Our First Year Progresses
I can't miss mentioning the wonderful experience of being able to drive to Mont-Dore for a day's skiing. Our neighbour, Monsieur C, called round when we had snow during our first January to ask if we fancied going skiing with him and his wife. We've been skiing for many years, often taking skiing holidays twice a year but to be able to drive to the mountains for just a day! He said if we could all go in our Jeep, they'd provide the picnic lunch and that's just what we did. It was a marvellous break from our back-breaking work too.
It was also a hard lesson in French for Terry, as on the way home (by then pretty dark) Monsieur C sat up front and shouted the directions to him in French all the way home. Considering that in those very early days Terry's French was still limited to "holiday French" (deux bières, s'il vous plaît), and that it was dark, snowing and he didn't know where he was, it was a pretty gruelling experience, especially as he still has to think about right and left in English (which is which) let alone ponder about it in French at junctions.
Two months after our arrival and still up to our eyebrows in thick "muck and bullets" from the building work, Terry's sister and her husband came to stay with us. There was only one room where they could sleep (and I use the word "room" loosely - a low attic would describe it better) and that's what we now call our "glory-hole" - everyone needs to duck and stay ducked whilst in there or risk serious concussion. (I've been knocked silly lots of times ... oh that's the reason why ......) . Sister-in-law's husband is about 6'2" so he had to remember to keep his stance in a permanent stoop position. However, they wanted to come and stay at that particular time so that they could look around the region we'd chosen for our home and if they liked it, would think about looking for a property of their own. So, come they did.
I travelled around with them sometimes to look at houses the agents were showing them and was almost as disappointed at what they were shown as we had been initially with our own house search. Still, they were easily pleased and after only their second viewing, set their hearts on a little nicely decorated house in a village about six minutes from us. They then went back to the UK and promptly put their own home on the market. They didn't realise that they'd have almost a two-year wait until everything fell into place. They also changed their minds about the house they'd fallen in love with - but again, that's another story and theirs not mine!
It was our wedding anniversary in April and to celebrate we bought a used Peugeot hatch-back to replace our Jeep - which we decided was too juicy for every-day use with its 4 litre engine (we live 6.6kms from the nearest shops/small town). Our first journey to the UK was in May 2004 ( we drove, as usual) and the whole trip seemed to be one big hectic rush around. It seems that we'd promised all of our friends and family that we'd pop in to tell them how we were getting on, show photos etc and it ended up being very stressful keeping up with the busy schedule that we'd set ourselves, except of course when we saw our daughters and their families again. It was lovely to see them and hold them in our arms, see how the grandkids had grown - and I leaked a few secret tears - especially when it was time for us to head off home again.
Still in May but back home in France, some friends had decided to move to Greece after living in France for about twelve years and whilst they were strolling around our garden, mentioned that they would have to find a home for their ten-years old tame goose. Her name was "Goosey" (of course) and she had wandered around in their garden since her babyhood. We thought she was lovely so offered to take her on and she was duly delivered in a big cardboard box. We had prepared an area in one of our barns for her to live in and to start with let her have the run of the top half of the garden - however, we quickly changed our minds about that and fenced off her own big section of garden. We were worried because she used to just sit by the gates gazing out and appeared to be pining, so Terry and I went to a farmers' market one morning and came home with a fluffy, squawking, baby goose as a companion. We soon learned the reason for the expression "pecking order" as Goosey frequently put Baby (the new addition) in her place with sharp little pecks - which I hated to see even though I realised it was "normal" ,as Baby gave out loud protesting squawks as she ran away.
Terry was the first person that Baby had seen when we tipped her out of her box, so she had immediately decided that Terry was "mum" and squeaked (different from squawked) and ran after him for many weeks. The two geese soon settled down together and at last Goosey seemed happy in in her new home. Meanwhile, Baby never forgot her "Mum" and always followed Terry whenever he went into their compound and pecked at his boot laces and I have photos of her happily sitting on his lap on the bench down by their pond!
The rest of May, then June and July saw us at quite a few classic car club events displaying our car alongside the others and joining in on tours around the countryside. These were of tremendous benefit to us because within the first year of our life in France we had visited many places of interest and beauty with the club that would have otherwise taken us much longer to discover. It also helped us to become more familiar with speaking French, as at that point there were no other English members. We were most impressed with how well-behaved and polite the French children were, from the very young to the almost teens. They were all brought along with their parents to these events and were perfectly at home eating out in restaurants or picnicking on a grassy bank, with the older children happily keeping an eye on the younger ones.
What amazed us (and still does) about these club tours is that we all pull into a grassy area at some point just after 11am and out comes a make-shift table, then the wine, cassis, and orange juice for the children, plus the nibblies and everyone stands around, with a glass (or two) in hand drinking kir without a care in the world, then everyone piles back in the cars to continue on to either an auberge where lunch has been ordered for us all, or to a previously arranged picnic spot. I would hate to think the results of any breath-tests after this but no-one seemed to give it a thought..
Oh well, as Terry constantly says - this is France!