This week's throwback Thursday takes us back nine years, with a post from 15 June 2008.
On Tuesday, as per the appointment, we took Clare’s car to the carosserie (body repair shop) in Evaux-les-Bains so the insurance assessor could take a look at it and agree the work with the garage. We arrived just after 9am and were met by the owner, who had been told by the garage in Marcillat-en-Combraille that we would be coming. I explained that our insurer’s assessor would arrive that day and showed him the dent. The garage owner’s first impression was, unsurprisingly, that it is a relatively simple panel beating, filling and painting job and he wouldn’t replace the panel unless we really wanted him to. Replace the panel? I was game to leave the dent there – kind of a badge of honour, rather like an ASBO is in the UK. When you see a car with a dent you tend to keep out of its way, because the driver is clearly not afraid to rough it up a bit. I suppose it’s the same as if you see in the street someone with tattoos and a thumping great scar on the cheek, you tend to avoid confrontation.
Anyway, we agreed with his suggestion that we leave the car there so he could get on with the repair as soon as the assessor had agreed to the work, and he said that he would deliver the car to the garage in Marcillat on Friday or, at the latest, Saturday morning.
It isn’t there yet.
We went to Evaux-les-Bains in two cars, so we would have one to come back in. The day started fine, so I had taken the top down on the MX-5 and I was wearing, to protect my ears from the wrath of the Sun god, my nice new felt Indiana Jones hat.
My God, was I cool – British Racing Green open sports car, top down and an Indiana Jones hat to boot!
Meanwhile, as we were relatively certain of the whereabouts of at least one of our cars for the foreseeable future, we left Evaux-les-Bains and went straight to St Eloy-les-Mines to check out the Contrôle Technique centre that Marjan had told us about. We spoke to the boss there, and we have an appointment for the Mazda to be tested on Wednesday afternoon.
We have come to the conclusion that the cheapo petrol mower we bought is not man enough for the job – it vibrates so badly that a couple of its nuts have come loose and dropped off, the motor is not strong enough for the coarse grass and other stuff growing in the meadow unless it is already short, it is very hard work to push up hill (we need to use it on the bottom to get close to the trees – the tractor won’t go close enough) and, to cap it all, a part of the lower half of the handle has fractured. I don’t know how much more the ’emergency fund’ can take, but it has been called upon again! We have a new lawn mower on order, which should be delivered early next week. This one has twice the engine horse power, driven back wheels and switches between rear bag discharge and mulching at the push of a button.
The weather has still not been dry for long enough to dry the grass thoroughly for cutting and, of course, the longer the grass becomes the longer it takes to dry. When it is wet the least of our problems is the massive understeer, when the machine decides, against its drivers wishes, to ignore the front wheels and go straight on; it is more the total lack of forward motion with a back wheel spinning wildly on the slightest incline. It has thus not been possible to cut the entire area for more than a couple of weeks and so, to enable us to look at the trees and the lower potager without needing to don our wellies, I have cut a path around, which I like to think of as our answer to Hampton Court maze (if I try for a different crop next year it could be Hampton Court maize, n’est-ce pas?). OK, the grass is only about 30cm high at the moment, but we are doing what we can.Whilst looking for a suitable mower, I became interested in the concept of mulching rather than bagging and tipping (or, what I am doing at the moment, removing the bag and letting the machine chuck the coarse cuttings out of a hole in the back of the thing). There are problems with bagging and tipping – it creates a lot of unbalanced compost that is littering part of the wild area, but more than that, when the bag is half full or more, on some of the more sloping parts of the land, it shifts the centre of gravity of the machine such that the front wheels are lifted off the ground! That, Messrs Clarkson, Hammond and May, produces what I call real understeer! I have therefore determined that a mulching kit for the tractor would constitute what is described in the book ‘1066 and all that‘ as a good thing.
For a special birthday treat (I hit 59 on Saturday) we took at trip to see our old friend Bernard at Mr Bricolage in Montluçon, and he will dig out the specification and, more importantly, price of a mulching kit for us. More about that next week, perhaps.
Speaking of things meadowy, we are expecting a visit on Friday next from one of the ladies who write the regular Meadow Muses column in The Accipiter, the online magazine of the Hawk Conservancy Trust. She, with her husband, is touring in the area and will call in for an overnight stop. Our little bit of land is pretty pathetic compared to Reg’s Downland Meadow, but I hope she will find some of it mildly interesting.
Last year we were somewhat concerned when the monthly budget account for electricity was more than doubled based on our usage in the previous twelve months. We have been trying to be more economical, and I am delighted to say that, based on the refund just received, we had overpaid by about one month. I don’t know yet what the full numbers are, but it is at least unlikely that our monthly contribution will rise, and it may even fall by a small amount.
Update on our feathered residents. The wrens and swallows in the bottom rooms have definitely recycled. Both species are regularly taking food into the buildings which indicates that both hens are sat on eggs, as is the female of the pair that have nested in the workshop. The redstarts’ nest is still not in use, so we have carefully relocated it to the corridor at the back of the bread oven room, so they can still use it if they choose (and if they find it).
The fruit on our fruit trees is being decimated! By now we should be harvesting the black- and red-currants but they are still green – or at least the 40% or so left. The cherries are also about 60% gone. So far the gooseberries are OK, as is most of the developing fruit in Clare’s area. The vegetables are coming on well, too. We have started to eat our own potatoes. One variety we have is called Bleu d’Auvergne. Interestingly, one of the more popular cheeses of the area is also called Bleu d’Auvergne, which prompts the question, are we growing potatoes or aligot [link]?
For reasons which I absolutely refuse to discuss but which may have something to do with nearly all of the decent TV programmes being off for the summer, we have been watching a bit of Big Brother occasionally. Apart from the usual adjectives (dull, boring, meaningless, drivel, crass, etc., etc.) two thoughts come to mind – isn’t Alex a self-important, foul-mouthed, two-faced, selfish chienne (remember I told you), and isn’t Mario a self-important, arrogant, self-righteous, two-faced Walter Mitty?
When I passed my eleven-plus, back in 1960, Dad bought me a mongrel puppy that we called Mickey. That’s him in the picture with sister Susan and me. To avoid any embarrassing questions, I can confirm that Mickey is the one chewing the stick, I am the one holding the stick, leaving Susan as the one rapidly falling into the clutches of the Langoliers.
That was his undoing – Mickey chewed things. Furniture, mostly. Prophetically, Dad changed his name to “He’ll have to go“. He went. Interestingly, when I was working in Dubai one of my staff was a south Indian by the name of Chandramurthy Gopinathan Nair (Gopi to friends). A few of us changed his name to Jack. He didn’t. It seems I did not inherit my late father’s powers of prophecy.
What is the point of all this? Simply that I plan to change Alex’s and Mario’s names to She/he’ll have to go and see if it works.