This has been a fairly quiet week, perhaps I needed time to recover from my weekend jaunt. The weather has been strange again quite wintry with rain and then amazing patches of azure blue sky with the whitest cotton wool clouds. No one must tell me that Africa has the bluest skies. This part of France reminds me of the Natal midlands, undulating green hills with patches of trees. We seem to live in a hollow which gets quite misty and I only realised how low down we are when out driving this week and finding myself rising above the mist. On a clear day you can see forever! There is little pollution here so the night time sky is amazingly clear (when the weather is fine). Lying in bed I have seen the most amazing full moon through the bedroom skylight and the stars go on forever.
This beautiful newly leaved tree caught my eye, the fruit trees in our garden are full of blossom and when the wind blows, tiny white petals fly everywhere. It is learning curve taking photographs here. Used as I am to the brilliant and harsh sunshine in Southern Africa, the gentle colours and almost ethereal quality of the light is quite different. Taking photographs of the bears is another story, have to wait for really bright light and take pics outside!
The variety of birds amazes me and I am enjoying encouraging them into the garden with an old feeder we found hidden in the brambles. I think that the bird house pictured in one of my earlier blogs may be occupied, will have to keep it under observation. There are little yellow and blue birds as well as quite bolshie red breasted robins which seem to chase everyone else away. We have also had several very beautiful and shy jays in the garden. Then there are the rooks and blackbirds which fly around the freshly ploughed fields. Something I have never seen before as there are literally hundreds of birds on the ground and in the sky. Think I heard a cuckoo calling this morning, rather a monotonous sound. The birds do seem to be cat aware and I am just hoping that my kitties don't think they can start catching birds. One of my near neighbours has five cats of varying ages who take great delight in rushing at the bushes and chasing birds away.
The black and white magpies are very difficult to photograph! I followed this one around the garden and only managed this picture using the zoom lens on my digital camera. Not the best picture I'm afraid but will keep trying!
As the week draws to a close I have had time to reflect on our first two months living in Brittany. It has been a wonderful experience and I am surrounded by amazing countryside. The language barrier does create problems and apart from a short Bonjour to most of my neighbours I have little contact with the local population. English is just not spoken at all and with my very basic French it would be impossible to hold a long conversation. I do manage to cope though and my voculabulary is increasing on a daily basis of necessitity as I have the Post Office to visit to collect or send parcels and letters. Supermarket shopping is not too much of a problem as everything is well marked and it is quite easy, there are a large number of English people here and there are even sections of the shelves with English products (at a price!). Contrary to what I had been told the French are very patient with us 'foreigners'. Perhaps as I do try and speak to them in their language but I have not had any problems. It is a very beautiful language and I will do my best to improve my conversation skills, school language lessons are just not good preparation. All I can remember is learning irregular verbs, the days of the week and counting to twenty, not very much help. The numbers are a problem as at markets I can ask in French how much something is but a reply once over 'twenty' is not easy to understand. Most of the stall holders are very understanding (another Anglais idiot) and sometimes call their children to communicate with me as obviously English is a school subject here. On a lighter note, I was upstairs this week when there was a knock on the front door. Shouting to Mervyn to see who was there I carried on regardless. Of course Mervyn does not speak any French and I had to come to the rescue, just in time to hear him say in very basic Italian 'uno momento'. I mean really, this will go down in family history much the same as the story of my dear mother when asking for directions in Pretoria many years ago, telling my father that she could not understand the foreigner! The young man at the door who very politely shook my hand, was looking for the previous tenant and I managed to tell him in quite passable French that I was the latest tenant and had no idea where this gentleman now was. So with a cheery au revoir on my part and a goodbye (!) on his, he left. The neighbours have 3 young children and their father has built them a tree house right near the hedge separating our properties. Whilst I was cutting the lawn this week and cursing the tufts of grass, they were sitting in the tree house observing us with great interest and obviously listening to the English conversation. Eventually the little girl said 'hello' and gave me a wave.
Bronwen is very worried about her dog who is in quarantine. The kennel is close to London and advertises extensively on the internet and must be one of the worst in the UK. Fifteen dogs have now developed kennel cough (including Bronwen's Max) which should have been nipped in the bud if they had followed usual procedure and kept the original two dogs away from the others. Whilst I understand that it is necessary to keep rabies out of the UK, this ridiculous and money making racket should be exposed. These kennels charge almost £3000 for a medium size dog for a 6 month stay. The dogs are kept in tiny cages without any exercise at all and the care they receive is quite disgusting to say the least. Bronwen's dog does not like strangers very much so she visits twice a week to bath him, clip his nails and give him any medicine he needs. Bronwen is not one to accept things without a fight. She has contacted the RSPCA and various other organisations who are not in the least bit interested, so much for animal welfare organisations! However she has now found a group who is trying to get this kind of inhumane treatment of animals stopped so hopefully she will have some success. As there are other angry owners with animals in this dreadful place perhaps they might be able to do something together.
Megan is coming to stay for a couple of weeks in early May as Mervyn's Shengen visa only allows him to reside here for three months at a stretch. I will drive with him to England for a couple of days where I can see Bronwen, do a little shopping and then return to France.
Still have to make plans for the weekend, perhaps another market. Will have to check on the internet to see what is on.
The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire. ~Ferdinand Foch