Following Georgie's recent trip out here when she spent hours in the garden digging, weeding and planting, she's asked for a few snaps of any plant thingys that may have survived the last couple of nights' frosts. Well, it all looks fine to moi and I don't reckon there's been any casualties. In fact, everything seems to be progressing rather well. Haven't checked the wild honeysuckle sapling that we nicked from the local woods and planted (er, Georgie planted) at the foot of the apple tree, but will do so when I do a spot of watering ce soir.
The recent sale of the Honda dogwagon (see earlier 'Gits' posting) left me with just the Merc for nipping down the shops, driving Jock for dogwalks and general get-abouting. As this fine example of German engineering isn't really suitable as a runaround, and as I don't really want to rack up the miles in a relatively low-mileage classic car, a replacement for the Honda was called for. Gave myself a budget of around 2000 euros (£1750?) and began searching for a good, low mileage, runaround dogwagon on the 'Leboncoin' site (much more popular than Ebay in France for buying and selling everything from houses to budgie seed). Pretty soon it became apparent that my budget wouldn't buy much more than a knackered old rustbucket, so, almost inevitably, I raised the bar to 3000 euros. Then 4000. Then 5000. When I found myself looking at ten grand Porsche 944's I realised I'd completely lost the plot, so I returned to my 2000 limit.
Interestingly, small, economical runarounds are extremely popular in France now that the cost of petrol has doubled over the last five or six years. And small diesel cars are even more highly sought after because of their higher mpg (or should that be kpl?). Trouble is, because France is such a big place and people have to travel further to get to the shops or work, these small cars soon rack up high kilometrages. Consequently, a ten year old Renault Twingo in good nick, for example, with 120,000 kms on the clock, will set you back about three grand. Meanwhile, a lower kilometrage bigger car of the same year (perceived as a gas-guzzler - for example my Mercedes 190e) can be bought for half that price. Hence the popularity of the Twingo, Peugeot 109 and 107, Citroen C1, VW Polo and Fox, and all sorts of other boring little roller-skates.
Just as I was about to give up and grudgingly plump for a 3500 euro limit, I spotted a gem. A 1995 Citroen ZX 1.4i with just 39,000 kms (26,000 miles?) for just 1800 euros. I emailed the vendor immediately and arranged to view the following day. Drove 100 miles west to Rochechouart and discovered the car had been inherited by the vendor's elderly wife following the recent death of her father. As they already had three cars, they didn't need another so it was up for sale. Apparently her father hardly ever used the car, had owned it from new, and kept it mollycoddled in his garage. Hence its low mileage and excellent condition. Came as no surprise when the vendor said the phone had hardly stopped ringing since he placed the ad, but, as I was the first person to respond, it was mine if I wanted it. Immediately paid a deposit and said I'd pick it up in a few days once I'd arranged insurance.
The following Friday I caught the 6.50am (that's 5.50am in Angleterre - very dark at that ridiculous time of day) bus from Felletin to Limoges, then faced a four hour wait for a train to near Rochechouart. As I didn't want to leave Jock on his own at home for any longer than absolutely necessary, I asked a cabbie what he'd charge for the 25 mile journey. He estmated about 60 euros. Fine by me. Arrived at the vendor's at around 10am, earlier than expected. Paperwork done and dosh delivered, I set off for home feeling a little bit nervous about driving a car which last had its oil and filter change ten years ago, albeit 2000 kilometres ago. Luckily, the car ran fine and I arrived home by mid-afternoon where Jock was ecstatic to see me.
Have now had an oil and filter change, replacement of the courroie de distribution (timing belt) and had a towbar fitted. Am extremely chuffed with this latest bargain acquisition and am looking forward to adding to its ridiculously low kilometrage. Have dug out a few old tapes from a dusty box in the attic to play in the vintage (and probably unused) radio/cassette player that's in the car. Am now thinking that the Citroen has rendered the Merc an unnecessary indulgence so, perish the thought, I'm considering selling and just having one car. However, the Merc's limited value, excellent engineering and provision of relaxed, driving pleasure, may convince me to keep the thing. Or maybe not. Anyways, a couple of shots of the Citroen...
Georgie flew out here a week ago last Saturday and went back last Monday. Weather was a bit chilly and damp, but it cleared up last Saturday. Sunday was a scorcher with the temperature hitting 27 degrees. Georgie spent most of the day weeding and planting seeds and shrubs while I pruned the bottom hedge and sawed down a couple of ugly mini-trees out back. Also took the opportunity to do a couple of loads of washing and then hung it out to dry. Had a quick natter over the wall with neighbour Chantelle who said this is the week of change when nature hits top gear and all the plants and trees explode into action. It really was a splendid day and a perfect end to Georgie's week-long break. Shame she couldn't stay for another week because the weather's been marvellous - 26 degrees today and still climbing.
One of the many things we discussed during Georgie's brief visit was, inevitably, that old chestnut 'what are our plans for the future?' It would be an easy question to answer if we were rich, but we're not, so it's tricky. Personally, I couldn't give a monkey's about being skint, but Georgie, being the sensible one, is constantly worried about the prospect of poverty. However, despite this, she's thinking of resigning from her ridiculously low paid job in London and coming out here in June and going free-lance, armed with the latest hi-tech Apple computery thingys, then maybe returning to London for winter. Sounds good to me. After all, the winters out here are rubbish and this winter has been particularly long and challenging. The first snows arrived early last year in October and they've been off and on since then with the latest snow flurry being a couple of weeks ago. With spring now definitely in the air, I'm tempted to say that winter's finally over. However, having said that, it snowed a couple of years ago in May, so maybe we haven't seen the last of the stuff.
This meteorological inclemency was another topic we briefly discussed. Our thought was to maybe sell this house and maybe buy another locally at a lower land height where the winters don't bite so hard. Or maybe up north where it's nearer to England. Or maybe a bit further south where it's warmer in winter, such as the the Dordogne or Lot regions. Or maybe go for broke and do up the ruin at our barn property down near Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. Trouble is, we can only guess what the cost of 'ruin' renovations would be - we may well get a clearer idea later this summer. Also, we can only guess what our present abode will sell for, if it sells at all - which is why we're planning to do it up a bit over summer in readiness for a possible attempt at selling next spring.
Anyways..., while Georgie was here, out of curiosity, we had a quick search of the internet for property prices in our Limousin region. Set a ceiling of 100,000 euros (about £92,000?) just to see if anything interesting turned up. Surprisingly, there were quite a few - mostly uninhabitable barns or pokey town boxes, but at least it showed that prices haven't dramatically increased over the last five years or so; if anything, they've decreased. Then, just as we were about to stop searching, we spotted an interesting cottage down near Tulle that triggered our curiosity (well, ahem, triggered mine!). Priced at just 66,000 euros with newly installed oil heating (luxury!) and still retaining a few original features (i.e. not yet totally ruined by crappy 'modernising'), I reckoned it deserved a closer look. As the weather was dull and grey and we fancied a day out, we contacted the agent and arranged to view it the following day.
To cut a long story short, the day after our visit, we contacted the agent and put in an offer of 56,000 euros. The next day he informed us that the vendor had received an offer of 64,000 euros via another agent which was progressing. However, the vendor has set a time limit of this coming Saturday for the purchasers to confirm that they are able to get a bank loan to purchase, otherwise we'll be given the 'go ahead' - unless, of course, some other buyer turns up. So, we're now waiting for a Saturday 'yay or nay' to proceed. Interesting, huh?
Besides all that, Georgie's asked for a photo of newly shorn Jock's face so she can show Donnie. Sounds simple. However, Jock flatly refuses to be photographed and turns away the moment a camera is shoved in his face. Caught him slightly unawares this morning though. Have also included a snap of the front door tulips that have really come on a treat in the last couple of days since Georgie departed.
Just thought I'd load up some snaps of my bikes - no reason, just felt like it. Actually, come to think of it, I reckon it's because the weather has at last changed for the better, the days are getting longer (hard to believe, but we're almost at the longest day already) and the open road with its sweeping bends is calling.
Bohemian hermit recluse hiding in the mist-shrouded hills and backwoods of central France; went to art school in the mid-Sixties and never really left; smokes like a fish (now given up) and drinks like a chimney (now only occasionally); fervent supporter of Aldershotnil FC; fascinated by the mystery of disappearing odd socks; follically, cosmetically and vertically challenged but horizontally unchallenged, otherwise perfect (it says here); probably one of the luckiest geezers in the whole wide world.