Archive | October, 2015

Getting to know the locals better

28 Oct

We have lived in Montolieu 33 months now and we have made some connections with local people. Of course the shopkeepers know us quite well now – Adrian in the wine shop, Nellie at the grocer, Saskia at the baker, Terry and Bernard at the restaurant; and the pharmacist sees Richard quite frequently! We love talking to Monsieur Escarré, who is in his 80s and walks down our track most days with the aid of his walking sticks. Talking to him is a bit of a challenge as he has a strong local accent, giggles a lot and his teeth seem to be quite mobile!

We have joined the retired peoples’ club where we have made some more friends. This month we went to the club lunch where 64 of us enjoyed a four course meal with wine and coffee (great value at €15 a head).

M Borillo, aged 92

M Borillo, aged 92

We sat next to Monsieur Borillo, aged 92, and his wife who together with their daughter had worked at the tannery where we now live. He told us a little about his working life. Before he went to the tannery he had worked on the land at Saissac, an outdoor man. Before he retired (30 years ago!) he had worked on the first floor of the tannery (where we now live), operating a machine that cleaned the skins before they were processed into leather.

When he worked here, there were about 50 people employed. The owner and the manager lived in the Old House. The buyer and transport manager lived in what is now the Little House.

The tannery business was contracting fast and just before its demise, it employed just five people. Looking at some of the old records, it seemed that the French state tried to support it, by paying the salaries of the employees for the last two years, but to no avail.

By chance I met a friend of a friend on one of our sailing trips who ran a leather trading business. He used to make visits around the world buying leather and he had purchased from the Tannery de la Dure many times! What a coincidence!

Anyway, back to the lunch. After consuming a tart and salad for starter, followed by coq-au-vin with dauphenoise potatoes, then cheese and finally a desert followed by coffee and all sustained by copious bottles of white, rosé and red wine, we got discussing our life and background with Daniele, the president of the Club de Retraite. She explained that on Tuesdays they had a course learning English. About seven people turned up but the tutor had returned to England for several weeks and they wanted to continue practising. So Trish agreed to go along! I will let her tell you the story but I am pleased to report that she has made at least three new friends and is talking about inviting some of the group to come and eat a meal with us or perhaps have a drink with us!

Meanwhile I flew off to England for five days for business meetings. Thanks to Graham and Sue Whibley for putting me up yet again!

Interesting sky at Carcassonne

Interesting sky at Carcassonne

I flew from Carcassonne and this time bought a Business Plus ticket – more expensive than cattle class but you get 20kgs into the hold, a reserved seat, priority boarding and most importantly for me, as I have problems standing in queues, fast tracking through security at Stansted.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Got to hit the sack ready for a Skype call tomorrow with my French friend, Jean-Pierre, who lives in Beavais.

Our holiday in the UK

4 Oct

We took three weeks away from our new home in France, to have a much needed holiday in the UK (much to the amazement of our French friends – “who would go to the UK for a holiday when you live in the south of France?”).

Anyway, we set off one morning with car loaded (including Nettles) and collected a paying passenger. We had posted our journey on BlaBlaCar which is a car sharing website. The young nurse had worked a night shift delivering babies. We took her from Montolieu to Tours where we then picked up a young man wanting to travel to Caen. We then drove the last 10 kilometres to our destination – Ouistreham – without a passenger. The lift sharing earned us €50 which covered the cost of the diesel.

We then boarded the 2300 ferry to Portsmouth. Poor Nettles had to stay in the car for the journey which lasted seven hours. We quickly got to our cabin and soon fell asleep, waking the next morning in time for an excellently cooked English breakfast. Not bad for a French ferry company?

We then drove to Kent where we stayed with Graham and Sue. Richard had meetings in London and the next day in West Malling. Then on Saturday we set off in separate cars to Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire to board our narrow boat.

Our home for the week

The week on the canals was the best we’d had for a long time. The boat was new, the company was excellent and the locks were challenging.

Graham and Sue left to go to a wedding in Suffolk and we drove to Manchester to stay with Trish’s brother George and his wife Heather. I left them on the Sunday to drive down to Gosport, collecting my elder sister, Sally, on the way in Northampton. We then boarded the good ship Lady Emma.

There were five us on board and we had a good time sailing around the Solent, even managing to explore Chichester Harbour. Sadly, all too soon the week was up. It is the last time I’ll sail Lady Emma as she is now up for sale. An end of a 30 year relationship with the yacht. She’s served us well!

Trish took the train down to Southamton with suitcase and dog! I collected her from the station and we spent the next two days in the New Forest. The weather had been great all the time we’d been in England apart from a day of drizzle on the canals. The Indian Summer treated us well.

One day, we decided to walk along the coast at New Milton. There is a 40 ft drop from the coastal path to the beach. And Nettles managed to run off the edge of the cliff! We both peered over the top, expecting to find a dead dog but no, she appeared from under a ledge, shook herself and then scrambled up the scree slope, finding her way and hauling herself back over the top, none the worse for wear apart from marks of sandstone on her chest. Talk about lucky!

This is where Nettles ran off the cliff

it’s a lot steeper than this shot shows

We also popped over to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, using the new fast ferry service. We had lunch there and then returned to Lymington. We met up with Keith & Jackie for an Italian meal in Ringwood.

Next day we drove slowly through the New Forest, eventually arriving in Portsmouth to catch the overnight ferry to Caen.

On the journey back home, we took two people to Bordeaux, and one from there to Toulouse. Another €88 in the bank. If you are interested, BlaBlaCar has now launched in the UK – see their website.