Newsletter from Alan and Beryl - February 2003

Dear friends,

I've been meaning to write this newsletter since the end of last year, and it has only been now, with Beryl off to Florida that I have got down to it. The several months since my last news has been quite a busy time, especially as we had a visit of Caroline and family at the beginning of November, and then the Christmas period. It was nice to see the granddaughters again and they certainly kept us busy, and I think enjoyed their stay here, helping Grandma in the kitchen and playing with toys they hadn't seen for a while. They went down to the beach at Ste Maxime once, and Anna insisted on going in the sea, which it being November, was not particularly warm! Their return to Ferrara was followed by a spell of quite wet weather during which I think we caught up on the rainfall deficit.

On November 17th we went to the Taradeau wine festival, along with a lot of other people and had a great time. The lunch, for about 500 people, was in the village hall, and this year was daube of sanglier (wild boar), accompanied of course by the local wine in inexhaustible quantities. After the meal there was the entertainment, which this year had gone modern. No more Provence dancers or local band, but a high tech disco with flashing lights, karaoke, and artistes to match. Some of the acts were quite good, but I decided I preferred the old stuff - too late as it is probably gone for ever. On the night of 18 November, forewarned by Astronomy magazine, was the Leonid meteor shower, this year forecast to be a storm, so I decided to get up at 4 am and watch. I had a comfortable chair set up in the best viewing position and the sky was clear and it wasn't too cold, so it just depended on the meteors. I watched from 0400 until 0515 during which time I saw 200 meteorites, at the peak, they were coming at the rate of 400 per hour, so it was quite a sight. It would probably have been better had there not been a full moon in the sky, which meant that the fainter meteorites were washed out by the moonlight. Anyway, an interesting and worthwhile experience.

We did some more fixing up of the basement, putting in power points and painting Beryl's room (where the girls like to go to draw and paint when they are here), and sorting out the wine cave stocks. We also built a sort of permanent greenhouse outside, out of polycarbonate sheet, to put the sensitive plants in during the winter. It turned out to be a good thing, as we have had quite a cool winter with numerous days starting with a frost, although no snow here and the pool has not frozen over, which has happened on previous years. The plants, such as hibiscus, diplodenia, fuschia, etc., look quite happy in their new quarters. Soon it will be time to bring them out, which will be a true sign of spring!

In December, Caroline and family had bought a house in Ferrara and naturally, were busy turning it into home and wanted to spend Christmas there. We weren't keen on travelling to Ferrara at that time so we decided to stay here and have Christmas at home. We invited two couples of friends to join us for Christmas lunch, which was traditional turkey and trimmings, well supported by good French wines and a good time was had by all. Boxing day meant drinks at the home of some Brits who we met at another party just before Christmas, and the following day we were invited to supper at another Brit couple who we had met at the previous party! So it was a busy but very enjoyable period.

On Dec. 28th we met Beryl's cousin Susan from Australia who stayed with us only a couple of days. They hadn't seen each other for 35 years, so there was a lot of catching up to do! Then it was time for New Years Eve, and another party at friends in Plan de la Tour. January came in with a feeling that we needed to get our breath and take it easy for a while. This was made easier by the weather which has been rather windy (frequent mistrals), which discourages one from doing much outside, even though it isn't usually very cold. January is also time for dinner parties and visits to the few restaurants that are still open, where everyone talks to everyone else and the fireplace emits a welcoming glow.

Yesterday we got up at 3.45 am as it was the day Beryl had booked to travel to Florida for a two-week stay with her sister, Pam. More news on that in the next newsletter!

All good wishes to our friends for 2003

Love from Alan and Beryl