Day 5: No sign of a body!

There were some plumbing issues to be dealt with at La Maison so after the usual breakfast, S headed up to the house with B to tackle them (B acting in an advisory capacity and on face licking duty).

Tuesday is market day at Sourdeval with an excellent live stock market too (when we came in search of houses in April, the lady at the house we stayed at had spent a small fortune on ducks for her pond who kept flying away!) P had always had a hankering for chickens – indeed the family had gone as far as to name them Chick Norris (see what we did there!) and Penny Fluffy Feathers.  However, the sensible head knew that they weren’t really practical and we were not sure who would the rule the roost (!) once B met them; but S thought a sheep may help to keep the garden in check or a pig to fatten up and keep B company would be a super idea. We are sorry to say that by the time we got to the market, it was too late to buy any livestock (I wonder how that happened!)

We did however get some vegetables – they are a lot easier to look after and P a leather belt as her trousers keep falling down (not sure how given how much we are eating) and a scarf for S then back to the lodge for lunch and then back to the house to carry on with jobs.

When we bought the house some of the floor tiles in the kitchen were raised and on closer inspection in July some of the cement had had some sort of chemical reaction forcing the tiles up. S and P spent time carefully taking tiles up to re-use in the knowledge that there were some spares in the shed if needed and the tools found in the shed proved particularly handy as S whacked the concrete to break it up – a messy and dusty job. We speculated that the chemical reaction may have been caused by a dead body decomposing, but thankfully we haven’t found signs of anything yet. There are two bin fulls of detritus to take to the tip when it is open on Wednesday and the next task will be to fill the hole up with cement – without the obligatory body I think and then relay the tiles – not sure all that will be achieved this time.

B had a great time haring up and down the garden and trying to eat more of the peaches – he still isn’t showing much interest in the little dog next door, much to her chagrin, maybe they don’t speak the same language……

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Day 4 – Closed again

Simon and P started the day by going up to the house and assessing jobs to be done.  First job was to pay the plumber who had come out in July to look at the boiler.  Simon had many times asked for a bill to be emailed but none had been forthcoming.  Simon was relieved to find that a bill dated September had been pushed under the door.  After careful consideration of the tricky business of writing a French cheque, Simon and P went off to settle their debts.

Sarl Boisbunon et fils is in the small industrial zone at the edge of the village next to the new communal fuel station (1€11,9 for a litre of diesel). Simon and P paid the bill, shook hands with everyone and explained that they hadn’t got the heating working yet. M Boisbunon said that he would call.

Next stop was the water office.  The man from the local water company had been supposed to come to the house back in July but had never turned up and by the time Simon and P had located the offices it was Tuesday evening and the office would be shut until after the went home. Knowing that the office was open Monday mornings, Simon and P went to face French local bureaucracy. After the required “Bonjours” and handshakes, P started to explain that we had a property. “Ah, Monsieur et Madame *******!”, said the man from the water company. He explained that he lived on the same street as Simon and P’s house as he found the forms.  There is a charge of 7€ a month plus an annual charge for water used baised on the meter readings. P went to her bag for the cheque book but was told that Simon and P should submit a metre reading in December/January and pay then.  Handshakes and goodbyes and it was back to the house.

A simple job or two was tackled and a list of required supplies was compiled when B and Simon’s mum arrived at the house having walked up the hill.  Just as coffee was being made, M Boisbunon arrived and looked at the boiler and radiators.  A minor bit of kinetic maintenance and heat was flowing.  Simon and P finished off their jobs while B and Simon’s mum walked back to the gite.

Monday is “market” day in Juvigny – although Simon and P have never seen more than 3 stalls at the market.  Still purchases of plums, oranges, peppers and parsley were made from the jolly fruit and veg man.  Simon’s mum made a celery and blue cheese soup (using some of the parsley) for lunch.  Perfect with baguette

A quick look in the Michelin guide suggested that St Hilaire du Harcouet would be a good place to visit as it has a hardware store (to buy supplies for jobs) and a museum – La Verrière – which, according to the guide, has a fantastic collection of sacred art.  B was dropped off to guard the house/sleep by the radiator, and the rest of the party set off for St Hilaire. The bricomarche would be open until 7pm, so it was off to find the museum.  Simon parked up near the tourist information and Simon and P went in to ask about the museum.  After picking up some useful leaflets, Simon asked about the museum to be told that it was closed (finished).  Later research on the internet reveals that the museum is open when exhibitions are on – one finished on Sunday while the next starts in two weeks.

The alternative entertainment was a walk round the lake – which B would have enjoyed.  There is also an arboretum which will look good in a few years – if the trees survive (some were looking a bit ropey).  After a gentle perambulation and a stop at the hardware store it was back to the house. B took P and Simon’s mum back to the gite while Simon and his dad went on ahead to get tea started = chicken stew with a nice bottle of white savoy wine.

Day 3: Time spent on reconnaissance doesn’t always work out!

P had spent some time on Saturday evening researching times of mass for Sunday morning. When P & S had purchased the house, P had to return to Blighty for daughter’s hen do, so was not in the village on Sunday, but had been told by S & her brother that there was no sign of mass being said at the church in the centre of the village. However French Catholic churches.com assured her that if they were not ready in time to get to St Hilaire for 10.30 mass, that Juvigny would come up trumps at 11.00 – sorted.

Wrong! S had walked the dog to the house to settle him in so we could attend mass and tried to ring P to let her know there was no sign of life at the church. P, however was confident all would be well as she could hear the bells from the gite; it would appear they ring automatically whether there is mass or not.

There was nothing for it, but to head for Mortain and be late (as Father Martin would say “plus ça change”) for the 11.00 mass there. The church was fairly full as there was a sacramental programme element to the mass and the all the children took part in the offertory – it is interesting to note that whatever the country, all children behave the same way – girls taking their role very seriously with the boys giggling together and trying to burn themselves with the candles they carried to show their bravado. The singing was exceptional as always and we even had a chap playing descants on his trumpet. P suggested playing her flute next week, but maybe she needs to learn some of the music first, however I’m sure youngest son would be welcome with open arms if we only had room for the tuba, euphonium, French horn, trombone and trumpet, his sight reading is so good.

Bread was purchased from the boulangerie together with a delicious looking tarte aux armandes – P had already bought some ready made custard with her so Sundays pudding was accounted for.

The weather was set to fair so all set off for La Fosse Arthour with a detour on the way to the Musée régional de la poterie – it was closed. La Fosse Arthour wasn’t though so we all had a wander round the lake (and somebody had a roll on an interesting piece of grass) with the promise of ice cream from the auberge near the entrance on our way back to the car – it was closed (a bit of a theme this holiday perhaps!)

We all headed back to the lodge for beef stew followed by the tarte which was indeed delicious and huge – enough for several days, but do we have enough custard…….

The Pizza Hound

4 sleeps and 3 shifts to go

One important member of the family has not been mentioned in the blogs.  Our household centres around Bob.  He recognises that he is the most important member of the household.  Certain restrictions and indignities may be placed on his liberty but he knows that the primary function of the household is to look after him.

Bob (or His Lord High Bobness) is a pure bred Manchester Pizza Hound (MPH).  You may not be aware of this breed.  The product of many generations of indiscriminate breeding between the local canine population has produced this working dog.  No more are the streets littered with discarded take-aways, as the MPH seeks out and devours not only pizza but kebabs, chips and chicken.  Cunning, brave and loyal, the MPH will protect your back from dangerous predators (like cows and horses) by keeping you between him and them at all times.Bob

A fully trained Manchester Pizza Hound will have spent much of its first year or so as a stray – learning the art of pavement cuisine.  MPHs gravitate to the local dogs’ home, where they inspect prospective families for adoption.  His Lord High Bobness graciously agreed to join our family on 1st June 2002.

Bob is only allowed upstairs for baths.  This prevents incursions into bedrooms etc. The rule was rigorously enforced when Bob came to live with us.  Every time he went upstairs, he had a bath.  Less successful has been the prohibition of dogs on the furniture.  Until recently, Bob was betrayed by the ker-thunk of shame.  He has now perfected the silent dismount from the sofa.  If only he didn’t look so guilty, he’d get away with it.

Now Bob loves camping.  It means he gets to have his bed in the same room as Simon and P – just so that they are protected from the strange night noises a dog hears in the countryside.  He is less keen on ferries.  So while Bob is prepared to accompany Simon and P on trips in the UK and even Ireland, the Hull-Zeebrugge crossing is out of the question.  Packing up is an anxious time for dogs, as they never know if they are coming too.  The normal practice is for Bob to go on holiday to Simon’s parents.  This time Bob has agreed to stay at home and allow the children to pander to his every need.

Bob has several interests that are not normally associated with canines.  He supervises Simon in the production of Black Hound Brewery beers, ciders and wines (including the successful Chien Noir range of imported wines) and has recently branched out into the production of Creme de Framboise and Creme de  Myrille.  He is also overviews P’s production of Sticky Paws preserves.  With all that going on, it is not surprising that he takes every available opportunity to sleep.