EASTER to 30TH JUNE 2003

Did not intend such a long gap between newsletters, but since Easter the weather has been very hot most of the time with hardly any rain, so after a day's building work I have been carrying watering cans about and the time has just disappeared, so "What has been happening?" I hear you saying.

I had put no. 2 on the market just before Easter, I have had one person look round but no real interest, so that looks like a dead duck. As am having problems with tenants my hand is being forced towards selling 65 Egremont Street.

Second week in April found me at the Notary's office having all but emptied my bank accounts to pay for no. 3, so now I am legal owner of all my little empire - with the diminished bank accounts I did have a panic attack in the form of "Pratt what have you done". This lasted for 30 secs and I took Huguette, Pierre and Monique out to lunch to celebrate. I am glad to say that nothing has changed in the relationship with my neighbours since I have paid for the property. I told them before it was signed over that it did not mean it would be PRIVATE and out of bounds they could still walk round the land and store things in the barn, which I am glad to say they are doing. I know this is important to Huguette as it meant a lot to the late Armour, also to Monique as she was born in my maison no.3, and since my understanding of French has improved, she has started telling me memories of her childhood and teens during the war.

I am now a tractor boy, as I have bought a small tractor mower. I have nearly convinced myself that looking after the estate would be impossible without it and it is not just a big boy toy. It took me 5 hours to do the 1st cut followed by 3 hours strimming. My vegetable patches have done well despite very little rain and bionic French weeds that grow as you watch them, one of which grew to 2.5m in 3 weeks till I cut it down fearing visitations from giants.

Strawberries were wonderful and plentiful, spinach and peas were good and the surplus in the freezer; radishes and lettuce a-plenty; will be eating first courgettes and haricot beans today.

Just been summoned by Pierre for a Sunday lunchtime glass of wine then must go to the Bibliotheques to change my DVDs, will resume this afternoon.

Back again with new DVDs, on the way back did a bit of a detour, and guess what, found a small bar, which has the makings of an Angel in the good old days and its only 3km away on back roads, LIFE COULD CHANGE!

Back to what's been happening, I think I have about covered the outside activities, with the exception of the Mouton. Yes - early Juin saw the arrival of 2 sheep - a male and female. These are quite happily cutting l'herbe on the meadow and since no rain the tractor is a redundant big boy toy a que.
Polly became quite upset at the arrival of Barrington and Jewel - it seemed apt - that she pissed off for 2 days, I was distraught but after posting missing pictures of her, she returned. After a long chat and an assurance that they would not be sleeping with us on the bed she is happy.

My French neighbours were as upset as me at her disappearance and helped me search the hedgerows. Even my 85 year old farmer neighbour checked all his barns. What fantastic people. On her return Pierre opened a bottle of bubbly.

With the arrival of the tractor and sheep Hubert, who farms some land next to me, christened me Gentleman Farmer. I think there has been some derogatory comment about English farmers in the French press recently. I know it was meant as a slur, but me being me produced a sign of Bar Gentleman farmer and hung it over my 2 outside chairs, he could not believe I could take the piss out of myself and has become a regular visitor.

Due to the amount of time required to maintain the grounds and sheep - I was going to get some Ducks as well, but Huguette's poultry were all but wiped out by a visit from a fox - not much building work has been done. No.1 has been finished inside and out with the exception of fitting the kitchen units and bathroom suite, this will be finished by July and I hope to have enough money left to furnish it, so by early August I will be looking for paying visitors.

My social life is on the quiet side: been to a party with some English friends but the highlight was a few weeks ago when I was invited to a French Sunday lunch BBQ and we ended up playing petanque, best day I have had for quite a few years.

11 months in France, still a happy boy: we are getting there.

Polly Perdu!

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