Thursday 26 March 2009

Oak to Burn

The old mill just down the hill is only just useable as an occasional classroom for children visiting the local caves. The insides have the original dirt floors, and although the roof is in good shape, it was noticed recently that some internal beams were hanging by a thread, and had to be taken out before they fell on someone.

Back view of the mill

Now these are 200-year-old oak. OK, a bit rotten, some woodworm, but dry as a bone, so i asked if I could have them for my wood-burning stove, rather than let them be burned on a bonfire and waste all that heat. So Jean-Claude came round with a load of them on his trailer, and left them in my courtyard.

A trailer-load of oak to cut, chop and burn

An afternoon with an electric saw and log-splitter later, and I have a small pile of wonderful, solid oak, firewood. It burns a treat, and is keeping my house lovely and warm!

A view of the mill weir, taken last summer, just because it's pretty!

Tuesday 17 March 2009


My Dutch friend Leo is also a keen gardener, and has recently discovered a huge plant nursery not far away. So we all bundled in to the Espace to check it out. It's huge, with acres of plants in tubs, pots and in greenhouses and outdoors.

I couldn't resist. I bought, amongst other things, two Camelias, one pink, one white. The white one you will see when you approach the gate, the pink one is more sheltered behind the wall. They are both beautiful, but I prefer the pink one.

This one is lovely

But this one is a heart-stopper, with its simple beauty

Saturday 14 March 2009

Le Mans

Being my birthday around now, and not needing any huge celebration at my age, I decided that it would be nice just to spend a day out, no particular purpose in mind, enjoying myself. So I took off with the wife to Le Mans, which is about 40 minutes away.

While we were there, we dropped in on the race track to leave some brochures. The promotion of accommodation around the Le Mans 24 hours and other events is very parochial. First they fill up places near the track, and then they look to other places in Le Mans. Finally they offer places in Sarthe. We are just "over the border" in Mayenne, so we're not on their radar, even though people regularly stay in this area. Hopefully physically dropping some brochures off at the museum and the Automobile Club de l'Ouest will help.

Then on to Le Mans town centre, where we browsed the market, I bought some CDs in the Harmonia Mundi shop (what a dream job, running that shop and listening to music all day!)

Radish in the market

The square. The building on the right is being entirely refurbished in the old style.

Then on to the Auberge des 7 Plats (so-called because you have 7 choices for starter, main course and dessert) where we had a wonderful, slow lunch, not without its alcoholic content either.

The red sign hanging from the Auberge des 7 plats, in its quiet Old Town back-road.

To round off the visit, a quick call in the specialist graphic novel shop (BD in French) and the sheet music shop, and the instrument repair shop to pick up info on all the local upcoming concerts. A nice day out.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Customer satisfaction

We had our first clients of the year this last weeked; always an exciting time. It was a dual birthday celebration, 40 years for Dad and 10 years for daughter, and the extended family were all there. We pushed the boat out a bit, with candles, cakes and 40 year / 10 year confetti on the tables.

The pool was a big hit, especially with the children, so I'm very glad I made the effort to get it all ready. Even when the adults were packed up, coats on and ready to depart, the children had to be fished out of the pool. The adults were happy too, saying they had had a "perfect" weekend, but also noting that the website doesn't do us justice. Must see what I can do about that.

Thursday 5 March 2009

Clean Piscine!

One of the challenges in running the gîte is responding to last-minute customer requests. Our first customer of the new year asked on Monday if he could change his mind and use the pool after all. The challenge is that the pool is "hibernated" over winter, and before its first use in the new year, needs to be drained, cleaned and refilled, and then heated. Draining and cleaning takes a day, and refilling it takes another. Leaving just three days to heat it, which I hope is enough.

I wear my old windsurfing wetshoes to stop me from slipping on the wet pool liner, and to keep my feet warm in the water which is cold. But once in the pool I can give it a good scrub and it's satisfyng to see the pool all nice and clean.

Before I fill it up again, I have to tell the water company what I'm up to, so they don't think the water network has sprung a leak. But the result is a ready pool, warming nicely. I hope to have it over 25 degrees by Saturday afternon.

Clean piscine

Monday 2 March 2009

A tree, lovely or magnificent

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree...
Emily Dickinson

These lines came to mind as I was working under the big walnut tree that stands sentry by my gate. I'm not sure I would describe it as "lovely", which to me carries a sense of delicacy, of femininity. I rather see it as magnificent, a word which, to my mind, carries strength and majesty.

What do you think?

Sunday 1 March 2009

Christmas cactus?

I have always called this plant a Christmas cactus, on the basis that it's supposed to flower at Christmas. I've had this one for years and it's never flowered before February. I think there are similar ones called Easter cactus, so perhaps this one is a cross, a hybrid between the two? Anyway it's in bright bloom, a welcome sight at this time of year, in the conservatory.

Such enthusiasm in March!
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