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
.Where it all began….Irish Ferries….top deck April 2013………where I first lay my head ..an authentic american log cabin !! In Tresbouef near Rennes Brittanny with Breadmakers and Organic farmers Catherine et Jean-francois Graugnard..www.audeladupain.net..working hard in the outdoors…digging a garden in return for food and accomodation and good conversation…..oh and wine !!..my second home with hosts Chris and Rachel at Bressuires near Nantes…( see their chateau with moat behind me )….These are Patrick -Nathalie Pain- Lambert….Patrick makes baskets from the willow he grows in his fields see www.vannerie-lambert.com
…….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 !
…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 !!…..This is my van and my ” tent “with all my equipment inside !..so 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 !! Hosts 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 websites..plus 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 !!…rear view of Noirlieu Castle with surounding moate and bridge. May 17.. 2013…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 !!! 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 workaway.info host and back to wwoof.fr host ..for my next job. ..a la marche ce matin lundi 20 Mai …mon neauveau woofer hote Filip a Camborchard, l’Evaux -les-Bains,Mountlucon….…… Mes nouvaux amies, les cochons ..the pigs !!..le boudin..black pudding ! c est bien ! Evaux-les Bains….a sort of french Lisdoonvarna Spa where older people take the thermal baths,get saunas, massage,etc…nice wall painting though !Meanwhile back with new host Filip Claes, the pollytunnels are getting a bit longer !!No ,the above picture is not a field with a lake in it !..its one of Filip’s longer polytunnels !!..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 …………………..
and Filip and Eve and baby Anna…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.com And here are my first group of dinner guests…they re all smiling after the meal ,so I guess I did ok tonight !!right ??….yes, they re dancing the Conga in the Kitchen.!! ………….
……..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 !!
- ….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 !!…….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. ..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 !! just one white water section but I think the canoe was pretty unsinkable anyway..…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…………..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 !!….here s how the fresco/wall painting is at the moment…this may change..…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 ..yes I think its finished now……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 ! ……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 way..one other helper Lia plus Philippe..and we have a good siesta/rest in the afternoon after a delicious lunch each day… …a lot of these photos of the places I visit seem to have a changing cast of people round the dinner table..here s the latest group from the Bessieres family..please note the 2 hale and hearty Grannies !! Great ladies !……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 !!..today Sunday 30 June 2013……You just never know what you might just pick up in a car boot sale !!!!Its 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…..here s how it started..on the side of one of the big wine vats …….and 3 days later..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 !)
…and so the final parting glass…a surprise going away party for us all…..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 you…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 www.larchill.ie.) …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..( that s not me in the photo !..I have not got a bullet head !! ) 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…yes! more food ! and a few bottles of organic cahors red wine -curtesy of Philippe Bessieres ,my last host.!! 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 ( lagiraudiere.com )….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 photo…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 !!. 17 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.( www.loucamous2000alaclefduverteden.fr )Cette fois il n y a pas des autres woofers ni workawaers ici ..je suis seule et tous le monde parle francais ! that s good for me !! I hope .….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 !!,,,,nice sunny weather is turning a bit cooler up here as we finish some out door work preparing the ground for some wall building..as 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 September ….. 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..……..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.…….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 ………………………………………………………………………………………... …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 !!Meanwhile, back at the Laundrette with my shirts and socks..do 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 ! . 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 trustedhousesitter.com 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 !
………..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…) Another piece of sculpture that I ve seen alot of around these parts. french sculptor..Jean -Louis Toutain.It s November 3013 now and all the trees are turning brown ..even the vinyards look a little bare …
.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.!!…………...The dog on the left is Eddie,the other fellow on the right is called Alfie ... 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 ..!
Most 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.
It s December and it s time to get the next load of timber into the house for the winter fires… ……….Ceramic/ figures / pieces by Albrecht Schonerstedt…...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…
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 !!
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..