A lot of fosse about nothing

Today, I are mostly bin clearin’ ditches:

 

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Before we moved to France, drainage wasn’t something we’d had to bother about.

Rain water went off the roof and from elsewhere, then along pipes and into the sewage system…end of…

However, not being attached to any proper sewage system – it’s mostly a matter for the individual and his fosse septique – you have to make allowances for drainage if you want a dry house and dry land around it.

We had a storm of almost biblical proportions the other weekend, and only a quick drainage channel cutting exercise in the torrential rain averted a flooded dining room.

So, we’re putting drains in:

 

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However, it’s no use if the water from them doesn’t go anywhere – hence the ditch clearing that I did today. I thought I’d take advantage of the good weather, so girding some old clothes, wellies and gloves I cleared the ditch by hand and then used the brushcutter to tidy it up.

Hot, sweaty and smelly work  – it was 28 degrees and there was no shade – but it had to be done as there are more storms predicted for tomorrow.

However, every cloud, etc, because we should be able to see if the drainage all works before we order some gravel to cover the pipes over.

Should you want to find out more about drains like ours then Wikipedia has an article here.

18 months ago I’d have found it totally boring, but now I find it very interesting indeed…

Happiness is a hoopoe!

After a week of weather here that would put many a summer’s to shame, it finally broke last night.

We woke up to a rather damp day and the sun is struggling to shine so it’s not too bad now, although I’m sure the farmers here would have liked a bit more rain. It’s been very dry for months now.

About half an hour ago we were sitting in the dining room having lunch and looking out at the day when all of a sudden Mrs Shark asked, ‘What’s that bird?’, in a very excited voice.

I looked where she was pointing and saw something I’d only seen once before.

It was one of these:

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Yes, a hoopoe!

It was digging about in the verge by the side of the communal road here – probably because the rain had made using that long beak beak to skewer insects or worms in the damp ground a bit easier.

OK, they might be commonplace here – although I think they’re more often found in the south of the country – but we were totally gobsmacked.

The only other time we’ve seen one was when we were on holiday much further south in the Herault departement. We were renting a house on a terraced slope in a village and saw one flying through the trees down below us, although we heard its distinctive cry a lot more often.

Anyway, we’re feeling dead chuffed and looking forward to another sighting.

Any port in a snowstorm?

We’ve been watching coverage of the approaching snow in the UK with great interest as we’re due to visit dear old Blighty next week.

At first, we saw the usual dire predictions of doom and I have to admit that I scoffed at them. However, parts of the UK now have snow, and conditions in some parts seem quite severe.

A couple of talking points have stood out amongst all the usual media guff.

Firstly, the poor reaction of some drivers to snowy and icy conditions. Braking is the worst thing to do – you should brake with your gears – and staying a good distance away from the car in front is a good idea too – about 10 car lengths should do – and, it really should go without saying, keep your speed right down. If you do have to brake then don’t fight the direction of the skid – steer into it.

I’m struggling to understand why some UK weather reports are giving out the Fahrenheit equivalents to Celsius temperatures. The now standard Celsius scale seems to be more logical with 0° being freezing point, whereas it’s 32° in Fahrenheit which doesn’t seem as immediate or informative.

Although I was educated when imperial units were used, I use mostly metric units nowadays and exclusively so here – ounces and inches mean fuck all to the French after all. However, the difference between the two systems doesn’t seem as wide as that between Celsius and Fahrenheit – it’s not like a measurement of length will start in a different place, for example.

When it comes to standard units, money can also be subject to this strange species of nostalgia. You may remember when 12 pence made a shilling and 20 shillings made a pound. Of course, we then went decimal. The French also changed their currency, although going from 100 centimes to the franc to 100 cents to the Euro wasn’t that tricky maths-wise. However, the French still express prices in francs as well as Euros so that a supermarket till receipt will give you a total in Euros and then its franc equivalent.

Imagine going to your local M&S and getting a receipt telling you that the £12.67 you just spent was the equivalent of £12 13s 4d in old money.

Bonkers.

Well, we sail from Caen on the overnight ferry and arrive in Portsmouth next Tuesday. We’re staying a few days in Milton Keynes to see our son and our friends and then it’s off to Gloucester to see our daughter and various relatives.

Snow seems to be forecast for next week both here* and in the UK, so it may be something we can’t escape. So, a shovel, blankets and a flask of cocoa will be loaded in the car as well as all the Christmas presents for the UK and our luggage.

Now, where’s my thermals?

*It snowed briefly here at about 4pm – just a few flakes but the white stuff all the same…