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I know. This ‘blog should have been written before the last one, but I’m just useless at getting things done just lately. I do have a list, but it’s so long I’ve forgotten where the end is. So, I just do things as and when the time and inclination are together in the same universe! So, the barn raising (a la ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’) was a huge success. But, before that the fireworks and celebrations for Bastille Day both in our small village and our nearest large town were just so very impressive! In my rush to get a ‘blog out there for our faithful followers (you know who you are, er…Enid) I just plain forgot to tell you all just what you’re missing if you’re not in France for the Fete Nationale!

This year, unlike other years before it Mouliherne decided to celebrate a couple of days before. I think part of the reasoning behind this is due to the fact that Saumur has such an impressive display, and events all day that many of the smaller communes feel ‘left out’. Many of their inhabitants, visiting guests and holidaymakers preferring to visit the more picturesque and larger displays in the major towns.

Mouliherne traditionally holds a hog roast, dancing to live music and a fireworks display down at our local plan d’eau – it’s a recreation area centered around a lovely lake. Most communes in France have a plan d’eau. Ours has a fantastic barn structure there too, available for hire to all and sundry, and the focal point for many a ‘do’ throughout the year, from boules competitions to hog roasts, to weddings and other events. Anyway, we were told by friends that the feu d’artifice would be going off (literally) at around 10pm. So, off we went. We arrived there at around 9.45, parked (no meandering nor nodding though, as we were among the first to arrive in the carpark) and unloaded the wheelchair for Syb’s mum. We then found a likely viewing point on a grassy knoll overlooking the lake and barn. Lovely. Not long now. A few minutes of watching the ‘ooh, aah’s’ and back to Chateau Oiseau for a swift nightcap! Friends arrived and stood with us for a while for a chat, and together we commented on the noise emanating from the barn. A stage had been set up in there and there was dancing to a live band. Now, I used to be a musician and I know the difference between a live band and something akin to a can of marbles being gargled by a pre-pubescent teen fighting with a gorilla. I have no idea what kind of ‘dancing’ is done to this kind of ‘music’, but images of some long forgotten (or even undiscovered) Polynesian tribe spring to mind. (Insert apology to Polynesian pre-pubescent gorilla fighting teens here…)

It was dire. And I know dire, believe me. I’ve been in dire bands before! Many times!

But, when the noise stopped the anticipation grew. Only to find the pre-pubescent gorilla fighting teens were taking a short breather in search of the lost chord. I think they found it. Several, in fact.

10pm was a dim & distant memory by now, my patience was wearing thin. There was a flicker of red torchlight close by where we’d noticed earlier that there was a temporary cover constructed for the techniciens d’artifices. All of a quiver, we counted two, no three red torchlights swaying back and forth. They’ve lost their matches, surely? Red torch number one went to the left of the lake, while red torch number two went to the right. Red torch number three (obviously Red torch leader), stayed put in the tent thingy. Moments later, they all came back to the same point. We were wondering whether this was indeed the display, as it seemed to be so well co-ordinated. But no. They’d misplaced the button thingy, perhaps? Or even their matches after all?

11pm came and went. Red torch leader dispatched his troops once more left and right.

Pre-pubescent teens, having at last conquered the gorilla had stopped playing. The applause was rapturous and it was a close call whether the audience was thankful for the silence, or appreciative of the ‘band’.

11.30 and a tangible air of anticipation now as whoosh…..it started!

And wow! What a display! 15 minutes of world war three. Chest thumping maroons, huge sprays of sparks coloured the night and we ‘ooh’d’ and ‘aah’d’ with the best of ’em! For such a small commune, this was indeed a fantastic show, and an obvious highpoint in the social calendar here. After a thrilling 15 minutes, we looked at one another, made a mental note to be here for the Bastille Day celebrations next year, and forgave the pre-pubescent gorilla fighting teens everything. They were the best band we’d heard in ages!

By complete contrast, two nights later we found ourselves sat on the hill overlooking the Loire in Saumur, the chateau to our left and the town below us. There was the most fantastic sunset which seemed to last forever. The chateau glistened in the evening sunlight before being lit from the ground as night fell. When we arrived, there were a few folks dotted here & there, picnics in full flow. Wine glasses chinking, laughter and soft music filling the air. It was a very calm atmosphere, a very warm, sultry evening. As the time passed, more and more people came and found a spot to sit, the mixture of languages adding to the carnival atmosphere that was slowly replacing the calm of earlier. From somewhere in the crowd, drums began to play. There sounded like there were a few of them, and very tuneful it was too. After each ‘piece’ the audience clapped, whooped and hollered! Each ‘piece’ seemed to be louder and more frenetic than the last, helping to create the most fantastic sense of anticipation. Small versions of the fireworks we were waiting for were being thrown about the sky by small boys, their trails helping to illuminate the assembled gathering. Suddenly, the drumming stopped, the crowd cheered and the lights in the town below went out!

What followed was nothing short of brilliant. Bigger, more impressive and longer than the one we’d experienced a couple of nights before. We’ve been coming to Saumur for Bastille Day fireworks since we moved here, three years ago but we’ve always been down on the bridge, the Pont Cessart. That’s where it all ‘happens’, apparently. The crowds gathered there though make it difficult for Syb’s mum to see very much, apart from the backs of people’s heads! So to sit up by the chateau, perched high above the town below meant that we saw everything. I got some great shots too. So, Bastille Day in France 2008. Two very different experiences, both absolutely wonderful, and we’re eagerly looking forward to next years. I hope the band get some practice in before then though…

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

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

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For some reason or another, Le Chant d’Oiseau inspires the literary side of some of our guests. I was just reading through the guest book this morning, looking for an address and I found these three poems. All lovely, all written by guests and I thought I’d share them with you.

We thought we’d stay for just one night
On this quiet, pretty site
‘Le Chant d’Oiseau’ – so apt a name
From dawn to dusk the birdsong came.
An ancient farmhouse – shuttered blue
An idyll created by Syb and Stu
Walks with Bracken down a wooded road.
In the shower – a brown warty toad!
A barn owl swooped – a sight to see
Dejeuner under the willow tree.
Crickets chirping on warm, starry nights
A visit to the caves of the Troglodytes.
Gentle bike rides round about.
Sightseeing ’til we were chateau-ed out!
Splendid meals, great bon hommie
That’s how ONE night stretched into three…then four….then twelve!

Pat Needham. June 2006.

Le Chant is Idyllic, friendly, fantastic….
We rested, relaxed and recycled our plastic!

Stu showed us lizards and a barbeque glory….
Syb delighted us with her food and mad stories!

They came to our rescue with the airbed they lent….
The boys drank our beer and fleeced all our cents!

The kids slowly but surely turned blue in the pool….
But….we SO kicked your ass at the boule!

Thanks for a wonderful holiday. Amanda, Tim & family. April 2007.

With a heavy heart and a tear in the eye
How sad we all are to be saying goodbye
3 weeks here has just flown past
Our holiday is over, but the memories will last
Good company, good food, plenty of good wine
Le Chant d’Oiseau always guarantee a good time!
Stu & Syb and every Bradley*
Love you all and we’ll miss you madly
Here’s to next year and the Boomerang Gang
‘Cos before you know it, we’ll be back with a bang!

*Including animals of course!!
X Great big kiss for Niall from Izzy!

The Maynards. August 2007.

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

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

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It’s been cold here. Cold and wet now for as long as we can remember. The only sunshine we seem to have had has been reflected from my homepage via our Moroccan friends, or so it seems. I was chatting to Nelly, the lovely wife of our local boulanger in the village about it this morning, and she was asking if it’s affected bookings. I think it has this year, coming on top of a wet summer. People just don’t seem to have the enthusiasm yet for thinking about their summer holidays. We had a call from a company specialising in isolation a few days ago. Not as in making people feel lonely, no; ‘isolation’ is French for ‘insulation’. The nice lady asked quite a few questions “How old is your house?”, “Do you have double glazing?”, “What is the roof construction?”, “How do you heat the house?” All of these were answered, and then after the last one, the answer to which is “wood”, she asked how many steres of wood we used per year. Now, a stere is a metre cubed of wood. A cord is roughly 3 metres cubed of wood. We’ve used SIX cords this year! When faced with this outrageous example of wasteful Anglais, burning through French wood at the rate of an Amazonian bulldozer on speed, she exclaimed “Oh, la la!” This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this, as I’ve been a fan of ‘Allo, ‘Allo’ for years. It was just funny in the context that it was a real live French lady saying it on the telephone to me. There was a touch of the surreal about it. Anyway, she decided that we needed a visit from one of their salesmen to best advise us how to insulate (isolate) our maison! I’ll let you know how we get on.

Just coming back to the weather thing – we had a cracking few days last week, and one of the comments left in our visitors book was “…if the weather was like this all the time, we’d never go anywhere else!” How nice is that? It’s comments like that from people that we look forward to seeing again that make this worthwhile. Another case happened not 15 minutes ago. I’d happened to mention in passing to one of our caravan storing guests here, that I’d like to make Liam’s room my music room one day. As it stands, it’s in perpetual readiness for the Prodigal One to use as his French Retreat when he gets bored of living the highlife in Manchester, so it’s not going to happen anytime soon. But, as a first rung on the ladder, I received a parcel just now. I don’t get parcels. Well, I do. I got one from my mum once. She sent some custard powder from the UK. It would have been in one of those cardboard ‘tins’, but that was alot of postage, so my mum repackaged the contents of Mr Bird’s finest yellow powder into a small plastic food bag, along with some of Mr Jacob’s finest Orange flavour ‘Club’ biscuits. Needless to say that upon opening the package at this end after the rough passage it’d had from Angleterre, it exploded on my kitchen table! I looked as if I’d been pollenated!

Anyway, because I’d mentioned my ‘yen’ to hang my guitars on the wall here, a very lovely man called Paul has just sent me two of those very professional guitar hooks that you see in guitar shops the world over! Paul, if you’re reading this, you are a saint among men, and I thank you for brightening my day! Look forward to seeing you again soon.

You see, the sun may not always shine here in our part of France, but there are people we know who make our lives a much, much brighter place by their kindness.

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

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

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The first time I met Bernard was round at my mate John’s place. He was there just on the off-chance that a bottle of decent red had been opened. Not much chance of that because John & Mary only drink rubbish…they’re from Bratferd y’see? Anyway, there was indeed a splash or two of passable vin rouge being drunk and I’d just called in to see how they were getting on with a couple of guests we’d sent their way for B&B as we were full. The two English guests were decidedly confused with the level of (loud) French being spoken by John, Mary, Bernard & myself. Bernard becomes very animated when drawn on a subject he knows lots about. Bernard is very knowledgeable about many things – hunting (naturally), local places (naturally), wine (naturally) food (naturally) and many, many other things (er, naturally). He used to be a stonemason, and a pretty good one by all accounts (naturally). I’ve seen the evidence of his work a few times and I have to say I’m extremely impressed. But, on this particular evening we were chatting about hunting. That’s Bernard’s passion in life. His home is one big trophy room with many species of stuffed animal both large and small decorating the walls and shelves wherever you look. The two English guests were fed a translation of the discussion and I knew that one of them owned a local property with a lake attached. The guy in question was stocking the lake with good quality fish and wanted measures in place to ‘detract’ the local heron population from abusing the hospitality of the English lake owners by eating the new arrivals! So, I offered Bernard’s services as their very own gamekeeper! Bernard was thrilled with the prospect of a new place to shoot and after the necessary permissions were set down in black & white, we drank to the success of the venture! (Naturally!)

Quite a few months later, and Bernard and his wife Mauricette, have become regular visitors here at Le Chant d’Oiseau, often bringing large wooden crates stuffed full of the most delicious tasting home-grown produce from their potager, a huge expanse of land behind their home given over to growing all sorts of market garden produce, and very good it is too. They take no money for their stuff, but we sit down instead, have a chat and drink some wine. We often dish up the contents of the gifts from Bernard among our guests.

The first time Bernard & Mauricette came bearing gifts was to present us with the very first duck shot on his new playground! It was beautifully presented fresh for the oven. We accepted this gorgeous gift with saliva glands on overtime. A few days later, while Syb & I were on our way back from an outing, we asked Niall (by telephone) to pop it into the oven for tea. When we arrived home the smell of freshly cooked duck emanating from the farmhouse was delicious! I carved and portioned it out. Niall declined, insisting he wasn’t that hungry. Now, that’s akin to asking what religion the Pope is, or where bears go to the toilet… Niall is ALWAYS hungry. He used to eat for England until we swopped shirts at half-time. He can now eat for France! His appetite is legendary among those that know us well. The lad can’t take a 5 minute car journey to the supermarket without taking along a snack for the journey! he’s always been the same, ever since he was small. He’s no longer small, he’s HUGE, which brings us back to the duck. After reminding him a few more times of the reputation as France’s answer to Desperate Dan, he finally came clean. He couldn’t eat it, as he’d seen the bullet hole when he put the duck in the oven! Bless! So, due homage was paid to Bernard, and his skill with his fusil, and we toasted the poor birds demise with a bottle of red. A fit and proper send off we thought.

We’ve made some good friends here. Both French & English. All of our near neighbours are French, and they’ve been nothing short of welcoming with us. We’ve already told you about the invitation last Easter round at Gérard & Sylviane’s? We’ve also made friends with David Chevallier, the vigneron (very handy, knowing a vigneron) and his brother, Pascal the roofer (not quite as handy as we drink more wine than we build roofs, but still handy all the same…). Nelly et Bruno from the village boulangerie also. They’re lovely, and we’ve looked forward to their visits each morning with the daily delivery of fresh bread. Not just because their bread and pastries are fantastic, but also because they have a real zest for life, they’re what we call ‘Super Sympa’ too. They like the English, especially those that make an effort to chat and build a life here, the same as they do. There’s a few characters that we’ve become friends with in the local bar too. Alain and his wife took over from Miriam at the Café de la Poste after she sold up. The name had to be changed of course as the Post Office moved to the other end of the village, and the old one’s now the creperie. Keep up….the post office isn’t a post office anymore, it’s a restaurant and they’re tired of being asked by little old ladies how much a parcel to Marcel will cost. So, the Café de la Poste is now ‘Le Manureva’. Alain has come to know John & I quite well, as we spend a bit of time in there lately, after working on some project or other. They have opened up a little restaurant to the rear and it’s brilliant! Alain is the most genial bar owner I’ve ever met, and we often can’t get away from the place because he’s insisting on buying another drink for us. I haven’t a clue how he manages to earn a living, because he loses count after a few beers…
I took my Dad, my eldest son and my two brothers in law there a few weeks back and they were stunned! Because Alain was very chatty (although they understood little), and because he kept sending his little son out with plates full of goodies for us. My family couldn’t believe this sort of kindness, so Alain & I explained ‘C’est normale’. When he bought us all a drink after we’d spent quite a few euro with him, my poor old Dad was almost moved to tears! He’d never been bought a pint by a landlord in the Uk in all his years of drinking!

The village has certainly been brought back to life since we’ve been here. The creperie, Alain’s bar, Nathalie & Gilles taking over the small village store have all helped. Even ‘Rocky’ at Le Bar Centrale has smartened up his act and has opened up a small ‘Bistro’ in the back room of his bar. We’re building up to trying it out one of these days. Rocky isn’t really his name, it’s just what we’ve christened him since we heard he was a rock star in a previous life! He’s taken on the role of village entertainments officer where live music’s concerned and he seems to know his stuff! It’s a strange little bar though, and Rocky’s usually to be found asleep in the back. We’ve had to wake him up to be served before. It’s still a fairly friendly place for a beer, even though he & his wife (we think, though no evidence of a ring) seem to be completely bemused by the English, but don’t mind pouring the 1664! There used to be a fairly large restaurant at the end of the village, opposite Rocky’s place called Le Cheval Blanc. It closed down shortly before we came here in August 2005. The good news is though that it’s now up for sale, hopefully with a view to turning it back into a working restaurant/bar again. There’s always room for one more eaterie, after all – this IS France!

Until next time,

Au Revoir.

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2007

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Firstly, my sincerest apologies. It’s been far too long since I posted any updates. I know family & friends have been waiting with bated breath so I expect most of them are either dead by now or gotten bored and sauntered off to the bar.

Where to begin? It’s been so long, so much has happened and we’ve become so accustomed to life here now that it seems like I’m actually starting afresh with the Blog. From an entirely new perspective as it were. The last time we spoke, it was coming up to our second Christmas away from the UK, with all the heartaches that follow. Well, it didn’t go too badly as a matter of fact. Mainly due to the fantastic support of good mates who teamed up to come over for New Year and the brave souls who ventured south to the Loire as paying guests. Christmas & New Year came & went without too much ado and the New Year started off very promising, with guests calling in on their way south at a regular pace. Caravaner’s are a curious breed. Not strange, as there’s a part of the Nomad in most of us, just curious. They up sticks and leave loved ones behind at times like Christmas & New Year in search of fun, sea (sometimes), adventure (usually) and better weather….

Anyway, moving swiftly on….oh, ok. You want to know about the weather? Well this winter was one of the wettest here in France for a very long time. Rivers burst, lakes were overflowing and the fosses (roadside ditches) that hadn’t seen water in 15 years were actually flowing. With a current! In fact, if I still had my Action Man, he’d have been strapped into a canoe and force fed down said fosses being beaten with a stick to make him go faster.

Anyway, winter came & went and now the sun’s generally shining. March & April are cracking months here. The past few years we’ve either been here visiting Le Chant d’Oiseau or living here have given us brilliant weather in February, March & April, while May has brought wind and showers. Still, it’s twenty-to June now and the weather’s on the up. The pool’s been used already. We had some sturdy kids from the UK over camping at Easter and they begged me to get it ready for them. It was 20 degrees in there though which isn’t bad!

We’ve made some good friends over the period of time that we’ve been apart dear reader. We’re really fortunate to have John & Mary North as neighbours and we’ve become really good pals. They’re from Bratferd you see. That’s why they have the audacity to drive a blue van instead of French Standard Issue White…John & Mary also introduced us to Bernard and Mauricette Percevault who we’d like to think are good friends of ours. I’ll tell you all about Bernard, the duck and the bike in the fosse the next time we speak. Until then…

Au Revoir.

TBC.

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2007.

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So sorry that we haven’t posted an update in such a long time, we’ve been busy you see? Syb & I finally moved into our new bedroom on the 14th May. It was a Sunday. The kids, (well Hannah & Niall) had been in theirs for a few weeks previous. We’d been determined to have just one last ‘push’, a combined effort on two fronts prior to the defence of the campsite and gites from the massed hordes of holidaymakers waiting just across the channel….sorry, that’s ‘The Longest Day’…wrong movie! Anyway, we got the kids’ rooms decorated and bedroom furniture erected and they were in there, revelling in their new surroundings, while Syb & I were feeling the pressure to move out of Goldfinch (our ‘baby gite, remember?), and into our new room before our next lot of guests arrived. After several long days spent plastering, sanding, painting, re-plastering, varnishing etc. at 11:30pm after just having finished making the bed, Syb & I sat with legs dangling from our dormer window drinking large G&T’s. Actually, when I said ‘making the bed’, I really did mean ‘making the bed’. One of those flat-pack things from Sesame. Great bed, comfy as hell! We’d passed the component parts and the mattress through the open dormer windows and built it up, made it with our fresh, new bedding and in we were. A triumph of mind over matter!

So, there we were with some semblance of normality as a family. For the first time in almost a year, we were all of us under the same roof. Er, except for Liam! Liam was largely out of the equation as he’d accepted a job with a well-known camping holiday provider on the west coast of France, and was living over at Les Sables d’Olonne. That gave us a bit of ‘grace’ as we knew that he wasn’t due back at Le Chant until the first week in September! We had loads of time to get his room finished!

Anyway, we were by this time fairly busy with guests, both in the gites and on the campsite. Things were indeed looking up.

Actually, we’d been reasonably busy for quite some time. We’d had a steady stream of guests stay with us all through winter, some who returned a few weeks or months later on their way back from the south just to see how we’d got on. All were surprised by the amount we’d managed to get done in the short time we’d been custodians of Le Chant. I say ‘custodians’ because with a house this old, that’s all you ever can be. No-one will ever own Le Chant truly, it’s something to be looked after, cherished and added to without detracting from its natural beauty in the lifetime that you share with it. It’s a home, sure. It’s a fantastic place to live, and we’re very proud of it, but I feel that we’re only ‘looking after it’. Anyway, I digress. Some of the guests we’ve had have been the most marvellous characters, full of stories of where they’d been, what they’d seen. It does actually make us quite envious sometimes of the way some folk can just ‘up & go’. Then again, we chat to them long enough and they in turn tell us of their envy that we live in such a beautiful place. So, it’s all swings & roundabouts really. Remind me to tell you next time of some of the delightful people we’ve had through the gates at Le Chant d’Oiseau, it has been a priviledge to meet them all.

Until then, au revoir.

TBC.

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