We’re back! I mentioned in my last blog on 25th November that there would be a gap of a couple of weeks. I would love to say that since that blog I had been working away madly and the man shed is now complete, the gravel pile all spread and the garage bays emptied. I would love to say it but sadly, it isn’t true!
The reason I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks is that, as last year, we took the opportunity of this quiet pre-Christmas time to nip back to the UK and have a whistlestop tour of friends and family and do some of those things in England that we can’t do here. We want to say a massive thank you to everyone who hosted us on our visit including someone whose ‘line manager’ had to pop to Buenos Aires for some G20 thing – it was great to catch up and we only regret that we couldn’t see everyone we wanted or spend as long with people as we would have liked.
It was a really good journey that started off exceptionally well. We knew that we would be sailing to the UK on Brittany Ferries’ ‘Mont St. Michel’. What we didn’t know until very near our sailing was that one of David’s gym members, who works for Brittany Ferries, would also be onboard. She was extremely kind to us and looked after us very well, including allowing us to visit the bridge. Many thanks to her.
For those who know us, you will know that I have spent many hours on ships’ bridges, although rarely commercial vessels, and Dave never has. Having been allowed to visit the bridge during daylight mid-channel, I was more excited when we were invited back for the night entrance into Portsmouth Harbour. Having sailed in at night frequently, this was the first time following dredging for the new carrier channel so, while the lights of Southsea were pretty much as I remembered, it looked so much easier navigationally – although the Round Tower / Fort Blockhouse gap was no wider.
Two of the people we stayed with work in the dockyard team with the Queen’s Harbour Master, one being one of the Admiralty Pilots, so it was good to have something to chat to them about!
The timing of our visit is also determined around the Varsity rugby that we used to attend with David’s Dad each year. While Landivisiau Rugby club put on a decent match, which we attended in our first year, nothing beats Twickenham for an occasion. Sadly the attendance at Twickenham this year was almost what Landi rugby can attract and, even more sadly, the win went to the dark blues, but it was a fun day and Landivisiau doesn’t yet have anywhere like the Admiral Nelson pub at Whitton.
Our visit went without major incident until our last few hours in the UK. Pulling away from our final stop to head to the ferry we had a very flat tyre. Fortunately our final visit was with a friend who is an engineer, and the sort of engineer who has every possible tool in his garage which proved useful! The wheel was very reluctant to come off the car and the space saving spare, which was under 2 dogs and LOTS of luggage, had not been checked in months so was very low on air itself. Thankfully, with our friend’s help, we managed to change the wheel, inflate the spare and then had to limp home on the space saving tyre.
On the positive side, we made the ferry and was placed on it so that we were the 3rd car off. Also, positively, as the Plymouth / Roscoff ferries aren’t frequent at this time of year, we had chosen to sail to St. Malo which is only 2½ hours from us with good tyres and so only 3 when speed limited. Having got home and inspected the flat it was evident that it was beyond repair and it had worn excessively on the inside. This was very infuriating as, suspecting that the tracking was out a few months ago and that the tyres weren’t wearing evenly, David had visited a garage to get them to check only to be reassured that all was as it should be. Evidently not.
We knew that we would have to replace the tyres early next year anyway but this forced us to do so a little early and, having had them changed, the garage checked the alignment and it was way out. I blame the road conditions in West Oxfordshire which were by far the worst we experienced anywhere but it may also be the many miles we have done sometimes heavily loaded!
One advantage of being away for the period we were, we missed all of the problems associated with the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ movement. I was going to mention them in one of my earlier blogs as the first weekend of protest was when we drove to Morbihan to collect our new beds. However, I forgot to do so as, despite being delayed by about 5 minutes by a march in Carhaix, we hadn’t experienced any problems.
As the ferries weren’t running from Roscoff, we had to sail to the UK from Ouistreham near Caen and our sailing was early afternoon. David’s gym members had sent him horror stories about chaos on the roads in Normandy (the Normans always seem to protest with greater enthusiasm!) to the point of suggesting we set off a day early! We didn’t but we did leave home at 6 am giving us just over 6 hours to do a 4 hour journey. While we saw evidence of the protests, including a number of fire damaged road signs and a small huddle of protestors on one roundabout, we didn’t experience any delays. As such we arrived very early which allowed us to give the dogs a good long walk along the river Orne near Pegasus Bridge.
While we were in the UK we watched the increasing violence used by protestors under the guise of the Gilets Jaunes movement principally in Paris. Speaking to our friends and neighbours they are equally appalled and acknowledge that, while they generally support the aims of the initial protests, it has been hijacked by the extremists and anarchists out just to cause trouble.
Having been told that the protesters were blocking oil refineries, we made sure that we had a full tank of fuel before getting on the ferry but, again, reality and rumour didn’t match and we haven’t experienced any issues with getting petrol here. The one advantage of the movement is that they do seem to have vented a lot of their frustration on the many speed cameras along the highways!
It is evident that it had been very wet and windy here since we left and it has rained pretty much every day since getting home. Thankfully we haven’t seen any damage caused while we were away but the weather has prevented me carrying on with the shed. As such, as well as getting the car sorted and doing the post-holiday admin (laundry!) we have focussed on getting the gîtes ready for our guests at Christmas.
As at least one of our guests read my blog, I won’t show any pictures of the decorations in the gîtes until next week so as not to spoil the surprise. However, we have also decorated Kergudon itself so here is a glimpse of our own home with the first batch of mince pies David has baked today as well as icing 4 cakes – which I will show again next week.
Last night we did visit the Christmas market at Locronan, a preserved village approximately 35 minutes from us. Our French teacher from the course we used to attend had arranged a visit with her current students and had extended an invitation to us. While Locronan’s Christmas market is small, with only about 15 huts in the village, the Gendarme presence was obvious following the attack in Strasbourg. However, we think small is better as the real reason to visit Locronan is to see the lights which are strung along the rooflines of the village which would be spoiled if there were hundreds of Vin Chaud stalls everywhere!
The coming week will be spent ensuring our gîtes are fully ‘Christmasified’ to welcome our guests. Lots of festive pictures in next week’s blog.