Farmhouse strip

Memorial cornerIlluminated by a strong sun in a clear blue sky, the same paths I walked yesterday looked very different. Washing line The dripping pegs now held a line of washing. Butterfly Pumpkin holesThe pumpkins had been harvested; Windfallsthe windfalls seemed more palatable; and butterflies flitted among the vines.

Today Moreen drove us to the marvellous house, built by Paul and his father-in-law from lessons taken from the internet, in which they are to spend their next six months. John moving in at Bourlens Perched on a hilltop on the outskirts of Bourlens in Lot it offers wonderful views across sloping fields and woods.  The Bastide town of Tournon stands on neighbouring heights.

Views either side of the winding route from Sigoules were shrowded in haze.Haze from N21

After carrying in some of my friends’ belongings in preparation for their move tomorrow, we lunched in the superb Le Beffrois restaurant in Tournon.  Our meal was an excellent salad followed by well grilled chicken kebabs and beautifully presented profiteroles.  We shared a full-bodied bottle of choice Cahors.

The bill was presented in a delightful manner.  A small hand stretched out from the side of the waitresses left lower limb.  Shyly sheltering behind her mother was a little girl of about four years old who could count in English.  This was Leona, who was soon to enter into an arrangement with John.  She is to teach him French and he will teach her English.  Le Beffrois barJohn and Mo will go there again.

Landscape from TournonAfter the meal we walked around the town, and looked down over the valley below.

I did, of course, fall asleep on the return journey, to awake as Mo drew up outside an antiques shop.  There my friends bought me a mirror of admirable quality to replace the bathroom one which has collapsed.  Unlike Michael Palin in ‘The Life of Brian’, John demonstrated admirable haggling qualities. This being their last night, we visited Le Code Bar.

That Champagne Moment

Mist over Sigoules

The mist that enshrowded a recently slumbering Sigoules rousing, stretching, and rubbing its eyes this morning augured as well as yesterday’s clear sky.  We were not disappointed.  We had a gloriously sunny day when Mo, John and I later ambled around Bergerac and did some shopping.

House in mist

Pegs and web in mistAs I walked up past Les Caves, from which, on our return from Bergerac, my friends chose some wine for a December wedding, I turned left along a simple road leading to rustic lanes I had not explored before. Yard with artefacts Shed with tractorThere I saw yards and sheds full of materials Pumpkinfor various farming activities, Windfallsallotments with, among others, some fine pumpkins, and windfall apples beneath a gnarled old fruit tree. Somewhat surprisingly I emerged from these, to me, ‘untrodden ways’ opposite the cemetery.  I spent most of the rest of the morning discussing the work with Saufiene, after which I and my two friends lunched at Le Code Bar on vegetable soup; stuffed eggs and pastrami; roast chicken complete with heart and liver; and pear flan, all prepared to perfection.  We shared a half carafe of red wine.

Then came that champagne moment.  When we returned to No 6, Saufiene greeted us with a puzzling question.  On my arrival two days ago, we had all shared a bottle of Metz champage.  Saufiene had immediately extracted the bottle from the fridge and placed it on the table.  John grabbed it and proceeded to open it.  We all enjoyed a couple of glasses.  Alex, who speaks no English sat in a corner rubbing his eye (into which he had scraped some grit) in discomfort and smiling when Saufiene or I translated.  Neither he nor Saufiene questioned John’s action.  Today, as we entered the house, Saufiene asked John: ‘Did you buy the last bottle of champagne?’.  The question puzzled us both.  I had to translate for John.  I knew the words, but I couldn’t understand the question.  ‘What last bottle?’  I asked. ‘The one we drank on Monday’, was the reply.  ‘Yes’, said John. By now, I hadn’t a clue what was going on.  Saufiene burst out laughing.

Champagne bottleThis lunchtime, Alex had found an identical bottle in the boot of Saufiene’s car.  He had been delegated to put it in the fridge on Monday.  Saufiene thought he had. John hadn’t realised Saufiene was supplying the champagne.  One Frenchman and one Englishman had had the same thoughts and the same taste in champagne.

Jackie and I, it seems, are soon to have our own champagne moment.  Yesterday she had told me that ‘The Old School House’ was a goner.  The owner had not replied to the agent’s e-mails and the father was insisting it be taken off the market.  She had therefore made an offer on The Old Post House.  Today the offer was accepted.  The Amity Grove House sale should be completed by Christmas.

As I wrote up this post in the bar this evening I managed to fall over backwards and do the chair ireparable damage.  Two young frienchmen hauled me to my feet.  I was unscathed.


Dawn over Sigoules

Filigreed leavesThe pastel shades of the marbled paper that was the dawn sky over Sigoules looked promising this morning.  I walked the La Briaude loop.  Filigreed leaves along the Eymet Road confronted the rising sun whose light gradually crept across the fields.

Birds sang, cocks crew, and hens cackled.  The enraged bellowing of a man seeming to occupy a house in the middle distance ceased as an anxious-looking woman drove up the winding road leading to it.

Field at dawnCabbages grown by the gardener I have often seen toiling away coolly glistened.  We exchanged greetings as I stepped into the now otherwise empty maize field to photograph his produce. Cabbages He had, as usual, nicked the edge of this land to sow his seeds.  Slugs were doing their utmost to produce filigreed greens.

Saufiene has said he likes to approach No 6 as if it were his own house.  I have told him to feel free.  The consequence is that I am receiving ‘presents’ over and above the contracted work.  Benoit is in the process of redesigning the garden to accommodate plants that can survive in the prevailing conditions with limited maintenance.  A long wooden table, chairs, and a parasol have appeared there.  CurtainHeaterAn extremely efficient and unobtrusive electric heater now stands in the fireplace of the sitting room which has new curtains.  Light in back passageTable coverMo just happened to bring a cover for the table that matches these and the bergere suite.  She has also donated a couple of attractive bowls.  A light has been fitted in the back passage.

SarlatLunch at Le Code Bar consisted of superb onion soup; avocado with a prawn dressing, coarse pate and cornichon; pork cheeks and rice; and profiteroles.  Mo, John, and I shared a half carafe of red wine.

This afternoon John drove Mo and me to Sarlat and back.  This is a most attractive town full of history and fascinating shops. Its church, although building commenced in the thirteenth century contains artefacts from its first conception in the eleventh.  It was a pleasant trip.

Getting There

Another glorious morning followed a stormy night.  We had a powercut and left early for the airport for my trip to Sigoules.  At least we would be able to get a coffee there.  This was just as well, for arnoreal obstacles made it difficult to leave Minstead.  A nuber of smaller branches littered the lanes.  As we passed Hazel Hill car park we were greeted by the sight of a van backing towards us, followed by by two cars facing forwards.Fallen tree in Seamans Lane  A large tree blocked the road ahead.  Jackie turned the car and tried the Bull Lane route.  This road is steep, narrow, and winding. Fallen tree in Bull Lane Near the bottom of the hill another tree stretched out its limbs as if to grasp us in its clutches.  There was no room for a three of even multiple point turn.  My chauffeuse had to reverse up the slope and round the bends.  Apart from anything else this was a painful process requiring her neck to be screwed backwards whilst gripping the steering wheel.  There was a fearful smell of burning coming from somewhere in or on the vehicle.  Jackie wound the windows down and sat and waited for a bit.  It cleared.

I had been unable to check in on line last night.  At the airport I was directed to the self service check in machines.  Naturally I had to ask the attendant to do it for me.  The macine could not read my passport.  I was told I had entered my name incorrectly when making the reservation.  Then I had to attend the check in desk.  The person told me there was no-one of my name booked in.  ‘Who made this reservation?’, I was asked in a disparaging tone.  ‘I did’, I replied.  Several times I pointed to my name, Derrick John Knight, on the print-out of my confirmation document.  The woman, puzzled, made several adjustments to her computer and eventually hande me my boarding pass.  She tore my print-out in half and threw it in the bin.  So far I had kept my cool.  It was when she told me that I should be more careful when making my booking on line that I became a wee bit shirty.  I insisted that she took my form out of the waste receptacle, as it contained the details of my return flight, and said I didn’t take it kindly to be told to be more careful.  She said I should have entered Knight first.  I was listed as Johnknight Derrick.  Clutching my boarding pass, I repaired to the bar where Jackie was waiting with coffee.  It was our first of the morning because we are all electric at home.

The passage through security was uneventful.  The Departure Lounge was packed.  Announcements were being made at regular intervals; children frolicked at high decibels; babies screamed; a disabled young man grunted incoherently; newspapers rustled; voices cried into mobile phones; young ladies applied make-up; a woman walked along rows of captive passengers proferring duty free brochures; WH Smith and food outlets profited from an unexpected increase in custom.  With all these distractions I was rather relieved that Nietzsche proved to be rather easier to read than I had anticipated.

Mitchell's big breakfastI partook of a Mitchell’s big breakfast which was rather good.  I was interrupted from enjoying this by a call from the compulsory property insurers reminding me of my obligation.  I had renewed this, with payment, on the phone last week.  On checking her computer the caller confirmed what I said and apologised.

I arrived at Bergerac an hour and a half late.  Getting there had presented certain difficulties. Saufiene accompanied John to come and collect me, and travelled back with us to show me the work done on the house. Alex, Moreen, John & Saufiene He treated us all to champagne.  There are so many surprises in No 6 that I am still noticing them late at night.  I will make a thorough report tomorrow.

John accompanied me to Le Code Bar for an aperitif and to meet David again.  We soon returned to a marvellous meal cooked by Mo.  This consisted of her succulent chicken dish with potatoes and aubergines.  We shared a bottle of Chateau de Monturon Sain-Emileon Grand cru 2011.

My friend Jessie coined today’s title many years ago.  Thanks, Jessie.

Michael Fish

I’m having a bit of fun looking back over the last eighteen months of blogging, and adding where appropriate some older photographs to the posts.  Today I went back thirty years in my archives add added three to ‘Reminiscing With Don’ of last August.

Albeit extremely blustery, it was a beautiful autumn day as we set out on a journey the Met Office had warned everyone against.  Leaves scampered across the sky like swifts riding thermals.  Indeed, as we drove to Mat and Tess’s we saw a number of birds seemingly doing just that.  When reading BBC News Jackie came across advice to ‘keep away from trees’.  She thought that given where we live that might be rather difficult.  Michael Fish was interviewed yesterday predicting that the current gales would not be as devastating as those of 1987.  Someone in charge was having a laugh. Mr. Fish, you see, is probably the best, indeed, for most people the only, known weather announcer of all time.  He famously broadcast a reassurance, in 1987, that the rumoured storm would not happen.  It did.  So if anything was likely to confirm fears of tonight’s tempest it would be putting Michael Fish on air to refute it.

Trees were already bending beside the A27, their foliage tapping on our windscreen seeking shelter within.  As the leaves rushed towards us they reminded me of the one scene in the 3D version of James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ that made me flinch.  Boulders came flying out of the screen straight at the audience’s heads.

We were not to be deterred from our trip which was a belated birthday celebration for our daughter in law.  Jackie took a delicious apple and apricot crumble to follow Tess’s superb roast pork; roast potatoes, carrots, and parsnips; Dauphinoise potatoes; leek and cabbage compote; apple sauce; and dark red wine gravy.  Red wines by Tess and me and various beers by Jackie and Matthew were consumed.  Tess liked the presents we had bought yesterday.

Tess in The Village Shop

After the meal we had coffee in The Village Shop so that we could see the new counter layout. The Village Shop Counter Every time we go the establishment seems even more inviting and attractive than the last.

The clocks were turned back an hour at two o’clock this morning, the end of British Summer Time.  This meant that it was already dark at 6 pm. when we set off back home.  Wet windscreenDark, wet, and windy.  At times the windscreen wipers could barely cope with the water that was thrown at it. Rain hammered down directly into it, splashed up on impact with the roads, and formed a fine spray spinning from the wheels of other cars.Wet windscreen 3 Wet windscreen 2 I don’t know how Jackie managed in the driving seat, but I found the wipers mesmerising as I seemed to be peering through a Jackson Pollock painting on glass.  The halo effect around traffic lights and car headlamps and taillights, coupled with the sparkling bits of twig cracking on the car gave the impression that November 5th was already upon us.

In fairness to Michael Fish, the gales, as I write have not reached the force of that October night 26 years ago.


Maple, The Old Post House garden

We went on a driveabout today.  First stop was Sway Road, Bashley, to view Pemberton House.  This is beautifully built, individually well-designed, and spacious, with high ceilings.  There is good quality parquet flooring throughout.  The decorations and the gardens were just right for us.  But it is a 1950s building and, as such doesn’t appeal to our souls.  Diane, the very pleasant woman who owns the property, taught Richard, the agent, English at school.  Her profession caused her to have a very well integrated extension built for a study.  Housing my books would not be a problem.

By the time we moved on to Margery and Paul’s home near West End, rain had set in. This was a flying visit.  I handed Paul ‘The Bridesmaid’ framed picture and we left immediately for The Old Post House at Downton, pausing en route at the Cadnam Garden Centre for a birthday present.

Whilst waiting at the till we witnessed what for us was a new scam.  A man behind us with a strong Scouse accent thrust two £5 notes and a handful of coins under the nose of the person serving us and asked for a £20 note in exchange.  He was persistent in his request, but got no change out of the younger man who simply maintained that they were not allowed to comply with his request.  When the interloper wandered away in disgruntlement, our shop assistant explained that this was merely a distracting technique to facilitate theft from the till.  As we left the store, the Liverpudlian, still clutching his handful of currency, attempted to buttonhole Jackie on the subject of the young man’s unhelpfulness.  She simply said: ‘They are not allowed to do it’.  He shambled off, muttering.

On the A35 we became part of a convoy following a small car towing a fairground roundabout.  It wasn’t moving very fast.  Nevertheless, Jackie got us to the house on time.  Just.

The Old Post House from the garden

The Old Post House is sublime.  A former post office built in the 1930s it has plenty of space, plenty of rooms, and plenty of character set in an idyllic garden. The old Post House garden Intriguingly, the tall, elegant, middle-aged estate agent and the owner’s short, round, elderly, spaniel possessed an uncommon name in common.

The Old Post House garden 1

This house is preferable to any of the others we have seen except The Old School House.  We are now torn.  The Bisterne House may or may not have been taken off the market.  If we wait for a resolution on that, we may  lose this one.  If we plump for this and Bisterne is sold we may kick ourselves.  Decisions, decisions.

We bought a further gift in Brockenhurst on our way back home.

Helen tagged Jackie and me in one of the wedding photographs from 6th October, published on Facebook.  I impressed myself by successfully transferring it to my post of that day.

Her head spinning with the pros and cons of The Old School House vis a vis The Old Post House, Jackie nevertheless managed to produce an excellent baked gammon dish accompanied by leeks in cheese sauce and mashed potato.  Ratatouille (Jackie’s dish, not the eponymous rodent chef) provided piquancy and additional colour to brighten the otherwise symphony in white accompanying the dark salmon pink gammon.  Jackie drank some Hoegaarden, whilst I finished the Kumala.

……Twixt Cup And Lip

This morning, having read yesterday’s blog post, Jackie demonstrated that she has a broader recollection of our first date than I do. I was clearly so bedazzled by her that I only remember the ‘cannibal’ moment.  She, however, recalls the first occasion on which she had to hang around waiting for me to take photographs. Burghers of Calais001Burghers of Calais003 I had, you see, taken her to see the ‘Burghers of Calais’ on that day in February 1965. She experienced a certain compensation in having seen David Kernan, of ‘That Was The Week That Was’,  fame walking in the park.  She remembers tight white trousers.  Although I had, as stated yesterday, made the prints in the 1970s, it was the smitten young man I was almost fifty years ago who took the colour slides. Burghers of Calais002 There they were, correctly labelled, in the box from a decade earlier. Here they are now reproduced.

This afternoon we had an appointment with Elliot, the agent who had shown us The Old School House at Bisterne.  By now, we were so keen on that one that we didn’t really want to see today’s choice.  However, we thought it would be sensible.

Glenacre view

Glenacre in Thorney Hill in the heart of the New Forest, is in a setting to die for.  The view from the house takes in a field at the bottom of the garden which is a section of Glenacre’s land that has been sold off, but  accommodates the residents’ own horse. The only possible drawback is that the terrain is so hilly it would put my knees in jeopardy.  That, however, has been thoughtfully taken care of.  The older style bungalow with a very large footprint and wide doorways was designed for a resident in a wheelchair.  It has high ceilings and a double-ended wood burning stove.


We arrived early as usual, to see a Community Response Ambulance parked in the driveway.  We were still wondering whether there had been some kind of emergency when Elliot drove up and told us that the vehicle went with the owner’s job.

Glenacre 5

Our agent then gave us the news that the response of the resident at The Old Schoolhouse to being told they had a probable buyer, was to take the house off the market.  Given that it is his son who owns the property that may not be the last word, but it doesn’t augur well.  The Agency staff are all furious at this apparently inexplicable reaction, and have not given up on it yet.  Jackie and I have the experience to speculate about the cause of this stumbling block, but that should not be recorded in a blog.  We are less than optimistic, so are applying ourselves to looking elsewhere.Glenacre 3

Glenacre 2

Glenacre is something entirely different and would not push The Old Schoolhouse from the top spot, despite the height of its own position.    Glenacre 4However, we could live there.  Nevertheless, I made phone calls seeking appointments to view other properties, the first of which will be Sway Road, Bashley, tomorrow morning.

For those of my readers not familiar with the old adage from which today’s title is taken, its first phrase is: ‘There’s many a slip…..’.

Our evening meal was Jackie’s splendid chilli con carni made with our own chillies,and onion and mushroom wild rice.  I drank some Kumala Zenith 2012 which was certainly potable.