End-of-2001 Newsletter

Dear friends,

Two and a half months have passed since my last update and this one brings us up to the start of the New Year of 2002. At the time of the last one, we were awaiting the arrival of Bert and Alison Bridgewater, friends from Ottawa and Bert and I had been colleagues at work on and off since 1970. They arrived on October 15th in time for dinner after a good run from Toulouse. The following day we took them to the Lorgues street market followed by the now traditional visit to Sillans La Cascade for lunch on the terrace of the Hotel Les Pins. We returned via the wine area around Cotignac. The next day Bert and Alison wanted to climb up our mountain, Petiache, so we set out after breakfast up the steep deeply rutted track that goes straight up the side. It was hard work but we finally made the summit and then walked back the long way, back in time for aperitif and lunch on the terrace, followed by a rest! The next day our visitors took themselves off to Antibes and did some exploring in the area, lunching at St Paul de Vence. On the Friday we all went to Sainte Maxime, where it was market day. On the Saturday we had booked to go to a picnic at Vidauban where the Transhumance Jazz Band would perform, but on the day bad weather warnings were issued so we decided not to go. Just as well, as at about 2 pm heavy rain started. The following day, our visitors left for Toulouse and the meeting which had brought them over in the first place. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing them.

After the rain I decided that the ground in our parking area would have softened enough to allow me to bury a pipe which would carry well water to the front of the house for irrigation purposes. It didn't quite work out that way but I managed to cut out a shallow trench for the pipe and bury it, and then connect it up so that all our irrigation was now on the well, leaving the city water just for house use.

On Sunday 28th October we went to the chestnut festival in La Garde Freinet, the neighbouring village with several friends and spent a pleasant few hours touring the stands and chatting to friends and people we met, not to mention tasting wine and food and eating roast chestnuts. Then we headed off down the hill to Cogolin to a new restaurant that had been well written up, where we had an excellent meal on the terrace. On 31st October I went to the mairie to pick up my French Drivers Licence which (unlike the UK one) has no time limit on my right to drive a car. So that is one more worry taken care of. I got the licence by exchanging my UK one under EEC regulations.

Our next foray was to Toulon to find the new IKEA store opened this year. We found it with surprisingly little difficulty, got what we wanted, visited a couple of other stores and came home to a lunch on the terrace of smoked salmon and Sancerre (much better than shopping centre restaurants!). We went to the VIAC AGM held at a hotel at St Raphael and had a good lunch as well as the aperitifs. A few days later we attended a Belle Epoch evening at the Chateau de Berne in aid of MS research - the entertainment was good but the meal disappointing. A couple of days later was the wine festival at Taradeau which provided a great lunch of daube of sanglier (wild boar) and excellent entertainment during lunch and, of course, endless amounts of the wine.

We took the four large kitchen cupboard doors off and to Cogolin for stripping. This took a while but we were pleased with the job they did. Then we put them back and rubbed in the ceruse (liming) compound to whiten them, followed by two coats of polyurethane, so that now they match the rest of the kitchen cupboards and drawer units and look very nice.

On the run up to Christmas, Beryl took herself off to drive to Antibes on the motorway to find an English shop which sells mincemeat, lard and other delicacies essential to Christmas. This was so successful that she went again the following week with friends to finish the job! On Dec. 7th we went with our French neighbours, the Padovanis, to the Soupe au Pistou held in the Foyer des Camapgnes in the village. We were the only Anglais there out of about 120 people but we had a very good time. The huge tureens of lovely soup made the rounds four times, but nobody had told us that after the soup there was roast pork and beans, followed by cheese, and dessert. There was a disco going on during all this with lots of clowning about. Quite an experience!

Caroline and family arrived from Ferrara on Dec 21st and stayed with us over Christmas, leaving on 28th. It was lovely to share Christmas with the little girls for whom it was all new, magic and wonder. We went to see Santa arrive at St Tropez in his "boat", this also was magic except that we were standing too close to the loundspeakers and the mighty music was rather too loud for the children. There was a lovely firework display at the same time, the explosions from which rather frightened Anna, so the results were mixed, but I'll bet they remember that experience for quite a while.

Weather has been weird all the year. We had no rain at all from May to September, then a few days of rain in October and November, and none since mid-November, so it is very dry. A big anticyclone has been circling around Europe for the past two months, so we have had lots of sunshine but quite a lot of wind and frosts in the morning. Unfortunately, the stay of the grandchildren here coincided with a persistent strong mistral, which discouraged playing outside. That's about it to bring us up to date. I'll conclude by wishing all of you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year and Good Health.

Love from Alan and Beryl

January 1st 2002