Thursday 30 June 2022

A Big Shout Out

Oops - I did it again yesterday :) so here's a quick post to make up for it.

We were working yesterday. Claudette was full of petrol and looking shiny, and I was ten minutes early picking up our clients. Unfortunately it was at that moment Claudette decided that the fix I applied to her starter wasn't quite right, and refused to start using the button. Luckily I have a very quick and efficient work-around for that, so in no time we were on our way.

Once I reached Loches I dropped the client off with Susan and applied myself to fixing the problem permanently. I have now discovered that it's a two part process - the hard part, which I had done (twice), and the simple part which has to be done first that I didn't know about.

In the end I called in to Garage Langrand, who after 30 minutes of fettling manged to create a long lasting solution. So here's a shout out to them for dropping everything to help me. I didn't take any photos because I was stressing just a little...

At some stage I will have to buy a new starter cable - the problem wasn't the wire that runs through the centre of the cable, it's the windings around the cable that is now so old the clamp won't grip it.  We had a completely different problem with Celestine's starter 12 years ago.

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Mowing the Orchard

Several weeks ago a man rang me up at dinner time. He turned out to be from the Foyer de Cluny and he was ringing to apologise for not getting back to me sooner. I'd met him some considerable time ago when he and his garden maintenance team of special needs youths were working on a privately owned riverside terrain de loisir (plot of land used for hanging out with your friends and fishing from the riverbank). I liked the look of his nifty little tractor and slasher set up and asked him if he could do my orchard. He said yes, took my phone number, then I never heard from him for months.

Finally he rang and said he was doing riverside plot again, so would I like him to come and do the orchard?!

Mown orchard, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The finished effect.

On the day he came the weather was less than optimal, with squally rain. I was on the phone to my friend Martine, organising swimming lessons for Ukrainian kids, when he arrived and poked his head in through our front window to say hello. I drove him down to the orchard to show him what he had to deal with, then I had to go to work, as I had clients for a guided visit at Chenonceau. 

When I came back I went down to check how he'd got on, and he'd managed to mow all of it, including the potager. I was really impressed.

The Foyer de Cluny in Ligueil is a wonderful institution, set up to help, house, occupy and support anyone who is physically or intellectually disabled and who thus struggles with modern life. Since March they have also been helping Ukrainian refugees.

The bill arrived by email a few days later, under €300.


(from Simon: There was meant to be a blog post yesterday, but I obviously never got around to writing it. I thought I had....)

Saturday 25 June 2022

Deery Me

I post this photo for no other reason than I was looking through some old photos and it caught my eye. I took it in July 2003 at Knowle, a Tudor house in Kent. I was using my first serious digital camera, a Minolta DiMAGE 7i which is still probably the most accurate camera I have owned.

Friday 24 June 2022

New Windows

Over the last couple of years we have been wading our way through the administrative processes and vagaries of the construction industry, working on a project to get a bit more of our tatty old house finished, with a grant to cover some of it because we meet the government criteria for improving our energy efficiency. 

Delivering new double glazed windows, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The blokes from Brice Bois Concept bringing in our new bathroom window.

Yesterday seven new custom made double glazed windows were delivered. They look fantastic and we've paid for them (€7431), but we don't know when they will be installed. This is because installation requires the mason to come and adjust three of the window openings. Last time I spoke to him it was 'not before June'. I think we will count ourselves very lucky if he comes in the autumn.

Meanwhile, the windows are carefully stored in the graineterie. Makari, one of 'our' young Ukrainian refugees, came over last week and helped me clear a space. Now I have a big pile of stuff for the tip to deal with.

Thursday 23 June 2022

Second Stage of Work on the Chapelle de Tous les Saints

Preuilly's little treasure of a chapel is finally having its rare danse macabre wall paintings conserved.

Conserving medieval wall paintings, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Michel, on the right, was there as a volunteer to keep things under control if more than two members of the public turned up at once to see the progress.

Aline Berelowitsch and her team of freelance conservators have the delicate task of conserving these medieval paintings that have suffered over the centuries from bad weather and acts of vandalism. The work is scheduled to finish by the end of July.

Conserving medieval wall paintings, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The conservator's job is to remain "honest, as close as possible to the original work, without extrapolation or speculative recreation". The complete restoration of the chapel is scheduled for this autumn. The mayor of Preuilly thanked the regional director of AG2R, an insurance company who made a major donation. He indicated that to finance this operation, "every euro counted".

Conserving medieval wall paintings, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The walls have been cleaned, and just doing that has made a surprising difference to the appearance of the wall paintings.

The municipality detailed the financal plan for the second phase of work, which amounts to €186 223. Various organizations have made it possible to subsidise this amount: €63 862 from the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs (DRAC), €15 000 from the Fondation du Patrimoine (Heritage Foundation), €15 000 from the Region, €20 000 from AG2R (an insurance company), €15 000 from the Credit Agricole (a bank), €25 000 from the département (county) council, €13 000 from the municipality and €7 000 from the Sauvegarde de l'art français (a grant giving organisation that focuses on saving French religious art).

Conserving medieval wall paintings, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
One of the conservators smoothing the new render with a sponge.

The co-president of the local history society (known as the SAP) reminded everyone of the dedication of the former president of the association who almost single handedly sought the funding to support this project. The strong popular support in the community was also remarked upon.

Conserving medieval wall paintings, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Applying new render with a butter knife.

I have a standing invitation to pop into see the work anytime the door is open, at 11am when they take a coffee break. I'll try and turn up with cake from time to time.

Aline told me that they had deliberately scheduled the work to start after April, so it wasn't so cold that their traditional lime render would freeze. They are filling in the big missing patches of render to make them flush with the painted surface. Later they will delicately paint sections with fine coloured hatching so the paintings make sense to the viewing public but do not go further that what we are sure was there originally and are clearly the work of the conservators, not the medieval artists.

Skeleton painted on garage, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
This painted skeleton has appeared on the garage wall opposite the chapel. Hmmm...I wonder who could be responsible for that? If their initials aren't OL I'll eat my hat.

Wednesday 22 June 2022

Secrets of the Chateau of Chambord

The central keep of the Chateau of Chambord, known as the donjon in French, is 45 metres square, with round towers on each corner. The central staircase provides the basic unit of measurement and is 9 metres across.

Chateau de Chambord, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The building appears to be symmetrical, but it is not, with many subtle and puzzling differences in the elevations and plan. For example, the western facade has an Italian style open loggia on the left, and mullioned windows on the right. The northern facade has only windows, no loggia. The eastern side has central windows with loggias either side.

Detail of the roof, Chateau de Chambord, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Detail of the roof.

The keep is a series of 24 identical self-contained apartments, four on each floor, which were probably originally designed to fan around the central staircase. but because of certain other architectural elements, such as a latrine chute and the need for access to the adjoining Francois I wing, the layout of some of the apartments has been 'flipped' so they are mirror images of what you would expect.

Queuing to enter Chateau de Chambord, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Queuing to enter the outer compound.

The place was chosen as a sort of secret romantic location by Francois I, who was no doubt referencing the old stories of knights such as Lancelot du Lac. Recent research has revealed that there was already a medieval castle on the site, built by the Dukes of Blois in the 15th century, on the estate of 2500 hectares of mostly wild swampland.

Formal gardens Chateau de Chambord, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The recently recreated 17th century formal gardens.

The chateau has no painted decoration, only carved, and was kept completely empty. Everything was brought from Blois and Amboise if the King spent a few days there.

Western facade of the central keep Chateau de Chambord, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Western facade of the central keep.

The archives were mostly destroyed in the 18th century because they were moved to Paris and there was no space in the new location.

View from a window Chateau de Chambord, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The view from a window in the passage to the Francois I wing.

The style is very Lombard or Milanese, an area Francois knew well and loved. He was also influenced by his mother's collection of Italian art since childhood.

Bust of Francois I, Chateau de Chambord, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Bust of Francois I.

There are aisements (toilets) on all floors in each of the apartments, with a chute down the middle of each tower which descends into a vaulted underground 'tank'.

Leonardo da Vinci played around with central staircase designs, multiple flight staircases and square cross shaped building designs in his notebooks. He had been working on an even more grand building project, designing a palace in Romorantin for Louise of Savoy, Francois' mother. After his death this project was probably seen as too complicated to continue without his guidance, but certain elements, such as the central multiple flight staircase were transferred to Chambord.

The skyline of the chateau is influenced by images in the famous illuminated book known as Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, the real life town of Saumur further west along the Loire, and the massive old labyrinth that was the medieval Louvre Palace. The reflection of all these influences highlights Chambord's role as a successor to the great princely medieval architecture in France. The discs and diamonds of slate decorating the roof turrets are taken from the cathedral in Pavia.

No one knows who directed the work at Chambord but it is assumed to be Domenico da Cortona, an Italian architect in the employ of Francois. Construction took 30 years. The staircase was constructed by the same team as had built the one at Blois a few years earlier. The sculptors were given the freedom to express themselves and display their skill. None of the many 'F's and salamanders decorating the interior are identical. The Knot of Concorde is everywhere. The stone is soft and worked with wood carving tools. The problem is that it deteriorates quickly and becomes porous. Much of the damage has been caused by pollutants from charcoal burning prior to the 20th century, which gets wicked into the stone by the rain.

Coffered ceiling, Chateau de Chambord, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Coffered ceiling decorated with salamanders and Fs.

The stone was transported from the Cher valley along the Cher river then crossed by the canal linking the Cher to the Loire at Tours. Then it went up the Loire to Saint Dyé where it was off loaded and trundled the 4 kilometres to Chambord by ox cart.

When it came time to elect a new Holy Roman Emperor, Francois I was a candidate, but the role went to Charles V of Spain, who was considerably more wealthy because of his New World colonies. 

Detail of the roof, Chateau de Chambord, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Detail of the roof (the central cupola).

Disastrously, Francois was captured in battle at Pavia in 1525 and spent a year in a Spanish prison. After this second humiliation, Chambord came to represent a reminder to the world that the King was nevertheless still powerful. Chambord became about establishing a dynastic symbol or powerbase, something Francois may have been sensitive about, as he was not himself the son of a king.

Francois only spent a couple of dozen days at the chateau but he never abandoned it and continued to visit it for brief stays throughout his reign. However his focus changed after his return from Spanish capture, and he based himself in Paris rather than the Loire Valley. He remodels the chateaux of  Fontainebleau and Saint Germain en Laye, both near Paris, in a very different style and using much more brick, high relief plaster, and carved and painted wood. In the end, Francois' legacy is not as a great military leader, as he imagined it would be, but as a great builder.

Tuesday 21 June 2022

Sad News From Ingrandes

Recently Philippe Drouart emailed me to let me know that his redoubtable mother Jacqueline had died.

Alain and Jacqueline Drouart acquired the ruins of the feudal castle of Ingrandes in 1982. They managed to get it declared an Historic Monument in 1987. Nowadays the 15th century dwelling with its beautiful fireplaces is completely restored, the keep is saved, a hoarding has been recreated on one of the towers, a new roof put on the staircase tower, and work continues. 

Chateau d'Ingrandes, Indre, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

What remains today is a part of the enclosure with its curtain walls and towers, the keep, a vaulted cellar and the old staircase tower, as well as the old part of the dwelling dating from the 15th century. The medieval dwelling is joined by a dwelling built in the 17th century and increased in height in the 19th century.  

Alain Drouart died in 2008. His widow Jacqueline continued to manage the castle and was determined finish it so it is not a burden to their children, who inherit it but, as she put it, have their own lives and do not live at the chateau. They will be there over the summer though according to Philippe, and we are welcome to call in any time.

Chateau d'Ingrandes, Indre, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The chateau is open to the public, offers accommodation and hosts a number of special events. Ingrandes is one of the gateways to the Brenne Regional Nature Park, an important wetland that we live on the borders of.

Check their FaceBook page for events and opening times. The Chateau of Ingrandes is in the town of the same name, near Le Blanc in Indre, to our south.

Monday 20 June 2022

It's Been Hot

In January the internet emitting from this part of the world was full of photos of hoar frost (and beautiful it looked, too).

Exactly five months later...

Saturday was a record breaking day for temperatures in Indre et Loire. There is no official weather station in Preuilly sur Claise, but I recorded 38.9 degrees on the grass (in the shade, 2 metres from any structure) in our back garden, and over 48 degrees by our back door. The back door temperature may have gone higher if I had waitied but by then I was toasted. It was very dry heat, so hot but bearable if you were in the shade.

At 4.00am on Sunday morning we had an un-forecasted storm with plenty of lightning, thunder, and a sprinkle of rain.

That had all cleared up by sunrise on Sunday, and the day was again hot - but "only" 32 degrees and sweaty. The predicted storm arrived at 6.00pm and lasted about 20 minutes.

We are expecting more storms and they are predicting a week of showers and warmish weather.

I dread to think what summer will be like when it arrives in two days time.

Friday 17 June 2022

Harvest is Suspended

Ooops! I forgot to do a blog post for yesterday.

We were working on Wednesday, and Susan took this photo from the front seat of Claudette of a farmer between Chenonceau and Amboise harvesting his barley. It's the first harvesting we have seen this year - slightly early, but not surprising given the heat and dry we have been suffering.

What was surprising is that yesterday morning a notice was issued by the prefecture, forbidding the lighting of fires in the forests, and recommending the suspension the harvest between midday and 5pm for three days in order to reduce the likelihood of fire. It's the first time we can recall having seen such a request.

The temperature on Saturday is forecast to reach 42C, with a real feel somewhere around 50C. Luckily we're not working tomorrow, and Susan has cancelled her botany outing in a former quarry with no shade. This means we can hide in the dark after swimming and attempt to stay half cool.

We are, however, working today.

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Escape from Paris, June 1940

In November 2020 I was looking at Delcampe and discovered a pair of old photographs annotated “Ferme où n avons passé la nuit du 15 au 16 juin 1940 près de Preuilly sur Claise". I sent copies of the photos to various people, but no-one could shed any real light on who the people were, nor the location of the farm. I knew I would be able to identify the farm as soon as I saw it, because there aren't many barns in this area with rounded arch windows.

Some more research brought the fact that the people were staff of L'Illustration, a weekly French newspaper published in Paris from 1843 to 1944. In 1891, L'Illustration became the first French newspaper to publish a photograph, and in 1907 the first to publish a color photograph.

On June 14 1940,  German troops entered Paris, which had been declared an "open city".  A caravan of cars and trucks carried members of staff to Tours, where they saw the destruction of the Mame printing house (to where L'Illustration had planned to withdraw). They then headed for Bordeaux, where the government had taken up residence, and at a later date they moved on to Clermont Ferrand.

During the Second World War, while it was owned by the Baschet family, L'Illustration supported Marshal Philippe Pétain's Révolution nationale, but turned down pro-German articles.


Louis Baschet (seated on the right) and René Baschet (2nd on the left) during the exodus.

I was still struggling to identify the location of the first two photos. Then...

About a month ago Susan and I were driving to Amboise. I was in Célestine, and happened to glance in her rear vision mirror at exactly the right time. I don't know how many times we have driven past these buildings and not seen them, but I am absolutely sure we are right, although these have been improvements and additions made since. These photos were taken on Monday - almost 82 years to the day.

further reading:

Tuesday 14 June 2022

Brief Encounter

Recently this man emailed me. He's been a blog reader since the day I took this photo, which was 8 February 2017. We met on the train to Paris and he was reading the famous French satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné. He says he has never missed a day's post since that date.

Man reading Le canard enchaine on a train, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

He emailed me to point out that I should have said that goats 'chevrote' in French when I talked about Marie-Claude and my recent conversation with her about the noises goats and sheep make. I have, of course, updated the post in question [link].

I was much amused, and delighted to hear from him.

Monday 13 June 2022

Vinaigre d'Orleans

Vinaigre d'Orléans (Orleans vinegar) is a wine vinegar made using an artisanal technique known as 'the Orléans method'. 

It is obtained by naturally 'spoiling' already inferior quality wine so that acetic fermentation develops in a partially filled big oak barrel that is left in a well aerated cellar. After three weeks half the vinegar from the big barrel is tipped into a smaller barrel and the big barrel replenished. This process is repeated over the course of a year, concentrating the vinegar and developing its flavour compounds in a similar fashion to the way balsamic vinegar is made.

Martin Pouret vinegar (vinaigre d'Orleans) at Maison Galland, Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Vinegar production around Orléans dates back to the Middle Ages and it is mentioned in the City records in 1415. It was originally a drink, then a remedy and a condiment. Until the 14th century apothecaries and vinegar makers belonged to the same trade guild. Then in 1394 they were officially grouped with sauce, beverage and mustard makers. By 1594 production had increased so much that the City Aldermen drew up a code of quality in order to protect the reputation of their vinegar.

By 1778 there were 300 merchant-manufacturers and retailers who had the right to manufacture, sell and distribute vinegars. Virtually all French vinegar came from Orléans. The two most famous manufacturers are Martin Pouret, still manufacturing today, and Dessaux, which was purchased by Maillé when they wanted to control their own vinegar manufacture rather than buy from Pouret. The Dessaux building still exists in Orléans, but the brand does not. At the end of the 18th century there were 17 vinegar merchants in Orléans and 200 - 300 manufacturers. By 1830 there where 45 manufacturers and in 1851 there were 75 vinegar factories.

The wine used came from the Loire Valley and south-west of France and was about 10% alcohol by volume. Fifty litres of wine is put into a 240 litre barrel laid on its side and already containing fermenting vinegar. Mycoderma aceti, a bacteria naturally floating in the air, settles on the surface of the liquid and starts creating acetic acid. The barrel is kept half full and in a warm well ventilated cellar. After this process is complete half the liquid is transferred to small barrels which are kept in a cool cellar and the vinegar is allowed to mature for a year, after which it is filtered and bottled. 

Unlike industrially produced vinegar, the Orléans artisan method uses natural surface fermentation and no acetic bacteria are added to accelerated the process, nor is the brew stirred. Each barrel produces 10 litres of vinegar for maturation a week.

In the 19th century vinegar made fortunes for men like Louis Auguste Pilté, who purchased the Chateau of Grillemont near La Chapelle Blanche Saint Martin in 1808. The reason was the location of manufacture, Orléans. Because of its positon on the Loire, Orléans was the closest practical port to Paris and allowed transport right across France, because unlike other major rivers, like the Seine, you could not just go downstream with the current but sail back upstream because the prevailing winds blew from the west. Tonnes barrels of wine arrived at Orléans from the west, and inevitably some of it spoiled in the barrel on the voyage (wine was stored and transported in barrels until the 20th century when it became more usual to transport it in bottles). So, vinegar production was opportunistically taken up.

Today, only Martin Pouret continues to use the old slow Orléans artisanal method of surface fermentation, at the same location as they started in 1797. Modern accelerated vinegar production, where the acid forming bacteria is added to the wine, allows for a finished product in 48 hours. Martin Pouret make flavoured vinegars, pickled gherkins and 100% French mustard (most 'French' mustard is made with imported mustard seed). It is sold in some supermarkets (eg Monoprix) and specialist grocers (the photo above was taken in Maison Galland in Amboise).

Friday 10 June 2022

The Hours of Silence.

A couple of months ago I saw an interesting poster at the Carrefour supermarket in the shopping mall Atlantes, in Saint Pierre des Corps. Although I didn't take a photo of it (I was preoccupied), I told Susan about it.

On Tuesday after work we were shopping in Carrefour, and we remembered to take a photo:

The Silent Hour
Every day from 1pm to 2pm
and from 4pm to 5pm

Sound and lights reduced to to accommodate
our clients who have an autism disorder
or prefer a quiet atmosphere

Thursday 9 June 2022


We were in Azay le Rideau yesterday, minding our own business whilst walking back to Claudette after a very nice lunch, when a Mercedes van with blacked out windows drove (rather hastily, I thought) into a parking place and a whole team of people piled out.

Lead amongst them was the French TV historian, motivator in heritage conservation, and all round good egg Stéphane Bern, who then proceeded to wander off, leaving his (we assume) security team milling around the van. They eventually caught up with him and they proceeded towards the Chateau.

We didn't get any amazing photos with him. Or even of him.

But if anyone needs a photo of the back of Stéphane Bern's head, we're the ones to ask.

We later discovered that he was on his lunch break after filming at Chateau de l'Islette, and had we stayed 10 minutes longer at the restaurant...

Wednesday 8 June 2022

A Quick Sketch

The other day I got a FaceBook message from Olivier. He's our local graphic designer and print shop owner. I didn't open the message because it was just a link to a FaceBook post. Usually that sort of thing is spam and hasn't been sent by the person it appears to be from. Besides, Olivier and I are both on the committee of AARST, the association set up to welcome and support refugees in the Sud Touraine. There was a meeting coming up so I knew I would see him within 24 hours and could check with him if he'd really sent me something.

Sketch of a barn, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

It turns out that the message really was from him. He'd done a sketch of our barn from the street and posted it on FaceBook and was sending it in case I'd missed it (I had).

Caricature on paper tablecloth, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Olivier sketches constantly. Some part of his brain is always occupied with directing a pen into creating a doodle like sketch. We have another sketch by him, done at a New Year Dinner on the paper table cloth and depicting Simon and our then neighbour Pierre-Yves.

Tuesday 7 June 2022

No Mow May

No Mow May is a real thing. The idea is to not mow your lawn during May to give little wildflowers a chance to bloom and feed native bees. We participated this year, which isn't unusual: we often don't mow the lawn in May (or April. Or March. Or - name any month since October).

This year the Lizard Orchids have really benefitted. We have at least five plants busily flowering away. They aren't the prettiest of orchids, but they are ours.

Monday 6 June 2022

Sainte Maure de Touraine Cheese Traditions

Sainte Maure de Touraine goats cheese draining in moulds, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sainte Maure de Touraine goats cheese draining in moulds in a farm dairy.

Sainte Maure de Touraine goats cheese is formed into a cylinder shaped log that is narrower at one end than the other. Traditionally they supposed to be cut from the thick end first. This is because the thin end has small nipples formed as the cheese presses through the drainage holes in the mould. These are said to represent the teats of the nanny goat, and you don't want to be cutting off her teats. However, it has to be said that, having checked all my photos, both I and various cheese professionals of my acquaintance nearly always start at the thin end!

Sainte Maure de Touraine goats cheese, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
With the eye of faith you can just about see 'nipples' on the ends of the cheese.

Sainte Maure de Touraine goats cheese famously has a rye straw inserted down the middle, and I've heard several stories about why this is done. According to my expert sources at Sainte Maure de Touraine the real reason is that in the old days cheese used to be transported to market in baskets lined with rye straw. The long logs of cheese often broke in half on their way to market, and in order to sell them, the cheesemakers would insert a rye straw from the bottom of the basket into the two broken ends of the cheese and push them together so the straw formed an armature to strengthen the cheese. After a while it became standard practice to insert a straw in all Sainte Maure de Touraine cheeses before they went to market, so they didn't break in the first place, and rather than being a sign of an 'inferior' (ie broken) product, it became an important signature of a high quality product that is still used today.

Sainte Maure de Touraine goats cheese, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sainte Maure de Touraine goats cheese -- cut from the wrong end! Oh no!!

Saturday 4 June 2022

Excuse me while I feel old

The UK is currently in a Jubilee frenzy, the Queen having spent 70 years on the throne. It's a long time, but also quite an odd time to make such a fuss about as most of the other "big" anniversaries are multiples of 25.

It does mean that my pint mug is now 45 years old. I bought it in Caernarfon, Wales in 1981 - 4 years after the Silver Jubilee, because it was on special and it seemed a laugh.

Friday 3 June 2022

Lunch with Benoit

Last week we ended up with a surfeit of lunch invitations. Due to other commitments we missed out on lunch with Carolyn and Ernie, Americans who are amongst our longest standing blog readers, and Janet, who runs a Facebook group for Australians in France that I am active in. But we were able to have lunch with Benoît, who I'm friends with on Facebook. 

Lunch, La Claise, Preuilly sur Claise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Benoît grew up in Preuilly, but has lived in Deux Sévrès for 30 years. He is a retired vet and was on a bit of a road trip to revisit the places of his youth. His family owned the haberdashers that Lieutopie now occupies.

It was a very pleasant lunch at La Claise. When we arrived a group of English friends were at the buffet selecting their starters. They had cycled from the next village and would cycle back after lunch. 

Lunch was good -- I had fish and Simon and Benoît had steak.

And I took the opportunity to talk to the chef, Christophe, as we want to visit his parents' place because it turns out to be a place we've been trying to identify for a while from an old photo.

Thursday 2 June 2022

Playing Petanque in La Roche Posay

The market place in La Roche Posay is surfaced with fine gravel. This is because twice a week between March and November anyone can come and play pétanque (aka boules) on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. The local club has storage space on what is a sort of centrally located bandstand come community area. There will be half a dozen games going on at any one time and those not playing sit on the bandstand area in front of the club storage space, so there is a small lively crowd gathered.

Playing petanque, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The throwing action. You can see the ball in the air (with the tree behind).

The market place is surrounded by linden trees and is a popular place to just hang out with friends. Some people take the sun, sitting on a bench, while children play in the playground, but in the summer the big attraction is the lively games of pétanque.

La Roche Posay is a spa town, full of visitors who have come to take the cure in the magic selenium rich waters, which are the special ingredient in L'Oréal's La Roche Posay range of skin care products. There is a casino, a golf course, a horse racing track -- and pétanque right in the middle of town. 

Playing petanque, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Some technical discussion which I didn't follow.

Once you've had a little nap after lunch, you can emerge to play a traditional game of boules in the shade of the linden trees in the square. It is an opportunity for curists and locals to meet and chat. 

Observing the game (and having not bothered to look up the rules or ever personally played it) here is how I would describe the action: Pétanque is played with heavy metal balls that players retrieve from the ground using a magnet rather than bending over. The aim of the game is to get as close as possible to a small coloured ball known as a jack in English. You can aim your ball for a spot near the jack, or you can play strategically and aim to knock an opponent's ball out of the way. The throwing style is a rather odd high actioned underarm fling, gripping the ball from above and making it arc upwards and spin. Players may not step outside a defined circle when they throw.

Playing petanque, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Applying the measuring stick when it is not clear who is closest to the jack.

Here in Preuilly we call the game boules, and it is played under the plane trees near the swimming pool and the new guinguette based in the lavoir. In La Roche Posay, only 15 minutes away, but in the neighbouring Region, it seems they use the name pétanque. However, in both places I suspect you can use either word interchangeably.

For some reason, many more men than women play. I was once asked to join a team in Preuilly by one of the rare female players, but I declined.

Wednesday 1 June 2022

A Pavement Collapse

At about 7 pm last Tuesday evening I entered the market place in Preuilly to discover a group of concerned neighbours leaning over a barrier and peering into a large hole in the pavement. The man from Véolia, the water company, was there with his van too. He was phlegmatically munching on a sandwich -- an act of desperation by a French man who can see he is going to miss his dinner.

Collapsed pavement, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The pavement had been noticeably sinking for over a week, and according to Catherine, who lives in the house next to collapse, it just suddenly crashed into the void underneath, making a huge racket and breaking the town water pipe, which was still spraying water everywhere. It may have been leaking before too, but more likely is that the recent heavy rain was the last straw. Catherine thinks the pipe which runs under the pavement to connect her house's downpipe to an outlet in the gutter has probably been blocked and leaking. It is an inadequate looking rectangular profile and it wouldn't take much to block it up. Luckily there doesn't seem to be any water seeping in to Catherine's cellar.

Pavement collapse, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

This has been a problem point for years, with a big leak under the pavement some years ago that emptied the town water tower (Fr. chateau d'eau), which contains four hundred cubic metres (so less than the swimming pool, which contains a couple of thousand cubic metres) of water.

Luckily there was no one walking on that section of pavement when it collapsed.