We slide into 2007!
Terry had previously made a concrete plinth to stand our chest freezer on in the small barn next door to the kitchen but we had both agreed that it would be much more useful if the entire floor in there was flat rather than keeping the uneven stone floor that was an invitation for a twisted ankle. And it was dirty because earth was the main filler in between the stones.
He had thought that the stones would be reasonably smallish but Terry came in to me sweating and said "Come and see this!". The stone he showed me was huge, almost a couple of feet across and a foot or more deep and very uneven, yet much of it had been buried with just bits of it that stuck up showing as part of the floor. We'd had no idea that there would be stones of this size making up the bumpy floor. Terry had to lever them out with a long iron bar and one was too big to manoeuvre through the door so he had to smash it into two - well that was the aim but several pieces came off it before it was a movable size. Consequently the whole operation took much longer and resulted in much more back-ache than Terry had initially thought. However, he is a hero and he finished the job.
We decided to go for ready-mix after that - just to make that part of the job easier, so it was ordered and arrived on time. A friend came round to help Terry tamp it down and our trusty neighbour, Monsieur C, came round and joined in too. It turned into quite a social occasion! They all sat down and enjoyed coffee and cake sitting on the bench outside afterwards, whilst other neighbours came to peer around the door to see what had been going on.
We still didn't have a television and we generally spent our evenings reading if we weren't with friends either here or at their homes but I hit on the idea of inexpensive presents for the female members of our family, found some beautifully soft and gorgeous wool and set to work knitting scarves for everyone in colours that I knew they liked. It also served to stop me reading our books too quickly!
Meanwhile, Terry was still working in the utility barn putting in a lavatory cubicle and fitting a big old sink that someone gave us. This has proved invaluable for when we are gardening or have friends round and we're in the garden, as neither we nor they have to traipse through the house and head upstairs for a loo visit. Very handy.
In December 2006 we had the wonderful news that Terry's son and his wife had had their first baby - a little girl . Terry's son has lived in the US for many years and he married an American girl. Before coming to live in France we went to Naples on the Gulf coast of Florida for their wedding and then to visit them in Washington for their first anniversary. This was lovely news and they have sent us photos by e-mail as the baby has developed so we have seen her grow by pictures. (They are coming for their first visit in 2008).
Christmas came and went followed by the New Year of 2007 - spent with friends and family who live in France too.
2007 started up another whole new page of our life in France. First of all we treated ourselves to a present - a 10.4" screen DVD player that also picks up French television! We didn't have a DVD to our name but friends gave us several carrier bags full of them to borrow so we were then all set for the winter months when we fancied doing something other than reading in the evenings.
We also found that watching the news in French was a huge help to our French language skills and whilst I cooked dinner, Terry watched "Millionaire" though he couldn't answer any of the easy questions because, as in the English version, they were mainly about nursery rhymes, proverbs etc which were so French that we didn't know the answers but once past those he did really well and the fact that the possible answers were written in French was another help for language learning. We do not have English TV, just our diddy little screen that is all that we need.
January of 2007 gave us a very heavy snow-fall overnight on the 22nd, and also through the 23rd when we woke up to find there was a power-cut. Little did we know how long it would go on for. The amount of snow that had fallen both overnight and continued through the next day was incredible. We had snow so deep it came over our wellies and we went out into the garden armed with rakes to bang the trees, as many branches were so heavily laden they were drooping down towards the ground and risked being snapped off and our hazel-nut trees had branches that were actually frozen to the ground, they were so bent over! It wasn't as cold, at minus 11C, as it had been in previous winters, but the conditions were caused through so much snow in such a short period of time. We released as many of the branches as we could and trudged along the local lanes in our wellies taking photos of this amazing white panorama.
Willie, our dog, although he loves the snow, became bogged down with snow hanging onto his leg fur and undercarriage so quickly, he could barely walk and we had to take him home and melt him down! I decided to trim his leg fur myself so that he'd have an easier time of it. We had to dig paths for the geese to walk as their bellies dragged on the snow and they sat on the surface of the frozen pond looking very dispirited.
Our power cut lasted for only four days but we heard that some surrounding villages were without power for much longer, so we were the lucky ones. Thank goodness that we had a big wood burner in the kitchen which heated the radiators all round the house (although the pump didn't work, natural convection moved the hot water round, albeit slower than normal) and an open log fire in the living room. We also had a gas bottle fire which we put in the bathroom. All of our cooking is by electricity but we had an old gas cooker in the utility barn that our good friends, A & B had given to us the previous year after we'd had a ten-hour power cut. They were going to throw it out as the oven part didn't work but the four hobs did, so that enabled us to cook and have hot water during those four days.
When we eventually drove further afield we saw how much of the countryside had been devastated with broken and uprooted trees everywhere, it looked very sad. A huge oak tree had been uprooted by the weight of the snow just down the road from us and it had fallen right across the road taking the power line with it. Helicopters flew overhead constantly, trying to locate where lines were down and it took quite some time before everywhere was back to normal. As the temperature didn't rise above minus 5C for another week, the snow remained with us for a long time.
In the Spring we decided to add a couple of baby geese to our "family" as their compound is a big area and there is bags of space. As you will know if you have read our earlier articles, we have had two geese since our first year here who by now were 13 and 3 years of age. We went to Chénérailles market and asked the chap selling them for two females (we didn't want to breed - just to have a couple of young companions for our other two). We weren't exactly impressed with his sexing skills when he just hoiked two out of the pen and rammed them in a box, assuring us that they were females, but what could we do? Ask him to inspect their undercarriage??? Funnily enough, when we had bought Baby at a real farmers' market three years previously, the farmer had done just that, discarding a few before he handed Baby over to us, confirming that she was a female (and she was!).
We took the babies home, introduced them to our older ones and sat in the compound with them and watched. We'd made a temporary fence around the dog kennel that our dog has always refused to enter and popped the babies in there so everyone could get used to each other.
At first the two older ones hissed at them through the fence but then lost interest so we let the babies out and we sat tight!. It was amazing. Our geese are called "Goosey" (the oldest one) and "Baby" and immediately Baby took the two young ones under her wing. Goosey acted like a grumpy granny and gave the babies a peck or two if they got too close to her and we saw her bring the the expression "pecking order" back into play again.
After that, we spent many days goose-watching. Baby would lead the babies to shady spots for their afternoon naps and she took them into their pond and seemed to be teaching them how to swim underwater and we laughed like drains when we saw the babies upside down in the water with legs pedalling like crazy, trying to right themselves. They were so sweet and so funny and their little chirrups as they ran after Baby were heart melting. The neighbours came round to watch them too and brought their small grandchildren with them as we are the only ones with geese in our hamlet. Everyone thought they were most entertaining and the fact that they were pets was not a concept that they understood .......! Hmmm, that idea didn't last 'til the end of the year!!!