Tag Archives: France

Whilst the cat’s away, the mice do play!

24 May

So, taking the opportunity whilst Trish is in Nigeria, Richard decided to pop down to the true south of France – Provence! Here is his little story.

I booked a tiny self-contained flat through Airbnb in Sanary-sur-Mer which is just west of Toulon. I wanted to visit the historic port of Toulon, to find out why the French Admirals had based their fleet there during the Napoleonic wars. I now know why – it’s vast and well sheltered. Prevailing winds made it easy for the French to come out and pretty hard for the English to get in. Which is why Nelson had the port blockaded. And quite successful it was too until a storm blew up, scattering the blockading fleet and allowing the French out. It’s a long story but eventually they joined up with the Spanish fleet and got beaten at the Battle of Trafalgar, by Nelson.

Sanary-sur-Mer is a lovely seaside town with pretty streets, neat houses and a gorgeous seafront. It’s expensive, mind you. I chose not to eat out here, preferring a neighbouring town which is slightly downmarket.

Today was a lovely sunny day, with temperatures of 27 deg C, which is only five degrees less than in Abuja, Nigeria! And the sea sparkled, as only the Mediterranean can in summer. The holiday season is a long way off getting into full swing but everything was open and freshly painted. So I got the full version without the crowds. Bet it’s not like this in August!

The journey from Montolieu to Toulon takes about four-and-a-half hours. I posted the journey on BlaBlaCar and immediately received six bookings going. Of course, it was a railway strike day. Thank you SNCF – I made €69 instead of you! Tomorrow, for the return journey, I’ve got three bookings, as far as Nimes, then I’m on my own but it does give me the chance to meander a bit and not to worry about meeting strangers in strange places at fixed times!

Bachelor life

17 May

I’m a temporary bachelor as Trish has gone to Nigeria to spend time with our friends Irene and Michael, who live there. Trish left on Monday – she was so excited and it was my pleasure to support her in getting all her papers and travel plans in order.

The day after she left I thought I’d struggle to find things to do. I’m pleased to say I’ve been busy ever since. When living as a couple, one has to compromise and share, naturally. Living on one’s own means I can pretty much do what I want when I want. So my present life has more of a natural rhythm to it and it’s a more efficient way of living – only for a short time, though!

One thing I have noticed is that despite saying to myself each night “I’ll have a lie in tomorrow” when the morning comes I’m up and rating to go at 7:30 am!

Another thing – I seem to be eating less food than I do when there are two of us. Perhaps it’s easier to cater for just one. I know I eat smaller quantities anyway after my gastric bypass, however, I do normally eat five times a day and my calorie intake is about 1,800 a day. These last few days I’ve gone down to three meals a day! My normal weight is now 110 kgs or 17 stone 4 lbs and over the winter this crept up a tad. So hopefully by the time Trish returns to Montolieu (28 May), I will be below my goal weight.

Today I am going to work this morning in the garden with Mareva and Nicolas (who live here). No doubt we will be ’assisted’ by Nettles as we weed the vegetable patch! Nettles in the gardenThen we will plant vegetable seeds and the potatoes. After lunch, I plan to continue the work removing the old window panes on the veranda of Irmtraud’s loft. It’s a noisy and tough job, as the windows are three storeys up and I can only work from the inside. Replacing windowsAlso, the putty is over 50 years old and is pretty much like concrete! I’m about to deploy the electric concrete chiseller! Later this evening I plan to pop into the village and eat a crepe cooked by our friends Veronique and José from their mobile creperie called Speedycrepe.

Tomorrow Louise and I plan to go to the seaside at Gruissan, to get some sun. So possibly a day off! Yippee!Gruissan harbour

We have had a lovely summer

4 Sep
The swimming pool at Montolieu

The swimming pool at Montolieu

Well the summers is nearly over but we have had a lovely time over here. The weather was very good this year, although May was a bit rainy. However June and July were splendid – hot, long sunny days with temperatures averaging 30°C. Then it dropped a tad in August, making life that much more bearable. We have been wearing shorts and tee shirts all summer!

The local open-air swimming pool has been much in demand. It’s only open in July and August but when things got too hot, we took to having meetings in the middle of the pool!

The chickens got a new home
The new hen house

The new hen house

Finally we decided that the chicken house built by volunteers two years ago was not fit for purpose. It leaked and was beginning to fall apart, and rats and mice were trying to muscle in as well! So we went on-line and found a French company that supplied wooden, ecological chicken houses that were delivered flat for us to assemble. Here is the result!

They appear to be quite happy with the new arrangement, although for a few days they tried to return to the old one at the end of the day. That stopped when we demolished the old one! It must be working as we started to collect three eggs a day again.

Nettles and yet another bone

Nettles and yet another bone

For Nettles it’s been a lovely time. She has had literally hundreds of people to play with her. She’s been out for long walks and runs. Here she is enjoying a bone.

As we are about to travel back to the UK for a holiday, she has an appointment with the vet who will give her a health check, an injection against worms and he will sign her off as fit to travel. This jas to be done between five days and24 hours before the channel crossing. This year we have decided to go on the overnight ferry from Caen/Ouistreham to Portsmouth thus avoiding any possible delays at Calais due to the refugee crisis unfolding there.

New volunteer website

We have produced a new website for people interested in volunteering here. Please do have a look.

Sorry we’ve been quiet of late

11 Dec

It’s been a really busy time what with travelling to and from the UK and organising the volunteers. But we are having a ball.

We will be blogging again soon so watch this space. Tomorrow we’re off to l’Herault for a long weekend.

Meanwhile here’s a photo of Trish with her first banana cake!


We’ve been ever so busy

7 Jun

Apologies for not having blogged for a while. We have been ever so busy. Most of Richard’s time has been spent working for his two clients in the UK and in project managing the building of the accommodation at the Peace Factory.

In the meantime, Trish has been heavily involved in managing the volunteers and in looking after the garden.

How time flies when you’re having fun!

20140607-211939-76779746.jpg Here Trish is discussing the next project with one of the volunteers.

20140607-212112-76872913.jpgDamien has constructed a screen which will hide one end of the garden office.

20140607-212244-76964635.jpg Richard’s sister Sally visited us for a week with her husband Gordon.

We also had a visit from Irene, who spent a long weekend with us.

So it’s all hands to the pump here at the Peace Factory! We will be visiting relatives in Manchester and Essex and friends in Kent from 18 to 30 June. We hope to see some of you then.

An update is on its way!

11 Feb

We are working on an update but it’s taking time. Since returning from the UK we’ve been busy.

Anyway, to sum up what we’ve been doing, here’s two photographic clues:



Christmas at our place in France

29 Dec

Christmas in France is a bit different to what we are used to. For a start, many people here have their main Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, before going to Church. But some people have their main meal on Christmas Day and some have two main meals! Boxing Day does not exist and the day after Christmas Day is a normal working day, although many people take a holiday from work.

The shops are not quite as manic as ours are before the big day. There does not seem to be the commercial pressure to buy up everything in sight! To be fair, we don’t look at French television so we have no idea of the advertising pressures but the shops are quite restrained in their approach. You see the occasional Father Christmas!

The decorations in the street are restrained and quite nice. Each town or village has their own display put up by the local mayor’s department. There is absolutely no sign of Christmas lights on peoples’ homes, something we found to be pretty ghastly in our old area.


This is our artificial tree and real cut flowers

I must say we have enjoyed sharing this time with people from France, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. An international gathering of people, sharing food, drink and each other’s company. We have learned a lot about other countries’ customs at Christmas.

Tonight a four day NVC course starts, attended by 12 people. Holding a course at t he end of the year is quite popular, mainly because no other trainer is offering to run courses then!

Spring is here at the Peace Factory in France

26 Mar

Spring is here. The birds are singing, flowers and trees are sprouting. And everyone is looking cheerfully at the garden.

We have much to do. The greenhouse needs glazing. The organic manure has to be bought and trailored from the farm about an hour away. Then it has to be dug in before the organic seeds can be planted.

If anyone fancies a few weeks free accommodation in this lovely part of France, in return for two hours a day voluntary work in the garden, then please do get in touch via the website.


Christmas Greetings

18 Dec

We are almost there. More than half our house contents are now stored at the Peace Factory, together with the Smart car. We are living in our house in Kent at present with minimal furniture and kitchen utensils. We are planning to let our house as we could not sell it over the late summer. We have had five people interested in renting since it went on the market two weeks ago. We hope that we will get someone to sign up and move in by the end of January 2013.

We plan to move ourselves and Nettles with the remainder of our belongings to France near the end of January. We hope that many of you will come and visit us over there in the Peace Factory. There are cheap flights from Stansted to Carcassonne and from Gatwick to Toulouse. Montolieu is situated just 20 minutes drive from Carcassonne and one hour from Toulouse. There are cheap flights also from Liverpool to Carcassonne on Thursdays and Sundays.

We are taking over Louise’s apartment and she is having one built for herself above ours. There is room for around 15 apartments in the factory and these will be built over a period of time as people require them. There is also what we call the Little House which is currently used for volunteers to stay in. It consists of a mezzanine floor with 5 bedrooms (one double and four singles) and a communal ground floor with a dining and lounge area and a kitchen. Our apartment has two bedrooms with en-suite showers with a lounge between them. There is also a large room which consists of a lounge area, a dining area and a kitchen. We have a back door which leads out onto a terrace garden and a communal toilet at the back of the lounge. The main entrance is through the training centre at present.

The village of Montolieu is situated in the foothills of the Black Mountain and is called the ‘La Village du Livres’ as it has many small book shops. To see a little more about the area and what we are doing there, have a look at the website http://www.peacefactory.fr and look at the volunteering page then click on the link which says ‘For more detailed information on volunteering see here’. You can also Google Montolieu and take a walk down the streets. We hope to see you there one day.

St John Ambulance has now confirmed the date I can retire is 21 December 2012 so I will not have to return to work in January. Hooray!

Almost there

16 Dec

There has been so much to organise moving to another country, least of all working out what we are doing with our house. Having tried to sell it for 4 months with no success, we decided to let it instead. We have found a letting agent who provides a full service and has already found five people interested in renting.

Meanwhile I have been working towards retiring from St John Ambulance and have at last got an agreement which allows me to leave before Christmas. Only 5 working days to go! Having sorted out how I will receive my pension in France I am now working on getting a Carte Vitale to allow us to get free health care in France. We are planning to move permanently in late January. Nettles already has her passport and we have registered her on an international website so that if she was to get lost and found she could be repatriated with us.

The Smart car has already been taken to the Peace Factory for Louise to use as her car died and we are going to share cars and bikes within the community. We are buying a Fiat Tempra with a trailer (second hand from Hugh Hayward) which will also go into the car pool. We will take this down with us laden with the remainder of our goods and chattels in January.

With the help of our friend Sue Whibley, who has lent us an electric frying pan, we have been able to cook the food we had in the freezer in our much depleted kitchen. My new found friend and neighbour Ann has offered to cook any large items like a roast joint or chicken for us and wash our bed linen and dry it for us as we no longer have any white goods in the house. We have such wonderful friends. Thank you all.