Tuesday 28 December 2010

On Frozen Pond

We spent time in England over Christmas, visiting relatives and friends and generally having a good time. My sister put us up to start with, and over Christmas we had a delightful time staying with friends in Wimbledon.

Here are just a few pictures to capture some of what went down. We took Mum out to lunch at Titchfield Mill, an old Mill beside the river Meon. It used to be a farm shop of sorts and Mum remembers buying foodstuffs in bulk there before it was converted. It is now a modern pub with proper food and real beer. We got out after an excellent meal and a drink, for about 11 quid a head too, which I reckon is pretty good value these days.


The Meon looks like a scruffy little stream in the picture, but I have fond memories of it. It flows from the mill, on into Titchfield village, and then joins the Solent at Hill head. As a teenager I used to walk from home, join the river at the downstream edge of Titchfield and follow it down to the sea, and then walk back via Beach Road and Posbrook Lane into Titchfield and on home from there.

Farther upstream the river crosses what was one of my favourite biking routes, and it was my habit to stop and spend 15 minutes or so, staring into the stream. Faith to continue while nothing was happening was rewarded by sights of fish and bugs in the water, as the eyes became accustomed to what they were seeing.

The period over Christmas was spent in Wimbledon, and a walk on Boxing day in the icy conditions yielded an opportunity to climb what I was assured is "The Climbing Tree", and also to slide about on the frozen pond.

Here's a couple of extra images for free: an unusual Christmas Rose plant, being almost pure white; a present from the Mayor's wife, and my new great-niece Isobelle. What a cutie!

Sunday 19 December 2010


It's that time of year again for making mince pies. Yum! And in keeping with the tradition of Jean-Claude the chef being interested in things British and Christmassy, I took some down for him to taste as well.

Good job I took a few, because when I got down to the restaurant there was Jean-Claude and Marie as expected, but also Mr Mottais the Mayor, Mr Housset the plumber (back to fix the boiler (again)), and the lady helping out Marie in the restaurant. Karine who runs the tourist office wasn't there, so there was a pie left for me to enjoy with coffee.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

The Internet's Children

Despite the fact that I'm comfortable with the internet, perhaps I am not a true child of the net, not having grown up with it.

I saw a poster advert a while back for Drumcat, a South Korean band of female drummers, playing in Mayenne. They looked like they might be entertaining so I got us two tickets and we went to see them. Great fun! You haven't heard the Rodrigo Concerto d'Aranjuez until you've heard their take on it, nor, if it comes to that, Beethoven's Ninth, both with the help of the electric violinist who seems to be included in the deal.

So having failed to take my camera to the concert, or make any other visual note of the event, I was looking for an internet link to attach to this blog post. There's quite a lot of information about them to be found: here, here and here, for example.

A true child of the web would have looked this up before buying the tickets. Not that I'm at all unhappy. They're great fun, recommended. Take ear defenders.

Monday 6 December 2010

Fun with the Boiler

In general, I'm pleased with the decision to go for a wood-fired boiler to heat the gîte. I like the idea of its eco-friendliness, and I like the fact that the heat costs me about 4 (euro) cents per kilowatt-hour. On the other hand, it does need looking after to make sure that all is well: The quality of the after-sales service is an important consideration, and not one that was taken into account when making the purchase.

The boiler is made by Heizomat, a German manufacturer, 100Kwatts and, like many things German, built to last. However it was installed by Nideck Chauffage, a French outfit, who were the sole Heizomat distributors in France at that time. I had been unhappy with the after-sales service from Nideck, and I was recently delighted (and relieved) to discover that Heizomat are setting up a direct sales and support operation in France. I can now go the the manufacturer for any help I need, and this gives me considerable comfort. I do stress out when I imagine having guests in the gîte and no heating.

The concept of the boiler is basically quite simple. Wood chips are fed in one end, and as they enter, air is blown over them to get them burning quickly. The hot air and smoke exits at the other end of the boiler having passed over the water jacket. All this is regulated by a computer control system mounted on the wall. It's great when things are going well, but when the system is out of kilter, the effect can be dramatic. This happened the other day, and the boiler room filled with smoke. I was very glad the boiler was some way away from the house.

The problem was a simple one, resolved after a careful investigation and some calls to Heizomat France. I feel much better but I am keeping an eye on it.

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