18 Sept 2007

Renovation Update

Things are happening out the back. Last week the asbestos was removed over a period of three days. It started the day after the visitors arrived – Tony reckons it’ll be ok because mesothelioma takes about 40 years to develop, and figured we’ll all beyond the age that it will matter to us!
It was handy to have visitors to help me move all those plants that I haven’t been able to resist buying way before the courtyard is ready for them…...
The eucalypt and the olive tree are now in heavy cement pots and weigh a tonne, but they’re both growing like weeds.
The contractors who removed the asbestos were dressed in white suits and wore masks and did bag all the small bits, but I still believe there was more dust flying around that can be good for you. Mind you, we all grew up in Australia in asbestos houses and I have no doubt we’ve been exposed to it being cut and removed in the days before it was discovered to be so harmful.

So, the courtyard already looks decidedly different, with the complete roof gone from the barn, and also a lean-to at the side, and the roof off the upstairs balcony. And so much brighter.

This is the first time I’ve ventured to the second level of the barn – a lot of the floorboards are rotten. But there are some interesting pieces on both levels – old bicycles,

a cross saw, scales, an old plane and this three-pronged pitchfork, made out of one piece of branched tree.

Next week, the builder comes in and demolition starts, so I’ll be posting quite a few before and after pictures as it progresses. Exciting times.

Aussie Invasion

… and I mean that in the nicest possible way. I’ve just had Enid and Tony Mercer and their friends Jan and John Ducat (from Perth) here for nearly a week. And before the month is out, there will be five more!
They came via Bulgaria where they were staying with Tony's sister, my old friend Sue (An Aussie in Bulgaria), picked up a hire car in Nice and made their way over to these parts. They did a day trip to Carcassonne and I went with them on some other excursions. They wanted to see the Millau Viaduct, and that’s somewhere I was keen to visit too.
So, a day trip to Millau to see the magnificent structure. The photos just can’t do the bridge or the surrounding canyons justice. It was a little bit hazy on the day, but the scenery was truly something else.
We’d planned our return route as a big loop, taking in Roquefort, as there were some serious cheese-lovers in the group. We did the tour through the caves where the cheese acquires its famous mould and undergoes the ripening process, but were unprepared for the temperature. We should have guessed when we queued up for the 50 minute tour and noted that most people were rugged up in fleeces. The temperature is about 8 Celsius, and we were nicely chilled by the end of it.
And then home via the Black Mountains - a beautiful drive that stunned everyone. John reckons it's the best drive he's ever done!
Another day out was a large vide grenier (boot sale) at Le Someil on the Canal du Midi, about 5 kilometres from here.
There were lots of interesting pieces – I came away with a set of 6 pretty dinner plates. And here are some other bits I wasn’t tempted to buy …
Something [porcine] to hang your hat on perhaps?
An old fashioned treddly –
Self-explanatory –
– but very funny when the vendor insisted on giving us a demonstration.

A colourful Citroen 2CV:
An added bonus of my latest guests was that Tony liked to ‘fix things’. And the pump in the courtyard was something he was determined to get fixed. And so apart it came, sandpaper to rub down the inside was purchased and he set to work. He decided that it needed a washer, and this is where a pair of scissors and an industrial rubber glove the previous owner had left behind came in very handy.
And voila! we have mineral water on tap! The first few litres were decided discoloured and contained bits of rust, but the more we pumped the clearer it became. It certainly tastes like mineral water, with just a little bit of ‘fizz’ to it. But before I take to drinking much more of it, I must take it to the pharmacy to be tested. I don’t want this pump / spring to make the local newspaper again for all the wrong reasons.
It was Jan’s birthday while they were here – celebrated with a dinner of Duck Confit followed by an icecream cake.
A nice night out at the L’Appaloosa restaurant in Bize – as the Australian Meat Board advertising campaign used to say – “Feed the Man Meat!”

La Vendange

The grape harvest is well and truly upon us – this year it commenced a full two weeks earlier than usual because of the warm April and mild summer. So the roads and village streets are very busy with the tractors pulling their trailers of grapes, leaving trails of juice and squished grapes, all heading to the vats to be turned into nice little drops of something or other …. A very busy time for all involved, not least of all us end users doing our bit.
I’ve taken a few photos of a pretty vineyard at its various stages during the year - it’s on the outskirts of Bize, with a backdrop of lovely limestone cliffs. I was going to wait until I had one with the leaves turned red, before pruning, but figured the vendange was the right time to post them.

I took my visitors to the wine cave in Ginestas where I get my bulk wine – and saw this lovely bottle arrangement through the door at the end of the building.

1 Sept 2007

Family Bits

Last week, the plumbing in the house was really put to the test. My son Paul and his girlfriend Hunna arrived for a week’s holiday and with Nic and the kids, there were 8 in the house. And yes the plumbing held up, there were no problems all getting showered (the downstairs shower is now up and running) and this place is big enough to have that many people. A good test for when I finally rent this place out. Mind you, it was a bit of a jolt when it came to doing the laundry to realise the volume of washing that a crowd of people generates. I will have to get a tonne of extra bed linen and towels for what will sometimes be weekly turnovers in the high season.
Paul and Hunna flew into Paris and spent two days travelling down, calling into Cognac on the way. They left yesterday to go via Millau to see the amazing bridge, and then head east to get a look at some of the Alps country, before flying out of Paris back to Perth. It’s been fabulous having all the family here, but suddenly yesterday it was back to earth with a thud, and sadly the place is now very quiet again.
We realised it was February 2004 since we last had a ‘family reunion’ – difficult when we’re scattered all over the place. Steve and I had visited Nic in Canada on the Sunshine Coast, and Paul had some R&R from his job in Iraq and joined us there. So it’s been a while – we figured we’d try to do it again in a couple of years, hopefully this time in Australia.
I’ve just looked at all the photos I’ve selected for this posting, and realised there’s an awful lot of them!
So, here’s Hunna and Paul at the lovely village of Minerve:

They had a few drinks in a bar down in Gruissan and were fascinated by a strange dog who took a liking to them – and here he is … a face only a mother could love.

I had another BBQ with a few friends around to meet the family. Paul was in charge of getting the bbq going, this time out in the barn because of the smoke problems in the summer kitchen. It was nearly ‘Coal-Fired Barbie’ No. 2…… I went out to check on things, and realised he’d made the same mistake we had before – used the compressed coal that I’d left in a bucket near the charcoal! However, it had hardly caught – as it is difficult to get going!! - so we managed to drag it out, douse it with water and start again with charcoal.
A good time was had by all –
- and of course no good bbq should be without Illyette’s now-famous blue champagne appero!
And speaking of blue champagne, Morgan and Laurence were allowed just a small taste of it – to them, it looked just SO good.
So far, so good –

- and then the realisation of just what

we adults have to put up with ……
So, some other things we did while they were here:
A trip to the Combebelle goat cheese farm, arriving at 5pm to see them milked.

Another day we picked peaches at a pick-your-own farm a few kilometres down the road. I’ve never seen so many peaches on trees – and there were so many on the ground, it just seemed such a waste. We only intended to get a couple of kilos, but we had two huge buckets and before we knew it, both were half full. So, apart from eating many of them fresh, we found a good recipe for dessert and served a whole lot up at the bbq.

And of course with the river pool a 2 minute stroll away, there was much fun on the water, netting little fish, playing on the tubes and paddling in an inflatable boat I’ve inherited from a friend (left to her by her recent house guests).

I even had a go in the boat and took both Sage and Indigo for a paddle upstream.It was all going very well until it came time to disembark in the shallows. To say it was a little difficult is an understatement, not made any easier by Nic howling with laughter and taking photos of me struggling, and having to ask for help. Think 50+, carrying more than a few extra kilos, and trying to get out of a beanbag.

And an update on the kids’ favourite village cat, who they have named Charlie. He continues to hang around my garage door and come in at every opportunity. If I were to like cats, I’d probably like this one – he is so brazen. Not even in the slightest bit phased when I show him the straw broom and threaten to swoosh him out with it. So basically, if the garage door is open for any length of time for whatever reason, I now have a four-legged companion.
However, he’s not a stray. I met his owner the other day – I was watering the window boxes out the front with ‘Charlie’ at my feet and she stopped her car and talked to him. He ignored her.
I got flustered and said to her: “Votre chien?” (Your dog?) Obviously this threw her, because after a moment, she said ‘Oui’. We had a short conversation and she assured me he was very friendly, and good with kids! There was more, but I didn’t get it all … but I think the gist of it was that he’s a bit of a wanderer.
During Paul’s stay here, he parked his hire car directly outside the lounge room window, and the cat took to sitting on the roof, night after night, looking in. This the kids thought was hilarious – he sure is persistent. If he didn’t have an owner, I reckon I may have ended up with him.

Moving sideways

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