Wednesday, October 19, 2016

If you want something done, and raspberry thief *

After more than two weeks and many disgruntled forum posts, it became clear Blogger wasn't going to do anything about fixing the broken blog roll widgets, the masses of individually collected, mostly not-backed up data from numerous blogs they inadvertently flushed down the toilet being, presumably, lost forever. Maybe some bright spark somewhere has a red face about it but maybe not; Blogger has clearly become a very small and unimportant fish in evolutionary terms swallowed by the great Google whale, as blogging itself has become to social media generally. (This is a really a tired and self-piteous old refrain; if it matters it's up to us me to do something about it and blog, or just shut up and move on.)

So, deciding there was no point in cutting off my nose to spite my face and insisting that, as they broke it, it was up to them to fix it, I re-entered the links I had managed to retrieve from the cached copy myself. It didn't really take very long, and now it feels as though my blog has at least the potential to live again; without a live feed blog roll it really did seem a very dead thing. I mostly put it back as it was before; of those who are simply dormant I will know if they do ever re-animate, and even one or two who surely will not post again are still there for old time's sake. However, it no longer seems to be possible to limit the number which actually appear to, say, the most recent twenty-five, as I did before, so those who hadn't posted for a very long time slipped discreetly below the horizon. Some very long-lapsed blogs lingering visibly right at the bottom, sometimes with four years or more since their last post, was just too melancholy, like a pile of old correspondence left out on the table, and I did end up removing quite a few.

Anyway, we are back home. It is surprisingly good to be so, even though the work is still not all finished; it feels familiar, comfortable and safe, yet the enjoyment of it sits quite comfortably with a strong desire to be moving on as soon as possible, plummeting exchange rates and other uncertainties notwithstanding. The initial urge to scrape all our savings together and get something new on the go even before selling this place have been shelved; it's a terrible time to do that (aforesaid economics, savings mostly over-the-water), and it would be sod's law if we settled for something we could afford but weren't really happy with, the house would sell shortly afterwards and maybe even the exchange rates would improve (hein, cochon volant!) we'd regret that we hadn't held on (the sod's law corollary of that of course being that we will sit here forever waiting for a sale, while the pound dwindles to the value of three small cowry shells, but I prefer not to think about that). Anyway, running two properties at the same time wasn't something we wanted to be doing.

Tom's working away like a trooper getting things finished and tidied up before the painters and decorators come next week, jobs he hates like repairing and rubbing down plaster but which will never have to be done again. Inevitably there were many things which ended up falling between two artisans' stools, or which appeared on the assessor's report but somehow failed to appear on the artisan's quote, or which an artisan (the electrician is the particular bête noire in this) succeeded in buggering up, breaking or making a hole in. However, mistake me not, we continue to be grateful and cognisant of 1) how lucky we are to be alive  2) that while we will be somewhat out of pocket our insurance is nevertheless paying for a large number of things, finishing some of our unfinished work, upgrading the electrics, decorating, cleaning carpets etc, that will, we hope, be to our final material benefit, and 3) that we happened to give a thought to the matter of our house insurance and went and got all the relevant information on it updated and accurate a few months before the fire, without which we would have received only a very small fraction of the costs incurred; I would advise everyone, but especially anyone who has extended or improved their home, to make sure you do this.

Elfie has finished her training course for the moment. She will now sit, lie down, stand up (handy when she doesn't want her 'trousers' brushed), 'look', do some quite fancy heel work and more, to order indoors, but still sees most barriers outside as simply an interesting challenge, if she sees them at all, being let off the lead as carrying an obligation to quarter the surrounding hectare at a flying gallop regardless of the terrain, and the presence of so much as a worm wriggling beneath the soil as her cue to stalk, pounce and dig like a maniac. Nothing is safe in the garden, from bumble bees' nests to baby grass snakes to the cock pheasant taking refuge in the long grass (she was under the hedge into next door's garden before you can say gundog) to the neighbour's cat which she climbed half way up the eucalyptus tree in pursuit of (she got dragged off, given time-out and shunned for an hour for that, we fetched a ladder and rescued the poor terrified cat). One of the attractions of moving would be to a smaller, better-fenced plot with a bit less wildlife in it where we could keep closer tabs on her. Interestingly though, while normally friendly to other dogs and humans, despite her hunting dog behaviour, she hates hunters, giving them her rare, full-throated 'see-em-off' bark when she sees or hears them, and rejecting their dogs' overtures of friendship in no uncertain terms. We love her enormously and feel that the bond with her is stronger all the time, that we know and understand each other better; she is loving and affectionate and eager to please, and even open fields and hedgerows are slightly less irresistible when she knows I've got a clicker and a piece of cheese or sausage in my pocket. And the lessons have been a very good thing to do anyway, a welcome focus of activity and encouragement away from house and fire related matters and our displaced state, a pleasant trip in the direction we'd like to move in, a chance to have an Indian lunch in Dinan afterwards, and above all the benefit of Suzie's calm, wise experience and advice on doggy matters.

Natalie asked Tom if he could show a photo of our new staircase, and I said I would, which I will, but not till later when perhaps I'll do a 'before and after' post when the job's finished. Just for now here are some photos of Elfie scrumping. One of the unexpected delights of Hénon we discovered when staying there was this marvellous park:

It was vast, next to a settlement of beautiful old mill houses, and contained children's swings and a slide, boules courts, great open areas, ponds and streams and little bridges, terraces of apple and chestnut trees, and a long hedge of fruit bushes: currants (these were finished), cultivated blackberries, and raspberries both red and yellow, all free for the taking.

Elfie loves most kinds of fruit, berries in particular (she also tries to crack hazelnuts with her teeth, which I discourage, and it makes me wonder if she had to live off the land at times before) and she used to avail herself freely of any within reach:

Yet despite the park's beauty and all these free treats, and though it was the school holidays and glorious sunny weather, except for one group of older people playing boules once, a couple of over-aged adolescents brooding on the swings once, and one sweet family of three generations, a young couple, grandfather and baby, sitting with a guitar singing a Christian song once, we seemed more or less the only people ever using it at any time of the day.  J, who lives in Hénon, says the 14 July fireworks always take place in the natural amphitheatre of the park, and the municipality lays on minibuses to take the elderly people the couple of hundred metres from the village centre to the upper levels to watch them. The access is quite steep, which may be a valid excuse for the older people not to go there, but I found it sad that as the new-build houses and lotissements spread progressively outwards from the village centre, most of them with their smallish gardens completely filled with hideous plastic slides and paddling pools and enormous netted trampolines (when did it become de rigueur that every child should have its own trampoline at home?), there was this excellent, well maintained, rich public space going almost entirely unused. We enjoyed it anyway.

* While we were in exile, a delightful package arrives all the way from the land of Oz, a 'Red Cross parcel' from a lovely erstwhile blogging friend, long since disappeared from blog roll and blogosphere, but still a faithful and cherished correspondent and reader, I gather, who had had similar experiences to ours only more extreme and drastic. It contained sweeties and nut cake and a toy for Elfie, and a little bundle of pretty blue fabrics, including a miniature blue-toned version of William Morris's 'Strawberry Thief', which I've always loved.