vendredi 14 août 2015

Controle Technique, the French MOT

  Today, it was time for our Green machine to undergo its first C T, or at any rate, the first since we bought it. One of the best things about the French system, is that it only takes place every TWO years, rather than annually, like the MOT. The other major difference, is that the test is carried out by a separate unit, NOT a repair garage. This does away with the obvious clash of interests between the fairness of the test and a sneaky yen to provide work for the repair side of the garage. I have had my doubts about several English garages...
  In the event , there were not too many unexpected shocks. I had, in fact, asked the examiner to check the rear tyres, as the car had shown a slight vibration and snaking at low speeds. As I had suspected, the tyres were slightly deformed, although not badly worn and will need to be replaced. The other two 'urgent' fails were two or three yellow indicator bulbs which are now white and will need replacing and, a real surprise, the 'stop' lights are not working, all three of them. I suspect a wiring or pressure switch fault. There were also some non-urgent worn items to keep an eye on. Our garage is shut today and tomorrow because of the 15th August bank holiday, so it'll have to wait until Tuesday. Could be worse, then!
    We witnessed a funny occurrence when we arrived at the Testing Station, though. The very competent and affable chap in charge was having a tense argument with the previous client, in for a re-test. His front tyres were unsatisfactory and needed to be changed. He HAD changed them, in fact before re-submitting his car, but only by exchanging them with the tyres on the rear wheels! Unfortunately for him, the tester had noted this subterfuge , and failed the car once more on the rear tyres.... The client was furious, saying he didn't have the right to re-test items which were already passed! What a brass neck, to wax indignant when one's little trick was found out! No shame, some people...

   Bye for now, nearly animal feed time in the Ark.

vendredi 7 août 2015

She's back!

   I see my last article was to give the news that Kim was off to the UK to spend ten days with Alyson, Kerri and the new great-grand daughter Mimi. Well, she arrived safely, passed a very enjoyable time with loads of baby-dandling but has been persuaded to return and I picked her up off the Brittany Ferries vessel Armorique on Sunday. After spending the night at the Quick Palace hotel at St Brieuc, we arrived back to La Mort Limouzin on Monday afternoon and found all in order, the animals having been well looked -after by our friend Agnes. A bit tired after a round trip of over a thousand kilometres but we are now settling down to French life again together.

  Bye for now, animal feeding time!

mercredi 22 juillet 2015

Up,up and away!

   Yesterday Kim jetted off from Bordeaux airport to spend ten days in the UK at Plymouth, visiting Alyson, Kerri and Mimi. Dont worry, she has promised to return on the second of August, but in the meantime, the Ark will be sailing single-handed....

   Bye for now, got to trim the sails.

lundi 20 juillet 2015

A Load of Hot Air

    As I mentioned in my last blog, we celebrated the Quatorze Juillet on the thirteenth at Loubille, so did not really fancy another celebration at Chef Boutonne, our local big town, the more so as there is a firework display which naturally starts very late, when it is sufficiently dark. Jacqui Brown suggested there was a hot air ballon launch at the Chateau de Saveilles, a charming but privately owned chateau, not far from us, to which the public were invited. It was due to start at seven, so we went to see what was afoot.
   The chateau gates were open and a few people were filtering in. We took the opportunity to have a look at the outside of the building, which is charming, with a well preserved moat and several towers. it is all a chateau should be, in good condition and in occupation.
   The balloon support vehicle was parked on the grass field near the chateau and after a while, preparations were being made for the launch. The small crowd were encouraged to wander close to see the team at work. It was interesting to see behind the scenes the management of a balloon launch. First, a couple of small, toy balloons were released, to determine the wind direction and speed. Then, the envelope was stretched out downwind from the basket, whose heater-burners were tested with a horrid roar, which made everyone jump. Then the basket was turned on its side and attached to the laid-out nylon balloon. A large fan was then used to inflate the envelope, the neck being held open by the crew. Finally, the suspension ropes were held out of the way and the propane burner roared out to heat the trapped air. The balloon filled more and more and started to roll from side to side in an alarming way, then gradually rose to a vertical position. the passengers, including, I think, a news photographer, hurriedly scrambled into the basket. More blasts from the burner and hey presto the basket left the ground and floated free. It rose high over the chateau and floated off. The crew loaded their gear into the trailer and set off in chase.
 Altogether a most interesting and pleasant evening. Bye for now, coffee calls

mardi 14 juillet 2015

A prickly problem.

  I went down to the sheep field a little late this morning, a bit fuzzy-headed after the celebrations of the fourteenth of July, which Loubille celebrates on the thirteenth, so the villagers get the chance to have TWO meals by attending the events at Chef Boutonne or Couture... They must have more stamina than I . As I opened the gate, I thought my eyes were deceiving me, the surface of their drinking trough was swirling round and round, and what I at first took for a loo brush was gyrating in the middle. I looked closer, and was shocked to see it was a large hedgehog trapped in the container, and swimming literally for its life.
  I dropped the sheeps' breakfast grain pan and rushed to rescue the poor animal. Goodness knows how long it had swum to keep its head above water, possibly a long time. I put my hand under its tummy and scooped it out. Its belly was icy cold, and its spines were softened by the water. It did not curl up as they usually do when handled, so I figured it was badly shocked. I hurried back to the house and dried it as best I could on a towel, not easy to dry a hedgehog! I felt it should be warmed as soon as possibly, so filled a hot water bottle to go under the towel and on a suggestion from Kim, I directed an Anglepoise lamp to shine on him, to provide further warmth.
  He gradually warmed up and became more responsive. It was strange at first to be able to see and touch his little face and stroke the hair underneath him. A couple of hours later, he began to walk about and took some food so we were able to release him in the barn by the cats' food bowls, where we suspect by odd droppings we are feeding at least one of these creatures. A successful outcome we hope. I have, of course, provided a means so that any future 'swimmers' will be able to find their way out...

   Bye for now, dog walk time!

dimanche 12 juillet 2015

The biggest cirque in the Pyrenees?

We  had a fantastic time at our Colonie de vacances this year with near perfect weather, and some outings to new walking destinations, together with revisiting some old favourites. However, the crowning moment came after the camp had finished. We had always wished to visit the famous Cirque de Gavernie, and we decided that this was the year. We decided to visit it on the way to our next destination, to stay a few days at Orthez with our friends Arlette and Laurent. I was surprised to find that the Cirque was only some 30 kilometres away, and although 30 k is longer on a winding mountain road than on a motorway, we felt it was not too far out of our way.
   You can see from my photos, that the scenery is spectacular, to say the least. You arrive in the little mountain town of Gavarnie and over everything looms the monstrous backdrop of the great circle of mountains, with waterfalls falling hundreds of feet down the face. The Spanish frontier is along the top, but I bet they are not troubled by smugglers! We parked the car in one of the several car parks, walked through the town and on though a narrow road/footpath to approach the Cirque more closely. it wouldn't do to go too near though, the scene is so monumental that it wouldn't fit in the camera frame! We had a very pleasant stroll towards the Cirque, Jilly had a welcome swim in the stream alongside. After a mile or so, we crossed the stream by a little stone bridge, returning to the town by a path on the other side. We saw what must be the most scenically sited police station in the world, I suppose they deal with mountain rescue than chasing criminals!
  I took loads of photos to remind us of a truly memorable afternoon.

   Bye for now, tea time

jeudi 9 juillet 2015

Bug Out

    I have mentioned before the amazing variety of bugs we see in our area, varying from pretty moths and butterflies to grotesque and alarming insects. However, the king of them all is the Stag-beetle, an armoured monster of a scarab, the size of a walnut. Seen on the ground it is impressive enough, like a sculpture in polished horn but impossibly the creature can take to the air! It flies rather clumsily, pointing up at forty-five degrees,, like a Concorde coming in to land. Still, it does fly quite fast and is an impressive sight, buzzing along like a small helicopter.
  A couple of days ago, I was walking the dogs in the late evening along the track close to our house. The day had been baking, and the air was still warm, even though the light was fading. I counted a half-dozen of these beetles zooming about against the evening sky. I was walking back towards the house with my hands rather full, having the two extending dog leads in my right hand, while under my left arm was tucked Mounette, our tabby cat, who often likes to accompany me on our dog walks. She tends to 'peel off' just before we reach home and I was intending to post her in the door so she would not have to be called in for bed-time.
     Suddenly one of the beetles whirred towards me and flew straight at my face. I am not scared of them, but to be hit in the eye by a walnut-sized beetle would not be pleasant. All I could do was to squint my eyes and duck slightly. Luckily, my valiant cat was on top of the situation. She hit out accurately with her right fore-paw and swatted the insect out of the air. It tumbled, recovered itself at a foot from the ground and flew harmlessly off. I was really pleased to have such an effective protector!

   Bye for now, time to feed the cats (and dogs, of course )