Willkommen Bienvenue Welcome

Welcome, gentle readers.

This is an everyday tale of regular folk, who moved from Sheffield to the deepest Corrèze in France Profonde and thence to the rather more cosmopolitan Lot in search of something… different. We certainly found it.

The Lot is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Reputedly, a famous TV globetrotter was asked where, of all the places in the world he had visited, he might return to. He answered, ‘The Lot’.

Fans of Channel 4’s Grand Designs will know that we built a somewhat quirky straw bale house-with-a-view here in the Lot, not far from the celebrated Dordogne river. You can read all about it in my book,
Bloody Murder On The Dog's Meadow, or watch the re-runs of the programme on More 4, or view it on You Tube.

After a break in the proceedings to write a book or two, this blog now takes the form of an everyday journal. Sometimes things happen, sometimes they don't (but the art school dance goes on forever). I hope it will give you an entertaining insight into what it's like to live in a foreign country; what it's like in the slow lane as an ex-pat Brit in deepest France.

I shall undertake to update this once or twice a week, unless absent on leave. Comments always welcomed, by the way, but I do tend to forget what buttons to click in order to answer them.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Destination Bed

Who here agrees that the best place on earth in winter is bed? Did I hear you say yeah? (Yeah!) ‘Said, did I hear you say YEAH? (YEAH!!!)  

The 'Master Bed'
My feelings exactly. There is simply no place quite as cosy, comfortable and comforting – especially now that January is here (which, contrary to what T.S. Eliot would have us believe about April, has surely got to be ‘the cruellest month’) – as my lovely ever-welcoming bed. When you look at the history of mankind through the ages, bed was probably the best of all inventions.  

At this point, I have to confess to a mean and heartless act. Although I failed to find any music for a sensible price in the disappointing January sales, I found a great new ‘hoodie’ reduced from 55 bucks to ten. The rule my wife has imposed in this house means that I have to identify some old item of clothing to discard whenever I buy something new. I duly found something that I tend to wear only once or twice per decade, so it was relegated to my hamper full of work clothes. 

However, because the hamper is way too packed, I then had to identify something to relegate to a work rag. On taking the demoted item down to the cave to put into my old plastic laundry bag-o’-rags, I disturbed a mouse that had made itself at home inside. Without stopping to think, I leapt back and danced around in my habitual fashion before taking the bag at arm’s length to the door, turning it on its side and kicking the bottom. Whereupon the poor terrified mouse ran out and away. No doubt it will become one of Daisy’s nightly kills. When I looked inside the laundry bag, I realised that the mouse had created itself a cosy little bed for the winter. It wasn’t doing anyone any harm – and I evicted the poor creature. I’m gutted and repentant. 

That poor mouse had exactly the right idea. A friend of mine once made us a compilation CD entitled ‘Getting Through February’. That may well be the case for Sheffield, but we all know that February can be a surprisingly fine month in France, full of the hope of spring. Getting through January is far more to the point. January is a useless month. It’s cold and nothing grows. There’s no decent food in the markets. In the words of Gwen Guthrie, the soul singer, ‘There ain’t nothing goin’ on but the rent’.  

So what better course of action than to go to bed and stay there for the entire month? Curl up under a warm duvet with your beloved, just reading, sleeping and what have you. You know it makes sense. Certainly in times of yore, dirt-poor French peasants apparently would effectively hibernate in the deep mid winter to slow down their body-clocks and thereby suppress their appetite for food that they could neither produce nor afford. Come some sunny day in February, you could wake up with a smile and leap out of bed full of renewed vigour after your month under the duvet.

Alas, there’s just one thing wrong with the idea. There’s a living to be made and a daughter to be taken each morning to school. So the alarm goes off at 5.50am in this household. Our old battered Sony clock radio ‘cube’ has a pause button. We allow ourselves three ‘bashes’ on the button, i.e. three blissful six-minute hiatuses, during which we can luxuriate in the warmth of our bed in a state of semi-wakefulness. 
We were talking the other day, the wife and I, during one such period of suspended animation. We were wondering just who invented ‘bed’. She thought it had to be a man; I thought it had to be a woman, because women are feline, sensuous creatures who surely have a natural affinity for the wonderful world of slumber. My wife, whose mission in life, Jim, is to help people resolve their problems, suggested a compromise: it was probably a husband and wife team. The man, Monsieur Bed, in the best tradition of French bricolage, created the base in his cave and his wife, Madame Bed, invented the mattress and the bedding.

Which led us to speculate when it was that the Beds came up with their invention. Not thinking straight at this hour of the morning, I suggested the hedonistic 18th century. But of course this was ignoring all the evidence of Hampton Court and other showcases of four-poster beds and such like. It couldn’t have been as early as the age when Alfred the Great was burning the cakes, because people still slept on straw (didn’t they?). The invention had to derive from a time after the invention of the saw, so Monsieur Bed could fashion his base. The Romans had no doubt came up with a prototype, so maybe the Beds lived in France at a time when the Romans’ influence was still evident. We decided on the Dark Ages, since there was nothing better to do then than sleep. There were certainly no January sales in that epoch.

The conversation might have drifted on to the subject of how the word ‘bed’ became ‘lit’ in French, but there is no fourth bash in our household. I take it upon myself to get up and make the drinks and feed the animals and stoke the fire, because I have the luxury of staying at home for the rest of the day while the girls must ply their trade in Brive. I could, of course, sneak back to bed once the little 107 has driven up the drive and I am alone again (naturally). But I don’t. Guilt and the pressures of the daily ‘to do’ list will not allow it. All I can do is anticipate that glorious moment later in the day, when the shutters are shut and the dishwasher has completed its cycle, that glorious moment when I climb back into bed and pull the duvet (or what’s left for me once my wife has completed her cocoon) around me again. Bliss. 
So let’s hear it one more time, y’all. Let me hear you say yeah! Bed, huh! What is it good for? Absolutely everything. Bed: the best place on earth, particularly during the useless, redundant month of January. Anyway, won’t be long now till February comes calling once more.

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