Monday, 28 January 2008

Got up, went to work . . .

We've been here a week now.

I've had four goes at the getting up, going to work, coming home, going to bed thing. The current assignment (I quite like that word makes it all sound much more like something) is for a week and a day in the cash office of the Uni taking tuition fee payments etc.

As jobs go it's not bad. I'm getting to be a dab hand with the cards and the chip and pin machine. I am a bit rubbish with the real money though. I've never had a job before that required cash handling skills. In fact I've never had a life that required them. So while my expert colleague performs like a stage magician with a deck of cards, I'm the comedy juggler. The money gets dropped on the floor, I loose track of where I was in the counting or most embarrassing of all start going 10, 20, 30 and so on when I am in fact counting £20 notes and should be going 20, 40 , 60. Thank goodness someone invented money weighing machines or I'd still be counting last week's takings.

I might get the hang of money by Friday.

Wonder what I'll be doing next week

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Ode to Joy

We're here then after a pretty uneventful journey for us.

Not only did we make it in time for our Channel Tunnel crossing we got there ahead of schedule and went through half an hour early. Though I suppose that does keep the record of never actually getting on the crossing we've booked unbroken.

We set off about 11am and got to Leeds about midnight as we saw the city spread out before us what was on the radio? Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

Good omen or The Universe having a laugh?

Friday, 18 January 2008

And the Winner Is . . .

Time is winging it's way on and we are making some very half hearted preparations for going back to the UK.

I have typed up my CV and sent it to half a dozen temp agencies. This has had me thinking about my career history. History as someone famous who's name I can't remember said is "one damn thing after another". My CV is just one damn job after another. So here's some of my career highlights that I couldn't fit in.

Most boring job - This is a huge field but I think I sank to an all time low as a receptionist on a reception that no one ever came into. I was so bored that I sat seeing how much I could move before the movement detector on the alarm system detected me and not just the once either.

Most Difficult Job - I don't mean to sound big headed when I say that I haven't really found many jobs difficult. Sure there have been difficult moments like telling a woman to stop e-mailing the young man she was paying to have sex with her and do some work and other such disciplinary stuff. Generally though I set the bar on my ambitions low and skipped over it. So it came as something as a surprise when I couldn't manage it at it's lowest. I had a temp job making sandwiches. The kind of sandwiches that come in plastic wedges. But hey at least I got to wear a white coat (and a hair net and wellies and rubber gloves) My role in this critical operation was to put slices of cucumber on as they whizzed past on the production line. I was crap. I just didn't have it when it came to cucumbering sandwiches and either missed them completely or had to chase them down the factory. To my eternal shame I got moved to a less demanding role.

Most Embarrassing Moment - You can decide
Walking out of a meeting room and into cupboard while everyone else was still sitting round the table.
Getting the giggles (serious ones with tears and everything)and not being able to stop while everyone else is having a really serious conversation about installing an automatic disabled toilet being a "really big job".
Having your mobile play the Laurel & Hardy tune while the CEO is talking about the company's goals for the coming year

Most Exciting Job - I live in hope

Monday, 14 January 2008

Neck Yer Chickens Missus

It's been a busy few days. For me at least. TS has been idling on the sofa since Saturday while I have been digging the garden, chopping wood, moving the chickens about, cooking, cleaning, virtual assisting.

Alright I knew you wouldn't believe that of him! Actually he's had a bad back due to the little comedy of errors described here . I think he may of given up on his ambition to be "The Finest Woodsman in the Whole of France" (it only works if you do the Inspector Clueso accent). He certainly can't do the hand on hip manly chest thrown out pose that goes with that claim at the moment.

So today I was poking about in the barn looking for easy bits of scrap wood to cut up when a white van pulled up and a swarthy looking chap got out. We did the obligatory bonjour handshake stuff, then he said could he take the scrap metal next to the barn. The aforementioned scrap is actually some sort of cutting thing that goes on a tractor which TS had decided a few months ago might be worth something so it has been lying there ever since. I'm sick of the sight of it and sick of telling various scrap metal people that no they can't take it but they can buy it if they like. Taking advantage of the fact that TS was incapacitated I said yes take it.

That's a good thing about here actually you can't hire skips to take rubbish away (at least not cheaply and easily) but leave just about anything in the way or scrap metal or knackered furniture, fridges, cookers at the side of the road and someone will pull up within a couple of days and ask if they can take it. If that fails the commune will send someone out to pick it up if you phone them but we've never had to yet.

The conversation then moved on to anything else we might want to get rid of but we already had a bunch of people round last week who got all the remotely saleable things out of the barn that we didn't want. The next talking point was how long we had had the house and was there a lot of work to do on it at which point the guy produced a flyer advertising his painting and decorating company and said he also did tiling.

Finally, spotting the Dinnerladies in their swanky new run he said something about chickens which I didn't get. I used my favourite phrase "je ne comprend pas" he then mimed wringing a chicken's neck.

It's tough making a living in the Limousin you clearly have to turn your hand to anything.

I told him they were for eggs only and no we wouldn't be killing them when they stopped laying as they were pets, or I might of said they were my familiars, either way he got the message. It's weird actually all the French people you speak to about your chickens want to know if you are going to eat them. Maybe it's because they know us English won't so it's a joke or maybe it's just the French obsession with eating.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Sunny Days and Rainy Days

Yesterday was completely unremarkable yet quite perfect.

It was sunny and mild so we spent most of the day pottering about in the garden.

First of all a funeral pyre for the old chicken house, then digging over the ground where the chickens have been, turning and building up the compost pile, clearing bits of wood and stones, pruning the raspberries generally tidying up.

All the while we were making plans about what we were going to try growing this year and where we were going to put it, watching the antics of the chickens, admiring the robin who was flitting about checking out the newly turned soil and compost heap.

Nothing major going on then just a feeling of quiet contentment.

Today, well it's been raining and I've booked Sissy into the vets on the 21st for her pre return to the UK tick and tapeworm treatment and the three of us on to the channel Tunnel for the 22nd.

Thank goodness the vet receptionist speaks some English between us on the phone we managed to establish what I wanted and when I wanted it (I hope). The phone has to be the most difficult way to communicate in a foreign language but at least I can cheat a bit and have babelfish open for when I really get really stuck. I am getting better though. I have taken to keeping telesales people on the phone until I get the gist of what they are trying to sell me or they get frustrated and hang up. They must think they've hit the jackpot when they first get through poor things only to find out they are really giving me free French lessons.

So 22nd Jan UK here we come. Assuming of course that I've booked the right thing at the vets, Sissy's microchip hasn't gone missing, the car doesn't break down, we don't win the lottery . . .

. . . good job I only have just over a week to think about it

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Chateau Les Chooks New Improved Version

Inspired by Sydney Opera House, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and an air raid shelter the new actually movable, by TS and a complete stranger who was just passing by taking down the village Christmas lights, chicken house was unveiled early this afternoon.

Based on a pallet and an old tea chest and faced with PVC tongue and groove there are perches in the front for roosting and a nice big four chicken sized nest box at the back since that's where our girls seem to prefer to sleep anyway.

The chooks were wildly excited. Not so much by their new quarters but by the fact that they are actually back on grass instead of the big pile of hay that I kept adding to in the movable sized run that was not moving anywhere and was rapidly turning into a swamp. In fact they are so excited that even though it is dark and raining they have still not gone to bed.

News Flash - they have gone now and are making sleepy happy chicken bed time noises.

The only drawback with this design (which TS wants me to point out was constructed under extremely difficult circumstances in the barn with inadequate tools, bits of wood and almost no light) is that it is not raised up to provide shade and/or shelter from the rain. This is easily sorted by a piece of tarp over half the run.

As soon as each bit of ground gets weeded, debugged and manured we'll move them on to the next bit.

Voila! as us French folk say

Friday, 4 January 2008

No more Mrs Mardy Pants

I've been having a wander round various blogs reading about what people have achieved over the last year and what their plans are for this year. Quite inspirational really. So I thought instead of being Mrs Yah Boo I've Got To Go Back To The UK Mardy Pants I would have a look back over what we've done this year that we never did before and maybe make some New Year resolutions that I can kick myself later for not achieving (oops Mardy Pants keeps raising her head bear with me while I give her a quick slap)

1) I have achieved my long held dream of sleeping till I wake up for nine whole months. This means not getting up at 6am in the dark and dragging the poor dog off for a walk in pissy cold wet rain before joining in the wacky races on the M62 to get to a job that sucks my soul away and saps my will to live (Ok it might not of been that bad but you know what I mean).

2) You might not of noticed. I know I hardly ever mention them but we have chickens. How did we ever manage without them? No more wondering if the eggs I'm buying are really free range and what sort of conditions the chickens were kept in. Plus they are a joy to watch. Unless you are watching them digging up someone else's garden that is and they talk to you and hum and make happy chicken noises. The eggs are almost a bonus. Lovely fresh eggs to make as much custard as you can eat with some to spare to give to friends and neighbours (eggs that is not custard).

3) Kind of leads me on to I made custard! Real custard not from a packet and jam and chutney and soup. Whole meals even from stuff I had to hand. From scratch.

4) And of course we grew food like potatoes and beans and peas and sweetcorn and salad and carrots and onions and cucumbers. I got past wondering if everything might have a maggot in it and not really be up to the standard of something grown by professionals and discovered that vegetables taste really really good when they are really really fresh and you've nurtured them and anticipated eating them for weeks and weeks. So much so that cooking them is fun and satisfying and rewarding. I've felt the soil in the garden warm up as Spring moved into Summer and I've actually been affected by what the weather is doing rather than just inconvenienced.

5) We've built internal walls in the house ( that very nearly reach the ceiling and will do if we ever finish them), plumbed pipes, fitted sinks and a toilet and a shower. We've discovered that a perfect looking house is not nearly as important when you're not compensating for not having control over other areas of your life. Although a scruffy shack can still be quite embarrassing especially when it looks the same as it did when someone called in months ago.

6) We've lived in a foreign country

Six of the best is enough to give you the flavour I think. So looking forward I will:-

1) Stop sulking because I am luckier than lots of folks

2) Learn more French

3) Grow more food

4) Cook and eat it with the respect it deserves.

5) Repay some of the hospitality and favours of the wonderful people we have gotten to know this year

6) Oh I don't know. I'm sure the list will be up to 60 by the end of the week

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

So this is 2008

So eight courses and a bottle of wine later it's 2008

That was six hours spent on a meal folks. It's almost a full working day!

There was prawns, lobster, scallops, sea bass, foie gras, truffle soup, ravioli, sorbet, beef, smelly sock cheese (alright I passed on that one), chocolate mousse, mango mousse, more sorbet, tropical fruits, little chocolates coffee. I may never eat again.

I am now off to sleep the sleep of the over indulged if I can find somewhere to put my stomach

Happy New Year everyone