dimanche, avril 12


Lovely spring weather in the UK at the moment and when we got home Susie and I worked on the vegetable garden which is full of life at the moment - potatoes, onions, garlic, broad beans, shallots, blackcurrants, raspberries and lettuces.

This afternoon I went for a stroll to Scabbacombe Bay. Clear weather and waters. A spot of fruitless spinning from the rocks and some photography.

In the next bay I sat in quiet spot on the cliffs and watched a pair of Peregrin falcons patrolling the cliffs.

mardi, avril 7

Basking in the sunshine

Easter week in Aleu and the weather is glorious. Most had a bit too much sun today and are resting with sunburn! As usual it's a mixture of work and relaxation for me...with trips to see the SMDEA, Notaire, clients and builders, plus some logging. 

After a family effort to move some of the stacked firewood from Le Sarrach, on Sunday we made a circuit via the Col de Saraille and Col de Bidal with a fruitless search for morels.

Monday was mostly relaxing for the kids, whilst I cleared and logged the trees which fell into Paul's field last winter, with an afternoon trip to Joubac for Susie, Jasper and I.

A trip to the Notaire this morning then more sun as Susie tidied the garden and planted more shrubs and herbs, whilst I started refencing Paul's field.

dimanche, mars 22

Wistmans wood

High pressure in the South West at the moment so we're making the most of it. Susie drove us to Wistmans wood near Two Bridges. An opportunity for Jasper to add to his photography A-level "woodlands" project and for Susie and I to take photos also. These are mine.

Also spotted a solitary lesser redpoll, but it moved away too quickly for me to take a photo.

Susie's great photo with flattened perspective

mardi, mars 17

Another snowy night before leaving for the UK but things were melting fast! On the journey home, discussions with potential purchasers and after some negotiations La Falaise at Pont de la Taule is now SOLD!

dimanche, mars 15

After three viewings at La Falaise interspersed with more painting and varnishing it was time to spend a few hours on Quélébu - making shutters for the bathroom window.

Most of the week has been glorious sunshine (20 degrees +), but rain on Friday gave way to snow on Friday night. Heavy snow showers have continued all weekend. I suddenly realised at 2.30 on Saturday that my next trip here with the family sees us arriving on Good Friday. In France 'holiday' means 'holiday' (they don't even do Sunday trading) so the first four days here would be with shops closed. A mad dash to the supermarket ensued to get food for us all. On the way back I noticed the screen wash in the car had stopped working, then the battery went flat! Transpires the Suzuki has the washer fluid in the same duct as the electrical wires. The pipe had frozen and the expanding ice plug had disconnected a pipe joiner. I could see the water dripping from the rear of the car but to get to the connector involved removing the bumper, rear lights, wheel trims, rear seats, interior trim, rear seatbelt and taking the skin off my knuckles....all in the ensuing blizzard. Nice.

Sunday afternoon a trip to see Justin (who has just returned from Toulouse Hospital after back surgery), Emily and the twins. I gave them a break by taking Myla and Thea upto the Col du Port in the blizzard for some major snowball fighting, sledging and snow-bear making. 

jeudi, mars 12

Latest selection of photos of La Falaise - SOLD

A new window in the front door, a new fence, redecoration throughout including some colour changes...just 89,000 euros...

See here for a detailed description.

mercredi, mars 11

Works at Pont continue...lots of painting and today strimming and the creation of a fence. It makes the house feel more private and hides my neighbour Philippe's temporary pile of building materials for his on-going renovation.

This evening the sun set twice...either side of Cap de Bouriex.
Tomorrow the planners (DDT) to discuss their u-turn on my barn/gite conversion.

lundi, mars 9

Pont works

Long days at La Falaise repairing the damage from my lovely tenants. Repaired the shower and hot water system, re-glazed the skylights, mended the bathroom extract, re-hung the radiator in the kitchen, I've installed a window in the front door which makes the entrance much lighter.

The balcony guarding, which the tenants all but destroyed, is now repaired.

Kitchen floor re-varnished.

Living room repainted, floor re-varnished and broken lamps in the dining room replaced.

Much work outside also, burning rubbish and strimming.

By the time I get home this is all I see!!

dimanche, mars 8

Back home in France to finish the repairs to La Falaise at Pont de la Taule.

My planning application to turn our barn into a gite has been refused. I have made two other applications for almost exactly the same conversion of barns to gites, in the same commune, under the same the same Plan d'Occupation des Sols, in the same Zone Non-constructible - and both have been approved. It makes no sense.

The reason for refusal is to safeguard agriculture. The only pocket of agricultural land here is owned by me, has been created by me, fenced by me and is maintained by me. The sheep which grazed it were mine. A hectare or so of land is not large enough for an Exploitation Agricole, the barn is too small for modern bales and would not comply with the Normes Francaises for ventilation if it were to be used to legally house animals. The future of marginal land here is as part of Agro-tourism. With a gite, we could subsidise our small holding, supplement our income, sell our surplus home grown produce to our paying guests. Surely that is why the Le Parc Regional Des Pyrenees Ariegeoise exists?

I will have to resubmit the application, hopefully with a letter of support from the Maire and the Chambre d'Agriculture.

jeudi, février 26

For Susie's birthday we made a family trip to the glorious Bath Spa and luxuriated in the hot spa waters. A sushi lunch followed.

Susie followed this up by passing her driving test - yippee!

Architecture work is busy with the private house in Hastings now under construction and smaller construction projects also on the go. I also found some time for trying my hand at electronics and managed to fix my old Nokia lumia 620 for Susie by replacing some damaged components with a new solder iron.

A short walk from the house (quarter of a mile) is the Dart Valley Steam Railway. I went for a bit of an explore in that direction yesterday and a little further along the road I spotted a nylon stuffsack which was lying deep in the undergrowth by a stream some distance from the road. I clambered down to investigate and it turned out to be a down sleeping bag. Very wet and smelly but intact. Several hours of washing and soaking it in downwash in our bath, plus a trip to the laundrette for drying and the down seems to have regained it's loft. It'll come in handy for visitors joining us in the mountains.

dimanche, février 15

Back to blighty

After a couple of days cleaning and redecorating at La Falaise (Pont de la Taule) it was once again time to head for the UK.

Despite the warm sunny weather still a good covering of snow at Quélébu.

Back in Totnes no snow, but there are snowdrops.

mardi, février 10


A great days skiing at Guzet today with Ian and Barry. The sun shone, nowhere was too busy (even though it's half term in the SW), and the snow was divine. Perfect for trying out my new set-up.

My Dynafit Neo's are amazing. The first boots that actually fit me and hold my heel. Skiing without my toes gripping to stop my feet lifting out of the boot is a revelation.

My new skis (K2 Wayback 88's) are also lovely. They're not designed for skiing the pistes at a resort (though they did just fine) but today was a good opportunity to get a feel for them and they didn't disappoint. I think they'll do me just fine for touring.

lundi, février 9

Timelapse from the bedroom window this morning

dimanche, février 8

Cold and Snowy

Back to France and lots of snow (not surprisingly), but rather more than I thought there would be. Still about 50cm at the house and even snow in Toulouse still. After the usual essential shopping, I arrived at the house at about 4.30pm. The fire and rayburn have been burning most of the time since I got back, but after 10 days of sub-zero temperatures, it's taking a while to warm the house through. The sun shined for a few hours today (the first time in a week - which is most unusual) but it is set to shine every day for the next week so that should help warm things up!

This morning I was keen to try out the new ski-touring set up and as there was plenty of snow on Joubac (the 1000m hill behind the village) I decided to make a quick tour. It was very cold this morning but I made a quick ascent from La Bordasse, the summit coming as something of a surprise - I thought I had much further to go!

Alas the deep snow had a nasty 2" crust on it which made for a horrible descent. I opted to mostly traverse and sideslip after a couple of tail catching turns which nearly tipped me over. On the descent through the woods things were a little better with softer powder, but the woods are very dense and it was hard to find an uninterrupted path.

The boots are great and although it was difficult to assess the skis on today's short trip in difficult conditions, I'll get out on the pistes on Tuesday to really try them.

I popped over to see John and Sandrine in the afternoon, then went to the Mairie for a belated "Galette de Roi". Most the permanent residents were there and it was good to catch up. It was also John's 90th birthday (John from Courex and brother of Gustau). Apparently, Margot who used to live at Coumelary is 90 this month too.

Tomorrow I need to fill the woodstore and keep the fires going, before heading over to Pont to start the redecoration works.

dimanche, février 1

Lots of snow

Over 160cm (5ft 6") of snow in the last couple of days and still falling.

samedi, janvier 31


Snowing hard in the Pyrénées this weekend with snow falling all next week according to Meteo France. I'm still in Devon until next weekend and itching to ski!

I've finally decided to get a ski helmet and chose the Giro Montane. Lightweight (about 350g), with vents to keep your goggles clear of fogging, openable vents to keep your head cool on the up and neat system for strapping it to your rucksack using the rear goggle retaining strap and a natty little carabiner (supplied and stowed on the strap). Fits very securely and comfortably. I got a black one - only because it was way cheaper than any other colour.

This week I've glazing in an irregularly shaped courtyard at the rear of a shop. Lots of rendering and lead work at the edges, not helped by appalling weather on Thursday - always the way with roofing.

samedi, janvier 17

Susie's new camera

Susie has been increasingly getting interested in photography so for the last couple of months I've been watching lumix LX7's on ebay and I finally managed to get one a good price last week.  It's a great little camera and Susie's just starting to get to know it. Some of her photos taken today are below. 

yours truly

sparkles through a dead leaf


atmospheric soft focus


reflection in a water tank

macro crocus