Listening to the Locals

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When I fantasized about living in France many years ago, I imagined a shared passion with new found French friends for the simple pleasures in life; I never dreamt it would actually come true.

There’s a hint of spring in the air this week, and all around us our neighbours are at work on their land. January is already but a memory; the days are getting a little longer and dusk falls a little later each evening.

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On Tuesday we reached a staggering 16C/61F, incredible warmth for the last day of January. Our first daffodil is in flower, we have primroses and violets blooming and the blossom on the plum trees is not far away. Roddy has already seen the first of the early bumblebees (Bombus pratorum) amongst the emerging flowers.

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and the gendarmes (Pyrrhocoris apterus) are on the move, so called because apparently there is a fanciful likeness to the uniform worn by the gendarmes (police) at the end of the 17th Century!

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With so much activity it’s easy to forget that today, the 2nd of February, is actually the midpoint in winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring Equinox. But for all the tiny signs of warmer weather the landscape still had a distinct wintry feel.

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Making the most of the warmth we have headed out into the garden and it feels good to be able to amble feeling the sun on our faces rather than a hurried dash as we shiver in the cold.

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Some radical winter pruning has been required and the centre of attention are the very long line of hazel and cob trees which run down the middle of the garden.

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One of our very best friends in the village is a Paysagiste, a landscape gardener; he is a very knowledgeable man and I have picked his brains on many, many occasions. I am always asking him for a little bit of advice, how I should do this or that. He has lived in this area all of his life, he knows the soil, and he understands the climate and which plants thrive here. It has been something of a mystery to him as to why our hazel and cobs never produce any nuts. The trees have catkins, they look extremely healthy, and they are neither too young nor too old; however, they remain resolutely nut-free. A radical prune will certainly not harm any harvest, as we have no crop to start with! But the secondary reason for this major job is to provide a little extra light.

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You see, on one side is the chicken garden, and on the other a more formal garden with a long herbaceous border. We believe this was established many decades ago, and it is edged by a lovely old cobbled path. But alas, it is this border that is now in semi-shade, the flowerbed faces north. Theoretically, this is not a problem because it also gets both easterly and westerly sun, and morning and evening light. However, the long line of hazels and cobs to the south have kept out a great deal of light during the summer months  when the sun is high in the sky; but I hope that once they have been cut back it will once again benefit from that summer sun too. We can see where the trees were once pruned on the branches themselves, some time long before we bought the house, and we’re going back to this height.

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We’ve worked hard at this all week, it’s a big job and we’re taking off at least eight feet. Yesterday afternoon, Annie, our neighbour’s mother-in-law, popped her head over the wall to say ‘hello’. Annie lives about twenty minutes away but often we see her next door as she helps her grandson with his chickens. At her house she has an enormous garden and like most of the local French I have met, she is a fountain of all knowledge. She nodded approvingly towards the hazel trees we were working on, and said, “My neighbour grows a few hazels commercially, and he was pruning his back today too, to the exact same height”. My heart sang with relief; this was high praise indeed, we were obviously doing just the right thing.

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We often ask Annie for advice, and yesterday we sought her experience for something else, too. Our rooster Fritz is sadly suffering from a very injured leg; he had a fight with his younger counterpart a couple of days ago and he’s been in the sickbay since. We picked him up and took him over to show Annie for she has frequently helped us with chicken-related problems.

We asked what she thought we should do, as we had already prepared ourselves for the worst. Annie doesn’t beat about the bush, so you can imagine our shock when she said “You must save him at all costs!”. In the past we have taken a chicken to our local veterinarian, sensed the unseen smirk and silent whispers about les fous anglais (the mad English), and retreated in shame at our pathetic feelings for a condemned bird. Who would take a hen to a vet, ask the French, typically?

We fully expected Annie to tell us to put him out of his misery and to prepare him for the pot (her pot I might add, because despite being a farmer’s daughter, I just wouldn’t be able to eat him). However, it just shows how wrong one can be, for on this occasion she felt sure it was a damaged tendon and that he could very well get better enough to lead a life on one limping leg.

Meanwhile, her husband was quietly working on his grandson’s hen-house roof. We exchanged bisous, commented on the weather, and asked him to pop over and check we had been pruning our vines correctly; last year with his advice we had a bumper harvest. All was well – we’d done the right amount of pruning in the correct places on each vine.

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This is just as I hoped our life would be, with easy friendships amongst amazing, real, people – where life consists of seasons, growth, worn but comfortable clothes, a car that might not be the latest model but always gets us from A to B and a house that might have a window that occasionally leaks and a draughty front door.  I cannot tell you how happy and content we feel here, nor how welcome we have been made to feel. When I speak my accent might be a little different but I don’t feel like an outsider, I feel at home.

A sad but wonderful thing happened this week. Roddy was perched 30’ up atop a ladder on the side of the house, peering into the innards of the satellite dish, when a man in his late 50’s shuffled to a halt in the entrance to the gate, peering inside with curiosity. The gates were most unusually wide open and Roddy watched intrigued as the man stopped to gaze. There was something about the situation that made Roddy start down the ladder, and as he did so, a woman came into view and tried to pull the man away.

Roddy wandered over to the gate and gently asked if he could help.

The man looked at him, confused, and the woman spoke up instead. “I’m sorry, he just wanted to look inside, we’ll go…” and her voice trailed off as the man pushed a little into the drive. It was at this moment that Roddy realised the man was obviously not himself and perhaps was suffering from something unseen, which indeed proved to be the case.

“I,” stammered the man quite abruptly, the words rushing out, “I was born here,” and turning to the little gîte, he pointed and continued, “I was born in there, 58 years ago; my father was the farmer here for the owners of the house,” and with that he swept out an arm to encompass all around him. Roddy stood there stunned in amazement.

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The man’s wife shuffled a little with embarrassment, and plucked at his sleeve, pulling him away, but Roddy wanted to talk with the man, and invited the couple in to look around.

The story continued in fits and bursts as the gîte was duly visited, and continued during a tour of the garden that followed, much of which has changed in the intervening 40 odd years. The man pointed out some features which were new to him, and lamented the passing of others. His favourite tractor-shed had gone, and so had many trees (as though we needed more!). Roddy said later it was so sad to see someone so relatively young with the first signs of Alzheimers, a recent diagnosis which explained much. It was also heartbreaking that the man had so few memories, and seemed at a loss to explain or understand what had happened since he had last been here.

It was his wife who gave up most of the details. The man’s name was Pascal, and he had indeed been the son of the farmer, spending most of his childhood in the little cottage alongside our house, before moving on in the 1970’s. Pascal had eventually gone to sea for a living, working as a carpenter on freight ships for much of his life, but he’d sadly suffered a work related accident some ten years previously with some solvents in an enclosed space that had left him with brain damage. Now he lived in a small house further down the village, his wife looking after him full-time. It turned out that they often passed our gates on their walks around the neighbourhood, but this had been the first time they’d been by when they had been open.

Roddy suggested taking a photograph of them to sit on their mantel, promising to print it out and put it in their letterbox. As they left, Pascal’s wife turned to Roddy and with tears in her eyes said that the visit was something that would not be forgotten, a culmination of a burning desire on Pascal’s part to go through the gates, back to his childhood, something he has wished for each time he had passed the gate on the couple’s walks through the village over the years.

img_2559I would love to have stayed and talked to him too, but I was, as is far too frequently the case, already late to collect children from school. I suspect we will have them to lunch this summer, and hope we can learn a little more about the history of the house and the ancient 15 hectares (long since sold off) that once fed a village.

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191 thoughts on “Listening to the Locals

  • Such loveley pics and oh how comforting it is to see the spring pushing itself and everything around it bursting into life after a long sleep, you must be further south than us as we are still quite cold although it is warming ever so slightly

    • Thanks Roz, isn’t it wonderful to see these little signs of Spring. We are way down south of La Rochelle in the Charente Maritime, but we are also very close to the coast so we benefit from the real microclimate so often talked about here and also a generally very mild temperate coastal climate. We rarely get a frost at night which is why the cold weather of a couple of weeks ago was such a shock and great excitement for all children! Stay warm xx

  • You’ve hit the nail on the head, isn’t this just as life should be, this is why we moved to Normandy 20 years ago and why we are still loving it today. Who cares about cars or designer clothes, they certainly aren’t necessary for a happy life. I think you speak for us all Susan, when you talk of how life should be. Bravo

    • Thanks so much Jackie, of course we all like nice things, I do, our children do, but we also, I hope, appreciate the little things, helped so much by the fact that no one around here is in the least bit materialistic. I agree, this very lifestyle is why most of us moved here. Here’s to another 20 years in France for you! xx

  • What a lovely story. I am sure you made his day and how lucky to meet someone who knew the house some 50 years ago.
    Does Roddy speak fluent French?

    • He brought tears to my eyes, I would love to have walked around with him too, we both speak, I like to think, fluent French, but I only had time to say a brief hello, I had to collect children from school xx

      • How did you learn French? I have spoken it since birth but Stuart is struggling to learn it. He is trying but it definitely affects our socializing as he cannot join in.

      • We both did French from an early age at school, Roddy has a natural aptitude for languages, for which I envy him hugely, I struggled far more than he did, but as we only have French friends I have had no choice but to get better!! I would so love to meet you both, I have a feeling Stuart and Roddy would get on like a house on fire, no idea why, I just have an inkling!!

  • “Keeping the gate open”………could this not be a metaphor for all of us? To see someone who they really are- human. Such a gift you were to that family. When the mind leaves, all are affected not only the patient. My 96 year old grandmother is mostly gone these days, just last week she packed her bags and was waiting in the common area of her memory care unit- the “train was late”, she told all who passed her. Her father was a conductor on a train that traveled the width of North Dakota in her youth, today she often returns to these fond memories and times.

    Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your life, a picture of what many of us would love to have in our own lives!

    • Oh Jill, my own grandmother who was a sharp as a tack for a very long time, also retreated in ‘olden’ times when she was way over 90 and as a fervent traveller (very unusual in her time, but then she was very unusual in most things) she also did the ‘packed suitcase’ trick a few times. Also, when I lived in South Devon, I plucked up a few times a friend’s mum when I found her waiting at the bus stop, very indecently clothed and in different shoes (one houseshoe and one sandal etc). I then went back with her to her house and when she was correctly dressed I brought her to her son’s stall in town. Our friend never forgets the little good we did to his mother; for me it was the most natural thing to do but also, years later, we often laughed at those ‘stories’.

    • I totally agree with you. It is so sad and such a horrible illness and I think all we can do is show patience and compassion. But how wonderful that you still have your Grandmother alive at 96 years old and what a great age and that she obviously has such fond memories, I hope at least she is happy. I am sure she won’t understand but give her a big hug from me in France. xx

  • As I was reading along and enjoying the beautiful photos, I was thinking how much I loved the one of the chicken and the beautiful young gardener in training, when you got to the last story. What a nice thing you did by spending some time with this gentleman. And, I’m sure that photo will be front and center in his current home.

    • Young gardener in training I hope Judy! Wednesday afternoon there is no school here and I love to get the children outdoors doing things, plus it is a great help and there is always much to be done! It is such a lovely photo of Pascal and his wife, I am so happy we were able to meet them, quite by chance. xx

  • Great pictures & great to see the family all doing chores together and enjoying it! (Exactly what we loved about your family life that we saw when we were in the gite)
    Lovely story about the local who used to live in the gite, so nice of you to invite them in to his place of birth! Typical ‘Hays’ hospitality!

    • As you know only too well Yvonne, far too many jobs always need doing here! But hopefully less this year than last, big plans for the hedge which is nearly finished, the flower bed behind it and the vegetable garden this year! Hope you are both well, wherever you are, and enjoying your new home xx

  • Thank you for sharing – what a wonderful story! My 92 yr. old mother-in-law has dementia that suddenly get worse after a fall last year and she seems to remember things from her childhood, too.

    • Thanks Carrie, I think the best thing we can do is just be there and listen and be grateful to have elderly relatives. I hope we get to talk more to Pascal and his wife and that in this small way we will be able to bring him some happiness. xx

    • I know it is so sad, I wish I had been able to stay and talk to him, reading Roddy’s account of this brought tears to my eyes, I am so glad he was able to come in and have a look around. xx

  • A wonderful post…thank you so much. I love the chickens….and pruning back as my Mother used to say is key to just about most things…..and so it will be exciting to find out just how many nuts you are able to harvest down the road. The story about Pascal is very special and I am quite sure that over a long summer’s lunch much will be revealed….How lovely that you and the family have found your ‘place under the sun’ – I to hope that I will find that special place and be part of a community in the same way. Following your blog gives me new resolve and hope. Continue to enjoy the day and have a lovely weekend….oh and by the way seeing the photographs of spring flowers peeking through is indeed a lovely thing. Janet xx

    • It will be really exciting to see if we now get nuts, we have so many trees, maybe 20 or so, I haven’t actually counted, but there should be plenty of nuts, so fingers crossed! I really hope you find a special place too, I cannot tell you how welcome we have been made to feel and how much a part of the community. Just that chatting across the fence, it is so incredibly special, it feels good. Hope you have a lovely weekend too, I think it might be time to batten down the hatches in the UK? If the forecast is correct and maybe even a little here too on Saturday morning! xx

      • I think you might be right about the weather here…it’s starting to look a little ominous…apparently tomorrow could be quite stormy….nevertheless…there are shoots of spring everywhere if one looks….Janet .xx

      • I shall watch the weather closely and keep my fingers crossed for you! Hints of spring are indeed everywhere to be seen, I absolutely love this time of year, once the daffodils are blooming en masse then I know the warmer weather is here to stay. xx

      • and I am sure you will put a wonderful modern spin on them. Can’t wait until ours are all out in bloom, when we first arrived here there were none, I planted over 1000 bulbs, now I look forward to them every spring, a sure sign the weather is warming up! xx

  • Honestly, you seem to attract everything and everybody ‘good’ – what a touching (I have tears in my eyes) story and well done for you. I would have done exactly the same thing and also I would invite them for a meal later on in the year…. I firmly believe that nothing happens without a reason (although lately one wonders, with politics etc.) And I was thinking how hard the wife of this poor man must be feeling, having lost her able husband and having to look after an Alzheimer affected man. He looks so awfully young. My heart is hurting for them both. It’s often the very clever ones who are affected with this disease and of course having inhaled those poisonous fumes created terrible damage to the brain. Those dear poor people. May your goodness shown to them give them some joy when they look at the photo on their mantelpiece… I too have passed ‘through the fumes of a fire’ (of a plastic moulds fabric and my HH jumped out of the car, left the door open and disappeared for 10’….. By the time I climbed out of my seat to shut the door, I already contractée enough ‘burns’ of the lungs that I have asthma since then….). NOT that I would compare my minor suffering to theirs.
    Now, to the rest: How on earth are you able to ‘bag the BEST’ on everything? Your own landscape gardner just at the tips of your fingers…. THAT IS LUCKY! I’m so glad for you.
    I cried out with joy when I saw your chicken catching the sun on the swing bar 🙂
    About your injured chick: The daughter of my friend with the chickens I spoke about a few times took one sick bird into the house, wrapped her up and drop fed her special ‘meals’, gave her massages etc and after 5 days, the chicken wasn’t ending up in a casserole but was well again…. You’re not the only ones deeply caring for their birds – and everybody needs an Annie for good advice but very few have access to one!
    My garden ‘features’ many flowers for a very long time already but also some plant ‘cadavres’ – many were out too early and got killed with the sudden and harsh cold & frost. We have 11°C today but it’s not sunny. There would be so much more to say, but for now it’s THANK YOU to both of you & God bless your kindness.

    • Oh my goodness how lucky you and your husband were to escape alive, it sounds horrific. I am so happy our gates were, most unusually open, just because I was running in between the two schools and dropped Gigi off before I went on to collect the others! Pure chance. We are so lucky to have our own landscape gardener to help, he has advised on so much, we put in an entire hedge of 8′ mature flowering shrubs and he got everything at cost for us, but first we sat with his huge colourful gardening book open, over a glass of wine of course, and we discussed what we wanted and what would work. I cannot tell you how fortunate we are. Annie is fantastic, she’s a surrogate grandmother to our children now and she can still catch a chicken quicker than any of us! 13C here today, but grey too, but looks like a real storm is heading our way in the early hours of Saturday morning, at the moment they forecast 95kph winds here on the coast with gusts over 150kph! Should be interesting! The first night here for Millie’s Spanish exchange student! Hope the old house doesn’t rattle and creak too much!! xx

  • Such a lovely story, I had a tear in my eye reading about Pascal. How wonderful that he has finally seen his old home again. It just goes to show that a small gesture can make somebody’s day, we all need to remember that I think. I look forward to reading about his lunch with you!

    • Janet, he brought tears to my eyes too, I was so happy that he was able to come in and look around, I really hope they do come and have lunch in the summer, this was, after all, his home for so long. Even if he doesn’t remember, anything that brings a little happiness to his days is good. xx

  • What a wonderful visit from Pascal and co. It’s also lovely to see your lovely chooks out and about (ours are under DEFRA-enforced house arrest). It’s funny how the Brits have become chicken-mad. Whereas your vet would snigger at you for nursing a chicken, I called our very nice vet today for some meds for our darling cockerel Flo, and it turns out he keeps chickens as pets too. I am sure that pet chickens in the UK are a major source of income for vets, so it is very different!

    • So yours are under house arrest because of Avian bird flu? Our neighbours are French and they are even more chicken mad than we are!! Up until ten years ago, every newcomer to the village (we are the only English for miles around) was given a pair of chickens by the Mayor! I just love this story. But yes, the British seem to always come to France and keep chickens! I was so surprised when Annie actually said we must save him and keep him! But our vet, although they deal with farm animals, do admit they very rarely see chickens! Partly I think because most hens here tend to be more of the hybrid variety purely for meat and egg laying, there are far fewer rare breeds. Intrigued to know more about the chicken house arrest? xx

  • What a lovely post. Your garden is fabulous, I love the black frizziness on the swing, hope the rooster will soon be better. I too have taken various poultry to the vets, including hens, geese and a turkey, in brown paper bags and cardboard boxes, and endured the scorn of people in the waiting room and, I’m afraid to say, the indifference to the vets. How nice that Annie didn’t want to consign poor Fritz to the pot. 🙂

    How kind you were to Pascal and his wife; the visit obviously meant to much to him and brought him great happiness.

    • Thank you so much, the little black hen, Hermione is so cute, I think she rather likes having a swing, she often hops up on her own accord! Our vet has actually been very helpful with chickens, even offering to do a post mortem on one and refusing to let us pay. They have also helped with medicine for respiratory problems etc., I cannot fault the vet, he is brilliant and helpful, but I just know they are laughing at the amount we will pay for an 11 euro chicken!! Do you know, I think that perhaps it is because the farm animal vet is in the centre of Rochefort, a good sized quite cosmopolitan town, perhaps they too are more cosmopolitan than a very rural farm vet? Just a thought? Having said that I was surprised that dear Fritz was not to be consigned to the pot, and rather relieved, he’s improving a little each day, so fingers crossed. It was so lovely to meet Pascal and his wife, I just hope we are able to see them again and that they will come in the warmer months. xx

  • This brought tears to my eyes, I can just picture the delight on Pascal’s face when the gate was open, how kind you are and I agree with so many of these comments, this is how we should treat one another.

    • It brought tears to my eyes too, I am so happy the gates were open and I am so pleased we were able to show him around, I watched as he looked over the wall, just looking. It’s always lovely to help others in any small way we can xx

    • Thank you so much Mary, and I can truly tell you, it is such fun being able to share so much, I love being able to show photos of the area where we live and describing the locals and the way of life. Hope you have a wonderful end to the week xx

  • Love the fluffy hen on the swing 🙂

    A charming story, and thank you for being so kind to the visiting couple. My mother has dementia and it is important that people continue to interact with dementia sufferers in as normal a way as possible. Both in my house here in France and my house in Australia I’ve had visits from people who grew up in the house. Both times they sort of lurked about outside until I came over and spoke to them. In Australia the woman cried to see the interior again, which still had the same paint scheme as when she lived there. In France I was given some old photos of the place to copy, featuring the man’s grandfather and his horses, which were well known in the village.

    • Hermione, the hen on the swing just loves to hop up on her own accord, it’s her special place! I am afraid I don’t know much about dementia, but it just seemed natural that he should come in and be shown around, I would like to have talked to both Pascal and his wife more, but I was rushing in between collecting children from school. I sincerely hope they will come back in the warmer months. How wonderful that you have had people visit both here and in Australia and I would love to receive the old photos, I love knowing more about how things were, how lucky you are to know so much more now and to have such photos. xx

  • Dear Susan, Saved your post for my am chocolate chai tea and oatmeal with berries. The perfect breakfast shared with you, your family and locals from here in Washington DC. My city is sad right now and your blog is bringing a little of your winter sunshine into our lives. Thank you. Just want you to know that your endeavors mean so much. xo

    • I hope you had a wonderful breakfast, it certainly sounded utterly delicious, I often have porridge (oatmeal) with berries, sadly frozen, but still delicious on winter mornings. Hope you are having a lovely day, anything that brings a little sunshine is always good in my opinion. Just so you know, I really do love writing these posts and sharing our lifestyle here and I do truly feel so privileged to be able to chat to so many people, it is this interaction that makes it all so special. xx

  • Spring is such a special time. I check every plant, bush and tree everyday to look for their renewal. It is interesting to live in a town with a long history and how it is revealed. Your house seems to draw people back.

    • I love the history here and I love knowing about the past and how things were, it is truly fascinating. Like you, I can often be seen looking at the most minute details in the garden, checking a branch for signs of life, every day I am willing the daffodils to all come into flower, then I know we are well on the way to warmer weather. xx

  • Oh my gosh, what a chance but oh-so charming encounter! You treated that fellow with such grace and warmth, even with an addled mind, no doubt it will remain a cherished thought along with his childhood memories of your home. My hat’s off to you for your graceful hospitality and good will. I hope you are able to visit with Pascal and his wife again soon and learn more. Congrats on getting so much done on the garden. Hopefully your efforts will be rewarded with loads of hazelnuts. Wishing the rooster a speedy recovery and more signs of spring will be forthwith soon. The transition this time of year is a fascinating one and rewards the soul with light, texture and beauty.

    • Oh I do hope he remembers his visit here and that it brings a smile to his face, it was so fortunate that the gates were open and that we were outside just as he was passing and I really hope we see him again and indeed learn a great deal more, I find it fascinating to learn the history of where we are living, we know quite a lot from the family who owned the house, but have never before had the chance to speak to anyone who lived in the cottage. I am secretly hoping we might get lots of nuts now, but also I just know the herbaceous border is going to benefit so greatly with so much added light. Now we just have to get it all finished and then all the branches cleared away, it’s a long job! xx

  • The picture of the couple intrigued me. I think of their daily lives and the effort it takes on the part of the wife to care for her husband. I know the French don’t smile, like we Americans do, when having their picture taken. But I see so much in the wife’s expression of what her life has become. Or, am I reading too much into this? Whatever, having them to lunch in the summer will be a blessing, surely. I eagerly await that event and your telling of it

    • “I think of their daily lives and the effort it takes on the part of the wife to care for her husband…….But I see so much in the wife’s expression of what her life has become.”

      Bless you dear Bonnie, you have realised the situation only too well; you must be a very empathetic soul. I talked with the wife at length, and yes, she does not enjoy a life such as most of us here would live. I would love to find a way to help her, I don’t know whether she has help from any source at all. It may be more than one lunch we share with them, I certainly hope so.

    • I do agree Bonnie, in the short meeting I had with them I can see that life was very hard for Pascal’s wife, she must have so much patience, it’s difficult and in a man so relatively young. I really hope they do come back for lunch, in the warmer months when we can eat outside which I always find is more relaxed and puts people at ease and I promise I will share it. xx

  • Such a lovely post! I’m glad the flora and fauna are gradually appearing, and becoming more spring like. And what a lovely story sbout the guy who lived in the house many years ago. You photos are excellent, I can imagine being there.

    • It is so much more springlike already, every day I see a new sign of life and I can’t wait until the daffodils are blooming in their hundreds, then I know the warmer weather is really here to stay! xx

  • What a touching post! I’m sitting in my office with tears streaming down my face. My mom had Alzheimers and I know how much those old memories can mean to them. And I will say a prayer for his wife for I know the stress of being a caregiver. On a lighter note, I have never felt the urge to hug a chicken, but I just want to wrap my arms around that fluffy chicken sitting on the swing and give it a good squeeze…lol!

    • Thank you Julia, and I am so sorry. I think his poor wife does struggle, I definitely got that impression, it must be very difficult for her and he is so relatively young. The chicken is called Hermione, she is adorable, she likes to hop up of her own accord and have a little swing! I never realised until we had our own chickens what great characters they are. xx

    • Thank you so much, I am so glad that the gates were open and we happened to be outside as they were passing, it was so lovely that he finally got to look around and I hope they return. Wishing you a very happy spring too, it is only just around the corner now! xx

  • A lovely post filled with love and tenderness. And a reminder for me that this spring we will once again fill our hen house with chickens…they are so fun and become part of the family. 🙂

    • Thanks so much. Yes, do get chickens this spring, they are such fun, I never realised that they could be such fabulous characters and also so calming, I love just standing watching them as they go about their daily business and the eggs are of course a huge bonus! xx

  • What a moving post. And for me, you reminded me of the hosts of violets in our garden in France: they’re rarish here, and the ones I tried to bring back didn’t survive. I console myself that the daffodils are yet to come, and they didn’t get much of an outiung in our part of France. For me, spring has always meant an abundance of daffodils.

    • I don’t think we see anywhere near as many violets as we used to. I remember them as a child, but I hardly ever see any here, just the ones that we have in the garden and they are so pretty. There were no daffodils at all here when we bought the house, I remember our first spring, I was so excited imagining all the bulbs that would appear and nothing! In the autumn I quickly rectified that and planted over a thousand bulbs, now I love it once they are all in flower, the chicken garden becomes a mass of yellow. They are all in bud now and it will only be a couple of weeks, a sure sign then that the warmer weather will be here to stay. For me too, spring and daffodils go hand in hand xx

  • not at all strange to take a chicken to the vets, says the woman who did exactly the same thing in the UK. I love the picture of the black fluffy chicken playing on the swing

    • I am so glad we are not alone in this, it seems quite a few of us have taken our chickens to the vet. The fluffy chicken is Hermione, named by the children after Harry Potter! She loves to hop up on the swing of her own accord, it is her special place! xx

    • Thanks so much Debbie, it was a story that I just had to tell as it brought tears to my eyes, I was so happy that the gates just happened to be open and that we were outside as they passed, pure coincidence and it was obviously meant to be. xx

  • I had been told, that pruning a shrub or bush shows who is the boss, I rather doubt that and improving sunlight is the real reason for increased production. Lovely encounter with Pascal and his wife.

    • Well I guess it makes sense but I rather think you are right that the sunlight is the real reason things do better, or because we remove the weaker branches that sap energy from the shrub or tree. Either way, let’s just hope that we now get a bumper crop and the herbaceous border beyond gets the light it so badly needs, then it will be a win win situation! So happy we got to meet Pascal and his wife, I hope we get to see them again and I hope we get to learn more stories about the village and our house, but most of all I am just happy we brought him a little happiness xx

  • I’m glad you saved Fritz ( is he a Frizzle?) from the pot. Some of my chooks look like they are on their last legs then miraculously recover. I have two silky bantoms that must be around 5 years old now. Those hazlewood logs look nice- will they be used for something or put in the firewood stack? You seem to be getting a few visitors, Susan, rediscovering their lost childhood at your house. This man then last week the plumber. There may be more coming. It is nice that you welcome them. I am enjoying the sprinkling of French in your prose too. It’s all slowly coming back: may have to do a refresher course before our big trip this year.

    • Yes Fritz is Frizzle and so is the little black hen, Hermione, who loves to hop up and sit on the swing! I love silkies, we had one, she was gorgeous, but she met a very sad ending and we have never got another one, we now have a mixture of several different breeds, but I think the little Pekin Bantams are still my favourites. The hazel will certainly find themselves being very useful around the garden, we have to trim all of the branches, it’s going to take ages to get everything cut and put away, but I am already thinking of plenty of uses! Where are you visiting on your big trip? Will we get to meet you?? xx

      • We are first touring around York then Isle of Skye in August, then off to Berlin, Krakow, Prague and so on for a while, then sometime in late September we should arrive in France. we have a birthday party to attend in Cassis and friends in Aix, so we are still working out where to base ourselves for a month. I love the Dordogne but have stayed before in Languedoc and may go there. I hope we can meet up Susan- shall talk to Mr Planning Officer when we finally pin down a long term house rental. x

      • Wow that sounds like the most incredible trip. If there is any way you can get this far north would love to welcome you here, keep it in mind with the planning department! xx

      • Susan, do you also have a gite? There aren’t any links on your blog so do you have it listed somewhere? I think we may be staying at Lombraud in Perigord, not so far from La Rochelle? Is that near you?

  • Who hasn’t gone back to a childhood home or haunt, seeking memories? It was very good of you to let him in. And now you have new friends.
    Folks in the village are excellent resources. When we first arrived, they gave us recommendations for doctors and dentists and baby swimming and yoga and you name it. The bakery has the most accurate weather report–it’s the main topic of conversation of the people in line at all times, and they are always right. And even if you don’t ask, someone will tell you how you should be pruning your vegetation.
    It’s very warm here, too, and I also shot a ton of photos during my run today. I swear it’s earlier than even last year.

    • It’s us British who apparently are known for our love of talking about the weather, but I totally agree with you, the French are equally as passionate about it, although I am not so sure I agree that they are always right!!! It’s beautifully warm here but rainy today, but we are way behind last year, that was one of the warmest on record here and we had daffodils in bloom everywhere by now and the plum trees were all in blossom in January. I would say we are about a month behind last year, but that we are bang on track for normal, last year was exceptional which was actually bad for the garden, everything was out of sync. Apparently we have gale force winds and storms arriving tomorrow night! xx

  • Oh gosh, I hope Fritz recovers. I would be the one taking chickens to the vet, never mind what the locals think!
    Your work on the trees looks excellent, it will start them off well for the year. I need to tackle an Acer before the sap starts to rise. If only the rain would stop for a while. 16C sounds just perfect!!

    • Fritz is a little better today, so fingers crossed. We just have to finish the hazels, it’s been a really long job and then we have to cut all the branches lying on the ground and clear them up, but plenty of great hazel whips for the garden. It was pouring with rain here today and then we have gale force winds and storms forecast for tomorrow night. I see the UK also has the threat of very severe weather, hope it doesn’t affect you, stay warm and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for some warmer weather for you xx

  • There is something so lovely about Pascal having the chance to revisit his childhood home – I’m sure as time goes by you’ll learn so much more about your place & its history & I’m sure he will love having the chance to recount it. What a wonderful thing to happen

    • I am so glad that the gates were open and that we happened to be outside, what a lucky coincidence. I hope that he is able to come back again so that we can learn more but mostly because I hope it gave him a little happiness. xx

      • We once had a chap turn up at a house we owned at the time on the North Cornwall coast – he’d stayed in the house each summer just after the war when he’d come round on his dad’s fishing boat. He told us wonderful stories about the landlady who used to keep seabirds in a big netted area behind the house for the eggs, but also used to cook on the ancient range we’d just found hidden behind a false wall in the kitchen! His visit really added to our enjoyment of the house & I’m sure Pascal will love being able to talk about his past there bringing you happiness as well as him x

      • Oh wow, was it because of him that you found the range? Knowing little stories and the history behind our homes really is so special, I really hope he is able to remember a few more things to tell us and also I hope we can bring him a little more happiness. Back to the range though, how can someone just hide something like that behind a false wall, what an incredible find, I can just imagine the shock when you discovered it, what made you remove the false wall, or even realise it was a false wall? Xx

      • Funnily enough we had found it about a month before he arrived – there was a hideous cupboard at the end of the kitchen seemingly built into the wall at waist height – when my hubby knocked against the wall below, it sounded hollow so he pulled the cupboard out & the range was below, behind the wall. I suppose it was heavy & easier just to hide than remove. It was cracked so unusable, but looked lovely in what was the old fireplace, but apparently the landlady had cooked all the meals on it when she ran the guest house – incredible really! X

      • What a great story, I always think it is fun to uncover something like that, although sadly no great surprising secrets were found here! Are you still in Cornwall now? xx

      • That’s a shame, but houses are such good fun – We don’t live in Cornwall any longer, but hopped over the Tamar to Devon & spend our time between there & our little place in France hoping to make the move fully when the boys finish school in a couple of years x

      • I will always love Devon, two of our brood were born in Exeter and we still have many friends there. You sound as if you have the perfect plan, I also love Provence! If ever you are driving down and passing this way, come by and say hello, always a meal and glass of wine here! Xx

      • That’s really kind of you thanks – we used to visit the Charente Maritime a lot when our boys were younger & they all cycled through it again last summer when they rode from Dartmoor to Sète (quite an adventure!) – we’ll probably move closer to Exeter this year as our boys are at the College there & the travelling is a bit of a bind, but Exeter is such a lovely city it’s hardly a problem! Take care xx

      • Dartmoor to Sete, a town I know quite well, is a very long way, well done them. Exeter is truly lovely, our two eldest daughters started their early school life at Exeter Cathedral School before we left the UK. I have very fond memories of their time there. Xx

      • It is a lovely city & we’re so lucky to have it on our doorstep! This year the boys are looking to cycle through the WW1 battlefields- so the planning has begun again! Needless to say I’ll be holding the fort & covering logistics in Provence 😉 x

      • Yes you are, it certainly is a lovely city, we have many friends there and all around Devon. Your boys are serious cyclists, what great adventures they are having and I have to admit holding the fort from Provence sounds like a pretty good job to me! Xx

    • WOW WOW WOW – just read your story of the hidden range – THIS is what makes us love our old abodes so much – history, stories, life lived to the full, making do with what one has got – and in more modern times meeting virtual friends on blogs, making new friends by commenting etc.
      Have just booked a short summer holiday in our beloved Devon 🙂 Where about are you?

    • Thank you, it is indeed horrible, I don’t know much about it, but it was a pleasure to be able to show Pascal around and to think that we gave him some happiness. If we get nuts I shall be utterly delighted, fingers crossed, either way we can’t do any worse than we are doing now!! xx

  • I love this post! I’m going to remember this heartwarming story of your kindness to Pascal and his wife. Having them to lunch will certainly bring a brightness to their life. What a lonely, sad road ahead of them, especially his wife.
    On a brighter note, does your family speak English or French at home?

    • Thanks so much Sally, you know I was just so happy that the gates happened to be open and we were outside when they passed, such a coincidence, it was obviously meant to be. And if it brought a little happiness to his life then that is just wonderful, he is so relatively young, it’s so sad. Onto the French/English, we speak English at home, because the children speak French all day at school and I really want them to keep their English, especially the younger ones, it’s important that they increase their vocabulary as they get older. They really are 100% bilingual, what I love the most is when they speak French no one would know they are not French, there is no foreign accent and yet when they speak English no one would know they are not English, there is no trace of a French accent then at all! Xx

    • I know, so relatively young, but what a great coincidence that the gates were open and that we were outside by them when he happened to pass, it was obviously meant to be and I am so pleased we were able to bring him a little bit of happiness. Xx

  • The story of Pascal and Roddy was just what I needed to hear on a very cold night here. The world can be so small and wonderful!

    • So glad you enjoyed it Helen, it was wonderful that we happened to have the gates open and be outside as he passed by, it was obviously meant to be and it makes me so happy that maybe we were able to bring him just a little happiness xx

  • It’s so nice to be able to get advice and swap knowledge about plants and animals. Your last story is so sad, but the fact your husband was there and open to the situation and gave a tour really was a saving thing.

    • Local advice really is invaluable and we have been met with nothing but kindness and a willingness to help. I am so glad that we were able to show Pascal around, I hope it at least brought him a little happiness. xx

  • What a blessing and a joy to be surrounded by such wonderful neighbors, but I’m sure you’re also wonderful neighbors! Your last story is sad, but also beautiful. Who knows what that time meant to Pascal? Although we don’t have snow, it’s definitely NOT spring yet here. But, although difficult to believe, it’s already February, so spring can’t be too far away and, at least to me, winter has seemed to fly by. Best of all, it was light until well after 5 pm, for which I am devoutly thankful!

    janet

    • We often say to one another how lucky we are to find ourselves in a village with such helpful neighbours on either side. It certainly makes all the difference. I cannot quite believe it is February already either, where did January go? Winter has been just fine this year, sadly no snow, but the ice and frost was a bit of excitement! I remember in the UK when it used to get dark at 4pm, it’s the one thing that Izzi finds so hard to deal with at Uni in the UK. Here the earliest in December is 6pm which is quite acceptable! Have a lovely weekend and hope you had a good time with your parents xx

    • Hi Marie, thank you and welcome to the blog, So happy you found me and great to have you following along. It was so fortunate that our gates happened to be open and that we should be outside as he passed, it was obviously meant to be and I hope we managed to at least bring him a little happiness. Have a lovely upcoming weekend xx

  • What a delightful and heartbreaking story, I enjoyed this post. Visiting from Calypso in the Country’s Take Me Away link party. I love all things French and enjoyed a trip there years ago, how wonderful it must be to live there. I hope your rooster gets better.

    • Welcome to the blog Carole, I hope you will come back and visit frequently and enjoy following along. Where did you visit when you came to France? I hope one day you get to come back again. Have a lovely weekend. Xx

      • My husband and I spent a week in Paris, getting there by train from Bruxelles. Then we went to Amsterdam. I love Paris and all things French, my kitchen is done is all French language items. I just did a blog hop Romantic Tablescapes, and the theme was Paris with an Eiffel Tower on the table. I did add you to my WordPress Reader, too!

      • Thanks so much Carole, it sounds as if you had a lovely trip to Europe, three of my favourite cities, but I have to admit I adore London as well. The tablescape sounds fantastic, going over to have a look later. Hope you are having a lovely weekend xx

  • I envy your life there! It seems like a wonderfully simple life, in a beautiful setting with your sweet family! You and Roddy did more than you know for that couple….such a nice story!

    • Hi Karen, it is a lovely life, I am not saying it is perfect, there are still all of lif’e usual chores and boring parts and dramas, but I certainly cannot complain, it is a very relaxed life, we live very much with the seasons, each one makes us appreciate the next one all the more and we really do appreciate the simple things. Plus it’s a great place to raise a family. Xx

  • They say we can learn something every day if take the time to stop and listen. How wonderful that you have such wonderful neighbors/town folk to offer advice and to tell you how to trim trees, grapes, work with chickens etc. A font of knowledge that years of living and working have given them.

    As for this couple…I have tears in my eyes. Brain damage and Alzehimers are terrible inflictions that affect not only the person but every other person in their life. You are so kind to let them come to see what you have done and to re-live if possible little bits from his childhood.

    • Hi Elizabeth, we really are terribly lucky with our neighbour’s and friends we have made here, everyone is so helpful and friendly and have made us so very welcome, it has certainly made living here very special. I am so happy that the gates were open and we happened to be outside by them when Pascal and his wife walked past. It was obviously meant to be and I only hope that we were able to bring him just a little bit of happiness. Have a great weekend xx

  • Susan,
    The story of Pascal and his wife is so touching. Roddy sounds like such a caring and compassionate man. You both are so lucky to have each other.
    I think of people in my past who have gone through similar situations as Pascal’s wife. In the case of Pascal’s wife she must be “pretty special.” I try (not always succeeding) to not judge because I have learned that we can never know the “pain” that one has been or is going through. There obviously is a great love for her husband.
    I do hope you have more lunches with them. Knowning you (now Roddy) one can only imagine what comfort you will bring to both of them. These type of these do not happen by chance; there is a Meaning in this for All of us: Open our Hearts and see the Lessons to be learned.
    Susan, you and Roddy, Pascal and his wife taught me a lesson today: To Keep My Heart Open and listen and learn from the love stories of others. And theirs is a Love Story!
    I hope the weather is “behaving.” Have a wondrful weekend with the family!
    Stephaniexx

    • It was just meant to be Stephanie. We never leave the gates open, it was just a chance thing as I was in between school runs and Roddy just happened to be by them outside, such a coincidence that they passed at that moment and I am so glad they did. I just hope it did bring him a slither of happiness. I am looking forward to inviting them for lunch in the spring, perhaps when we can eat outdoors as it always makes people so much more relaxed and he can look around more, it really is the least we can do because we have been shown such kindness by so many French people. Now changing the subject entirely, the weather is not behaving at all! Very mild, but VERY windy. We are the only part of France under a vigilance rouge (red alert) for weather tonight. Sustained winds of 100kph and gusts of 165kph between 4am and 7am, a night to shut the shutters for sure! Hope we don’t get blown away, but I dare say this old house has seen it all many times before, I am not even the slightest bit worried and Roddy, used to gale force winds whilst on a boat at sea, just smiles and says “that’s a fair bit of wind”! Millie’s Spanish correspondent arrived from Madrid tonight, she is here for 9 days, what a night to arrive! Have a lovely relaxing weekend xx

      • The weather has been so CRAZY in your area. It souinds like you and Roddy have it under control. It must be nice to have Millie home. Enjoy the time with Millie’s Spanish correspondent. Lucky young lady she is to be with such a lovely host family! Be safe…xx

      • The weather was horrific, we escaped with no damage, winds woke us up with the noise in the early hours. Friends all over the area have no electricity, other friends have huge amount of roof damage and garden damage, more rough weather tomorrow too apparently. Our young Spanis girl is absolutely gorgeous, having so much fun with her staying, she truly is delightful and it is quite hilarious, we have three languages, Spanish, French and English around the dining table! Hope you are having a lovely weekend, I am sure it is quieter than ours!! Xx

  • I jut love those chickens and your garden. I feel sure you will get nuts now. How kind you were to Pascal and his wife. Good things come to caring people like yourselves. God bless you and your family

  • It will be a long time before we see any signs of spring here, so I will have to simply enjoy yours 🙂

    The story of Pascal was really touching. What a wonderful treat for him to revisit his childhood memories. I hope there will be chance to have them return in the warm weather to share more stories.

    … and I LOVED the photo of the chicken on the swing 😀

    • You wouldn’t want ours this weekend Joanne, storm force winds all weekend, but last night or rather the early hours of this morning were particularly bad, 150kph, lots of roof damage all around and gardens totally trashed. We escaped with nothing but lots of mess in the garden fortunately. 250,000 homes without electricity this morning! Our village is quite low lying and apart from the odd tree down here and there seems to be fine plus we kept power which was good. I so hope Pascal and his wife will return for a meal in the warmer months, anything to bring a smile to his face. Hermione, the hen on the swing, loves to hope up there, it’s her special place! Xx

  • Aw, this is so sweet. I love these moments of returning to past lives, places we once lived in that have changed over time and are now occupied by “others”. It’s bittersweet and nostalgic. What a lovely moment to be able to share that with Pascal. 🙂

    • It was so lucky that our gates were open and we were near them outside when Pascal walked past, it was obviously meant to be and I am so happy we were able to at least bring a smile to his face. Hope you are having a lovely weekend. Xx

  • What a wonderful read on a Saturday afternoon. You certainly are living the dream. Loving the garden too. You have masses of Hazel and I have just one (on the basis that it has survived the winter). Purchased from Homebase for £9.99 it was just a twig when I planted it nearly 2 years ago. It’s not much bigger now BUT, you’ll be jealous, as last summer it had two Hazel nuts on it.

    • Oh how funny, well you have two more hazelnuts than we have and we have more than 20 trees and they are huge! Already I can see that the hibiscus on the other side of them is going to benefit from full sun once again, just as it should do, everything will be so much happier and if we get some nuts as well, that will be a huge bonus. You can be sure I shall write about it if we do!!! Xx

  • Your story brought tears to my eyes. I am sure it meant so much to him to be able to see where he lived. Your photos are so beautiful and how nice that you are already seeing signs of spring! I think it will be awhile for us. Thank you for linking up to Take Me Away. I always love reading the posts you link up! Enjoy your weekend!
    Shelley

    • I love linking up with your Take Me Away post and reading where everyone has been. I have to tell you reading about Pascal again brought tears to my eyes and I was here, it was just so incredibly moving to see his face and his reaction and just to bring a smile to his face. Hope you too are having a lovely weekend xx

    • We first came across les gendarmes in our sitting room our first spring here. Suddenly these bugs kept leaping out at us, we couldn’t work out where they came from, were they living in the beams? We searched high and low and it was a while before we realised they lived in the oak logs and with the warmth they had come out of hibernation and once inside with the heat of the fire they came alive, quite literally! To solve that we now only bring in a basket full at a time rather than storing a weeks worth in the room! Never seen them inside again! Hope you have signs of Spring, we now have several daffodils in flower. Have a lovely Sunday xx

  • Oh Susan, I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes! What a poignant story this is, about Pascal. Poor man, but you know, that meeting will give him some joy and maybe some peace for a while. And if you meet them again, and learn more about your home’s past, his memories, whilst sadly failing him, will live on with you. I think that is wonderful. I hope you are creating a journal in a lovely old bound book, with all the memories and history you discover about your home, along with some of your own beautiful photographs. I wonder if Pascal has any of your home when he lived there? Serendipity was at work that day you left the gates open, it was meant to be. Thank you for sharing this story. Very humbling.

    • Do you know Marian, it also made me cry, just rereading this brings tears to my eyes, I so hope we brought him just a little happiness and I hope that they will come for lunch in the warmer months,when we can eat outside, which is always just a little more relaxed. We will ask him if he has any photos, I would so love to see those and you can be sure I will share anything I find out, because it is fascinating. Hope you have had a lovely weekend, it’s been very rough and wild here! Xx

    • Thanks so much Stephanie, it is wonderful to see the days drawing out, it is now not dark here until about 6.30pm which is really nice, we now have several daffodils out but the weather is all over the place, this weekend has seen huge gales here and a lot of damage, we certainly are having quite an eventful winter! Xx

    • Thank you so much, it was such a coincidence that they happened to be passing as the gates were open and it is such a lovely story, I just had to share it. So happy to have at least brought a smile to his face for a short time. Xx

  • How lovely for Pascal that after all these years of walking past your gates they were finally open and he got to see in. And how lovely of you to show him around. I hope you do get to see him again in the summer. As for signs of spring down here, we’ve got blossom out and irises, mimosa everywhere and some violets but the night time temperatures are still very cold. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

    • We will certainly invite them for lunch in the summer when we can eat outdoors and everything is very relaxed. You are certainly way ahead of us, no blossom out here yet, lots of violets and we have a few daffodils, but the iris are a long way off still. Our weather is all over the place, we’ve had nights down to -7C, almost unheard of here followed by a week later days of 17C and then huge storms and gale force winds. It’s certainly being an interesting winter! Xx

  • What a fabulous garden you have Susan and gorgeous chooks, I suppose you grew up with them at the farm in Lindfield. (or was it Ardingly?) I hope your rooster is improved?
    What a sad story about Pascal, this is what I fear most and I confess one of the reasons that, although with much apprehension, I bought my holiday home in France. One just doesn’t know what the future will hold and so I intend to live life to the full now. I’m sure Pascal’s wife was very appreciative of your kindness and it’s a lovely idea to invite them back.
    Bonne semaine.

    • I did grow up with them, Lindfield, but I never took any notice of them, they were just there, a part of the farm! It wasn’t until we got our own here that I started to really enjoy keeping chickens! Fritz, the rooster, is very much improved thank you, he is out and about. I quite agree, no one knows what the future holds, I don’t believe one can look back or have regrets either, just make the most of every day, that’s how I try and live. Xx

  • I didn’t know it’s called Pyrrhocoris Apterus. I was small when I was intrigued when a couple of them were joined by their backs permanently, and one had to always walk backward. I wonder if it ever knew that it was in fact ‘backward’. It’s one of the very few memories I remember very starkly.

    And what a story <3, loved it shared it and followed your blog! I wish I can live in a place like you do someday. Reading about it feels like

    The pleasant slightly warmer winds that've just started flowing, sometimes blowing in India.

    https://journeymybrain.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/northern-indian-winds-during-feb-april/

    • I wonder if indeed it did ever know it was backward! What a great story and so funny that you have such clear memories of them. Thanks for sharing too. I hope some day you will get to visit here, I have spent many happy months travelling all around India, a country I really do love. Xx

    • I know exactly what you mean, perhaps not homesick but almost sick with desire, just a longing to be there, I remember feeling like that many years ago before we lived here when I would read something about the French lifestyle! Not long now and you can start to make the dream a reality! Xx

  • I’m glad it feels a bit like (early) spring somewhere! We’ve had yet another dump of snow here on the West Coast in Canada. That was a very moving encounter with Pascal and his wife, and lovely that you could all share a piece of his past, it must have been a bittersweet moment for him.

    • It did feel like spring last week, but then we got hit by an enormous storm, not particularly cold, although that is coming this week, but gale force winds and lots of damage. It’s really being quite an interesting winter! Alas we have not had any snow which is rather sad, but I am sure you are fed up of it by now, not much longer and Spring really will be here. Xx

  • Thank you so much for your beautiful photos! I have the same fantasy of living in France one day and tell all that will listen to me. As close as I can get to France right now is my home state of Louisiana.

    • Yes Spring is definitely on the way, plenty of daffodils are out now and I saw my first flowering mimosa in someone’s garden. It’s such fun seeing things start to come into flower. Xx

  • It sounds like it was meant to be that the gate just happened to be opened at the perfect opportunity so that you could meet Pascal and his wife. 🙂

    • I think it was meant to be, the perfect coincidence and I am so glad that it happened, I am so happy that maybe we brought a little happiness to Pascal, and I really hope they come and see us again in the warmer months, when we can eat outside, which is always more relaxed. Xx

  • There is something different about France. We felt it, you feel it and I’m sure that it has a lot to do with shard lives. We lived for two years in our Melbourne home before getting past a casual ‘hello’ when we saw neighbours in the street (which in itself was rare). In France, the proximity of the houses, the narrow laneways, the village shops and the fact that many of the children could walk to school meant that our lives were more communal. No sooner had we arrived in our village house in Talloires than we had neighbours knocking on the door to invite us for coffee and dinner. Maybe we were just lucky? Maybe we were just open to something different? Whatever it is, it works for me.

    PS You once mentioned that you had found it difficult to comment on my blog. Would love to know what makes it difficult so that I can change it – thanks!

    • I think village life is always different to life in big cities. Certainly in the UK, living in a small village is the same as it is in France, everyone is very friendly and keen to work as a community. This is why I love living in villages rather than in a more rural area, I love knowing everyone as we walk down the street. I tried commenting again and it appears the problem is fixed. There was a glitch with anyone using an apple computer or iPad being able to leave comments on blogger, however, it seems you have the updated version now where I have to confirm I am not a robot and then all works! xx

    • Catherine; sadly, I cannot share the same enthousiasm re friendly neighbours…. We never had the slightest problem in all the times we lived in Switzerland, Canada, England – ever! Friends, neighbours came, we had tea/coffee/wine/talks together, end of story.
      However, we live nr Paris, just outside of it, and in nearly 9 years we still only got to know (very well, at least that!) two neighbours. As we always did when we moved to a new place, we made a ‘tour’ of the neighbours, introduced ourselves, invited them for a drink – we only found closed, locked doors here – and I KNOW they KNEW that we were the newcomers (at the time) because the previous owners stayed 40 years at the house…. we found out (later on) that the French very much keep themselves to themselves and have no intention nor interest in having their doors open for others. This ONLY applies for the large cities as our previous experiences of travelling and visiting (and French spoken, well behaved) foreigners were absolutely just as pleasant as yours. I therefore think it’s truly a question not of a country but of a place’s energy, daily life, a question of ‘Leave me be’ and of being so stressed out in the daily life that you don’t want to have ANYTHING to do with anybody once you’re at home…. And it has saddened me beyond words, as I’m a very happy, outgoing and friendly person. It took me at least 3 to 4 months before I felt well liked and accepted even in my favourite boulangerie and butchers’ shop. NOW it’s all jokes and How are you today etc, but boy was it hard work! The friendliest person is the Arabic greengrocer nearby – and I’m hardly even buying from him. He told me that he likes me and HH because ‘you’re always smiling’ (considered to be a death sin, you have to show how stressed out you are). I could have kissed him but decided it wouldn’t do him nor us any good 🙂

    • Thanks Katie, I totally agree, he is so young, it is so sad, but let’s hope that his visit gave him just a tiny bit of happiness and we shall certainly invite him back in the summer to eat with us, it will be lovely to show him around some more. Hope you are having a lovely weekend xx

  • A wonderful story about real life in a small French town… I imagine your neighbors are happy to see you and your family enjoying taking care of your home and gardens.

    Judith

  • What a lovely story and couple. Fascinating to hear about the man’s childhood at the house and built up the history of the farm as well as help him recall his younger days. Lovely. The garden is looking great. I am so glad Spring is on its way! #allaboutfrance

    • I agree, it is lovely to think that maybe we brought a little happiness to his day and I really hope they do come back in the summer, so they can eat with us outdoors in the warmer weather, I would love to hear more about the house. It certainly felt like spring here today, just gorgeous! xx

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