The kids arrived from Bordeaux just after 2 pm in a very smart Fiat car rental. It was lovely to see them, having not been in their company since Christmas. We were also introduced to Nicole for the first time, Laurence’s girlfriend. They were as impressed by the house as we were. After settling in, the next we went up to Domme, which is on the opposite hill to us for what turned into a photo shoot. Nicole bought a dress in sale, a girl after my own heart! We were going to have a drink there but they didn’t open until 12 so we went on to Sarlat for Beers stopping at the supermarket on the way home.
We had an easy drive down from Chartres, lovely sunshine and thank heavens I got the air conditioning fixed the day before we left! We got some shopping on the way down and I had brought some cereal and Tea Bags from home (the French don’t produce good tea) so we were all set for when we arrived at the house. We tried to phone ahead to say that we would be there for 4 pm, as instructed but never managed to get through. The directions for the house were easy to follow, especially with my trusty map reader by my side who told me when I should be crossing single track rail lines and going under/over motorways etc.
The first drive into the house took our breath away because it was indeed a Manor House. Madame was there to greet us and gave us a tour of the house and introduced us to Fiona, who was English, and was contactable by phone, she herself was going away for the week. We allocated bedrooms, ours and mums were on the ground floor as the stairs were somewhat steep for Mum and Hyw. The first couple of days were spent getting lost in the house as there were at least two ways to get anywhere!
The Taiwan contingent weren’t due to arrive until Monday afternoon so we had the house to ourselves for the first few days. We went to the supermarket in Sarlat for more provisions and investigated the shops in Cenac itself. The weather was scorching at 36 degrees and we were grateful for the cool of the house and swimming pool.
Rather than hang around, anticipating the arrival of the kids, we took ourselves off to Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac, close to La Roque Gageac. It was really stupendous and I can recommend it to anyone. The kids made a visit there in the second week and enjoyed it as much as us. We had a super lunch there, my first ‘gesiers’ of the holiday, overlooking a drop and surrounded by peacocks who ate up anything you dropped.
Sometime in February, or it might even have been Christmas, Laurie suggested that it would be better if we had Christmas in a place other than Devon, having spent a particularly damp Christmas with few opportunities for bracing walks and bright sparkley mornings. As Laurence and Gwilym live in Taipei, this was their annual visit home, and although they weren’t too fussed about the weather, we felt that it could have been so much more memorable for them. So the idea of a summer holiday in France started to take shape.
I found a selection of houses we could rent in France, they had to be near airports and rail stations and they had to have a pool, sleep 11, be within walking distance of restaurants etc! I think we shortlisted it to 3 then we sent them via email to the kids and asked them to choose their favorite. Remarkably they all chose the same one, now it was just a question of finding dates that suited everyone.
Eventually dates were found, with Matt and Mo, and Verity and Rich, joining us for the second week. At the last minute we booked a ferry crossing from Poole as there were demonstrations about the ‘jungle’ camp by the citizens of Calais and the lorry drivers and farmers. This meant that I had to drive to Bexhill and back to collect my mum and then set off early the next day for Poole. Luckily it was a calm crossing and we arrived in France at about the same time as we would have arrived in Calais.
The hotel in Chartres was in the centre of town, a stones throw from the Cathedral and was a part of the Best Western chain. Not our usual choice but we had left it a bit late for booking and certainly I couldn’t fault it. Parking was easy as there was a massive underground car park across the road and the restaurant was lovely – I had oysters for a starter and they were gorgeous. There was an illumination festival in Chartres so after supper we went for a stroll around to see what they had done.
I left home at 8am and made a quick journey up to Bath to collect Verity and then onward to Bexhill to assist Mum in her move to Hillborough House. We arrived to find the bungalow at 4 Beech Close somewhat denuded of furniture and mum sitting in a picnic chair dealing with high finance over the phone.
We did some sorting out ready for the removers to come the next morning. Mum was up with the lark but unfortunately the removal men didn’t turn up until 11am so we were sitting in the garden enjoying the sunshine. Once they arrived they were very efficient so that by 2 we were at the other end and starting the business of unpacking! But I get ahead of myself, first there were the sandwiches, sausages, cakes and Prosecco which we were invited to eat for our lunch and an enormous bouquet of flowers was presented to mum as well.
We were unpacking boxes, taking the cartons to the bin store, recycling all the paper and trying to fit everything in the new apartment for some hours. In the end we had to go through everything and slim down her clothes, bedding and towels and cull her kitchen ware stuff still further! Once that was done and bagged there were journeys to the charity shops and to Ravenside for ‘storage solutions’ on the Saturday.
I had given mum my old IPad so in between everything else there were lessons in its usage, programming the TV, teaching mum how to use the microwave, washing machine, entry system, etc, etc!
We went down to the beach for a breath of fresh air the Friday evening but stayed in Saturday night as there were too many jobs that needed to be finished off if we were to get away on Sunday morning. I am sure mum will be very happy there and very secure but it will help if she remembers to take the right keys with her!
What with the weather having been indifferent, going to Scotland and Bexhill, the garden has been sadly neglected of late. It started out as a dull day, just the sort of weather I like for gardening but before too long it turned into a scorcher so I was soon rather hot and sticky. Still, I managed to clear the bed I had set out to do, cutting back and ripping out all Vipers Bugloss which has now past its best. The roses needed deadheading and so did the Hidcote Lavenders. I finished off by trimming the edge and then went on to start on the central beds but it really was too hot. After a read of the Economist and several glasses of I felt suitably refreshed so I tidied the area at the top of the steps. All in all, a good day’s work.
Having travelled along the south coast to sunny Bexhill on Monday I immediately set about helping mum with her house clearance. This mostly entailed going into the loft, which had to be emptied, and then sorting everything into the various categories of recycling and charity shops and the rubbish tip! I am not very good at heights these days so I went straight into the loft the first day to get it over and done with, what I didn’t manage to clear, I dragged to the entrance of the loft so that the next day I could reach the remaining rubbish from the top of the ladder. We were lucky with the charity shops as they grudgingly accepted all that we had sorted out for them. The rubbish tip was very well organised with lots of different categories so although we had rubbish even that was recycled.
From then on the sorting out was fairly easy, most of the furniture, pots, pans and clothes will be packed by the house movers. Tomorrow we have auctioneers coming to look at what furniture they might take, hopefully they will take quite a bit but if not the house movers will clear the remaining bits.
Tomorrow I head back to Devon and then Thursday next I come back for the big move on Friday!
Off to Bexhill next week to help mum with packing up her house ready for the move to her brand new apartment ( fully furnished!) on the 12 August. The days seem to be flying by and the garden is looking a mess but luckily Tim is coming later today so I can offload some of the jobs onto him.
I had a stall at the local church this Saturday, against my better judgement, but It was combined with a bell ringing festival so I thought we would have some new customers! Well it seemed to get off to a slow start and then I overheard one of the bell ringers saying he had invited 60 local teams to come and take part and not one of them was coming! I was furious as we were committed to be there all day. I honestly think the organisers should have cancelled it or at least have given us the option of pulling out of the event. I took the princely sum of £16 of which I am supposed to give 20%, I will not be going to the next one!
I had to send off my application for the next exhibition of the Newton St Cyres art club today, I don’t hold out much hope of selling anything but it’s good practice and raises money for the group so I don’t mind really. Who knows, I might even pluck up courage to enter for the RA Summer Show one day.