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

samedi, janvier 10

Took a couple of days and 8 trailer loads to clear Pont of all stuff (mostly junk) left behind. I sanded and re-oiled the kitchen worktop, most of the rest of the work I'll leave for the next trip here.

On Friday evening a trip to see Justin, Emily and the twins (only Justin was working very late and I didn't get to see him). I did some magic for the girls - sawing the lady in half and the ripping up a piece of paper then magically restoring it trick. Then they gave me several puppet shows with the glove puppets I bought them for Christmas.  

We built a spaceship with a viewing window for the "kitten and puppy go to the moon" show. As well as playing twister.

 A bit of squash for both puppets to look out of the spaceship window together

Today I was a bit late getting up but decided to get into the hills to try and stretch my back which was sore after the loading, twister and some minor tree felling for John. It's been warm and much of the snow that fell in late December has melted. The official Meteo France snow bulletin said there was patchy snow until about 2000m, so I decided to take snowshoes rather than skis. I headed up to Col de Pause (1527m) but had to walk from 1180m as the track was too snowy. There was plenty of snow from about 1400m certainly enough to ski - I continued all the way to Cour Vic (2119m) which seemed very hard going. Very hot in the sun and I stripped naked to the waist for the last 300m or so. Should have taken the skis! 

 View of Valier from the col below Cour Vic

Looking back to the hairpins climbing (eventually) to the Port d'Aula

mercredi, janvier 7

Back to the South

The best thing about living in the South of France is that whatever the time of year, if the sun shines, the temperature will be in the twenties (at least) - even if there's snow on the ground.

Arrived late on Monday and fog delayed our landing in Toulouse, though thankfully we weren't diverted as has happened on occasion. The remnants of snow from Kerkabanac to Quélebu. On Tuesday the handover of my house at Pont de la Taule from the tenants. Looked for while like they'd "done a runner" leaving the place in a state, but eventually they turned up. They left the place clean, but damaged, with a quite a bit of rubbish to take to the tip. Will try to do that tomorrow and take stock of the repairs to be undertaken. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth when people you try to help, abuse your trust. I think I will be aiming to sell Pont this year rather than re-let.

Submitted the planning application for the barn today...fingers crossed.

mercredi, décembre 31

My main achievement in 2014...finally finishing the extension to Quélébu.

This movie got blocked because the music I used is a recorded by Julian Bream and his record company own the copyright, if I tick a box acknowledging this it gets unblocked - but with Google advertising on it. Something is twisted about that, but at least I get to keep the music unlike on most of my other movies.

It's been a 98% solo effort, but thanks to everyone who helped with the beam lifting, Chris for help with the concreting, Justin for helping with knocking the doorway between the kitchen and living room, Tony and John for helping fix the South facing roof slating, moving the Rayburn and the cast iron bath and of course Susie, Jasper and Ruby.

lundi, décembre 29

xmas break

 Hover fly on early blossoms

A Christmas feast in Hereford with Susie's sisters and their families. Jen and Andrew put on an incredible spread for Christmas dinner of mostly home produce. This year we provided an exotic Boxing Day dinner with a glazed gammon, a parsnip, lentil and watercress bake, a bulgar, pomegranate, onion and haloumi pilaf, gyozo's and sushi. 

Susie making felt with her sisters

Home to Devon in time for a couple of days of dry cold weather which we took advantage of with a walk along the coast.

A bright cold post-Christmas walk along the coast

dimanche, décembre 21

samedi, décembre 20

Dryer, cooler weather in the UK and a chance for some photography and xmas shopping in the market. 

mercredi, décembre 17

Beautiful 4 bed home in the Pyrénées for 89,000 euros (£69,500).

My tenants are moving out in January, so after some redecoration my house at Pont de la Taule (La Falaise) will be available for rent or purchase. Details below:

PONT DE LA TAULE is a small hamlet situated in the heart of the Parc Naturel Regional des Pyrenees Ariegeoise at the confluence of the River Alet and the River Salat. The hamlet benefits from an Auberge with a restaurant. The town of Seix with all local amenities (shops, post office, secondary school, doctors, etc) is less than 10 minutes drive away and the ski station of Guzet Neige is about 20 minutes drive away.

The area is perfect for walking, fishing, mountaineering, canoeing, cycling, (the Tour de France frequently passes through the village) and all winter sports.

The PROPERTY comprises, a HOUSE, a double GARAGE, a BARN, a small OUTBUILDING and LAND and woodland extending to just over 2 acres. The house has been completely renovated with completely new decoration, wiring, plumbing, insulation and septic tank. SPANC has inspected and approved the septic tank, energy rating is yet to be carried out.

The HOUSE is approached by a short path (20m) and stands slightly above the hamlet facing West, profiting from the most sunny location in the hamlet. Although neighbours are nearby, the house is not overlooked and is in a private location towards the edge of the hamlet.

The building probably dates from 1813 and is built from local marble and granite which has been rendered. The roof is of artificial slate and the windows and shutters are of wood (painted).

Immediately inside the entrance is a small CLOAKROOM (2 sqm) with locally riven marble floor slabs, adjoined by a CUPBOARD (2 sqm) containing the water cylinder, and washing machine.

The generous BATHROOM (9 sqm) it carved out of solid rock. It has a shower, wall mounted WC and handbasin and there is ample room to install a bath if desired. The room has an extract fan, electric radiator and large double glazed window.

Also on the ground floor is BEDROOM 1 (24 sqm). The bedroom has exposed beams a new wooden floor and a large window with an original carved marble sink. There is a built in storage cupboard (under stairs) and an electric radiator.

The staircase leads to the first floor comprising the KITCHEN, LIVING/DINING ROOM and TERRACE.

The KITCHEN (15 sqm) is a bright room with original wooden floor and a large double glazed window. A recently fitted kitchen with beech worktop, electric fan oven, ceramic hob and electric radiator.

Adjacent is the LIVING ROOM/DINING ROOM (28 sqm) with original wooden floors, exposed beams, a double glazed window and large fireplace with cast-iron woodburning stove.

A half glazed door leads to the terrace. In an elevated, private and sunny location, the terrace has wood decking and is surrounded by damson trees. A wooden staircase leads up to the garden of approximately 340 sqm which is currently meadow.

The ATTIC storey comprises three further BEDROOMS. Each bedroom is insulated from it’s neighbours for thermal and acoustic privacy, and the roof is insulated with 120mm of mineral wool.

BEDROOM 2 (15 sqm). New wooden floor, rooflight and window (both double glazed) with view up the Salat valley to the mountains on the Spanish frontier.
BEDROOM 3 (8.5 sqm). Original wooden floor and double glazed window. A small L-shaped room, large enough for a single bed and chest of drawers.
BEDROOM 4 (17 sqm). Original wooden floor, rooflight and window (both double glazed).

Opposite the house is the BARN (two floors each of 50 sqm). A stone building under a roof of artificial slates and some original riven stone slates (lauzes).
The upper storey is under an original chestnut framed roof and could be renovated to provide guest accommodation (bunkhouse or similar). Or the roof could be removed to provide a huge terrace in front of the house which catch the morning sun. The ground floor is partly occupied by the septic tank,though the majority of the space remains useful.
Further along the access path and below the garden is another two storey stone OUTBUILDING of about 5 sqm.

A short distance from the HOUSE adjacent to the road are a pair of connected GARAGES of approx 42 sqm. A large space in which a mezzanine could be added. A neighbouring garage has been converted into a chalet.
Further land comes with the property and includes a small parcel bordering the River Salat, a steep area adjacent to the road below the village and two large areas (approximately 1 acres) of steep mixed broadleaved forest on the other side of the River Salat and visible from the TERRACE.

The property is for sale for 89,000 Euros (about £69,500) or for rent at 450 Euros per month + bills (12 month rental minimum)

Please e-mail me at to view the property or for further details. French and English spoken.