mercredi 31 octobre 2007

There was an Englishman, a Frenchman and a Czech..

The Czech lorry driver returned this morning and I went to meet him at Castet. His lorry was 10 - 11m long, far too big to negotiate the corner in Castet d'Aleu. After greeting him in impecable Czech, I asked him how he was "Jak se mate?" Obviously thinking I spoke fluent Czech he immediately launched into a long response. I'm not too sure of the exact content but reading between the lines I think he said something like..."I waited here all bloody day yesterday and you didn't show up, so last night I had to sleep in my cab and it was f***ing freezing mate, to make matters worse I am travelling with my ex-wife's 60 year old father who has a 50% share in my truck, I hate him and he has terrible flatulance at night and he has the top bunk" which point I interupted him with "Mluvite Anglicky?" (do you speak English?). "No only Czech" he replied (in Czech of course). I think he then realised I didn't understand a word he was saying.

After some hopeless sign language in Franglais I returned home to fetch my trailer. I knew it would be too small for even 1 of the 18 bales of reed which I needed to collect, each of which was about 2.5m long by 1m diameter and weighing close to 300kg. After visits to locals I was unable to find a larger trailer at short notice but Paul in Aleu suggested I asked at the shop in Castet for directions to Monsieur Durand who had a lorry. I tracked him down and he came on his bicycle to look at the load to be shifted. He agreed to help.

The driver and I unloaded the lorry into a layby whilst he swore at his father-in-law who had the job of freewheeeling the lorry forward as we rolled the bales out of the back of the trailer. I bid 'Bonne Voyage' to the driver, ferried the ridge tiles and thatch fixings to Quelebu in my little trailer before returning to meet Monsieur Durand. Fortunately he had a forklift to go with his 1950's Saviem lorry (both about the same vintage). His lorry could just take 3 bales and managed between 5 and 15 mph on the steep hill upto Quelebu. It took until after dark (6.30) to shift the final load but at last they're all here. There's snow down to about 1200m at the moment and it was pretty cold today so I was glad to finish.

mardi 30 octobre 2007


Today I was in St Gaudens all day getting my car serviced - meantime the reed and fixings for the roof arrived with a Czech courier (4 days early). He didn't fancy the tight turn to Aleu so has retreated to St girons for the night. Tomorrow hopefully I can marshall him around the tight corner and help him unload the 18 bales of reed. A good chance to practice my Czech - Ahoj! Jak se mate? Mluvite anglicky? To je hrozne pocasi!

lundi 29 octobre 2007


After way too long I went rock climbing with Ian and Nina this afternoon at a crag near St G. Climbed 4 or 5 routes at 5b and just as we were getting back into the swing of things the heavens opened.

Bad weather for the next few days but the good news is that the thatchers will arrive Thursday pm with the reed arriving the next day - so hopefully I'll have a roof soon.

vendredi 26 octobre 2007

This years jelly

Apple and Chillie with a bit more 'kick' than previous years.

Legs are a bit stiff after yesterday.

jeudi 25 octobre 2007

Pic de la Lesse, Pic des Trois Comtes, Pic de Puntussan

Etang Garbet

An early start in dense cloud from about 6km upstream from Aulus les Bains this morning. By the time I reached the Etang Garbet I had climbed above the cloud but it chased me up the mountain. At the Etang Bleu everything was frozen and I left the path behind as I struck up across the mountainside to reach Pic de la Lesse.

The view of the route ahead from Pic de la Lesse - On the right Pic de Puntussan, in the middle Pic des Trois Comtes (partly hidden behind an unnamed pic on the ridge climbed on the way).

Some pleasant scrambling (in the sun briefly) lead to Pic des Trois Comtes and by 2.00 I was on the top of Pic de Puntussan. There was plenty of snow on the ground and a fair bit of verglas on the rocks. On the Pic the cloud finally engulfed me.

Atmosheric conditions produced a Brocken Spectre.

The long descent in difficult pathless terrain, zero visibility and light snow then heavy rain proved very difficult and several times I had to reascend steep slopes and ravins to keep on track. By 5.30 I was still high on the mountain and not certain of my position and benightment seemed a distinct possibilty. Eventually after 4 hours of exhausting descent through rocks, bilberry and tussuck grass I reached a path (the first since early morning) and as twilight fell I reached the top of the Cascade d'Ars. (NOTE : I would not recommend this route either in ascent or descent and certainly not in poor visibilty).

I just managed to descend to the good piste before dark and a long trudge back to Aulus and then the 6km back to the car in pitch darkness saw me safely down. A long and trying 11 hour day with over 2200m of ascent and about 23km in all.

mercredi 24 octobre 2007


After breaking my balls all summer to build the barn and re-roof the house in less than 10 weeks, some of you may be wondering what has happened to the thatching or rather the thatchers? Well you and me both! After managing to be ready for the agreed 'start date' of mid-September, this has been pushed back to early October, then mid-October and the latest is first week of November! Meantime winter approaches and I freeze my nuts off living in a house with only felt for a roof and no insulation. If the snow arrives early I'm done for.

The staircase for the barn was poured today (concrete steps on top of stonework). The living room curtains are 3/4 finished (one more to make) and this years batch of Apple and Chillie Jelly is ready for boiling and bottling.

The autumn high pressure continues with crystal clear skies, so tomorrow another day in the mountains probably Puntussan and the Pic des Trois Comtes.

vendredi 19 octobre 2007

Pic de la Pale

A longish day in the mountains today, we planned to climb Mont Valier from the Col de la Pause via the Port d'Aula but ended up stopping just short at the Pic de la Pale and found a nice knife edge ridge to a little peak with stunning views.
In the video clips below, Dommy talks to his camera about what kind of person would run along the ridge before I join him on the summit, then we head back to the Col and lunch.

jeudi 18 octobre 2007

Cascade d'Ars, Etang Guzet

On Tuesday a local walk and a huge trawl of mushrooms - enough to make wild mushroom risotto and yesterday a middle mountain walk to the Cascade d'Ars...

...and the Etang Guzet amidst fantastic autumn colours.

lundi 15 octobre 2007

Pic Seron (2)

Dommy and Jon are here for the week and as the weather was beautiful today we did a mountain walk, completing a circuit above Guzet including an ascent of Pic Seron. The Etang d'Aube was a surreal washing-up liquid green.

jeudi 11 octobre 2007

The jinx is lifted

Now the Judds are safely out of french airspace the weather improves and the day dawns clear. Here's the view you never saw - photo taken this morning.

mercredi 10 octobre 2007

Wendy and Matthew visit.

Wendy and Matthew having been staying for a few days after their holiday on the Canal du Midi. The 'Judd jinx' manifested itself as bad weather, and despite staying here for three days they sadly only got glimpses of the view. Nethertheless, we didn't let the bad weather spoil the time together and we went to Foix, the Riviere souterraine de Labouiche (Europes longest underground river), St Lizier and few scenic walks and drives nearer home. Although they left this morning it's still raining!
Chateau de Foix

vendredi 5 octobre 2007


Today had an autumnal feel to it. The leaves are beginning to turn, I harvested the maize and carrots (a mouse beat me to about half of them!) and although it's still warm the day was cloudy and in the late afternoon a thunderstorm. As the roofs are finished, I began work on the stairs to the barn - digging out the clay and then assembling the stonework. It doesn't have to carry any load or be watertight so it's fairly easy compared to the barn walls.

We have a good apple crop this year so the pigs get plenty to eat. The field had some parasol mushrooms in it today so I had plenty to eat too.

mardi 2 octobre 2007

Recent works

The house at Pont de la Taule now has electricity and some lighting too...yippee!
Fields 3 and 4 have been invaded by ground thistles which have smothered the brambles and allowed grass to start growing...hurrah!
The roof has had it's final stones placed on the very top of the gables...huzzah!
The chimney is rendered and has a new hat...tophole!

The table has new lights over it which don't dazzle you and give you third degrees burns...magnifico!
A blog reader dropped in to see me...bonzer!
The front door is now red...halleluja!
The rayburn now has a light over it so I can see to cook...brilliant!
I have curtains in the living room to keep it warm at!