How 2005 sped by !
During 2005 we started serious work on the garden. Terry borrowed a friend's rotavator and dug us a vegetable plot and we planted potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, celery, lettuces, lots of tomatoes and also some raspberries. Our neighbour gave us some strawberry plants so we made a bed for them too.
We visited the local quarry, asked for samples of sizes then ordered gravel for the patio at the rear of our little cottage and we also dug out and laid gravel paths in the back garden of our main house. We bought two pergolas and some honeysuckle plants to entwine up and around them - so as to waft their gorgeous perfume all around the garden and we planted a pear tree and a fig tree right at the far end of the garden. It was so lovely for us to see a real garden developing.
We planted a white grape and a black grape, both "eaters", to grow up the front walls of the barns. We don't have much garden at the front, mainly gravel and lots of pots of geraniums and also flowers and lavender in the borders against the front of the house and barns. There were already some magnificent roses growing up the front of the house when we bought it. We were so lucky in this respect. The yellow ones have such a heady scent that our neighbours have had cuttings and the local farm-worker has also stopped to ask if he can take a cutting. The other rose bushes are red and pink.
We applied for our Cartes Vitales and once they arrived, arranged top-up insurance and ordered the European extension of healthcare in France. We arranged for the electricity to be changed from three phase to single phase and as the list of our achievements grew, we felt quite chuffed with our efforts.
Our trip to the UK that year was rather an eye-opener for us. We realised that we'd become used to the calm of our Creuse roads and the lack of milling crowds. The volume of traffic and the bustling crowds of people was suddenly quite foreign. It was lovely to see friends and family again but our heartstrings were being pulled quite firmly to return to France. It was a little sad too to realise that we no longer felt that we belonged in England and in all honesty couldn't wait to come home. The family ties and pulls of saying goodbye were the same but nothing else was.
Time flies by in France. We had a drama one night when Willie (our dog) started barking loudly just after we'd gone to bed. We jumped into clothes and rushed downstairs. He was jumping up at the back door so we let him out and he went off running after something that escaped into the night. We then saw that Goosey, our oldest goose was lying upside down in the fenced alleyway that led to their barn door, with her wing trapped in the wire mesh of the fence. Terry carefully righted her and we checked her over. She had bite marks round her throat with a little blood showing but was struggling to walk. We wiped her down, stroked her and carefully placed her back in the barn with Baby our younger goose, who seemed to put her wings around Goosey as if giving her a cuddle. There was not much else we could do and realised that we'd have to wait 'til the morning to see how she really was.
Next morning, Goosey was clearly shaken (she was 11 years old by this time) but by keeping very close to Baby (this was a total reversal of their roles) she went down to their pond and spent the next week or so mostly in or beside the pond except for when we locked them in for the night. Her recovery was amazing. We saw her doing what appeared to be neck exercises - gently twisting her neck from side to side and she eventually recovered fully.
Our neighbours said that it had probably been a marten that had attacked Goosey and lent us a humane trap and told us to place an egg inside it. We did this for some nights but all we caught was a feral ginger cat which shot out of the trap like a bat out of hell when Terry opened it up.
Throughout 2005 (our second year) we had lots of visitors from the UK interested to see where we lived or what we'd achieved since their visit the previous year. It was great to see everyone and their visits took up much of that summer, plus the many Sundays when we went out on classic car club events and tours around the beautiful and interesting Region of Limousin. Other afternoons or evenings were spent round at neighbours' or friends' homes or them coming to us for a meal.
We had lots of landmarks again that year. In August I exchanged my UK driving licence for a French one; In the September on Patrimoine Day we visited several châteaux with the car club and we also started the procedures for obtaining a carte grise for our old MGB as a collection vehicle - the only way we could register it in the French system as she was a modified car having had her engine changed from the normal 1800cc engine to one that was a V8 3.5 litre;
In October Willie simply disappeared during a walk in the woods at Chenerailles. One minute he was running on ahead, as usual and the next there was no sign of him. We searched and called and an accompanying friend joined in but after two hours we had to go home as it was rapidly getting dark and we had no torches. We were very upset and after dinner I persuaded Terry to go back to the side of the lake where we'd parked. He did so, taking a big torch and he said he gave several loud calls and whistles for Willie, then heard a dog bark so continued to call and after a few more barks, clearly getting closer, Willie came bounding up to him. He was wet and his harness was missing but other than that, he was fine. It has always remained a mystery as his harness was very close fitting and he couldn't have wriggled out of it if he'd got caught somewhere.
Terry's sister and her husband managed to sell their home in England at long last and came to stay with us from October until the end of the year whilst they looked for their own French home. They stayed in our little cottage so that we weren't all on top of each other and could lead individual lives whilst they carried out their search and they eventually found their home in Bénévent L'Abbaye..
Early in November, our relief postman suggested that as he wanted to improve his English and as his neighbour wanted to do the same, he thought that the four us might meet up for weekly get-togethers in the evenings to help each other. He introduced us to Florence, his neighbour and we all got on instantly and started to meet every Wednesday evening, taking it in turns at each others' houses. These weren't in the form of lessons at all. We agreed to start off by telling each other what we'd been doing that week. Terry and I spoke in French and the other two spoke in English. Florence and I asked each other to translate many useful phrases and whenever we needed to see any French officialdom, I asked Florence the right sentences that we'd need to ask. I have to admit that eventually these sessions developed into many amusing hours as we all got on so well, we had lots of laughs every time, especially as we explained various expressions to each other. We carried on with these sessions until early Spring the following year and became very good friends.......