Friday, 25 May 2012

Is someone trying to tell me something?

A few days ago I sent my passport off for renewal to the British Embassy in Paris. Like all other Brits in France no doubt I moaned and groaned about the cost of it all: nearly 200 euros including the compulsory courier fee for the new passport to be returned.

Today I got the proof of receipt:

Are they trying to tell me something?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Sharing lunch with a swallowtail

We've just shared our lunch terrace with the first of this year's swallowtail butterflies, who's spent the best part of the last hour snacking on the nectar from the dianthus in the flower bed around the edge (in fact I think he's - she's? - still there).

Although swallowtails are not uncommon here, and you'll almost certainly see at least one if you're here, it's still a Big Event for us. In the UK, swallowtails are now confined to very small areas of Norfolk, the county where we used to live, and we like lots of others used to make annual pilgrimages to those places - sometimes just a few metres square - where they could be seen. So to have one casually join us for lunch is a huge thrill ...

I was a bit confused by this one when I first saw it, because its markings seemed to be rather different from those I'd seen before. But my learned guide book told me that there's a distinct difference between the first brood, which flies round about now, and the second, which flies from July to August or September: the purply-blue markings are a lot less evident, the red spots almost non-existent, and the yellow and black of the wings are much more pronounced.

I wish I could say that these photos were mine, but I haven't yet found a way to persuade them (the swallowtails, that is, not the photos) to stop fluttering long enough and pose nicely for the camera. So thanks to the RSPB and to this site, which so often comes up trumps with some lovely pics!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The greenest greens

May at Grillou is always a special time, when the greens are at their very greenest ... at the end of last week the light was so perfect that I couldn't resist spending the afternoon outside with the camera ....

Saturday, 5 May 2012


It's best, I've learned in the five years we've been here, not to bank on getting too much done in May. And I'm not talking about the weather this time.

Actually, I'm not talking about yoga either ... :-)

May is the month of the ponts. Well, no, let's take a step back first: May is the month of the public holiday. Four of them, to be precise: the Fête du Travail (Labour Day), Victoire 1945 (Victory in Europe Day), Ascension and Lundi de Lundi de Pentecôte. Depending on the date of Easter it usually works out at about one a week. That's not half bad in itself.

But when a public holiday happens to fall on a Thursday or a Tuesday, the French like to faire le pont, or bridge the gap, by taking off Friday or Monday as well. In fact it's become so common to faire le pont that even if the holiday falls on a Wednesday people will be still ponting all over the place. Many small enterprises and commerces - and even schools and public services - shut down altogether on pont days so that you have to keep a weather (oops - sorry. I'm not really obsessed with the weather, honest) eye on the calendar if you've got Things To Do. I made the mistake of not doing that last Monday and found half the places I needed to go closed, and the other half teeming with ponting families determined to spend their buckshee day off in a queue ....

There is a kind of trade off though. When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, so be it. There's no compensatory day as there is, for example, in the UK - so when last Christmas and New Year's Day both fell on Sunday, workers here got no time off at all. And let's face it, who wouldn't prefer time off in May to mid-winter?

Next Monday will be another pont, as will Friday of the following week. So that's three four day weekends, followed by the three day Pentecôte (Ascension) weekend at the end of the month. Now if we could only have some half decent weather ...........