Autumn joys and winter woes

September 2015

Nearly another month gone, time is passing so fast and the children are growing up in front of our eyes. They’ve adapted really well to country life and it’s great to be able to let them play outside, without having to worry about pollution, busy roads or any other common dangers a big town might bring. Recent autumn school activities have involved apple pressing and grape picking. It’s a far cry from the cross country skiing they propose back in Chamonix, but it’s relevent to the area we live in and I think it’s great that the children are learning about nature and where our food comes from. This is the school’s garden, with its very own scarecrow and rainwater collection tank. IMG_3298Gardening is just one of the numerous free activities on offer at the after school clubs, such as Occitan, English (with myself), textiles, pottery, storytelling, singing, poetry and sport. There might only be forty pupils in the entire village school, but thanks to the investment of time and effort by parents, teachers, volunteers and local enterprises, the school is thriving and is keeping community spirit alive.

Compolibat Eglise et Place Publique 192XCompolibat is forty minutes away from Rodez Airport, which is practical in the summer as there are budget flights from Stansted, but it’s a pretty useless airport for any other time of year, as there are no flights from the UK from November to March, which means we get far less visitors over the winter months.

The Aveyron winter can be pretty bleak at times and not that much happens over here, well unless you venture nearer the ski resorts of Aubrac and Laguiole (1h40 by car). As much as I love the autumn, if you haven’t already guessed, I am not particularly looking forward to winter. Even when we lived in Chamonix, I only ever enjoyed the snow for the first month, and then the months of January and February seemed to drag on for ever. As we discovered last year, rainy days in Aveyron mean that we have to live in wellies for at least four months of the year but at least we get some winter sun to lighten our spirits. If all goes to plan, this winter we should have a wood burner installed to keep us cosy and warm, the new windows should be fitted and Pete has been making progress insulating the roof, so I don’t think it will be as bad as I expect after all. We had a go at pointing the stone wall in our bedroom with a mixture of hydraulic lime and sand, which seems to be working well, and so we’ve decided to do the whole wall in it. It will be nice to sit up in bed without having cobwebs in my hair!
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DSCF7180As progress continues in our bedroom, the kitchen is beginning to get on my nerves. We were lucky to have a fully fitted and working kitchen when we moved in, which, sure enough, serves its purpose, but the decor is quite outdated and you feel like you’re cooking in the 70’s.
What annoys me more than anything though, is not the old fashioned cupboards or the grubby floor tiles, but the lack of worktops! The plan is to knock down one of the interior walls to let more light in, and create more space, giving me an entire wall of worktop space where I can make pasta, conserves and cook our meals. Anyway, below, is a picture of the kind of thing I have in mind, when we find a couple of wine barrels to revamp. kitchen-island-barrelOf course, out of our extremely long list of jobs to do on the house, the kitchen is quite possibly the last room on the list, so I fear I may just have to put up with it that bit longer. Never mind, I keep dreaming!

Inadequate as the kitchen is, I still seem to have mastered cooking in it, at least when it involves using our second-hand breadmaker. The other day I made cinnamon and raisin bagels, cheese and onion rolls, sundried tomato loaf and burger baps in it. It just goes to show you what great things people throw out with their rubbish!

I had a go at making some fig and blackberry jam, which became more of a hard jelly, having been left too long on the stove, but it proved to be a great filling for my homemade fig rolls. IMG_3267IMG_3260
With kilo after kilo of tomatoes, I’ve made sauces, ketchup and soups, and when I’m not in the kitchen, I’m trying to rustle up some interest for my English workshops. I’ve decided that hotel work is no longer for me and there is real gap in the market in this particular area for good English teachers, so I’m trying to promote the English language in the Aveyron for all ages and levels.

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I am basically trying to combine eco living, permaculture and gardening with teaching English and I have used this idea to market my services. Here is my French brochure for the workshops I propose with the local social centre: Scan0008

I am working on the basis that children need knowledge to ‘flourish’, just as much as the seedlings in a nursery need water and light to ‘develop’. Surely children are the future, which is why we made these changes to our lives in the first place. I find that the majority of people, unhappy though they might be in their current lives, will always prefer to stick with what they know, rather than risk everything in the search of finding something better. Life is too short to settle for second best. If you’re not happy in your life, you need to establish exactly what factors are making you unhappy and make the necessary changes, no matter how scary they might seem at the time.  Just under two years ago, we made that decision…to journey into the unknown and make a better life for ourselves. I write this blog, not just to encourage others to do the same, but more importantly, to document our journey so we have something to look back on, to relive the memories, to show our successes and hardships, and to pass on our knowledge and values to our future generation, who, in an ever-changing world, will be ready to embrace change and ultimately, survive it.

Fortune-favors-the-braveFortune-favors-the-brave

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