Week 18

Last Sunday was passed here in traditional fashion, at several flea markets. The first one was just off the main road from St Dié to Baccarat, at La Voivre – Hollande, where there was an apple festival as well as flea market. We joined forces with Nicola, which was just as well for her as she bought four more wooden dining room chairs (in need of stripping, polishing, re-springing, and re-seating – but what do you expect for 22 euro?), so we were able to help carry them, which was especially fortunate as the stall they came from was one of the last along the long single street of the village and any way round with the car would have been a minor tour in itself. We seem to buy less when we’re with her – we just seem to get pleasure from her purchases!

The next flea market was at a small hilltop village some way off one of the roads to Epinal, but none of us spotted anything of interest. The final market we visited was further towards Epinal and was quite large, with lots of variety. Nicola bought various small bottles to use for the blackberry wine she is making, to add as little Christmas presents, but again we didn’t find anything! As usual it was all great fun and the weather was sunny and pleasant.

John’s account of the rest of the week runs thus:
Painting week!! Forty-eight litres of paint used – about 500 sq. metres  of walls and ceilings (three coats) – is that equivalent to one coat over a football field?

You will gather from this that decorating has commenced in the “west wing”. We’d bought 20 litres of white plasterboard undercoat and sealant some time ago, and John used that on our bedroom, the sitting room and (future) stairwell area. Then we spotted some normally expensive white paint cheap in the current Cora promotions so bought five 6 litre tubs. John gave the ceilings 2 coats of white, then added a litre of beige paint to a tub to give a slightly warmer tint for the walls, most of which now have 2 coats. So it’s all beginning to look very elegant. On Monday we’re expecting a delivery from Gedimat of Velux windows (since we finally got permission last Friday to install them in the attic space) and more glass fibre insulation. So next week will probably be loft story week!

Whilst John’s been busy on that mammoth task, Helen’s done odd bits of painting, pulled out the most rampant of the bindweed (some had reached the top of a small tree whilst we were away!) and cut some of the grass to make more of a lawn effect below the terrace and beyond the new house. Helen joined a keep fit group in Ste Marguerite, which meets at 8.45 on Thursday mornings, and also participated in the usual Friday forest 10 km stroll with the walking group. It was a lovely walk up (and down) “les jumeaux”, twin peaks to the north west of St Dié. As the sun had come out after several overcast days it was very pleasant, despite the wind. When the group reached the second viewpoint, some of them burst into spontaneous song, which was entertaining. The convivial atmosphere was broken at the end when people got very tired of the 45 minute wait for the coach back to St Dié (the school runs must have taken priority now that term has started again –or else they just forgot us despite the map that the driver out had been given). So Helen ought to be getting a bit fitter, but the home grown produce and cooking is too good!

John’s also been busy as computer doctor, since Nicola’s computer got a virus which caused it to stop working and he has been sorting out for her (one of the I.worm.klez family – it required a complete rebuild of the operating system and reinstallation of all software), and he’s been helping Helen to create a database for her budding collection of children’s books. There’s also been a bit of fancy cooking, as we invited Nicola over to dinner on Tuesday evening (and to collect her computer!). We seemed to have been over to her more often than she’d been here, recently, so it was nice to return hospitality. It poured with rain that evening and the plants got well watered, but it was an enjoyable evening inside (alas, no dinner on the terrace!)

Monday had been a day of phone calls. The first was from a German friend, Margrit, who’s planning to come over at the end of September. It seems that it’s her 60th birthday on September 28th, and she’s told her family that she doesn’t want any birthday presents and that she will be away for two weeks. So we’re not quite sure what family saga we’re getting involved in here, but it will be nice to see her. Then Helen got a call (in English!) from the Tourist office in Ste Marie les Mines, who are organising a big four day patchwork convention next week. Now English phone calls in our part of France are extremely rare and she was impressed. Sadly the crazy log course she’d wanted to attend was full, so she chose “textures in patchwork” – homework is to find pictures of fossils, rock structures etc (which sounds like a trip to the library, as our books are still rather inaccessible). Later Helen rang the Sickness Benefit office in Epinal that we visited the day before we left for England. To our great annoyance, nothing had been done to process our documents, which we started trying to sort out in June! The only woman who could deal with it had been away for a month, and on her return had done nothing for three weeks despite having said we would get our temporary health insurance number by the end of August – and, wouldn’t you just believe it, the computer system will be changing next week. Refugees and immigrants probably face similar hurdles all the time in the UK too, but it is all so frustrating!

We’ve got a few more sunny days ahead, which will be pleasant. The evenings, however, get colder quite rapidly once the sun goes down if there is a clear sky, and we’re in warm pullovers in the evening, and not sitting out on the terrace! Tomorrow there is a big street market in the main roads and market square of St Dié; all the shopkeepers have stalls outside their shops and there is a flea market in the large market square and around.

We failed to advertise the farmhouse in Chez Nous for next year, not having advertised this year, as we didn’t know the closing date. So we will definitely have room for anyone who wants to visit. Just form an orderly queue and send in your preferred dates. First come first beds.

As a postscript, we’ve been asked many times where the two rivers of Entre-deux-Eaux are and haven’t been able to give any real answer. On the village walk last week Helen was told the village name might be a corruption of the Vosgian dialect version of Entre-deux-Hauts which will make it easier, except with so many hills around it is difficult to know which two they are!

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