Friday, 24 April 2020

Still trapped in Paradise

Confinement started pretty well for me.  I sorted out several cupboards, completely cleaned the kitchen, made 35 face-masks, painted lots of furniture, filed (and read) my bank statements, exercised, weeded the garden and made chicken stock.  Didn’t do so much the next day …  (!) Now we are on Day 40 of lockdown and (to quote my Granny), my Get Up And Go has Got Up and Went.  When you don’t know whether it’s Christmas or Tuesday as every day is the same, it’s hard to get motivated and it is too easy to just put jobs off until the next day, and the next day …

But this is also a time of ‘self-discovery’ - so here is what I have discovered:

  1. I don’t like cleaning!  You make the bed, wash the floors, dust, clean, drag the hoover around, but it doesn’t last for long and just a few days later you have to do it all over again.  I do, however, find myself strangely drawn to the adverts showing miracle gadgets that clean venetian blinds (even though I haven’t got any) and whiten the grout in the bathroom, but more in the way one watches films of people sky-diving - fascinating to watch but not something I would consider doing myself.
  2. I quite like cooking! There is a certain satisfaction in making something from scratch (I have at last mastered apple crumble) but it’s not something you should have to do every day and I miss being able to say ‘to hell with it, let’s eat out’.  It’s also difficult trying to make meals from whatever you find in the cupboard (see Item 5) and I very much regret not labelling stuff I put in the freezer.  (Stewed apple looks very much like mashed potato..) 
  3. I miss my family!  But then again, this applies to everybody and the fact that I am here in France and they are in the UK makes no difference as they can’t see each other either.  
  4. I am becoming English again.  I used to spend most of my time with french friends or french clients or driving around listening to french radio.  Now I listen to UK podcasts and spend a lot of time on the phone chatting to family or english friends (but the chats are becoming shorter and shorter as there are only 3 main topics of conversation now - a) How are you, b) What is the weather like, and c) what are you having for supper!  I should be able to stay fluent as I live with my french partner but we have barely spoken since Day 9….
  5. I don’t like Lentils.  On Day 9 my partner decided to make a rare visit to the supermarket as I think he considers me to be ‘elderly and vulnerable’ so need to stay in the house.  I gave him the list of staples such as cheese, bread, crisps and chocolate but he proudly returned with jars and cans of kidney beans, pois chiches, green beans, white beans (thank goodness I kept a couple of face-masks), and lots of lentils.  Nothing Edible!  I have since taken back control of shopping and normal meal service has been resumed.  
  6. I can’t live without the internet.  Here in our little village, the internet is very much a hit and miss affair and the slightest breeze seems to affect it - and I never understand that when I ring the helpline, their first suggestion is that I go onto their website.  If I could do that I wouldn’t be making the call.  I love the daily contact with friends via Whatsapp, or seeing what everybody is doing on Facebook; I can ‘travel the world’ or ‘see’ plays and concerts without leaving the house, and Google the answer to pretty much anything.  Apparently the most popular Google searches during the confinement have been:  Buzzcuts, Animal Crossing, Tiger King, Banana cake, Bread-making, Coronavirus cure, home workout, Zoom, Home birth and Hair tutorial.  On checking my own search history I see that as well as checking the banana cake and bread recipes (not the others) I have also queried ‘How to remove oil-based paint from jeans’, ‘Recipes using chicken stock’, ‘How to clip dog’s nails’, and ‘What to do with Lentils’ (although I was surprised to see that the obvious response of ‘throw them away’ didn’t appear).  Amazon has also been a lifeline but they are only delivering ‘essentials’ - which for me consisted of Hair Dye (no explanation needed), Vitamins (because I don’t eat Lentils or Beans), Print Cartridge (for all the paperwork you have to print and take out to explain why you are out) and Dog Nail-Clippers (although I have yet to use them as I don’t want to make a mistake and have to go to the emergency vet) (and it is quite useful to be able to hear Loulou the Dog ‘ticking’ down the corridor in the middle of the night to tell us she needs to go out!)
  7. I miss working!  The government may not consider the work of a Property Consultant ‘essential’, but it is to me!  There is only so much that I can do from home - which is essentially ‘Not Very Much’.  I miss driving round the region, meeting new clients, seeing different houses, matching the right people to the right properties and watching them fall in love with the region and starting new lives.  (I can almost hear the violins playing in the background as I write this …!)

I shall sign off now as my Fitbit alarm has just gone off telling me it is time to move.  I thought it was broken as it hasn’t done the buzzing/flashing thing to celebrate the fact that I have achieved my 10,000 steps recently.  Perhaps you are supposed to do them all in one day …!

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Log Blog

At the risk of being accused of ‘stock-piling’ here is my stock of piled wood!  And the best thing about it is that it hasn’t cost a penny.  There was a very high price to pay physically ‘though - sore muscles, broken fingernails, blood, sweat, tears - I was exhausted just watching him!

Apparently I am not very gifted at ‘logging’.  ’Useless’, ‘Incompetent’ and ‘Dangerous’ were just a few of the words that I heard that I managed to translate from ‘shouty’ french.  But despite not having any of the necessary qualities to be a lumberjack (apart from a rather nice checked shirt) I did do my very best to help.  I wasn’t allowed to touch the chain-saw (to be honest, I didn’t volunteer), was briefly allowed to play with the log-splitter, (but was fired from that job because I wasn’t strong enough to lift whole logs onto the table),  and eventually found my true vocation was hurling vine roots on top of the stacked logs.  Unfortunately selecting logs for the chimney has now turned into a very dangerous game of Jenga!
The wood has come from various sources.  The large logs are mainly from oak trees that are cut down by the local farmers and seem to be left lying around (we always ask permission, rather than just turning up with the chainsaw as some of the farmers are quite big and scary looking.)  The twisty ones are old grapevine stumps (souches) - you often see piles of them as you drive by the vineyards, with a sign saying ‘Servez-vous’ - so we do!  The rest of the pile also includes old bits of wooden furniture, fence posts and generally anything we find that can be burnt. 

I just hope my clients Mr and Mrs P aren’t reading this as they recently emailed me to ask if I knew where they could buy firewood.  Ironic as they had just moved into a beautiful stone mas with 7 hectares of woodland. To be fair, the previous owner had obviously decided that as the house was going to be sold, there was little point preparing a big stock for the winter, and even if they could find where the removals men had stored their Axe and Wheelbarrow, anything they cut now would not be ready to burn until next year (wow, never knew I would know things like that!).   Luckily I was able to give them a supplier’s number, but it made me realise how important ‘the woodshed’ is - particularly as the boiler is now out of fuel....