Posts Tagged ‘Bracken’

Just a quick ‘blog, while waiting to receive our ‘grand-dog’, Bill. He’s being dropped off to stay here for the morning as Hannah & Steve have to pack up their stuff from the house to move back here for a while. It’s a long story, fit for a ‘blog in itself, but I can’t divulge too much yet. It’ll be nice to have them back, but their puppy is mad. Bill’s a spaniel. Unfortunately named too, as Bill is also the name of my dad – Hannah’s grandad! Don’t think he knows yet though. Bill, not Bill! Bill is also the name of a cartoon dog here in France, and Steve and Hannah thought Bill looked sufficiently similar to Bill (not Bill) to merit the name. So Bill it is.

Phew, I’m glad that’s sorted.

Anyway, Bill’s coming to play with Bracken. I say ‘play’, but invariably it boils down to a bit of a snarl and a snap on Bracken’s part as Bill has a penchant for biting her ears when she’s not looking. Plus, he pinches all Bracken’s toys and takes them to his basket. Bracken pinches them back, then jealously sits on them while Bill chews her ears, making her snarl and snap, and the whole merry-go-round begins again.

So. Because Hannah, Steve & Bill (and CoCo the hamster) are moving in with us for a few months, I’ve been busy bringing Chardonneret into line with our ‘vision’ for Le Chant d’Oiseau. The old kitchen was ripped out, and new, improved electric sockets were first to go in, chasing out deep gouges in the walls for cable runs. Then came the easy bit. Having someone else paint all the beams with Xylophene, a wood preservative and insect repellent. Then all the tiles came off from the walls, and the walls made good again with plaster. New lights went up in the kitchen area, ensuring plenty of light to see by in what was once quite a dark corner. I’ve left the softer lounge light in place as a contrast. There’s plenty of lamps around too, giving a lovely ‘glow’ to the place. The kitchen was a breeze to install, all white units with a rather sexy looking stainless steel sink unit and sexy new robinet. (French for ‘tap’, pronounced ‘rob-ee-nay).

La cuisine.

La cuisine.

The lounge area

The lounge area

Bedroom area.

Bedroom area.

I prefer the French words for some stuff, don’t you? I mean ‘tap’ is a tad, well – industrial, whereas ‘robinet’ (roll the rrrrrr when you say it) is more romantic somehow. Smoother, rounder. Robinet…..

I digress. The bathroom is the last job on the list. Bidet out (no more washing of feet in there, thankyou), tiles off the walls, pipework boxed in. Then a new bath panel to be made, small shelves and recesses to be created for candles (romantic getaway, you see?) and new taps, shower etc. Then it’s a case of repainting and decorating in there et voila (French for ‘there you have it’, or ‘look what I’ve done’).

But, the pressure’s on now as Hannah & Steve have been told by their landlord (after having given them due notice) that they’re needed out of their house sooner than they wanted to be, as new tenants are due in asap! So, while they have a lovely kitchen and lounge area to enjoy, with a freshly decorated bed too, the bathroom’s like a still from a documentary on Beirut in the 70’s! So, what to do in times of stress? Revert to typically English type and have a cuppa tea, and write a ‘blog!

Actually, that brings me back to why I started this ‘blog in the first place. Apples. We have four apple trees here. One’s mature, around six years old, we think, and the others were newly planted just last year. In previous years, the mature one’s given us fruit you could count the numbers of on two hands, and the odd foot thrown in. This year, it went mad! Hundreds of crisp, red, juicy apples.

Apples in the autumn sunlight.

Apples in the autumn sunlight.

So. Having so many leads to a problem. We couldn’t sell them as we live in a predominantly apple-growing area, so everyone has apples!

Thank goodness for t’interweb thingy. After searching, it appears there are a million and one things to do with your excess apples. Cider, obviously is a popular choice. As is apple juice. For that though, a press is essential. Actually, I have a press. Or rather, I did have a press. Syb decided it’d make a great planter for all things geranium. We argued, and even put it to the vote amongst guests. She won. The superb little press sits in our garden, stuffed full of nasturtiums at the moment. I’d even made new legs from an old oak beam to replace the rotted, worm-eaten old ones. I’d even made a handle for the press from a lump of seasoned pine! Why? Why did I grease the screw thread, and rub down all the pressing blocks? So that I could store them away somewhere while the thing was planted up and made to look ‘charming’, that’s why!

So, the choice is to either take out all the plants and use the thing as was intended, or forget the cider. Or the fresh apple juice. I’ll maybe take out the plants another time, eh? I have enough to do just now.

Jam’s a popular choice it seems, and it so happens that Steve’s grandma has a recipe that she’s passed on to Steve, and he in turn to Syb. We tasted a jar given to us by Steve’s grandma and it was delicious. After ‘Tweeting’ about said jam, I was asked by a few people for the recipe. Given that Twitter is restricted to just 140 characters, it would have taken a week to post it there, and been lost in amongst the Britney videos, ‘inspiring’ quotes for the day, and ways to make a million dollars in three minutes. So, I thought it’d be better placed here. That was the reason for this ‘blog. But, ‘comme d’habitude’, I seem to have been sidetracked. It happens in real life too. At the moment, I’m meant to be returning to Hannah’s place to pick up the next load of ‘stuff’ (she’s 20, Christ alone knows how she’s managed to collect so much crap) and to bring it back here, along with my grand-dog, Bill. So, here we are again. Bill’s a spaniel, named after a famous French cartoon dog…remember? Good. Here’s the jam recipe.

Please let me know if you do make it, and what you think.

With grateful thanks to Steve’s grand-mère.

Preparation: 20 mins (yeah right…)

Cooking time: 40 mins

Ingredients: (Makes 4 pots of 350g)

1.2kg peeled apples

Citron juice

1kg of sucre de confiture (jam sugar)

2 sachets of sucre de vanille (vanilla sugar)

2 BIG spoons of Calvados! (If you don’t know what this is, please leave the kitchen now!)

2 small spoons of cinnamon powder.


Peel apples and cut into very small cubes. Place in a bowl.

Squeeze the juice of a lemon into the bowl of apple pieces.

Add the jam sugar and the vanilla sugar, mixing together with a wooden spoon.

Add the cinnamon and Calvados.

Place the mix in a pan, on a low light, bringing to the boil, and leave to cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place the boiling jam into pots, place screw top lids on the pots, and turn upside down for 5 minutes. This sterilises the pots.

After 5 minutes of upside-down-ness, turn them back the right way up and leave to cool.

Can be eaten the next day, or placed in a cool, dark room (cave) for later!

Here’s some she made earlier…

Confiture pomme

Confiture pomme

Lovely autumn colours and flavour!

Lovely autumn colours and flavour!

Until the next time, au revoir!


All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2009


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Happy Hols!

I’ve just received this from a lovely couple who’ve been out here to see us a couple of times now and who we’ve really taken to our hearts. I think they quite like Le Chant d’Oiseau too. Anyway – I mentioned about the literary effect this place sometimes has on our guests in an earlier blog, remember? Well we happened to mention the poetry to Joy & Les who then became obsessed with writing one too. In fact, I think their effort is superb as it tells the story of their stay with us and of trying to come up with something creative at the same time. It’s just had me laughing out loud, remembering the great week we had with them again just recently.

Here it is. No names have been changed to protect the innocent, and Joy & Les – if you’re reading this – THANK YOU!

A Poem….
….or Not !

At last here we are arriving at Le Chant d’Oiseau. I climb wearily out of the car and go to open the gates. We’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. As I enter I take in the happy scene of smiley faces and a great, silly dog lolloping towards us. There’s hugs and smiles and happy faces and squeals of delight all around. Finally we go off to set up the van while Syb , Stu and Sheila get the kettle on and get
ready for a catching up chat.

We are soon settled and happily chatting away. There are new members that have been added to this happy band since last we were here. There are two beautiful cats and a very chatty group of chickens. As we begin to unwind Stu sort of mentions that several people have been writing poems to glorify this idyllic “place de vacances” and maybe we would like to have a go!!! Shock, horror, “great idea” I say. Inwardly I’m groaning because I know for certain that Les will never put pen to paper and I’m hopeless at verse.

Down in the Loire at Le Chant d’Oiseaux
In a place where pretty flowers grow.

That’s it…I’m stuck, it’s a glass of wine, or maybe two, and off to bed.

The next day and we’re up breakfasted, on eggs from Syb’s chickens, my they were the best eggs we’ve had for many a long day. Now we’re off for a day of Chateaux and shopping!

Again on arrival back at the site we are greeted by happy faces, cats,chickens and a very bouncy dog. Whilst relaxing with a cuppa, Sheila joins us armed with her photo’s of Villandry and its beautiful gardens. We sat in the sun looking at her prized pictures of a treasured day out and of course decided a visit was in order.

In the meantime…

Down in the Loire where the flowers grow,
Where people come and people go
It’s there that you’ll meet Syb and Stu


O gawd. I think I’ll get my knitting out or maybe a book. I’m terrified of failing but I’ve got no option. Maybe I should just forget about it for a few days…Which is just what I did.

After a very long day at the wheel,
You’ll find you’ll be welcomed with amazing zeal.
The kettle goes on and all dash out
And Bracken begins to jump and shout.
The chucks waddle over to gossip and chat
And Syb appears cuddling a cat!

Now then, there’s two cats so what’s next? I know, there’s a BBQ tonight so maybe I’ll get inspired then. Guess what? We had a great time at the BBQ. Rory turned up and told us all about the house he’s trying to buy and we all had too much to eat and too much to drink and we had a lot of fun, but no inspiration.

We have now been home for several weeks and have talked often about our wonderful holiday and the beautiful places we visited. Inspiration for poetry I’m afraid failed me, but glorious memories of wonderful friends, peaceful countryside, spectacular Chateaux and once again a very happy and helpful family will remain in our hearts.

Our love to you all,

Joy and Les Winkworth.

Until the next time, au revoir.


All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2008

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A Sad Day Today

For a few months now, certainly since the back end of the summer, we’ve been plagued by two cats. Neither of whom seem to have a home, well not one that anyone will admit to at any rate. I suppose we’ve been fairly lucky in the menagerie stakes. I haven’t succumbed to gerbils, guinea pigs, chickens, ducks or peacocks. Yet! But, these two pesky cats just stroll around the place as if they own it. Perhaps they do. Perhaps these are relatives of the original owners of Le Chant, come to stake their claim on the mice hereabouts? Who knows?
Anyway, the more feral of the duo hasn’t been seen for a while, but the other, a small black & white thing takes great delight in staying a couple of inches away from the gnashing teeth and massive bark of our dog, Bracken. It’s not our cat, but it loves to eat on leftovers from our camper’s bins. It even had the audacity to creep into, and make itself comfy on the bed of one of our guests not so long ago! The lady was most pleasant about it, and said that she didn’t mind, it was quite sweet, our cat!


Anyway, yesterday, Syb called me round to the back of Heron to have a look at said cat. It was in a bit of a state. Mum has a motor-scooter affair. You know the type of thing? You see them going the wrong way round roundabouts, scattering cars in every direction, while the driver waves with a stick, oblivious to the ensuing chaos following very close behind. We live in the country, no roundabouts for miles, so you’re fairly safe from harm when mum’s out and about. The trees are in far more danger than motor cars. She has developed a disturbing penchant for ‘off-roading’, has mum. A while back, Syb & I were tootling along on our bikes, chatting away when we suddenly realised that we couldn’t hear the electric ‘hum’ of the scooter, nor the spitting of gravel under the wheels. We both turned to look behind us to see mum emerging from the ditch, white as a sheet, breathing ‘I’m alright, I’m alright’, as she steered the thing back onto the straight & narrow…

There was a time when Niall used to enjoy being tugged along behind mum on the mountain board. It’s like a skateboard, but longer, with enormous pneumatic tyres on it, like a snowboard but not for snow. Obviously. Anyway, mum would set off apace, with Niall hanging onto the chair back, hitching a ride. We had my cousin and his family over for a few days and we all decided to take a walk down the lane, with the mountain board. Niall was demonstrating how it was done. Mum doesn’t usually go so fast, but she had an evil glint in her eye as she set off at an alarming speed, out of our gates, across the road and straight into a tree. Niall doesn’t do that anymore.

Anyway, the cat. This cat had been injured in some way, possibly by a trap, as all four paws seem to have bled to a greater or lesser degree. She’d been in the ToyBox earlier when Hannah went in to retrieve her scooter for work. The screams must have been audible miles away. Hannah doesn’t like cats, especially ones that are bleeding all over her nana’s electric scooter. (See, I knew I’d get to the point eventually). We retrieved the poor animal, and Syb bathed & dressed its wounds and bandaged the worst one. The vet was closed so unable to seek advice there, so we brought it back home, gave it a box, a blanket, some food & water and hoped for the best. The intention was to get it well again and then turn it loose around the place. Not inside, you understand, as it’s NOT our cat. As you may have guessed by now, the poor thing died this morning, so I guess Bracken will have to find other things to bark at. It’s a shame. Although I’m not a cat lover as such, I quite liked the little thing at the end, and had got used to thinking of her as ‘our cat’.

Until next time,

Au Revoir.


All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006.

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