Saturday, 28 January 2012

An afternoon walk

I went out for an afternoon walk around the lake and town yesterday afternoon and made a mental note that I must do it more often. You see so much more when you are walking than when you are in the car driving.
The weather is starting to pick up as well and gives a hint that Spring is on it's way.
Here is a renovated "Lavoir" near to me that I didn't even know was there, do people still use these? It was in very good condition and the water was crystal clear .
I then walked around the lake, there were loads of birds apart from the resident swans that always come towards you to see if you have any food for them.



I especially liked this family of ducks that were keeping pace with me as I walked along.








I must admit to not being very good when in comes to identifying birds! Anyone know what this pair are?





There was one shower of rain while I was out which was convenient as I was right outside a cafe/bar so a welcome opportunity for a beer. I then walked back near the " Moulin Du Chaos " the massive boulders that Huelgoat is famous for.
All in all about a 4 mile round trip and a very pleasant couple of hours out on a nice January afternoon.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

French Driving License

Avril's driving license is due to expire in a couple of Months so, although It may have been possible to renew it in the UK as we are now living in France for good we visited the local tax office ( Sous-Prefecture ) in Carhaix.

We were told that this was just a simple matter of handing in the UK one and a French one would be sent back! Of course we forgot about French bureaucracy!

So for anyone else deciding to do this here is what you need.

  1. Your UK plastic driving license
  2. your paper equivalent
  3. Your passport
  4. A utility bill proving your address
  5. 2 photos
  6. A stamped priority envelope ( currently euro2.18 )
  7. Your birth certificate
  8. Loads of spare time!
Avril had to hand in the UK license ( photocopies given back ) and was told that she should receive the new on in around 2 Months!

A few oddities that I'm sure are only applicable to France!

We are all so used to keeping our driving license on us in the form of a plastic card that easily fits in a wallet or purse. The French one however, when it comes back will be a  thin cardboard one that needs folding in 3 pieces.

The license is for life and never needs renewing, with no enquiries as you get older if you are fit to drive or can see perfectly.

Of course this also applies to the photo in it so it is perfectly possible to have a photo that is 40 years or more out of date! That is if the cardboard doesn't deteriorate over time.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Winter Warmer

Last night we went out with some friends to a place called  St Gelven which is in Guingamp, Cotes-d Armor. The evening was billed as a "Winter Warmer" and was held in the municipal hall and organised by the AIKB. ( click on link for details )

We got there just before 7pm and didn't leave until gone 11, It was a bit hard to judge but I guess there were at least a 100 people there. There was some entertainment by someone playing a steel drum while everyone was arriving and getting drinks etc.

There were tables set out ready for food, we started off with salad and quiche, which was followed by a hot main course with a choice of Lasagna, venison stew, Curry, rice and gammon. I had venison which is something I had never tasted before and very enjoyable indeed.

After the main course we had a cabaret by a amateur dramatics group "The harlequin Troupe" with a variety of acts.

The sweet was fruit and ice cream and  then coffee  followed by music from The Mad Hatters.
video
A couple of bottles of wine to complete the evening and all in all a very enjoyable night that I hope we will be repeating many times this coming year at a variety of different places.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Foraging

I was walking around the bottom end of a small meadow on the other side of our stream when I noticed a couple of small crab apples on the ground, when I picked them up I realised that there were quite a few there covered with the leaves that had fallen.
In the end I picked up about half a bucket full. Although they were pretty small we don't like for anything to go to waste so Avril had a go at making some Crab Apple Jelly. It was absolutely gorgeous! and something I had never tasted before
 
For anyone interested in giving it a go here are the details.

  • Wash the apples
  • Cut off any bad skin
  • put in to large pan
  • barely cover with water
  • cover and simmer until soft
  • Strain through a piece of muslin
  • Measure out 1 cup of juice to 3/4 cup of sugar
  • dissolve juice and sugar slowly
  • Then bring to rapid boil
  • keep testing small amount in a saucer until setting
  • Pour into warm sterilized jars and seal
  • Store in cool place
The roses, azalea, carnation in the picture were all from our garden today.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Out in the garden

Well, at last, what after seems like weeks of rain every single day I have been able to get out in the garden for a couple of days. It's far to early to be able to plant anything or even for that turn over the ground but it has given me chance to decide what area I'm going to use this year. As we only moved here 5 Months ago and have only put in fruit up to now I have plenty of scope (and free ground ) so the danger will be taking on too much in the first year.

What I have been able to get back on with is the topping of my fir trees, I say topping in a loose way, with my tongue  firmly in my cheek, as I'm taking off around 10 metres or so, and I'm sure the one I took down yesterday weighed around half a ton!
However I can now start to see some real progress as I am about a third of the way through the job.
Tree Lopping

Of course the more trees I trim the bigger my woodpile grows, It pales into insignificance compared to my French neighboughs, who like most who live in or near the countryside,here in Brittany seem to have a stockpile that would last a hundred years. But it is growing and if nothing else it shows I'm trying to "fit in".

They will need to season for at least a couple of years but the likelihood of us installing a wood-burner grows stronger by the day.
Wood Pile
Of course the really big advantage  and the reason I started in the first place is the amount of extra sunshine and light I will get at the back of the house, although they are well away from the house, the sun dips down under them in the evening and this should extend that by around a couple of hours in the Summer.


Monday, 9 January 2012

Driving in France


Living where I do in rural Brittany, driving is a real pleasure as there seem to be very few other cars on the road. I have even driven right through our local town without seeing another moving vehicle.

After approaching the Blackwall tunnel in London the other week in bumper to bumper traffic in the dark and in the rain and being carved up by a lorry, I was really glad to get back here for some sanity!

However driving here is different that's for sure.
How is it that whenever a car comes up behind you they think it absolutely necessary to sit right on your tail absolutely determined to pass you at whatever cost? Or, If driving at night exactly the same but this time with their headlights full on.

Of course on the rare times when you are in a moving line of traffic once you hold back slightly to give some space between you and the car in front it's taken as an immediate invitation for the car behind to overtake!

One thing to look out for is a diamond shaped sign in yellow and white with a black background and a black stripe though it.  This means that even if you are on an obvious main road then all roads ( even dirt roads ) coming onto it from the right have priority! To be fair these are only usually in towns and are also marked with a red cross, that is if you can see the cross due to cars parked on the pavements!

Of course If you break the motoring laws here in France you may be disqualified and get your driving licence taken away. No problem, this is France after all, just go out and get a Voiture sans permis, literally, a car that you don't need a license for! Admittedly it is small and slow and has only forward and reverse but you could still drive home from the bar in the evening so beware!

As for parallel parking.....................


Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sunday Sunday


Sunday's here in France are a far cry from what we were used to in the UK, Here, it is definitively regarded as a day of rest and relaxation.

Back in the UK everyone has become accustomed to being able to shop wherever they want, in fact I am sure that place like garden centers and DIY stores are busier on Sundays than other days in the week,

Sundays in the UK are also a time for a lot of people to get out the mower, wash the car and catch up with all the other things that they hadn't had time to do in the week.

Here in France, it is a bit like the UK used to be maybe 50-60 years ago, most people don't even put washing out on a Sunday let alone carry out work and certainly no machinery. Apart from the big cities and a few exceptions like the bakery for a few hours or restaurants all shops are shut.

Sunday is family time here with a tradition of long Sunday lunches at home.

What may have been a bit frustrating when we first moved here has now become the "norm"

Here, in Brittany, we can go for a drive on almost deserted countryside roads and wander by the lake and through nearly empty streets through our Town Square.

I, for one love it.



Friday, 6 January 2012

EDF woes


It came as a bit of a shock on New Year's Eve late afternoon to suddenly have all of the electricity go off! It was our own fault as we found out later, we were expecting friends around for the evening, who were staying overnight so not only did we have the oven on cooking food but heaters on in the bedrooms, bathrooms, hall and living room all of which are electric.

I went down into the cellar and found that the main trip switch had been tripped so guessing that we had overloaded the system I turned off a couple of heaters and put it back on again.
That lasted for all of a minute when everything went off again, however this time when I looked the main switch hadn't been tripped!

Everything in our house runs off of electric so with friends due to arrive in a couple of hours I was beginning to get concerned especially as It was the New Year weekend and it was unlikely that I could get anyone around to look at it before the following Tuesday!
Luckily I eventually found another trip switch on the electric box on the pole out in the road so all was well in the end.

For information for anyone coming to France from the UK where we have, in the past, taken what seems like unlimited supplies for granted, over here in France you have to agree  maximum level with the electricity Company.
This can be from as low as 3KVA only suitable I would say for a small house that uses electric just for lighting and a few appliances right up to 36KVA.
It gets more complicated in that each level has a different yearly charge attached to it in addition to the amount that you use and you can have either a basic plan with a set amount per kw hour or a plan that has a cheap rate through the night, normally 11.30pm to 7.30 am

I would say that a house not using electricity for space heating would probably be OK on 6KVA
we are on 9KVA which has an annual charge of 92.52euros and rates of 0.0916cts and 0.0567cts for peak and off-peak times.

However the annual charges and consumption charges also have varying VAT rates added to them so It is not an easy to work out. I have now put together a fairly basic spreadsheet to work out my costings.



Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Appreciation

One of the things I appreciate every day of my life since we have moved here to Brittany is the countryside. I am so fortunate to have it right on my doorstep, In fact I own a couple of acres of it.

During the Autumn, every evening at about dusk I used to pour myself a glass of "Vin Rouge" and take a wander around the garden and field listening to the birds settling down for the night and the tinkling of the stream. These last few weeks It has seemed to rain nearly every day and I have missed that pleasure.

However, today has been mild and dry so I took myself off for a walk around, here is a short video of what I was talking about to share with you.

Fest Noz

Fest Noz, which actually translates from French to Night party is part of the traditional social way of life in Brittany held mostly in the summer Months.
In the past, the dances were used as a way to trample the  floor of a house or an area for farm work, these days it is a good opportunity to enjoy some good company, some food, wine and cider and to generally have an enjoyable evening.
Whereas the music would principally be provided by bagpipes these days a wide range of music is played by a range of intruments from guitar to keyboards and from Rock to Jazz.
The traditional, Breton, dancing is practiced in a circle with everyone linking hands often by little finger to little finger.
Most villages have at least one Fest Noz a year, ofetn organised by a local school or club.
The Fest Noz will generally start around 9pm in the evening and will often go on to 2-3 in the morning. Everyone goes to these from young children to grandparents and everyone dances together.
Fest Diez are similar but are day festivals generally starting around 3pm and running on into the evening.

First Posting

It's the start of 2012 and we have now been living in Brittany for 5 Months since taking what is a life changing decision in April 2011 to move over here.
This blog will be partly about our own life here concentrating probably on our house and garden but will also be on general living in France and comments on the different style of living.