Rentrée Countdown – Final Instalment

Nearly there!

R (rentrée day) minus 5: bedtime. It’s time to start getting the kids to bed at a slightly more sensible hour. We’ve slipped a lot this month. Rors isn’t going to bed till gone 9, and not getting up till twelve hours later. That won’t do come Monday! We have to be out of the house by 8.05 on our bikes to get him to Nouzerines for his bus. And as for Caiti … it’ll be 5.50 am for her. And me. Groan. So, if you’re like me and need to take bedtime action, I suggest doing it in stages. I’m aiming for bedtime 10 minutes earlier each night, ditto for getting up in the morning. That’s not too contentious and will mean no horribly tired kids at the beginning of term, which is a Good Thing.

R-4: pencil case. First of all, make sure you’ve got one. (There are loads of easy patterns on the Net for making them if you’re a crafty person – Caiti has rustled herself up a super one this year.) Then check you’ve got the required contents – pens, pencils, rubber, tippex, glue, pencil sharpener, ruler, scissors, felt tips and crayons. That’s usually what we have to provide, but teachers have their own peculiarities so check your liste.

R-3: naming day. Name everything – books (easy enough), pens and pencils (I cut up address labels very small and use those), rucksack, any clothes that get taken off and forgotten about (coat, jumpers, hats, scarves, gloves etc), child.

R-2: packing day. Get everything into the rucksack that’s needed for the first day. This is often a scary amount, so I spread the load by providing one or two named carrier bags to be used as well. No point overloading the rucksack or your child’s back on day one!

R-1: have fun, or panic if you prefer! The hols are over. It’s back to school tomorrow …

Our eldest son has his first rentrée at University this year. He’s going to Limoges. We went today to sign him up officially. We also discovered that Benj hadn’t read the bit of his letter from Crous telling him to send a deposit to secure his flat on campus. So suddenly we found he was homeless. The maternal temper was lost, I have to confess, as said son had been repeatedly asked if anything had to be done concerning his accommodation, and Chris and I also suggested about once a week during the summer that he  give Crous a ring to make sure we hadn’t missed anything, this being the first time anyone in our family had gone to Uni in France and so we didn’t know the system. But did he listen? Did he do anything? Anyway, very very fortunately we were able to find him a room on another University residence, 3.6 km away from his fac. Still, it’s more expensive which leaves him less money to live on each month, and he’s got the journey each way to deal with six days a week. It’s not in such a nice setting either. All very frustrating and avoidable. Eye roll and shoulder shrug. Gnashing of teeth and no x-box for Benj for a while.

So do learn from this mistake. We certainly have.

Eoliennes around Boussac: Wind Turbines in Creuse

Work is underway on Boussac’s nine eoliennes – wind turbines. There will be seven in Bussière St Georges, the next commune along from us, and two in St Marien. It’s slightly odd to be building them around here as it’s definitely not a very windy part of France, and there isn’t a great deal of energy-draining industry around either. However, there is very little information to find about the development online, just a couple of articles from 2010. It looks like apathy and an enigmatic silence reign in Creuse on the Préfecture’s part since it decided to make Boussac a zone de développement éolien (ZDE) a few years ago. However, I have found out that the project is costing 23 million euros and will supply 22,000 households. I’m guessing we’ll be one. The eoliennes are being built by Guintoli, which is part of Groupe NGE, a French public works enterprise.

It’s noticeable that in and around Bussière a lot of ‘A vendre’ signs have appeared on houses. According to the enquiry that was held before the eoliennes were given the go-ahead, the locals were all very supportive. So maybe it’s just a coincidence that suddenly half of them want to move?

The site of eolienne 3

We have friends who will have an eolienne a couple of fields away from them. They’re quite happy with the situation on the whole, although a little apprehensive about how much noise the wind turbine will make.

Yesterday, Chris, Ruadhri and I went on our Sunday morning bike ride to have a look at the site for eolienne 3, which is the closest one to us (and our friends). Six days a week, the place is a hive of activity with a constant stream of lorries going to and fro. Yesterday it was deserted. There weren’t any signs saying it was privée and telling us not to go in, so we didn’t have to ignore them. We cycled along the track and had a nose around. A lot of land has been cleared and levelled, and a huge hole has been dug. And I mean huge. This eolienne clearly needs a very solid base.

 

I think you can see just how big this hole is

Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical energy which is converted by a generator into electricity. It’s a renewable source which in these days of climate change is a good thing, so why are eoliennes so unpopular? A lot of people consider them an eyesore, even though they are rather graceful feats of engineering. There’s the question of noise, described as being like a boot in a tumble dryer and audible for up to a couple of kilometres, and also the unfortunate effect they have on bats and some birds. The drop in air pressure close to the wind turbines’ blades causes haemorrhaging in their lungs. The creatures essentially drown.

However, kids generally love eoliennes, thanks to the Teletubbies.

Here around Boussac, we’ll just have to wait and see what living with eoliennes is really like.

Eolienne extras

A vehement group against them can be found here.

Find out about getting your own  here.

Can you make any sense out of this puzzling map of zde’s in Limousin from 2007?

Rentrée Countdown Continued

Rentrée Day (R) – 8: Definitely time to check that you’ve got bus passes for your children if they’re using la ramassage scolaire (school transport), and that you have the timetable. Ours all arrived a week or so ago. Rors doesn’t have a bus pass for his primary school transport. That’s organised and funded by the three Mairies in our school co-operative i.e. Nouzerines, St Marien and Bussière St Georges. It’s a fantastic free service which we’re very grateful for. His bus is leaving six minutes earlier in the mornings from outside Nouzerines school. We could get him collected from home but we’ve opted this year, like last, to cycle or walk him down to Nouzerines instead. It saves him from having to spend nearly half an hour pottering along the country lanes around and about here. Caiti gets an Iris carte which entitles her to heavily subsidised travel on what is in theory public transport, but which is clearly tailored to getting lycée students to Gueret at an appropriate time. Her bus is also leaving earlier in the mornings. We will have to be at Le Poteau, 11 kms away, by 6.35 am, instead of 6.45 am. Those extra ten minutes early are going to be extremely painful. I hate Mondays already. And both of them are getting back a bit later in the evenings too.

R-7: Agenda or cahier de textes ? Primary school children and up will need one of these. But which? Some schools specify which to buy, some provide them free, others leave it up to you. I side firmly with agendas. These are student’s diaries that run for the school year with, usually, a page per school day and smaller allowances for weekends and the summer holidays. Kids write down the day’s homework on the appropriate page. Now cahier de textes are weird, but they’re what Ruadhri’s last two teachers have demanded. They’re like this inside. You write down homework on the day it’s due in, which is crazy, especially for youngsters. So it means scrabbling through the book to check out what’s due when, instead of having it all presented on one page that you can tick off when it’s done.

R-6: Coats. In the blazing summer weather when you’re getting ready for the rentrée, it’s easy to forget that the kids will need coats, and most likely fairly soon. But I’ve found it hard to find good coats in France. There’s been a recent trend towards bomber jackets, which are dumb articles of clothing, in my opinion. If it’s cold enough to warrant a nice padded jacket on your top half, then for heaven’s sake, that warmth needs to continue down over your bum and thighs. I succumbed to a bomber jacket back in Ireland and my butt was either freezing or soaking or both all that winter. These things should be banned. So coat shopping is never easy. The two boys have super-heavy parkas currently up in the attic, but they’re deep winter wear. We still need something intermediate. Rors has an ancient rain jacket that’s not terribly waterproof any more, but Benj goes without. He’s tough. Caiti has a flimsy black jacket that’s very fashionable but that’s all it is. I shall have to hit eBay.co.uk for some decent kagoules and take the hit on the postage. (Kagoules are called k-ways here but are always remarkably fragile.)

Oops, this is turning into a bit of a rant, so I’ll save the last few days for a future post and have a nice calming cup of tea!

 

Stormy Summer

The summer storms, running a bit late this year, are energetically continuing in central France. Last night they finished off my gazebo, the People Republic of China’s best. Not. It had sustained damage in a light breeze the first time we put it up. We erected it again a few days ago for a dinner party with friends, and foolishly left it up to enjoy for a few more days. This morning I retrieved it from very close to Denis’s field. It had travelled an impressive distance. It won’t be going up again sadly. Too much damage has been done to it now. We’ll have to recycle the various parts for other purposes. I think it must have been made by the same crowd that made our first and short-lived polytunnel.

 

Sadly I don’t have any photos of the gazebo in its glory i.e. actually standing up. Next year we’ll invest in a decidedly sturdier model.

We lost power again for a good part of the night. I was boiling water on the gas stove by candlelight to make coffee about 5 am while Chris braved the elements to check that the animals were OK. Power cuts aren’t a big deal really. Back in Ireland, where they were common, they were a nightmare since we had our own well, so when we lost electricity, we had no water either. We also had an electric oven so we were tea and coffeeless too, and that’s hard to cope with. Here in France we have mains water and a gas supply so the only hardship is being without the Internet while we’re powerless.

If you’re interested in tracking thunderstorms across France, then you can find a map of them here. It’s updated every quarter of an hour.

Shortly before the storms hit, Gigi the cat was up on the roof. She’s taken a liking to wandering around on the roof. But luckily she comes down when the thunder starts.

 

 

Countdown to the Rentrée: Part 1

Only 13 days to go till the Rentrée – whether that’s an unlucky or lucky amount of days depends on whether you’re a pupil or a parent! It’s hard to believe the kids have been off nearly two months, but still aren’t going back yet. Nine weeks is quite a while, but it’s been fun having them around (on the whole!). But now R-day is looming.

So, to concentrate your minds, here’s a countdown checklist:

R-13: tackle the dreaded liste de fournitures if you haven’t already. This is the list of school supplies the kids will need to bring in on their first day – paper, pens, hole punches, folders etc. You should have been given the list at the end of term. However, we, the parents of kids at St Marien’s, weren’t. A new teacher is starting at the school and we’ve heard nothing from her as to what we need to buy, which is annoying. However, I’ll stock up on the usual suspects and hope they’ll do.

R-12: make sure you’ve got all the required text books. If you have children at lycée or Uni you’ll have to shell out for these, which are usually in the region of €30 new. I get mine from Amazon marketplace, but many lycées operate book rental schemes or have secondhand sales. Sadly the courses all changed the year after Caiti started at lycée, and therefore all the textbooks too. So there’s no market for hers. Ruadhri can turn them into briquettes so that we get some final value for money out of them! Collège students may need to buy some workbooks, most likely English. I tried to get out of having to get these for my two eldest for obvious reasons, but unsuccessfully. They came with a handy CD, just in case we’d forgotten how to pronounce our mother tongue!

R-11: sort out ‘uniform’. There aren’t official uniforms in French schools, but there are unofficial ones that the kids self-impose. Currently they’re grungy coloured tops and coats and skinny jeans. It’s ironic really that out of choice the kids all tend to dress the same. Try to put them in school uniforms though, so they all look alike, and they’d all rebel! Probably strike here in France. Rors will be going back in shorts and teeshirts, so I need to check they all still fit from before the hols. Caiti has quite a stash of clothes already, but our Benj needs some new stuff for Uni. There’s no need to go mad and buy designer labels for school. Our experience has been that the kids aren’t that fussed about them. They go for what looks nice.

R-10: footwear check. Some primary schools and maternelles ask for slippers for indoor wear. This bugs me, as they’re too hot in summer, never get worn out and never get brought home in the holidays. Not allowed, Rors tells me. Plus it’s easy to forget about renewing them during the year and as a result your child is wearing tight footwear which isn’t good for growing toes. Rors always has sandals and runners at the beginning of autumn term. The sandals are replaced by good, waterproof shoes once the weather turns cold. And he always has wellies for the very wet days. I suppose that’s where the slippers-at-school comes in handy. You don’t have to give your child a pair of shoes to take to school to put on when they take their wellies off.

R-9: rucksack vs cartable or over-the-shoulder bag. Cartables, satchels, are the most popular  here, but I personally don’t like them. They tend to be clumpy and wider than your child’s shoulders. I remember Caiti was always getting caught on the side of doorways in hers. They didn’t hold that much either. For the last couple of years I got Rors the cheapest rucksacks I could find i.e. China’s best at the supermarkets, but they’ve proved to be a false economy. They don’t last. Either the zip goes or the bottom wears through, usually both, and well before the end of the year. So this year we’ve upgraded to one costing around €20. Unfortunately there are very few that fall in the price range between the few euros the cheap ones cost and the €20+ for the sturdy varieties. You can go up to €50 if you go for a trade name such as Nike or Adidas. Not in this house! My two teens opted for over the shoulder bags. They took some hunting down, but Carrefour came up trumps a couple of years ago. Those bags are still going strong, but I worry that they’re not very good ergonomically speaking. Lycée students have a lot of stuff to carry around all day with them.

That’s probably enough for now. I’ll carry on with the countdown in another post. I don’t want to make the rentrée seem more daunting than it actually is!

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Cope With The Canicule?

A hot turkey with a hot alpaca in the background

It’s canicule time in central France – i.e. there’s a heatwave. However, not officially yet in Creuse, although Allier and Puy de Dôme, just to the east of us, are marked as such areas with a pending ‘vigilance orange’. To become a canicule area, there needs to be three days of heat above 30 degrees C without rain. We’ve had that here, so it’s a little peculiar that we’re being ignored!

Canicules are serious. Heat stroke and exhaustion are no laughing matter, and in the States kill anything from between a few hundred and a thousand people a year. The elderly and the very young are most at risk. The France météo site gives advice  on how to cope. Try not to go outside during the hottest part of the day, which during a canicule is between 11 am and 9 pm. That’s a little hard to adhere to, but the rest of the advice is more user-friendly – spend 2 or 3 hours in a cool place, drink plenty and eat normally, wear cool, light clothes and plenty of sunscreen. You should shut windows and doors during the day but open them at night.

The hot weather brought a power cut in its wake yesterday, for six or seven hours. Benj and Caiti were reduced to staying in touch with the modern world via their Smartphones, being suddenly bereft of the Internet on their computers, poor things! Ruadhri sulked for a short while, but then went back outside to play. I sat out and knitted socks for a while as it was too gloomy and too hot inside the house to do anything. And then came along a dramatic electrical storm. We had to disobey météo.fr and close all the doors and windows as gale force gusts suddenly whipped up. The heavy wooden bench was overturned and our garden plastic chairs scattered everywhere. That was quite a wind to do that. Chris went out to shut various stable doors that we’d left open to keep the sheep cool.

Hot cat cum doormat

The animals aren’t doing anything during the day, apart from feeling hot. I’m constantly filling water buckets and checking that none of the llamas or alpacas look distressed. They don’t tolerate humid heat well. They much prefer a foot of snow!

And thank goodness we have our pool. I was in five times yesterday and it’ll be the same today. It’s up to 29 degrees C, matching last year’s record. It’s wonderful. I never fail to feel like a footballer’s wife when I wander out for a swim in our own pool. Pas mal!

The hot weather is forecast to continue for a few more days, followed by warm rainy days. But I’m not going to complain too much. It won’t be that long before the long Creuse winter starts …

 

And finally, a hot chicken hiding from the heat

Kindles, Skins, Scans and Opportunites

My Kindle with its GelaSkin cover

I haven’t blogged about my Kindle and writing here for a long while. I generally save those posts for my other blog at http:www.bookarecool.com, but I thought it was time for an update here.

First of all, my Kindle has been transformed. The kids clubbed together to buy me a GelaSkin for it for my birthday. It took the scenic route via the North Pole and then the South Pole to get here several weeks after the event, but it was worth the wait. Isn’t it brilliant? I had no idea such things existed. Totally frivolous and pointless, but wonderful.

I now have two books up on Kindle. Beat the Hackers has joined Oh Auntie! up there on the various Amazon sites. Caiti designed me a super cover for it. You’ll find a sample here. The book itself is here on Amazon.com and here on Amazon.co.uk.

 

 

Benj busy scanning

I’ll have another half dozen books out on Kindle soon. Benj has been busy scanning my print books for me into OCR format so that has dramatically speeded up the process. I’d had to type Hackers out again, updating and revising as I went, all 15,000 words of it, as I didn’t have the original files any more. They are on a long defunct computer and a nearly as long defunct backup device! So with Caiti designing some of the covers, Benj scanning and Chris helping on the SEO side of things and helping me build websites to go with a couple of forthcoming books, my books are a real family affair. I must mention Roger Fereday too, who drew the cover for Oh Auntie! and is busy creating some more for me.

A further spin-off from my indie authoring venture is that I’m setting up a new editing business. I’d noticed a lot of posts on forums asking about where to find editors for ebooks. And since I’m an editor, and have been for 25 years, and also through my authoring have an understanding of the ebook world, this seemed like a good opportunity for me. So www.ebook-ed.it will be hitting the world soon. Since the suffix .it is the abbrevation for Italy, someone somewhere in Italy has to OK my using it for the website! I’ll let you know how that goes.

Caiti's awesome cover design

However, I’m buying fewer Kindle books. I’ve become increasingly frustrated at having to pay 3.44 dollars for 99 cent books because of the extra sales taxes Amazon plonks on books ‘sent’ to France. I now buy the same books in .mobi format from Smashwords. I’ve uploaded the Kindle app onto my PC and I read the books on there. I much prefer reading from my Kindle, but I’m not going to keep on paying an unnecessary 2.45 dollars for ebooks.

Finally, a quick mention for Kindlegraph. This is a way that authors can ‘sign’ books on Kindle. It’s quite ingenious. Take a look here.

 

 

Wool

Wool is the unifying link in this blog post. First up, my head is stuffed with it today. My insomnia is back to haunt me, so last night I finally resorted to taking half a sleeping pill. The doctor prescribed these for Caiti a while ago when she couldn’t sleep, and being a great fan of self-medication, I thought I’d give them a shot. Well, I was a zombie. I had to get up a couple of times in the night and I was bouncing off walls and furniture, and also giggling quietly, Chris tells me. Today I feel like I’ve been hit by a train so I shan’t be bothering with drugs again!

Here’s a photo of the great sheep round-up from the other week. It took four Daggs plus one Fereday (Roger, who is drawing covers for several of my books), three dog leads, a bike, a bucket and a broom to get the misbehaving Suffolks back under control! Pat Fereday was chief photographer. This is her record of the occasion.

An unconventional but effective way of rounding up sheep!

My foray into sock knitting is going well. I’m very pleased with the wool. I love the colours in it. I’m now ready to tackle a heel for the first time. Wish me luck!

And Caiti is going great guns on our knitting machine. She’s made herself a pair of long, cosy fingerless gloves from some pretty pastel shades 4-ply wool, ready for winter. Nothing like planning ahead.

And finally, since it’s turned hot, it’s probably time to get the shears out again and give Windy, the woolly llama, a trim. She’s not going to like it … !

 

 

Five Years in France

August 13th marked five years in France for the Daggs. Wow! So to celebrate the occasion, here are 13 photos from those early days in August 2006. I think you’ll find them fascinating, especially if you’ve ever done anything similar, or are planning to.

There was a lot of rubbish to clear out.
Benj with an ancient agricultural implement
The christening robes we found.
Happy Ruadhri, taking all the upheaval in his stride.
Caiti in an old dress, hat and cape we found.
We still haven't used all that barbed wire up.
Concrete delivery.
Classy dining.
Still sharing Les Fragnes with cows.
Kitchen cum living room cum bedroom
Hunter Ruadhri!
Reflective and reflected Caiti.
Down comes 200 years' worth of rat poo - on Chris!

It’s been quite an adventure. I wonder what the next five years will bring? Somehow, I don’t think it will be dull.

Mastering the Knitmaster

Thanks to the generosity of our lovely friend Annette Smith, Caiti and I are now the owners of an Empisal Knitmaster knitting machine. It’s about as old as I am but in excellent condition and will go for another hundred years! I’ve been wanting a knitting machine for ages, so it’s a real treat to finally have one. At first glance, it was definitely scary.

Annette spent a morning teaching us how to set it up and do all the  basics – casting on, increasing, decreasing and casting off. She’s given us hundreds of patterns and enough spare parts to last the machine’s lifetime, and beyond.

Caiti took to it like a duck to water. She’s one of those people who are good at everything. She’s made several test pieces on it already. We’ll have to disassemble it tomorrow as the gite is booked and that’s where it’s set up at present. However, we’ll sort out a new home for it as quickly as possible and then we can carry on getting to grips with it. Benj may be off to Uni as early as 7th September so not too long to wait until we can turn his bedroom into a knitting studio during termtime!

On the theme of knitting, here’s my sock kit. Inspired to tackle socks by my fellow blogger Helen who produces quilts and socks at breakneck speed, I shopped around for a budget priced, foolproof set. This one is great. For 10.99 I got a set of 2.5 mm needles, 100g of beautiful wool/nylon mix, a very simple sock pattern, some pretty stitch markers and a handy plastic pouch to keep everything in. the vendor was Philippa Ross whose website is here. I’m delighted. The kit came in super quick time too. I shall have toasty warm feet this winter.

And finally, one of Annette’s drawings. As well as an expert knitter, she’s a talented artist. I love this llama picture.