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Michel, our forestière friend from up the lane had given me a price for chopping down one of the huge sapins (pines) on site a few weeks ago. This one was quite tall, but had developed a serious lean. Given that we have campers that pitch right next to the ‘Leaning Sapin of Mouliherne’, Syb & I thought it a bit too dangerous to ignore, so we asked Michel to cut it down. The day arrived on Monday last week. It was a gloriously sunny day, campers and gite guests were enjoying the warmth of the sun completely and blissfully unaware of the noise that was about to follow! Michel turned up after breakfast armed with his tractor, trailer, ladders, chainsaws and….his mum! Apparently Mamy does the odd bit of tree felling herself, as well as helping out Michel with his ‘extra-curricular’ tree surgery. We were amazed to see this 4-feet something frail-looking old lady lugging around Michel’s chainsaws – some of which are bigger and heavier than she is, I’m sure! Still, a very able assistant she proved pulling the felled lower branches to one side for Michel to then cut into pieces small enough to fit onto the trailer. After two trips with a full trailer load of pine branches back to his yard, Michel then informed me of the plan of action. He was now going to climb the tree to cut off the mid and upper branches, before climbing back down to fell what then remained! That tree was around 15m tall, and this slip of a lad was going to climb it (without a harness – c’est normale!) and start swinging a live chainsaw around up there!

Syb & I decided to watch from the farmhouse patio.

Along with Bernard, who’d been fishing in our river that morning (unsuccessfully) and had popped in to say bonjour over a glass of red! His wrists are slowly returning to something akin to their normal size, but still painful to use. Bernard’s unsure yet whether he’ll still be able to use the rifle for his hunting, and even holding the fishing rod proved a little painful! What a shame, for a man so knowledgeable about the wildlife hereabouts to be denied his only real pleasure. We wished him continued improvement as he wandered off down the drive, touching the side of his temple with the index finger of one hand whilst pointing at the grinning monkey-like, chainsaw swinging figure rustling the upper branches of a very large pine with the other! He believes Michel’s more than just a little bit mad!

Anyway, Michel really knows how to climb trees and use a chainsaw too, and with Maman down below clearing the debris all went well pretty quickly indeed. Eventually, two more fully-laden trailers later, we were ready for the Grande Finalé. I brought out the camera to record the event for posterity. After deciding the required trajectory for our shaven pine to fall on, Michel chose his weapon from the armoury he’d brought with him and made a deep incision to the rear of the tree – away from the chosen landing position. Then carefully, like a surgeon performing a delicate nip & tuck, he sliced all the way around the trunk. The tree began to creak as Michel forced the chainsaw deeper into the trunk, slicing here and there whilst keeping a watchful eye on our totem pole, waiting for the point of no return! Suddenly, Michel pulled back from the tree and over she came, making a dull thud as she hit the ground. Exactly along the line Michel had chosen. I think he’s done this before you know.

Michel giggled maniacally, happy in his work. In fact, he giggled the whole time he was here. He giggles alot does Michel. I can understand why really, after felling a few smaller specimens myself. It must multiply the testosterone rush ten-fold to fell a really, really big tree!

So, we were left with the stump, about four feet tall now. The only thing left to do was to create a throne befitting the majesty of the pine we’d chopped down. Michel’s left me with the basic shape, and it’s now up to me to create the finished article! I’m really looking forward to it too! Here’s a photo I took.

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

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

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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

And…

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.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

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

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Now, you remember me telling you about our Outdoor Philosopher, Harry? Well we heard a while back of a website created to provide the communication link between travellers and hosts to facilitate a similar arrangement. The idea is that people like us register as ‘hosts’. We provide the traveller with food and shelter in return for help around the place. Some helpers have very unique skills like carpentry, plumbing, electrics etc. Others just bring a unique perspective and boundless enthusiasm. We’ve had a few people wanting to help us here, but the timing wasn’t right for us or for them. Obviously, people love to be here in France in the summer, but for us that’s nigh on impossible to provide accommodation wise. But, after Harry left, Syb & I decided that we needed yet more help around here and were contacted by Marieke (pronounced Ma-ry-e-keh), a young German girl who was in Paris, but longed for some peace & quiet! Here fer gawd’s sakes!

Actually, it is reasonably peaceful here just now, and Marieke’s taken to this place (and us to her, it has to be said) like a duck to water! We’ve had a great week so far with her, she’s given us some much needed impetus to get on and get things done that have been festering for months! Today, she’s been joined by her boyfriend Manuel, who’s driven down from Germany to see her. Today, we’re working as normal, tomorrow though, we’ve suggested they take off and explore the area. We have another week with Marieke, and we’re seriously considering adopting her! Great company, great worker and a lovely girl all round!

The campsite’s taken a bit of a battering this year so far. Each time we think it’s dry enough to drive on, we’ve had to push, shove, grunt and generally manhandle cars, vans and caravans back off, and place them either on higher ground, away from the boggy stuff, or on the hard standing driveways. Sunday last, we had a ‘drop-in’ – our term for a camper who hadn’t booked in. They liked the look of the place (the sun was shining, birds singing) and decided to chance one of the corner pitches. Their ‘bus’ is a 3 and a half tonne beastie, which clearly wasn’t up to the soft-ground, and became stuck as fast as I could shout ‘STOP!’

Much pushing, grunting and swearing ensued, all the other guests played admirable parts in the charade which followed. Great ruts were formed in the making of this fiasco, but fortunately no animals were harmed, and all tempers and senses of humour were kept intact. Eventually, after an hour of jacking up wheels, placing carpets, wedges, rush mats under tyres. Of pushing and shoving, pulling & grunting to no avail, I gave in! In the car, I whizzed off to see first Gérard for the loan of a man and tractor. Gérard was off visiting family (Sunday, you see), so next port of call, whizzing past our place to the confused stares from various campers, was to Michel’s place. Michel’s a forestiere, a forestry worker, and Sunday afternoon would normally find him a bit worse for wear, but God (or whoever’s in charge of campsite owner’s sanity up there) decided to smile on me, and Michel was more than capable of driving his huge forestry tractor down to ours, attaching a line to the bus and pulling him free of the Somme-like trenches!

Now, you may think after all this palaver, that the owners of the bus would simply say “er….just one night please” – but no. After we’d relocated them on the nice hard standing next to the old barn, there they stayed for 5 nights, leaving just this morning. A lovely couple, with a great attitude to camping, they’ve been a part of what makes Le Chant d’Oiseau so special to us. They’ve ‘got us’, and what we’re trying to do here. We’ve shared some laughs with them, eaten with them and drank with them. Someone else we’ll be sorry to see leave the place, but hopefully, now they know where we are, they’ll be back one day soon. Hopefully not after a few months of seemingly relentless rainfall though!

Friends from the UK arrive here tomorrow. Ant & Tara have been regular visitors to Le Chant since we became the owners, on their own or with other friends at first, and now with their own little boy, Joe. Or – ‘Little Joe’, in true Bonanza stylee! They’ve usually stayed in Chardonneret, and indeed, they tell us they think that’s where Little Joe was made! I have to take advice from them both tomorrow as to whether they’d like to enlarge their family, before we decide on their accommodation…

So, with the weather set fair (for a change) a barbeque could be on the cards, and it’ll be a true european nations affair, with our friends from the UK, Marieke and Manuel from Germany and our first French guests of the year too. Looking forward to it, very much!

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

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

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Ok, so. The last time I sat in this very chair attempting to guide you all through the chicanery of life in France, I left you with the perhaps distressing thought that I was about to impose my ‘unclehood’ on my poor sister’s baby, right? Well, things didn’t quite turn out that way, and for many & varied reasons, my gorgeous sister and her equally gorgeous (in a back-slapping, lager drinking, manly way of speaking) had to make a heart-wrenching decision to terminate their pregnancy due to a sequence of tests that left them in no doubt of their baby’s chances of surviving and leading any semblance of a normal life. Baby Connor had Spina Bifida to a quite alarming degree. Coupled with multiple defects, this meant that the less cruel option was to give him the dignity in death that he would never have had in his probably very short little life. It was a very sad time for all the family, and my two sisters and their husbands, already very close, have been brought even closer together if at all possible by those events.

Anyway, as sad as they were, the whole family came out to France for a long weekend of fun, laughter, tears and love in September. They’re all fine and although baby Connor may never have drawn breath, he certainly didn’t lack for love. In the pictures of him that I was privileged to see, he was beautiful, just like my sister. Although it may seem to some that it’s strange, to give a name to a child never destined to live, it’s really not. It’s bestowing a personality upon him, and ensuring that his memory will live on. He’ll always be a child, my sister’s first child, and no less special for not having cried, suckled, made a sandcastle on a beach, nor never known his uncle.

I’ve actually struggled for some months with creating a form of words to explain the situation here within the Blog, because believe it or not, I do get folks visiting us all the time who tell me they read it. I’ve opened up the software and sat at the keyboard attempting to tell you all of the past few months of hell. It always ended the same way. I’d shut down the program and go play scrabble on Facebook instead! Or, I’d disappear somewhere to shed a few tears myself. Not this time. This time it’s just flowed, from my heart and I like the way it looks. I hope my sister does too. By the way, she and her husband are expecting again, so, this time – everything’s crossed. Which makes it kind of difficult to pee straight!

Right, we’re often invited to John & Mary’s for a few beers and a laugh and one night they’d decided to invite a few folks ’round to have a bit of a BBQ and a bonfire. So Syb & I decided we’d go on the bikes with her mum following on the shopping trolley. Actually, when I say ‘shopping trolley’, it’s not actually one of those steel things often seen at the base of canal bridges, in an attempt to create a natural reef, or even sometimes in Asda; no, it’s one of those electrically powered things that are a complete menace on the roads in the UK. There was a story on the news the other night about a lady who was mown down by one at a terrific speed of almost 4 miles an hour, causing a broken leg when she stepped into the road to avoid it and was hit by a passing car doing 40! I think I’ve mentioned mum and her off-roading antics before? This night was no exception. She has the road sense of a baffled hedgehog caught in the glare of a 40 ton truck at the best of times. We have quite a busy main road at the end of our 2 mile lane. There must be, oh, at least 20 cars and lorries per day that use it. Have you ever noticed the similarities between the words ‘stop’ and ‘go’? No? Neither had we until that evening. Stop plainly meant go, and vice versa in the parallel universe between mother’s ears. The look of sheer horror on the face of the driver of the huge 4×4 as he bore down on this mad, grey haired old lady driving something across his path that he’d previously only seen in the adverts at the back of ‘Saga’ magazines in the doctor’s waiting room was quite something to behold. All Syb & I could do was close our eyes and practice calling the number for the Sapeurs Pompiers while waiting for the impact. As luck would have it, the car swerved down the road in which we were traveling, and missed mum by a few feet! Thank God the French are such crazy drivers!

Even as we were just getting over the shock, a few miles down the road, mum swerved into John & Mary’s drive and almost immediately scattered half a dozen plastic patio chairs, coming to a halt just inches from mine host, clutching a gin & tonic with his eyes closed. Now I think about it, he and the 4×4 driver looked painfully similar.

Anyway, we proceeded to have quite a good night. Tales were told, jokes were shared and much drink was drunk. It came to going home time and we all saddled up for the ride home. Mum set off in the lead with lights blazing. Syb & I brought up the rear. We’ve figured it out that it’s safer for us if mum’s in front, as it’s just too stressful having her going off-road behind us all the time. I’d just stopped for a mo to adjust my posture, and wave goodbye to the hosts. As I put my foot down, the verge disappeared into the fossé running alongside the road. I completely lost my balance and ended up arse over tit in the ditch, laughing uncontrollably with the bike trying it’s best to force me further into the dyke! People came sauntering urgently from all angles to add further insult to my indignity when all of a sudden, lights came blasting down the road, and a horn sounded.

Whenever Bernard passes John’s, or our house, he hoots maniacally on the horn, and we, it has to be said do the same. That’s how I knew who it was. Even though it was gone midnight, the horn still called out it’s plaintive song to John….then it stopped, just a few feet from where I was still on my back giggling. If you’ve ever suffered a Frenchman taking the piss out of you, you know what it’s like to be humiliated thoroughly, and completely! In the most friendly, and companionable way imaginable. We just can’t take offence at Bernard. His smile is infectious, the gleam in his eye is wicked and we love he & Mauricette dearly! Anyway, Syb & mum wobbled off back to the farm, while Bernard, Mauricette, Mary, John & I laid waste to some more good French wine!

So, good & bad and sad also to report in this update. I promise I’ll be more on the ball from now on as I appear to have found an impetus again. I still haven’t told you about the duck. Or the boar, or the night of the rugby semi-final…

Until the next time,

Au revoir.

TBC

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