Locked down until May 11th

Looks like at least another 3 weeks of lock down. Its not been too inconvenient for us, though Delia is missing her coffee mornings with a friend. It feels very removed from the momentous events of global pandemic. Of course we are very inconvenienced by being unable to emigrate, heaven knows when we will be able to transport our pets, I doubt that’s a high priority for freight transport at the moment.

What am I complaining about? I guess it’s keeping us both from getting Covid19 for the time being. We had a lovely skype conversation with K&H in Aberdeen last night. The world must have been doing something not on the web at the time because for two hours we had good quality. It started to break up at about 8.30pm GMT. We had tried a whatsapp chat with R&L my brother and sister-in-law but the quality was so bad it was hard to keep going. Internet bandwidth here has never been wonderful. We read of poor unfortunates who have their netflix streaming slowed down – we dream of ever being able to stream. I often read of how bad broadband is in Australia, my research suggest its still better than rural France. Not surprising really when just up the road, the telephone line has come undone from a post and droops so low I could touch it.

Spring continues to spring. We had a storm the other night, big thunder and lightning and the internet turned off (I guess we do have a biased focus toward the internet, it is after all our main access to the outside world, especially now our TV bust).

Anyway here’s some photos I shot on a spring walk.

Under the Dome

It’s been a year since the dome came down. A year since going out of the house has been limited to a 1km radius. Its given us about 6.5km of circumference enclosing mostly fields and woods, all good for dog walking. Its been quieter for a few days since our neighbour went stir crazy and ran down the street beyond the boundary shouting “the dandelions, the dandelions, I can’t stand it…He had been spending his days trying to remove all the dandelions from his acre or so of grass, unsuccessfully. I’ve nearly run out of toilet rolls again so nothing to exchange for food. I did grab one of the few free range chickens but roasting is difficult since the gas ran out months ago. Driving out to the shop is easier but the check-points only let you pass for a toll of 6 toilet rolls. You can still buy wine and baguettes of course. Wallis the cat is getting fat on his diet of field mice and Siena looks hungrily at the cows instead of barking. At least the covid19 podcasts have run their course and I’ve forgotten what crowds are like.

OK reality – its hard to believe that lock down has only been a few weeks, it certainly feels longer. To be honest, there are a lot worse places to be stuck and life isn’t really too different. Restrictions in Australia and especially WA have become even tighter and, even if we had found a flight, we would still have had to quarantine in a hotel room for 14 days. I will have to make it to Aus (anywhere in Aus) before September or my visa expires and a further perhaps €4,500 and at least 9 months. In reality I would expect them to just extend the activation date, I mean its not as if I’m not trying – but they may not consider an inability to ship pets to Aus to be a valid reason for delay.

Apart from the snow the beginning of last week the weather is definitely spring like. I may even need my sun hat to protect my exposed head.

Here’s some shots I took on my lengthy 5km walk this morning (all inside the dome perimeter). Oh, and a sunset under lockdown, just the same as not.

Socially distanced

Like most of the world to varying degrees, we are practising social distancing. In France we have this restriction enforced by armed gendarmes, having to carry a document for each day for each type of outing – shopping for necessities, exercising (no more than 2km from one’s home), medical visits, going to essential work or attending our vulnerable relatives . We had one ready adapting the last one to hopefull get us on the plane to Perth next Wednesday but never got the chance to test its validity. We had a slight hiccup when Aus closed its borders to non-residents but checking with Aus foreign affairs confirmed my visa details as being “resident” . The main problem when airlines blocked carriage of live animals, meaning Siena and Wallis (booked for Monday) couldn’t go. Short of hiring a private jet this rather put our trip on hold. We don’t know anyone who could look after out pets, especially with the burden of keeping up their vet visit and pet passports for an indefinite period. Plus kennels and catteries are not considered essential and are closed.

It feels like its been a long time in limbo for us, certainly the last few months of last year. Social distancing has become almost habitual. Apart from a few rare outings we have had to stay home and avoid social gatherings all during Delia’s cancer treatment. Where we live is one of the most isolated parts of France so it isn’t too different from day to day life at the moment. My work is slow but I am keeping busy with my few web sites and building my new one for Aus. Delia had stopped work and just found that her agency’s work has dried up in any case

One of the things we most look forward to once we get to Perth is an improved social life but even that would, of necessity, be postponed by a further fortnight of self-isolation. Still we share such things with much of the world, it is not getting home that disappoints

At least it is spring here and, for the moment at least, the sun shines. Cherry and plum blossom abounds. I bought a couple of lenses from eBay and have been playing around with portraits and close-ups of blossom.

A romantic weekend in Paris – sort of – 14th March 2020

To start we appear to have everything in place to be able to travel at the end of the month, as long as we are not prevented from doing so due to the COVID-19 virus. We are hopeful that we will still be able to get to Australia this month.

As last weekend we were due in Paris due to the fact that our original flight date was the 10th March, we had booked 3 nights in a nice hotel at CDG, with the plan of relaxing and hopefully getting up to the top of the Eiffel tower. Well we did get to do these things, with a slight variation. We were joined by 2 friends from the UK who we had not been able to see during our farewell tour (as they were both out of the country) so they basically came for a day trip to say goodbye. So they joined us for our Sunday trip into Paris, a walk around Montmartre in the morning, lunch at our favourite Bistro near the Eiffel tower. Pat and I ordered the same dessert – which made one of our friends go “oh wow” when they arrived – she considered changing her dessert – but by that stage they were flambéing her crepe. Then off to the Eiffel tower, unfortunately by this stage the rain and wind had started. We did get to the top of the tower, but did not enjoy a glass of champagne on the top because the wind was just too strong. We did get to have a drink on the 2nd level while watching the rain from inside a bubble! But it was great to see the view from the top – especially as the clouds and rain waxed and waned the pictures that we got were incredible.

On Monday Pat and I had a late start to the day and a big breakfast, we then went to look at how to get between the train station, hotel and Terminal 1, after this exploration and a discussion with the hotel reception staff the decision was made that we would be best using a taxi to get to and from the hotel because we will have so much luggage – it will just make our journey easier. After that the day was ours to do as we liked, which basically meant we headed to the heated pool to swim and have a sauna. We relaxed for an hour or so down by the pool (it was deserted) and then headed back to our room to sit and read in the little bit of sunshine that was streaming in through the windows. We did do a quick trip out to buy some snacks.

Dinner that night was a walk to one of the nearby hotels as our hotel was incredibly expensive for food and the previous night we had spent a small fortune on our dinner and wine. We had pizza which we enjoyed and then walked back to our hotel to sleep. Tuesday was our return journey to Limoges – a little bit of a lie in and then down to breakfast. We packed up and headed back to Paris. We weren’t going to have a large lunch, but found a restaurant near our train station that had some lovely salads so we stopped and had our lunch and then walked through a nearby park to head back to the station just as our train platform was announced.

So we are back in our rural part of France, hoping that the next two weeks don’t cause further delays for us.

For now, à bientôt, from our wonderful part of France – Delia

The Long Goodbye

We have been saying goodbye for months it seems, and yet we are still here in France. We are now working towards 26th March if we can change our flights accordingly. We are still going to Paris next weekend due to fixed hotel bookings, tickets up the Eiffel tower and friends with their own bookings too. See two weeks time for the photos.

Last year we approached a company to handle the pet transport from door to door. But by the time we were able to start the actual process (apart from rabies shots early on) they had disconnected from their French counterparts and we were going to have to deal with each separately. Our delay really came down to one form about whicj we had read the comment “when Isabelle has dealt with that” as meaning it was in hand. We did ask but no specific reply. So when said form suddenly became vital for the actual import authorisation we new nothing about the fact that “Isabelle” expected us to have sorted this out. Anyway we will be suggesting to them that, despite having separated as operators, they should maintain better co-ordination.

One of our farewell lunches happened this Thursday when my photoclub got together at the Relais de Gorre. We had been there only a week or so previously for another farewell, so the proprietor was surprised to see us.

And three more shots I took walking Siena over the past week.

I say! There’s a squirrel nesting in my bonnet.

So, as Delia described in her blog last week, we had ourselves a Farewell UK Tour. Here is a bit of photographic detail – not a comprehensive diary like Delia’s (so don’t feel left out anyone if I didn’t have my camera handy).

After arriving at Liverpool Street station from Stansted, Delia had wanted to have lunch in, of all places, a Wetherspoons pub. Not renowned for its style, this particular site was rather speccie (see what I did there for my Aussie readers?).

We planned to look at some of the architecture on our way to a place I had arranged to fix the broken screen on my smartphone. Weather mostly dreadful, Spitalfields mostly closed and Leadenhall mostly under tarpaulins. I did, however, manage to take some photos of the remarkable architectural style juxtaposition when I came back to pick up my phone.

A night in Wimbledon and off to my brothers in Buckinghamshire. Food, walks, great nephew and more food.

Back to London to meet up with K at St Pancras, hotel then back to the station for afternoon tea at St Pancras Hotel. Champagne, cucumber sandwiches (and more) a variety of teas including cold sparkling Jasmine – petit fours and scones with cream.

Theatre that evening (photos not permitted 🙂 ) and then meetup with H on the Friday and off to the Wallace Collection (no relation unfortunately, though we made much of having our own Wallace Collection back in France – my, how we laughed).

Greek dinner that evening then goodbye to H off home to Aberdeen and us off to Leicester. We went onto T&R’s whilst K went to an ex-work colleague’s. That evening T&R and us met up with B&S for some pub grub. Brunch with K the next morning she headed off home herself. We though, headed off to Bradgate Park for a bracing walk.

On to Nottingham for our last stop at M&S. More relaxing though we did have a day out at Ilam and Dovedale.

And so back to France tired but happy.

Back to preparing for leaving for Oz. Things on Facebook marketplace. Including, I felt a bit late, our car. But no, before I had a chance to advertise it elsewhere I had a buyer from the other side of Limousin. I had spent quite a bit of time cleaning inside and out. I totally forgot that there had been some seed pods and leaves stuck down the bonnet hinge line. When I opened it there was a whole batch of hazelnut shells. And the under-bonnet insulation was bulging with leaves and the like. I was a bit embarrassed and made a joke that I wouldn’t charge extra for the nut shells. All was fine, even with the hour or so it took us to go through all the bureaucratic rigmarole the French make you go through for the selling process. Our faithful Fiesta headed off into the sunset in good hands. It was only after they had left, seeing the handfules of fluff and nuts that it occurred to me that it was a squirrel nest. I have wondered about the leaves and such since we seldom parked actually under a tree. But we had seen a squirrel out and about the garden, and there was a hazel tree near the car. So either there’s a hibernating squirrel having had an unexpected trip or one at least wondering where his home had gone.

Moving forward

We’ve been working towards getting all the things together for our final departure. Organising the shipping of Wallis and Siena had been supposed to be handled by a single company, door to door. However during our delay, that Aussie company is now only handling the Australian end of things. In dealing with the French pet transport side we are now subject to the French way of doing things it seems – we have needed to pester them at every stage to confirm that something (anything) is happening. We lost a good deal on a flight on 3rd March and had to go a week later, because we couldn’t confirm that the pets wouldn’t arrive before we did, nor leave after us. Even though we have agreed and instructed them to go ahead, we are still waiting to find out how to pay them. It is quite common that a French company would just go ahead and do stuff and invoice you later. But its difficult to know, so rather than find out that we were supposed to do something they haven’t told us about, we’re getting a bit twitchy.

Its been pretty wintry here, some frost a lot of rain. As well as the sunrise at the top of this blog and the star trails at the bottom here are a couple of other shots taken locally.

We met up with some friends from our now disbanded photo club. They have moved to the coast – Ile de Ré near la Rochelle. It was a lovely lunch (at the same restaurant we had been for our aniversary last September). Hopefully we will be able to visit them before we finally leave – but spare days are vanishing quickly. We have been trying to organise a UK farewell tour.  Anyway, so far we are seeing Catherine and Chris in Wimbledon, then onto my brother and family in Bucks. Back to London to meet with K and H for general London things (a show, galleries and restaurants). Then up to Leicester and finally Nottingham. All this without a hire car because the last two times we hired a car were problematic. Our driving licence can only have a UK address (my brother’s) but they are now using a credit checker to confirm that it is genuine (which strictly it isn’t) and they demand our French licence – which we can’t have because issuing has been delayed by Brexit. I actually applied in May 2018 because I had points but we have heard nothing.

We have also decided to try to arrange a few days in Paris before we actually leave. Dumping our international luggage at a hotel near CDG airport and training into the city. We had originally planned on Eurodisney but I wasn’t too keen because I can get pretty motion sick. Delia realised she was also less keen on most of the rides too and it seemed better kept as an idea than a reality. Anyway Monets Paris gallery and champagne at the top of the Eiffel tower are planned. A fitting farewell to Paris.

Its been a year.

The year started with a focus on the Oz visa and finding a place to rent. I was still recovering from the post shingles neuralgia (which as of today has faded but never quite goes away). Of course the main occupation from March onward was Delia’s cancer. This prevented us making the year the Farewell to Europe we had hoped for. Looking at our plans in the blog at the beginning of last year we didn’t make it to Prague, Amsterdam, Berlin nor Dublin. Though we did achieve some different goals as Delia listed last blog.

There was a lot of hurrying up and waiting around Delia’s treatment. The diagnosis on 11th March. The wait and postponement for Delia’s operation to remove the tumour on 9th May, the pause for healing and the second operation to remove residual cancer in 11th June. Then waiting for the chemo to start on 22nd July, then 12th August and 2nd September stopping there because of the extreme side effects. Then a further wait for the radiotherapy to start on 21st November and most weekdays to follow. Delia now has just 3 more to go and the final consultation on 10th Jan when we hope to confirm our final emigration plans.

I must say that the thought of losing Delia focused my mind and we haven’t really disagreed on much at all. The Champagne trip was a definite indulgence. The ongoing stress has brought its “moments” but for the most part its just been a matter of us getting along pretty well. Stress-wise, Delia’s illness distracted from the silence regarding my Oz visa. In fact this actually arrived more or less on-plan and, all else being equal, we would have been able to enjoy an Oz Christmas. As it was we perhaps had a Christmas that was our last quiet one for a while and certainly the coldest one.

I treated myself to a new camera and have been playing with my new toy. Here are some reminders for me later of what green looks like. 🙂

Only 2 more shopping days before Christmas

Well not counting today (Sunday) when it turns out, at least in St Junien, most shops were open this morning; or so Delia has reported after coffee and Lidl there with a friend.

Yesterday, also in St Junien – this time to go to the factory shop of a glove maker, who apparently the “discrete supplier for luxury brands”, for Delia’s Christmas present. I have to say it looked unprepossessing, faded sign, with just a piece of paper stuck inside the glass of the door saying “Ouvert”. Things seemed hopeful as another few people had arrived at the door with us. They rang the bell but no-one answered. Eventually after several minutes, someone – a departing customer – opened the door and in we went. No expense spared on shop display (an I mean none) – just a long shelf with trays of gloves. No complaint though, the gloves were all wonderfully crafted and about half the price that we had seen on the web page. Still and opportunity to top up on a handbag and a purse just in case we were in danger of saving money :-/ Delia loves them all though and that’s what matters.

On into town through the Saturday market. The market in the top car park was shutting down though so we had just a few stalls to stroll through. But we did manage to buy some of the best made patisseries in Nouvelle Aquitaine to go with our lunch.

On into town through the Christmas market. The artisan market in the top car park was shutting down though so we had just a few stall to stroll through. But we did manage to buy some of the best made patisseries in Nouvelle Aquitaine to go with our lunch.

This afternoon we have been invited to an “apero” (late afternoon drinks) with our former neighbours in Beaulieu. We haven’t been back since the concert in summer so it will be nice to see them again. They haven’t seen Delia since she lost her hair, and though it is growing back, it still makes quite a statement, short as it is.

So happy holidays to all our readers.