Tag Archives: living in France

Easter in the Languedoc and in my garden

Easter is called Paques here in France. There are similar traditions to do with eggs and Easter bunnies and cute fluffy chicks as the ones I’m used to from the UK. In village centres, traders make a special point of decorating their windows, and, of course, the chocolatiers go all out to catch your eye and entice you indoors.


hanging decorated eggs

Some villages have their carnivals at Easter. The poulain is the totem animal of the town and he will be dusted off to do a tour of the streets while children follow and throw flour at each other.


the totem animal of Pezenas

The mayor of our village asked for restraint this year. It’s not a good idea to mix flour-throwing with real eggs. You might be able to wash the sticky result from your hair and clothes easily, but cleaning the streets is another matter.

After recent heavy rain which saw the end of the Hanumi blossom, my garden is blooming with fresh delights.

grape hyacinths

grape hyacinths and miniature tulips

I like to see a mixture of spring bulbs in planters. Grape hyacinths and miniature tulips make a good contrast in this pot. I’m not a fan of scarlet red flowers; I think they can be too loud and take over the garden if you let them, but a little is okay with me. Blue flowers, on the other hand, are a must. Somehow, they knit everything together.

On the wall by the garage, the jasmine is beginning to open. Its perfume is intoxicating.


Jasmine flowers ready to burst open

Doesn’t this picture just make your nose itch for the smell of it?

In another pot, pink Ixia has already started. I’d never grown this plant before, but I wouldn’t be without it now. It flowers all the way through summer and thoroughly deserves its place in the garden.

Ixia flowers

Ixia flowers are like small gladioli

I wish you all a very Happy Easter. Himself and I and Gollum Boy are having a few days away. Back soon!

Clearing out the old stuff – Little Red Hen style

There comes a time when only a thorough clearing out will hit the spot. Himself has a pile of Money Weekly type magazines that go back to before the banking apocalypse when you could still put your cash in a savings account and earn some interest on it. This dusty tower of old paper is spilling out from underneath a coffee table in our living room and there may well be spiders living in it.

I have books and papers, too, stuffed in old shoe boxes, cluttering drawers. There’s a box full of old musical films on Video Tape, for goodness’ sake. How did they escape the last thorough clearing out session?

Gollum Boy, remember him? Here’s a reminder: gollumTeenage Gollum

He’s still upstairs, growing greyer. He is surrounded, in his bachelor pad at the top of the house where he has more space for his belongings than his father and I in our own bedroom, by games and toys from his pre-online gaming era. Those days when he still looked like a boy. Remember them? Those days when he spoke a language you could understand?

He doesn’t have the inclination to offer any help toward this clearing out of old stuff. Not even his own old stuff. He doesn’t see it as his responsibility to sort and clear out his own old stuff. He thinks it should all be dumped in a bin bag and thrown away. Hang on a minute, we said. Some of this stuff is worth a bit of money.

I should point out at this juncture that himself and I manage on a limited budget. Very limited. That’s why we are very careful on Red Days.

It’s why we trawl the supermarkets for special offers on joints of meat and why we don’t eat out very often. So, chucking out hundreds of pounds’ worth of Lego and other young kids’ stuff was way beyond what we could allow to happen.



Himself and I began to sort through the black bin bags Gollum Boy had deposited at the bottom of the stairs. All these Lego bricks, never put away properly, the empty boxes stuffed into other bin bags. Everything all mixed up.  legopile2

Aaaaargh! I think that’s what I cried out. It might have been something stronger than that.

This pile is supposed to be a Lego City Airport with planes and terminal buildings. There should be a sea port too with ferry boats and . .

But Gollum Boy is too grown up for all this stuff now. He hasn’t got time to put it all back into its boxes so we could flog it at a car boot sale. And he has made a HUGE mistake in not offering to help.

Father and I will do it for him – Little Red Hen style. Do you know that story? Little Red Hen needs help to plant the seeds, to grow the corn, to go to the mill, to bake the bread. Nobody wants to help, but when the loaf is baked they all want to eat some. No, says Little Red Hen, I shall eat it myself. And she did!


a favourite children’s story



Gollum Boy is not invited to the car boot sale day. Father and I will put in all the effort.

lego airportlego airplane

We’ll sort out the airport pieces and tape up the box.

legoferryWe’ll find the ferry. We’ll book our pitch at the car boot sale and eat a picnic under the trees with French bread and cheese, possibly a beer from the catering van.

And we will keep ALL the proceeds.

Expat Living Is it what you thought?

expat passport

passport to a different life for expats?

Himself is helping out the British expat network today. It’s expected. It’s what happens when you go to live in other people’s countries.  Whether you thought you wanted it or not.

I’ve heard some expats say that when they were looking for a home away from the UK, they wanted to immerse themselves in their chosen foreign way of life. They didn’t want to be part of some clique, some dreadful enclave of British, gin-swigging expats, meeting for golf or bridge every Tuesday afternoon and boring the pants off each other at endless summer barbecues. Besides, they would tell you, we speak the language. We don’t need to be surrounded by Brits all the time. Why move to France, Spain, wherever, if you don’t want to live the French, Spanish, whatever way of life?

And then they need a tap fixing. Or the computer’s gone down. So they get on the telephone and they make the appointment with appropriate technician and he tells them he can come a week on Thursday. Not before. He’s the only plumber, computer fixer on the island, Senora, the only one in the village, Madame. There’s another one lives near the city but he wouldn’t be able to come until Christmas.

That’s where the expat network comes in. It makes sense to skill-share and help each other out of a hole.

expat airport

the ‘sunny’ expats’ airport

Himself is on the airport run this morning. Beziers Cap d’Agde. They call it the sunny airport. Mr O’Leary brings tens of thousands of passengers from Luton, Bristol and Manchester and Stuttgart, Paris, Oslo. Flybe comes in from Southampton.

expat airline

One of many of Mr O’Leary’s flights





And, of course, all the people who have family in those catchment areas go back to visit and for weddings and christenings etc. Including me and himself. Why pay 50 euro for a taxi when the expat network can step in? You can’t have the same kind of reciprocal arrangement with your native neighbours. They and their families aren’t flying in and out all the time. We see a lot of cars with British plates in the airport car park. We know they haven’t lived here long enough yet to re-register the vehicle for French plates. Their numbers continue growing and the airport car park took over another field. They had to extend the runway, too and build a new terminal to accommodate all the extra passengers. When they sort out the access road, it will be better.


Beziers – a beautiful city

Beziers is a beautiful city in this, the fastest growing region in the whole of France. Even the French want to live here, it seems. The climate is, well, Mediterranean. It’s like Provence but not as expensive. Beziers is close to the coast. Here’s one of the nearest beaches.



Safe bathing on one of our many beaches



It’s good to know you’re going to get a proper summer each year. You can plan ahead. You know you’ll be warm enough on a summer evening. But a Mediterranean climate doesn’t mean it’s hot all year round. Winters are short but can be very sharp. We burn a lot of wood from December to March.

The log delivery man tips your winter heating into the road outside your gate. That’s when the expat community comes into its own again. Many helping hands barrow away the logs and build the stock pile for a few beers and a bacon sandwich. There’s a much bigger expat community offering help and advice at http://languedoc.angloinfo.com/



What, no writing? Monday singing rehearsals.


The Bishop of Narbonne was jealous.

I don’t get much serious writing done on Mondays. I don’t get much writing done at all. I might find a few minutes to write a short post on here, then it’s warming up the old vocal chords (and I do really mean old ) before it’s off toward the hills and rehearsals in Capestang.

The wind blows fit to knock you off your feet as you turn the corner around the church to walk to rehearsals. To the right of this picture, you can see where the building stops. Like the church was suddenly chopped. In fact, that’s exactly what happened in the 13th century. Some contributing factors may have been to do with the Plague and/or the change in the course of the river, but there’s also the story that says the Bishop in Narbonne sent out his spies to see what was happening in Capestang and when he discovered the completed church would have been bigger than his own seat, he used the money for something else.


the language of music

I love these old stories. Even the smallest villages here have stories to tell. I love to hear about them, read about them. Sometimes, I might be inspired to write a new story based on what I’ve discovered. But I can’t get into that today because it’s Monday. Monday is singing. There’s no serious writing today. Serious singing instead. We’re rehearsing Carmina Burana for performances in May. O, Fortuna, velut Luna statu variabilis . . .

Singing is so vital. I can’t imagine a life without music. When I take Mondays off, away from writing, I know I’m gonna come back Tuesdays all fired up and ready to go again.

no writing

Choir of Capestang