Sunday, 3 September 2017

Reflections

I thought I would add my own two cents worth to the blog as I haven't contributed for a while - due to a lack of time (!), the absence of a decent internet connection and the photos that I want to add always being stored on the wrong device. However, scrolling through the blog, I think Richard has covered it really and used the photos I would have chosen. The only thing to add here is a photo of an almost finished kitchen.



Our trip to France was an odd one this time, partly due to trying to live in our house with building work still going on - this dictated our schedule and made it a little less relaxing. In addition, Richard was unwell for most of our stay in France - I probably kicked this off by catching a cold in England but Richard's version mutated into a persistent virus. We even went to see a doctor to make sure he wasn't more seriously ill. The health issues didn't end there as my mum was hospitalized for five days (all better now) so what with visiting mum in hospital and helping out my dad, and escaping the building work at home, we probably spent nearly half our holiday in France staying with my parents. Being in the south of France during August, peak holiday season, also made it quite challenging to get around due to heavy traffic and crowds of tourists. We learnt to get around this by doing our sightseeing and motorway driving early in the morning.
Despite these challenges, we still had many lovely moments and experiences: fields of sunflowers, a butterfly farm, catching up with friends and family, four nights of "fete" and live music in the village, evening food markets, visits to our favorite Cathar castles, walks in beautiful countryside, refreshing swims in pools and lakes, good food, wine and cold pastis, and frequent visits from our two favorite french kitty cats.
Plus we had the satisfaction of seeing our house taking shape. We painted the main bedroom and first floor landing, Richard assembled bedroom furniture, and we started hanging pictures including blown-up canvas prints of our favorite photos which we organized through photobox.  Next step is probably to improve the look of the exterior of the house with a complete paint job and painting the shutters and front door in fresh new matching colors. Maybe by the next time we visit, our house will have a completely new look!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Cambodia

....which isn't really the Ariège, but it does have a French quarter to go with its colonial past so there is a link there albeit at bit tenuous. Plus  Jacques Lafayette born in Le Peyrat, introduced horn combs (historically, a major industry in the area) to Cambodia back in 1875 so there is a tangible link.  I may have made that last bit up.
We decided before coming to France that we would have a week off in Cambodia before coming back  to Australia and face the the back end of winter and back to work.  Plus it would give us a chance to get over the jet lag, as there is only an hour's difference in time. Things never really got finished in our house in France and it was always a bit awkward living with a half completed kitchen for the holiday.
We flew out from Nice on 27th August.  The trip was long but worth it. We flew to Doha, Qatar, had a  couple of hours in transit and then a connecting flight on to Bangkok.  Unfortunately we had to wait about 5 hours for the next connection to Siem Reap but for what it's worth Bangkok Airways have a private lounge for all passengers where you can get free drinks and snacks and wifi so we found a corner there and slept as best we could. Besides, getting through immigration and security at Bangkok airport ate up a significant amount of the five hour wait.
This will actually be our third trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia. We love it. The hotels are fantastic, and sooo cheap. As is the food, drink ($2 for a margarita cocktail) and clothes.







Our hotel, the Borei Angkor is fantastic; five star standard, but the most amazing thing is because it's out of season the prices are ridiculously cheap.  Room and buffet breakfast for $50!  You would have trouble getting a Campanile in France for that price.

Most people come here for the temples at Angkor Archaeological Park.  Most of them are are 11th and 12th century with a buddhist/hindu theme running throughout.   Considering they are getting on for a thousand years old they are still amazingly preserved.   You would need a week to do them all justice.





One thing we should point out is the climate. It is very hot and humid.  We did a morning tour of some of the outlying temples such as Preah Khan, and found that four and a half water bottles was just enough to keep us going.  There are lots of sellers en route however to sell all sorts.  This actually worked out quite well as when we came back from our last temple, our tuk tuk (sort of a motorbike with a passenger cart on the back) had disappeared.  It turned out he had a flat tyre, so we took the opportunity of buying a couple of cold bottles of water and promptly poured them down the back of our shirts....yes that is how hot it gets!


Come dry season this 'baray' will be gone, although from above it would look like a rectangular moat surrounding a temple. Actually bit of trivia...the largest man made structure built by the ancient Khmer wasn't Angkor Was which is the biggest temple (google it!) but the western baray.










Monday, 21 August 2017

Time to take a break

.....the kitchen is still not ready, but there has been a lot of sanding and plastering still going on.  Its sort of functional providing we don't spill anything, but I find it hard to cook without something spilling or splashing somewhere.  We now have a gas hose connection to the cooker top, yay! We haven't bothered to buy a gas bottle yet because we would rather wait until the whole thing is finished.  Plus we don't have any cookware which would probably be a bit of a stumbling block to a successful meal.

 Instead we go through a routine each morning of getting up early before the builder comes, having our coffee, then removing the coffee machine and microwave from the kitchen. Washing up our dishes from whatever microwavable  or reaheatable meal we have bought from Intermarché that may have been left from the previous night. The aforementioned items go on to 'lounge table' and we cover it all with a dust sheet.  Not really how we planned to spend this holiday but c'est la vie!

So we feel obliged to remove ourselves from the house, to drive off somewhere, a bit unsettled that the kitchen is not ready, but it would be to awkward to stay in the house with the work going on. However driving along on route to find something interesting to do we sometimes see  some sights that really lift the spirits.  For instance on the D625 between our village and Mirepoix were these magnificent fields of sunflowers.  They looked fantastic and seemed to go on for ever!

I was that close to having an Age of Aquarius moment, stripping off and dancing naked around amongst them!


Sometimes it is the small things that we maybe overlook. For instance there is a wonderful butterfly farm just outside the village of Lesparou, called Les Papillons d'Amarande.  We visited it in the afternoon, as apparently butterflies like to get up late and go to bed early.....half your luck mate!  Its been run by a husband and wife team for 20 years but they are retiring next year.  I thought what a great way to have an income, some polytunnels, some fruit trees, a few overripe bananas and away you go.  Apparently some of the butterflies are getting a bit lazy now and just go straight for fruit drinks for their sustenance instead of the flowers themselves!                                                                         







Ok I think thats enough butterfly pictures.  There were some magnificent blue ones but the blooming' things never stayed still long enough to get a photo.








Saturday, 19 August 2017

Where does the time go?

Where does the time go?  It will soon be the end of this summer trip to our house and we will once again be back in Australia.  I always feel a bit sad about this time of the holiday as we always put in a lot of time and effort into our house, but we always have to leave it, and rarely do we actually get to enjoy the improvements we have added!  For instance I am looking at a wood burner installed last year that can apparently do a great job of warming the entire floor. Never lit…its still got the performance and manufacturers stickers on the glass front!  

But having said that each year it feels more like a home than a house and fingers crossed if the kitchen is finished in time we could recoup some of the investment in renting it out.  We have even started putting prints up on the wall! I feel someone should be enjoying the place even if it’s not us. Especially with all the new furniture we have acquired and assembled from stores in the area.

There is a saying in the navy....if it moves salute it, if it doesn't paint it.


My wife likes to shop at a store called ‘But’.  It’s a home furnishings store selling everything: TVs, cookers, beds, furniture.  I’m sure you get the idea.  They sell all their furniture items in self-assembly flat pack kits.  I hate it.  I swear you need a combined degree in engineering, interpretive art and telepathy to work out what on earth they are banging on about when it comes to putting the bloody things together.  I kid you not!  It comes with a pictogram book of how to assemble.  Half way through I wasn’t sure if I was assembling a wardrobe or reading a graphic novel on the storming of Troy!  There were some stages of putting together that were so confusing I had to lie on the bed with the booklet as an eye mask and hope that some clarity would somehow infuse into my head through the paper!  And to add insult to injury the instructions said it would take 1 hour to assemble!!!!   Maybe 1 hour in mayfly years…..it took me about three days! Agreed I am a bit inept and a proper electric drill would have really helped. Having said that the task of counting a jumbo meccano set variety of screws would have taken an hour by itself.  I mean why not just have two sizes big and small…not the 15 different sizes of screw that were needed to make this apparently simple wardrobe.   As you can imagine I was very proud of myself when I finally finished it and hence here is a photo of it!

...and when I find the missing hinge and bracket I will probably finish it.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Nous sommes arrivés

Enfin...

Well actually we have been here for a couple of weeks now but with the lack of wifi and being a bit slack and enjoying the sun and food in-between painting we've been a bit remiss in finding somewhere with free wifi to continue blogging!

Ok, so the kitchen was not completely finished.  We sort of expected this to be the case really, and in hindsight we realize there was no way it could be finished without us being there on the ground as it were to authorize the final decision making. The sink and cabinets were in but we were not aware of all the small things  that still needed to be decided.  Tiles, cabinets, paint schemes, lighting arrangement, pipe work....etc.  It's very difficult to plan this from abroad using emails so it was good to finally meet Sid and discuss how we would proceed.

Work in progress...watch this space

We are old hands now at the phone and internet stuff so once we had unpacked we went to the Orange store to get a new sim card and to replenish the airbox with some data.....€40 for 5mb of data!!!!!  So that lasted less than a week before we had to top it up so we are now strictly rationed.   I am allowed to check the cricket score on BBC, but anything on youtube is banned!  So you can see why we only use the blog when we see the magic 'free wifi' logo.   The nearest to us is the recently opened McDonalds in Laroque-d'Olmes.  Not a huge fan of McDonalds but not above the hypocrisy of going in there for a burger and spending an hour on the net!

One pair of rascals who were a brilliant surprise were the two cats...Fatguts and Dumbass, who survived the winter and have now made the square their own!   In fact we have renamed  Dumbass.  She is now called 'Goggles'...due to her piercing stare!   They have been adopted by a kind hearted local girl, who really saved their lives.  They still remembered that we were the mugs who would give them tinned mackerel.....and we still do. This photo almost looks as if Fatguts is putting her daily order in!




Itchy feet...France is calling!

Its been far too long.

I now keep a work calendar attached by fridge magnets on the side of the fridge.  Each day I mark a day off!!  It's now less than a month until we get back to our house in the lovely Ariege.  

This time instead of flying directly to Nice or Barcelona we are going via the UK to see family.  Then its a quick flight hopefully from Liverpool to Nice and pick up the hire car.



Point of note. Once you have a car with built in sat nav you never go back!   Its soooo much easier to navigate towns and cites you have never visited before with sat nav.  Trust me on this one.

Our new kitchen should be ready by the time we get back which means we can finally do some cooking.  Having said that, lets face it; its going to be summer, hot, and we'll probably be spending most days eating cold cuts, cheese, olives wine, salad and ham.  However should I get the gastronomic urge to prepare quelque chose different...well the options there.



Tuesday, 25 April 2017

You can vote in Perth too....

The election in France doesn't really make top news in Perth.  Among the hot topics here are the Roe 8 project and why the West Coast Eagles can't win at the MCG.  Its the flip side of the coin - in Australia we think Le Pen is something the French write with and Macron is a sort of cake; similarly maybe the French think a West Coast Eagle is...well a bird that prefers to hang around the côté ouest and Roe 8 is a keen enthusiast of open boat oarsmen!

Donc. As it's the election Michelle had the opportunity to vote.  Oui, although to see and hear my wife, she sounds completely English but can turn on the French lingo at the drop of a hat.  I am really jealous, especially when she laughs at my more amusing faux pas with the language. I will persevere however!!!  Just keep the gender of cats away from any topic discussed in public.  Anyway.. it turns out the the local Alliance Francaise here in Perth had a booth set up for the Presidential election. It was very popular too. I never knew so many ex pat French lived in Perth, but then again,  pourquoi pas!?   The weird thing though is the process is completely different from anything I had seen before.  They have all the candidates names, face up, on cards to choose from.  Now here comes the sneaky bit. You have to choose at least two of these in clear view of the officials and take them with you to your booth.  I suppose you could take them all if you wanted absolute privacy! Then you discard the one(s) you don't want, putting your single selection in a little brown envelope.  Seems a bit of a waste of paper to me, but who I am to question nearly 150 years of democracy!


But I have to say I do like the simplicity  of just voting for one person. At the recent State election here in Western Australia we had 58 different candidates to choose from.  In theory this would mean I would have to mark them down in preference from 1 to 58. I have enough trouble finding something laudable in my first choice candidate.  To work out the pros and cons of the 58th on the list would be a full time job!  I tried to take a photo, but would need telescopic hands to fold out the concertina form.