puppet 2

puppet 1

This is what Her Outdoors has been working on, for a lovely sketch she’s written about a picnic. The clay for the head’s been bought in, otherwise it’s been made from scraps – and a pair of baby shoes. Crafty, eh?

food processing

Life’s pretty good at the moment. Her Outdoors is processing the fruits (and vegetables) of her labours, stitching, writing stories, puppet making, and a whole lot more.

I’m mainly learning songs for my solo piano set list, adding some Yann Tiersen, Supertramp, Pink Floyd and whatever I feel like. (As soon as I start working on one song, I think of another one that I should have learnt years ago.) I’m also catching up on some reading and lying in a hammock. Not feeling too guilty about this, as I’ve worn out my strimmer (and a pair of work boots) which is in for nearly €300 in repairs.

Last week, the new website I wrote for the Quay Arts Centre went live. (Not all of the words are mine – and I hope you will be able to tell the difference.) I loved working on this project and welcome similar jobs now the winter’s coming. Over the next few months, I’ll be recording an album with the band, writing Part Two of my book (finally), co-writing a stage play with Her Outdoors, co-writing some songs in English, French and Spanish with a friend, completing the road through the woods, remaking the tractor shed for yurt storage, and focusing on our immediate living environment. (The lean-to needs remaking, a few tons of clay need relocating, wood needs chopping, and cetera.) All on budgets that are either tight or non-existent.

I’ll be writing the odd blog post now and again, too. (This was the now.)

If you stayed with us over the summer, you may have noticed some inexplicable water on the drive outside the Shack. The Services des Eaux came the other day to see what was going on. They brought a digger…

hole 1

…and quickly got to the bottom of the problem – a broken pressure reducer (removed in this shot) conveniently buried under a couple of tons of clay and rubble…

hole 2

…doing a few days’ spade work in a couple of hours.

hole 3

If you didn’t stay with us over the summer, you can soon put that right. The diary’s open for 2015 and we’ve already got five weeks booked.

One of the things I’ve been doing this year – partly for fun and partly for money – is playing in a band.

The band’s called SouthWest and we play store openings, bars, weddings, parties, corporate events – that kind of thing. I’ve made a website at www.south-west.fr and put together facebook, twitter, G+ and youtube pages (all in their early stages). But I haven’t really talked about the band yet, as we’ve been short of photos, video, recordings etc. And those things will only dribble in over the course of the year.

Yesterday, Glenn (the singer) told me he’d put some video footage from a recent wedding in my dropbox folder. So I dug it out and put this together on iMovie 10. It runs to nearly four minutes and, if you’re looking for a wedding band in the Dordogne in the next few months or years, or a band for a Christmas party, you should give it a watch. (It’s a compilation, so you won’t have time to be bored.)

From time to time, I’ll be talking about music on this blog, and am thinking about doing a series of keyboard tutorials over the winter to demonstrate the parts I play to these songs, for other people who need to learn them fast.

On four.

We’ve had people staying in écovallée almost continuously since April. Now we’re taking a deep breath before the main season begins, with both family yurts booked from Saturday until the other side of “Summer”.

The weather’s been close to perfect and temperatures are just about to cross the threshold into the high 30s. That’s the forecast, which really means the low 40s. Our guest yurts are all in shade, so they’re comfortable to be in during the day. Our yurts, unfortunately, are in full sun. Which means we live outside from mid morning until early evening. Which partly explains the lack of blog posts.

Lots going on – pretty much all of it good – just not enough time to write about it.


One of the criticisms sometimes levelled at local English by local French is that they still buy many things from England.

There are a few reasons for this.

One is that many French products (in our experience) are badly made and break astonishingly quickly. Within minutes sometimes. Or days at the outside.

They are also fantastically expensive, compared to neighbouring countries. My theory here is that the French economy is designed around frequent repeat purchases, but it’s not an economic model I can support on the grounds of sustainability alone.

Another reason is that shops (around here, anyway, apart from food shops) are often closed. In fact, if you want to buy something, the only day you can be pretty sure the shop will be open is Tuesday. Monday is often a closed day, for reasons of booking holidays. On Wednesday, shops close so owners can spend time with children who have a day off school. On Thursday, you should not be surprised by a sign on the door saying “Fermeture exceptionelle”. Friday, being so close to the weekend, is too much of a risk. And on Saturday, you’re almost certain to be disappointed. Sunday is just a no-go area. You knew that, right?

But perhaps above all, English people are used to a certain level of service – that level being any service of any kind. This is not something you are certain to find anywhere, unless you are clearly dripping in money.

Generalisations, I admit, but many people will recognise the truth in them.

Despite many setbacks in the past, we do still try and support local business where possible. Several weeks ago, for example, the belt on my tractor went. So I popped down to my local parts place and ordered a replacement. This, I chased up on the phone a few days later. Then in person. Every few days. For several weeks.

As an experiment, I recently phoned a parts place in the UK. They took my order, emailed a confirmation of purchase, and the new belt arrived a couple of days ago.

I’m still waiting for my local parts place to get in touch. Any contact would be nice – phone call, email, carrier pigeon. I’m not cancelling the order, because I’m curious to know what’s going to happen. I like surprises. But it won’t surprise you that I won’t be bothering with my local parts place again.

We found this note yesterday, after our lovely Australian guests had gone on the next leg of their holiday:

Thank you so much for a lovely week. You have a very special property here and we are all leaving very relaxed, grounded and happy. Koa, our son, loved running around, playing with the animals and all of the toys you supplied for us. The location was fabulous and we feel as though we have explored + experienced the French countryside with ease – which can sometimes be difficult with a toddler!!

We will be recommending you to all our friends back in Australia.

Much love and gratitude.

Gus, Candice + Koa

So I guess we’re doing something right.


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