I apologise for the delay in publishing last month’s blog post, our internet connection was untimely disrupted after we decided to change internet provider once again and it was cut off for several days. It would seem that no matter how many times we change internet providers, for the time being, we will just have to accept that 2 Mbps is the best we are going to get, and that, on a good day! With a bit of luck, ‘très haut débit’ ADSL (high speed Internet) might one day become available in rural France and you never know, we might even get fibre-optic by 2025!
Don’t get me wrong, we can still function perfectly normal when there’s no internet in the house and it is generally nice not to have it distract our lives, but it is, nonetheless, inconvenient, especially when it comes down to simple things such as checking bank accounts, searching for phone numbers, driving directions (no, I don’t have GPS) or shop opening times, which are often limited out here in the Aveyron countryside.
So, now we are back online, I guess I should fill you in on what’s been happening around here recently. We got to spend a great couple of weeks with Pete’s sister and her beautiful granddaughter, who kept us on our toes! It was really nice to have a toddler around the house again, although our terrorised cats might not share the same view!
Having spent all summer back in England with my dad, who has not been able to travel for the past few months, my mum finally made it out to France for a 3-week holiday. Her initial flight from Leeds-Bradford to Limoges was cancelled at the last minute due to an air traffic control strike (quelle surprise!) but she discovered a new flight route from Manchester via Brussels, which brought her to Rodez instead (only 40 minutes’ drive from our house). I use the word ‘holiday’, but while she was here, she never stopped working! She helped with the kids, the washing, the cooking and cleaning (although she did get a helping hand from our kitten, Coco, who tackled the dusting, single-handedly!).
Thank you for everything, Mum. Not just for all your hard work, but for your company, your positivity, all the laughs and giggles…just how long did it take us to change that gas bottle?! And not forgetting our funny cornfield adventure, where we tried hopelessly to hide from a passing tractor, as we found ourselves trespassing (unintentionally, I hasten to add), having strayed off the footpath while blackberrying! Put it this way, I now know what it feels like to be a field mouse in a straw field, scurrying to get away from that loud engine noise, just in case it is, in fact, that of an approaching combine harvester!
We also dragged my poor mother up the steepest footpath in Prévinquières woods in search of wild mushrooms, only to find that there were large puffball mushrooms to be found in our very own garden. We’ve since found that the local football pitches are the ideal hunting ground for field mushrooms and the odd cep, if you’re lucky. It’s a real shame that I personally don’t like the taste of mushrooms, but it’s fun looking for them all the same.
We have also had a good fig harvest this year. Mum made homemade fig jam and fig rolls, as well as pear compote and blackberry cheesecake. You’ve got to love the delights of autumn!
Another member of the family who’s really taken to fruit lately is our Lhasa Apso dog, Clive.
He’s rather overweight as it is, so we’ve been limiting his food intake (or so we thought), but he just seems to be getting fatter and fatter. We’ve just discovered that in rebellion to his new diet, he’s been sneaking into our neighbours’ dog house and eating all their dog’s kibble! For dessert, he seems to prefer the vegetarian option and each evening helps himself to a fallen pear from next door and then protects it, like it’s a bone, growling if anyone comes within an inch of it. Luckily, he doesn’t eat the whole thing, just a nibble here and there, but it’s strange to see a pear-eating dog all the same.
He’s not the only strange animal Chez TêteBlanche either. Each evening, we walk the dogs down the country track by our house and we’ve recently noticed that the cats are joining us too. Strange but true…it takes all sorts to live with the Whiteheads!
As for our chickens, we thought our luck might be in with a slightly broody hen, who sat on her eggs for a full day without moving…but it wasn’t to be. She must have got bored, and free-ranging with the other hens must be more appealing. So, when our neighbour told us one of his hens was feeling broody but had no fertilised eggs to sit on, we gladly donated five of ours, which she looked after for 21 days until one hatched. Ok, so four of the five eggs didn’t work out, but the good news is that one did. It would seem we have successfully found a natural way of rearing chicks through surrogacy! Our neighbour has kept this one, but should his hens become broody in the future, we will be sure to try again for more next time.
September was also time to be creative. Pete helped the kids make a doll’s house out of cardboard, fabric, foil and anything else they could get their hands on, while I helped Madeleine make a personalised door sign for her friend’s birthday and some paper dolls, inspired by the children’s book ‘The Paper Dolls’ by Gruffalo author, Julia Donaldson, which comes highly recommended by the way. We also turned one of our trees into a sculpture exhibit!
With my mum’s help, we up-cycled our couch, re-covering a tear with some curtain fabric, and at the local primary school, I made a wall display for the cantine with some of the older children, re-telling the story of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ in English.
Pete has made great progress in the living room, which is actually starting to feel like a living room at last. Still left to do is the floor, skirting boards, door, computer desk and the added comfort of some soft furnishings, but it’s changed an awful lot in under two years and we love it!
As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been consciously aware of the untimely death of a very close family friend this week and wondering how on earth I could ever put into words something comforting for all who knew him…but I can’t. Words just don’t help fill this empty feeling I have in my stomach. Yet, I take great comfort in the fact that he enjoyed reading my blog and found it inspiring. I have such fond memories of a great, kind, lovable man, who always made me smile and will never be forgotten…and so, I will keep on smiling and hopefully, through my open-hearted writing, inspire many more people to do the same.
For Uncle John…