Last year I wrote you all a letter. Last week we sat chatting to friends, reminiscing about school days and later. How letters were sent home to the family. Not for the first time I have realised how incredibly lucky we are to have the internet and social media. When it is used the right way it is utterly fabulous. But, and there is always a but, let’s not forget the power of the written word and I hope the power of the pen and the old fashioned letter will never be forgotten. So today I thought about writing to you again. Read more
It was always planned; that late in the winter we would find a suitable mate for Evie, our little Jack Russell, with the idea that she should have puppies in the spring.
Tuesday 4th Aug:
Hot. Too lazy to come down for breakfast. Lots of noise from the family about something. Bored, so lay in the sun for an hour, had a constitutional and then chased Rory round the garden for 10 minutes. I won on points. Sun crept over the house mid-afternoon so we had some shade on the terrace at last. Wish I could go in the pool, but I don’t actually like water! Too hot for a walk. Door-bell went about mid-afternoon, and amid much noise from everyone else a lady came in with a ‘thing’ – a puppy. OMG. My life is ruined. Snapped at it and hope that’s the end of it. Hopefully it’s not a keeper but only staying a couple of nights. The girls seem far too enamoured by it. Dad cuddled the damn thing. Hrmmph, not happy. If they expect me to sleep with ‘it’ they have another thought coming. However, although it’s very small, it is a girl. Possibilities for a decent date in a few months time, perhaps ? Had snacks under the supper table and went to bed. Forgot to clean my teeth. ‘It’ slept in the kitchen.
‘It’ howled all night. Didn’t sleep a wink.
Wednesday 5th Aug:
‘It’ had laid waste to the kitchen when I got down in the morning. Dad very busy with paper and bleach – good grief, how I hate the smell of that; it takes me back to my puppyhood days. Cheeky thing tried to eat my breakfast, snapped at it again. Hot morning, tried to snooze in the sun by the front door, but pesky ‘thing’ kept biting my ear. Thought I might take HER ear off or something, but Dad was much too attentive. Hopefully she will go back later today to where she came from and leave me in peace. I had to eat my breakfast outside for goodness sakes !
Spent the afternoon in the vegetable patch with mum, snoozed under a tomato plant. ‘it’ has a name, apparently – Evie. The girls still very excited by her, I have no idea why. She’s so small and useless for anything really. She came bounding down the garden at some stage and then started chasing the chickens, especially Falafal, the small cock. Now that was funny to watch, both of them pretty evenly matched for speed but Falafal managed to get the better of Evie. I watched amused as all the family shrieked round the garden after them. That was even funnier. Then she found the ducks, which was a very different kettle of fish.
Ducks 1, Evie 0.
Thursday 6th August:
Not a lot happened. Well, not for me. Evie tried to chew my face most of the day and I lost my temper a couple of times, I admit. She likes chasing my tail too, which is annoying. She learnt not to eat my food, anyway. I tried to keep my distance most of the day but gave up after lunch – she is very persistent. Rory and Clara find her fascinating and Rory seems intent on playing games with her. She, in turn, seems to find Rory extremely exciting and there were plenty of standoffs in the bushes until Rory had enough and climbed a tree. Stupid dog, she really is. It looks as though she’s going to stay, though, sigh. I’ll have to get used to her I guess. It’s very difficult refraining from finishing her food though. Got shouted at already for that. She seems to have some brains though and at least she’s pretty, no longer chasing chickens and no longer chasing the ducks – the latter not for the same reason as the former though.
Full time score: Ducks 3, Evie 0
Evie howled all night in the kitchen. Had to sleep upstairs under Dad’s pillow to cut out the noise. That was fun. Every time Dad went to sleep I’d lick his face…..very amusing.
Friday 7th August:
Pretty much the same as yesterday, though as Evie has now learnt to respect my space, I have a little more time for her. By the time we get around to going out for a drink in six month’s time I might even have got to like her, I suppose. Evie seems to have got the hang of going into the garden. I just can’t understand why everyone is so nice to her, and not to me. Why ? She’s so excitable and whizzes from A to B at high speed, little legs a-blur. At least she doesn’t yap too much, that’s a blessing. She also has stopped making so much noise at night. It’s almost as though she’s settling in, which is a bit much, quite honestly. She chews anything and everything and she likes those dried pigs ears – golly, goes through them like a dose of sweets. She’s welcome to them, eeeugh. I hate them.
Lots more noise in the night. I suggested she slept in the chicken house – that went down well.
Saturday 8th August:
Evie discovered the front garden today when Mum was hanging out the laundry. Massive noise and shouting when she discovered the drain through to the road, never seen people block something up so fast. I had no idea Mum was so good with bricks. I’m pretty sure Evie can get through to the house next door, but we’ll cross that fence when we come to it (see – I made a pun there !!). Otherwise a pretty boring morning – cats, chickens, ducks and me, all targets for Evie in varying amounts of energy and excitement. She’s definitely not keen on the ducks – when they start flapping those wings it’s a different kettle of fish for sure.
Went round to Michel’s for supper, Evie came too for some bizarre reason. I would have left her at home in a box or something. She understands the principals of ‘finders keepers’ far too well for my liking. I am definitely losing out on some scraps, I think. Supper was lots of little things on plates, ideally sized for me of course, but no one would drop anything. Most annoying. And of course Michel and his kids were all over Evie like a rash. No one paid me any attention at all in comparison. Had a long chat with their cat about the injustices of it all, then found out she’s going to be pregnant soon and have kittens. Kittens? I ask you, what is the point of that?? Why is everyone so obsessed with puppies and kittens? Mia and Sophia turned up at suppertime (they’re staying the night with us on their way south it seems), and I thought I’d receive some rapturous welcome from them, but no – it was all Evie this, Evie that. I think I looked a little sad as Dad gave me a slice of salami. Just the one, mind you.
To top it all off, when we got back home Dad went into the boot-room and started some sort of construction project. Much banging and hammering and he came back in the kitchen with some sort of hutch arrangement for Evie to sleep in. I laughed so hard, my sides hurt. What on earth was the point of that ??? Why would you coop her up when she could play all night in the kitchen??
Slept like a log. Not a sound from the kitchen. I’m certain I mentioned a hutch to Dad last week, didn’t I ?
Sunday 9th August:
Much praise for Mia in the morning after her suggestion of the apart-hotel for Evie. I can’t for the life of me work out why mum and Dad didn’t do it before, I’m sure I said something. Anyway, breakfast was cordial as well. Evie had hers in her little dining room in the apart-hotel, which meant I could have mine inside for a change. Great stuff.
Had a great mega-walk in the afternoon. I noticed, somewhat jealously, that Evie came too and was carried some of the way. I mean, what is that about ? It’s called a WALK, not a CARRY ! Duh ! and then she slept when we got home pretending to be tired! Anyway, lovely day, spent most of it lounging round the terrace, even found a roast potato under the lunch table, that was a big score. yum.
Evie spent her second night in the apart-hotel. Everyone else slept like logs. It truly was a great idea of mine. Shhh, I’m taking the credit even if it wasn’t my idea. Why didn’t they listen to me before ??
Monday 10th August:
Today was a pretty unmemorable day really except for a point in time when I woke up in the sun to find Evie lying across my paws, her little face just inches from mine. I’m not going to tell anyone, but I think she’s actually bearable. I’ll let her stay for a while, anyway.
Tuesday 11th August:
Drama today and Evie got wet. Ha ha. Everyone was in the garden this morning doing odds and sods and Evie found something delightfully green and moist to roll in. Never seen so many people in such a state; it’s just chicken-poo for goodness sakes. Anyway, to cut a long story short, out came the wheelbarrow, on went the tap, in went Evie and on went the shampoo. Something along those lines, but it appears Evie hates water as much as I do – good girl. Who wants that wet stuff anyway? Washed, dried and pampered, we slept in the sun together again for a while. As long as she leaves my ears alone we’ll get on, I guess. She does have bloody sharp teeth.
Everyone slept like logs again.
Wednesday 12th August:
All good, nothing to report. Found an old bone today behind the chicken shed but it made too much noise when I munched it too hard and Dad took it away. Sigh. Almost found an egg too but it was empty. Small dog Evie still here so I guess she is here to stay. She found some duck-poo to roll in after lunch and Dad took her away to the wheelbarrow again. Not so much shouting this time as Dad does not take prisoners and Evie had no chance to do anything but submit. I suspect she may not try that again for a while. Summer life is pretty good and the sun is still warm. Rory and Evie had a great game in the evening in the dark, chasing each other through the undergrowth. I think they like each other. I think I may even like her.
Slept wonderfully again. That hutch thing was a brilliant idea of mine.
Some of you may also be wondering what has happened to my Local Artisans series – fear not, it will be back next month when I interview another “local”. August is prime holiday month here in France and locals are either working every hour imaginable in the decent weather, making money from the tourists or are away themselves, so I decided to skip August and return with the next article in September. In the meantime I hope you enjoyed a week in the life of Bentley, something a little different which hopefully made you smile!
This week our lives turned upside down – we have a new puppy! We drove inland and chose her from a litter of six in the neighboring department of the Deux Sevres at the weekend and she was delivered to us on Tuesday afternoon amidst much excitement. A gorgeous little short legged, broken-coated Jack Russell whom we have named Evie. She is 9 weeks old and a playmate for Bentley; or at least, that is the plan. So far he has tolerated her! As have the chickens, the ducks and the cats, up to a point. Evie thinks everyone and everything is a playmate and is rather surprised when she is given short change by most of the other residents of the property, with the exception of the humans, who she has quickly come to realize dote on her hand and foot! I am sure you will get pretty bored with photos of her over the coming weeks and months, but at the moment Evie is incredibly difficult to photograph. She doesn’t understand the command ‘sit’, and she doesn’t stay still long enough for me to take a decent photo. One minute she is playing and the next she has collapsed in an exhausted heap, instantly sound asleep, as puppies are prone to do. As you may be able to tell I am quite smitten with our latest addition, and I just adore the fact she has black eyelashes on her left eye and white eyelashes on the right one!
Evie has arrived in August, of course; the busiest holiday month of the year. As a result, the roads are crowded and the resorts are bursting with people. Where we live, a mere fifteen minutes from the sea, is very different to the coastline where everyone is drawn to the vast flat Charente Maritime beaches like bees to a honeypot; the long glittering washes of sand are magnetic strips for jaded Parisians and others. There is much action on the water; be it surfing, or bodyboarding, or boating, or fishing, or swimming, and then one can also hire jet-skis, boats and windsurfers; the action is there for all to see and do. However the beaches are packed and as our son pointed out, they are just a sea of colour at this time of year, pimpled with colourful umbrellas and spots of extravagant bikinis; this is after all a major holiday destination which boasts the second highest levels of sunshine in France after the Mediterranean and it appears that this summer it is certainly living up to its reputation.
There are still beaches and tiny secret coves to be found where the crowds don’t go and the locals keep a closely guarded secret, even if some of them do involve a slight trek through vast sandunes and past ruined WWII bunkers subsiding softly into the coastline they were once built to protect.
But if you really don’t feel up to battling the traffic and the masses, it’s a great time to turn the other way and head inland! France is quite a big country and parts of it are very sparsely populated; something that is a part of it’s immense charm and a feature we simply adore. Turning away from the coast and driving in the opposite direction along a good selection of different routes soon brings you to beautiful countryside, where fields of maize ripen under the same sultry sun that wilts sunflowers in the heat. It’s amazing, even during France’s busiest holiday month there are really very few cars on the inland narrow country roads; one sees the odd local, the occasional tourist and some foreign cars, usually with either Dutch or British license plates. We pass houses that look neglected with their shutters firmly closed but they’re just going about that age old tradition, shutting out the sun and keeping the interior cool.
Locals sit in the shade, nothing is hurried, in such heat it cannot be; a game of boules under the coolness of trees, a quiet afternoon fishing by the river. In the country time passes slowly for locals who know how precious their summer is. Far from the maddening crowds the water flows slowly….
There are still plenty of watersports available on the River Charente, albeit with a slightly more relaxed atmosphere. Kayaking is very popular in France and it’s easy to find a spot to hire some for the day.
Without so many people it is possible to really enjoy the beauty of France. This is inland Charente Maritime, still only 30 to 40 minutes from the coast, but a world apart. Here restaurants still enjoy their summer visitors, but they’re not groaning with hordes of tourists; as a result, everyone is charming and everywhere looks so perfect – so perfectly French!
While enjoying a little bit of casual culture it’s also a good time to visit one of the many châteaux of the region. Château de Crazannes is well worth a visit, nestled amongst the trees just outside the village of the same name. Built in the XIVth and XVth centuries and classified as a listed historic monument in 1913, it was one of the first private castles to receive this classification in France. Both Edward lll’s son, the “Black Prince” and the King of France, Francois 1st, stayed here. It is here that the tale Puss in Boots is also based – this goes back to the XVIIth century when the Marquis of Carabas owned the Château and he is indeed the master in Charles Perrault’s tale.
In the grounds, the Roman chapel, the keep, the moat and the dovecote are the remains of an ancient medieval fortress, which used to be a place for the pilgrims to stay for the night on their way to St Jaques de Compostelle in Spain.
The best bit of all for us, of course, is that wonderful stretch of countryside between land and sea right on our doorstep – the Marais de Brouage; where cattle and horses roam and where there is wildlife in abundance. For us it seems untouched by tourism and ignored by most people as they speed past it on the way to their coastal resort.
On the one hand I am glad it is largely ignored, but on the other I am sad that so few people take the time to appreciate it; it’s somewhere where one can walk and cycle for hours on end and not see a soul. It’s a land where one can reflect, a place so near to everything and yet so far from it all; a place full of discovery and a place I will never forget. It’s a good place to call home.