There has been a lot of it about. Unfortunately we keep hearing about English people who are packing up to go back to England. Sometimes they miss their grandchildren; sometimes the struggle with the French language and bureaucracy overwhelms them; sometimes people overstretch themselves by buying properties that appear really cheap without anticipating the cost of repairs and heating. And taxes. Anybody who wishes to set up a business in France has a hard time. They have prove themselves highly qualified as an artisan, then most of their income is taken one way or another by the Government. The cost of joining the French health service is unbelievable. And so it goes on.
There's always the sun above the mist
Luckily for us France is very kind to those that retire here. The only worry is the pound falling against the euro. The cost of food is high but you appreciate the higher quality. People eat a bit more simply and grow their own veg. Shopping is not a way of life here, everyone makes do and mends.
It was probably the springlike day that brought on the revelation that here I am in France doing all the things I always dreamed of. I was sitting out front in the warm sunshine weaving a basket. I visited Gwendy the horse with tidbits in exchange for a little manure for this year’s tomatoes. I went riding at Laizé. I’m reading French romans and enjoy French lessons. There are superb walks in all directions. Our local town, Cluny, is beautiful and interesting. And I live here. Wow!
Riding at Laizé
We have not had weather as bad as in the UK but even here we’ve had a bit of snow, enough to keep us at home for a couple of days. But today the road over the hill was clear enough to drive to the Laizé Pony Club. I am very glad we did as we went off for a balade in the snow.
Riding in the snow
For this we rode the smaller ponies as they are more surefooted. Chris was very pleased as his feet nearly touched the ground so he couldn’t fall very far. Sometimes the ponies were gently sliding downhill on four splayed hooves. My pony enjoys rolling in the river but luckily today he must have thought that minus five was a little too cold for bathing and we crossed without incident.
Saturday afternoons means basket making in the foyer rural. At least that’s what I am doing but Chris is a little more creative and is busy weaving Christmas decorations. I sometimes think that if civilisation collapses we’ll be all right!
Tiny people on tiny ponies
It has been quite a horsey day today. While Chris had his Saturday morning riding lesson at Laizé I wandered off to see what else was happening and spent some time watching a group of 4-year-olds. They were riding tiny little ponies with great confidence. I picked up some tips about posture from them and sympathised with one little boy who was close to tears when he was told off for having his reins too long. Last week my instructor tied a big knot in mine!
Horse fair at Cluny
Today was also the day of the horse fair in Cluny. We now appreciate the effort that goes into making horses presentable when they have been out rolling in the mud. It has been very warm this week with some rainy nights and ground is quite soft. The hardy horses that live out in the fields prepare for winter by plastering their thick shaggy coats with mud which hardens into a sort of carapace to protect them from the weather.
Notre Dames des Roches
Winter sees the start of the vannerie sessions when we spend our Saturday afternoons at the Foyer Rural making baskets. The first step is to gather lengths of pliable hazel to bend round forms to make the bottom and the handle of the basket. So we had an expedition into the woods to cut some. We took a walk up to the statue of Notre Dame des Roches which stands on the cliff overlooking the village. She was put there to give thanks that in the war the fighting never reached the village due to the efforts of the Resistance movement. The older people in the village still talk of their deeds and the aftermath of families devastated by loss. Many of these brave people were deported to labour camps and there were few survivors.
Chris finishes his first basket
I would have some fabulous pictures to post if only I could remember to take my camera out and about with me.
On Tuesday some strange people came to play badminton. It was the Chinese New Year so a family arrived suitably adorned. One was in a beautiful Chinese dress and plastered with copious make-up, and that was the father!
Friday’s folk dancing was also a bit surreal as I couldn’t persuade anyone that the Hornpipe is not a Scottish country dance! But hey, who cares!
We made great progress in basket weaving and one day I will show a photo of my basket. A bit lopsided perhaps but almost recognisable.
And I could have shown some great pictures of the change in weather this week. On Tuesday we couldn’t get out because of the snow. Wednesday it rained and the roads turned into a skating rink. But how quickly the snow disappeared! Within hours snow that had lain for a week had gone. And Thursday was like Spring. The little daffodils, undeterred by being buried under the snow, are now blooming in the sunshine.
The vineyard owner has invited us to join the grape picking team for next September’s vendange. The bad news is that we have to help pick 40 tons of grapes in a week. The good news is that each day the pickers are treated to a huge lunch at the best restaurant in the area.