Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monday, 14th June,2010

Monday, 14th June, 2010
I couldn’t believe it when the alarm went off at 6.30am. I stumbled out of bed and went off to school feeling absolutely exhausted, old and unprepared! I struggled through the day. Maternelle lunch was almost too much, but I have changed the rules and now they sit on their chairs to wait when they have finished and cleared up instead of rumbling all over the floor noisily by the door. They then go to brush their teeth and get shoes and coats on to go out to play.
I went straight home after school as I was so tired and had lots of work to do for the next day. We set the Tomtom for the airport at Beauvais as we were going there the next afternoon to pick Shell up. I was in bed fairly early. It was our 35th wedding anniversary and we had messages from all the girls.

Sunday, 6th June,2010 to

Sunday, 13th June, 2010
I woke at 7 to a perfectly silent house. I wondered what I could do as it was dark downstairs and I didn’t want to make a noise. I read for quite a long time and then decided to have a shower as noise didn’t seem to travel far through the house. I did this and as I finished and peered over the landing, Lyn appeared so I could go down and sit outside with an orange juice. It was a perfect morning and Paul went off to get breakfast and came back with fresh croissants, a pain aux chocolat and a Sancristan which is a Provence speciality and had crusted almonds around it. I had some of this with coffee. Yum. We cleaned up and went off to see the Luberon and Peter Maille country. Many British people bought properties in this area after his book came out evidently. We drove through the most amazing small villages and looked at others across on mountain tops. We got out to take photos of some of the more spectacular ones. We reached Gourdes about12.30 and went for a wander around the town. Lyn organised a restaurant for 1pm and we had to be back for that. We saw some art exhibitions and I bought some presents to take home. I had a text messaging conversation with Shell in Barcelona as I had found a perfect dress for her and wasn’t sure of the size. Technology is wonderful.
Lunch was just fabulous. The food was delicious and very well cooked with incredible flavours. We were happy that Paul and Lyn allowed us to take them out. We drove on from there towards home in San Remy, travelling through some amazing places again.
We had a short time in the house, Gray had a swim and then Paul took us to the station in Avignon. We said goodbye to Lyn at the house as it is rather cramped in the back of the house. They are such lovely people. We had the most terrific thunderstorm and hail as we went along. Cars were obviously terrified of the hail and were heading off the road as quickly as they could to shelter under bits of branches. It eased the closer we got to Avignon. Paul drove into the carpark and we left him there having had a marvellous weekend. The train came after not too long a wait and we were seated in our correct seats this time. We had food Lyn had made for us as we would be very late home. The scenery was fascinating as we travelled through it. There were really old farm complexes, villages and castles in amongst green fields of crop.
Once back at Gare du Lyon, we had half an hour to get to the train at Gare du Nord. Before we travelled there was something I had not done, we realised. How did we get there? We ended up waiting for an RER train and consequently missed the TER which only stops once before Chantilly. We asked at two ticket windows where to find the platform for the IDF, slow train, and finally found it buried in the depths three flights down. We arrived at Chantilly after 11 and walked across to school to push the heavy gate open and retrieve the car. We drove home and fell into bed. What a fabulous weekend we had had! Thank you to Lyn, Paul and Lou.

Saturday, 12th June, 2010
The alarm went at 5 to 4am and we scrambled up to the sound of absolutely torrential rain. A good start. By the time we left at 20 to 5 it was down to a slight drizzle, but everything was sopping wet. As we went along the road between the poppies we suddenly saw lots of eyes lit up in the headlights. Foxes, I thought and said and then we realised it was a herd of deer, small ones and a fawn jumping in the air amongst the poppies. That was great as we had been hoping to see some. We arrived at school just before 5 and the gate was open thank heavens. It was still drizzling slightly as we made our way across to the station. We had to go up to Platform A to see where the train would stop and the down again and up to Platform M. As it grew closer to the time of departure more and more people came out of the darkness. It was the slow train so we stopped at each stop, but were lucky as it went all the way to Gare du Lyon so we didn’t have to change. We had a coffee there and then went to find the board to see which platform. We found our way and looked at the board to see where carriages were situated and walked all the way down the platform, climbed on to the train and found our seats. We were feeling very happy until some fellow arrived and it turned out we were in Carriage 12 not 2. We had 4 to 5 minutes to get down to the other end of this long, long train. In the middle there were two diesel engines facing each other so we couldn’t go through the train itself. I ran and Gray hobbled and we found our carriage and seats with 1 minute to spare. Phew! Another learning curve! We now know how to read the train board, even when it is back to front on the screen.
It was a TGV, the very fast train, and runs on a track of its own and so travels at incredible speeds. The first stop was Avignon and we alighted to start looking for Paul, Lou’s brother. Lyn had said he was very tall. I spotted him straight away, realising later that I had seen photos of him at Lou’s. We had about a 30 minute trip to San Remy where they live and we talked to Paul on the way. Lyn met us at the door of the house and what beautiful people they are! We were made to feel so welcome. We had a drink and then went to San Remy to walk around the town. It is another lovely place, full of narrow streets and quaint houses. We did some shopping and then went back to the house. We had lunch outside in the back garden under the wisteria covered pergola. It was quiet and relaxing with the sound of trickling water from the swimming pool pump. An exciting thing for me; Lou rang up and we had a chat. It was good to talk to her in the middle of her bonfire night from so far away.
After lunch Lyn, Gray and Paul had a swim and a snooze in the garden while I sat inside and read and did some sleeping too. Lyn had bought two copies of the same book by accident so she said one was for me and one for her. She is very kind. It was nice to be able to sit in a comfortable chair. That is one of the two things that aren’t so good about the house we are in; the other is the small fridge. I cope with hand washing and everything else, but do miss my chair. However, we really have no complaints as we are very lucky with it all.
After this relaxing time, we went for a drive up to Les Alpilles in their right hand drive English car.. This is a very unusual mountain range nearby. The rock formations were incredible and the rock was very white and chalky. There were villages on mountain tops and we saw many unusual ones. Once we were back at the house it was all hands on deck to help with dinner preparation. I hulled strawberries with huller. A new gadget for me, but saved lots of the end of the strawberry that we lose at home with a knife. We had a delicious dinner and some good wine outside under the pergola. It is light for so long that we could spend hours out there. We cleaned up and went upstairs to bed. We had our own floor in the house which is in a complex of southern French looking houses and beautifully furnished. It has shutters which can be latched and the window left open all the time at night or while they are out during the day. Gray not popular as sleep machine back at Avilly.

Friday, 11th June, 2010
Off to school quite early. She went to Paris to catch the plane to Barcelona to spend the weekend with Diogo from Brazilian family.
We had play practice after lunch and it cut into my time with my Grande Section children. They are very keen and bring their books every day to me for more words. Loretta and I went to see the man about leaving the car in the grounds over the weekend. It was fine which is great because as well as being free, it is safe. I went home very tired. A good wine helped and we packed for Provence. Went to bed quite late and were going to have an early start.

Thursday, 10th June, 2010
School. Nabil was a thorough pain in the neck. Others were really good. Gray and Shell went to the Bar and Tabac for a drink before Shell caught the bus to Chantilly. She came after school to use the Internet and we didn’t get home till after 6 again. Dinner and hard time trying to get this music sorted out. It is much easier when Shaun and Mark do this stuff. Catriona had the hide to ask me how I was getting doing her writing book and I told her I was doing reports at the moment and had written all the play script and she would have it before I went home. She was disappointed as she wanted to start on it!!! Two weeks before the end of the year. I ask you. I kept my cool and told her that I could do a couple of pages and she could do the rest. Oh my goodness me. A bit of nous would be good!

Wednesday 9th June, 2010
Went school early again and worked on the script and music. We had Music and worked out the Wednesday Children’s concert and practised that. My French boys in the English class are getting better and better each week. We try to do something different each time and they enjoy this, rather than just work sheets.
I went home at lunchtime and we had lunch and then Shell and I went to St Maximin to shop. We convinced Gray to stay and rest his leg before the weekend. We finished and had coffee and took some patisserie goodies home. We also bought a tray and red roses to put on the balcony. Home to dinner and then an early night for me.

Tuesday, 8th June, 2010
Went early to school and started to get organised. I don’t think I like the starting time of 8.30am. The children don’t all arrive on time and wander in, in dribs and drabs. It is usually 9.45 before we have everyone at their desks ready to work. I worked on the play script and music for most of my break today. Gray had found Gouvieux swimming pool after an expensive taxi ride an entry fee. The pool was good and he helped his knee a lot, but the wrecked it walking all the way back to the station to catch bus to Avilly. We had a staff meeting after school and it was a long one to do with the play. We finally finished about 20 to 6 so I was quite late going home. Shell messaged about quarter to 6 when I was on the first roundabout going home so I decided I would go home and have a coffee before coming back in for her. Gray and I both went in to meet the train and then we went to Giorgios for dinner. I was too tired to cook and the food there is always delicious. It turned out it didn’t open till 7 so we had an aperitif in the bar next door till then. Good food and then home and an early bed.

Monday, 7th June, 2010
School. A new week and Nabil was a nuisance all day both for Claire and me. Came home to find gray had found Swimming Pool, but wasn’t allowed to swim. He had hurt his knee again while getting off the bus. We had a night where I worked and Gray wrote Diary and did stamps.

Sunday, 6th June, 2010
I was up quite early as Pierre Eric and Isabelle were coming to lunch. This would be interesting as we don’t really have much cooking or entertaining room. I drove into Chantilly for another of my experiences. Went to the supermarket and bought a few small things we needed and then went to find the boulangerie near the castle. There was a long line of people buying baguettes and not a cake or tart in sight. I asked in my best French and was subjected to a bark of “Tu as commandé?” No, I mumbled and lost all my French in one fell swoop. She went off and came back and said did I want tart or gateau and I told her I didn’t care. She offered me three types of fruit tart and I then had to wait for 10 minutes before it was produced. I hurried outside to find the sky as black as I had ever seen it. I bounced across the cobblestones around the castle and drove home through thunder, lightning and heavy rain. I made it and hurried to make lunch ready. Pierre Eric and Isabelle arrived and we had a good afternoon. We ate a mixture of Australian and French as we couldn’t do much cooking, but I think it was successful. The weather had fined up beautifully so we went for a walk amongst the field of red. The poppies, coqulicots, are just everywhere. You can hardly see the green amongst them at the moment. It wasn’t too good for the hayfever and I had an uncomfortable night, but the afternoon had been lovely and we they will dine with us in Orange when they come to visit Yann and Debbie.

Sunday 30th April, 2010 to Saturday 5th June, 2010

Saturday, 5th June, 2010
We were very slow this morning. Eventually we went into Chantilly and caught the train to Paris. We walked to Marché aux Tissus, the material market and found some material for the school concert. An incredible place this is with several kilometres of streets full of material stores. We then found a small funicular to take us up to the top of Monmartre. I just love it up there. We had a delicious lunch in a restaurant and then went walking, looking at shops. It was completely full of wall-to-wall tourists. We don’t feel like tourists. We know we are, but don’t feel like them.
We walked down cobblestoned roads looking for a way to the Metro and I kept telling Gray to watch as it was so uneven. We were lost and I was trying to find our way on the map. When I turned back, he was nowhere to be seen. Eventually I found him sitting on a bollard in dreadful pain. He had missed his step. I was more cross than sympathetic as I had just missed telling him about that one. He hobbled on down to the road and I hailed a taxi to take us to the Hotel where we were meeting Glennis and Dennis from Tumbarumba for a coffee. They had emailed weeks ago to say Ros and Bob had told them we were in France. It was good to see them and Glennis looked really well which was a bonus. We found a Bar and had a drink together. They didn’t have much time as they were due to get the bus to dinner and a show. We took ourselves by metro to San Michel and had an early dinner in a Greek Restaurant. We were getting a bit worried as it was very slow and we didn’t want to miss the train. However, we made it and were home by about 8.30pm.

Friday 4th June, 2010
School as usual. It is a much faster trip than this time a month ago. Shell was off to meet Caro in Paris and then on to Bruxelles to stay with Ann. Gray came to do sport at school and I had my 4 Grande Section children to try and get them to read in 4 weeks…ha ha! After school we set off to find gateaux and wine to take to Chateau Chesnae for our Promenade Musicale et Piquenique à Parteger. We also bought plastic plates and glasses and serviettes. We struck Friday afternoon traffic and arrived home in a hurry to get ready and go. I set the Tomtom and off we went heading towards Paris. Ugh! On a Friday night! We were late to start a I couldn’t find the paper with the address and phone numbers on it. Eventually, there it was, safely in my purse where I had stored it.
This was to be a real treat. Evrard, one of my boys had brought in a mini project about himself and his house and on the picture of his chateau was information about this evening. It said to reply by email as places were limited so I sent an email asking if we could please come. The boys’ father is a Prince of Madagasca and the mum is a Countess in her own right. I guess this makes the two boys young Princes!
Anyway, Tomtom led us all the way in and out of traffic jam and we eventually found the castle wall and pulled up to park on the pavement, as you do. Then we had to find the gate so we walked all around the edge of the wall till we came across one. In we went, to find elderly grandmother who lives with them, doing gate duty. We collected our name tags of birds without names and went on in. Wow! As you will see in the photo. There was a 13 piece string group from Paris playing under the trees. We handed over our gateaux and bottle of wine for the fridge. They weren’t “Bio” as we discovered later that everything should be so we didn’t see the gateaux again. The boys’ faces lit up when they saw us which was nice as they could have groaned. They had two friends from school with them, Nicolas and Quentin, our French Vietnamese boys.
We sat on chairs and listened to the music and Marie Caroline came and sat with us too. We had worried we were going to be late, but there were very few people there at this time. We listened for a while as we thought this was the concert. No one clapped at the end of the pieces. I realised that we were hearing the same thing over and over. Eventually, after about an hour, lots more people began to arrive. The string group all stood up and moved their chairs out on to the main part of the lawn looking down to the Chateau. At this time, I had gone for a walk around the garden. It had its own hill like a barrow in it with plants all over it and statues. There was a very large Greek Urn on a plinth as well and masses of places for boys to run and play Hide and Seek. All around this amazing Chateau and garden were busy roads of traffic, hidden by the trees, but still noisy. I guess once upon a time it would have had field and forest all around as it was built in 1770. An amazing place for boys to play in!
We changed chair to more comfortable ones near the Group as people were putting several rows of chairs around the outside of the group. I went to find a loo and Quentin took me inside the Chateau. Marie Caroline spoke very quickly to him in French and he ran off. To me she just said “Attendez”(wait!”) Quentin came rushing back with a roll of loo paper. It was all I could do not to laugh. It had sounded as though we were in trouble, when she spoke so sharply.
The group played a long interesting piece, but by now we were becoming thirsty. None of our Music in the Gardens, sit and drink! At the finish, everyone clapped and then got up and started moving chairs. We just looked. We had no idea what was going on. After a while Leif, the boys’ Dad came over and said time to eat! We took our chairs towards the chateau and suddenly many large round tables appeared and were covered with beautiful folk scene tablecloths. We stood and looked at each other and wondered what to do next, there was another couple looking the same so we approached them and asked should we sit together. They were happy to do that and we had an interesting evening as he, Patrick, spoke no English and she only had a little. We got by in mostly French. Another couple came and sat too and spoke French, but we have a feeling she had good English from a couple of comments. It was time to eat! It was about 9.30 and our stomachs were feeling our throats had been cut as it was a long time since lunch. The buffet table was incredible. There were many kinds of quiche, tarts, terrines, pates, salads etc. What a feast!
We drank wine and had good conversation with our “friends”. Another woman spoke to me and I knew her face, but couldn’t place her at all. Imagine my embarrassment when she turned out to be the mother of one of my Wednesday French boys and I had been speaking to her just two days ago at school.
Dessert came out, but not ours. The prince of Madagasca likes Jacobs Creek Chardonnay as we had picked up a bottle of that for Gray on the way. We told him we would send him a good Australian white wine when we get home. \
We left there about 11 o’clock. We went to find our host and hostess and Humbert said to me, Are you going? Why?” It was 11 o’clock was my reply and we had to find our way home. It was another great experience. A little different from Music in the Gardens, but still the same principle.

Thursday 3rd June,2010
Once again, quite early to school, but the gate was already open so drove in easily. I usually arrive about 10 to 8 and Sharon comes in at 8am or a bit after. Loretta rang to say could I greet the Maternelle parents as Sharon was stuck in a traffic jam somewhere and would be a bit late.
School was an ok day, but Nabil is starting to be noisy and a show off again.
The poppies grow more and more beautiful each day. The yellow Canola paddock is usually yellow with flowers, but the red has taken over. I don’t know what happens at harvest as there are too many poppies mixed in.
Shell walked in along the forest path to Chantilly and then on to school to use the Internet. It is much faster at school and doesn’t seem to use as much as the one at home. We didn’t get home till about 6pm.
Wednesday 2nd June, 200
Set off quite early for school to make ready for my French boys. We had singing which seems to drag on and on each week. After break the boys came in and worked hard today. Shell and Gray eventually arrived having been to the market. Shell had found a handbag she wanted and they had had pain au chocolats and a chocolate and drink at the Chocolatier. They had brought nothing for me. That is the first time since we have been here. Oh well saves a bit more weight. We went home and had lunch and went to Saint Maximin for the weekly shop. Had coffee and pastries afterwards in the cafeteria. It is getting easier each week to buy my Internet time and I don’t have to ask them to put it on for me.
We went home and cooked and spent the night as we do many others.

Tuesday 1st June, 2010
A quiet day. RFF from 11.30 on which is good. The only trouble is that I spend lots of time emailing and skyping that I don’t get all my work done.
We had one more parent/teacher interview left and that was Rochelle. She brought me a pile of books and we had a chat and then went home in the rain.

Monday 31st May, 2010
Rose at 6.30 as usual. Went off to school a bit early to make everything ready to try and have contact with Shaun. He had a busy day and hoped to be home and online by 5 o’clock. It was all set up and the children started work at 8.30am as usual. They were all agog at what was happening and a couple of them went rather silly when we had connection with Shaun. We didn’t have webcam working, but Nabil told me what was wrong and we reconnected and could see each other. Shaun talked to the children and took us on a tour of his home and outside to show them that it was 5 o’clock in the evening and it was almost dark. Charlie came on and had a chat too. It was good to see him and the normality of home.
The day went as planned. The Maternelle lunch is becoming easier, but oh so noisy! I am glad we don’t have hot lunch where everything has to be heated in the microwave. It goes on forever.
Claire and I had parent teacher interviews with my class. At the same time there was a board meeting which Loretta had to go to. It was interesting having French/English interviews, but all seemed to go well. We had an interesting one with Nabil’s mother and brought stepdad in too. We made lots of suggestions, but somehow I feel they will all fall on deaf ears. We managed to finish earlier than expected and I went home about 10 to 6 rather than the predicted 7. Micheline, our landlady, keeps telling me I have to stay. Claire said it was an easy lot of interviews so I am happy.
I went home to Gray and Shell who had had a long afternoon in Senlis organising Shell’s trips to Brussels and Spain. They had found the swimming pool at last.

Sunday 30th May, 2010
Bon Fête des Mères - French Mothers’ Day

I had a lovely new silver necklace from Gray for French Mothers’ Day. We were going to Sharon’s for lunch and thought that as we had so far to go, we should leave about 10.30. We were to be there by 12, but 11.30 would be fine. Shell went out and picked a bunch of poppies from the field and some white things as well and came back and presented them for the second Mothers’ Day flowers of the year. They were beautiful, but sadly don’t last. The fields are becoming thicker and thicker with poppies.
We set the Tom Tom and set off. We finally followed the instructions to turn left at one certain place and found, to our amazement that it was a much quicker way for many directions we had been travelling in lately. It was the first time we had actually managed to pick out the little lane to go left. Usually we went sailing past.
We finally went through Creill which we had been wondering about for many weeks and on towards Beauvais, where there is an airport that Shell might fly back to from Spain. We then followed many Tomtom directions through many small, quaint villages and through beautiful lush green countryside. We saw several really old 12th or 13th century farm buildings in the traditional square in the midst of the green fields. We only disobeyed the Tomtom once when it looked as though the street that continued was too narrow to be one way , but we “turned around as soon as possible!: and did the right thing. I am still waiting for the Tomtom to come out with “You stupid driver, why don’t you listen to me?” Instead, it usually just recalibrates itself and gives the next instruction. The funniest thing about it is when I am trying to set it in the house, it keeps telling me to “Go to the end of the road and turn right” or “Turn around as soon as possible and go back”.
We came across a car rally of very old Citroens and then other types of car going through one place and there must have been a hundred of them. We passed places such as Silly Tillard and Tillard and many others, all with very old houses and quaint narrow streets, often cobblestoned. It was raining rather heavily at times so we thought we would get photos on the way home.
We finally arrived in Valdampierre through a tiny street out of the country and following Sharon’s directions, turned right up the first on the right which was a grass and stony road and led us up a hill and round into a farmyard. The shutters on this farm house were green and as we knew we were looking for blue ones we kept driving through this farm towards a gate back to the original road. A woman looked up from the sink at us, but didn’t react at all so we figured strangers must do it quite regularly.
I remembered the number of the house and as we went to turn Sharon appeared at the gate and waved us round to park right in front.
We had a lovely afternoon. Lotfi, her husband, is jut gorgeous. He is a mischievous Tunisian and full of humour. He had been most worried about us coming to visit, he managed to tell us in his limited English the equivalent of my French. His mother in law is English and he thought Australians would be the same. Wanting the night meal at 5.30 on the dot each time they visit. He also said he was worried because Sharon had been working at the school since September last year and I was the first one she had invited home. She had told him that he mustn’t kiss us when we arrived, he should shake hands, so when I walked in and greeted him in the traditional French manner, kissing on both cheeks and Shell did the same after me, he relaxed, he said!
We had a tour of the house which was 150 years old and had originally been 5 houses joined together in a row back from the street. It was a shell button factory and the workers lived in the houses and the factory was in one. Today they are still finding lots of pieces of shell in the garden beds. When they bought it, it was two houses with a wall right down the middle inside. A couple had bought it and later separated building the wall through the house. Lotfi has renovated lots of it and has done a great job. There are different nooks and crannies going up and down everywhere and an attic that runs the length of the house. Sharon is an artist and there are many beautiful examples of her work though the house. E drank and nibbled while they cooked barbecued ladonne (fatty pork), mergez and chicken. We finally ate after 2 and it was delicious. Alexis and his girlfriend, Caroline, were hungry so tried to hurry things along. We ate rice first and then the meat and then dessert which we took. Beautiful food and great company! We had a lovely afternoon and we left at 4 as we had a long way to go.
The Tomtom spoiled all the chances of taking photos on the way home as it took us a different way home on bigger roads. It took us about 50 minutes and we had had a great day. I had work to do for the net day, so worked quite late.