Wednesday 28 April 2010

Metal detection

We met an English ex-pat recently who is a keen metal detector, and invited him over to take a look at our fields. He spent a short afternoon here doing a quick scan, and promised to come back later in the year when the grass has been cut, with the rest of the crew from his club for a more thorough search. Did he find anything? Yes, this Napoleonic ten cent coin, not at all rare, but interesting none the less.

Incidentally, Paul is a professional electrician, who has been recommended to us. If you need his skills let me know and I'll put you in touch.

Monday 26 April 2010

Château Rocher-Sévingé

Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sévigné was born in 1626, orphaned at the age of 7, married at 18 and widowed at 25. None the less she enjoyed a happy life on the periphery of the court of Louis XIV, and was famous for being able to dish the dirt on all her social circle, but with enough wit and humour than no-one could really take offense.

She is remembered for the large collection of letters she wrote to her daughter, that reflect her life and times. She lived much of her life at the château des Rochers-Sévigné, and we went to visit it one perfect day last weekend.

The chateau itself is imposing but not especially large. I like the roof line. The light-coloured chapel was re-rendered for maintenance a couple of years ago and age has not yet dulled the bright yellow.

The old stable building houses a restaurant for the golf course that has been built in the grounds. What we know as formal French gardens were known at the time as gardens "à l'anglais", so they've gone full circle. They were designed to be viewed from above, from the high bedroom windows of the castle, which explains why they can be disappointing from ground level.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Hedge trimming

I have about 90 metres of Cotoneaster hedge around my house. The hedge is high and thick, and I have to cut it two or three times a year. It's a big job, and to make my life easier, I bought a new hedge trimmer the other day.

It has a long handle so I can cut the top of the hedge across its entire width whilst standing on a trestle to one side. With the old, short-handled trimmer, I used to have to do half of the top from one side, and the other half from the other, and the far side of the hedge is not a safe place for standing on a rickety trestle.

Here is a picture of it. It's electric: plus points: quieter and lighter than it would otherwise be, and it doesn't blow spent 2-stroke fumes all over you, your hair and your clothes while you use it. Negative points: you have to deal with the cable of course, but when you're dealing with trestles as well, it's a small part of the work. And the cable keeps pulling out from the impossibly short plug lead. And what are those strange orange plastic add-ons on the back of the motor for?

Ah! A Homer Simpson d'oh moment. I can explain the purpose of those wierd orange plastic things, and solve the cable-pulling-out problem in one go. Perhaps I should have read the manual a bit more carefully :)

P.S. I went to the Stihl website out of curiosity, and discovered that they have an "entertainment" section, where you can download the sound of a Stihl chainsaw, in the form of a ringtone for your phone. Am I alone in finding this a bit.... odd?

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Heating system

I had my people install some undercat heating. It works very well.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Child-friendly cereal

When I was younger I had two books of poems by Hilaire Belloc, entitled, I think, "A Bad Child's Book of Beasts", and "More Beasts for Worse Children". I rather got the impression that Mr Belloc had a dim view of children, from this little gem, among others:

The tiger, on the other hand,
Is kittenish and mild,
And makes a pretty playfellow
For any little child.
And mothers of large families
(Who claim to common sense)
Will find a tiger well repays
The trouble and expense.

I noted the title of this breakfast cereal aimed at children.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

To dream, perchance to think

The French think differently from the English. In English you will use the word think in various ways. For ordinary thoughts, thinking about things, the French will use penser. When negotiating and you want to think about it, the French will use réfléchir. And if you want to mention something while it's on your mind, while you are thinking about it, the French will use songer. And A Midsummer Night's Dream becomes Le Songe d'une Nuit d'été.

Hmmmmmm something to get my head around.

Sunday 11 April 2010

House for sale

There's a pretty little house for sale in St Pierre, not far from the footbridge. About 172,000 euros, if you're interested. Agents are Century 21 in Laval or Evron.

Friday 9 April 2010


Towns are generally warmer than the surrounding countryside, so the plants there are more advanced. This Magnolia was blooming in Laval.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Le Lude

There are two Loire rivers in France. OK, not strictly true: there is La Loire (feminine, with an "e") and, just to keep the tourists on their toes, there is also Le Loir (masculine, no "e"). La Loire is the big, famous one, with the beautiful Loire Valley châteaux on its banks. The other is much smaller, feeding into La Loire via the river Sarthe, which then joins with the river Mayenne to create the river Maine, that flows into the Loire just South of Angers.

The Chateau of Le Lude is on the banks of Le Loir, but counts as a Loire Valley chateau since it is the Département of the Pays de la Loire. We went to visit it with our guests.

It was first constructed in the tenth century, but was quickly redeveloped into a defensive fortress. It is unusual in that it is still inhabited by its owners - I'm glad I don't have their heating bills.

Saturday 3 April 2010


The town of Saumur has a lot going for it: on a beautiful site on the banks of the Loire, it is home to famous sparkling wines, the French national equestrian team, two beautiful castles, and... a mushroom museum. The motivation for today's visit was the interest of one of our guests in the horses, but other options beckoned too.

We discovered that there was an international stunt horse riding competition going on, with free entry, so we went along to take a look. The horses ran in circles, while team members took it in turns to ride, and perform acrobatics. Amazing, dangerous and impressive. There's only two pictures here, since most of them came out too blurred. Second pic courtesy of our guests.

Then on to the mushroom museum. This is in fact a working mushroom farm that delivers tons of mushrooms of various types to the markets each year. Did you know that to replicate the thundery conditions in which Shitake mushrooms are grown, they have to be drenched and shouted at in order to be cultivated? And apparently the mushrooms that grew in my garden last Autumn are edible. If my posts suddenly stop around that time this year, you'll know why.

After the mushrooms, on to some tasting of sparkling wines. No photos needed, but we now have a small stock for future use :) Finally, in Passing, Saumur is farther South than Les Hallais, so here at least, the Primroses are already out.

Friday 2 April 2010

What do I see?

We have the wife's nephew and his wife visiting at the moment, and we managed a short walk today before the hailstorms arrived. So, dear reader, can you identify for me this curious purple flower that was blooming on the shady river bank? The flowers are an inch long, and at ground level.

Also, a view of the abandoned mill, and a peek over the wall at the mayor's immaculate garden.

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