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The Good Life Diary 2017

 
September
 
 

September kicked off with the launch of this year's big clothes collection (Bloopers) in preparation for the sale on the 26th November. Tragically, a member of our small group of organisers recently lost her 23 year old son to epilepsy so this year we have decided that all the proceeds will go to the foundation Francoise pour la Recherche en Epilepsie.

After a couple of rare rainy days, we enjoyed over an hour's long walk around the Lac de Saint-Frie which was quite low after a particularly dry summer. Afterwards we went on to the vide grenier in neighbouring Bassoues where we had a wander and a much needed drink.

 
 

The first part of the month was very noisy in our garden due to the regular screeching of a young falcon that was constantly being fed by its parents while perched near the top of the chapel next door. Even when it finally fledged and was out and about with its parents it could still be heard calling at the top of its voice.

Finally, the cosmos that I had planted out month's before, started to bloom; the roses had performed poorly this year so the cosmos more than made up for the lack of colour. The trees were not turning at all, unlike the ivy which provided some beds with a lovely glowing frame.

 
 

We had three parties to go to this month with the first being held by our elderly French neighbours. It was attended by nearly everyone in our small commune and provided us and the other two UK couples with the perfect opportunity to practice our French.

The next week-end our brains were exercised again, this time during a big treasure hunt organised by friends of ours. Nine teams spent a rather cold afternoon driving around the countryside, villages and towns chasing clues and searching for answers. While our team were the first to complete we were surprised to discover during the meal afterwards that we had nearly come last. It had been great fun though and we had discovered parts of the Gers that we never new existed during the process. Better luck next year!

We had a last meal together at Bassoues before Fin started to make his way slowly back to the UK, spending some time with friends in Toulouse and later Paris before returning to a very cold and wet London.

Unlike Fin, the swallows proved more reluctant to leave and spent most of the month noisily congregating in the skies and on the wires, but not really going anywhere and who could blame them as the weather really wasn't that cold most of the time.

 
 

We had an enjoyable open mic night in the bar at Marciac again and this time we were entertained by Bernard who sung a song he had written which must be the longest song that anyone has ever performed in the bar. When he turned over his A4 page we all started clapping, assuming it was the end, but then there was another whole page of lyrics on the other side that he sung through.

Towards the end of the evening, we held our third and final whip round which finally provided us with enough money to buy the new PA which will make such a difference to future OMNs, the next one being at the Zeppelin bar in Plaisance on the 28th October.

 
 

I often regret not having a camera with me when we are out and about sometimes and this pond full of lotus flowers was passed many times before I finally remembered to bring it. Maybe because of the dry summer, the stalks of the blooms were particularly long and the blossoms were stunning. I'm hoping to collect a few of the seed heads later on in the year as I have heard that lotus flowers are easy to grow out here and even if I fail, the heads are stunning in themselves.

Towards the end of the month my friend Sandra came out to stay for a few days and enjoyed some fantastic weather which made up for the cold and wet week we had had just before her arrival.

 
 

We spent one of these days going to Argeles Gazost in the Pyrenees and later, to the Lac d'Estang for a picnic and a spot of reading and fishing.

This month, I started a 'Happy Yoga' course at Tourdun, held by Kate Coulson who can not only move effortlessly from one crazy position to another, but can slip between giving French and English instructions at the same time. I must admit that there was a lot of internal giggling on for me during the first couple of classes ('Happy Baby') really got me going, but the meditation at the end proved to be a real challenge. I shall persevere...

Most of the swallows finally left at the end of September which always makes me feel a bit sad. Seeing a lone swallow after the others have left reminds me of Oscar Wilde's wonderful story 'The Happy Prince' but I'm sure that all the stragglers will be off soon before the colder weather arrives.

In the meantime, Elgar and Anchovy were making the most of the last of the summer days.

 
 

 
August
 
 

With the Marciac Jazz festival in full swing, our music loving friends (Chris, Val and Tom) from Brittany arrived for their yearly pilgrimage in their camper van.

Soon after, we all went to my friend Christine's yearly summer music party which was bigger and sparklier than usual as she was celebrating her sixtieth birthday. There were a good seventy of us there to entertain, be entertained, eat and be merry. After lots of musical acts from both adults and children, the stage was cleared and on came the magical disco lights which sent tiny bubbles of colour around the garden and us all onto the dance floor. A great night was had by all.

A couple of days later we were joined by my cousin Karen and her partner Chris who were visiting us for the first time since we moved here 10 years ago. Chris is an excellent wildlife expert and photographer, so I had been looking forward to tapping into his knowledge. His camera made my small one look like a dinky toy and it was fortunate that he had his to hand when our friend flew over (very close) and waved while we were enjoying our first evening meal together.

 
 
One of the things I like the most about being in SW France is the opportunity to see Flora and Fauna that I would never come across in the UK and sometimes critters are spotted in the most unlikely places. While going to top up the car with petrol, I noticed quite a big preying mantis leisurely stretching itself just an inch away from where the petrol pump handle was. They are rarely spotted in the garden because of their very effective camouflage and usually the only time I see them is when I cut the lavender which they are particularly drawn to. Sadly, unlike Chris, I didn't have my camera on me to take a snap of the mantis, but I did when I found this exceptionally hairy, hairy bear caterpillar.
 
 
Once all our friends and family had left and we had visited Marciac for the last time before the festival drew to a close, we took ourselves to the much smaller Bedafest for a week-end of varied music, excellent food and company in the wonderful grounds of a pretty château near Aignan. Ruben came with us as he had last year, but this time we made sure that we had retired to our tent by the time the fireworks were let off at the end of the evening. He did get a lot of attention (Ruben is becoming a bit of a poser and an expert photo bomber) and it was surprising the number of people who recognised what breed he was.
 
 
During most of August we had a very young roe deer, the size of a fox in the neighbouring field. Most mornings that I came to let the chickens out, the fragile creature would be just metres away, looking rather forlorn. Fortunately it didn't come into the garden to do any damage and by the end of the month, it was nowhere to be seen. I'm guessing that sadly it didn't survive on its own unlike another two young roe I had been following that were that bit bigger and had each other; Ruben enjoyed the sport of chasing them, but never really stood a chance!
 
 

While the weather was still very hot, I joined some of the other curry club members for a curry picnic by the large lake at Castelnau-Magnoac where it was so hot that even the dogs had their own parasols. Eating spicy food in temperatures of 35c gave a few of us the strong urge to join the dogs as some of them went for a much needed swim after the picnic.

For the first time this year, Dave and I finally spotted two young boar as we were driving home during the day. Sadly they were quick to disappear back into the undergrowth perhaps to join the rest of the family.

After our first lot of swallows had fledged, I was hoping that there would be a second family, but sadly the couple failed to return; the happy group of eight however became regular visitors to our hangar and could often be seen chattering to each other high up on the beams.

 
 
Towards the end of the month we went away camping for a few days to a village just out-side of Bagner de Luchon, by the Pyrenees. On our first day there Dave and Fin suggested that we head to the Lac d'Oo as the fishing there was supposed to be very good. After a one and a half hour vertical climb up a mountain in the sweltering heat, we arrived at the beautiful lake where we had our picnic and the boys fished, I read and Ruben rummaged. All around the perimeter of the water, there were hundreds of tiny frogs which on first sight, looked like shifting black pebbles on the beach.
 
 

Needless to say, after nearly collapsing to make the walk up the mountain to this amazing fishing spot, neither Dave or Fin had a single bite.

The next day, we drove into Spain for some essential supplies including bottles of Rioja which are so difficult to source in France.
The weather was perfect for camping and we had a magical few evenings just sitting out under the stars enjoying the tapas and wine and making the most of this special time together before our son returned to the UK.

 
 

 
July
 
 

As we had predicted, July proved to be as hot if not hotter than June and with very little rain. We did have a few storms and sadly the weather did break just in time for my friend Jeanette's 50th Birthday party. She had built an out-side stage with lights and it all looked very magical until the rain came; being up on a ridge though, the views were fantastic and the atmosphere was not dampened in any way. We all had a wonderful time.

The day after, I attended the annual giant book swap with my neighbours and spent two hours in the sweltering heat, selecting a year's supply of reading material. Fortunately there was cold beer for sale and all proceeds went to an animal charity.

 
 

Later that evening, we went to the village fete repas which was held in the newly completed outdoors covered area at the Salle des Fetes. As usual, we had to wait an hour and a half for the meal of barbecued lamb and haricot beans but at least there was live music to listen to and the young people of the commune were catering for over 300 of us.

At midnight and after copious amounts of wine, we all stumbled along the lane to the château on the hill where we witnessed a wonderful firework display which was so close that a few of us came away with ashes in our eyes.

That night was a particularly hot and stifling one, so I moved to one of the cooler bedrooms at the front of the house only to be rudely awakened in the early hours by a strange fluttering noise. To my delight a short eared bat had lost its way and was flying round and around the walls of the bedroom apparently unable to navigate its way back out through the open window. It took a good ten minutes before it finally made its exit. This could have been a young Daubeton's bat as they are quite large (wingspan of 35 cm), but with small rounded ears instead of pointy ones and it was the first time I had come across one at such close quarters. What a treat!

 
 

Having picked a lot of our artichoke hearts and preserved them in oil, the remainder were left to flower which they did do magnificently this year providing a colourful feeding bowl for all the insects around; our two families of goldfinches were soon seen congregating around the sunflowers as the first blooms started to go to seed and finally the six swallows fledged and could be seen chattering together under the roof of the hangar.

We spotted the colourful crest of the hoopoe once or twice as it quickly flitted across the garden and were entertained by two young and very noisy green wood peckers that were not yet adept at flying.

We did spot the osprey flying high up over the garden again but so far this year, it has not been sighted by the lake so may not have settled here, which is a bit of a shame.

Every year, we find this delightfully bright swallowtail caterpillar feasting on the fennel plants and it is always a treat to watch this most stunning of butterflies later grace our flower beds.

 
 

Our Open Mic night at the bistro at St.Sever was probably the most entertaining one that we have held so far, with a variety of musical genres and some great audience participation. One of the highlights for me was when an older French lady got up and sung; I was told afterwards that the song had been a very rude one which was no surprise as her gesticulations had indicated as much and the audience had roared with laughter.

Sadly she didn't agree to share another of her ditties with us.

I too took the opportunity to sing at a vocal workshop in Castelnau-Magnuac, where a former choirmaster from the UK - James Fitzgerald put twenty of us would be singers through our paces. My voice is so deep that I joined in with the men but it was amazing at how we all managed by the end of the two hours to perform a song with four part harmonies. James is now setting up a new choir in the Gers and I think many who were at that session were keen to sign up for more.

 
 

On the 25th July, my dear friend Ursula celebrated her 100th birthday. Despite this great age, Ursula remains in good health, continues to live on her own with very little home care and is as sharp as a tack. She reads the economist every week and keeps abreast with the stock market and current affairs. Obviously living in rural France has got something to do with this longevity, but Ursula also attributes it to the pastis that she drinks in the morning. What a privilege it is to spend time with such an amazing lady.

Also around this time, the Marciac Jazz festival kicked off and Dave and I spent a very pleasant evening roaming around the town listening to the music and visiting the galleries. We had French guests in the gite coming and going, but Ruben (who is rather territorial) was on his best behaviour and didn't bother them at all, which was a relief.

We took him to Trie Sur Baise the next day where there was an art exhibition and Brocante and a few heads turned as he walked by. I guess we don't notice now, but he has become a very big dog that demands attention; thank goodness that he has now calmed down considerably and is unperturbed in social situations.

Despite the hot and dry weather, our vegetable patch served us very well this month and the only thing that we couldn't include in our veg. hamper for our guests, was lettuce, as it was too hot for them. The nectarines went down very well and we started to enjoy the Bramley apples from our little tree as they fell a little prematurely.

While we love the hot weather, we are hoping for some heavy rain over the next few weeks.

 
 

 
May - June
 
 

During these two months, the news from the UK was terrible with two terrorist attacks and then the tragic fire in Grenfell tower. Minute silences were held here and many of our French friends voiced their shock and sadness too.

During May, every village and town was adorned with pictures of all the candidates for the second round of elections and it was reassuring to see that in a lot of communes, the photo of Marie le Pen had been appropriately defaced (personally I think the moustache was definitely an improvement). Many of us x pats breathed a sigh of relief when Macron was elected.

Despite the heat, we kept ourselves busy and finally the out-side kitchen floor was concreted, making it a much more comfortable shaded space to sit in. Weeks were spent looking for suitable terracotta tiles to finish the job, but to no avail.

May was a fantastic month for cherries and every tree that we passed was absolutely laden with them.

 
 

I started a new gardening job at St.Justin and resumed having French lessons – this time with my friend Jeanette who lives just over the road from there. It is lovely each Wednesday, to work somewhere with wonderful views of the Pyrenees while listening to my podcasts, to join my friend for a lesson afterwards and then share a leisurely lunch and catch up, while our two dogs do their own bit of socialising.

We went to the floralea at St.Sever to buy our tomato plants, which, like the French, we didn't plant out until mid May at the same time as I planted the sunflowers. As usual, cut nettles were placed at the base of the plants for protection against disease which seems to have done the trick these past few years.

The Open Mic Night that was held at the Sports bar at Trie sur Baise was very well attended though we were disappointed that the blue haired 80 year old who performed there last year was no where to be seen.

On a particularly balmy evening, we were 'guinea pigs' at our friend's new pop up restaurant near Bassoues and along with three other couples, sampled an absolutely wonderful meal in an idyllic setting. For anyone looking for a more intimate eating experience away from the bustle of your usual restaurants, this is definitely the place to go.

 
 

After years of absence, we were delighted to see a pair of swallows flying in and out of our hangar looking for a suitable place to nest; with three abandoned nests in the shed, they were spoilt for choice.

The nightingales stopped singing while they nursed their young and the golden oriole threw its magical call into the birdsong mix and two lots of goldfinches set up their homes in the honeysuckle bushes. For the first time, house martins were observed perched on the electric cables and (very briefly) I had my first sighting of a red backed shrike in the neighbouring village.

On a very hot Sunday, we joined our curry club members at our friends' Sandy and Mike's house where we sat on their spacious patio with mountain views and sampled the best of Indian cuisine. While there, we witnessed a wonderful aeronautical display from two birds of prey which I mistook for hen harriers. It turned out that this was my first sighting of black winged kites which apparently only arrived in this part of France in the 1980s. Unlike other kites, they do not have the forked tail and are therefore easily confused with the harrier.

What a treat that was!

 
 

I happened to knock this lamp as I was weeding the back garden and it was the sound of buzzing that alerted me to the critters; I then tapped the lamp several times in order to get a bit of action for the photo with-out thinking that they could escape. Luckily I came away with-out a single sting. There were also a few near misses with snakes in the meadows where they nearly got trodden on. Here I think we only have the adder that is poisonous and most of the other species like the European whip snake are harmless.

The three hens and the four chicks that had spent weeks in the covered run in the hangar were finally moved to the large out-door enclosure after I had spent a long time ensuring that the chicks wouldn't be able to get through the wire.

Having caught one hen, Ruben was very keen to go for another so I also had to spend time trying to train him not to go for them again which involved getting him to lie down in front of the chickens with his nose at ground level.

Initially we had one or two close calls where the chicks were out on the lawn and Ruben was heading for them but on our command, he didn't go any nearer so I guess the training had paid off.

After a week in Morocco, our son Fin returned home for the summer holidays and we celebrated by spending an evening by the lake, fishing and later having a barbecue.

 
 

Further on in the week we had a picnic by the weir where Dave caught 9 trout back in April, but despite two of them fishing, no-one had a single bite this time which was a bit disappointing.

Perhaps because of the heat, we had a few lizards seeking the coolness of the house and I actually found one snoozing in the sink in the upstairs bathroom.

A less welcome visitor was a crayfish that had returned to our pond and was caught in the crayfish net and unceremoniously killed and barbecued. In another net there was a small grass snake rubbing shoulders with a very fat toad. Not so tasty!

 
 

On another stiflingly hot Sunday afternoon I went with my friend Roz to a charity event at 'The Tea in The Teapot' where an American folk singer was performing. We enjoyed rather too much home made cake while listening to some very dated and cliché driven songs. Sadly for the cancer charity, this was not very well attended.

In contrast, our Open Mic evening at the bar in Marciac was very busy and we had a great mix of talented acts/music types. Inevitably, the old PA equipment that I have been using for these events over the last three years is starting to break down and so we will need to have a few whip rounds in order to buy a new one. At this evening, we managed to raise 115 euors to add towards it.

 
 

As the temperatures started to rise, we spent more and more time by the lakes and rivers. During this time, Ruben gained confidence in the water and by the end of June he was swimming properly and having fun. I too, went for my first swim of the year in the lake, this time with Ruben beside me.

Finally at the end of the month, we had a bit of a downpour which wasn't enough to effect the pond, but did revive the garden a bit and for the first time in weeks, I didn't have to water the tomatoes. Having had an amazingly hot spring (38c at times), we are now wondering what the temperatures will be like in the height of summer and whether we will end up on water restrictions.

 
 

 
April
 
 

The warm weather had returned by the time I returned to the UK but while I had been away, our commune had experienced a severe hailstorm which had destroyed most of the flowers (wisteria, roses, tulips etc.) that were in bloom at the time and all the colza fields were stripped of their flowers; This little corner of the house however came out of it unscathed thank goodness!

I had brought back four of my sister's Pekin bantams' fertilised eggs which I had carried in a Cadbury's chocolate egg box in my hand luggage and despite having been put in the hold of the plane they had remained undamaged. As soon as I returned therefore, they were put under our three broody hens. Following a tip off from the neighbours about an inspection, we sadly had to move the three hens back into the covered enclosure. Despite this disruption and the trauma of Ruben catching and killing one of the other hens, exactly three weeks after being incubated, all four of the eggs hatched under their surrogate Mothers.

 
 
Earlier on in the month, to celebrate both of our birthdays, we held a 'Come as an album title' party. We had two friends come as 'Dark side of the Moon', a couple as 'Grease', we had an 'American Idiot' (Donald Trump) and one couple superbly replicated the cover of 'Rumours' even down to the detail of the hanging balls! Album covers were hung from the beams for people to guess the artist/title and there were various album clues around the house i.e. a carved head on a radio, for friends to guess.
 
 
 
Fin was with us for the Easter holidays so we made the most of this time together by going down to the Pyrenees for a spot of fishing, walking and a picnic. Snow was still evident on the mountains but it was very hot and we had to search for a bit of shade; not that we were complaining.
 
 
On the last night of Fin's stay and to celebrate David's birthday, we went down to the lake to fish and have an evening meal. I had cooked Dave's favourite prawn curry which we heated up on an open fire along with nan bread followed by toasted marshmallows all washed down with a bottle of château David that I had come across. It was a bit chilly as our sunny spot had been taken up by two fisherman (who had very annoying bleeps that sounded every time they got a bite), but the fire kept us warm and once the wind had died down, it was very pleasant. Using the panoramic setting, I discovered that I could get two dogs in a picture instead of just the one!
 
 
While neither Dave or Fin caught a fish that evening (and Dave hadn't caught a single one during the whole month) our trip to another (secret) location the week after, more than made up for that. The French fishermen tend to only fish near where they are able to park their cars, so we often end up walking further along to avoid any competition or annoying bleepers. After a hot and gruelling trek therefore through nettles, brambles and waist high wheat fields, we came across a small weir where there were no other fishermen around and the fish were plentiful.
 
 
In the time it took for me to recover, wipe off the blood from my legs, find some dock leaves and read three chapters of my book, Dave had caught nine beautiful brook and brown trout. To say he was elated would be an understatement and Ruben was particularly excited having (in his own way) been involved in the fishing process.
 
 

We ate two of them that evening along with our own asparagus; food for free had never tasted so good! This month I started a new gardening job at St.Justin where I can enjoy some wonderful views of the Pyrenees and get to know the area that bit better. Several lonely but lovely old houses are positioned along this ridge that we would be very interested in buying if we could only sell our home.

Following a recent viewing from a young French couple, we were informed that they loved the house and garden but could not stand the thought of being next to a graveyard. Apparently a lot of French think this way and yet many choose to spend a lot of time visiting the graveyards and communicating with the dead!

Sadly (and unsurprisingly) we have had no viewings from Brits since Brexit so we may be in for a long wait if we are reliant on the French for a sale.

Putting this aside though, we are extremely fortunate in being surrounded by exceptionally beautiful (and accessible) countryside with views such as this one of a linseed field in bloom with the Pyrenees providing a backdrop.

 
 

At the end of the month, our neighbour Rita arranged a Beatles evening at the village hall in Tillac in order to raise money for a cancer research unit in Toulouse. The evening was extremely well attended and while the band only played early four chord Beatles (and I prefer their later works), the music did have everyone (including me) dancing and singing along. The success of the evening was reflected in the 1700 euros that Rita managed to raise for this very good cause.

Soon after, the skies finally opened and we had decent rain for the first time in a month. Within two days, our pond was full up again and the crop sprinklers that had been on since the start of April were finally switched off.

 
 
The frogs resumed croaking with great delight and the air felt fresh and clear again. While sitting by the pond, I was lucky enough to watch a nymph metamorphasize into a dragonfly. It was interesting to see that although he was fully formed, his abdomen was totally flat and I'm guessing that he really needed to rest in the sunshine and gain his strength before flying off. It made me realise how fortunate we are to have the time to witness such little miracles!
 
 

 
March
 
 

The arrival of spring is always a truly exciting time for us here in the Gers with so much wildlife activity that every day brings something new and interesting. Within a matter of days, the robins (that had been with us through-out the Autumn and winter) disappeared from the garden and were replaced by the black red-starts; the frogs in the pond resumed their chorus at dusk and the bats were fluttering about most evenings. The dawn chorus started to build up as different birds from all around started to sing for a potential partner's attention and finally, on the 19th, the first couple of swallows returned to the commune.

Our bantams started laying again and were quite happy in their huge enclosure until we received a directive from the mayor requiring us to move them into a covered space.

As our run in the hangar was pretty small for 8 bantams, we decided that we would have to get rid of the remaining two cockerels so they too were let free at the disused farm up the lane. Our hens were so quiet and unhappy in their new small space and days later (having observed that we were the only members of the commune who had followed the orders), we returned the 6 hens into the outdoor enclosure. We did also try and recapture the cockerels, but after climbing up and nearly falling through a rotten hayloft to catch them, we gave up on the idea.

March 12th marked the start of the trout fishing season so Dave got up at dawn to fish and I looked forward to eating the first trout of the year. Sadly, despite several attempts, Dave failed to catch a single fish in the whole of March.

 
 
The St. Patrick’s open mic night in Marciac proved to be a great success and as usual, the bar was completely packed and the Guinness was flowing. My friend Jackie came all the way from Nogaro to delight us with her mellifluous folk singing while in contrast, French musician Fernand had a voice like gravel and a repertoire that fellow musician Fred described as 'quirky' but which I particularly enjoyed!
 
 
We were very busy in the garden this month and while Dave failed to produce any purple sprouting broccoli (having mistaken brussel sprouts for them), we did enjoy a fantastic crop of asparagus which were freakishly large this year and tasted superb.
 
 

I spent a lot of time clearing the stream of leaves and clearing the banks of ivy to make room for the ferns and weeks later it was all looking incredibly lush. The final wild part of the garden was tamed with small trees being cut back, unwanted plants pulled up and wild woodland varieties introduced. Again, I planted foxglove seeds, but I'm not holding my breath as this is the fifth time I have tried with-out having any success.

To take a break from all the gardening, we went to the Brocante at Marciac and enjoyed coffee and crepes at our favourite Citroen van that had been lovingly converted by a local German couple.

 
 

We went to the pictures several times this month enjoying 'Lion' at the cinema le Lalano in Lalane, which is an amazingly large (200 seater) and luxurious space nestled in a small commune in the middle of nowhere. 'Moonlight' in Marciac was a film that we just couldn't sit through, but Trainspotting 2 was definitely a real highlight for us; surprisingly though, there were only four of us in the whole cinema. It's just as well that the cinemas are so heavily subsidised here.

Along with Iggy Pop's abrasive and wonderfully oak aged voice in Trainspotting 2, the other stand out sound of the month, was the longed for song of the cuckoo which was heard on the 27th March and to me, represented the true arrival of spring.
Two days later, in the middle of a long period of wonderful weather, I drove to Lourdes airport for a birthday trip to the UK. I was feeling pleased that at least I had managed to hear the first cuckoo before I left and hoped that there would still be plenty of sunshine on my return.

 
 

 
January and February
 
 

We always go for a long walk on New Year's Day and this year we were joined by our friends Christine and Mike, sons Tim and Dom, Daphne the cocker spaniel and their beautiful dalmatian puppy Chewy. Amazingly despite not getting to bed until about 4 am after having a considerable amount to drink, we were all feeling quite chipper and enjoyed a long stomp that took us up through the woods and back along the side of the lake.

 
 

Unsurprisingly perhaps, Dave and I had forgotten that at dusk time the previous day, we had released our four unwanted young cockerels at a deserted farm and unfortunately as we winded our way back home, Ruben discovered and eventually killed one of them.

To add to the commotion, we were joined by the chocolate three legged lab from up the road which took a very strong liking to Daphne and was difficult to get rid of.

A few days later, I returned to the UK to attend my Nephew's wedding which was a lovely affair but the journey back proved to be incredibly stressful due to underground strikes etc.

After travelling for 5 hours, at 1 am I finally bedded down on the floor of Stanstead airport having 8 more hours to wait and it wasn't until much later that I realised that there was no one else of my age roughing it like this. It was a very depressing thought!

How lovely to return to tiny Lourdes airport and be able to just jump in the car and drive home; it's a real plus that there are no parking fees here as well.

 
 

Ruben was ecstatic to see me again and I received a very boisterous welcome.

He and the two cats now co exist very nicely and often curl up to sleep together.

Rubes has a thing about birds at the moment and can often be seen watching them fly overhead and (like the poor cockerel) he has a passion for chasing them on the ground. During the colder days, small groups of lapwings provided him with much entertainment and put me in mind of past walks across the water meadows in Ringwood (UK) where huge groups of these wonderful birds would congregate and make the most joyous of noises.

 
 

For quite a few months now, I have been helping a friend with her stunning garden in Marciac and part of the pleasure of this job is the early morning drive along the little ridge road into town. From the ridge on a clear day, you can see our small commune of Aussat with the Pyrenees in the background.

Further on, there is a lovely view to be had of the bottom part of Monpardiac lake, again, with the mountains behind. As well as the excellent vistas, for that 15 minute drive, it is rare to come across another car. I can't think of a more uplifting drive to work!

 
 

In February, we hosted the first curry club evening of the year and enjoyed listening to our friends' experiences during their travels; Sarah and Michael were fresh back from their trip to India and Mark had just finished what seemed like a mini World tour.

Of course, we were not at all jealous!

 
 

Whenever we go to Marciac market, Ruben and I take a walk around the lake and even though the sun has been shining most times and it hasn't been cold at all, I am always surprised at how few people choose to do the same.

Quite early on in February we spotted about 40 cranes flying over the garden on their way back from Spain, which is unusually early. Likewise at dusk, the first bat was spotted flapping about and in the garden, there was evidence that the hedgehogs had also woken up from their slumbers.

February 16th marked the ninth anniversary of us moving to France and was followed by two weeks of gloriously warm weather exactly as we had experienced all those years ago.

 
 

One Sunday we took yet another stroll around a lake, this time circling the one in Boussous which was a 10 km walk. Because of the dry winter, it was half empty and rather sad and neglected looking.

Afterwards we treated ourselves to some lovely pastries from the market and then sat with a coffee enjoying the sun out-side of one of our favourite bars/restaurants in the village.

 
 

Boussous was one of the first villages that we visited when we arrived here and I remember being impressed by the size of the tower, but in all these years we have not been up to the top of it to take in the view.

Perhaps this year we will!

 
 

 
 

The Good Life Diary 2014

 
 
 
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