2016 was a mixed year, the same I guess for lots of people.
We had a good start to the year, although the weather was not great and to be honest it did have a major impact on the fruit in the orchard. Not a lot of frost but the winds came and of course that blew all the blossom off the trees and therefore no or very little fruit. We didn’t see the full extent of the weather until the summer, however we had no plums at all, and our orchard is full of plum trees, not one, not even a tiny one. Hopefully 2017 will be different.
The locals were not happy with the weather at the start of the year as there was no ‘cold’ snap, needed in these parts for the vines, so they were expecting a bad harvest.
Business was slow, between the weather and I suspect Brexit (I know a sweary word), had a lot to do with it and the attacks in France, no one wanted to come. I had to find something else to do.
June seen some really crazy weather (yes the weather again) with 2 storms within 4 days of each other, one that cause localised flooding, causing ‘catastrophe’ great french word, across the region, my OH went to the bakers in the morning for bread and they asked were we ok, “of course” was his reply, then they told him about the flooding in the village, houses completely flooded, cars completely underwater and having to be towed away. The firemen pumping the water out of peoples homes and white goods littering the small roads and avenues.
Then the tornado hit, bizarre (another great french word), we were wakened just before 1 in the morning, with the power going off. This is a major issue for us as OH needs a breathing machine to sleep as he has Sleep Apnea….. I came down to ensure that the animals were ok, Lizette our old french lady (dog) was very nervous so I had to sit with her for a bit, there was a lot of wind and lightning, but no thunder. I then had to go outside and recover the garden furniture that has been tossed around. I did head back to bed at 3 am and managed a few hours sleep, expecting to get up and the power restored, alas it was not.
You see in France, there seems to be a timeline for the power to be restored if it goes off which is not very often these days. Anyway, they do attempt to have the power on at key times, breakfast, lunch and evening meal, so if it is not restored by 9am, then don’t expect it on before 12, if it is not on before 12, then it will not be on before 2 (lunchtime, even the workers have to stop for lunch), and if it is not on before 6-6.30 then it will not be on until morning!!!!
Once I came downstairs and had a shower in the dark, had some tea, boiling the water in a pot etc then it was seeing who/where/what had been affected and was everyone ok, our friends that is.
I had some work that I needed to do, so I headed off to our other house 5 km away that had power and managed to get a couple of hours in. I returned to the house at 12 expecting that the power would have been restored, but oh no, so that was me back on my travels. This time I had to head to the local town and take up residence in the bar of the Hotel. They had had so many people in over the course of the day, it was then I realised that the power outage had in fact covered a very wide area and we were just 1 of many thousands of houses without power.
The power was finally restored around 6.30pm, I had just started gathering up the candles and torches to ensure that if we were to have another dark evening, then I knew where everything was. Cooking was not an issue as I have gas cookers, so not a problem. What a relief, a good night sleep was definitely in order. A number of our friends had been affected, from trees and power lines down, to land slides a very strange experience.
The end of June and we celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary and we took ourselves off to a very posh restaurant in La Fleche, Le Moulin des Quatre Saisons it was about 1.5 hrs drive. We had seen the website for the restaurant and the fantastic menu choices, so it had to be. The drive was fine, pretty uneventful, the weather was dry, was as much as I can say, unfortunately it was not warm enough to enjoy the fantastic terrace of the restaurant, it is set in the centre of the river, spectacular. The restaurant has a Michelin star and you know it as soon as you enter the restaurant, the service was outstanding, the menu had fantastic choices, we were celebrating and the fixed menu of 51€ per person certainly lived up to our hopes and expectations. We were amazed at the number of people in the restaurant for lunch, all ages and large groups/families, we were all made to feel like we were the only clients and when the chef came out to the table with each course to finish off the dishes and explain our choices, it made us feel very special.
July seen the start of the hot weather (yes weather again), it was nice to feel the heat building, although when it got to 60 degrees (yes Celsius) it was a bit too hot. We did have a few guests, some walkers and others just passing through, it is always great to meet new people, we were finally getting back into the swing of things.
August seen a significant birthday for me, the big one, it was great to have lots of friends around. The celebrating started a few days before my birthday as some friends landed a few days before, so we headed off up into Le Mans and had a walk around the fantastic food market, it is on every Friday and Sunday and it really is a place to spend a few hours. Of course after the walk around then it was off for lunch, a birthday treat for me. Fantastic restaurant in the old town, Stomachs full and it was back home to enjoy the sunshine in the garden and some bubbles. All good.
My party was great, I was well prepared, I had starting making my birthday cakes (yes plural) the weekend before and had frozen a couple and then it was a large buffet for everyone. Meats, vegetarian, salads, quiche, frittata, egg mayonaise, couscous, to name but a few. The cakes ok, we (I) had, carrot cake, victoria sponge, chocolate brownies, cherry bakewell, lemon slice and coffee and walnut cake, no there was not hundreds of people here, maybe 40, but it didn’t take long before the food and cakes disappeared, always a great sign.
Then September arrived and things went down hill from there, our beloved Lizette our old french lady (dog) took ill and after a very short time she passed away. I won’t go into the details, but it was very traumatic for all of us, including Lizette. She had been a very big part of our family for the last 5 years, she was 15 so not bad in dog years, but a huge shock and impact to us.
We really struggled from then and the next couple of months went by and we have just got on with things, we did go out to friends for meals and visited a couple of local restaurants for lunch, but nothing to make any memories with. The cats (Fred & Ginger) really missed Lizette, although she would never let them snuggle up with her, she did tolerate them on the same sofa as her. The house was very empty.
In December, I had seen lots of posts on FB about dogs looking for new homes and we had rescued Lizette from the vet, her previous owner had been to the supermarket and had an accident and was taken off to the hospital, Lizette was left in the car for 2 days before anyone realised she was there. Lizette was a wonderful lady, loved everyone that came to our home, friends, family and guests including other dogs, a perfect companion. How on earth could we fill the gaping whole she had left. It got me thinking, that maybe we could take on another beautiful soul that needed our love. So we started the hunt.
I started looking at the various Rescue center websites, looking to see if there was any dog that would suit our family, 2 adults and 2 cats and it would also need to be good with children in case we have any young guests. We spotted a few and went off to the Rescue center in Le Mans to look at Lolita, she was a beautiful 2 year old, 1 blue eye and 1 brown, she was shades of grey, so off we went with great expectations as to finding a suitable dog to sooth our hearts.
Lolita was a beautiful young lady, very gentle, long legs a good bit taller than Lizette, but that was not an issue. She came to the gate of her kennel and licked the back of my hand, then did the same to my OH. There were many many other dogs in the same unit as Lolita, they were all going crazy, barking and jumping and desperate for a new home. We went and spoke to the attendants and asked about Lolita, the first question they asked was did we have a 2 mtr high fence around the property, “no” we replied and they said, it was not possible to take her home, we were very surprised as she seemed a very gentle lady. Apparently that was all an act, she was a hunting dog and at the first sniff of an animal she would be off and running and in fact that was the reason she was there in the center, she had obviously run off from a hunt and they didn’t know who her owners were.
We took a walk around the other rooms/kennels in the center, it was heart breaking, the number of dogs was shocking and the various ages and breeds, quite incredible. There were a lot of old dogs, nobody wanted anymore but none were not suitable with cats, so they were off the list straight away. Then there were others that were not good with cats, other dogs, kids, etc. Some of them were in cages that had roofs on them to keep them in, so no point even considering them.
We came home rather deflated but positive in the knowledge that we had made the decision that we were going to bring another 4 legged friend into our home. I took to social media and put out a request to say that we had decided that we were going to bring a dog into our home in Lizette’s honour. So after a few messages and notifications, we decided on a beautiful little puppy called Margot, a french bulldog/boxer cross.
Margot was one of 4 puppies that had been taken into a rescue centre, taken away from her mother too early and was in a foster home in another department (3 hrs away), she was living with her 3 brothers and the only one still waiting for a “forever home”, we made arrangements to go and collect her on 18th December.
Off we went, with appropriate things in the car, bed, blankets, water, etc to collect our new addition, we arrived at the Rescue center at 2.15 or allotted time, as we entered, it was amazing to see a number of dogs wondering around, dog beds outside with dogs sleeping, some inside the office where the animals were coming and going and that included cats. Nothing like I have seen in the UK and did not reflect the rescue center that we had been to visit in Le Mans. Anyway it was very relaxed and the animals all seemed happy. As we entered the office there was a family at the desk, sorting out all their paperwork to collect their new pet, we soon realised that it was in fact the family who were there to collect one of Margot’s brothers, so they were all off together.
We did the necessary paperwork and collected our little lady, we took her to the car, settled her down and then off we headed home. However we only managed to get about 5 minutes on the road when we needed to find a stopping point, Margot was howling and yelping at the top of her voice, wanting company and attention.
We pulled into one of the Aires’s and shuffled seats and she traveled all the way home on OH’s knee, we could tell who was going to be ruling our home.
The next few days were exhausting, Margot had so much energy. We took her upstairs with us as we had a large cage in our bedroom and it was the safest all round, she slept until 5.30 on the first morning and that was acceptable, I am an early riser so not too big an issue.
Over the course of the next few days/nights she managed to run us both ragged and of course the cats, they were very wary of the new addition, she was very fast and would not leave them alone, so between keeping up with Margot and ensuring the cats still wanted to come home, it was chaotic to say the least. We managed 4 nights with Margot in the bedroom and decided enough was enough and she would need to sleep downstairs, 2 of the 4 nights was a 2.30 am wake-up call and that was just no good.
We had a large cage downstairs in the kitchen next to the fire, it had her bed and all the things she needed, so all was well. Margot settled into her new home, we got some sleep, the cats were not so scared of Margot and Christmas arrived.
We had a lovely Christmas with a group of friends that we had invited to our home. They all fell in love with Margot and she with them, there was not going to be an issue with strangers, as far as Margot is concerned it is more people to play with.
New years eve arrived and we had a very quite one, just us and the animals, very nice to be honest as we were not in the mood to party. I made a lovely meal, Prawn Cocktail, pan-fried Salmon with Lemon Risotto and a cheese pate, perfect end to a mixed year.
So we seen the old year out with my Scottish traditions, cleaning the house, emptying the bins, all the good traditions, a glass of bubbly and it was off to bed. It was 1.45 before I made it upstairs, very late for me, and as I just got into bed, I got a call on my ipad from my aunt and uncle in USA, they contacted me to wish me a Happy New Year, but it was not the prettiest of sites, me lying in bed, but it was very nice to have a chat.
2107 had arrived and it was time to get on with it.