Monday, 31 May 2010

Worried about my level of French!

After being here for two months, we have managed quite well with the language issues, but I am now feeling like my French is not good enough. Everyone tells me I am fine, but I am getting frustrated because I want to chat and make small talk and cannot do so.

Feeling a bit out of my depth when we get phone calls and panic a bit. Perhaps I just am trying to run before I walk, but I just want to be fluent. Find it hard trying to explain homework to my 8 yr old and even messed up writing a cheque in front of the head mistress at the school this afternoon. Feeling a bit stupid!

Is this normal to be feeling this way?

Lets celebrate the Vine in Auvillar!

Auvillar is in a festive mood this month. We have been part of a number of celebrations in the village since we arrived in April, but this one tops them all.

50 days after Easter each year, Auvillar pays homage to the humble vine in the form of a traditional celebration and of course plenty of wine! It is called the Fete de St Noe, and St Noe is the patron saint of the vine.

The villagers dress in traditional costume, men wearing waistcoats and trousers with a red waist band and clogs and the women wear long skirts in red and white or blue and white striped material with a white top, apron and their hair in a small bonnet. The farmers and residents parade through the streets carrying a tree cut from the banks of the Garonne and placed up right it in the centre of the village (not easy when everyone is two sheets to the wind!)There is music, lots of dancing and wine flowing freely!

Following the two hour long parade, the market square is home to a large gathering, where food and drink are served with much merriment. After the food everyone goes to the church where the Priest heads another procession through the streets in the dark with the villagers following by candle light. A short religious service wishing the farmers a good harvest precedes dancing until the early hours to a live band with yes you've guessed it ... more wine!

We made our way home with a very tired little girl at midnight! All over for another year, or so we thought!

Next morning we had a knock at the door from a fellow villager delivering flowers to all residents of Auvillar with a small dontation to charity. We were then invited to the continuation of celebrations.

Things had kicked off again early in the morning with a mass at the church and more dancing, but we didn't quite make the early start! We made our way to the village for 3.30pm to be greeted by hundreds of revellers, dancing and playing music. There were shepherds in traditional costumes on stilts and a vine was paraded through the village at the head of the procession. More food and wine for the evening and lots of sore heads in the morning no doubt!

Certainly worth booking a weekend with us in France for next year.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Integrating into a new community

Its official, we've integrated!(well I have)I had my first inviation to a girly evening out tonight and have just returned from a lovely multicultural evening at my friend lucy's house in Auvillar.

I felt excited to have been asked and now truly feel that we are becoming part Auvillar life. There was Natalie from France, me from the UK, Lucy from Belgium, a lady from Italy and another from Denmark.

Lucy had prepared a a bbq with kebabs and Toulouse sausage, someone else had prepared a quiche, and another ratouille, whilst my friend Natalie had made strawberry sorbet with her new ice cream machinea and bought along a bowl of freshly picked cherries from her tree. I made ginger biscuits and all was washed down with plenty of alcohol!

The evening was made better witout men and kids in tow!! (sorry, but us girlies need some time to ourselves on occasions to have a moan and winge and talk girl talk).

I have just arrived home rather merry to be told Nick my husband has just caught his first Mole - yippee! lets hope we get all the little buggers before the end of the summer!

Night night, I know I will sleep well tonight, wonder why!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Moles - cunning little buggers!

As most of my spare time is taken up by mowing the huge expanse of lawn here at Le Farat, I wanted to get a gripe off my chest.

MOLES............I HATE THEM!

Since we moved here at the beginning of April, I have worked tirelessly to keep the lawns nice (as you will have read on previous blogs). However, the little blighters are going mental and I am struggling to control the mower over the miles of mole runs that are sinking when I drive over them. Unfortunately, the mower does not have shock absorbers and I am getting a bad back and black eyes!

We have so far tried, traps, smokes, sonic alarms and have read that poisoned worms work but I dont believe it. When we were in the UK we had a great success rate with catching them, but here they must be very cunning. Each run comes into a mole hill at an angle and the traps have been set off with the moles filling them with soil.

Next on the list is to blast them out of the ground!!! To be honest if I make a mess of the lawn with craters all over it, I dont care, it cannot be worse than spending 4 hours at a time bouncing over uneven ground.

Any experts out in cyberspace, your advice would be greatfully received.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Short trip back to UK

Over the past 6 weeks we have thrown ourselves 100% into our new life here. We have made friends with a number of local french families and our younger daughter, although finding the language barrier difficult, at 8 years old, is integrating well and has had her first party invitation and has been to play at a new friends house after school. When I collected her from school on Wednesday I had a huge feeling of pride in what she had managed to achieve in such a short space of time.

I am so happy here and although I am sure that there are going to be hard times ahead, I hope that we can cope and that in the long term we make a success of our life here.

Saying that, there are some luxuries that I miss and I am missing my older daughter who is back in the UK desperately. We talk regularly on skype using a webcam, but it is not the same. I am missing out on her learning to drive and being there to support her in the run up to her AS Level exams.

Therefore, I booked a flight back to the UK last Sunday to see her. I set of in our little van to the airport, leaving my husband behind to look after our youngest and do the school run for a couple of days.

The long term carpark at Toulouse airport is easy to find and I took the free courtesy bus to the new Hall D that opened in April. Toulouse Blagnac is now a large modern airport with a reasonable duty free area and nice seating in the departure lounge.

I arrived in good time and went without a problem straight to the Gate to await boarding. All went well until the flight was delayed and I ended up waiting until midnight on false hope to be told that the flight had been cancelled. The excuse by the airline was the volacnic ash cloud was causing problems, however every other airline left the airport that evening! So I made the 50 minute journey back to our house in the Tarn et Garonne to break the news to my older daughter by text and unpack my bag and go to bed. Very frustrating.

I have now rebooked the trip for mid June, so hope things go better next time!

Monday, 10 May 2010

A weekend of celebrations in France

May is clearly a month for celebrating in France, and our region, Tarn et Garonne is no exception. Celebration after celebration since the beginning of the month! This weekend saw the Lavit de Lomagne May fayre and Auvillar school carnival.

We arrived in Lavit about 10am and the whole village was buzzing with people and attractions. Hunting dogs on display in their various breed cages, horses doing circus displays, sheep dogs keeping a small flock of sheep in order in the market square while children, donkeys and adults wandered amongst them. Artisans making clogs with ancient machinery and a street market full of intersting items as well as different food stalls and a vide grenier. We spent most of the day wandering in the warm spring weather (miracle - it stayed dry)

After lunch on the hoof, so to speak we returned home to dress my daughter Abigail in her fancy dress costume for the school carnival. We arrived to an excited group of children all in their brightly coloured outfits, including the little siblings who were barely old enough to walk, but were fully kitted out in fancy dress and face paints! After the customary photographs, a tractor pulled a trailer decorated by the children out of the school playground and through the streets of Auviller, blasting out ....Frankie goes to hollywood - strange choice and I am sure the PTA's command of English was not good enough to understand the lyrics! Still nobody seemed concerned and we had a little sneaky laugh about it.

The children and parents followed the trailer and were all given bags of confetti to throw at each other and passers by. The tourists on the chemin vers saint jacques compostelle trail were entertained by the antics and some even received a neck full of confetti! After about 40 mins everyone returned to the school for cakes and a drink and each child was given a bag of sweets.

A great day was had by all!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Vide Greniers - the place to go for antiques

Well after the anticipation of attending 3 vide greniers in one weekend, I was not dissappointed.

On Saturday morning, we had every intention of getting up early to get the bargains, but......well it was Saturday! We finally arrived at the first vide Grenier/Brocante or antiques sale in Dunes only 12km from Auvillar at 10am.

There had been lots of flyers deposited in and around the local villages and we were expecting hoards of people. However, the weather was not kind and when we arrived in the pouring rain there were plenty of parking spaces and few people walking around. Such a shame for the organisers, but great for us!

My husband is not a great lover of shopping, but when it comes to poking through other peoples rubbish, he comes into his own! The trouble is, he is interested in completely different things to me and seems to spend hours at one stall when I have done the whole sale in an hour and a half, bought what I wanted and am ready to leave!

The first stall we came to had exactly what I was looking for; a single antique walnut bed with matching head/footboard. The seller also had a great jam cupbord that would have made a lovely bedside table, but I had to be restrained! Most of the stalls were full of old items that looked like they had just been pulled out of a barn. They were covered in cobwebs, were either rusty or full of woodworm. A real mish mash of stuff, but certainly some bargains to be had.

After dodging the rain under the covered archways for each stall we bought a punnit of Strawberries, loaded the car with our purchase and returned home feeling very pleased.

We sprayed the bed all over with woodworm killer, cleaned it off with white spirit and then rewaxed it in a natural wax. Wow, it now looks fab as does the one I bought on Thursday and both beds are almost identical!

Sunday morning, off we went again, first to Valance d'Agen. This was much more like an English carboot sale, with stalls selling anything from childrens clothes to tomato plants and antiques rescued from the bonfire!

There were a couple of stalls selling good quality antiques at top prices, but we were looking for nice pieces of furniture that needed a bit of TLC at bargain prices.

After just over an hour we had bought two very old firedogs for 10€ and a companion set in wrought iron for 5€ as well as a lovely cupboard in walnut to use as a bedside table for 50€.

On to Auvillar, cars everywhere! I think the village has such a reputation for being old and beautiful, people had come from far and wide to see what was for sale. Strangely enough, the first stall we walked up to again had another lovely walnut cupboard. We negotiated 60€ and walked away happy. This cupboard was not exactly the same as the first we had bought in Valance d'Agen, but it did match an existing piece of furniture we had bought previously at an auction that was held here at Le Farat before we bought the place and had a lovely pink marble top.

The weather stayed dry, Abigail found her school friends and dissappeared off to play while we wandered and bought a few items of fruit and veg from the Sunday market that was also on at the same time being held in the beautiful circular covered grain market in the middle of the village.

We are now in the process of treating both cupboards like the beds for woodworm, before waxing to put into the Chambre du Jardin B&B room.