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Tuesday, 29 September 2009


Driven round the bend!

Time for another tale about our life in France. When we moved to France we kept our British driving licences as we were allowed to drive using those and the thought of more bureaucracy in trying to change them to French ones wasn't something we were keen to confront!

In France you have to carry your driving licence with you at all times when you are driving as if you are stopped for any reason you must produce it there and then so when I discovered that I had lost (as in mislaid not been disqualified) mine I knew that I would have to do something fast as I couldn't risk driving without one. Not too dificult you might think? Well to start off with I e-mailed the DVLA (driver and vehicle licencing agency for those of you who are not familiar with this term) asking if they could provide me with another one.

No - came back the answer since I was no longer resident in UK! With hindsight I could have had it sent to my sister-in-law's or somewhere but being the honest soul I am I had by then told them that I lived in France. They did however furnish me with a paper confirming that I was the holder of a UK licence and listing what groups of vehicles I was qualified to drive, how long I had held the licence etc.

Next stop a trip to the gendarmerie to ask if I could exchange the paper for a French licence. No came the reply. To do that would need the old British licence which of course I didn't have!

After numerous calls to the British embassies in both Paris and Bordeaux - our nearest Embassy - and more visits to the gendarmerie in the end it was decided that the only way I would be able to get a French licence, since a UK one was out of the question, was to go to the Hotel de Police in Limoges and tell them that my UK licence had been stolen! This I did although I felt dreadful and kept saying "Je ne comprends pas" to all their questions as lying doesn't come easily to me.

Armed with the required paper from the Hotel de Police I was now able to go to the Prefecture to apply for a French licence.

The lady behind the desk gave me a paper listing all the items I should bring along and we duly returned with them only to have her tick off numbers 1, 2 and 3 and then to tell me I needed a photocopy of my passport - number 4. She sent me to La Poste (post office) across the road to get the photocopy done although why she couldn't have done it for me I don't know as I'm sure there was a photocopier in the Prefecture somewhere and indeed my French friend told me had I been a French person this is what would have happened. Racism she called it!

When I returned with the photocopy she ticked off 4, 5 and then stopped at 6 saying I needed a photocopy of that document too and another trip across the road more coins in the slot were called for! Why she couldn't have checked all the boxes before sending me off to photocopy any of them I don't know but that seems to be the French way. By now I was getting somewhat stressed and annoyed about the whole affair and the photo which I then had to get taken to go on my new licence shows this!!

Eventually I handed over my 30 euros and was given a temporary paper till the actual licence arrived. I could drive again!

My driving licence duly arrived and according to it I was licenced to drive everything except a motorcycle. I could drive a bus, heavy goods vehicle a bus with a trailer..... how mad is that! So should you ever find yourself without a driving licence perhaps because you failed the test or have been disqualified or something all you need to do to get another is to go and reside in France and claim your original one was stolen and they will happily provide you with a French one! Mind you on second thoughts maybe not as the bureaucracy involved in becoming a French resident might put you off that idea!
Now that we are back in the UK I am given to understand that the French licence will be acceptable for up to 3 years and before then we will need to do the procedure in reverse! At least I will be able to speak the language this time!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Words that make me think

I spent the day yesterday having a bit of a sort out in my workroom/office/junk depository and came across a load of cuttings I had saved many of which were quotations I had felt inspired by. I thought I'd share some of them with you if you'd like? The first is a poem I found in a magazine and loved.

Reteach a thing its loveliness by Galway Kinnell

The bud

stands for all things,

even those things which don't flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing

as Saint Francis

put his hand on the the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch

blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow

began remembering all down her thick length,

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine

down through the great broken heart

to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking

and blowing beneath them;

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

PS Anyone tell me how to change the spacing to single - I didn't intend this to be in double spacing.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Old china

I wrote the promised Old china post on Thursday and saved it to publish later but I discover that it has inserted it along with the post dated 24th! Can't find any way to bring it forwards to today's date so I'm afraid if you want to see it you'll have to scroll down to Thursday 24th! Sorry about that - hopefully I will get the hang of it all eventually!

Friday, 25 September 2009


This is the front of the cathedral in Wells - we didn't go inside this one today.

We have been to Wells this morning. It was a lovely sunshiny day and so we decided on a whim to go out for a couple of hours - that's one advantage of being retired!

As I was driving I couldn't take any pictures but the scenery we passed through was so beautiful I wished - not for the first time - that I was skilled enough to write poetry or music, to paint or create in some other medium something which would bring to life what I saw. However since I am not that clever all I can do is to try and create a word picture for you - it won't be like a photo but it will mean you can see for yourself whatever your imagination brings to mind. I have added some links (if they work) which may help with the lack of illustrations. Having checked the post out I realise that the links don't show too well and you will need to move your cursor over the text to find them - sorry about that!

The trees are really beginning to turn now and there were so many yellows, golds and reds amongst the different greens it was absolutely stunning especially in the clear autumn sunlight and with the sky such a wonderful transparent sort of blue that only seems possible at this time of year. I noticed along the hedgerows the pale skeletons of the cow parsley - it seems incredible that such slender, brittle stems could have been the support of that frothy white mass of flowers and their pretty fern like leaves just a few months ago. They stand sentinel over the roadside edges and look so attractive now that it is possible to see the shape of each and every stem, umbrel (is that the right word?) and seedhead. Such a delicate tracery they make.

Behind them were the occasional clump of fluffy thistledown heads (I could almost imagine them being used to make fairy beds!) with their dried out brown leaves - the thistles which earlier bloomed purple in the hedgerow. There were berries a-plenty of every type and colour: blackberries clambering over the bushes where once they were delicate pinky mauve flowers along with the honeysuckle and dog roses, hawthorn berries of deepest crimson, rosehips of vivid scarlet and shiny black elderberries hanging heavy from their delicate stems over all. And here and there the twining vines of the wild clematis now covered in balls of cream fluff indicating whiy it is also called Old Man's Beard!

The fields were a patchwork of greens, and some even the velvety brown of newly ploughed soil. We passed through villages whose houses were built of the soft grey stone common in that area in contrast to the warm yellow Hamstone which we see round here. It is a pretty grey and not dark and depressing looking even in the rain as granite stone can be. The pinks and blues of the geraniums and last of the lobelia look lovely with this soft grey and one or two of the houses were covered in Virginnia creeper which at this time of year is so stunning it can be forgiven the hard work it causes when one has to collect up the fallen leaves and trim it back to prevent it taking over altogether (we had it on our house in France and I loved the look of it but not the clearing up!)

As we reached the brow of one hill we were rewarded with a fabulous view of Glastonbury Tor set atop its hill and basking in the autumn sunshine - it is truly a stunning sight set in such lovely countryside and today it was at its best and the air was so clear we could see for ever (do check out this link as it shows a panorama of what you can see from the top of the Tor - we didn't climb it today but we have done so in the past and it was worth every hard won step!)

The gardens have some stunning brightly coloured flowers in them just now - it's as if nature ismaking one last final effort before the winter months come and any plants and flowers will be of the smaller less conspicuous variety. There are lots of sunflowers, dahlias in all their blowsy finery and of course the last of the vivid geraniums too.

Somerset is apple country and we passed orchards whose apple trees were covered in the fruit - not the uniform round supermarket golden delicious sort but the old varieties with their more subtle colouring - russets with their matt golden skin, Beauty of Bath with their delicate striped red and gold colouring and many other varieties all of which I am sure would taste delicious and nothing at all like the turnips we buy in the supermarkets!

It was a lovely drive and I shall treasure the mind-photos I have and bring them out to look at occasionally especially in the drear dark days of winter.

Hope you are still with me? and as I said sorry for the lack of pics. I leave you with one taken of a pretty doorway in Wells - just before my batteries ran out! Whoever lives there must either be very short or have got used to ducking their head when going in and out as the doorway was only about 5 feet high!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Old china

After my previous rather dull and lacking in pictures post here's the one I promised about old china. Nothing of any value but I hope you like them as much as I do? This little jug and plate are Royal Doulton - not sure where I got them from although I believe they were my aunt's.

These plates - I have about a dozen of them in two sizes - I bought at an auction as part of a lot for £1. When I checked them I find they are Minton and I found a website in USA selling them for $30 each so if you know anybody willing to pay that I might be persuaded to part with them!!

I just liked the design.

This plate belonged to my aunt - pretty design isn't it?

This one I admired at my mother-in-law's and she gave it to me many years ago. I didn't realise till years later that it is Spode! Somewhat worn now as it has been in use on a regular basis for many years but I like it in spite of, or maybe even because of, its slightly tatty look with its gold trim disappering and its shell edges getting worn.

Another of my aunt's plates. No idea where it came from or what its manufacturer but I like it although its surface is getting crazed now.

Nothing special I don't think and chipped but I love it.

Probably from my Great-aunt's home but I'm not sure - I got it from my Mum. It is so delicately shaded with blue on the interior and I just love that understated effect of the exterior being just white but with a raised design.

Another pretty delicate cup and saucer probably from the same great-aunt.

And the same with these little dears. Not sure why some are one size and the others seem to be much smaller although in the same design almost like a doll's tea set.

This one is Havilland made in Limoges although I bought it here in Somerset in an antique shop. It reminds me of our time in France when we lived not far from Limoges and this maker is one of the really good ones - you'd need a mortgage to buy a dinner service from them these days.

My best friend in France had a pretty antique cup and saucer (Limoges porcelain naturally) on a little console table in her hallway so I now have this on my little hall table too and am reminded of her when I see it there.

The cup and saucer I mention in my previous post complete with flowers - silk anemones which I bought for my mother many years ago and which therefore remind me of her. I love stuff which has a story and reminds me of times past and of family and friends no longer here don't you?
Enjoy what's left of your weekend.

Five a day?!

We went to Waitrose (for those who are not familiar with the name this is my favourite supermarket as though probably more expensive I prefer its ethos and it can be relied upon for quality foods) on Wednesday - it is in the next town so we don't go every week but Wednesday we did and I stocked up on fruit and vegetables. They had "Buy one get one free" on packs of English strawberries so we had some of those. The blueberries and redcurrants were reduced as the sell by date was that day so I got some of those as well as a pack of fresh figs at half price and some conference pears as well as the usual bananas and a couple of veggies and the ingredients for the recipe below.

Just like jewels aren't they? So shiny and delicious looking?

Yesterday for lunch I tried out a recipe from the BBC Good Food website which I had been meaning to try for ages - Roasted Summer Vegetables with Chick peas. It was so easy to make - simply cut up an aubergine, a courgette, a red pepper and an onion and put them into a roasting tin. Add a peeled cubed potato and some garlic. Toss in some corriander seeds as well as seasoning to taste and roast in a hot oven for 45 minutes turning once or twice during cooking. (This is the amount I used for 2 of us ie half what the recipe stated)

Remove from the oven and add a tin of tomatoes and some tinned chickpeas drained and sit the tin on a burner to bring it all to a simmer - stir gently. When it is all piping hot add chopped fresh corriander and it's ready to serve - how easy is that?

Serve with some crusty bread fresh from the local bakery.

As I had some Chantenay carrots left from the previous day's meal I cooked those to serve with it too though for presentation points it would have looked better with a green veg wouldn't it?! That said the crisp texture of the carrots went well with the softer roasted vegetables and we enjoyed it anyway.

No leftovers!

For dessert some of the lovely berries served with some amaretti biscuits and ice cream - mmmm!

I noticed that we even had amatching design on the table mats - but of course!!

Don't you just love my little vintage plate? My mother-in-law gave me several of these together with a couple of cups and saucers many years ago and I find the plates really useful. The cups are not really good enough to drink out of now but I have some flowers in one of them and they look good too. I just love really old china and I have quite a few pieces - I feel an idea for another post coming on!! Watch this space.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Girls' Day out

I had a day out in Salisbury yesterday with an old work colleague. I arrived in Salisbury early and so on my way from the station to our rendez-vous at the coffee shop I stopped off at a shop which I think would interest some of you. Called Lulu's and situated in Fisherton Street it had an amazing number of items for the home. Check out the website at

Pity about the car! Isn't that shop next door amazing - I do hope whoever takes it over will keep that fantastic tiled facade don't you?!

This is the interior of Lulu's

I loved this little peg doll which was the maker's trade mark I think as all the items made by this artist had these little dolls with the labels.

For those of you who worship at the altar of Kath Kidson there was a whole section of her stuff.

After we had had our coffee and a good natter we wandered down to the Cathedral - one of the loveliest in the UK I think - and joined a guided tour which was really interesting even though we didn't have time to stay till the end as we had booked a tour of Arundel's and we still had to have lunch!

Even though I have seen the cathedral many times I seem to find something different every time - I might use this photo on a Christmas card as it has the Virgin with the baby Jesus carved above the west door.

When you realise that this building was made before modern devices like scaffolding and cranes it is all the more amazing. All that carving done by hand.

I loved this ancient door handle - how many hands have turned it and whose hands were they I wonder?

These are the cloisters - again a very tranquil place and I think of how many people must have wandered here and whether they like us had problems and joys - for me an ancient place like this makes me realise that in the greater scheme of things any problems I may have are as nothing really and these stones have seen it all before!

How many voices have sung in this great space, how many feet have trodden the aisles and looked up in wonder at the stained glass?

We had our lunch in the refectory at the Cathedral with this stunning view of that amazing spire through the glass roof. The spire it seems was added much later and since the building was never designed to support such a weight the pillars inside began to buckle! It has been shored up with flying butresses (whatever they are!) and so on inside but the spire is not exactly vertical now and is in fact 29 inches out of true - our own Leaning Tower of Salisbury!

After lunch we crossed the Close to our appointment at Arundels - the home of Edward Heath. Whatever one's political views it is by any standards a beautiful house and the gardens are to die for. My friend and I had seen the gardens earlier in the year but not been able to see the house that day so yesterday wehad booked a place on a guided tour. It was a beautiful home and just as he left it but sadly no photographs were allowed. There was a library which had a fire burning in the grate, comfortable armchairs and French windows which opened onto the fabulous gardens.

Isn't this a tranquil garden? The lawns sweep down to the river and the water meadows beyond and on a sunny day it is so beautiful - I know because we were there at the beginning of summer on a sunny afternoon but sadly didn't have the camera with me that day.

I loved this little sundial set in a quiet corner

and in another little shady spot this stone seat - can't you just imagine sitting here with your crochet or a good book for a while?

When you turn back towards the house this is the view - imagine having that fantastic cathedral view from your garden!

Here is the driveway and the double gates leading to the Cathedral Close

I leave you with these two pictures taken in the Cathedral Close - autumn may be here now but these flowers didn't know that!

This lovely rose had such a fabulous perfume - I can almost smell it now!