Sunday, 4 November 2012


I currently sit in a living room, in November, at 800m alt, whilst it hammers down with rain that has a 1m2 hole in the wall! Why? Today I knocked a hole in it for the flue of your new log burner. Which means that at last we might actually be able to heat our home with wood this week! It will mark the end of a saga worthy of Tolkein, full of waiting and far flung conflict. We ordered our wood and burner way back in July but due to unforeseen circumstances we are only now getting it in. Wood is from just up the road so 2-3 times a week we go up, chainsaw it up and carry it back in our newly acquired citron xsara (a result of the accident in the Landy Grrrrrrrrr) It will take a while but we’ve think we’ve bought enough to last us well into next winter. The installation of the burners will mark a turning point at Chez Powell as we will now be able to make the downsairs of the house look less like a building site and more like a home.

It’s been slow progress here, hence the delay in the post, despite the fact we haven’t stopped. However the eventual B&B rooms are now decorated and “with bed” and we’ve learned how to hand rear baby rabbits. This is because mummy rabbit died a week into their lives and to give them the best chance we’ve bottle fed them. However at such a young age the odds it seems are really stacked against you and despite starting with 10 we now only have 3 living quite happily in the kitchen (Their eventual resting place!) They get infections, drown in milk and just generally struggle with being alive. Hopefully next years litters/mums will fair better.

Playing rugby in France is a different experience a far cry from the physicality I’ve grown used to in Gloucestershire(where training is just as dangerous, if not more so than a game) but there is a lot more support from the town in both numbers and investment. People pay to come and watch and both teams (firsts and reserves) play one after the other with a sizable crowd turning up to watch. I am starting to get used to complex backs move and watching ball get kicked backwards and forwards but I still like to resort to stick it up your jumper and go forwards until you score or someone stops you! Old habits die hard (Oh and Die Hard 5, really?)

Board games and DVD box sets feature heavily in an evening’s entertainment here and we are racking up some heavy scores in Agricola (A farming based very complex game). Buffy the Vampire Slayer is into season 3, so we’re getting dark! It is nice not to have telly (as in “live” or access to iplayer and 4OD). Removes the temptation to just sit and channel hop.

So, here’s to warm evenings, cooking with wood, watching teen horror based comedies and bracing ourselves for “the coldest place on Earth” or “little Russia” as the occupying Germans called la Correze during the war.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Back to the land of the information super highway we return. Two months since our last entry. Takes that long to set up internet in the Correze! But, it arrives via microwaves so we can also thaw out our dinner at the same time as surfing the net!! What a two months it has been. Lots done here and even more still to do. Thought the best way to keep you the devoted reader in the know with this entry is to keep things simple and write a list of things that have been done. I will endeavour to expand, for those of you who are interested at a later date but for now......... In no particular order.

o   Painted rooms white (Mostly done by in laws on their visit)

o   Built two rabbit houses, obtained two rabbits, one at market one from friend, both escaped, both came back, mated rabbits, awaiting results.

o   Learned how to despatch, skin and gut rabbits.

o   Built chicken house and enclosure, got 5 chickens (4 girls 1 cockerel), cockerel escaped and came back, reoccurring theme here?

o   Found traditional fireplace in kitchen, boarded up and, as with most French houses, very “tastefully” decorated.

o   Demolished not so traditional fireplace in living room.

o   Built fence round dog and human garden.

o   Double dug 3 large veg beds and single dug 2 small fruit beds. 3 more veg beds to go but I’m on digging strike until the weather cools down. Digging in 30oC is not fun.

o   Been given two ovens, one electric one wood fuelled (For the traditional fireplace in the kitchen.

o   Written off the Land Rover. Discovered that the garage owner had sent wrong paperwork to DVLA. AAARRRGGGHHHHH!!

o   Drove the mayor’s car for a week.

o   Bought a French car.

o   Filled out ALOT of French paperwork.

o   Discovered a new unit of time. The Correzian Moment.

o   Played my French debut performance. Went down a lot better than my Belgian debut (No jazz just Nick Drake, didn’t go down well but that’s a different story)

o   Destroyed a drill bit trying to drill through Granite walls.

o   Met a lot of very nice people who have been very helpful.

o   Signed up for the local rugby team and have discovered that the ERFU haven’t changed since 1900.

o   Eaten a lot of cheese, bread and some strange sausages but despite this am losing weight, happy happy days!

o   Broken countless glasses and things on the tiled unbreakable floor.

Well not all plain sailing but we are now eating eggs and veg from the garden and enjoyed the good weather so we are now finally on the way to achieving the goal of self sufficiency en France. I hope that you will keep reading as our adventures surely will get harder as the year progresses . And finally as promised............

Monday, 4 June 2012

Start Spreading the News.........

The scenery changes as you leave Eymoutiers and climb uphill into la Correze. It changes from rolling hills, fields and little woods into dark forests, little meadows and soaring buzzards. Despite the fact they are both in the Limousin they could be in completely different ends of the country. The only clue to the fact that they are in the same Region is the ever present Limousin cow, a sort of tidier version of its Scottish highland cousin.

Tomorrow, when we cross the departmental boarder we will be doing it as full time French residents. It will be the second time we’ve done it this week. Last week we set off from Portsmouth (An SO postcode but everyone in Hampshire knows that Locks Heath is in Portsmouth really!)  with a tail lift van packed to the rafters with all our worldly possessions. Overnight on the cheap and cheerful LD lines ferry and seven hour drive across what feels like the entire length of France, but in reality only half of it, and we arrived in Bugeat. Bugeat is our closest town and despite the fact it is only the size of a small Cotswold village has a butchers, bakers (No candlestick makers) a newsagent, a small supermarket, a vet, a doctors, a school and college, 3 restaurants, 3 garages and a train station. We stayed overnight in a B&B ran by some fellow ex-pats. Great place with a friendly dog and even friendlier owners. Within 2 hours of staying there we were given an old wood fuelled oven to install at chez Powell and an introduction to Correze generosity. This sort of thing happens all the time apparently, one story tells of a couple who took their aged Labrador to the vet for its final visit and came away with a stay Alsatian cross as compensation! The next day involved signing the deeds, translated for us with another expat from the town. By 6.30pm we were unpacked and settled into our electric-less, waterless house that is now, home.

A winter where temperatures reached -27oC led to pipes freezing and bursting all over the region so to find two in a house where no one has lived for two years wasn’t really a surprise, but a broken meter demonstrated how damaging these low temperatures can be. It did give us an opportunity to experience a French DIY store which was all we hoped it would be. Eyed with suspicion as soon as we spoke English to one another and it took nearly half an hour for the shop worker to collect the lawnmower from the back that we decided to get at the same time. However this was all done with a friendliness seldom seen in the English counterparts. Whilst we waited everyone who walked past us nodded and said “Bonjour” and we ended up with some free copper pipe to fix our burst pipes because it was the last one left and had a very slight bend in it.

So, tomorrow we leave for France for the final time. The new old car (a second hand r reg Land Rover Discovery with rusty wheel arches and a leaky sunroof) is packed with what is left of our stuff, clothes, some food, a couple of board games and 8 tomato plants. The boy is in bed and the dogs wish they were. All ready for the final long drive through the ever changing scenery of France. The new life starts here. The house won’t have electrics until next week so we will be effectively camping in our own home. We have to mow the lawn because vipers are a real danger in the region and put up a fence because our stupid dog will simply run off into the forests if we don’t. I thought I would be nervous or having regrets but I am neither. The move can’t come soon enough and, other than friends and relatives (some of them!) I can’t think of anything I will miss about England. I’ve even got a rugby team to play for, although the picture in the bar in Bugeat makes them look very young and fit so back to second team rugby I go after reliving the first team dream in Hampshire for four months. I am looking forward to producing my own food, hearing nothing but animals for hours on end, owning a house outright with no mortgage at 32, sending my son to an education system where excellence is encouraged and mediocrity and poor behaviour are treated with contempt and generally living a more meaningful life. It will be a while until there is another blog as there is no telephone or internet currently at the house so until it’s connected. A bientot.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Soap Box Time

OK, time to write again. Unfortunately there is not a lot to report on the Great Correzian Adventure as we are still waiting for the Notaire to do their thing, although apparently all the land they said there is is ours and not François’s from No. 43 Viam high street! Now we need to find out if there is a footpath running through it.

So, in the first blog I promised some reasons for the move and some strong opinions about stuff (I have been told that I’m fairly opinionated so this bit could be fun) Feel free to agree/disagree and comment, I like a good debate. Anyone who tells me to die in various horrible ways, as I have observed happens whenever anyone ventures an opinion on the internet, can consider themselves to be told to “perform sexual intercourse somewhere else” (Quote form Ken Haslam my old biology teacher) until such a time that they grow up and can debate in a more civilised manner.

Why are we leaving Britain? There are a number of reasons.

 To be quite frank one of them is money. There isn’t a cat in hells chance we could buy some where to do what we want to do in Britain so we looked elsewhere. Bavaria was an option for a while but German house prices are similar to Britain’s so no joy there. You simply cannot live a self sufficient lifestyle in Britain without a large sum of capital behind you to get started which kind of defeats the object. If you can get an allotment you’re on the way but they are so few and far between these days as well. Probably because successive governments in this country keep building more and more houses instead of looking at why there are so many of us over breeding.

One of the other biggest reasons is that Britain is no longer a place I want my son to live in. Something is wrong with Britain. We have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe. The highest suicide rate of men aged 16-25. Our cultural icons include people like;

·         Premiership footballers - who sleep with their team mate’s partners, can’t shake hands at the start of games, cheat on their partners with prostitutes and glamour models, let off fireworks in their bathrooms, don’t respect the referees and get sent down for rape and still get chosen for an international side they don’t seem bothered to play for.

·         Reality TV/talent show stars whose only claim to fame is appearing on some crap TV show and behaving like an arse or being so painfully thick that you start to worry about how they actually don’t just fall down all the time.

·         People ‘ho is street, like. (Sorry for the attempt at youth speak) We seem to be going down a line where people who act or pretend to act like “gangsters” (for want of a better term) are cool and their antics celebrated and laughed at despite the fact that when the real thing happens people are bullied, intimidated, stabbed, shot and killed.

There are many others but I don’t get why unintelligence, idiotic behaviour and criminal activity seem to be celebrated by certain sectors of the British media (Mind you we all know about their lack of moral fibre) and quite frankly I don’t want my children growing up in a country where this seems to be the overriding influence on youth culture.

If you’re still reading, thanks. Now, I have a theory about what is wrong with Britain. We seem to have developed an “I want it and I want it now” coupled with an “It’s my right to have it” mentality. What I mean by this I think can be demonstrated by two points. Firstly the “Pay nothing for a year credit deal” that you find on things like TVs and sofas. So it goes like this-I want the latest 3D HD surround sound TV. Fine, save up and get it. But no, I want it now and I don’t care if I can’t afford it, so I get it on a deal, no one gets paid for a year and I have my must- have material goods. Secondly, the talent(less) show. I want to be famous/have a record deal. OK, slog away in the underground clubs, send lots of demos to important people, build up a fan base, get discovered, have a difficult third album and you’re done. But, no I want it now, so I go on TV and I get instant exposure. Wham bam, FAME. It applies to fans as well. Not a lot of people seem to be prepared to put the time in to see an act develop from underground club to success on a global scale. We want our music stars fully formed and getting a number 1 albums first try and move to a new one next year. I could go on and list other ways to back up my theory. I think it started in the eighties with the Tories and greed is good culture. Want and buy expensive, beautiful things with your money. Then Blair came along and allowed anyone to “buy” beautiful things even if they didn’t have money. Hence we have a society where people seem more concerned with getting hold of material goods we want, than getting what you need and can afford.

So that’s it, why we are leaving this once green and pleasant land. Add to this people who buy Staffies as status symbols, crap weather, even worse public transport, high taxes, no incentive to try, over inflated prices (We’re called rip off Britain for a reason), inability to function as a multicultural society, (We should be really good at this when you consider our history) people who insist on driving in the middle lane of the motorway even when the inside lane is empty and probably loads more and you’ve got it. I have to get out before go even madder than I already am.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Doing nothing is quite hard it turns out! Why am I doing nothing? Before we actually get to live in our new house we have to wait for the notaire to do his/her thing. By way of explanation a notaire is a sort of independent French lawyer type who does all the legal paperwork, checking that there isn’t a chasse with rights on the land; the locals’ donkey doesn’t live on it, that sort of thing. I’m sure it’s much more complicated than that, but just like the British system I think it probably actually consists of a bit of photocopying, gossip at the water cooler then charge the client £100s for the pleasure!!

In the meantime we know a bit more about the house. It’s got asbestos in the roof, lead paint on the windows, faulty electrics and a fosse septic that may or may not confirm to regulations. The only way we’ll find out is when we use the toilet and see if poo appears in the garden! Apparently asbestos isn’t as alarming as it would first appear, so long as you don’t disturb it. If you do (according to the govt H&S website) dress up like Darth Vader and spray it with water and washing up liquid and you’ll be fine. Lead paint-don’t let the boy eat it. Faulty electrics still conform apparently so long as we cover up the exposed wires, most of which go into the fuse box, going to be getting a new one of those then! Luckily there is a book on Amazon all about French electrics, which will be a more than useful purchase! 

Speaking of useful purchases, the list of these seems to be getting longer. Mrs Powell’s and my definition of “useful” seems to differ somewhat. I can think of lots of things: a router, an angle grinder, nail punches, 10 different types of saw, a bench mounted grinder, a laser level and a bespoke hand crafted gaming table (inner geek shining through), would be useful for. Apparently log burners, heating and food production come first.

We are now suspended in no-man’s land. Waiting for the move and looking for things to do in the meantime. Almost by accident I seem to be claiming JSA, despite the fact they know we’re leaving in “2-3 months”. My experience of this has been less than positive, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on filling in paperwork and not a lot on actually getting a job. I really confuse them at the job centre. “You’ve got qualifications? Errrr, ummm, have you looked in the paper for jobs?” You know what I hadn’t thought of that! But yes I’ll fill out form JSA324.56a(v.English) Learn direct however-brilliant. Went in after seeing an advert for free (free for benefit spongers such as myself) food hygiene qualifications. I thought these might be useful in making sure all cooking a la chambre d’hôte is all legal and above board. They couldn’t help out more. So, again almost by accident, I am signed up on that AND a free ICT qualification woo hoo! Still beats sitting around trying to think of things to do to try and be useful at the in laws. I seem to spend a lot of time watching stuff about Nazis and sharks (I’m still waiting for a documentary on Secret Knights Templar Sharks employed by Hitler in the Atlantic), playing with the boy’s trains and mega blocs and playing Medieval Total War 2 (I currently, own all of Spain, North Africa, South of France, Corsica, Sardinia and I’m setting myself up in the New World, so I think I’m doing OK, again enthusiasm from the rest of the household doesn’t match mine for these achievements!)

So, lastly have I made any mistakes this time?  Free picture of me in either willies or wellies for you if you can find one. By the way it appears that word spell checks wellies into willies, so that wasn’t my fault. Hooray.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Earlier this week my wife and I signed our lives away. Away to whom? Away to what is more like the question that should be asked. We sat in a small immoblier in Bugeat in a small corner of the Millvache plateau in the Correze part of the Limousin and signed our names on a piece of paper stating that we intended to buy a house. When we confirmed that we wanted a permanent  home not a holiday home the teenage girl opposite us finally looked at her father and smiled. The smile at last came to his face and the French estate agent sat between my wife and I hugged us both. With frightening speed the paperwork was filled in and we were told that within 3 months we would own a house in France, a country neither of us have ever lived in and I have only ever been to 4 times before.

Why? Rather than put everything down in my first attempt to write a blog (Congratulations if you’ve stuck through my bad English thus far, you’re probably the only one!) I’ll give a quick run down. My aim is to expand on this topic as I add to this, until now, form of communication I’ve never used before. The whole reason for setting up this blog was as a response from lots of people who wanted to be kept up to date with our “adventure” and I thought this might be the best way. Let’s see.

Back to “why?” To cut a long story short we’re fed up. Fed up with so many aspects of modern British life that we’ve decided to cut our losses and leave. We also want to have a go at simple smallholding and selfsufficiency, ironically you cant do this in Britian unless you’ve got at least £250,000 to spare to buy land on our overcrowded island. Expect lots of commentaries in the future about the particulars of British life that grind us down, and anything else that “gets my goat” as well as updates on our progress and pictures, probably mostly rubbish ones of me posing in willies and up to my neck in French DIY and construction.