mercredi 22 octobre 2014

Roscoff, gateway to Plymouth.

   On Saturday, as Kim was en route to spend a few weeks with our daughter Alyson, we drove the 560 kilometres to Morlaix, where we had booked in to spend the night in the Premier Classe hotel. Normally, we break our journey at the Formula 1 at St Brieuc, an hours run South of the ferry terminal at Roscoff. However, after my previous traumatic experiences with the infamous Bonnets Rouges, who blocked the road and prevented me from catching the ferry, we had decided to install ourselves at a nearer spot, which would be nearly impossible to barricade.
    We spent the night fairly comfortably at the Premier Classe, which does have the advantage of en suite bathroom, rather than than in the corridor  like the Formula 1. After a lavish and very copious breakfast (I try to eat at least the cover charge for the unlimited breakfast) we drove on the few k's to Roscoff.
 Roscoff is an amazing town; people who arrive at the ferry port , which is located a kilometre away from the little town and port, and just drive off towards their southern destinations miss a real treat. The town is a little gem, granite houses, some with amazing carvings, narrow cobbled streets and a thriving fishing and leisure harbour with a huge tidal range so it changes from lapping water to an expanse of weed and sand in a few hours. It is a prosperous little burg, too, mainly based on servicing the trade brought to it by Brittany Ferries, so it supports loads of restaurants and little shops. The country round about is charming also, little ports and inlets many with sandy beaches and several offshore islands. I always enjoy a visit even if it is to put Kim on the ferry. I shall be back to fetch her, and to make a short crossing to Plymouth myself in a few weeks!
Note the onions for which Roscoff is famed!

samedi 4 octobre 2014

A strange year for weather.

   This is a pic of our courtyard taken a few years ago, and is the normal aspect of the grass on this very thin-soiled former farmyard. Indeed, our daughter Alyson, who normally visits in the summer was AMAZED to see it green when she came in the spring. Although looking as dead as a dodo, it revives almost instantly when the autumn rains resume.
   Not this year, however. It has remained green and verdant all the summer, due to increased rainfall in what is normally high summer, though I must say the weather
is redeeming itself now with a lovely dry, sunny autumn. It does look far prettier, I must admit, but it has needed cutting throughout the summer, normally that chore ceases in May. On the up side, the garden has not needed any watering. Hey ho what you lose on the roundabouts.....

  Bye for now, off to strim the orchard!

lundi 29 septembre 2014

Taking the P--s.

   I'll tell you what, I bet you won't see this prohibition sign in the UK!  Not only are we much more prudish than the French, who are not shy of calling a spade a spade, but it would probably not occur to 90 per cent of the English populace that we need a sign to inform us that the practice is illegal. Any policeman seeing someone doing this would take action to arrest or at least severely warn the offender. We saw this nicely designed graphic behind the hall at Sauzé Vaussais, where Kim has started going to a Zumba class on Monday mornings.
   Frenchmen regard it as their inalienable right to relieve themselves on any vertical surface and a sign is a necessity in vulnerable spots in the interest of public hygiene. In the countryside this does little harm but can be offensive in town even to the inhabitants!

  Bye for now, going to take a short walk....

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...