Monday, 29 December 2008


So our first ex-pat French Christmas was largely an exercise in attempting to recreate a proper English Christmas, so I guess that means we are homesick and 'miss everyone' - bah! We have a proper Christmas tree (our second as the first dropped all of its needles in three days) and everyone rebelled at my highly artistic idea of a replacement of 'painting a stick white'. :D Presents were opened on Christmas Eve, as per French tradition, and we went next door for Christmas dinner (cooked by Bev) of proper English fayre. Jim & Monique very kindly invited elderley neighbour Paulette for dinner too but I failed to understand more than one word in four of what she was rattling on about, but she seemed quite happy nonetheless.
I made mince pies, a la Jamie Oliver, tres bon and got to do an emergency mission to the English Shop at Saintes for mincemeat and sherry. As it was nice I got to go by motorbike, pretty good for Christmas Eve.

Births & deaths
Boubou, the Jack Russell, gave birth to puppies on the 14th. Harry was witness to the first birth and came back shrieking and waving his arms about, so we were lucky to be on the scene for all seven births. Unfortunately two of the weedy looking ones have since died, one of them holding out for nealy two weeks. So that's sad, yet lovely and educational if you want to look at it that way. The remaining puppies are very healthy, four boys and a girl - the owner of the stud dog gets first dibs on the pick of the puppies and Jim hopes to keep one, so that's three that will be sold I s'pose. Over the weekend also saw the demise of Frofrou, the silky bantam, to a fox we think and Dotty, the pintade (guinea fowl), throat torn out by a weasel (!). Bonne chance mes amis. All go down on the farm! We are now avian-less - maybe I should go to market and buy myself a duck? I counted the horses and donkey this morning, just in case ....

We viewed the most fab house today at La Brousse; fantastic position for us as it's less than ten Ks from where the boys are at school and close to decent roads for trips up to La Rochelle and over to where the folks are at La Tremblade. Also it's habitable and has plenty of scope for improvement & enlargement into the numerous outbuildings. Fingers crossed that the pound/euro rate doesn't drop any further then or it'll start to drop out of our price range. Pictures below, though they don't really do the place justice.

Just in case any of you fancy popping over to see us when it gets warmer, here's a link to a website I put together to advertise Jim & Monique's business so you can get an idea of what this place is like.

The boys haven't played competitive football for a good month now but they had their footy squad photo taken. Harry 1st boy on the left, back row; Alfie 2nd boy from right, front row.

la brousse maison

... more la brousse pics

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


So, a little interlude while: we get on with integrating (I am less than good at this, my French is getting worse); I turn 40 (the shock of this greatly tempered by Mark & Helen & family visiting for a week); and a flying visit to the UK on business (I am granted a filthy English cold).

Harry has been bumped up to Secondary school - so far not too dramatic as he had got to know a few potential classmates from his new football team; so now Harry & Alf go to different schools. Both's spoken French coming along really well and relatively unfazed by spending 100% of their school time learning in a foreign language. Football matches have become rather sporadic mid-season, so we don't have to spend every weekend hollering on the touchline. Alfie is developing into a pretty deadly striker with a hattrick last Saturday (I missed it as I was flying back from Stansted). Harry hasn't had a match for a few weeks now but is still enjoying being a centre back.

We're still looking at houses with a view to buy. Seen absolutely heaps of overpriced, mad rubbish (houses with no garden; houses with a massive garden and a teeny, tiny house wedged in the corner; houses near stupidly busy roads etc blah blah). We do, however, know plenty of people who've bought reasonably priced characterful places, so all hope is not lost. Bev is masterminding the search and regularly spends a morning searching for the property that will be 'the one'.

The boys have started to learn to horse-ride and trot happily around the paddock on a brown & white pony called Cartel. Even Bev has had a go so I guess this means I have to learn now too - I'm a scaredy pants. :( The boys are very excited because Boubou, the terrier who lives with us, is having puppies in a few weeks - I think they are secretly hoping they'll be getting one.

Thinks I miss about the UK:
'Proper beer'

My little pony

My great big pony

Saujon House

House for sale locally at Saujon.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

le beautiful game et l'automne arrive ...

This week we dive headlong back into the all-weekend-encompassing world that is 'Colts' football, except I think it's called 'Poussin' at this level in France. Goodbye Girton Colts - Bonjour Le Gua Poussin. So once again it's Saturday touchline shouting, albeit with better weather, awfully familiar and yet a bit odd to have everyone hollering 'Allez!' followed by 'Voila!!'.

Harry has suffered the thrill of being put in the wrong team for his age yet again, too old this time, but this was rectified after only a single match (in goal naturally - the coach was ecstatic to have been handed briefly a giant foreign goalie with 5 years league experience under his belt). So Harry's moved up to play with the under-13s team, they already have a goalie so he makes his debut as a defender. Does rather well actually, scaring the living daylights out of the opposition centre-forward with some very British firm defending. Le Gua are still well beaten, mind, but H enjoyed himself. Next weekend he plays an away game at Nieulle.

Alfie also made his debut this weekend playing for the Under-10s at Le Gua Stade (yep, each village has their own footy stadium - how about that!). Alf is providing a bit of midfield muscle to a team who's ages seem to range from 6 - 9, some of them are awfully small. They don't seem to play any offside rules at either age level so there's some particulary obvious goal-hanging in this match which along with the frequently absent defensive line makes for a high scoring game. Another loss, next weekend away to Saujon.

Autumn has come in the South of France and we have felt our first spell of cold weather. The leaves are turning golden & falling from the trees, unusual only because we've only ever been here in high Summer before. Last weekend was particularly wet & cold & I had to light the wood burning stove for the first time, haven't needed it since though. Jim is fixing up the end part of the stable so that the new horse, nicknamed Black Beauty, that's wintering here has somewhere to shelter from the worst of the weather. There are 2 other stables, it's just that the other 3 horses and donkey are a bit stroppy about sharing.

Ruby came to stay for a few days last week and over the weekend. We had a few nice trips out for lunch (tres bon pancake shop and too much wine at Palais-sur-Mer) and pizza dinner (thankyou Lapin Pecheur pizzeria) plus a whistlestop tour of the local must-do sites on the one day it didn't rain - visiting Sablonceaux abbey and Ile d'Oleron for tea and cakes and a look round the Chateau. Come back soon Ruby.

My bike arrived from the UK on Monday - yay! The plan was that I would fly back, pick it up from Dan's house and ride it back here, probably via the Dover Boulogne route. In the meantime Bev managed to get a quote from a guy who would transport it down here by van for pretty much the same price. I'm a lazy git and decided a weekend on the beach was better than a weekend toiling down the motorways so a deal was struck. The bike was picked up from Dan's last Wednesday and arrived here having taken a little tour of Italy & Portugal to drop off other bike en-route (irritatingly, I've never been to Italy). Andy, the bike-deliverer-guy, slept on a load of old sofa cushions in the back of the van with the bikes for security - there's dedication. It arrived without a scatch and has taken up residence in the barn with an old Mobylette moped for company. The Honda and I went on a little tour of the local vineyards this evening to celebrate - next time I'll have to take my wallet with me ...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

.. photos ..

Monday, 29 September 2008

Il y a du soleil

This weekend we hit the beach and did surfin'. Dude!
This was on the Ile d'Oleron - very nice beaches on the far side of the island heading from St Trojan. Not awfully wavy this time as there wasn't much wind. The proper surfers looked like glum little porpoises waiting fo their Big Wednesday moment. Managed to not meet up with Mum & Dad due to arranging to meet on 'that beach near St Trojan' - turns out there's a good 20 miles worth. :^(

Alfie - gnarly. Hell yeah!

Harry - shooting the tube.

We also did a bit of sandcastling - very British - and built the most splendid castle on the beach. That'll learn them.

Men at work.

Stupid dad.

Not cold at all and yet 'some people' still won't come in the sea ...

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

... écoutez et répétez - beep!

... so here we are then. Mission accomplished - we now live in France!

We arrived a couple of weeks ago - haven't got around to blogging yet because life, work, fun and technical problems have got in the way.

We're renting a gite a mile outside the village of Le Gua in Charante-Maritime - the area is roughly half-way between La Rochelle and Bordeaux, a good 6 hours drive from Cherbourg. Where we are is about 15 minutes from decent beaches in the area of Royan and maybe 25 minutes to excellent surfing beaches on the far side of Ile d'Oleron.

Our hosts are Jim and Monique who live next door with their 2 dogs Ciara, a while German Shepherd, and Booboo, a Jack Russel Terrier. There are also 3 horses and a donkey (can't remember their names, have to ask Harry). The house and gites are surrounded by fields that the horses roam about in. The rest of the area is pretty flat, almost Fen-like really, and largely agricultural given over mainly to fodder maize and sunflowers.

The boys have settled in nicely to their new school; there was a bit of shellshock when they realised that they would have to go only 2 days after we arrived and that they are the only 2 foreigners attending . Class sizes are rather smaller than we're used to in the UK, probably a maximum of 20 students per class. Homework is given out every day (boo) and the school day is 'til 4:30 (boo) but it's only a 4-day week with Wednesdays off (yay).

Bev is enjoying being a full-time housewife although that may start to become less attractive when the weather gets colder.

I'm enjoying finding out just how cheap it's possible to buy French wine and still find it drinkable. The e1.80 stuff for 1.5 litres isn't half bad actually - I may become an alkie ....

We've looked at a few houses in the area with a view to buy. There's a great one a few miles away, in a small hamlet of about half a dozen houses, half of it has been totally renovated, the rest to do (one large room and a huge garage/barn) so it's liveable in but there's scope for extension. It has to come down a fair bit in price but the market is in a similarly shabby state to the UK so you never know ...

Some random pics ....

Trailer hitched up and leaving Cambridge - 30th August 2008 ...

Leaving Poole - 06:30 a:m 31st August 2008

Action-Man head on tour.

Arrive at Le Gua.

Going over the dunes at the beach ...

Cool moped

Oh look, a mermaid

Harry with Jim and the animals

Sablonceaux abbey - down the road