Newsletter - December 2009


Hello again, friends.


              Its been a hectic time since the August newsletter, for reasons which will be explained, so I thought I’d have an early Newsletter for once!


              The rest of August was quiet, as our early visitors had gone, and we were able to do things locally such as Beryl joining a group from Plan which went on the bus to Aix-en-Provence to see the Picasso exhibition (and do a bit of shopping). We arranged a lunch for Ernst and Helene who used to run the Osteria restaurant in the village, together with a number of our friends who also patronised it at the time. It was a lovely day and we dined on the terrace, and a good time was had by all. In early September it is the time of the vendange (grape harvest), and we had to rely on our neighbour to do it for us as our original man has retired. Probably because of the lack of careful attention, we had a very poor yield this year which has reinforced our intention to pull up the vines and plant something else more easily looked after.


              Throughout all this time we had day after perfect day of blue skies and sunshine, but that came to an end on 18 September when rain was announced. During the night we had heavy rain at times, during which about 50mm fell. During the following day it continued to rain but not very strongly until the evening when a thunderstorm started up about 6.30 pm. Very heavy rain fell and the ground in front of our house filled up with water to a giant puddle about 6 inches deep. Water was pouring off the adjacent vineyards on to the road then on to us. At about 1030 pm the puddle overflowed the walls which had been containing it and poured down the slope to the basement, accompanied by dead leaves, mud and detritus of all sorts, effectively blocking the drains at the bottom. With nowhere to go the water rose in front of the sliding glass doors to the basement and the shutters in front of them, reaching a height of almost 2 metres, when the shutters buckled and glass in the doors broke, letting a wave of water into the basement. There was nothing we could do except watch things floating past from the top of the stairs. Fortunately, I had been able to open the door of a room which had a drain in it, and the water could slowly drain away. When the water came in we had to turn off the electricity to the basement and in any event the power went out shortly afterwards and was off most of the night.


              Next morning the water had pretty well all gone but the scene was very discouraging. Everything had been carried around by the inrushing water, many things had floated and then sunk, racks of tools were full of water, mud covered all horizontal surfaces, and so on. We got to work moving everything out of the basement to dry in the sun, washing off the mud, helped by our neighbour who being stronger than either of us, did the lions share of the work. Then began the business of cleaning everything, checking whether it was still usable and repairing those that were damaged, which went on for weeks. The Insurance company sent a firm of glaziers down to do something about the doors, they temporarily fixed the shutters and told us it would take 6 weeks before the replacement doors could be installed (custom made). As the boiler and the pool pump had been submerged, we had to get men in to dismantle them, dry them out and reassemble them, and then test them out. We were lucky with the boiler, which was OK with a few spare parts installed, but the pool pump had to be replaced.


              We had just got over the immediate effects of this when our next visitors arrived, Chris Marwood and her friend Trish from Perth, Australia, so we gave ourselves a break and enjoyed their company for the few days they were with us. It was Chris’ second visit to us and it was nice to see her and catch up on news.


              Our friend Ken Round had arranged a boat trip on the Rhine and was going to be in Paris in early October, so it was agreed that I and two other friends from schooldays would meet up for dinner with him. The other two live in England and decided to come on the Eurostar, and I thought I would try out the TGV which I had heard lots about but never travelled on. I got on the TGV at our nearest station, Les Arcs, about half-an-hour’s drive away, and found it a great experience. Silent, smooth, comfortable it was from the start, as between here and Marseille it runs on normal tracks and does not exceed 120 km/hr, but when we left the Aix/Marseille TGV station with the next stop Paris, it really showed its paces, accelerating very quickly and smoothly up to 300 km/hr. A taxi from Gare de Lyon to the hotel (the Pullman Eiffel Tower) and shortly after met up with the guys in the bar. We had a very enjoyable few days, excellent dinners and the weather was dry if not very sunny.


              The same day I got back home, our next visitors, Gordon and Ann from Kanata, arrived and we enjoyed their company for the week they were with us, including a trip to Menton to lunch with an old friend of Gill’s. During Gordon and Ann’s stay, it was our 50th wedding anniversary and we all went out to the Resto L’Amiral for dinner, located in Ste Maxime port.


              The Marwoods had hardly left us when we had a repeat of the deluge of September, and came very close to being flooded again. We had almost as much rain, but it didn’t fall quite so heavily as the September storm, and just as it was about to overflow the walls, the rain stopped and we were saved! It had been announced that the September event was only expected once in 50 years, so although I had plans to do something about the drainage, I hadn’t started on it when the second lot came along. The day after that though, I started on an emergency drain which should empty the front area where the water collects as fast as it arrives. As the work involves breaking up concrete, I’m still working on it!


              Since then, the weather has been lovely, sunny and mild, day after day. A couple of weeks ago we went out for a drive to Cavalaire (around the point from St Tropez) and had lunch at a restaurant in the port, taking the scenic route via Le Mole back home.


              At the end of the month, the copies of Windows 7 that I had ordered at the special price in the summer finally arrived, and I made some improvements to my most recent computer to run it (solid-state disk drive, and faster graphics card). It installed with no problems in 20 minutes and is working fine.


              I’ve been having some extended dental work done after a tooth broke - the dentist offered to make a triple crown embodying a bridge to repair the broken tooth, an old crown on a nearby tooth, and to fill in the space left by a tooth that had been extracted. It took a lot of work but the final result is great and I am very pleased to have better munching power!


              It was Anna’s 12th birthday recently and we thought it would be nice to be able to see them on a video link, so as Caroline had already installed Skype on her computer with webcam and audio, we went for the same solution and it worked fine! When the day came, we were able to see and chat with the birthday girl which was great. We have also had similar seances with Julia and of course Caroline and Francesco.


              Recent news includes attending the annual Remembrance Day ceremony in the village, the replacement this week of the basement sliding doors (Hooray! finally!), a visit to St Tropez to see the dermatologist after which we had lunch by the port overlooking the sea, and some preparations for Christmas.


On that note I will end in wishing all our friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. We’ll be thinking of y’all.


Love - Alan and Beryl