Well, for one reason or another, it’s been a bit more than an intermission since the last post, back in June and that didn’t cover any of the lovely visits we had from friends and family…. All the more frustrating then, that on attempting to update what we’ve up to over the summer months, my laptop, less than two years old, decided to crash. On top of that, I can’t access any of the photos I’ve taken since February last year because, idiot that I am, I forgot to back them up on my external hard drive…. 🙁 Thankfully, the very nice man in the IT shop in Mayenne said he’d save my photos for me when they have a look at the problem – hopefully it’s fixable and I haven’t lost them all….
Summer time and the living is easy….
In the meantime, August is upon us. It has been a different summer to last year. We’ve had really hot spells, making it difficult to work in the intense heat, but they have been fewer and interspersed with cooler, changeable weather. In some ways, it’s a bit of a relief, especially in the garden, where new plantings were beginning to suffer in the near drought conditions earlier in the spring/summer. The little borders along the front of the terrace have done really well though and many of the plants are already well established – amazing to think they were only planted up in May!
The vegetable patch is working in overdrive – I had to pull out some of the courgette plants we had as we just couldn’t keep up with production! Still, we are harvesting runner beans, courgettes, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers almost every day, although the latter have slowed down a little! We had our first cabbage last week, which was delicious and we are waiting impatiently for the nine melons to ripen in the tunnel… Every other day we are picking armfuls of sweet peas, which have been a delight to have in the kitchen, with their wonderful, heady scent…. The plum trees have produced tonnes of fruit and this year I have learnt how to bottle them so we can enjoy them in the winter months too. I’ve also made jams, chutneys and ketchup with the different vegetables and fruits we have cultivated and others we have found in the nearby countryside. A particular success was a ‘hedgerow crumble’ I made the other day – blackberries and small plums we found at the side of a road – it didn’t make it to the freezer!
After a long spell away working on other projects and priorities, work in the studio has resumed and all of a sudden, it seems the end is in sight. Edward has done a brilliant job and has come up with some ingenious ideas to resolve tricky problems. This 7 x 4 m space is going to make a fabulous studio and workshop and I’m extremely excited to think I might be able to get in there within the next week or so….
And now for something completely different….
Since leaving the UK, we have been driving on our UK driving licences. Perfectly legal and acceptable but when the photo cards expire, we planned to exchange them for the French equivalent. So far so good, until I realised too late that while Edward’s is valid until October, mine expired in the middle of July! We completed all the necessary paperwork, with photocopies of everything we thought we needed, along with new passport-style photos of ourselves and last week, we headed over to Laval, to the Prefecture, to apply for French driving permits….
Unfortunately, we’d failed to provide evidence that we’d paid our taxes (!) but the lovely lady at the bureau processed our applications anyway, so that we just had to add this information before sending off for our permits. Unfortunately for me, as my card had already expired, I also had to go for a medical with an ‘approved’ doctor, before my application could be processed… And, I was advised not to drive…. Darn it!
So yesterday, I went for my appointment with a locally approved doctor in Bais. Looking back, while it was not taxing, it was quite a surreal experience… I was the only patient in the waiting room when we arrived but I could hear a doctor on the telephone next door. The phone seemed to be ringing constantly but as there was no receptionist, the doctor had to take the calls himself. In the end, I popped my head around his open door and after establishing who I was, he ushered me in and told me to sit down – he was still talking on the phone… Eventually, the call ended and he took my paperwork from me for my application and started to fill in new forms. He was brusque and there was little conversation but I did my best in French and felt happy that I was understanding him. After a while, he asked if I spoke French, ‘en peut’, I replied and explained, in French, I was taking lessons in Mayenne. It was then that he started to speak to me in a kind of pidgin English, very loudly! The phone rang again and he had a conversation with someone who evidently had a bad arm….. He then gave me scissors to cut out the spare ID photos I had brought with me, telling me to cut off ‘tout le blanc’ around each photo, while he continued with form filling – some spilled off his desk onto the floor but he didn’t notice until he looked for them and I picked them up and handed them to him… Eventually, he gestured for me to sit on the examination bench so he could take my blood pressure… ‘75%, very good!’….It was somewhat of a relief – I’ve never had a problem with my blood pressure in the past but this strange situation was quite unlike anything I had encountered before, I was unsure how it would be affected!
Next, I was asked to read an eye test he was holding up across the room, without my glasses….. Needless to say, it was all a blur and I couldn’t read many letters at all. ‘With glasses’ he shouted, and it all became clear as both eyes were tested! ‘Very good’. ‘You need your glasses for driving’ (I need them for everything!). He then came over to me and said ‘Repeat what I say’ – my hearing test…. he cupped one hand to my left ear and whispered ‘one’…. ‘one’, I said. He cupped his hand to my right ear and whispered ‘two’…. ‘two’, I said…. He seemed satisfied and instructed, through sign language, to stand in front of him…. could I see his fingers he was holding either side of my head in my peripheral vision? Watching his finger move from left to right I had an urge to giggle… Supressing it, he then asked me to bend over to reach towards my toes (I was surprised I could do it after all the recent activity in the studio!), then I was asked to crouch. Finally, and this is where I nearly lost it, he asked me to stand on one leg. I’m hoping there was some scientific basis for these little exercises and that, as he told me at the end of the consultation, I will be contacted by the Bureau within a month for my new driving permit… I guess only time will tell but I couldn’t help thinking how very Monty Python it all was! I wonder what the equivalent test would be like in the UK… ♥