My French Blog

Blog begins..halfway from Clare to  Rosslare..a pitstop at  the  Folks house in Thurles…and  as I passed the old Cathedral ,driving through the town,  I stopped and took this  photo…  April 25 2013 ferries topWhere it  all began….Irish Ferries….top deck April 2013…cabin……where I first lay my  head  authentic american log  cabin  !!  In Tresbouef near  Rennes Brittanny  with  Breadmakers and Organic farmers Catherine et Jean-francois hard in the outdoors…digging a garden in return for  food  and  accomodation and  good  conversation…..oh and  wine !!woofer bernard2the second home  with  hosts Chris  and  Rachel at  Bressuires near Nantes…( see their  chateau with moat behind me )shed willow….These are Patrick -Nathalie Pain- Lambert….Patrick makes   baskets  from the  willow he  grows  in his  fields  see www.vannerie-lambert.comoseraie-2tri-osier-2sechage-2

hencock2…….Meanwhile back at the ranch, I  dug out  some drills for the seed potatoes and had just most carefully and  reverentially planted each spud 1/2 inch deep each one   12 ” apart below the  surface  ,covered them  in nice loose soil and watered them. Then, no sooner had  my back  been turned than..Mr Le Coq et sa Femme were in like lightening to peck them all up  again  !!  Merde alors !! Quelles Horreures !

roosterfrench brothers…These are brothers Jean et Roger, who  work in their immaculately  kept vedgetable garden ..just over the  fence  from  me.  Bonjour les Freres !…I d say they haven t just  been  eating  vedgetables to look like  that  at  their  age …more like   pork, lamb,beef or  chicken , I d  say  !! Bon Appetit !

……….But  here are an other set of  Brothers..Irish !!camp…..This  is  my van and my ” tent  “with all my equipment inside !  where ever I go I can park up my van, roll out my ” tent ” and then I m at home  where ever I go !!! Some people in the Caravan and Camping park have now  begun to do likewise….pottering about in their little “Poly-tents ” ! What a crackin good idea ,Gromit !! chris bernard rachael3Hosts Chris  and Rachael at Noirlieu Castle  Bressuire with the irish boyoh !   What a fantastic couple..rebuilding their old french Chateau into a state of the art authentic medieval castle complete with moate and organic vedgetable garden…as well as  organising work for up to 12 volunteers ,feeding and  accomodating them ..not to  mention giving French language lessons and tips on computer bike rides and trips  to  the local antique markets on Sundays…luckily for me I got there a  bit  early in the  season where I was the only worker there and  so I  was spoilt rotton !!chateaux…rear  view of Noirlieu Castle with surounding moate and bridge. May 17.. 2013circus…No it s not the  circus !!…later in the summer ,things  get kinda busy here..hense the accomodation units   …and the ” entertainment” area in the  foreground !!! gable Finally ,a farewell picture of Jean et Roger s house nextdoor  reflected in the waters of the moate as the  evening sun was setting…Fri 17   .2013… Now it s time  to  move  from  this  host  and back to  host ..for my next job.     P1090163..a la  marche ce matin lundi 20 Mai  …mon  neauveau woofer hote Filip a Camborchard, l’Evaux -les-Bains,Mountlucon….P1090159……  Mes nouvaux amies, les cochons  ..the  pigs  !!..le pudding !  c est bien ! P1090166Evaux-les Bains….a sort of  french Lisdoonvarna Spa where older people take the thermal baths,get saunas, massage,etc…nice wall painting though !polly 3Meanwhile back with new host Filip Claes, the pollytunnels are  getting  a bit longer !!polly4long long pNo ,the above picture is not a field with a lake in it !..its one of  Filip’s longer polytunnels !!carrot 2..yes I know, it s just  a carrot !..but  do you  remember  that sensation of the  first time  you  actually pulled a fresh carrot  from the soil..teach that  to the  next  generation  and  not what the  next hi tech smart phone application can do !!……the final farewell with Filip and friends …………………..

 lunchand Filip and Eve and baby AnnaPhoto on 25-05-2013 at 10.26glasses6…I hear you re  a WAITER now , Ted !!!…yes staying at the  next place now  for  two weeks And this is  certainly different work ..preparing dishes  and  serving in the restaurent of  the  Chamre D’hote (B&B ) www.saintmicheldelapendule.comgroup door end And  here are my first group of dinner guests…they re all smiling after the  meal ,so I guess I  did ok tonight !!right ??dance cuisine….yes,  they re dancing the  Conga  in the  Kitchen.!! ………….

woodshedP1090406……..just a little bit of wood chopping to keep the home fires burning at the  Chambre D’hotes  ..dusty work  but there s always a glass of Sauvignon Blanc á boire  from le patron Philippe pour aider la travaille !!

  1. ….later on the wood has to  be  stacked carefully so it  doesn t collapse and fall…a bit  like  dry -stone  walling !!…or stacking turf  in the shed back home even  !!…………………         ……………………………………………………………meanwhile on the  other side of  the wall ,in the barn, I have  begun to paint a wall painting for  Brigitte  et Philippe…I m just making it  up as I go  along really…some shapes include stalyctites and stalycmites from the Grottes de Tourtoirac…there is  such  a  huge collection of  very impressive  underground caves open to  the  public…and  further south theres the world  famous Lascaux caves  with  the 17,000 year old paintings of  horses ,cattle and  deer…so  there  are  some  influences  at work there.   that s  another reason to have some more wine and  food..the  family  and  workers celebrate the nearly finshed  fresco, also some hosts friends  departing tonight and news of a new job for daughter, Pauline…Felicitations  !!partyfresco 3…….oh and by the  way,  thats not a pint of  Guinness you  see on the  wall behind me  BUT now that I look at it…Yes ! its  exactly like  those  old pint of  Guinness advertisements.!!  ah!! the auld subconsious is  never  really far  away from our memory, is it  ?? I did not  plan that.                                                                              P1090600..had some time free this week so myself and the other workers went off for  the day with some  canoes “down the lazy river..”Our  generous host Brigitte kindly gave us her car for  the day and a basket full of  food  for a  lunch al fresco !! P1090606just one  white  water  section  but I think the canoe was  pretty unsinkable  anyway..P1090630…and heres the happy group of canoeists relaxing over lunch on the  riverside on a sunny day in Broconte en Dardognne, France wed 5 June 2013……P1090653……..Paelle  dish ( pie-ell-la ) by Pauline at lunchtime…later that  evening we had  an ” international ” dinner where  the  workers make  the dinner  for  the  hosts-Summer    made Chinese dumplings,Anna and Eva  made American PumpkinPie  and  yours  truly made Cabbage  and  Bacon with Spuds &  mustard  !!….P1090691here s how the fresco/wall painting is at the  moment…this  may  change..P1090665…washing the cover of  the swimmin pool…just opened their  pool for  the first swim of the summer ( no, sorry -2nd swim,had to have   a swim in the  river after that very hot 2 hour  trip in that  big yellow plastic heat- conducting canoe  last  week ! )….google saintmicheltourtoirac .. if  you  ever want a good B&B with  a swimming pool near Perigeaux/Thiviers/Dardognne area moon..yes   I  think its finished  now…,june 13 frescovernisage…yes …fresco finished.. thats  about it …all done  and  dusted here at St .Michel, Chambre D’ótes,Tourtoirac…time  to  say  goodbye to  all….Merci Beaucoup !P1090780 vignes2……Now  for  something completely  different..Organic  Vineyards…..that s wine  without the  ADDED sulphite..VIN SAN SULFITE..that s kind of  important to people like the Bessieres,Maryline and Philippe  who  follow the  organic method of  wine production near Puy D’Eveque.  We are not  far  from Cahors..further south again ( I m  heading for  Toulouse later in July )…helping out  in  the  vineyards here  first ,lot of  work done  by  hand and  no chemical  sprays here ! ( unlike  most of  the neighbors vineyards )…this  time of  year the flowers are out on the  vines and  the  branches need re fixing back onto the guide wires…all taking time but theres good company along  the other helper  Lia plus Philippe..and we have a good  siesta/rest in the  afternoon  after a  delicious lunch each day…green fields of francela vieille vigne cherry7IMG_3343…a lot  of these photos of  the  places  I  visit  seem to  have   a changing cast of  people round  the  dinner  s the  latest group from  the Bessieres  family..please  note the  2  hale  and  hearty Grannies !! Great  ladies !IMG_3356bottlerLAntenetcahors……one curious activity for french people ( and  English people living here ) is their  facination with car -boot sales. On most Sundays you can find   village streets full with stalls of  bric-a -brac and  second hand items of furniture ,antiques , clothes, music,,books,etc ..a  treasure trove  for bargain hunters !.  cars  are  parked  bumper to  bumper on all the  approach roads into  the village…just like  the  parking at  important  hurling matches  at home in Ireland….they go on all day and  people sit  about  and eat and chat and  drink and  listen to  music like  it  was   festival time !! Sunday 30 June 2013……You just  never  know what  you  might just pick up in a  car  boot  sale !!!!sign philippeIts Monday 1st July !!…. and I just finished a good  sign for my Organic Winegrower farmer..he s  happy with it now !  (  it s handy having an artist as one of your volunteer workers  ,eh ?)..but wait  there s  another white  wall that could  be  good  for  a Cartoon/Fresco… s  how it  started..on   the  side of one  of  the  big wine vats …….and 3 days laterfinal fresco pdv..finished …this picture has the whole family and cats ,ducks and dogs,vines,music,sunshine and cherry trees (  the poor chicks didnt live  long -the dog managed to eat them all one morning !)

IMG_3424…and  so the  final parting glass…a  surprise going  away party for  us  allIMG_3423IMG_3427…..the  hardest working woman in Courbenac, Maryline enjoys a  well earned  glass of  sparkling wine !!  thanks to you  all at Domaine L’Antenet..I had a great experience living and  working with  youIMG_3435dinner t…and a special goodbye in Toulouse to  my co-workawayers..Lia et Lot..thank you too !. July 10th  2013………Ok I ve finally found the  right road out of Toulouse after many wrong turnings….just follow the signs for Lourdes !! ( thank you , God !!  )  and turn off  main road at Carbonne …direction Daumazan…Woofing time  again  !!!….and  here s the  first Irish  woofer person that  I ve  met all summer !! Mia ,  from Kildare (.. she s in her 2 nd year at   in Trinity this September  and  she  woofing here  for  3  weeks !!..check out Mia at her Arcadian garden home at dom miguel et loopetah…and here the other 2 Woofers. a  couple from Spain,Miguel and Loupetah..both speak French and  English very  well…so that just  leaves our host… Dominique.. who sells vedgetarian meals from her van at markets.wagon.( that s not  me in the  photo !..I have not  got a bullet head !! )wagon But back home on the  farm there s  a big organic  garden to look after and that s  where  we woofers come  in…in the  morning we are in the field …gardening,planting,weeding,digging,etc and after a fine meal and  a siesta we do some watering of the vedgetable plantes in the  cool of  the evening before  eating another fantastic meal at 8 pm…kitchen domyes! more food !  and a  few bottles of organic cahors red  wine -curtesy of Philippe Bessieres ,my last host.!!cheers dom   It s  comming up to the  first of  August… and every one  here is going  on their traditional  holiday  for  the  month  of  August …..I m leaving Daumazan   after  4 weeks this  week end and  heading to  Angoulame  for 2 weeks  wolunteer work at  an  international workcamp called La Giraudiere ( )….but life  has  had  its  ups  and  downs in  the  mean time ….Yes I ve bumped  the  van  and  the  radiator is cracked and  leeking…see photoP1100562P1100601…and  the  bumper and  bonnet have  to  be replaced too !!  Luckily I m covered by  my  insurance and I ve  found  a  great  garage who ll fix it back to  good  as new this  week !! So  all is  well again..but   a  few  sleepless nights  there this  week  !! I decide to  to take  a lttle  divertion and drive on the motorway going east…I had  planned to  go west but a strange  set of  circumstances turned  my  plans  upside – dowd  !!…this  was  a strange  week…this week was also Jean s Ist Anniversary RIP  ( see pic. below of  Jean in our green piaggio van )and  it  seem as  though  she  was guiding the  sequence  of  events for  me   One  day in Italy a white  small Piaggio 3  wheeled  van  pulled up behind me in the  street !!.Jean Regans Piaggion MagheraP1100714 P110070817 August 2013….after  a short self imposed break..petites  vaccances á la mer..Nice Menton and    into  Italy…enjoying swimming in the  sea..and  eating nice meals and  traveling  I go back to working en plein aire  again.  this  time it  in the   Alpes  Maritimes 2000m altitude in the  mountains.  Prés  de St. Etienne -de-tinée  dans une hameau qui s’ appelle Bousiéyas.( )Cette fois  il n y a  pas  des   autres woofers ni workawaers  ici  suis  seule et  tous le monde  parle francais !   that  s good  for  me !! I hope .P1100811alpes3….this is   a very popular  place  for Randonniers …hikers with  2 walking sticks ,traveling  the  mountain  routes with  their  friends  et  famille…Many   people pop in here  for  a  snack en  route at  mid  day  or  book in  for  a  room at night with an  evening  meal .So I  share  the  table with  all these  different people each  day…it  can  be  daunting ,all in French…at  the  moment it  s  tough  going …I don t  know  what people are talking about when they  talk  so  fast !!P1100861,,,,nice  sunny  weather is turning a  bit cooler  up  here  as we finish some  out  door work  preparing the ground  for  some  wall  we  reach the  end  of  August  the  french tourists are  getting  ready  to  return   from  their  annual holidays  and go back to work in September…I ll stay  on  a bit  here before  moving  on  to the  next  place in early  SeptemberP1110098 bonnette3….. After a  little  sightseeing  and driving over mountain passes  like  the one  above. it s Time to  head for  the  sunshine  and  the  grapes and  make  a  few  bob…  that is euros  in any mans  language..vendangesss……..It  Les  Vendanges time in France ..everyone is heading into  the countryside to  work for 10  days  or  a  couple of weeks.. picking  grapes .Me  I ve been doing this  kind of agricultural all summer!!  So I guess I m a seasoned worker by now at this  kind of  routine ! Here I am in the  field again…after  this I m definitely  taking a  rest.vendanges13…….Here  a  wall painting I spotted one  day as I  drove  through the village…what a creation. !!!….I like  optical illusion of the false balcony and  the  side wall ………………………………………………………………………………………..sidedoor.   …another  bump along  the way!  the trouble  with  driving  right hand  drive cars  and  vans   here  in  lefthand France ,is  that  we cant really  see whats comming   at us from   behind ..we re  seated too far over from  the  middle of  the road to  see !!   and Camper vans are more difficult still ..ask  the  guy who went into my side door  with  his  motorbike   ..he ll tell you ! ..he s  still  around  !!P1100748Meanwhile, back at  the  Laundrette  with   my shirts  and you remember  that tv advertisement a  few years  back for  Levi jeans where  the  guy was  waiting in   his shorts for  his  stone-washed  denim  levi jeans . Yes , it s been known to  happen .Personally, I ve never worn denim and have  never understood this  facination with levi jeans !                     .cats pool2 I m minding a house  for  a few friends near Toulouse and helping  around  the  grounds while  they  are on holidays….these may look like ordinary cats to you but these  are cats and they are top priority for me for a  few weeks  cos  they  come  with a house and pool and a serious  responsibility…also  there s a few  donkeys  to  talk to  too  to lighten the  seriousness of  the  situation !…meanwhile I m brushing up on my French  with some language classes..maybe I ll be able  to learn a  bit of  decent French grammer while I am here   …near the Pyrenees  now   and  traveling west !                                                                                                 P1110381       P1110525 2

………..I came  accross the  work of wire sculpture artist Fiona Morley ( from Brighton UK..and I include an  example  here. (click on the image  for a close up view to  see fine  the detail and craftwork…)wiresculptP1110527f morley copy copy Another piece of sculpture that  I ve  seen  alot of around these parts.  french sculptor..Jean -Louis Toutaintoutain 2P1110433.baloonsIt s November  3013 now and all the  trees are  turning brown ..even the vinyards look a little bare …

P1110838 .So  once  again I turn my van round and head  for  the high road and I  move off again  to  my  next winter venue… Another place another house ..  Another couple  who  are  off on their  holidays  and  need  a pet   minder   ….this  time it s near Carcassone where  a  fine old house and 2 Dogs await me ….I have  enjoyed the  cats company up until  now but let’ s  give  the  dogs a bit  of  the  action   now.!!…………..P1110827.The dog on the  left is Eddie,the other  fellow on the right is  called Alfie .doghouse.. Back home in Ireland,when I started off this  trip in April , living on my own in a  schoolhouse  next  door  to  a  church  and now here I am again  at the  close  of  the  year living with two cocker-spaniels in an old Presbytery  accross from another church,  here in the  south of  France   ..!P1110959Most days I take  the  dogs out along  the  canal bank for their walk…….

Canal Bank Walk….. poem by Irish writer.Patrick Kavanagh

Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal
Pouring redemption for me, that I do
The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal,
Grow with nature again as before I grew.
The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third
Party to the couple kissing on an old seat,
And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word
Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat.
O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web
Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,
Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib
To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech
For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven.

Patrick Kavanagh


P1120090It s December and it s time  to get  the  next  load  of  timber into  the  house for   the  winter fires… albrecht s……….Ceramic/ figures / pieces by Albrecht Schonerstedt….P1120105..bringing home the tartelettes de pommes from the boulangerie 2 week December 2013

The year   2013 has come and gone …alot of  water has flown under the bridge since April..I ve  been to  many places in France and  spoken  with many different people…I  ve worked  at many places and shared meals  …laughed and  cried, lived and loved, gained  here and lost  there along the  way…but I did it …I did it my way ! Now, a new year   begins again…the  circle starts all over again…

tommorow 2014

Jan 29…I m still here ine  France…unexpected grandchildren  arrive into  the  world of  my  housitting homeowners …they  have  to  go  away  again..back to  Angleterre ..again…so it s  more  dogminding for another  week here..But  not  to  worry because this  dovetails  nicely into  the  first  festival of  the  year-the Festival of Bande Dessiné at Angouleme !!

Angouleme 14cut out spirou …  you may  have guessed it  s   a comic book/cartoon book festival,,,THE biggest comic book/graphic album festival in France….and it s on my way back up through France  on the  way home..

As ..Angouleme is not to far  from some  people  I worked  for  last  year…near  Cahors..I decide  to  call in to  say  hallo…but hallo turns  out  to  be   a  little  bit  more  than that…and  sure  enough , I m back  in the vingeyards  again…cutting  and  taking  away  the  old  branches  from  the vines..vinesEt maintenant je bois une verre de vin rouge pour mes amis francais qu’ils veulent  venir chez moi en Irelande en vaccances pour l’Autumn 2019.. Bienvenue a tous ici..a bientôt..Bernard

March,-June 2020..Unfortunately no  French visitors at the moment Corovirus pandemic sweeps across the world as we speak…

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