sets of parents have really understood why we love it here so much.  So if we do decide to spend even more time here, they now know why!