Bits and Pieces

Church in Le Puy Notre DameChurch in Le Puy Notre Dame

It seems like ages since my last post, this is no doubt because it is.  So here are a few bits and pieces to catch up.

Both of our gites have been full, more or less, from mid-March onwards so we have not had a lot of time to spare and, in addition, I have been trying to finish the renovations in the old part of the building having had to curtail the work for months on end because of my dislocated shoulder.

People often ask us how we relate to all our various guests throughout the year,  in fact, we take great pleasure in the diverse nature of the people we meet through the business and have made many friends. The funny thing is that it is the fact that we get on with so well, particularly with the ones that have returned for the second, third and fourth times which can cause the problem.  The reason is that they are no longer guests but are now also friends with the result that, inevitably, one finds oneself feeling on holiday with them and the net result of that is that I manage to pass the summer months with a glass of wine almost permanently in my hand, (to refuse would be most impolite of course)!! Couple that with the simple fact of living in a wine producing village where having the odd drink is as natural as breathing and it is as easy to spot the potential problem as it is to spot a train hurtling towards you.  Oh it is a hard life but verily someone has to do it!  I also feel very lucky to be able to spend a week or so talking to an American pilot, the next week a Canadian judge who settled many of the Indian land claims, then a coach for the New York Yankees, an Australian couple who are “doing” Europe without a car, a retired American Doctor now working for the poor, who cannot afford health assurance, a Scottish hill farmer, a Welsh journalist etc. etc. It really is most interesting for both of us. 

Of course, in between servicing our guest accommodation and looking after our visitors, life goes on as normal or, being in France, not so normal.  I’ll just give you two examples:-

Having returned our French tax form I was staggered when the “resident terrorists” at the local Depôt des Impots in Saumur sent us a tax demand fully three times what we expected!  On investigation I discovered that the idiot who had filled in the tax form had put a figure on the wrong line.  As the idiot in question  was ‘yours truly’ I decided to take all the tax documents to an Accountant and to ask him to do it.  I found one in Doué la Fontaine, explained the situation and he said if we came back tomorrow he would  fill out a new form correctly, prepare letters for all the numerous “functionaires” involved and basically sort out the problem.  This is exactly what happened and, on returning the following afternoon, all we had to do was to sign and send the letters to the appropriate offices.  I thanked him profusely and then asked him to confirm that he would send us an invoice.  “No”, he replied, “I have done practically nothing, there is no reason to pay me anything”.  “But you’re an Accountant”, I stammered, rather lamely, thinking he would be likely to be struck off if he refused to charge.   But, he adamantly refused and that was that. (I later took him  a Magnum of superb, Sparkling Saumur Brut from the Domaine de la Paliene in our village of Le Puy Notre Dame). The question is, could you imagine an Accountant in almost any other country not bothering to charge, I leave you to answer that question.    

Just before that, I had taken our car to the garage in the village because of an irritating squeak on the brakes, particularly obvious because, even in this summer, the worst in living memory, the roof has been down more often than not.  They spent several hours checking the whole system, cleaned it and put it back together again.  Once more, no charge, this time because they could not find anything in particular.  It really does make one feel very grateful.

We have had many guests from New Zealand this year which, of course, coincided with the Rugby World Cup and which led, as you can imagine, to much banter. So for all our Kiwi guests, now that they cannot answer back!, here is a joke I picked up on the internet.  “What’s the difference between the All Blacks and a teabag? Answer………A teabag stays in the cup longer!!”…………….!  

I had very mixed feelings when England defeated France in the semis.  On the one hand I was delighted that England had won and, at the same time, I felt utterly devastated that France had lost.  It was a strange feeling I have never had before and hope I never have again.  But I suppose I will, as sooner or later, France will meet England in some major sport or other.  This is what living in France for so long does to you.  At least the two are not going to meet in the European Football Championships due to England’s pathetic failure to qualify!!

In the village our new Wine Bar is finished and will be opening this Saturday, (10th. November), allegedly!   It must be a thing in France that you only open bars and restaurants when there is practically no chance whatsoever of doing much trade. The village restaurant, Le Bouchon Ponot, also opened in November (2006), carefully timed to avoid all the tourists who flood into the area in the summer months.  

Monsieur Le Maire, Dominique Monnier, has announced that he will not be standing again in next years elections.  This will be sad for the village as he has worked very hard to obtain various grants and subsidies and he is always on hand to resolve problems and help the Ponots and Ponettes, (male and female residents of Le Puy Notre Dame) over anything whatsoever.  The clever money, in the bar, is on the village doctor to be our next Maire.  I would think he would not have many people voting against him.  You can imagine him standing over you with a huge syringe the size of a grease gun, “I understand you voted against me……..” 

In November we had a visit from our two dear old friends from the Staffordshire Moorlands, David and Janet.  Dave and I argue like cats and dogs over just about everything.  Last time we met we lay on two sun-loungers at three o’clock in the morning under the clear, starry sky, disagreeing about which direction ‘The Plough’ moved in the firmament.  I even went into the house to run an astronomy programme on the computer in order to find concrete proof.  Unfortunately, I was, as is said politely in the House of Commons, “tired and emotional”, several bottles full of tiredness and emotion in fact.   Thus I was incapable of operating the programme and by the time I did manage it I had forgotten what I was looking for.  So had David!   This time the main subject of contention was evolution.  After several hours we finally reached a consensus on one thing; that it was quite clear that our respective ancestors could not have emerged from the primeval slime at the same time, as we would still be lying there, on the edge of a muddy pool, arguing about what direction to take!! 

For the last year or so Le Puy Notre Dame has been ‘dongless’.  The church bell wheezed its way to an early death and, since then, there has been no dongs to mark the passing of the day.  It has just not been the same.  I had even got out of the habit of wearing a watch whilst at home or in the village, relying totally on the bell.  “Ding-dong”, oh, it’s midday, I’ll pop in the bar for an aperitif, “ding-dong”, oh, it’s 2pm. I’ll pop home to see if lunch is in the dog!!  Anyway the good news is that, with a combination of local contributions and grants, the metal for the new bell will be poured into the mould in early December.  The village is arranging a trip to the foundry in Normandy to watch the hot metal being poured, I just hope we get out of the village before the first wine bottle is emptied.  The bell will be baptised “Marie-Louise”.   

Well that’s about all for now otherwise the Blog will go on forever.  May I wish all our friends and guests a truly Merry Xmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Bon Courage et Bonne Chance!!

Brian and Sheila      gites in loire valley