Provence sabbatical day 19 – caves and pain

Sounds weird doesn’t it? But it’s not got anything to do with painful cave exploring. It’s cellars along the wine route and stocking up on bread … don’t you love the French?

We woke up with sunlight pouring into the room from the passage. Delightful. Full of energy, I was more than ready to tackle the last task for a while. The room downstairs. So we can enjoy a cosy, comfy Christmas. Before I knew it, the ceiling was grey. And honey was ready for a drive to Brignoles.

We missed the market in the village, to swing past Derek to borrow his axe, and then decided to carry on via Carcès. Part of the wine route … what a gorgeous road. And we had it pretty much to ourselves. Can imagine how different it must be in the summer. A lot of the vignerons are open from Wednesday to Sunday – excluding siesta, of course.

We haven’t had a real Christmas tree for many years. The last one was a little conifer that we planted in the garden afterwards. But after helping Patricia with her monster tree, we figured we gotta do it. It’s really funky in Brignoles, just outside the L.Eclerc, how you choose your tree, and then they squish it into a sausage machine, and hey presto! It’s ready for transportation.

We got cement from Mr. Bricolage to fix the gaping hole in the bedroom floor, and checked with them if the colour of paint we needed was available. Apparently they can mix it at will. Takes two minutes. I’m amazed at how many Frenchies speak English. Trying to put us out of our misery with our limited French?

It’s such a tough call … which is the prettier road? From Cotignac to Entrecasteux to Carcès? Or from Le Val to Châteauvert to Barjols? Both are simply stunning. What a nice way to do the shopping!! We even made a quick detour through Pontevès. Apparently an ancient village … will have to come back and sink ourselves into the history.

Back at the farmhouse, Marcel tackled the gaping hole in the bedroom floor. First with a rougher concrete mixture, to take up the bigger holes. And then with a second batch to make it smooth. I really expected everything to disappear between the logs (don’t tell him).

I’m working on the little room near the fireplace. It’s white again, but needs another coat. And then we can set up our Christmas tree, put our feet up and relax into 2014. Yeah man!!

Provence sabbatical day 16 – green gold

Today’s the day for Patricia. We collect the olive oil that’s been pressed from her grove. It’s rather impressive, the trees yielded 287,5 kgs and after tallying it up, we counted 37,5 litres of olive oil.

The Mudster is behaving surprisingly well, despite us not having done anything to the clutch. It still takes lower than it should, but he’s allowing us to change gears with relative ease. Patricia is very sporting, and hops up into our chariot. In these winding roads, it’s lovely having a passenger who also enjoys driving slowly. And not getting glowered at because you’re driving like a snail. It’s too beautiful a countryside to speed!!
The process of pressing oil at Le Moulin de Pascaline

Le Moulin de Pascaline is a delightful little drive into the countryside, and I could even engage low gear! Yeah baby. The proprietor was exceptionally helpful, considering they’re closed on Saturday mornings. He and Patricia handled the nitty gritty, and we loaded up the olive oil. As Patricia is of Greek descent, I can only imagine how much this must mean to her. In fact, all olive oil in France originates from Greece …
In the village … a celebratory drink

Naturally we popped into the village to celebrate! Before we made it to du Cours, Patricia knows the owner of the little antique store, whose trinkets catch my eye every time I walk past. A lovely reason to make our acquaintance. Ooh, this is a dangerous place … my magpie eye landed on a number of things. Sidsel, Kirsten and Maggie were at the usual table, this time with Jean-Michel. Nice to hear more French being spoken. Slowly it’s getting absorbed.

“Honey, could you have a look?”
Marcel comes upstairs and is surprised at what the tiles have revealed. What was left of the flooring support, has crumbled away. No wonder it was so wonky!! And it was only going to get worse.
So on Monday, we’re going to get some reinforcing gauze and concrete. I’ve got to say that I’m enjoying expanding my repertoire as a DIY-er. And having a live-in building foreman is priceless!

Provence sabbatical day 13 – reflections and panes

I adore mirrors. Not because I enjoy spending hours looking into them. But because of reflections are like memories. What you see when you look into one, isn’t necessarily what others would see. And just like memories, some reflections are crisp and sharp, and others are mottled and jaded. I particularly love the bathroom mirror, and think it fits the house perfectly; showing it’s age, oozing character, and a whole bunch of fairy tale magic. Mado kept me company this morning while I figured out how the panel pins work, to keep the mirror in place.

Marcel got the washing machine installed in no time, and even did two loads of washing! It works great 🙂 He also tackled some of the lighting upstairs, where the fittings had come apart. After bravely repairing the mirror, I got hold of the bedroom windows and spent pretty much the whole day sculpting putty around the edges. “Don’t make it too neat” I interpreted Pen’s wish to mean she doesn’t want it looking like it was machine-made. So, the window panes have a pretty organic feel about them.

I took a break to make a lasagne, and to stir up the compost heap. I’m delighted to say that there is some action happening at the bottom. We’ve got the fork at the ready and will pitch it every now and then.

Talk about a scare … Mado was a little uneasy this evening, suddenly looking old. Staring into space and not lying down as much as he was. Then as I started on the blog, he started moving in a very strange way. As if his brain wasn’t working with his body. My first thought was some sort of stroke. No! You can’t do this to us, Mado!!

I phoned Christiane, who in spite of being knackered from a long day, agreed to come and see him. I fetched her, and by the time we got back, Mado was moving normally again. Phewie!! So she enjoyed a glass of wine with Marcel, and we shared some of our blog photos. She told us some stories about the house – great stuff. Mado seems to be doing okay. Hope I get some sleep … xxx

Provence sabbatical day 11 – back to the future

Last night’s carol service took me back 3 decades to watching my parents sing in Pretoria. One of my proudest moments, they have both got such beautiful voices. And it seems the local antique dealer is harbouring the voice of an angel! I had to close my eyes to fully absorb the nuances of tenors, altos and sopranos. When they dedicated the encore to Nelson Mandela, my eyes were not dry.

Really glad we met up with Patricia and Kirsten at the carol service, for we would never have found Sidsel’s place. An apartment in this amazing village, which is a lot bigger than it looks. With lots of hills and steps. I’m definitely going to get fit again 🙂

Sidsel prepared a delicious dish of red and white cabbage, spuddies and roast pork, with imported Norwegian berries. It was very “gezellig” … sorry, but I still haven’t found a better English word. The Dutch word is so descriptive. Cosy, fun, lovely ambience, relaxed, social, chilled, …. It was lovely meeting Joelle and hearing everyone speak French. Very exciting when you have an inkling of what they’re talking about.  I handed the camera over to Marcel and he went a little professional on us, “work with me … give me more …” Kirsten and I had a blast 🙂

A glimpse into the future?

Marcel’s brief for the sabbatical is to relax, take time out and feel no pressure. So he helps out when he feels like, or curls up with his tablet. Not a Prozac of any kind, but with an HTC. Does that make him an e-bookworm? I tackled Pen’s bedroom wall … again. For the 5th time!! I have a horrible suspicion that the bedroom wall suffers from boulimia … loving the taste of paint, but refusing to let it stay down. So, I figured let’s sand the hell out of it. And while I was at it, the bathroom ceiling too. What a laugh when I caught a glimpse in the mirror … and immediately showed my husband. An early promise of what’s to come?

I finished in time to attempt my cycle ride up the hill to visit Patricia. Marcel showed little effort. Me? My lungs and heart merged into one fiery ball. It’s only a kilometre!!! But it’s a start in the right direction. Patricia showed us her magnificent botantical art. My word, the detail was almost lost on my far-sighted eyes. She’s very talented.

Our challenge should we accept it …

Install a new washing machine. Actually, we have little choice – we need clean clothes, and buying new stuff every day is out of the question. And not just because of the sabbatical budget. Gasp, can you imagine it? I hate shopping! After checking with Pen about the age of the machine (warranty is up), and looking online for prices, it’s more feasible to buy a new one. Like a tank through an alley, we maneuvered the beast out of the cellar, onto a trolley and it’s ready for tomorrow. After the market, we’re heading back to Brignoles. L.Eclerc also has an appliance section. Not sure if it’s the same here as in Holland, where they take your old one in. So we’re going to take it along … what else would we do with it?

Provence sabbatical day 10 – freezing my socks off

I froze my socks off. And then my toes defrosted! It turns out that not all socks are equal … the fuzzy socks that I normally sleep in do wonders at keeping my toetsies warm, but get painful if you walk in them too long. And walking socks on the other hand, are pretty damn useless at warming your toes in Cotignac!!

A touch more DIY

According to a little French brochure, it’s a good idea to add linseed oil to the wood before adding the window panes back. At least, I hope my French has interpreted it correctly!! I carried on in Pen’s room. Tomorrow some panel pins, and then the window can go back 🙂

Muddy’s Bootcamp – final touches

When making videos, it’s much easier to do the major editing if you’ve done the filming because you know what footage is available. Marcel had done the major work a couple of days ago, and I’ve been meaning to do the final edit. But hadn’t had the time. Sharing our life with you takes at least 3 hours a night. C’mon honey. Gimme a break 😉 We have a lot of fun making these videos with Rob Stewart, our Land Rover guru, and it’s nice to see how we’re all relaxing more in front of the camera, and Marcel’s shots are great. The outtakes are getting funnier and funnier. Perhaps the best part of this video, is how I just don’t have a clue that there’s so much oil on my face. Uploading was fun … 387 minutes (in Holland it would take about 15 minutes). And we noticed that we’ve got over 6 million views on YouTube … DOUBLE YIPPEE!!!

Today’s post is very short … we’re about to go to the village church, who’s bells have been ringing loudly the whole day, for Christmas Carols, and then after that to Sidsel for dinner. Patricia warned us that the church gets really cold, so we much dress warm. “Get changed? What do you mean I can’t wear my snow boots and ski pants?!?

Provence sabbatical day 4 – taking care of the supplies

3am and I can’t sleep. Wide awake and thinking about everything and nothing at all. A little blue light on the screen casts a lovely shadow of Marcel on the wall. He looks like a reclining Moore sculpture. Tossing this way, turning that way, I eventually nod off again. Mwaauwwww. It’s late-o’clock and Mado, the cat, reminds us of our obligations.”Hey, I’m here. Feed me.” First time he’s reminded me.

Feeling ever so groggy, I decide a bath in the Hobbit’s cove is just what I need. The plug system is the same as ours at home. Some stupid knob you turn to lift the plug in/out of the water. And just like ours at home, the mechanics have rusted away. A great idea … on paper. Only, I realise this after the bath is full. And I can no longer get the plug out of the bath!! Much swilling later, the plug finally lets itself loose 🙂

Feeling out of it, I move from one thing to the next. And finally, Pen’s brass candlesticks can taunt me no more. The one sits perfectly taught, and the other is like me after an evening of too many rosés – way too wonky for it to be safe. They’re dismantled, old wax removed, and soaked in boiling water. Marcel helps out with a particularly sticky stick and we manage to reassemble them tight and proud. Hoorah. A SEAL team would be proud.

“How will we know which shade of green to use?” “I have no doubt you’ll be fine.” Aunty Pen has full faith in us. Nothing like a bit of pressure then. Trying to match a piece of heaven? Marcel and I looked around for an easy-to-loosten piece of painted green. The flaking pieces in the front are sun-bleached and have gone yellow, and the garage door looks decidely blue. The bath panelling has come loose, and I’d made a note to fasten it down, but then we figured .. that’s got to be perfect!! Marcel expertly wiggled it out, and we had at least something to go by. And what a choice. At Mr. Bricolage in Brignoles, about 20 kms away, I was happy to settle for “Verte Provence” but comparing it to the slat … way too blue. Hoo boy!! We organised a whole bunch of other stuff, like window putty for the bedroom windows where the glass panes are “hanging in there” and even found a universal plug with a little loop handle thingy for bath time bliss.

After 14 years, I know the secret to shopping with you is to keep moving. If you spend too long in one place, you zone out … so c’mon …” I’ve said it before, shopping is not my thing. Especially on a few hours of sleep. Thanks honey, for knowing me so well 🙂 The drive home was pretty fabulous. In the dark, no street lights, no protective barriers and windy bends.

Provence sabbatical day 2 – the sun has deserted us

It’s amazing the difference between being a guest and being a caretaker. Don’t think I got a wink of sleep last night. Where I’d rolled over and gone back to sleep the nights before, I was alert to every noise and non-sound. Madonna, the cat, is settling well with us, and was active last night, as Pen had said he would be. At one point I heard a doorbell .. and there isn’t one here! Okie dokie … 1 night in and I’m losing it!!!

Despite it being overcast, I grabbed a cuppa tea and some yoghurt and claimed Wolf’s special breakfast spot. Oui, I can understand. Determined sun beams find their way to flush your cheeks while your nose is protected from the oncoming winter breeze. I had no choice but to grab my camera and discover the garden. There are still loads of flowers and insects (I even got a mosquito bite!!) and buds on the bushes. Hello … don’t they feel the minus degrees we’ve been having?

Marcel spent most of the day reading … fab to see my guy relaxing!! I tackled the painting again, and this time with better luck. The paint was indeed better in a warmed room. Every now and then, however, I saw bubbles on the wall 🙁 arghh. With the slightest encouragement, the old paint just peeled away leaving a nasty bald spot. A little trick I hope will work … I scraped away as much as I could, and then sanded the spot and edges. The new paint seemed to stick better. I slowly built up levels of paint, so it kind of matches the rest. Another coat of paint will be needed.

By 2:30pm the light isn’t good enough to carry on … well, that’s my excuse. We’re still finding our feet in our “new home”. When you’re away for so long, you’re kind of between travelling and living somewhere. But one thing hasn’t changed, me … I’m still in my work clothes. My jersey is getting decidely more speckledy-white. I can only imagine the white band of paint on the back of my head from leaning too close to the wall. My husband hasn’t said anything and I haven’t asked.

On Monday, we’re going back to Mr. Bricolage to get green paint and other stuff for more reparations. We should have enough food until then … the shops are closed from Saturday morning. Á bientot!