Wednesday, September 27, 2006

We are living in a complete mess but progress is being made! The Lounge wall is partially re plastered and hopefully the chimney breast is going to be finished by Thursday.

We have totallly removed the kitchen so washing up is in the bathroom and drinking water from the tap in the driveway!

I have been to the déchetterie (dump)so many times this week I feel I am on first name terms with the crew!(still saves paying for a skip)and inevitably numerous trips to the builders merchants (I have more accounts and store cards than you can shake a baguette at!).

Our Electrician, Patrick who has a great, handle bar moustache, arrived expecting to put in two wall lights to be confronted with a kitchen with a solitary power point with cables tacked in creating the other four. I soon found that the bare wires coming out the wall, which had been connected to the extractor, were still live - try touching one with a chisel and you will find out what happens! having dampened down my now spikey hair.......... I am not sure whether Patrick was muttering merde or Mort ( death!) but all will be ready for the new kitchen tomorrow.


In between all this it was a stuuning day, 27 degrees, I took the pool cover off, cleaned the pool, dived in - wow it was 'fresh'!

Monday, September 25, 2006

We spent much of sunday assembling the new Kitchen units although typical of Ikea they have sent 2 wrong sized doors! try explaining that in french!Untypically of Provence it rained heavily all day. ( much needed though);By the evening we had cleared the Dining room and contents of the kitchen ready to receive our builders Monday Morning.

By Mid morning there was good progress the 'wings' of the fireplace had gone pictured before and after,

the wall between the dining room and kitchen had gone, and we had made 2 trips to the dump and builders merchants. Of course it would not be France with out the 2 hour lunch break afterwhich further progress was made.

The only question we were left with is why do we keep putting ourselves thru such hard work and mess - we had just got straight now it looks like a bomb has gone off - still it will all be worth it in the end!!
Saturday 23rd Sept We have not been to the market in Apt since June which seems both incredible and terrible really. It is one of the top 100 markets in France and the one of the largest in Provence.However it is packed from June onwards with tourists! thank goodness - they even have a free park and ride - but we prefer the farmers market in Coustellet on a Sunday during high season. So this weekend we ventured in, it was really nice, although we were amazed at how busy it still was - plenty of tourists and we could only just get a seat in our favourite bar where we sit with a beer and 'try' and read the paper looking like locals!

In the afternoon, Eric, our Portuguese ' tree lopper' arrived so I ended up working with him for 4 hours cutting down the neglected conifers!

As one of our last meals in this kitchen Karen served a wonderful supper of Figs with Gorgonzola with a honey sauce - pictured , Salmon with Green Beans with a white wine and creme fraische sauce with Cheese and chocolate Tarts after- fit for a King!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

THURSDAY Started work at 8 am , varnished the entire chalet, insulated the roof, finished at 8 pm knackered - this retirement lark ain't all its made out to be!

I think there must be something in the Provincal water that speeds up time! Where has this week gone? Monday started with my French lesson afterwhich I met with my first clients, a Scotish couple who have been renting here for 4 months and now wish to buy. They have retained my services to find them a house. In the afternoon I meet with the local agent to commence the search.

Tuesday Back to school from 9 am to mid day.Fellow students include a South African couple in the mid 70's, a Finish gentleman, Robert who is a Brit and has been going to the class for a couple of years, Francesca who we know and came from Guildford, and a German couple so it makes good entertainment! I usually spend the first half hour wondering what the heck I alm doing there and whether I will ever understand the Grammar!

In the afternoon we arranged with Christine, the lady who runs the Boulangerie to talk French in exchange for which we would teach her English. All went well especially the tour of the premises and the cakes served! not good for the waistline.

Wednesday I have been suffering with a bad arm/elbow so conceded in going to the Doctor.I have Tennis Elbow - just what I could do with out with so much work to do and we are about to assemble our new kitchen.The French take more drugs than any other European country and when you seen the length of my prescription you can see why! We also have to take the 'Ginger' cat to the vet as she has been pulling her fir out. I warned her that if it were more than 40€ she would have to go! ( just joking Karen). As you can see by the photo she has been accepted in to the pack!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sunday 17th September We head off to Marseille, 66 Miles from here to the centre. It is a vibrant City, busy with tourists, with fabulous archtecture the hub of which is the vieux Port

which is overlooked by the Basilique de Notre Dame de le Garde.

In the afternoon we go to the ballet at the Opera house afterwhich we people watch in one of the buzzing quay side bars

before setting off home stopping off in Bonnieux for a Pizza at one of our favourite casual restaurants which has a stunning view to the West.

Saturday 16th September After a late night we had a slightly late start to the day! we still treat weekends as weekends ie an even slower pace! We had some friends round to supper who are travelling thru Europe although have been renting here for 4 months. They have decided to buy and I have my first proper client retaining me to find them a house.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Thursday 14th September : In preparation for Winter our logs were delivered, 3 stairs worth, something I never had to worry about in Weybridge! Dropped off in the driveway at 7.45 am Karen and I had them all stacked away with in an hour ( or so!). After French we under took some housekeeping duties as it was raining outside. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Home - Hunts who I shall start working for in a week or two's time.

Friday 15th September We set off to Avignon for the purchase of Radiators, sinks and various other delights for the house. It was raining heavily. In the evening we went to dinner at friends in Saignon, a village near here. We drove home in the early hours in the pouring rain, and surprise surprise the car roof was leaking!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Over the last fortnight the weather has been hot allowing al fresco dining. The forecasts here are usually very accurate and low pressure is bringing in high winds, torrential rain, thunder and lightening over the next 3 days. We receieved a call from some friends we have made, who own a large Vineyard nearby asking for assistance to pick grapes before the rain.

Traditionally, Syrah grapes, are left on the vines to ripen in the sun, but must not go soggy so they must be picked before prolonged rain fall.

We joined the other volunteers and picked under the treatening cloud laden sky.

With in an hour or so the heavens opened and we were all drenched causing a retreat to the Domaine for Tea, yes hot Tea!

There we sat and chatted with the other pickers, me in my under pants, Karen with a borrowed towel! it was quite a picture, we were all seriously wet with no other clothes to wear to drive home! Thank goodness there were no roadside checks! Anyway we shall be returning next week to pick again, a different more rain resistant grape! for now the Syrah ones are in a large Vat.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


This is the Hebrew word for ' written' suggesting things in life happen for a reason, our paths are set etc.

I feel it's been that kind of week.

On Monday I had my first 'solo' French lesson, we are now doing an hour each on a one to one basis. Plus of course we go to 'school' on Tuesdays. After, we worked on the garden where we have a large Chalet, 6m x 4m. I thought it was in good condition but like everything here it has been neglected and the roofing felt is torn so that is my next task. We also had Patrick, the electrician round who kindly condemned our electrics! Looks like the budget is wrong aagin!
Several queries have been raised on our planning applications, these include requiring attestations on the drainage and access, suggesting the main house is bigger than the allowed 250 Sq Metres and that the pool houses must be connected to the house! Politics! so we have a meeting with the architect to agree who will do what!

The roof on our Mercedes has continued to leak so the car is booked in Wednesday for 2 days. We set off at 8am - early for us, to Avignon. After collecting a courtesy car, we head off to meet Bernard, who we met whilst stranded in a restaurant during a storm in Vaison.

He is a fascinating, larger than life character (speaking 7 languages and a suberb artist!), born in Tunisia from where he and his family fled in the early 60's when he moved to Paris. He has lived in New York, Brazil and of course London, where he had a business making Jingles for Radio etc.

He and his wife have bought and refurbished a farm house, which is set in about 30 Acres where he has planted 1200 Olive Trees. Before lunch he took us on his tractor around the Olive Grove. After we had lunch, most of which had either been pulled out the ground that morning (lettuce, juicy, tasty tomatoes and peppers), or picked from a tree (figs), we chatted about so many different things, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable day. We left clutching grapes and home made Tapenade, stopping at a Vineyard on route home for a tasting and small purchase to keep the cellar topped up!

On Thursday whilst Karen had her French lesson I had a meeting with a Pool company to look at some work on our current pool and get quotes for the new ones. After we had to go to the bank where 'cheery chops' insisted on us waiting to see him just to transfer money from one account to another! Banking.......

In the afternoon we headed back to Avignon to the joys of the DIY shops to order Bathroom tiles, radiators etc. Mercedes called to say the car would not be ready! Thankfully we had to come to Avignon anyway, we were going to the opening of a new exhibition at an Art Gallary, afterwhich we headed back towards home stopping at ' La terrace' in Bonnieux where we had one of the best Pizza's ever!

We were up at 6.30 Friday, something of a record! and off to Marseille where I had a meeting with Home Hunts, who I am about to start working with. It is a City we have not explored. It is the largest City in France after Paris.

The traffic was busy, like driving in to London. I left Karen to go and look round. When we met up an hour or two later she had been exploring the contrasting streets that this lively City offers on one side with the likes of Prada & louis vitton and on the other, poor immigrants selling their possessions on the streets.

The markets were incredible with a vast Algerian quarter where women almost fought to buy their produce.

We took lunch at the Cafe du Banque, a superb Bistro with an effecient crew of waiters serving the regular customers enjoying the warm Autumn sunshine. We left mid afternoon richer for just dipping into Marseille with its incredible buildings and wonderfull setting by the Medditeranean.

On route home we collected our car from Avignon in between another brief visit to ' Leroy Merlin' arriving home just in time for Karen to prepare supper for friends who were coming to dinner. We had a lovely evening, outside, the Moon lighting the Luberon, which was in the Autumn Mist. They left shortly before 2am! Quite a full day!

Foolishly I had arranged a rendez-vous for 9am with someone to quote for our driveway and to put the road in on our plot. As it turned out he was the font of all knowledge and knows the neighbours to our land so can help with discussions on the drainage. His son-in-law is English and lives nearby, we were introduced through mutual friends. I think he will prove to be very useful for lots of our work. After we went to 'Mr Bricolage' where as luck would have it, we bumped in to one of the other neighbours who we needed to see. By the time we had chatted it was closing for lunch but we had a productive discussion! A fortunate meeting concluding a succesful morning.

Oh yes, we fished this visitor out of the pool!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Perfect Day in the words of Lou Reed!

Sundays are always special, none more so than today. We a woke to a blue sky whilst mist hung over Apt and the Luberon.

After breakfast , Karen sharpened up her Boule skills under the scrutiny of the boys

before we took a stroll to the village. As always on a Sunday morning it was busy with people buying bread and pastries in the boulangerie, meat in the Charcuterie and the cafes buzzing with people reading the ' Provence' whilst drinking a Pastis or Coffee.

We walked through the village reminding ourselves of the lifestyle that attracted us to this village and some of the lovely houses and buildings.

By the time we walked home it was time for lunch, the mist had now been burnt off by the hot Autumn sunshine. We spent the afternoon working in the garden in between dipping in the pool. I never thought I would own a house with a pool. It feels very indulgent. At 7pm we sat on the terrace taking in the view over a glass of wine after which my wife served me a fine dinner of Duck followed by the customary cheese course - now that's what I call a perfect day.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Monday always starts with our French lesson at 10am. We meet with Marlyse, and have been now for about 9 months, twice a week for an hour.We chat about what we have been up to and read , 'Martine' for 8 year olds! Sometimes I wonder just how much our French will advance - it is so difficult, having said that there is no doubt we have come along way since last year.

The week has been taken up with gardening, something that we both really enjoy. It is so nice having worked in an office enviroment, dressed in a suit for 25 years to get out in the fresh air and do some manual work.

We have a new addition to the family - Ginger,

on trial to see if she settles as her 'parents' are emigrating.She went out last night for the first time and promptly went missing. I got up about 4am and called her and could hear a faint cry. I traced this to one of the large trees ! there she was about 10 metres up! well other than get Karen to come and see what could we do but leave her - she got up - and will come back down! ( and has).

Work has begun on the roof with our team of builders looking kike the league of Nations - Johann is Austrian

( roof, bathrooms and floor tiling), Thijs is Dutch ( driveway, french dors ) and Simon is English ( plastering, rendering and pool terrace).We will bring one or two French in to keep the balance right. So the budget is set, negotiations have taken place - let work commence.

Thankfully after a rather unsettled August, or should I say windy one, summer has returned with temperatures back in the 30's so the pool will be getting plenty of use.