Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Walking in Gauteng

After the house burned down in October 2013, we have been staying with either Golden Boy in Randpark Ridge or with Elder Daughter in Craighall Park. 

They say that bad things come in threes - well first was the fire that completely burned up more than 60 years worth of memories, then I got sick and thirdly the car started giving trouble!  Just as we were about to spend some time in Pilanesberg National Park.

OAP took it to a recommended mechanic who performed miracles with our elderly "home on wheels" and we were able to have the few days in the Park bird-watching and just being back in our beloved bush.  Then recently, after another week in the Park, we started feeling vibration when pulling away and OAP was worried that 1st gear was packing in and promptly took the car back to Glen (our wizard).  It wasn't the gears but something much more simple but just as important so once again we are without wheels.

Being without a car is a whole different ball game and we join the hundreds of thousands of pedestrians, slogging along the sides of the roads where pavements should be, carrying heavy shopping bags in the broiling hot sun and being subjected to exhaust fumes, honking horns and the general cacophony of the road.

Pavements, by the way, are sometimes there and mostly in pretty bad shape and sometimes, most of the time, NOT!   When there IS a pavement it will have various obstacles along its short length, like stumps of signposts, holes where a manhole-cover should be, long ditches where a certain telephone service provider had plans to bury cable but never finished the job and rubble from said ditches overgrown with weeds or just heaps of rubble with no hole in sight!  Where the pavement disappears this is normally due to householders enthusiastically gardening right up to the road!  Sometimes desperate pedestrians have made a narrow path through these jungles but most of the time the plants on the pavements are robust and force the walker to step into the face of the oncoming traffic!  And don't get me started on the subject of litter!  What a nation of absolute pigs we are and how disappointing to walk in a street that resembles the local tip.  I remember driving through the once exquisite town of Butterworth in the Transkei about 10 years ago and wanting to cry because of the heaps of rubbish that lined the roads.  Well Joburg is fast becoming a second Butterworth.

We have discovered roads that aren't congested with traffic and we learnt to cross the road at a particular spot to avoid open manholes, rubble heaps and quagmires from leaking water mains and we happily walk to the shopping centre about 3 km away to see a movie or have lunch. We even managed to drag my 12 year old grandson with us during the school holidays, even though he was a bit embarrassed that we looked like "poor whites"!!  We bumped into 3 of his school chums on that outing but as they were walking too he almost changed his mind!

Remember the days when we thought nothing of walking to and from school - it must have been at least 2 km from home and we regularly got caught in a rain shower on the way home - it was just the normal thing to do in those days.

So next time you are driving and curse the pedestrians who are walking in the road, remember my blog and understand THEIR frustration too.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Time to Leave

It's always sad to pack up and leave somewhere you love.  But this is a particularly annoying pack-up as we need to move as much as we can from the ground floor to the first floor - that includes carpets, pictures and cushions.  I must have mentioned before that the ground floors of these old stone houses in France have a damp problem.  That is probably one of the understatements of 2013 actually, as our Ozzie neighbour sometimes has puddles forming on the flagstones when it's partcularly wet outside!  One of the problems with the houses is they have no foundations to speak of and certainly no damp-proof course!  The original floors in our particular house have been removed or tiled over but still without a damp course so salt peter oozes through the exquisite French tiles making white patterns all over the ground floor!  We also have a granite staircase leading to the first floor and the first 4 or 5 steps of this become dark and slimy-looking in wet weather but as soon as the rain stops and the weather dries they go back to their nice pale grey colour.
With only 4 days left to go I got a sudden bee in my bonnet to try to get more sunshine into the field across the road.  There is an ancient stone wall all around which was hidden by thickets of hazel and beech.  When we arrived I loved this and thought it gave us "privacy" - but you don't need privacy here, so yesterday I began clearing them.  After three hours and on the verge of stopping for the night, OAP came out to give a hand and between us we cleared the whole of one side of the field.  It looks so different and hopefully the morning sun will now pour in and dry the grass and encourage the summer flowers I planted this year to grace us with as pretty a picture as was on the VERY EXPENSIVE box!   Our compost heap is now 6 feet high and is nothing a little petrol and a match won't fix!  But seeing as we are on the edge of a forest it will have to be a wet day that the deed gets done - our neighbour has promised to do it in November, the time fires are apparently allowed here.
So it's off back to Switzerland on Wednesday morning and from there a flight home to the family and our house in the bush and another titanium knee for OAP.  After all the heavy work we've done here there can't be much of the old one left!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Roof maintenance in the Limousin.

And having filled the barn with firewood we needed to make sure it was watertight.  This is Arjan, a Dutch builder living in a village nearby-ish who had this nifty set of ladders:  on two of them a scaffolding platform fits so that he can stand and take the tiles off.  He cleaned off the moss (which grows on everything here) which looks charming but is the cause of most roof problems as it spreads between and under the tiles and then in winter freezes and expands and finally shifts the tiles out of place.  Then he replaced some battens which were rotten and finally replaced the tiles.  This is just a temporary repair as the whole roof needs to be taken off next year and timbers repaired, replaced or just treated for woodworm.  As they build mostly with oak woodworm isn't regarded as a huge problem as the worm seldom gets deeper than an inch into the huge oak beams.  But one needs to keep a close eye on it and we all have tins of deadly poisonous stuff that we are supposed to paint on any dubious looking wood! 

Oh I'm a Lumberjack and it's OK!

Our wood for next winter was delivered!!!  Now OAP just had to move it into the barn and stack it neatly!  It took 2 men 2 days but they did it (both OAPs) and amazingly OAP's back was better AFTER than before!!  This pile is 10 cordes - 6 ours and 4 Peter's (which he is storing inside with ours as he has no barn).  It is now neatly stacked against the back wall in a triple row and looks great.  We keep going in to admire it!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lost in a Cloud!

We woke up this morning to discover that we are lost in cloud - this prompted a lusty singing of "Lost in a cloud, can't look back, la la la la la la la, babeeee"  and then an argument about whether that song, which I am sure was sung by Elvis, was lost in a cloud or lost in a crowd.  Anyone know?  I tried to Google it with no luck.   This weekend is the medieval reinactment of the capture and imprisonment of the muslim Prince Zizim by the Knights Templar.  He was brought back to Bourganeuf and imprisoned in the tower in the centre of town where he apparently lived a luxurious life and eventually became a celebrated member of Frenc society!  They named the tower after him and the main street that runs through town.  But yesterday it rained all day and this morning is a thick mist so I think we'll give the celebrations a miss.  Our neighbours also decided to give it a miss and went elsewhere for their shopping where they found fresh mussels being brought into the poissonerie by the ton.  They bought a huge sackful and came home and invited us to a moules and frites evening.  This was great except for the fact that I am (or was years ago and am reluctant to see if I still am) allergic to them.  No problem, Carol whipped up two lamb fillets for me and I loved the frites and the company!  The others had a HUGE platter full of mussels which they despatched with no trouble at all.  Lots of wine was drunk - actually OAP and I had begun with a glass of wine at 12 noon while I was Skyping Middle Dearie in Oz.  She was ensconced in her camper van somewhere in the wilds of the Australian East Coast in freezing weather and having a glass of vino before going to bed so we thought it appropriate to join her!  I've found a wine I can drink at least two glasses of - Pamplemousse rose (hmm cant get the accent on the e) which is a speciality of the area.  No-one else likes it much as it's slightly sweet and they tend to serve it locally as an aperitif - rose with added grapefruit liqueur - but mine is ready made, cheapish and bought from Aldi!  You know, if I lived here all the time I may just become an alcoholic in my own pathetic way!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Flaming WHAT?

After 3 months here in Augerolles I have finally seen my first Flaming Salamander!  OAP went downstairs the other morning to make me a cuppa and called out that he'd found a lizard on the floor and what should he do with it?  I went down - braving the 8 degrees that we are back to (what happened to summer?   Is that all we get here? One month?)   and in the early morning gloom saw a very sad, sluggish lizardy looking thing.  OAP scooped it up in a shallow Tupperware and I predicted that it would die shortly as its skin looked dehydrated and sort of stuck to its bones.  You know when you find a dead lizard that's got dehydrated?  Well it looked like that but it was moving sluggishly.  Anyway we took it outside and as soon as I saw it in the sunlight I realised it was a Flaming Salamander.  Grabbing the camera I took a photo and then groped my way down the cellar steps to see if there were any more and lo and behold there was one at the bottom of the steps!  I think it was slowly (they really move very slowly like chameleons) making up its mind to follow its brother upstairs into the wide world of Above!   Actually as I went down and back up the cellar steps I really hoped I wouldn't stand on one or put my hand on one!!  I think Flaming Whatnots are all very well in their place but the bottom of my foot or the palm of my hand is not the best place to be - if you are an FS!  Of course Sammy Salamander who HAD made it to Above had only been able to because OAP had left the cellar door open for a day or so unknown to me.  This is a bone of contention as he wants to "air" the cellar out and I do NOT want Flaming thingies all over my kitchen and anyway its spooky and also it is supposed to be damp or the salamanders will dry out or move out and as we are supposed to feel priveledged that they are in our cellar in the first place we may as well keep conditions perfect for them.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mind your language!

Just when I think my French is improving something happens to set me back a pace or two (reminding me of the old fashioned tikkie-draai form of dancing - two steps forward, one step back).   A week last Sunday we were having a smashing time at a local car-boot sale, where we knew a lot of people making it a really social occasion.  We decided to have lunch altogether in the marquee erected for that reason and everyone was tossing back the Sangria, beers and wine.  I just CAN'T drink like that (especially in the middle of a very hot day!) so asked for an 'eau mineral' - the barman asked me to repeat it, so I did - twice more - and then he said in perfect english "tell me in english"!  I said 'WATER' and he said Oh!  For heavens sake - my accent can't be THAT bad can it!!!!   The second occasion was at the AGM of our local heritage association which was followed by (also rather boozy) lunch.   As we were all sitting genteely burping and quaffing the last of the red wine, the chairman maqde his way behind everyone, leaning down to say a few words here and there.  When he got to us he leaned over us and asked a question which I assumed to be something along the lines of "Did you enjoy your lunch?"  to which I gaily and sincerely replied "Oui, tres bien, merci" .   He looked a bit surprised and actually rather delighted and carried on up the table.   I sat back satisfied with my performance and got re-involved in the chatter around us.   A little later a voice announced that petanque (boules) was being set up outside and would we all get a move on please and a funny little niggle wormed its way into my brain - had Michel asked if we'd enjoyed the lunch or had he asked IF WE PLAY PETANQUE?   It was the latter and not only THAT but it was played with wooden cubes and NOT round balls which we are used to!   But it made for a really hilarious afternoon in the HOT sun during which I developed a dreadful neck and arms and top of bosoms tan!!  And it also broke the ice with an awful lot of people we had met but not really gelled with!   After 12 games (a set) which the men won (OAP hadn't a clue what he was supposed to do but aquitted himself with honour!) everyone had a couple of beers - even me (well it was hot!) and then the ladies called for a re-match (which the men also won but only by one point which we agreed was necessary for them to retain their dignity) after which the rest of the crate of beers was despatched with.  I managed to sneakily fill a bottle with water and so kept all the pressure off!  It was 5.30 pm by the time the party broke up and we made our way home - agreeing that France, especially the Limousin, is a great place to be on a lazy sunny day.