Somewhat against the clock, Jackie sped me to Southampton airport early this morning for a trip to Sigoules. The reason for the haste was that once again there had been a problem with the on-line check-in and I anticipated the same difficulties as last time when, because my surname had been registered as JohnKnight, the airport machine had been unable to read my passport. In the event there was no queue and a polite young woman saw me through immediately.
In the lounge I overheard a conversation between three people I initially thought must be Dutch. One turned out to be a Geordie, one a Liverpudlian, and the third from Northern Ireland. My confusion was compounded in the boarding queue where I entered into an exchange with a gentleman with a Scots accent who claimed to be Australian and was wearing an American T-shirt. My difficulties with the local French parlance almost paled into insignificance.
Only almost, because I spent a couple of hours with Saufiene and his team, and I really needed his English to help me understand the others. The now customary champagne was produced, but Saufiene did not partake because he is observing Ramadan. He cannot eat, drink, or smoke until sunset, which, in France at this time is not until 10 p.m. It is a long fast for him.
Apparently my next door neighbours are so impressed with the painting Renov Conseil 24 have undertaken at the front of the house, that they want similar work carried out on their property.
IMG_9301IMG_9304My flight was uneventful. We had a smooth crossing above the clouds, and the landing, implemented by a female captain, was the gentlest I have experienced.
Sandrine, of Taxi Eymetois, met me at Bergerac airport and drove me to rue St Jacques, where the builders were in attendance.
This may be the last post I can publish in the next day or two, because my Kensington universal charger does not fit my new HP laptop.
I am also having trouble uploading photographs, so they may have to follow later too. Otherwise everything is hunky dory.
PS. 11th July 2014
I have now sorted out a bit of garbling that was done with this post. My technical problems were compounded by a very intermittent signal in Le Code Bar where I was working on it.

Sole Survivor

Yesterday’s mid-day meal at Le Code Bar consisted of a noodle soup, ham salad, and plentiful roast chicken and chips followed by a Paris-Brest dessert, of which a welcome second helping was, with a smile, placed on my table by Fred as I worked on my blog post.
Later, I watched Prime Suspect Two. The first production had dealt with sexism. This one has racism as its sub-plot. It is as tense a well-acted and directed drama as its predecessor. I then began reading ‘Keeping the World Away’ by Margaret Forster.
This morning I undertook a bit more clearing up. A wasps’ nest had been found in the attic and eradicated by Renov Conseil 24. With a dustpan and brush I transferred the corpses to the garden. Like the survivor of a massacre protected by a screen of deceased comrades, the largest of all the vespas staggered from the heap and crawled towards the lip of the pan. I gave it its chance on the earth outside.wasps I do hope it doesn’t create another  home inside.
On leaving the house to make my farewells at Le Code Bar, I met a two year old and his grandmother. I had some difficulty in communicating with the little boy who was dragging his cart over the steps to No 6. Grandma spoke clear northern French so there was no problem there. I explained that I had equal difficulty understanding such small children in England. She identified with this, saying it wasn’t easy for her either.
The ATM at Credit Agricole told me it couldn’t give me any money and I should contact my bank. I had only attempted to withdraw 20 euros to pay for my taxi. There was plenty in my account and I had entered the correct PIN. Taxi Eymetois would, I know, have been happy to wait until next time, but that wasn’t the point.
I telephoned Barclays in Paris. I have previously written that they transferred my account from Bergerac without telling me. This time I was told that my card had been blocked in September. The very helpful woman who spoke to me did not know the reason for this, but she freed the account and told me I could use the card again from tomorrow morning. When I explained that that would be too late, she was most apologetic, but could do know more.  As I said to her, thank goodness Taxi Eymetois have become friends.
It is because I came away in September with enough euros to see me through until today that this was the first time I had attempted to withdraw cash on this trip. Had I done so earlier in the week, one day’s delay would have been manageable. Having relaxed after resolving this problem, I drew out 20 euros with my NatWest card. The transfer fee on such a small sum will be minimal, but I had opened the French account in order to avoid such supplements. Unfortunately my English bank does not operate in France.
Sandrine arrived early to collect me and drive me to Bergerac Airport. When I told her the tale of the card she said, as I knew she would, that I should have waited to pay them next time. The plane journey went smoothly and Jackie was waiting at Southampton to drive me home.
My iMac happily accepted my Sandisk photos and I was able to upload them to the last week’s posts.
This evening Jackie and I dined at Curry Garden in Ringwood, and enjoyed the usual good food and efficient, friendly, service. We both drank Kingfisher.


CricketCricket facingSeeking shade yesterday afternoon, a cleverly camouflaged cricket clung to the sitting room curtain draped over a table.  Becoming curious, it turned to face the camera.

Based on Victor Hugo’s great novel, Bille August’s film of Les Miserables is a  splendid 1998 version of the tale probably best known for the long-running musical production.  But then no screened story starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, and Claire Danes could be a flop.  Neeson is his usual brooding, colossal self; Rush a suitably sinister, cynical, Javert; Thurman a convincing Fantine; and Danes a delectable Cosette.  It was good to see Peter Vaughan in a cameo role when I enjoyed watching it yesterday evening.

This morning I walked to within sight of the Dutchman’s house in Ste Innocence, turned, and retraced my steps in order not to be late for the usual excellent Le Code Bar lunch.  I sought a mobile phone signal since I haven’t received one for more than a day.  High on a hill not far from Pertus, I found one and was able to call Jackie to let her know I was still alive.  It was far in the distance on the road that runs through this hamlet that I was drawn by a rich golden glow lit up by the sunshine.Rudbeckia  As I neared it I realised it was a hedge of blooming rudbeckia. Canna lilyA garden on the outskirts of Sigoules sported some fine Canna lilies.

We began with a noodle and cheese soup so well flavoured with garlic that, had it been pictured in the Dandy and Beano comics of my childhood, would have had wavy lines radiating above it.  Although not quite cow pie, the enormous steak and chips that was the main course would probably have satisfied Desperate Dan.  I was honour bound to finish the chips, otherwise it would have been such a disappointment to Max, but it was touch and go.

As I walked down rue St Jacques from the bar, a strong caustic smell beset my nostrils.  Cellar street entryApproaching No 6 I saw that the cellar street door was open.  The Renov Conseil 24 team had, wearing masks, entered the cellar and applied liberal quatities of Javel, a powerful cleanser, to the contents.  I was masked up and Saufiene, once we had both bent double to get in, gave me a tour.  Apart from these nether regions not having been opened for about eighteen months, the pump renewed after the flood does not appear to be working.

Trapdoor reinforcementBecause the street entry has to remain at least half open for airing, in order to prevent unauthorised ingress Benoit applied enough heavy bags to the trapdoor to ensure that no-one, except perhaps Liam Neeson in yesterday’s role as Jean Valjean, or maybe Ron Crabbe, to raise it from beneath.  Ron Crabbe was Dad’s young removal colleague and friend of fifty years ago, of phenomenal strength, whose renowned feat was to crawl under a piano and lift it unaided.  Dad and I could shift one between us, not always, as reported on 29th August last year, with total success, but Ron’s prize turn was off the scale.


Today I travelled by my usual method to Sigoules to inspect the completion of the ground floor improvements to the house.  I was very pleased with the result.  This was the first job of Saufiene and Clements’s new company, Renov Conseil 24, and they really wanted me to be happy. Saufiene, Clement, Geoffrey, Thierry & DylanSaufiene, Clement, Derrick, Thierry & Dylan (2) A bottle of champagne was produced, and we all had a glass.

The walls have been strengthened and levelled.  The flooring is in fact laminate, but it is the best quality I have ever seen, imported from Germany.  It is not squeaky, and remains firm underfoot, unlike that installed at Sutherland place when I was there.  An insulating lining has been inserted between the existing tiles and the new surface.  Redecoration is most tasteful and gives a light and airy feeling throughout.  New skirting boards have been fitted and plaster damaged by the flood has been renovated.  Pneumatic levers are to be attached to the repaired trapdoor.

Thierry, Geoffrey and a new man, Dylan, continued working throughout the afternoon and well into the evening.  Apart from Saufiene’s acknowledged optimism, one reason why they have not yet finished seemed most bizarre.  Four times yesterday the electricity supply was cut off.  I was told the men asked Garry and Brigitte what had happened, and Brigitte said that the chateau owner had disconnected it.  When the builders had tackled him he had simply laughed, as he had indeed done a couple of years ago when smoke from our log fire had somehow penetrated their house, throwing his wife into a panic.

I have mentioned before how this man is always smiling and friendly, but I don’t understand what he says.  So I was somewhat perplexed.  As if to demonstrate the problem, while the men were working in the hall, the lighting throughout the house failed.  Whilst we were puzzling over this, someone decided ‘let there be light’.  And there was.  And it was good.

I came to the conclusion that if this story were true it must be because there was still some link with the chateau to which No 6 had been attached in the past.  I telephoned Maggie to ask if she thought that were possible.  She said she didn’t see how it could be, but volunteered to come and help me talk to my neighbour whom she had always found most convivial.  We spoke to him and his wife.  They too had had the problem, as had the bar and Carrefour.  It had been a general power cut, as is sometimes the case in Sigoules.  The couple were very friendly, and I had the longest, unaided, conversation I have ever had with the woman.  We swapped hip replacement stories and compared scar lengths.  With good humour she reminded me of the smoking fire.  All was very amicable.

ThierryWhen we explained the general failure to Thierry, he immediately understood the situation, especially as we know our French neighbours on either side do not get on with each other.  Our builder realised he had been the ball in a game of ping-pong.

Geoffrey showed me a number of before and after pictures on his mobile phone.  Saufiene is to provide me with copies on a memory stick.  Thierry insists he is not photogeneic.  I disagree.

Water stick insectA bug with which I was not familiar crawled up the kitchen wall.  Thierry identified it as a water stick insect, and warned me that it could give a nasty bite.  It has gone, hopefully not up to my bedroom.

On the plane I began reading ‘A Certain Justice’ by P.D. James.