mercredi 10 septembre 2014

The Ark changes some of its equipment.

It's been an expensive time for the Ark! A week ago, our washing machine went on the blink, refusing to move on its programme. It would wash but only if you stood over it to say that's enough, time to continue... I tried the magic switch-cleaner without success and it was clear that either the repairer had to be called in, or we should replace the machine. As the old machine was nine years old and starting to rust around the base, we felt a repair would be counter-productive. A repairer would charge fifty Euros or so to visit, a new programmer probably 150Eur. We went to see some new machines at Weldom, as Kim felt it would be best to get it from a local supplier, who would deliver. However, their attitude was so unhelpful, almost truculent, (they wouldn't deliver either)and their choice was so poor, that we went on to Leclerc at Ruffec, and found a very nice top-loader with horizontal drum for 300Eur, a configuration that Kim had wanted for ages. Agreed, they didn't deliver, either, but with the Berlingo it wasn't much trouble to take it away. It's all installed now and working well. I did have to adapt the work surface to be hinged, but that was a minor job for a genius bricoleur like me....
   While we were in Leclerc, I took the opportunity to change my pre-paid mobile phone. The Orange scam was beginning to annoy me, you have to buy more credit than I need and if you don't use it in a limited time they cancel it unless you buy some more, and so on. The Leclerc credit lasts indefinitely and you just pay a service charge of 1.50eur a month. I bought a new mobile, very basic in the clamshell style I like, for 30Eur, a 10Eur start-up card, 5 of which was call credit and an extra 25Eur of credit so I'm in business and should save a lot in future.

 Bye for now, going to play with my new phone!

lundi 1 septembre 2014

Are we less trusting nowadays?

Yesterday, as we were feeling in need of a short outing, we decided to visit the grounds of the Chateau de Javarsay at Chef Boutonne. There is a huge fishing lake and park there beside the picturesque gatehouse  with a well- kept park around which is very pleasant to stroll around. Afterwards, we left the park by the rear entry and walked down the narrow and charming Rue de Judee ( is this a reminder of a Jewish  quarter of Chef?) and re-entered the park by the alley next to the large church of Javarsay. There was an information board about the church, which I had not noticed before, which gave some surprising details of the building.
   The board stated that the church was an important stop on the route of pilgrims to Saint Jacques de Compostella, and that the visiting pilgrims were invited to venerate the fifteen relics stored in the church. These included a piece of the Cross, part of the Crown of Thorns, and the dress and veil of the Virgin Mary! Well, I am a believer in Christ but I would be hard put to believe that a church in a small provincial town would have acquired these unique relics and I fear that unscrupulous individuals in the Middle Ages have been practicing on the Church or the pilgrims! I am sure that we more doubting Thomases today would fail to swallow the provenance of these 'relics' !

  Bye for now, breakfast calls!

samedi 30 août 2014

La Rentree- but it`s been a good Summer

Kim and Al talking to a tree sprite

I'm  sorry that I have been what the Cornish call a bit seldom in posting new Arks, although in Cornwall the word is used to describe thinning hair,as in he' s a bit seldom on top.... my excuse is, of course, that Summer is a busy time and more time is spent outdoors than is passed in front of a key-board. I have reviewed my output since June, and apart from an outburst against the greedy French taxman, little has been added to the Ark's journal. That's not to say that we have been doing nothing, of course, rather the opposite!.
   After our usual mountain holiday in the Pyrenees in June, and a short stay in Orthez chez Arlette and  Laurent, we returned to La Mort Limouzin to tidy up before Al arrived to spend a whole three weeks with us. This gave us the excuse to play tourist and this year we excelled ourselves visiting the Futuroscope, the Puy du Fou , Oradour sur Glane and Saintes to mention just the high spots. On these  day-long visits, Al finds difficulty in walking but we were lucky and privileged to be able to borrow a wheelchair from our helpful local pharmacies, which made things much simpler. And aren't the French kind to disabled people! At the theme parks we got free parking close to the entrance, priority in the queues for the attractions and wheelchair access to the various scenes, often in the front ranks. Taking Al was not a disadvantage but rather a plus factor, though pushing the chair up some steep slopes was good exercise... Here again, some helpful French tourists gave a willing hand.
   We have visited the Futuroscope and the Puy du Fou several times already but we never tire of them, especially as they modify and  innovate each year. If you haven't visited them I urge you to go, you won't be disappointed.
     After all this excitement we were sad to see Al go. Mind you, she nearly didn't, she was flying back from La Rochelle on the 16th August the day when all France wanted to go to the Ile de Re. We were 90 minutes covering four k on the La Rochelle by-pass and nearly missed boarding, probably would have done except for Al's status. She said there were fifteen vacant places on the flight from people who had missed it and we saw several people in tears at the airport. Not a credit to the town. we will avoid this date in future!
    Well, after all this furore, we are finding it hard to return to everyday life, but we will manage it eventually. I might even resolve to blog more regularly...

  Bye for now, going to drink a soothing cuppa

vendredi 22 août 2014

Extorting money with menaces

  I'm sorry to have to say that I have been the victim of a greedy but plausible criminal in the last few weeks. This menacing personage demanded my money, which he said he needed urgently to pay off his debts, pay for his medical treatment and for his cost of living, non of which had been incurred at my urging. He threatened me that if I didn't pay over 700Eur to this fund he would lock me up or take even more money.
  In fact, as you may have guessed, this extortionist is the French government. All my income arises in England, and is duly taxed at source by another demanding person but that's another story.. We do have a double-taxation agreement between our countries to ensure people only pay one lot of tax. However, the ingenious but dishonest French have decided to ignore this, and take 'Social Charges' (not tax no, perish the thought) on part of my income arising from letting our former home in Plymouth. This money, they say, will be used to pay off the National debt, repay some of the overspend on medical costs and on general social costs. I feel that the French National Debt is not my business, and my health cost is passed on to the English National Health  so this is sheer extortion akin to a hold-up. I am thinking of ways and means to avoid this daylight robbery. Has anyone any ideas?
  Bye for now,Going to sit and fume...

dimanche 3 août 2014

A Sunsoaked Village in the Limousin

Last Thursday we visited a charming small French town of about 1200 residents, quite typical of many French country towns. It has a couple of cafés, bars, a dentist, two small garages, even a blacksmith. It has a charming little church, with stained glass windows and a sunny grass square in the middle. It also has the distinction of a narrow-gauge tramway to the county town.
   Some time ago, the Authorities in charge of this little burg decided to hold a census and assembled all the inhabitants, men women and children in the grassy town square. The citizens duly assembled, no doubt laughing and joking, were counted and then the men were divided into three groups in separate buildings, while the ladies and their children were gathered in the church. Then at a given signal, all were cut down with machine-gun, rifle and hand grenades fire. Petrol from the garages was used to set fire to all the houses and the church. Only a handful of the citizens escaped....
  You can see what remains of this little place in the following photos.

  Yes, I expect you've guessed, this village is the town of Oradour sur Glane, over 600 of the citizens were murdered by the Nazis seventy years ago. The town was never rebuilt on its previous site, which has been preserved to remind posterity of the dreadful deeds carried out by the SS 'Das Reich' on unarmed civilians in reprisal for an ambush by the Resistance. I defy anyone to visit the site and remain un-moved, I had tears in my eyes several times and we still seemed to smell smoke in the air after seventy years have passed.  A sobering thought is that things have not changed much, some of the scenes in Gaza look very familiar, whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation out there.

Bye for now, trying to wash away memory with a cup of tea......

This little girl's pram still remains in front of the Church altar

jeudi 24 juillet 2014

Are the Indians all stupid, or what?

For weeks now, the fixed phone rings about twice a day and the following conversation begins ' Good morning, do you speak English' (bear in mind this is a French phone) 'yes'. My name is ....... And I am speaking from the Windows office. I am sorry to say that we have detected that your computer has a virus' ( my computer is an Apple.) no doubt he would continue to offer to fix it if I provided my access code and Bank details but at this point I am rude to him or put the phone down.
Even if you imagine that I am one of the few innocents on line that have never heard of this hoary old scam, it would be truly incredible if I fell for it more than once, let alone dozens of times!

 So, two points spring to mind. Why ring French phones, if you can't speak French, it must limit your audience severely, even if you confine yourself to English-sounding names. And why ever continue to ring when you have had no takers for weeks.
  I can  only envisage that there exists a scam in India/ Pakistan where for a few Rupees ignorant  and credulous peasants are sold a sure-fire scheme to fleece the capitalists and these scammers are themselves victims? Or is my title question apposite?

  Bye for now, got to answer the phone....

jeudi 17 juillet 2014

I Love My Lawnmower

   Here it is, a portrait of my love. I know that in your eyes, it may appear somewhat dingy and worn but it has several redeeming features-- it cuts grass, it collects it in its grass box and above all, IT IS  EASY TO START !
  We have been using a petrol mower for a couple of years, cheaply acquired and reconditioned by a local firm, and very good  it has been, too. But it must be said, it has never been easy to start and this year  needing more and more desperate pulls on the starter cord, and often refusing altogether. My routine ended up by giving it a few pulls to see if it was in the mood and if so immediately cutting the grass while it was going. I didn't dare to stop the motor to empty the grass box, clearing the mower with a stick to avoid the still rotating blades... Not ideal from a safety standpoint
   We had reverted to using the electric Flymow but besides the problem of avoiding the long flex, there was no grass box and cuttings would invade the house on our feet for a couple of days after each cut. We asked our friends Alan and Elaine at the Field Emporium to keep a look out for a cheap mower and Alan phone recently to say he had one taken in with odds and ends which we could have. It was a bit battered but, hey, it cuts grass, has a box to collect the cuttings and starts first pull! What more could one ask? I would like to be able to recommend its make but there is no discernible maker's name on it.

     Bye for now, drinking Panaché aftercutting the cour, it's baking hot today!