A new dawn …🌏

A new dawn, a new day. How different it is here compared to the last 2 weeks. We slept well despite the brown furry lump at the end of the bed. Meg is only a pup so she has a bed … beside our bed. Like a child, going to bed is a game designed to frustrate, but eventually she settled last night as we switched the lights off. Within 30 seconds she was out of her bed and up onto our bed and positioned there for the rest of the night. Not so bad for Sarah who puts here head on the pillow, closes her eyes and stays like that until morning. But I toss and turn … and turn … and then some. Its like my body can only take being in one position for a certain amount of time. I’m like the hands on a clock, never settling for too long on each number. So as I maneuver around the bed I try and navigate my legs over the furry obstacle each time. Meg gets her own back at one point. She begins a scratching session that gets louder and more intensive. It seems to go on for an age. A serious problem there no doubt. Eventually she scratches away the itch and a calm descends. The only disturbing period is a small dream of Sarah as a nurse. She is wearing small round spectacles and an old nurses cap with a swastika on it. She is looking at my foot, then me, smiles wickedly and says “Its got to come off” and takes out a rusty saw to start the process! …only joking… don’t know why I do it because I’m in such deep shit now…..

And so I put on my new green wellies, shout for Meg and walk down to the farmhouse to let out the strutting egoistic cockerel and his 3 adoring hens. The air is fresh, the birds are singing. There is a hum of silence only broken by a distant cousin of our cockerel. A mist hangs in the fields with a promise of a sunny day. And it delivers. Hugh asked if I wouldn’t mind watering some of the pot plants. A few of them are under glass so may dry out. No problem. He has a small patch … in farming terms… of things he is growing. It looks like artichokes and a miscellany of other edibles. The protruding greenery all looks the same to me. There are hosepipes everywhere. Crisscrossing the farmyard like ley lines marking out sacred territory. Some are clearly of industrial strength. They appear from somewhere and don’t seem to connect or lead anywhere. Hugh obviously doesn’t move them as they are embedded in the grass, weeds growing around and over them. I lift one and it sucks from the ground as if it had been trying to hold on. So I won’t move them either. I had this idea that I would find a hosepipe and stand majestically in the middle of everything and just grandly water all from where I stood like the hosepipe King. But no. The big white plastic tubs, about the size of a Mini Cooper … and placed strategically around, are full of water. Near the small market garden one of these was positioned and attached to it a hose. Significantly 2 watering cans were next to it. I turned the tap and the water flowed out like a snail on strike. As the water struggled to drip lazily over the edge of the hose I placed it into the first can and realised that this would be a long job. It filled and I placed the hose in the second can and went off to water. And so it went on for a while as I went back and forth thinking there must be a better way. I am sure there was, but I didn’t discover it.

And that was it. There was much more to do around the farmhouse but I just couldn’t find the end of a hosepipe. I started to wonder if it was just one big hosepipe of varying sizes and colours that had no beginning or end. Like a hula hoop. Eventually I traced one to the side of the house. It was just short of a tap with no connector. I hunted down some connectors from a box in the porch of the farmhouse, fixed it up and turned on the tap. Nothing. I looked in the little hut next to the tap and found a pump. At least I thought it was a pump. I turned the tap to on. Closed my eyes and switched the power on. It made lots of noise, but not a drop of water appeared. I turned everything off before it exploded and decided to end my campaign for the day.

Instead I wander around the farmhouse and venture into the barns. I remember seeing a glimpse of a car when Hugh was showing me around yesterday. Perhaps I’ll take a closer look. I open a small barn door and there it is and I don’t know what to think. In the middle of the french countryside, hidden away in an old barn, covered in mud and dust is a bright yellow Lotus Exige! Its typical of what is here. Always finding diamonds in the rough. Why it is here I have no idea. Hugh didn’t make a big thing about it. It looks in almost perfect condition, just covered in mud. Crazy!I venture further in and to my left is a workroom where the radio constantly blares out the french music. Further along the barn opens out to a symphony of discarded items and oddments. There are sections of collections. Screws sorted and neatly placed in small containers depending on their size, a box of taps, a box of … well it just goes on and on. Trays, containers, jars, tins cupboards, benches full of the typical stuff you throw into an old abandoned shed to deal with later … but never do. A trailer with a boat and canoe. An old moth eaten leather chair… all by itself. Why should that be a mystery? Well, because up the ladders in the loft is another section of the barn full of chairs of every type. Its like Hugh collected them or just purchased a joblot and did nothing with them.

There is a display of old paint tins artistically positioned. As you look down on them it is like looking at a 3D model of a city. Stubbled, matted paint brushes that have hardened to concrete. Its only the tip of the iceberg. I am fascinated. Why do people keep so much crap? My Dad spent his whole life keeping stuff like this. And what happens in the end? When he passed it just got put in a tip. Gone. The funny thing is that this imperfection has a beauty about it that is almost a form of art. The Japanese call it wabi sabi … the acceptance of transience and imperfection. As I write I’m glancing at a photo I took of a basket full of old brushes. In it a jar and an old paint tin full of brushes of all sorts. Wall paint brushes with broad shoulders, thin pencil brushes for artwork, several toothbrushes and almost every conceivable type of brush imaginable. Its a puzzle that would make a great puzzle! Baffled I make my way back to the tidy world of the house.

Throughout the morning Meg is barking at anything that moves and rushes off in all directions. The neighbours are out and she is barking at them. Seems for no reason. They obviously know her and so just ignore it. I am for ever calling her back in. On one occasion the neighbour is transporting something in a wheelbarrow from across the road to his house. Meg goes crazy. Barking like there is no tomorrow. And she is off. Bloody hell what is she doing now? So I take chase, but she has only gone as far as next door, barking at the poor man. Then his wife appears calling to Meg in french. She looks at me and smiles. Calls Meg again and pointing to the kitchen she walks towards it, Meg follows and she beckons me in. What now? Is she going to slit Megs throat? In the kitchen she rambles in more french. I look like a deer in the headlights so she asks if I speak french. Not really. I’m Australian. She smiles and goes to the fridge. The french lady turns around and in her hand is the finest piece of cooked steak. Megs mouth is watering. With scissors she cuts some of it up into pieces for Meg and wraps the remainder passing it to me and says “for later”. What? You know this dog and feed it? This sweet lady then points to the top of the fridge and there are numerous packets of cat food and a bowl. Now I get it. She feeds Meg and the cats. I wonder if Hugh and Janie know or is it now some big secret between us. I scoop the mad barky thing up, put my hand on my heart, bow and leave. It was all a ruse by this clever little dog who probably goes through the same routine every day. Smart!

Sunday

Today we have an outing. Don’t get too excited. We just walked up the road to the bins. Meg fortunately was on the leash as it transpires there is a little market today by the church and so lots of people and cars about. It is also an open day for the locals to showcase their gardens. Most of the stalls were selling off bits and pieces. Stuff that they found in their garage. Perhaps we were early, but in a blink of an eye we had seen it all. In the village there is a restaurant, but no shops so we make our way back and at a safe point release Meg from the neck-strap!

In return for that, when we get home Meg decided to play. All of a sudden spread across the veranda is a gardening glove, strands of wire, an old flower pot … its earthly remains scattered across the tiles and bits of sandpaper which she decided is good for flossing her teeth. The thought of those teeth wearing away on the sandpaper sends my own teeth on edge so it is quickly removed from her reach … for now.

It is our last day at the house. Although Hugh and Janie have a second bedroom it is full of stuff. They are arriving home late so have arranged for us to stay across the road at their neighbours Gite, Granges du Quercy. So I pack the car up with the main luggage and drive 50 meters to park the car beside the gite and go and fetch the key from our hosts, Marie-France and Jean. I then spend the next hour toing and froing with bits and pieces to fill the fridge and our overnight bags et al. The house is lovely, spotlessly clean and everything that you need. Only has french TV stations, but this is the sort of place that you only stay a night and the television not a priority. Marie shows me the basics around the small home and through her limited english I discover she has many relatives in Australia. Meg is following me around a bit confused. Why are you moving? We have to stay with her until Hugh and Janie return. We were meant to have supper with them, but they will be much later as the weather is bad for their drive home so we decided to eat at the Gite by ourselves. I moved Megs food bowl so that she felt at home, but she still seemed confused, not certain if she should be with us or back home across the road. We sit on the veranda in the sun and now have a view to the property we just left.

The weather turns and there is thunder and rain in the distance. Hugh and Janie return before the dark sky reaches us … they collect Meg…we say our farewell and then settle for our dinner. There is thunder and lightning all night and it is still raining heavily when we awake in the morning for our long drive to Cherbourg.

Until next time 🌏

We are up …🌏

We are up early to get sorted. Not only is it the first day of Summer, but with relief it is the day we leave Le Peyrail! The animals are fed early, things put back in place and the house cleaned to a point that it was better than how we found it. The bed stripped. Sheets and towels in the wash. The dishwasher put on. The log burner has been cleaned and the grate cleared of ash. Fresh kindling is set ready for the fire. Sarah leaves Jo a note.

We dust our feet and leave behind a trail of madness. People need to be warned before coming here. It is officially summer and travellers will be looking on airbnb and Booking.com plus other tourist organisations online. The property is totally and utterly over represented by the photographs on the accomodation sites. It is almost a crime and I feel for those people with high expectation when they arrive. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a beautiful part of the world and the property could be, perhaps in a day gone by was, stunning. But we left behind us a tired house full of cobwebs and dust. Weeds that have grown to about 3 feet high and hiding the paths. A swimming pool that is empty, dirty and ugly. Nowhere was comfortable outside. Animals that although loved, I sensed were not living in the best of conditions. I have to be careful because I have been a city boy for a long time and I know that life can be different in the country … but not so different that a standard cannot be applied and people treated with the intelligence and hospitality that they deserve.

Foot down, dual exhaust smoking, rubber screeching on the road we fly away from Le Peyrail like we are racing from the devil. We are deliberately early to minimise the pain and hoping the devil will be slow and bleary eyed, we head for Leclerc supermarket for a coffee and free Wifi. But before that we brake to a stop just at the end of the lane where there is a small junction. Almost hidden in the greenery is a very large crucifix that I want to photograph. Christ has been here all along to protect us. Shame he didn’t jump out of the bush to warn us when we first arrived!

The trip to Auriac-sur-Dropt seems quicker. Perhaps because we went the right way this time! As promised we arrive at 11:30am, but Janie and Hugh are far from being ready so we hang around like spare parts, entertaining Meg the little brown something-cross dog. Its difficult to settle down in someone else’s home when they are there. Eventually they depart in their Mini Cooper, via the old farmhouse for a bathing costume and then hit the road. We can unpack. This is a big unpack as Sarah wants to repack the suitcases to make more room in the car. This does give them extra weight though as I discover a few days later.

At the front of the house, on the lawn, are two stacks ofΒ  what looks like tiles. Still in their wrapping. What are those for I wonder? Over the next few days I realise that this is a property where many things are started and many things remain incomplete. In my bare feet I wander out of the back door into the blazing Sun. Around the house is a tiled area which is kind on the feet. I don’t know why, it seems a blur now, but I stepped off the tiles towards the pool. As I placed my right foot down I screamed with pain as something sharp dug into the sole of my foot. The path leading down to the pool had been scraped, ready for the tiles neatly stacked on the front lawn. Now I know what they are for. Although scraped, there were still some sharp stones remaining and I just happened to tread on one sticking proudly upright like a knife. It literally sliced my foot and blood was everywhere.

Despite Sarah’s many, perhaps endless talents and knowledge of all things, nursing is not high on the list. Patience is close behind! Or is that patients? As a sort of Nazi Nurse I think she would be fine. Just as most of the modern world lags behind her due to her wonder woman attributes in speed, healing then is also a monotonously slow process for her in the average human being which is why she bounced back from her hip replacement like a dingo on a bungee rope. Funny thing is her caring nature is of legend so I suspect that it must be my pathetic screams and groaning when I am in pain that triggers the restlessness in her nursing. However, the plasters were surgically applied with precision after several barked orders to keep my foot up and still. Once applied I lost count of the number of times the words “I keep telling you to put something on your feet” were repeated!

Anyway, once this drama was over and the cases unpacked, we set off for a slow walk with Meg. A trip around the fields along the river. First of all though we have to go via the old farmhouse to switch the electric fence off. Apparently Meg can get a bit too close to it at times. This was important as I didn’t want to have to explain to Hugh and Janie how we managed to fry their small dog.

Hugh and Janie have an interesting set up here. Janie has been in France 28 years. Hugh not quite as long. Janie’s mother returned to the UK a while ago after also spending many years here. They purchased what appears to be some small parcels of land that include the farmhouse and barns … large barns. As you approach their property on the right they have built a fairly new bungalow, where we are staying and “frenched” it up a bit with shutters. It is the perfect size for a couple and would be great as an airbnb Gite. You then continue down the lane and the remaining land is basically all theirs. An enormous old barn on the left full of building wood, door frames, a tractor and other assorted agricultural plant. A gap of 10 metres and then another huge barn that is simply an Aladdin’s cave of stuff from old paint tins to ride-on-mowers. It reminds me of Dad’s old shed, but this one is on steroids! On the other side of the lane are more small buildings where I think Janie’s Mum may have once intended to live. It is derelict and full of things. There looks to be a toilet basin on the outside wall that actually looks plumbed in.

Back across the lane and beyond the barn is the old farmhouse. When it is finished it will look stunning, but for now it stands as an old elegant lady that needs a bath. Hugh keeps a french radio station blaring 24 hours a day to make believe there is someone around to keep away unwelcome visitors. It varies from classical french, opera and jazz. As you approach it creates a haunting feeling. Like you see in those movies where there is no one around. Things are left as if they just got up and walked out. Abducted by Aliens. The radio breaks the silence … a french woman with a sultry voice, full of emotion. I have no idea what she is singing. It is especially quiet because the lane ends at the farmhouse and they get many people driving down there thinking there is a way through. Over the weekend of our stay we realised how true this was with many people doing a u-turn at the military-like red and white chain that Hugh has positioned across the lane. Its like a checkpoint during the german occupation and you expect a nazi weilding a machine gun to appear from behind the trees. It makes it more spookier.

Hugh and Janie are restoring the old farmhouse, but seem to be using it for … well I don’t know really … its odd. Janie asked us to take the key out of the front door when we go down there. It is one of those large cast iron types that people buy as souvenirs and hang on hooks with a jailers authority. If you put it in your pocket you would probably tip over. We needed some washing powder as there is none in the Gite so we went inside. This is the weird thing. They have a lovely little house just up the lane, but also seem to be living in the farmhouse as well. But it is far from complete, untidy with stuff everywhere. Papers, tools and bottles and bottles of what looks like homemade lemonade. Some floors have been dug up to the point of just being soil. Its an oxymoron world. Amongst it all is a computer, a modern, yet incomplete kitchen and a magnificent designer fridge freezer. Its a mystery. Its bizarre. Its curious. I think that Hugh spends a lot of time down here working and may use the shower, but Janie also has some clothes here. Its just a funny thing.

Around the farmhouse there is equipment and plant everywhere. Wood chopped and stored. Bricks and stones of all shapes and sizes sorted. Behind the farmhouse is an above ground swimming pool. It seems to be from another age, a previous dynasty. I can hear the silent laughter of children on sunny days splashing and screaming. Now it is lifeless, black, eery. Long forgotten. A few steps away the small wooden chicken house sits. The cockerel and the 2 hens are not in residence so we lift the top lid and then the smaller hatch. There are 3 eggs there. One of them doesn’t look quite right, but Sarah gently and lovingly lifts all 3 and places them into the egg carton that we brought with us.

On returning to the house I take the eggs from the carton and write the dates on them so that they are consumed in the correct order. I go to enter the date on the odd looking egg, but something isn’t right. It is a bit oblong, slightly larger than the others and has a grain on it. That’s because it is made of wood! Idiot. Its the fake egg to encourage the hens to lay!

Hugh said that we needed to shut the hens away at 9:00pm so that they are safe from the night wildlife. They will be in the chicken house so just put the food tray in there and shut the hatch. Easy. Oh yeah? They are running around as if possessed. Like they know I haven’t done this before so are going to make it fun …for them.Β  I run around for 20 minutes trying to herd them in. No chance. Not even on the threat of being Sunday Roast do they cooperate. Bloody hens! The cockerel is running around in his flashy long coloured feathers, strutting away like some big shot and squawking like there is no tomorrow. Bugger. I’ll come back later. I did. And they were quietly in place. I think Hugh got his timing wrong. More like 10:00pm for bedtime.

Until next time 🌏