French Country

My life in France is not what I expected.


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Third spring in France


I have noticed how quickly I become picky and dissatisfied. My first spring here, I was fresh from drought-stricken California, amazed at and delighted by the drifts of daffodils that just popped up out of nowhere, with no supplemental irrigation. In this, my third spring here, eh, daffodils, whatever. Just King Als. I need to order some other varieties.  And they were thrashed by the recent storms. I brought in a few; even shredded ones brighten a cloudy day. But they don’t thrill me like they used to.


I spent part of the morning at the prefecture, renewing my residence permit. My first year I was so pleased that I had more or less gamed the system. Folks in Paris dread this process, thanks to horrible waits, rude staff, arbitrary rules and all. Out here, the appointments happen spot on time and there is no hassle. Believe me, I am still pleased that I don’t renew my titre de séjour in Paris but why wasn’t the guy more friendly? I remember them being generally friendly. My friends have been teasing me, saying now that Trump is president, maybe I should apply for refugee status. This guy did not look to be in the mood for a joke, so I let it go. Still no hassle, for which I am still grateful. But where is that “welcome to France” vibe that I got used to? Does he think I voted for Trump? If so, maybe the joke would have gone well, after all.


Some things do still please me. All is not lost. One morning a couple of months ago I awoke to this little flood in my entry hall. My contractor did how much work without ever mentioning that oh, guess what, the front doors leaked like a sieve? How much? Over how many years? And he didn’t so much as throw in a little weatherstripping? So the floor was wet but I was steaming. Out with the old contractor, in with the new. Google to the rescue. The new guys are here today replacing these doors, sacred original fabric be damned. I think my new doors will withstand a hurricane. I hope never to find out.


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Antiques Fair: Foire de Chatou

Yesterday Jacques and I had a little too much fun. We went to an antiques fair just outside Paris, the Foire de Chatou. I spent the day picking through the great selection of reasonably-priced stuff for the house. Jacques spent the day checking out the many other dogs and the food on offer. You can see him in the photo above, scanning for dogs. One of the best things about this particular fair is that they make a point of offering good food of all kinds. So, oysters and chablis for lunch, a couple of things to figure out how to get home, what’s not to like.


Here’s the little guy in front of a table that I got to use as a dining table in the tiny apartment attached to the house. Now I’m thinking maybe the finishes might not take the kind of abuse heaped onto a dining table, so we shall see, but it will be nice somewhere. Really,  bottom line, antiques fairs and auctions are all about the hunt. After all, once your place is filled with great finds, you can’t really shop any more. I believe this particular fair happens twice a year. I plan to be very picky, so that Jacques and I will have years of visits to look forward to.



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Serious rain


I moved here from California, at a time when we had had drought for nearly five years. I had a xeriscape garden and a spring out back. Still, the water bill was 300 a month for two of us, our low-flow appliances and a relatively small suburban garden. It rarely rained and never froze. When I moved I knew I wanted a place with water and I was willing to put up with a certain amount of inclement weather to do that. I got both.

I hadn’t realized what that does to a house. When I bought this place I thought stone house, newish slate roof, no problem. I had no clue what persistent rain and wind would do to the wooden shutters, windows and doors. I thought the rotting wood must be half a century old.

I’m not so sure any more. I have new wood all over the place and I am wondering whether it can handle more than a decade of 80 km/hour winds — believe it ir not the winds are worse up north in Brittany and, I believe, down just to the south — and drenching rain that just stays put because for months it never truly warms up, never dries out. I am foreseeing a future where I am the crazy lady in the ramshackle house because I just don’t want to deal with contractors any more. In the photo you can see a patio table that blew over and had its glass top smashed. Ramshackle furniture! Augh, it’s starting!

Once and done is more my speed. I may be stuck with the shutters and windows — sunk cost and all — but I am looking forward to having those old, leaky doors replaced by steel ones.

The rain itself is a great novelty. I’m enjoying it and enjoying the excuse it gives to web surf. I may be the last Francophile on earth to have seen this but at last I did. Don’t I wish it were reality!


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Winter in the country

Jacques with exercise ball
Well, here we are, dealing with some seriously rainy weather. I am happy to report that exercise keeps the cabin fever away. I play something perky — today it’s Johnny Cash — and my little workout goes by just fine. My favorite is using the reformer while Jacques settles onto my chest and licks my face. There’s nothing like it. You can see that Jacques is trying to figure out why he is on the reformer and I am not. He keeps trying to climb onto my lap while I am rowing but so far, no luck.


This is the big excitement. Not only did the sun come out, just for a bit, but the sheet of 5 mil plastic that covered an easily accessed opening — that’s a public park on the other side — has been replaced by bulletproof glass in a steel frame. Reignoux said they would be here on Wednesday and of all things, they were. That used to be my normal. Now it feels like a miracle. The guys are putting in a new gate right now. Pictures soon.


Next up — way next, like this time next year, maybe — is downspout replacement. I am so glad this is the garage and so glad we have sandy soil. Water collecting at the foundations is not a good thing.