Last night, while …🌏

Last night, while in bed, the window flashed and a crack of thunder was so loud I thought our time had come. A few hours later Sarah was up and for some reason she was hovering over me in her dressing gown. There was no power to some of the lights and the TV. Much worse there was no landline or wifi and Sarah needed to do some work. Bugger! In fact the whole system tripped, but Sarah remembered the switch I used to reset it from earlier in the week.

Bleary eyed I go downstairs to check the fuse box and it all seems okay. No switch tripped there. I can’t find another circuit board, switch or any sort of fuse box anywhere else. But I keep looking. Meanwhile, Puppy pukes all over the front door steps. I venture upstairs to sacred ground … Jo’s quarters …  as the Livebox is there. Its a series of wires, small connecting boxes and more wires. I look at it all intelligently willing it to magically come together. But the Livebox seems to be a Deadbox.

The phone signal is weaker than usual. I have to go outside to the carport before I get 2 bars. I Google Livebox resets and it really isn’t much help. I try another tactic. I smile, feel jolly inside, positive. I sit and take deep breaths. Meditate on the Livebox springing back to life. I go upstairs smile at the black box and lay my hands on it in Reiki fashion. Healing. Praying. A sort of mental artificial respiration. But the piece of shit just sits there dead, lifeless and useless!

I call the fountain of all knowledge, Gervais, but he can’t help. I think that Jo thinks he knows more than he does. The network could be down, but I think the Livebox has fried. It has to be something caused by that huge crack of thunder last night. This is supported by the App WifiMap which doesn’t register Jo’s box, but there are others around that are live. Gervais tells me that there is a fuse box in the back bedroom, another up in a hatch between the kitchen and breakfast room and yet another in the studio down on the terrace! What? Yes, the electrics are crap and he has told Jo. Crap? They are lethal and we should get out now. It’s a deathtrap!

I hunt them down, but there is nothing in the kitchen or bedroom. Gervais is just talking a load of bollocks although Sarah did find the one in the studio and no switches have tripped.

I keep looking. Upstairs, downstairs, like Wee Willie Winkie in my nightgown. Nothing. Not a brass razoo! I still keep looking. At the same thing over and over, like I missed it the first or second or third time. I go back upstairs to the attic room. I peruse stuff just looking for inspiration. I read the spines of books on the shelves, shuffle things for the faint hope an answer will appear. I move objects. Take a handbag off an old leather captains chair and sit down muttering. I look at the desk in front of me. I open the top drawer. Fuck what’s that? The dried remains of a snake stare back at me. Bloody hell that will teach me. About sums this place up!

Sarah is outside trying to get a signal so that she can work from her iphone, but there is periodic rain. Having recovered from my discovery in the dawer I wander to the back of Jo’s room looking at the solid oak beams, up to the roof and almost everywhere I can. I get as far as the window that the cats use to come and go. Its high up, but is close enough to the roof line below for them to jump up. I turn around and almost hidden on a cross beam is a fusebox. It has tripped and I switch it on. That fixes the TV and the lounge light. I still need to find the box for the kitchen.

I remain focused on the Livebox to get the wifi going, but hope is fading fast. I attempt to trace every wire from its start to end. Not with great success. Its difficult to find the start and the wires often just disappear into walls or a tangled mess. Its like spaghetti in some places. Sarah texts Jo in the slim hope that she may have some idea. I doubt it. Sure enough minutes later we get a response “Try calling Gervais…” Really, is that all you’ve got!

Not giving up I fiddle with switches and poke wires just incase they spring into life. That’s about as far as my electrical experience goes. I still have to locate the switch board that connects the kitchen appliances that have no power. Gervais said there was a hatch in the kitchen. But there isn’t. He’s probably been drinking again. Bugger!

Huffing and puffing I go into the kitchen and stare mindfully at things. Hidden behind a post between the kitchen and the breakfast room is a switch. I flick it to what I presume is On wondering what it is for. Nothing. No light comes on. Nothing flashes into action. I look around. I look up. I look down. I look all around the room. Nothing. I look up. What? I can see a light through the ceiling which is just beams and planks of wood. I focus. Now I can see things. It’s an attic room. But where is the hatch? I go outside to workout the roof line and sure enough it must be a small attic. I return to the scene of my discovery. There is a very faint cut line. I grab a chair and stand on it. Blindly I push up and the ceiling moves. It’s the hatch. Bloody hell Gervais why didn’t you say it was in disguise. Very discreetly positioned. It wasn’t a hatch as such, it was just a square piece of the ceiling cut out, but in such a confined space you would never know it was there.

I go down to the shed and find the step ladders. Laced with cobwebs of course. I set them up in the kitchen and carefully push the small piece of ceiling away which also doubles as the flooring for the attic. I am careful. My experience of this place is that you never know what is lurking behind things. Is it full of bats? A dead body? Rats? Surprisingly it is okay. So okay in fact that I feel confident enough to pop my head up and hey presto on the top beam is a fuse box. Sarah steadies the ladders and I climb up and flick the switch. Full power restored. Just the wifi to sort out.

Needing a break and also access to wifi we take a trip to the supermarket, Leclerc in Pineuilh to use their free wifi. It’s not great. A bit slow, but does the job.

We receive another text from Jo. She has a solution. As her neighbours are not in residence she suggests that we stand outside their front door to use their wifi as they don’t have a password. What? … What? Are you F*cking serious? What? I look at Sarah. She looks at me. We mentally slap ourselves in the face to wake up from this insanity. This total insanity!

Having said all that, in desperation we did try it out on our return to Le Peyrail. Like most, if not all of Jo’s suggestions it didn’t work. I suspect that her neighbour has cottoned on to the fact that people are illegally tapping into the wifi and switched it off when they are not there.

Another text from Jo. She is on a roll. She is definitely on something. If she isn’t, perhaps she should be. Apparently our delightful host has contacted Orange about the Livebox. It seems that due to the storm last night many of the boxes just “popped”. We can go into Pineuilh ... where we have just returned from... and exchange it or she will do it tomorrow when she gets back. We leave it for Jo. It’s all too late now.

As a  sort of calm descends I get on with the daily routine. Supplies are low for Oliver as we haven’t got any scraps left. So I make a concoction of cat food, dog food, bread chicken stock and milk. He loved it, although his grunt is a bit like a bark and he now climbs trees.

Despite the extraordinary experience at Le Peyrail, there are those natural wonders that momentarily take your breath away. Like the glorious poppies, the symbol of Remembrance and Hope!

Until next time 🌏

This morning we …🌏

This morning we meet up with Janie and Hugh for tea and cakes. Except it was only tea as Janie forgot we were visiting! Not a good start. Slight prick in my ego, but there you go. We are housesitting for them briefly in Auriac-sur-Dropt for a few days at the end of May just before we pop over to the UK. They are only 25 minutes from Les Lèves-et-Thoumeyragues so we suggested driving down to see them rather than Skype. Very nice people and all good so will let you know how it goes. Just a tiny little dog, 2 cats and a cockerel with 3 hens!

This afternoon there was an impromptu Senija Group partners meeting to evaluate progress so far and confirm the strategy for the remainder of 2018. The meeting was prompted by our experiences to date. Whilst good blog material it has helped us revisit our priorities and what it is that we want. It takes a short time to decide and we now put the new approach into action. What is it? That would be telling!

Jo didn’t leave enough dog meat so we purchase some as they do need it. Not being a dog or an expert on these matters I still have a view on what a dog likes. So I ask Sarah to get a brand that has lots of gravy. I don’t like that hard meatloaf stuff that is all dry. We end up with something much better although I think it makes puppy fart, so not such a good idea. Especially when it is so foul.

Its 10:00 pm. Sarah has gone to bed … late. Puppy and Big Dog are with me in the lounge. I alternate between stoking the fire and updating my blog. Outside is a strange noise. I look out of the glass door leading to the veranda. It is Buzz, the black cat. Again he has a gift and is meowing between his gritted teeth and the mouse that his jaw is clasping. He will not release. It goes on and on … and well … on and on. This time the mouse still has its head. The noise gets louder and so I have to switch off. I don’t know if Buzz will be offended. All I do know is that he has a way in if need be, through the window at the top of the house that Jo leaves open for the cats to come and go. It has a grill so secure in any other regard. But I don’t want to wake up to a Godfather movie scene with a mouse’s head on the bed.

I suspect that he will think me ungrateful, but I am not. Down at the tack room where the horse and bird feed is kept I have noticed that the large sack of maize has been nibbled in the corner the last few days. The following morning I discover that the mouse has been abandoned on the doormat. Later when I go down to the tack room I find another one floating in a bucket of water. Perhaps Buzz is moistening this one for later. But I guess Buzz catches a mouse … and another one turns up … and then another…

Tuesday

This was the most bizarre day of our stay here. If you have been following this adventure you may have read the earlier blog from our first few days at Le Peyrail and the irritating fact that we would not be alone for the first week due to the incumbent lodger and the German guests that were sprung upon us. Well … listen on. It was about 2:50 pm and the landline rang. We tend to leave it as the calls are for Jo and usually someone rambles on in French or they just hang up when they hear our Australian version of Bonjour. It seems in fact that it was Jo herself calling from her parents house in the UK as moments later I received a text message from Jo saying she also tried my mobile. As the signal can be quite weak the phone does not always ring and goes straight to voicemail. Another feature of being here. Without word of a lie and word for word, letter for letter this is the transcription of the text message that I received. My additions in italics.

“Hi Sarah and David … I’ve left a message on David’s phone begging you to get me out of a scrape with a client who I thought had cancelled their booking but have not and are arriving in about an hour!!! …. Yes, you did read that right .. in a bloody hour! Could you do the booking and I will pay you for it??? They want a double and two single rooms … that might be tricky too!!! You could put them in Wantans room and the upstairs attic room or the end one?? Oh my I’m so sorry I am such a crap business person?!!! Please let me know what you think … I’m holding back … and if you are ok to help. The guests are lovely German people called Thanner she is Renate and they speak English. Oh my …”

And it finished, just like that! Yep .. oh my!

Sarah and I looked at each other in total, utter, disbelief! This can’t be true. It just can’t be bloody true! What the f*ck! Then I thought it was a wind up. That perhaps darling Eileen was up to her tricks again. Having suffered a minor heart attack after her last text I thought she was trying to finish me off. If she doesn’t want us to housesit just say … why submit us to this torture. But no, the text was from Jo. In seconds we went from shock, disbelief, denial to a blank white world where we all floated and nothing mattered anymore. … could have been the wine though

To start with the house was not in a welcoming guest state. Hey, funnily enough that was because we were not expecting any guests because we are housesitting not running a business for our host. And to add, it has been raining like fuck here and everything is damp, the floor in the bathroom and kitchen are leaking, we have a towel down on the bathroom floor to mop everything up and there is no dryer to get the sheets and towels in a usable state.

Without the pleasantries Sarah uses my phone to summarise the situation with Jo and that we cannot do this. Although invited, Sarah actually didn’t tell Jo what she thought and I think that it was just as well that Jo was in the UK. A series of texts went backwards and forwards as Jo went into a state of shear panic. She was now looking for alternative accommodation for her guests, a B&B in Le Chollet. About 40 minutes later 2 of the 4 guests turned up. Jo had text them, but they still headed here to Le Peyrail as they were meeting their other 2 friends. Sarah was apologetic while I tried to help her Mum Deidre who had called us from the UK because she had received a scam phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, saying that her computer was corrupted and they needed to guide her through a reboot. This is a well known scam that has been going on for some time. What they actually do is take control of your computer through a series of tasks that gives them access to your data. So if you get one of these calls just ignore it.

And so back to the German guests, who are not guests. It seems that they had booked, would you believe it, I don’t believe it, I just don’t believe it … for 4 nights. Yes, 4 bloody nights and Jo thought we would just bend over and let her ram that one up our arses. What?! What?! What?! Sarah invites them in from the far front door so they navigate the first hanging sticky tape of flies, over the first dog bowl into the kitchen where there is the first dog snarling, another dog bowl of water slopped all over the floor, cats on the kitchen top and Big Dog playing roundabouts. Having navigated the kitchen and the last sticky tape of dead flies they step up into the lounge and walk over to the veranda door. They step outside and comment how lovely it is. What?! Are you fu*king blind or what? Or stupid or what, what, what?

More texting and phone calls. Sarah calls Janie who we met in Auriac yesterday to see if the Gite is available and she gives us a phone number that we pass on. Sarah offers them to come back and have tea if they get stuck or need to wait for their friends, but the germans return to their car and go down to the farm house that they visited prior to arriving at Le Peyrail because they couldn’t find the address. Oh really! Apparently the farmer was going to help. Not that we wouldn’t, but he spoke french and that does help in these sorts of circumstances. Jo texts that she is in touch with her boyfriend Ian to see if his airbnb is available. Incidentally … He returned to France on Sunday and didn’t have the courtesy all week to phone, visit or make any sort of contact.Eventually Jo finds somewhere for them in Les Leves next to the poney club … oh my god they are sleeping in a stable. It must be Jesus of Munich! Anyway, probably better than here actually. The germans return with their friends and the lady wants to use the toilet. Go for your life sweetheart. Make your way through all our stuff, past the clothes horse with our clothes because it’s not dry enough to put anything outside and squash through the dripping wet towel on the bathroom floor and thank your lucky stars you are not sleeping here tonight! Why don’t you just pull your knickers down and piss on the floor!

And then they depart like they were never here.

Sarah and I look at each other. All we can do is laugh, but a crazy sort of creepy laugh. Then I become curious. Why do I get a text now when Jo wants something and she never replied to my other texts or WhatsApp link. I check the number that she text me on and it is different to the one she gave to me. Jeepers I have been using the wrong number all along. Did she actually give me the number? Did I look it up wrongly? Did I write it down incorrectly? I just can’t remember, but I need to know. I go back over the TrustedHousitter emails from her … and there it is in black and white … the last 3 digits of her number are 491 … but she gave me 494!!!

The fury “Pop-Up” roundabout!

Until next time 🌏

Wednesday passed with …🌏

Wednesday passed with rain. Thursday wasn’t much better, but that’s okay because rain is a miracle!

Having bitched and whined about having an unexpected lodger at our housesit in Le Peyrail, Sarah received a very disturbing WhatsApp message from Eileen today. We are housesitting for Keith and Eileen (K&E) for the whole of July in Javea. We are really looking forward to being there as they are lovely people and have a lovely home. Rosie their “Fur Child” is adorable. While we were in Javea a few weeks ago they hosted friends and cousins from Australia so it isn’t uncommon for them to have people staying. But for us it all came crashing down when the text arrived.

To the word the message went like this.

“All is well here. Just thought I had better let you know that my cousins son, wife and 3 kids have asked if they can come over for a couple of weeks while you are here. I didn’t like to say no so hope it’s okay with you. They have promised to use the kitchen at times that fit in with your schedule. The kids are 4, 2 and 1. they are a bit wild but hopefully they will tire themselves out in the pool. Anyway enjoy France and stay in touch.”

Sarah said OMG. I said whats the matter? And so she read it to me. I then repeated things that went against the love I have for K&E. My heart started to tremble and I picked up the coffee table and threw it against the wall. I went outside and screamed “Thanks a bloody lot God!” Of course this was all in my mind. Seconds later Sarah received a follow up text to say “Only Joking!” It was just in time as Sarah was giving me life to life resuscitation and blood was starting to seep from my eyes.

I just love it! I love the sense of humour, the fact Eileen got us. It was perfectly delivered and I am humbled. God … did she get us … get me. I just love it. And of course it is all forgotten and there will be no retribution. (Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha……👹🤡👹!!!!).

Shattered and still trembling I wander down to the tack room to feed Oliver and the doves … then the paddock to feed the horses. During a previous storm a tree fell to the ground just missing the stable by inches. There are branches and twigs everywhere. Someone, probably Gervais, has sawn the tree trunk into neat sections. I decide to build a wall of logs so that they are off the muddy ground and have a chance to dry. In this weather its not easy, but over time they will dry out. Some of the logs have already sprouted new growth and I feel guilty not leaving them for nature to take its course. Beneath the logs I move they have muddy bellies and a new world of juicy worms wriggle and slither.

Wantan leaves for Hong Kong on a business trip for the week so Sarah drops her off at the railway station.

We have been here at Le Peyrail for 10 nights and this is the first by ourselves.

After feeding the dogs, later the cats, I settle for 10 minutes to work on my iPad. I hear a rustle and think it’s one of the cats and ignore it. A few moments later Sarah comes into the lounge from the kitchen and navigates to the dining table. She looks at me and asks what the noise is? Probably one of the cats jumped on a dining chair. I get up to have a look and there is a noise from the HP printer box. Des has made himself a little bed in it!

Saturday

The phone rings. Caller hangs up. Normal.

We visit St Foy market once again just to prove that it isn’t really that good and end up at the supermarket. We decide to go to Lidl as it is on the way. Lidl have a minimalistic strategy to cashiers. It seems they open one till and wait until there are 10 people in the queue before they open another till.

There is water on the floor in the kitchen. Everytime we mop it up it appears again. An investigation in the cupboards under the sink doesn’t reveal anything. Water also appears in the bathroom. Again there are no obvious leaks. As a result there is permanently a towel down on the bathroom floor. In the kitchen it comes and goes. With all the rain I suspect that it may be caused by poor drainage.

The weather isn’t improving much, but I have to feed Oliver and the horses. There is something in the air and the horses seem a little unsettled. As they finish their feed a wind breezes through the meadow. I look up and the sky is black and I can feel the occasional drop of rain. The horses brace and I collect the buckets and return up the garden through the daisies to the tack room. And then it happens. The sky opens up and the rain is torrential. The thunder loud and the lightning hypnotic. I decide to wait it out as the rain fall is so fierce. I stand at the open tack room feeling the light spray of the rain after it has crashed to the ground. Then lightning. Then thunder. It makes me take a step back. I stand looking at the rain. Hypnotised. A curtain of water descends. My mind starts to wander and I think of the shed next door that I entered a few days ago. It was the one place Jo didn’t explain or take us on that first day tour. But as I was passing on my way to the tack room I glanced through an open window and made a mental note to investigate. I did and another Aladins cave was revealed. Most of the good gardening equipment games, tools, dumbells, a barbell, military pictures, drills and on it went. This was clearly Brian’s old place. Jo’s ex-husband. It is as if he just woke up one day and walked out. Perhaps he did just that. As I glance at the rain I fantasise. He is meant to be in Malta. What if he isn’t. What if he never left?! The sky gets darker. The rain louder and my fantasy deeper! I snap out of it otherwise I won’t sleep tonight, but can’t help myself looking for mounds of earth as I dash out of the tack room through the rain and up the garden to the main house. If I waited for the rain to stop I may be there for hours.

At the top of the stairs I catch my breath and find the wellington boot jack to relieve myself of the the muddy boots. The door to the lounge is shut and as I open it I realise that the house is in darkness and Sarah is standing there looking at me. There is no power. Sarah had been cleaning the inside of the car when it started to rain and so she dashed to the back yard to bring the washing in from the clothes horse.

As she entered the house the violent wind scorched through the house finding every nook and cranny. It took hold of the far door separating the kitchen from the 2 bedrooms and it slammed to a shut. The whole pain of glass shot out shattering to the floor. Sarah had only just finished clearing it up and removing the few jagged pieces left in the frame. Bugger!

The power had tripped the main switch box and fortunately it was a simply task of just switching it back on. All power and light returned.

Sunday

The week finishes with Des smashing a wine glass. I pick him up from the kitchen chair and his legs dangle knocking a glass over and to floor. Clearly all his fault. The torrential rain the previous night has brought out the toads. Two of them are sprawled flat in the road. Victims of hit and run. They are the size of 2 fists. Brutal looking things. In Queensland, Australia, cane toads can be the size of a rugby ball. They have no natural enemies. Their toxin can kill most native animals that normally eat frogs. They therefore pose a risk to both native fauna and pets such as cats and dogs.

Until next time 🌏

With the guests …🌏

With the guests gone we have the option to sleep in the main Chambre. The advantage is the ensuite and the King size bed. The downside is the fact it is a water bed. It doesn’t appeal to me. A strange concept. But I did test it. I ventured on to the bed, not without first testing the pressure with my hand. I’m not heavy, but I just wanted to be sure it didn’t burst. As I lay there floating I couldn’t imagine how I would ever get to sleep. I seemed to be swaying gently and after a little while started to feel sea sick so swam to the edge and climbed out. Its a shame because the bed in our current room is like a french renaissance bed that is closed in at the bottom. It means I can’t dangle my feet over the edge and stretch my legs. The french pillows are square so I sort of lay my head about a foot from the headboard and scrunch up my legs. The other issue is the fact we have to pass through the kitchen to get to the bathroom. This means navigating the furry roundabout. First world problems of course. Doesn’t mean you have to accept them though does it? So in the end the Chambre is now a huge wardrobe/dressing room, meaning our bedroom is uncluttered from suitcases and other belongings draped everywhere.

Today I learned that Puppy can sing. The landline rings quite a few times. Doesn’t always seem to be the same tune so perhaps it is programmed for certain callers. One tune rings and Puppy howls like a wolf. Quite cute.

I also earned that Oliver doesn’t like broccoli. His bowl … well his tin tub … is licked clean leaving just the green stuff. Later in the week I discover he is fussier than I thought. He doesn’t eat oranges or asparagus either. So particular is he that he even licks the things he doesn’t like to get all the other stuff off.

Thomas the smaller horse escapes from the paddock and is roaming around amongst the daisies in the garden chomping away. I ponder on accidentally on purpose letting them all out to eat the grass and then claiming it was all my own work using the sit-on-mower, but decide against it for moral reasons. By the time I go down to feed Oliver all 3 of the horses have escaped and are waiting at the top gate near the tack room for me. I then reconsider my previous plan as they are already out. No. Lets stay honest … ha, ha, ha! The reason they managed this escapade into the garden is that the paddock gate is a bit flimsy despite that fact that it does have a bolt that fixes to the ground … just… and a wire loop that holds the 2 gates together. If they knew they could just trample it down. As it is Gervais said that they have occasionally just “nosed” off the loop and managed to get out if the bolt hasn’t been secured. The issue is that they can be a bit aggressive which is something I look out for when I take them their feed. Nougat is a bit of a boy. So I know once they see me with the feeding buckets all bets are off. If I’m not careful they would charge and easily knock me over. Trample me to death. Its hard, but someones got to do it. So I creep around the back of the pool. The paddock gate is in sight. They hear me with the buckets and start to trot. So I start to run. Its a bit of a game, but I run fast in my wellies and the boys pick up speed. I get there just in time and put the buckets down before they take my arms off.

Oh what fun it is!

Tuesday

We have had a few nights of very heavy rain and loud thunder. It makes the going tough down by the stables as the ground sucks at your feet so I try and feed the horses and Oliver later in the day in the hope that the ground has had a bit of a chance to dry out. It hasn’t.

Last night was no exception and the rain fell heavily. However, the upside is that the following morning the country air is fresh with vitality and calm … after the storm. You can feel it penetrating the atmosphere and tantalising your mind. I look out of the lounge window towards the back of Le Peyrail as the mist hangs lightly in the meadow and the first signs of the sun cast their light on the awakening sky.

I decide to to wander out into the sharp, fresh air and head south along Le Peyrail. I actually don’t go very far. I walk beyond the tiny hamlet up to a rise in the road to the vineyards. Away from the buildings the sun is beginning its journey. It is a funny concept that we call it sunrise, when in fact it is the earth rotating down … perhaps to honour the sun?

The vines are still, the grass remains moist from the kiss of the dew as the sun hasn’t quite risen enough to warm the green skin. There is a silence. A country silence. It is not always perfectly silent, but when it is you can hear that silence. It is the hum of nothing accept the earth breathing beneath your feet. In the distance I hear a cock crow. And then at 7:00 am the church bells ring out. Moments later I hear another 7 chimes. Is it another church a little late? Were the first chimes too early? They seemed to come from the same place, the same church. I realise that this happens every day and so I research the mystery. It still is a mystery. Even Google can’t explain. French church bells have no standard practice beyond the local village. Some say the bells ring for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The most reasonable explanation I came across was that the first set of chimes are for the time and the second that its time to get up.

Once the last chime has travelled beyond the capability of my ears the birds sing louder and the bees begin their hum. The neighbour, who is not in residence has a beautiful patch of poppies in the garden. They stand tall, bright red, glistening through the dew as the sun begins to embrace them. Everything is a miracle and we are all Miracle Millionaires!

Another miracle happened today. One of Sarahs clients needed to get a computer dongle to her to enable access to their system. The dongle is about the size of a thumb and is being dispatched from Sydney, Australia to the middle of nowhere in France. Mmm. We are sat out front having a midday snack at the small round table on the edge of the lane. Almost the curb. If a car goes by we have to swing our legs in. An unmarked white van appears. The driver is clearly wearing a bright polo shirt. he stops, and as he gets out to remove something from the back of the van we can clearly see “DHL”. We shouldn’t be amazed in this day and age, but we both are. The package has arrived from the other side of the world on the day they said it would. Amazing … a miracle!

Until next time 🌏

Off we go … 🌏

Off we go to the the weekly market in Sainte Foy La Grande. Wantan has come with us and she knows the way so no need for a map or GPS. Apples freshly plucked from the orchard, potatoes unearthed that morning, jams potted the night before, this is truly a wonderful local market that attracts not only the best local producers but the most excited buyers for miles around. Well … that’s what the website will tell you! Not sure about the jams potted the night before and as for the excited buyers … come on! Apparently St Foy market is included in the top 100 in France. It is a good size with some interesting produce, but I doubt it is in the top 50. We still prefer the Thursday market in Javea, Spain. However, the chickens baking on the spits with that dark brown skin crisping did look appetising and beneath the rotating spits potatoes were basking in the chicken fat that dropped onto them.

We bump into Bruno. I forgot to mention that on the first night at Le Peyrail Jo’s friend Bruno turned up and joined the party. Like Ian, he also plays in a band. His english, we were told was not good, but as the evening went along he seemed to manage quite well so probably more of a confidence thing.

Further along we try to track down the stall that Sarah is looking for. Apparently the goats cheese looked good there. We find it and I hover around while Sarah and Wantan investigate the cheese. I just glance at the next stall. Homemade handbags, pursey type things and arty things. Mmm. Then all of a sudden Anneke pops up like a Jack-in-a-box. She grins like a Cheshire cat and her hair looks like she has just been in a box with Jack. She tilts her head grinning at me. Then bursts into the story (in english too) of her new business and that she is opening a new shop in Louise-Bernac on 2 June. I feign an in-depth interest as I don’t want to hurt her feelings. She is so passionate about her new venture. I am so uninterested. So convincing is my act that she suddenly disappears and reappears with one of her last leaflets. She offers it to me like it is golddust and I accept gratefully giving it my utmost attention. My forehead creases in interest. I smile at her. Its almost as though I am the only person taking interest today. Now I’m thinking that could be true. I wish her luck which I truly do, but walk away feeling like an imposter … because I was. Shit!One thing at the market that caught my eye wasn’t really part of the market at all. I was hovering again while Sarah and Wantan … SarWa… were investigating vegetables and a lady passed with one of my favourite quotes on her bright orange bag … “Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life”.

It is also the Saturday that has been building up for many months so on arriving home we put the television on for the Royal Wedding. There is a time difference of an hour meaning we miss the main event. Then the FA Cup Final is on and disappointingly Chelsea beat Manchester United by a measly 1 – 0.

This evening the German airbnb guests, Robert and Barbara are arriving. They advised that they would be with us between 4 and 5 pm. I wander down to the end of the lane on a few occasions incase I can see or even hear a car, remembering the slight difficulty we had in locating the exact address. By 5:50 pm they still hadn’t arrived. We joked that they may be walking from Germany. Just before 6 pm they text to say they will be about an hour late. Still okay for a 7:30 pm meal as planned. At 6:40 pm I see 2 people go by the window. Curious I wonder if it is Jo’s guests. I open the door and they turn around. Robert and Barbara are wearing hiking gear, backpacks and holding those long handled walking sticks. Indeed they are walking and in fact walking a section of The Camino de Santiago. I welcome them in and after pleasantries show them their room. It is the main guest room with the ensuite … La Chambre as described by the painted tile hanging by a chain on the door, which announces itself with an irritating rattle every time it is swung open and closed. La Chambre has a waterbed so I ask Robert if he can swim? They both laugh .. great, they have a sense of humor. Better still they understand my personal weird humour which must be even stranger to a foreigner. The only drink they want is water. I say I’ll leave them alone to shower, freshen up and rest after their long day. I casually head towards the kitchen to grab their water and have an OMG flash in my mind. The shower! I imagine screams from hell and 2 scolded guests sat at the dinner table swathed in surgical bandages looking like the invisible man with slits for the eyes and straws coming out of their nose. I run back to La Chambre and violently knock on the door. Barbara opens it and I can hear the shower running. I give them a warning that must have sounded something like an over dramatic scene from a B Movie. She smiles and nods. Thank you again God.

They soon reappear and I take them for a quick tour and down to see Oliver who I have to wake from his sleep. You can imagine how irritated he was by that! Wantan joined us for dinner and it was a good evening. Sarah has been mulling over a menu for the past few days as Barbara is vegetarian. In the end she opted for an eggplant parmigiana which was delicious. We learned that Robert and Barbara were late due to the fact they started out in Germany that morning via train, but there was a French train strike which caused the delay. They have walked sections of the Camino in sequence over the last 8 years, but this trip may be their last as it takes longer to reach their starting point each time. The Camino is known in English as the Way of St James.  All Camino pilgrimage routes lead to Santiago de Compostela as this is where the remains of St James, (Santiago), were discovered in the ninth century. There are a number of official routes, but the spirit of the pilgrimage is that it can start from your front door step. The official routes are tailored to service the pilgrim with rest stops and accommodation . The diehards who walk the last 100 kms …this is all many people do… will receive an official passport from the pilgrim’s office where they start their pilgrimage. You get your first stamp and after that, you will produce it every time you arrive at an albergue or hostel. On payment of your accommodation, the passport is stamped to prove that you stayed the night in a specific hamlet, village, town or city. Your pilgrim’s passport is a document that identifies you as a pilgrim, and provides proof that you have walked, cycled or ridden on horseback, the required distance to gain your “Compostela”… the certificate of accomplishment. This is not taken lightly and there are many rules and regulations introduced by the Camino officials.

I have read a few books on personal pilgrimages along the Camino and they mostly feature stories of meetings with strangers, ill fitting walking shoes and smelly feet with blisters.

I asked Robert and Barbara if they had a Camino passport … just to make conversation. It was met with huge enthusiasm. Barbara rushed to the bedroom to get theirs and said that they wanted a stamp for their stay tonight. Bugger. The chances of Jo having an official stamp were zero. I felt a bit embarrassed for them and mumbled something about asking Jo. So I did text Jo and as expected didn’t receive a reply. In the morning I explained, but they were fine about it and just asked Sarah to sign and date a section of the Passport. Of course what they didn’t realise is the absolutel importance of that signature and the power it carries. I’m certain it will gain them access to wherever they want to go.

So we had a good conversation over dinner. Both Barbara and Robert are chemical scientists working for the same large german company, BASF, near their home town in Ellerstadt. Both their sons work there too. In a nutshell Robert finds ways to produce paint cheaper and Barbara works in pigmentation. ..yawn… After dinner we cleared the table and while doing so Barbara picked up one of the 3 or 4 guitars lying around. She started tuning it and played ‘The Sound of Silence”. I can’t remember the conversation, but “Stairway to Heaven “was mentioned so she started playing that. Talented lady!

Sunday

Breakfast for Robert and Barbara and then they set off early for the next leg … ha…of their walk.

Sarah is at the gym. I am working at the laptop and hear a roar. Gervaise calls in on his Triumph Bandit wearing his leather armour and a Meatloaf T-Shirt. He knows his way around and so makes us coffee and we sit out on the veranda for a chat.

The day trickles by. One of the things with living out of a suitcase is always having to settle, unsettle and then resettle. Sometimes it can take longer to settle than at other times. Occasionally we don’t quite settle at all. In Le Peyrail we are still in the settling phase, but we do get more sorted as Sarah cleans as she goes. Well, guess that settles that!

Sarah plans dinner, but Wantan says she is cooking something with potatoes because we said we liked them. Did I mention to her I like champagne? So we are delightfully served with some sort of shredded potato dish in a hot spice accompanied by rice with peas, corn and ham with a hint of ginger.

The end of another day … where do they go?!

Until next time 🌏

I Get the … 🌏

I get the fire going early and Big Dog takes on his professional role as draft excluder by sealing the kitchen door with the length of his body.

While Sarah is at the gym I decide to sort out the wood in the old shed next to the house. Its contents are various and it also houses the deep freezer. Probably full of body parts from disagreeable guests. I notice an axe nearby, but no blood. The shed is a bit dark in places, but I think nothing of it … sort of.

I saunter closer into the shed and pull back sharply. I have seen a snake near the wall. Dark with stripes. Menacing, waiting to strike. I grab a piece of wood and check around my feet for its friend. At a safe distance I examined the reptile only to discover that it was the tail of an abandoned plastic toy leopard. You can’t be too careful. This is rough country! I sort out the good logs and potential kindling and place it all at the edge of the garage in the hope it will dry out a little in the sun.

Feeling like a false hero I wander down the terrace to the barn to feed Oliver and the doves. The horses gather in a different part of the field today, which is good as the fence is lower there. While I wait for them to munch through their feed I decide to gather the horse manure that is dotted unceremoniously around the field like small molehills. Jo said I could pick up some of the horse manure if I get time. There was a wheelbarrow and a pitchfork I could use and to just dump it by the stable. Not the sort of thing I had planned to do, I could sit by the empty pool, but having worked in the corporate world for many years I’ve dealt with my fair share of shit.

After collecting the wheelbarrow I returned in an arc around the field picking up the stuff and minimising my deep breaths. I now realise that there is an art to this as the small mountain of black apple size deposits crumble away unless they have been left to harden. However, I decided not to analyse the composition, depth or consistency of the shit, but to just pick it up as it comes. Proudly I filled a wheelbarrow full and maneuvered through the mud, back to the stable to … well …. dump it! To my surprise there wasn’t any other dumps from previous excursions that Jo may have made. It was another reminder that often a Host can be full of … you know what… themselves and Sarah and I are learning that what you are often told is the truth massaged, sometimes so disguised as to be unrecognisable. The trick, as in this instance, is that the Housesit Host tells you all about the jobs they do and describe the activity in such a convincing manner as to make us believe this is a regular and critical task that they perform. We soon realise that they hardly ever, or only occasionally perform this task themselves as it is a ruse to get some poor idiot to do it … like me. Another one is leaving enough gas in the heater bottle to show you how it works and when you come to use it that first cold night it flares into action and 2 minutes later goes “pop”as the gas runs out, leaving you to freeze.

When Sarah and I eventually get “To Senija” I will become a Housesit host and explain when people arrive that our regular domestic activities include checking the tiles on the roof and painting the house every week. If we had a lawn I would give them nail scissors and for the pool a teaspoon to refill from the kitchen tap. This of course I would not do and based on my experience would attempt to be the perfect Host and supplement the teaspoon with a bucket. The vast majority of Hosts are lovely and grateful … and so are we (I’m grateful and Sarah is lovely) …. but just saying. On this point there is a site called Workaway that offers accommodation and sometimes food (I have even seen a token wage offered) for a return of 4-5 hours work a day. We have come across some hosts who, based on the amount of work/responsibilities required, really should be listing on this site as it is more than just a housesit.

Where was I … oh yes. Smelling something akin to a buffaloes backside after collecting poo, I decided to take a shower. I remember Sarah saying that she mentioned to Jo that the water was very hot. Jo agreed and said she needed to turn the thermostat down … it would even save some money on the heating. The shower is in the corner of the bathroom and has 2 sliding doors that meet to seal it. I use the term seal lightly. The shower cubicle is of a certain age and obviously designed for very small french people with anorexia. Having entered the plastic tomb and navigated the controls I was ready to proceed. Lifting my arms as though wearing a straightjacket and with the hot water issue in my mind, I was cautious. I turned the cold on first after having turned the shower head away from me and gently introduced the hot water to a comfortable heat. Once I finished, as is my usual routine, I turn off the cold and spray down the shower of excess suds with just the hot water.

On this occasion I had underestimated the heat of the hot water by a factor of at least one million. The water wasn’t very hot it was f*ckin boiling hot and bubbling. It heated the neck of the showerhead so quickly that it almost melted … my hand along with it. I nearly dropped it, the water splashing on my hand burning my fingers. I fumbled with the head, but it was on full power so the cord became angry and twisted. I tried to reach the tap but the lava like water was spraying that way. The test tube size cubicle was restraining my movement. I turned to slide the doors open and the head bent down and burned my feet. I screamed like a raving lunatic and literally jumped out of the restraint into the bathroom. Holding the leathon weapon at arms length I reached inside to turn off the molten tap. Fortunately the tender parts that I burnt with my chili spiced fingers earlier in the week stayed out of the line of fire otherwise I would be still lying in a hospital bed with a bucket over my crutch. The shower cubicle should have a skull and cross bones blazoned across it! I still have the burn marks on my hands and feet.

The day was however still young as I rested from my wounds.

Buzz came through the front door making those sort of continuous mumbled meow sounds, like a siren. Having been the owner of cats you instinctively know what this means. Basically it is the warning sound of a gift being delivered to you proudly by your pet. It could be a bird, mouse, rat or anything else it can capture and taunt. In this instance it was a mouse. Having announced his entrance he scampered up to Jo’s room. I followed with pan and brush and as I peeped around the landing at the top of the stairs he was looking proudly at his prey. Dead. This is not always the case. Often a cat will take its prey alive and spend hours taunting it. Buzz was being defensive. I looked at the mouse and realised the head was missing. As the tiny little thing wasn’t going to run away I left them both for nature to take its course. There was nothing left by morning.

Wantan treated us to a traditional chinese meal and it was delicious. A selection of dishes, Tomato & egg, Garlic broccoli, Beef pot, Chicken wings, Shrimps and rice with ginger made in the rice machine she brought all the way from China with her. Bless her heart she even bought a bottle of bubbles to have before the meal and a red wine with the meal.

Later in the evening Sarah let one of the cats out ... it wasn’t in a bag (ha)… and sees a tail disappear. She thinks it’s a snake. Really? Yes! I rush outside… cautiously. Nothing. I move the wooden pig just outside the front door and there it is sliding and slithering. Coming from Australia, the most dangerous place on earth, we tend to be careful with these things. With Sarah, Wantan, myself, 2 cats and 2 fierce dogs starring the snake down the numbers were on our side. Wantan and Sarah stood twitching their feet and hovering by the door. The cats starred it down and then wandered off casually. Puppy barked, stamped his front paw and then looked at me in hope and Big Dog went down the lane for a piss leaving me to handle the situation. Thanks a bloody lot guys! I boldly shake the big wooden pig again and snakie appears shortly only to return again to its refuge. After this brief drama I decide to let sleeping snakes sleep and just leave it on the basis that I don’t know what to do anyway. Seems snakie isn’t actually bothering us apart from slithering around and he probably serves some purpose anyway to mitigate the vermin. Whether or not that was a good decision time will tell.

We shut all the doors and windows … for the rest of the day anyway.

I get up in the night to go to the loo. From our room we have to pass through the kitchen and the two doors that close it off at each end. Big Dog is old and lumbering. He has 3 brain cells, but only uses one of them. He lies down across the door and trying to move him is a challenge. I open the door and it just pushes against his back. He knows I want to get through. Just looks at me and gruffles. I pull harder and he just lumbers there. I resort to raising my voice. Nope. I then pull at his collar, but it is like trying to lift a baby elephant. Eventually I just grab his behind and pull him out of the way and continue on, my bladder straining. I have to shut the door so that he doesn’t go into the lounge. On my return he is back lying against the door and this time it is a similar exercise. It gets to the point where you just have to push the door until he gets so uncomfortable he has to move. He must have dog dementia and forget every time that this is not the best place to lie down. Or perhaps he enjoys being a pain in the arse.

This situation is not a one off. It happens throughout the day and every night.

Until next time 🌏

Its still cold … 🌏

Its still cold and a strong breeze is finding its way through the gaps in the poorly sealed window. After carefully unpacking and lovingly set up, the printer isn’t working. The signal is not too good here so I’m guessing that may be the problem.

We go down for breakfast and it is busy with several tables of couples and groups. Each person has their own tray in front of them eating breakfast. It reminds me of school canteens and food courts. Once finished you slot your tray into the trolley rack and go.

At around 10:20 am we set off on the second leg of this trip to Les Leves et Thoumeyragues. Soon it starts to rain. The glorious sunny days of Javea seem far behind. The architecture is changing as we pass through the west Pyrenees. More chalet style homes.

The journey is over bridges and through tunnels, the longest tunnel being 3 km. They all have distance markers and the railings on the bridges are painted blue for their whole length.

At Irun we reach the Border. Police with mean looking machine guns chat. Occasional cars are stopped. Toll Booths don’t seem to be designed with the driver in mind. Most people look like they are struggling out of a straight jacket as they twist and contort their bodies, trapped by the seat belt to reach the coin drop. People nervously place notes into the slot holding on hard so that they don’t blow away. Cars judder as stretching bodies release their feet from the pedals. Some people open their car doors and step closer to the machines as if to hold a conversation. The cost of this exercise is a toll of 1.70 Euros. It takes its toll on many people!

We reach East of Biarritz a few kilometers down the road and another 2.40 Euros toll.

We stop off at Aire de Labenne Est for petrol and a comfort break. The petrol pump doesn’t seem to work, then all of a sudden kicks-in. I’m sure the meter started at a Litre and not zero. The guy making the coffee is doubling as the cashier so it takes ages to pay.

I’m starting to hear French voices. The radio is on. The French language is kinder on the ear. We get back in the car, drive 1 kilometre and another 3.70 Euro toll.

There are roadworks everywhere and the lanes are very narrow. It is compounded by the trucks and heavy vehicles. There has been heavy traffic like this most of the way. It makes you feel like you almost have to squeeze past everything. It makes the going slow. Sarah is driving and doing a brilliant job, but I am a nervous passenger and squirm in my seat as we get so close to these trucks. Sitting on the right in a left hand drive car is also disorientating. Visions of us spinning off the road ignite my mind. We get so close at one point that I scream like a baby. Sarah is patient … to a point. Another image enters my mind. She screeches the car to a halt and says you bloody well drive then. But it doesn’t happen. Not yet anyway. Then all of a sudden we leave the roadworks, sprint into a 130 speed limit zone and 3 lanes! And then too soon again another 3.70 Euro toll … Guckinf Hell!

Approaching Saugnacq St Murat …. another 3.70 Euro toll!!!!!

We miss (okay, okay, okay …..I miss) the exit for Dax that takes us onto the A65. A large truck must have been in front of the sign. So instead, continue on the A63 heading for Bordeaux. Eventually we take the D672 that winds its way through the green french countryside. Its like off-roading on just a hint of tarmac. Focused on the fuel gauge and feeling like we are going round in a circle we eventually catch up with the A62 and so are now back enroute. Its raining.

As per advice from Jo we look for the Chateau Le Peyrail sign. I think we have arrived and look for number 6, but I can only find number 4. The place next door looks very much like Jo’s house. I go up to the door and see all sorts of things that resonate with her such as a panama hat, horse tackle and even the shutters are that deep purple colour. There is no one in sight. The lady at number 4 comes out and I ask for number 6, but she doesn’t know where it is or heard of Jo. Bugger. I want her say “I am number 4”, but I guess she hasn’t read the book. Then I realise we are in Les Bramants. Just meters down the road is our destination … in the correct road … well, lane, perhaps track … Le Peyrail.

We park the car in the car port next to an old Citroen 2CV and BMW. Gervais appears and greets us. Eek … who is he?  Jo comes out of the house and the introductions begin. Gervais is a good friend who sponsors Jo’s artwork in the community and also helps where he can. We realise later into our stay that he must be a busy man. We leave our luggage in the car and go into the house. We soon have a glass of red in front of us and give a short summary of our trip. The log burner is warm and glowing.

After the pleasantries we find some wellington boots and start a brief tour that includes verbal instructions on looking after the animals. Nothing is written down. The property is basically 3 workers cottages converted into one big house. As you enter the first front door you walk straight into the lounge with dinning area to the right. Beyond is the main guest “Chambre”with an ensuite. To the left is a large kitchen and breakfast room. Beyond that past the second front door, two bedrooms, one of which is ours and next to that the walk-in larder. Downstairs is a large bathroom and another door leading to the laundry and a separate store room. In the laundry some swallows have made a nest so we should keep the door open so that they can come and go. Upstairs are the quarters of the lady of the house … Jo.

For the tour we take a door leading onto a veranda and then down some steps. At the bottom if you continue, after about 15 meters there is a covered BBQ area and a door leading to Jo’s studio. We go down some stone steps and turn right along an overgrown path through a covered seating area. Further down the terrace is a round sunken pool. It is empty. No, that’s not true. There is about 2 inches of water with some kind of abandoned equipment in it and several lizards basking on the edge with their tails in the water, cooling. It doesn’t look inviting. Apparently the pool has a leak and I learn later that it is on the Gervais list. The list must be very long.  We walk further along to a tack room where Jo keeps her saddles and the feed for the horses. Next to this room is a barn. It is dark and full of oddments and abandoned things. Jo has been carrying a mysterious big black pot full of food. We discover that it is for Oliver the Vietnamese Pot-bellied Pig. Perhaps he eats pots! (Ha). It is emptied into a large tin bowl. We don’t see anything. Despite the amount of food being lovingly scrapped into the large tin bowl I imagine a little pink piggie the size of a poodle. There is a rustle and a grunt in the very back of the barn. I sense some movement. The grunting and moaning gets louder. Suddenly as my eyes adjust I can see a large haystack moving towards me. As my eyes focus I realise that it must be the infamous Oliver … black, large, hairy, covered in hay and very grumpy. He may be a bit blind we are told and he uses his large nostrils to locate his feed, occasionally bumping into things. These pigs are raised for meat and I suspect that Oliver could feed a small village for a week.

Next door in the tack room we mix the horse feed from various bags, into 3 buckets for Darcy, Nougat and Thomas. Just outside are planks of wood nailed together to create a platform. It is the feeding table for the 20 or so Doves. Jo throws down a few handfuls of birdseed and they dive into it. Carrying the buckets we walk down a slope to a grass area. It is covered in daisies and looks beautiful. We are introduced to Darcey, Nougat and Thomas. There is a fence … well .. some wire interlaced with wood and a gate that you could blow over. It is here that we place the buckets. Beyond the fence is a small stable and next to it the bird house. Behind is the large paddock for horses to roam and a bamboo wood hidden by the enormous trees. Jo and I go inside the birdhouse. It is not the most desirable place to be. The Doves don’t seem to mind though. Jo puts her hand into one of the boxes and retrieves a baby Dove. It is a miracle because it is life and a young innocent life, but it is not the most beautiful looking thing. Bald and scrawny with oddments of feathers … a bit like me in the morning.

Dotted around the paddock near the stable are mounds of horse poo. If the inclination takes me I am invited to scoop some up during our stay. I am shown a wheelbarrow and a fork in which to perform the activity and where I should place the poo which is at the side of the stable. It is very wet and slushy here. The mud pulls at your feet drawing you in like a large mouth.

We return up the small hill pressing down the turf with our feet. It is churned up by horse hooves.  Jo says she has a ride-on mower and I offer to cut it when the ground dries out. If it doesn’t rain it may be okay to have a go next week, but it will take time to harden underfoot.

During the tour Jo mentions that she has a booking for Saturday. (oh really). A German couple via airbnb. Gervais is planning to come over to prepare breakfast for them. We offer to do breakfast and the optional evening meal so that Gervais does not need to travel the 1 hour from home to host them. Plus we also want some independence.

We return to the barn and try and start the mower. I look at the tired dusty machine and think fat chance. True to form the battery is flat and so we (the Royal we) push the mower round to the charger. Jo hooks up the clips … positive to negative which Gervais notices in good time. We hear Oliver grunting and fussing. I don’t think he likes the idea of the mower in his way.

On the return journey to the house we take a small diversion to a very small pond to view 5 small Carp. Who also need some tender loving care.

The remaining troupe are Buzz and Des the cats. Big Dog a 14 year old labrador who huffs and puffs, snorts and snores. Then there is Puppy. He is a lovely dog. Mixture of Sheep Dog and Collie, but has an intimidating wolf-like look and must scare the shit out of joggers and hikers as they come down the lane. He chases after every car nearly getting caught in the back wheels. Apparently Jo accidently drove her car into him. It may account for the quizzical look he gives with a tilted head. Its like he is trying to puzzle it all out. I guess I’m with him there … still trying to puzzle it all out! Truth is he is actually a very well behaved dog and over the coming days we will sort of bond.

We unpack in a bedroom that is more like a retro shop with a bed in it. Pieces of stuff everywhere. Or should I say a collection of items. A tallboy, but no wardrobe. There is a bohemian theme running through the whole place. A silky thread of this life philosophy weaves its way through everything from the cobwebs to the host. There is nothing wrong with it. Except Sarah and I are not accustomed with the concept that seems to place the unimportance on the things that are important to us.

Returning to the lounge to socialise we drink more wine.

We are introduced to a Korean airbnb guest, Heechul Lee. He Leaves the following day and is touring in europe while he thinks about the meaning of life and University.

We are then told by Jo that a young chinese girl by the name of Wantan Li is staying at the house. A lodger in fact, who has the middle room and is working locally at Univitis. This comes as a surprise as it was never mentioned when we agreed to housesit. Wrongly, we assumed we had the house to ourselves and had not entered into a mini commune. Laced in red wine and because we were committed, (in other words nowhere else to go) there was an uncharacteristic acceptance to this situation on our part. I can reveal though that over the following days we felt that it was more than absent minded not to mention this to us.

Anyway … the wine flows and we retreat to the large kitchen. Gervais goes to the local petrol station for more wine. They sell a Gold Award winning wine for 6 Euros. Ian, Jo’s partner in life and drummer in a band arrives for a quick 5 minute visit …. he stays and later also goes to the petrol station for more wine. Ian ends up staying for dinner, then stays over. I chop onions and chillies for the spaghetti bolognaise. The next day I rub my eyes and other tender parts of my body and am violently reminded of this.

It is a great evening. Stories, laughter, wine. A long, long day.

Until next time 🌏

A trip to …🌏

A trip to the market at Sainte-Foy-la-Grande … one of the top 100 markets in France. Until next time🌏

My second wheelbarrow… 🌏

My second wheelbarrow full of poo from Le Peyrail … well before you say it Phil, Yep I’m talking horse shit once again! Until next time🌏

We take the … 🌏

We take the dogs for a walk as usual. Despite the experience with them running off yesterday we still feel confident to let them off the leash. And all goes well. That is until the return when we reach the gate at “Casa Davis”.  Mini hovers at the gate and all of a sudden Barkley takes off up the hill. He is head down and with his arthritic legs waddling north on a mission. Mini looks at us as if to say sorry. F*ck. I race up the hill. As I run, Barkley picks up speed. Bugger! I slow and so does he. I pick up the pace … and so does he. Gradually the hill takes its toll on Barkley before it takes its toll on me and I gain ground eventually grabbing his collar and attaching the leash before he becomes a fixture on the front of a car bumber!

We plan our route to Peyrail and decide on  travelling via Valencia to Pamplona and staying overnight. We spend ages finding a hotel, not that we are fussy … and settle on the Holiday Inn. Then we will take the slightly shorter trip to Peyrail on the A63, crossing the border to France at Irun.

Sunday

A tidy up day so that the house is looking good for Helen. A bit more than a tidy as it also includes the garden and watering everything down, particularly as Barkley likes to piss everywhere.

Eileen’s cousin Paul is over from Perth with his wife Glynes so we catch up with them and Dave & Fi at Chabada overlooking Arenal Beach as we won’t see them for a few months or so.

Helen returns without Steve as he is playing golf in Seville.

Monday

We leave Ambolo at 10:25 am for our 6 hour trip.

I pack the car. As I walk up the steps for the last time on this visit, Mini looks at me with knowing eyes. I’m leaving.

We set off on the AP-7 and then from Port de Sagunt take the A-23  to Valencia. The trip goes without hitch and we stop off at Sarrion for gas and a tapas break. Americano, cafe con Letche, patatas bravas and a pinch tortilla.

As we approach Zaragoza the landscape changes becoming more lush and greener. The dry dessert feel of Spain starts to phase into green. We pass Zaragoza and can see the beautiful snow capped Moncayo.

We stop for gas near Gallur. It feels bitterly cold and windy. I want to use the restroom and find the door with the little man on it. I pull back hard and there is a guy in there with his trousers around his ankles sitting on the loo. But not for long. Phone in hand he reaches to close the door and I retreat quickly. I decide as no-one is around I’ll use the facilities with the little picture of a woman on them.

Continuing on the AP-68, just after Tudela we take the AP-15 north to the Holiday Inn Express in Pamplona. It is cold and windy here too. Not too sure what to do for dinner as we are a little out of town. Its a nice functional hotel but a bit in the backyard of town. The bar is located next to the reception desk. It seems the staff multi-task from Check-ins to drink orders.

Before making a decision for dinner we go over to La Morea Shopping Center, past Aldi, just a 5 minute walk. It looks unattractive because we are the carpark side. Inside it is quite a nice shopping centre. It has the usual food court, but there are a couple of good options. Coming up the escalator we are taken by surprise. There is a stunning display of car tyre artwork by Angel Canas. It is just so clever.

In the end we return to the hotel after a brief excursion and eat in the hotel restaurant. The food is surprisingly good and typical spanish. The seating is odd though. Most of the tables are laid for one person facing the tv on the wall. Obviously for those single commercial travellers!

Until next time 🌏