Wednesday, 22 November 2006


19 November 2006

Last time we visited France both Susan and I caught something that feels like the 'flu, which has laid us low for a couple of weeks. We're back on deck now, so here goes:

On Sunday we decided to play tourist and visit Fontevraud Abbey. We left Preuilly sur Claise under leaden skies, expecting the day to stay rainy and overcast. We stopped at a rest area just outside Preuilly to take a photo of the colours of the forest around Boussay, before heading towards Chatellerault.

Once past Chatellerault we were on the route D749, a Roman road of amazing straightness with only one bend between Chatellerault and Richelieu, a distance of 30km. Richelieu itself is well worth a visit, being a planned "new town" designed at the behest of Cardinal R himself. The covered market place is amazing, but at the moment the open market is undergoing a rather severe rebuild, and more resembles the battlefields of the Somme than a quaint market.

We arrived in Fontevraud just in time for lunch. This was taken at a fairly uninspring Creperie, and was more just refuelling than a gastronomic event. We decided on gallettes (a savory, buckwheat crepe) because it was a way of avoiding having two 3 course meals a day, which seems to have become our standard.

The Abbey itself is really very interesting, even though Susan and I were slightly dismissive at first of it's "newly minted" look. After the revolution it became a prison, and remained as such until 1963. By all accounts it was treated extremely poorly, with even the abbey church itself becoming a 2 level dormitory.The restoration of the abbey complex has been the largest resoration program in France, and once you get past the shiny new parts and find the buidings yet to be worked on, you can see just how much they have had to do. Parts of the abbey are still roofed in corrugated iron and held up with railways sleepers. There are walls patched with bits of old door and metal sheets, and it is obvious that the pidgeons haven't been helping.
The Back of the Abbey, Fontevraud
The reason we wanted to see Fontevraud is the Tombs of Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, their son King Richard I of England, and his sister-in-law Isabella of Angoulême. Eleanor of Aquitaine became a nun at the abbey after Henry's death. She is a really very interesting woman - one of those middle ages types that some modern day feminists seem to ignore because she doesn't fit in with the "no powerful women" syndrome. (Simon's rant, now over). I had borrowed Alison Wier's book from the library before we left London, which primed me nicely for the visit.

The interior of the Abbey church itself is very plain, with just the effigies and some remnents of wall painting (which Susan remembers, but I don't).
Henry II and Eleanor

The rest of the abbey buildings are interesting, particularly the kitchen. This was restored in 1906 and given pointy finials to the chimneys, which although not terribly authentic, are quite fun. There are some painted chambers which include portraits of the nuns of the abbey of the time in the scenes of the passion. Some of them are quite humerous, but there are definitely a few pingouins des combat amongst them!

Also well worth a visit are the gardens, which are being restored. We were delighted to see some animal life, even this late in the year. The Violet Carpenter Bees were buzzing around the Bay Trees, and a family of European Wall Lizards (Podarcis muralis) were making the most of the late autumn sunshine.


Wednesday, 15 November 2006

So far so exciting

We are currently preparing ourselves for another trip to Preuilly. This time we will be signing for the property, paying over the money and meeting a builder about the roof.

So far we have done the money transfer from Australia to France, with the money for the house arriving in the Notaire's account last week - which makes us look really organised. The house insurance is all signed and sealed and last week our French bank card arrived, so at last (we hope) we can access our account and buy petrol on a Sunday afternoon. The banking thing has been really interesting, but not totally stress free.. dealing with 4 different institutions in 3 countries has really complicated the timins - wait for one place to do what you've asked, then you find out you have missed a deadline for another institution. We almost have them all organised and in line, so next transfer should just about go smoothly.

As we found when we moved from Australia to the UK, these things aren't intrinsically difficult. The things that really trip you up are the rules that no-one tells you, because "everyone knows that". It must come in the water when you're growing up. For instance; French current accounts aren't allowed by law to pay interest. Anyone growing up in France knows this...but as newcomers, it comes as a surprise. We only found out when we asked about interest rates - the bank were as surprised by the question as we were by the answer. It also comes as a surprise when you find out you have to actually pay for a card to get your money out. And as for the chequebook............ We can only hope the bank are open and able to explain that to us when we're next in Preuilly!

This time around we will be flying into Limoges (yet another new airport for us) and driving from there. It's a two hour drive according to Mappy, taking us via Montmorillon and St Savin, and hopefully finding a nice Routier for lunch en route. We will be stopping of at Intermarche and Bricomarche (the supermarket and hardware superstore) in Yzeures-sur-creuse to start our new collection of tools and household staples. We plan to do some work in the garden cutting back brambles and ivy on Monday afternoon, so secateurs and gloves will be the first purchase.


Thursday, 26 October 2006

10 Things I think I have learned so far

This buying a house in another language lark has thrown up some interesting issues:

1 The French don't appear to have a word for surveyor. They have "le géomètre", but he is one who does the surveys for lead and asbestos when you buy a house, not a general survey.

2 Ikea Furniture is cheaper by about 10% than it is in the UK. This doesn't mean we will be buying any, but it is interesting.

3 A light switch is an "interrupteur", and they come in better styles than the standard UK light switch. Some of them are even quite attractive.

4 Having a road accident in France can be less traumatic than in the UK, because there isn't a statutory requirement to leave the cars in the middle of the road and have a shouting match.

5 The French talk about the weather as much as the English or Australians do.

6 French Bureaucracy is apparently not a lot worse than any other kind, just different and done in a different language. Watch this space, however, things may change.

7 You can never have enough hairdressers. One hairdresser for every 300 head of population is about right.

8 The French YellowPages is available in English here. How good and useful is that?

9 Second hand cars are more expensive in France than the UK, because the French dont sell on after 3 years. They also do a lot more miles than in the UK. The price of fuel isn't a lot different. This is contrary to what the "Rip Off Britain" people would have you believe.

10 I thought context might have improved him, but even when you are in France, Johnny Halliday..............


Wednesday, 11 October 2006

A week where everything got going

This week has been really exciting

We received an email from the Notaire telling us that they have arranged completion of the sale for the 20th November. We have a quote for insurance, and we have set up the currency transfer accounts.

We have also started writing to builders to see if we can meet while we are signing for the house.

Very exciting - and everything is organised (more or less) 6 weeks in advance.



Sunday Sunday...................

Sunday 17 September

Part 3 of our trip with Pat and Geoff - part 2 here

Sunday morning, and the church bells called the faithful to breakfast. Things were looking slightly brighter weather wise, so during breakfast we made plans as to what we were going to do. Sunday had been set aside as a day to do some sightseeing, and we wanted to visit a chateau or two.

We hadn't reached a decision by the time we got to the car, but on the way out of Grand Pressigny we decided to go to la Guerche (mainly because we saw a sign pointing there). After a short drive through the countryside (and passing a hunter complete with shotgun and horn) we parked in la Guerche and had a walk through town. While we were standing on the bridge Susan pointed and said “look!” and we saw the unmistakable flash of blue that can only be a kingfisher. It settled on a branch on the other side of the river, far enough away that we couldn't take a proper photo, but near enough so that the spot of blue you can see in the photo is obviously a kingfisher.

When we returned to the car we noticed that the Chateau gates were open, and it dawned upon us it was the Europe wide “Open Weekend”. After a pleasant wander through the grounds of the chateau we reached the stable block to find they were giving guided tours of the chateau in French and broken English – the perfect combination for improving our language skills. More about the chateau in another post.
The rooftops of la Guerche
After leaving la Guerche we took a drive through the countryside alongside the Gartempe,driving through la Roche Posay and Vicq to Angles sur l'Anglin. There we had lunch sitting in the village square, before wandering off to the castle above the river. I think Angles sur l'Anglin may be a place that we visit many times.

Town Square, Angles sur l'Anglin
As we were near we thought we would visit the Church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe to see it's much vaunted wall and ceiling paintings. They are truly spectacular, even though at the moment you can only see about 30% of them because of building works, The murals were painted in the 11th and 12th century and almost totally cover the walls and ceilings. Another place we will be visiting again.

The ceiling of St Savin
We arrived at Poitiers airport in plenty of time, checked in, got through passport control, and sat in the single lounge, with everyone vying for position so that when the gates open they could sprint for the plane.

When the gates opened, Geoff and I took of like the rabbit at a greyhound race. We were going to get two pairs of seats over the wings and stretch out. When I reached my chosen seat I realised Geoff was no longer with me. He was standing discussing something with the hostess at the rear of the plane. I was torn – should leave my hard gained seats to go and help, or should I wait? Luckily Susan wasn't far behind, so she was left to guard the two seats while I went to the back of the plane (against the tide of people all fighting for places) to see what was up.

Geoff didn't have his boarding pass, but rather he had the pass from his flight the previous Friday. Even though you need a pass to get through passport control that wasn't good enough for Ryanair, and Geoff (who had now been joined by Pat) was being made to wait. This was causing a blockage, which was making people being delayed irate. Add to this the fact that even though the flight was fully booked people were not being allowed to use the last 10 rows of seats, and the temperature was rising.

Pat and Geoff were really worried by this stage, Geoff being convinced he was going to be left behind. People from Ryanair were rushing up and down the steps, having to force their way past the now stalled line of passengers waiting to board, checking their clipboards and then disappearing. I looked down...and there on the floor were Pat and Geoff's boarding passes...............

After that the simple matter of spending ten minutes looking for the car in the Stansted carpark was nothing!


Sunday, 8 October 2006

Lunch by the River

The day we signed the compromis de vente (the pre-contract, when you pay the deposit) was an absolutely beautiful day in August with warm sunshine and blue sky. We bought some air dried ham, some carrotte rapee, some celeri remoulade and a baguette at the charcuterie in la grande rue and headed down to the river to sit in the open air and eat our lunch. We chose a spot that had some stone benches at the edge of a small carpark. The blocks of stone were probably really intended just to prevent people accidentally driving into the river, but the view from them was charming. There was a plum tree with many windfalls right next to us and the combination of the endless stream of insects coming to feed on the plums and the restless damselflies in the vegetation along the bank made for a fascinating lunchtime.

The star attraction at the plum tree was a beautiful big Horsefly. This turned out to be Tabanus eggeri, a species that was new for me, and one we don't get in the UK. They are easily identified because the first posterior cell on the wing is closed. Flies are often identified to family level by the pattern of veins on their wings. It is more unusual to get an easy ID like this to species level with wing venation, but other clues are her very black antennae and very orange abdomen. Also, unlike many horseflies, she does not have any obvious pattern of red and green stripes across her eyes. This particular fly had partaken of the fermenting plum juice a bit more than was prudent. She was so inebriated she kept falling over - an utterly shameful exhibition. And yes, I can tell she is a she (because her eyes are separated across the top of her head. Males' eyes touch at the top - seriously!).

Visiting the plums along with her was a hornet Vespa crabro, Red Admiral butterfly Vanessa atalanta and the inevitable social wasps Vespula sp.

Snooping about in the grass, irises and flowering umbels Apiaceae were various small blue damselflies and dashing about above them the bigger and more powerful darter (aka Meadowhawk) dragonflies Sympetrum sp.

We photographed Variable Bluet (aka Variable Damselfly) Coenagrion pulchellum, Common Bluetail (aka Blue-tailed Damselfly) Ischnura elegans, Large Redeye (aka Red-eyed Damselfly) Erythromma najas, and, by far the most common species that day, Blue Featherleg (aka White-legged Damselfly) Platycnemis pennipes. These last are rather strange faded creatures with, as their name suggests, legs that appear to be feathered. All other genera of blue damselflies are almost neon blue and black, at least in the males, so the Featherlegs are really easy to distinguish. And yes, the Redeyes really do have red eyes (all the others have blue).

Monday, 2 October 2006

Postscript to Demoiselles

I have just taken delivery of my copy of the new Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe by KD Dijkstra and Richard Lewington. Even with the brief flicking through that I have had time for I have learnt stuff.

I see I will have to keep my eyes peeled for Calopteryx splendens hybrids. Apparently I could get hybrids with C xanthostoma and at least one subspecies. That should keep me on my toes. Image below left is C splendens male, taken in our Essex garden July 2002.

Sadly, the authors do not rate la Brenne particularly highly - their beef is that too many of the ponds are privately owned, so although there are interesting species, you cannot necessarily get to see them, and the future of their habitat is not assured. Clearly my networking skills are going to have to go into overdrive to get the best sightings possible - I hope my French is up to the task! On the other hand, the Loire Valley is very highly rated, and there is an interesting section on speciation (the Loire Valley is important because species from the south-east, the north and the west meet or overlap here).

Not only is this book informative, but it is beautiful - mainly due to Richard Lewington's illustrations - he is a national treasure I think. As a result of his beautiful illustrations I have been able to identify the teneral damselfly I found in the bramble patch that will become our garden - very definitely a male Lestes viridis Western Willow Spreadwing (aka Willow Emerald Damselfly). No surprise really to get this species in the garden, as they are common in the area and often seen in gardens. (Teneral means newly emerged and not yet fully coloured and therefore difficult to identify.)

The book also has photographs - one of which possibly demonstrates why C splendens are 'eclatant' in French. Males have a creamy white 'tail light', and in that rather dark tubular abdomen it is rather reminiscent of cream oozing out of an eclair. The photo shows one displaying his tail light to another male - it had never occurred to me that eclairs were in any way threatening, but perhaps if you are a demoiselle you have to be more careful.

My only regret with this book is that it does not include the vernacular names in French. This is purely selfish, as it would help me quickly and easily learn the French names. I can quite understand that for space reasons the hundreds of European common names are not included.


Friday, 29 September 2006

A day of three halves

16 September 2006

Saturday dawned slowly – a grey overcast day with some quite heavy rain through the night. We were woken by the church bells at 8.00, the time we had agreed to have breakfast. Susan was suffering a sore throat (from having to do too much talking at her work annual conference, I suspect), but neither of us were feeling any effects from the accident the day before.

After breakfast we drove through Preuilly-sur-Claise to la Roche-Posay. We had checked out the house from the outside on Friday, and had arranged to pick up the keys in the afternoon, so we didn't stop. The market in Preuilly-sur-Claise looks to be very small and has only three or four stalls, which is a bit disappointing.
The Creuse River at la Roche Posay
We went into la Roche Posay to do some sightseeing. It was just as busy as last time, but with the added attraction of a music festival. While we were there we took the opportunity to refill our water bottles with the local brew, which issues from a tap in the wall of the spa. It tastes OK, not really much in there when you consider how good it is supposed to be for you. It must be said however, that not only has the spilt water from the fountain turned the footpath black, it is also eating it away. Susan likes it though, so that's a saving on mineral water when we move to France.

We then drove on to Poitiers to exchange the car. It was raining really heavily in places, and misty in other places, with periods of bright sunshine. The Hertz agency was where I remembered it to be (opposite the station), but not where the lady on the phone from Hertz indicated it was. This meant we arrived at ten minutes into the lunch-hour and had to come back in two hours. This gave us an opportunity to check out the underground car-parks of Poitiers (and also the market and restaurants). The market looks extremely good, if not as picturesque as the market in Loches. Poitiers itself has been marked down as somewhere else to be explored more fully at some stage.

The new car was a Renault Megane six speed diesel. Why six gears when I rarely remember to use fifth?

We arrived at the Immobilier's in Preuilly to pick up the key to the house, where we realised that I had managed to leave the tape measure in the overhead storage unit in the Kangoo. Susan had wanted to measure the garden so she could start planning the vegetable plots. It doesnt really matter, because I can pace out a metre quite well.

When we got to the house (and after struggling with the 8 barrel lock on the front door) we were amazed to see how much junk has been cleared out. The floor in the front room was clear for the first time, and it is obvious that we will be retaining the tiles in there. They appear in great condition and will be a big feature of the house when we are finished. Unfortunately (once again) I forgot to take photos, so that is one for the next visit. While we were at the very top of the stairs we found proof that there are bats – they were flying around our head. Not very many, and we don't mind sharing some space with them as long as we can keep them (and the evidence of them) out of the house. Overall, the house still appears to be in not too bad a condition once we can get the roof sorted out.

After inspection the house one or two of our party (that would be Pat and Geoff then) were gagging for a cup of tea, so we went to La Roche Posay again, via Boussay this time. Cups of tea and coffee were located easily, and then thought turned to dinner. After a stroll around Roche Posay's restaurants (which all appear at first glance to be slightly disappointing) we decided to try le Promenade in Yzeures-sur-Creuse, which appears in the ever reliable Routard. If that turned out to be either too expensive or not appealing we would return to Roche Posay.

What a great find! We had the 20euro menu, 3 courses which offered amongst other things Charentais melon (with or without ham) or homemade terrine as entree, pork with grapes and butternut squash mash (really good, even though pumpkin is cattle food) or fish for main, and either crème caramel or fresh fruit of the season for desert. This restaurant is quite brilliant, the ingredients fresh and interesting and all put together in really imaginative but tasty combinations. We will be returning here.

All in all a good day, even with all the fussing about over the car. Next, the saga of getting home...........


Tuesday, 19 September 2006

A coming together

September 15, 2006

Well! What a weekend we have had. So much action I've decided to split the weekend into days.

The day we signed the Compromis we decided that we would return in about 6 weeks to just give things a bit of a push along. This time we invited my uncle and aunt (who live in London) to come with us so they could in turn give a rapturous report to my parents. We book into Tours (Loire Valley Airport) and out of Poitiers flying with Ryanair. No more 5 hour drive around Paris!!

Pat and Geoff picked us up at 7.00 because we were a bit concerned about traffic on the M25 (London's circular parking lot) and wanted to get to the airport nice and early. Geoff isn't a fan of take off, so needs a seat next to Pat. We were first in line at the Ryanair queuing system (something designed to take the last remaining vestiges of romance out of travel), so we were able to get exit row seats. I don't like Ryanair much, but they do fly to where we need to go.

We arrived at Tours almost on time, and while Susan and the others were getting our checked luggage (due to the ridiculous cabin luggage laws at the moment we had to do it) I picked up the car. It was a nice new Renault Kangoo in metallic red, just perfect for the 4 of us and our gear. Because the car pick up procedure was so quick, I was able to be at the pick up area by the time they emerged. This was a good thing, because it was raining, and continued to rain on and off for the next 36 hours.

Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of the car, because 15Km after picking it up we were driving along a winding country road a woman driving towards us decided that the piece of road I was on looked better than where she should have been. She gave us a smack in the back drivers side door, causing quite a dent (and breaking the hub cap cover). She was travelling fast enough to continue along our side of the road and damage the car behind us too. Susan sorted out the paperwork (which was surprisingly easy) while I had a little sit down – I could hear the words being said, but even when people were speaking English they made no sense. Unlike in England,(where it appears obligatory to leave the cars strewn across the road while you have an argument), in France every vehicle carries a crash report form which everyone completes then signs, and the work is done. Because ours was a hire car, however, we had to return the car to the agency and replace it. This we achieved on Saturday afternoon, after trying unsuccessfully a couple of times, and having made a bundle of phone calls.

The Chateau, Grand Pressigny
We were booked into a hotel in Le Grand Pressigny because our usual hotel is closed for their annual holidays. We checked in, made a reservation for dinner, then had a stroll around town. The rain was light enough not to be a worry, so we wandered down to the river (the Aigronne, a tributary of the Claise) and stood in the shelter of the lavoire, the reconstructed ancient public laundry house. We watched the river (very therapeutic) and looked for wildlife before strolling in the mist around the vegetable gardens and up to the chateau. From there, we arrived back at the hotel just in time for dinner. A nice relaxed meal (home made terrine, stuffed chicken leg, followed by chocolate mousse, with rather a nice half bottle of Rose) and I was ready to sleep the sleep of the just.

The roofs of le Grand Pressigny

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Reaching a Compromis

August 4- 6 2006

Having eventually agreed on a price for the property, the next step was to sign a compromis de vente. This is a binding document which sets out the conditions of the sale, including things like a get-out clause in case finance or building permission falls through. Once the is signed however, you can't be gazumped.

One suspects that the sudden burst of activity around agreeing a price wore the agent out, because despite regular emails from us, they appeared to be having a nice lie down and couldn't respond. We suggested a date for signing, which passed, and we wrote saying that we needed agreement on a date at least two weeks in advance because of the cost of travelling increasing. This eventually produced a response. (I'm still not sure that the agent doesn't think that we're still living in Australia and were travelling to France from there). Eventually we agreed a date, and then I booked our tickets. I also emailed Credit Agricole in Tours (because that is where their English speaking branch is) to arrange an appointment to open an account.

Because the agent had left it too late for us to do otherwise, we could only get flights in through Charles de Gaulle. Again. This time, after consulting Tripadvisor, I decided we would try the Francillien, route N104/ A104, which although it was designed by the authorities to do just the trip we wanted, refuses to appear on any of the routefinders. I also showed I had learned from previous mistakes by booking a Formule 1 (motel) in Blois.

Also, because the agents had been so tardy responding to our questions about the amount we had to pay as a deposit, we were unable to organise a bank cheque in euros (it takes 3 days). This meant I had to travel to our bank in Central London (no hardship, as it was almost on the way to the airport) and pick up euros in cash. A lot of cash...........

On the Underground to Heathrow I had a worrying though - that I had left the back door not not only unlocked but open. Unfortunately, I then spent the whole weekend worrying. (I hadn't, it must be an old man thing). The whole trip went amazingly well, however, as we ate at the airport before leaving London, thus removing the pressure of finding somewhere to eat after all the restaurants along the Motorway had closed. Even the traffic was not too bad on the new route, it appears to go mainly through countryside. We didn't even miss any direction signs.

We arrived in Preuilly about 10.00am Saturday, but the market looked a bit poor. This may be because there was the annual Preuilly Brocante Vide-Greniers (literally; attic clearance sale) and everyone was elsewhere. If it isn't the case, it means we will have to travel to Loches market, which will be no hardship at all.

Our first port of call was the bank, where we had our appointment to open an account. Our first contact with people we will have to deal with for the rest of our lives - and already I fear they may have marked my cards as "suspicious". The problem lies with the French desire to collect documents. We had only just managed to communicate the fact that I am self employed and no-one audits me therefore not being able prove my income to their satisfaction (and therefore obviously a freeloader, or worse) when I produced a bag full of cash. One wonders what they think...............

The Brocante Vide-Greniers was pretty dire - so much stuff, so little of it attractive, useful, or working. Everybody did appear to be enjoying their lunch, however. We, on the other hand, had bought a baguette, some ham and various salad bits and had a picnic by the river. Susan was delighted to see that the insect life there was buzzing (there's a pun there somewhere, I can't be bothered looking for it though).

As we had plenty of time to spare (we weren't meeting the agent until 5.00pm) we went for a drive around the immediate area. How lucky are we to have all this on our doorstep?
The Chateau, Boussay
We then visited Bossay-sur-Claise, which has a pretty park (complete with a concrete table tennis table) where the tiger moths and damselflies were busy, much to Susan's delight. We also visited Domaine de Ris, which at only 4km (21/2 miles) from Preuilly is our nearest winery. We were really pleased to find that the wine is really good quality, and very reasonably priced. Another win!

We hurried back to Preuilly, to find that the immobilier was not at the office. We sat and waited in the Post Office car park (quite nice, actually) a while, then I rang her. The answering machine was on. Then we started to wonder if we were meant to be meeting at the Notaire's, so I drove there to check. It was closed. When I returned, the Immobilier had arrived and was going through documents with Susan. Apparently no comment or apology had been made for her lack of punctuality. I guess being on time is very Anglo and therefore something we will have to work on changing. 30 Minutes later, cash was exchanged and Susan is one step closer to owning French property.

For dinner that evening Susan took me to our local Michelin star restaurant, la Promenade. owned and run by Jacky Dallais (you can read the reviews here). What a brilliant evening. Just over 100€ for a meal that stretched time (and waistbands) in a beautifully refined environment. Although we will not be going there often, we will be returning, there is no doubt. Quite a perfect gift.

The next morning I was up early to photograph every shop in Preuilly. This was less on artistic grounds than just wanting a visual reminder of what the shops are - and where they are. The upshot is that my Google Earth has every shop marked, together with a photo and contact details.

The Boulangerie, Preuilly-sur-Claise
I was reminded just how different France is by the fact that there are two boulangeries in town, and even at 6.50 on a Sunday morning they were both open. As I worked up the Grand Rue, photographing all the buildings, I passed the Immobiliers. In the window was the advert for our house, with the word "VENDUE" across it. This excited me so much, I rushed back to the hotel (a marathon of about 20 metres) to tell Susan, and then drag her out of bed to see it. We then took a walk around Preuilly to see it before it woke up. It is such a quiet town, however, that you would have trouble noticing the difference.

We had decided we would go to La réserve de la Haute-Touche, an open zoo run by the French museum service and located at Azay-le-Ferron, a mere 11km (7 miles) from Preuilly. We had a couple of hours before it opened so we recommenced our exploration of the local area by car, visiting Yzeures-sur-Creuse (where our nearest large supermarket is), La Roche-Posay, where we had coffee at a cafe overlooking a very busy market square, and the chateaux of Rouvray and La Guerche. I think being so close to la Roche-Posay could be really useful. It has a very famous health spa, and consequently is a more cosmopolitan town than Preuilly (but a lot busier and noisier) with cafe's, cinema, casino and a racetrack. It isn't somewhere I would want to live, but as it's only 15km (9 miles) away, close enough to visit regularly if we need a little big city feeling.

Chateau, La Gueche

The zoo at Azay-le-Ferron is really interesting - a section you drive through with various (mainly European) animals, and then a series of walks radiating out from the carpark. We ate at the restaurant, then wandered off to see the wolves. On the way we saw our first European Pond Tortoise, a native of the Brenne, Also lions, various tigers and lemurs. On the way out was passed a field with a Poitou donkey and it's foal. All together now: awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww cute.

We left the zoo at 3.45, giving us 6 hours to make the airport. We lost a bit of time driving around Chateauroux looking for fuel (rather than filling up on the motorway). Because we don't have any French credit or bank cards, none of the fuel pumps we found would work for us. I was starting to panic by the time we hit Paris, because time was marching on, and we appeared to be moving backwards. We arrived at the desk 2 minutes after check-in had closed, causing panic and consternation. Luckily the combination of not shouting at the man, being frequent fliers and having no checked luggage meant that he was able to open the gate, enabling us to run and catch the plane. As we were on the last fight of the day, the fact that he was so understanding saved us an awful lot of bother. It is, however, definitely the last time we fly via Paris.

We were seated separately on the plane, being the last two to check in on a full flight. When we arrived at Heathrow there was no gate for us, and a bus had to be provided to carry us the last 100 metres. As Susan was near the front of the plane she was on the first bus. As I was near the back, I had to wait almost 20 minutes before another bus arrived. Luckily, we made train connections OK, and caught a cab from Dagenham East Station to be home by 1.00am.


Sunday, 3 September 2006

A Flying Visit

June 1 - 2, 2006

Having found a house we thought we wanted, it was time to crank that part of the brain marked "sensible" into action Susan rang the surveyor Gerard Ball and arranged for him to contact the agent and arrange a time to do the inspection. As usual with the immobilier, many messages were left on the answering machine and many emails sent, but no reply was forthcoming. Eventually (on Thursday morning) we received a call from Gerard to say he had managed to call the agent during the 15 minutes that week he was in the office and had arranged an inspection for that Friday. We were sort of expecting this, (or hoping for it) and had planned for the possibility of a quick trip - our bags were packed, we just didn't know when we were going to be using them.

I rang Ryanair and booked 2 tickets from Stanstead to Poitiers leaving the same day, and coming back on Friday. (Make note to self; avoid doing this - it is VERY expensive). I also booked a car, locked the door, and ran for the train.

We arrived in Poitiers on time (hooray!) and an hour later, after a drive through beautiful rolling countryside and woodlands we were in Preuilly-sur-Claise. This is a so much better way of travelling to that part of France, more relaxing, usually no more expensive, and you save almost a day of driving.

After dinner at our hotel (the Auberge St Nicolas) we went for a walk in the dusk. The evening was pleasantly warm, and we were delighted to discover that there is a colony of bats that live around the chateau. The laneway next to the chateau is one of those narrow roads where the trees either side meet to make a green tunnel, and the bats were hunting insects up and down the lane, flying close enough to make us (well - me, anyway) flinch. It reinforced the feeling that we were lucky to have discovered this town, and made us even more enthusiastic about moving there.
Chateau Du Lion, Preuilly-sur-Claise
Next morning we met Gerard at the Immobilier's, and we walked to the house to have a proper look at it. It was only at this stage that I realised how jaded I had become looking at real estate, because the house was so much bigger than I remembered from the previous weekend. It was also a lot more full of junk than I remembered. Soon we were up to our necks in dust and grime, and Gerard had the tape measure out.

Susan and Gerard doing formation teapots, Preuilly sur Claise
I had been feeling off colour for the whole of the trip, and all of a sudden my stomach rebelled. This required a trip to the Public Toilets at the Hotel de Ville, which just happen to be a la turque(or as Gerard put it, "pitch and putt"). Not the place to be in an emergency. It has to be said though that for puiblic toilets, especially a la turque ones, they are exceptionally clean.

The survey took about 6 hours, during which time I occupied myself with visiting the public toilets and taking photos of everything to do with the house. We also had a visit from someone we suspect may be one of the neighbourhood "characters", an elderly gentlemen who has obviously put on weight recently.The evidence for this was his trousers, which were held up by a piece of string around the waist, leaving a 3 or 4 inch gap where the fly would normally be in a pair of trousers. Luckily, his dignity was maintained by his shirt which must have been tucked into his socks............... He told us that the previous owners had last lived in the house about 35 years ago, and they they had stored deux chevaux in the granary. I though he meant two horses, but Gerard took it to mean a Citroen 2CV. Either way, it was a good effort getting it/them in there, as the granary floor is almost a metre off the ground.

We also met an elderly lady who lives nearby, who had arrived to cut some peony flowers from a bush growing out the back of the house. We chatted and agreed that yes, it was cold for June. It appears that most of the population of Preuilly is fairly ancient, so maybe Susan and I will be known as the "Young Australians". Time will tell.

Eventually we HAD to leave Preuilly, otherwise we would have missed our very expensive flight back to Stanstead.

Gerard has been brilliant in all of this. He spent ages chasing down the agent, and then spoke to the agent on our behalf when we came to make an offer. His report is exhaustive, and accompanied by a CD's worth of Photos. Although the report says that the work to be done is a lot more expensive that we expected, when it is laid out on paper the amount of work feels a lot less intimidating than it could have been. Just having the report set down in writing like it is gives me faith that we can really make this thing work.


Saturday, 2 September 2006


I see Simon has given me the big hint to talk about Demoiselles. Pas de probleme - I am always happy to talk about Demoiselles. Demoiselles are gorgeous fairyland creatures, irridescent, metallic, twinkling jewels of nature - not particularly uncommon, but always a pleasure to stop and watch. The area around Preuilly-sur-Claise seems to have an abundant population of all sorts of dragonflies. This is one of the reasons the area appeals to me so much.

There are two species in the UK - Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) and Beautiful Demoiselle (C virgo). Fauna Europaea tells me that France has both of these and 2 more species of Calopteryx, but I have not seen the other two. One of them rejoices under the name C haemorrhoidalis. In French, Banded Demoiselle is calopteryx eclatant (Bright Calopteryx) and the Beautiful is calopteryx vierge (Virgin Calopteryx). Eclatant can also mean 'bursting' - think chocolate eclairs - but perhaps we shouldn't go there - and I've got no idea why the other one is virginal. It seems curious that the English word for the genus is French and the French word is Greek. I suspect there is a more vernacular French name, but I have yet to come across it. In the US, Demoiselles are apparently called Jewelwings.

It is not so common to see the two species together, because they have different habitat requirements. Bandeds like slow moving water, over silt; Beautifuls need fast moving water and gravelly riverbeds - but you can see both on the river at Montrésor. Males can be told apart because Banded Demoiselles' wings are not wholly irridescent navy blue. Usually the tip is clear and the base, with the dark pigment not extending beyond the node (the little dip in the leading edge of the wing). Females are metallic green with golden yellow wings and very difficult to tell apart.

A walk along the riverbank in Montrésor in July is charming. You look across the river into lovely gardens descending right to the water, and beyond them the thoroughly picturesque chateau. If you look the other way, wave after wave of swallows (hirondelles) sweep low over a water meadow like heat seeking missiles, dodging left and right at high speed, hunting flies.

Something, perhaps the swallows, hunts the Demoiselles too. I found several sets of discarded (undigestable) wings on the path - all male Bandeds. Just beyond the water meadow, and having crossed over to the other side of the river, we came across a gathering of Demoiselles - mostly male Bandeds, but with some females and some male Beautifuls. The males, as usual, were fighting amongst themselves, spiralling upwards in twos or threes in choreographed posturing, and the females were lurking about much more discreetly and minding their own business. The fighting males had the perfect sunny platform of yellow waterlilies and floating waterlily leaves to stage their show.

Demoiselles are a type of large damselfly and are particularly feeble and half hearted looking flyers. They generally wave all four wings about in a rather vague and unco-ordinated way and look as if it is all the most tremendous effort staying airborn, much less moving forward. (All dragonflies can, and frequently do, move all 4 wings independently). Occasionally you will see a Demoiselle making a proper effort and obviously on a mission to get somewhere, but generally you get the impression they just aren't trying (especially if you compare them to the Star Wars spaceship style of the Four-Spotted Chaser or an Emperor Dragonfly chasing an intruder off his pond).

The male Demoiselle approach to flying is apparently to attract as much attention as possible from females. Like all dragonflies, you see males much more than females, because they are holding territory. The very flappy style means that a male Demoiselle glitters in a hopefully irresitable way. I have been told that some males, in their desperation to impress, will fly upstream, fling themselves upside down on to the surface of the water and float down past the females, presumably waving their little legs seductively all the while. This is an incredibly high risk strategy, as at any moment a fish may spot them, an easy meal, and pluck them off. It is believed that risk element of the behaviour is what is supposed to impress females, who are so bowled over by this reckless courage that they allow mating to occur.


Friday, 1 September 2006

Finding Preuilly-sur-Claise

May 26 - 29, 2006

As soon as Susan arrived back in the UK, I started planning the next trip to France. This was going to be undertaken with military precision.

Because the fares were cheaper, I decided we would fly into Paris (for the last time) and drive to Loches. The hotel was booked for the Saturday and Sunday night, but I decided to leave the Friday night to chance, because we didnt know how far we would drive that evening. The flight arrived in Paris at 9.15pm, and by midnight we were in Blois looking for a hotel. At 2.15am we were still in Blois looking for a hotel, because of the French custom of "faire le pont" - taking the Friday off if Thursday is a public holiday. Every hotel was full. I now know the back streets of Blois like a local. We eventually found a bed in possibly the most expensive motel in town. So much for military precision, then.

Saturday morning found us on the road to Loches. Once again we visited the market, which, if anything, is even busier on a Saturday than on Wednesday. Then it was time for a quiet lunch, and off to the Immobilier's for our first visit.

The old boulangerie, Preuilly-sur-Claise
The place we had travelled to see was an old boulangerie in Preuilly-sur-Claise. Right on the edge of the village on the main road, it was almost the first building we saw. An amazing place with many features, including the garden which had been converted into a room of over 110 square metres. That room is almost as big as the house I grew up in, which is a staggering thought. It also had a communal staircase (a stone spiral staircase possibly 500 years old) and a cellar over 1000 years old. The rooms were all higgledy piggledy, and appeared to have grown where they landed. So tempting, but at the same time a real challenge as far as what to do with all that space! It also had no garden except for about 10 metres of shared courtyard. Needless to say we were sorely tempted.

We returned to Loches with the agent. As it was still mid afternoon, we went for a drive around Loches and environs, visiting Loche sur Indrois and Montrésor. Montrésor is a beautiful village with a chateau and water meadows crossed with walks. The demoiselles were really busy (but this is Susan's field of expertise, so more of that from her).

Over dinner (at the Gerbe d'Or and including, once again, the Cointreau Souffle) we made plans about what to do with the boulangerie. Sure it was a challenge, but we felt ourselves equal to it. The plan was to spend all day Sunday visiting the Brenne Nature Park and the area around Preuilly so see what was actually there. The day was rainy, so we spent a lot of it in the car talking endlessly about the boulangerie and our plans for it. Although we knew the work would be expensive we thought it might be the right place for us, lack of garden not withstanding.

First view of Preuilly-sur-Claise

On Monday morning it was back to Preuilly to see a couple more properties, including one arrangement of 3 houses around a courtyard. Most odd, and none of the rooms in any of the houses were of a decent size. Then we were taken (almost as an afterthought) to see a three bedroom house with garage and attached barn which had once been a granary.

The Old Granary, once a barn
As soon as I walked in, it felt right. Sure it had a lot of issues, but they were, for the main, visible. The roof obviously needed doing, and there was obviously no kitchen or bathroom (or working toilet), but it had all the space we feel we need. There was even a garden. I loved the way the buiding felt so solid, even with the repairs that needed doing. The walls of the barn almost a metre thick, made out of carved limestone blocks, the encaustic tiles on the floor of the sitting room.

I think we decided there and then that we would make an offer, but not until we had a survey done, and we wouldn't say anything to the agent. Unfortunately neither of us knew the French for "Building Surveyor", so it was difficult communicating to the non English speaking Immobilier what we wanted. A very nice lady wandered in off the street to look at another property, and was immediately roped in to try help because she spoke a little English. We now find out that there is no word in French for building surveyor................

We left the agent, promising to be in touch.............and so back to Paris and the Aeroport Charles de Gaulle. Never again!


Thursday, 31 August 2006

On the Road Again

April 9 - 12 , 2006

The second trip happened while Susan was in Australia visiting her parents. She was at Ayers Rock, and I decided that it was time to test the waters again. I rang my mate, Bryan the Artist, and asked if he was interested in a trip. This time we were going to Loches in Indre et Loire

Bryan lives in Cockermouth (oop north), so we arranged that he would drive to Stanstead Airport, and we would fly to Paris together, driving from there. The flights, hotel and car were booked - then the French Air Traffic Controllers went on strike and all flights were cancelled. This was a problem, because Bryan had a meeting the next week he couldn't miss. Then, luckily a window opened, and we arranged to fly out on the Sunday and back on the Wednesday. This would allow us time to visit the market in Loches on Wednesday. This time Bryan was flying from Durham with BMI, and I was flying from Heathrow with BA.

Amazingly, both flights were on time, and we even managed to meet up in the agreed place. Car hired, we hotfooted it around Paris (in the rush hour), spending a lot of time following a circus van that was carrying an alligator. We found a hotel in Amboise (eventually) where one or two beers were partaken of before bedtime.

The next day it was, as on the previous trip, a parade of uninspiring properties, albeit with some amazing views and interesting signs in between, including Valencay, and an threatening set of clouds. Although we were getting fairly hungry for lunch (Monday and all the shops and restauants being closed), we weren't tempted to have burgers.

Storm clouds near Valencay

I was pretty dispirited by the houses I had seen so far. There were places being advertised on the internet that looked promising, but once again, they had been sold the day before I arrived in France. It appears that some people arrive in the country and just make an offer on a house without having any kind of survey done. Susan and I had always intended to have any house we were really interested in surveyed properly before making an offer. We weren't going to buy somewhere just on a whim only to find out later it was totally structurally unsound - or needed a new roof....................

Luckily, a good dinner and a digestif restored my faith in what I was trying to do, and the views of the chateau and old town of Loches are enough to restore anyone's spirit.

Next day we went to Loudun (via Richelieu, which looks worth another look when we have more time). There we saw a great old possibly 15th century building, well within the price range, but needing a lot of work having been used as a bit of a doss house for a while. We also saw a property at St Jean de Sauves which instantly appealed. The price was perfect, the village was interesting, and it had a garden with a well, along with an allotment plot. I liked this place a lot, but without Susan being there, felt I couldn't make an offer. (Needless to say, it was sold a week later, before Susan could see it).

The House at St Jean de Sauves

Loches and our hotel
We then went to Descartes for lunch and another appointment, where the lady in the Immobilier's told me that our budget was unrealistic, and no way would we find somewhere. With that news (and not believing her), we returned to Loches for some sightseeing. Loches is such a pretty little town, with a great chateau and church, really pretty gardens, and some very attractive shops and houses. It also has one of the best boulangeries I have ever been to.

That evening we dined at the Gerbe d'Or in Loches. A simple meal, just an entree and main - until the man at the next table ordered a desert. We then both decided we had to have the Cointreau Souffle. I have never taken a photo of a meal before - and may never again - but this was worth it. Magnificent.

Angel Food at the Gerbe d'Or
Wednesday and Saturday are market day in Loches, and what a brilliant market. Everything you expect from a French market and more. This only reinforced the feeling that I HAD to live near here. I knew that I would be returning with Susan and that Loches' market would be a regular event in my life.

Lettuces in Loches
On the way home we visited the gardens (well - the car park) at Chenonceaux, and then retraced our route to Charles de Gaulle airport. This time we were even more in the rush hour, and it felt like we were going to miss every turn. All this while trying to find somewhere to fill the car up with fuel. Absolute Bedlam, and I vowed never again would I fly into Paris. Bryan didn't miss his flight, although I'm not sure how, and I was 4 hours early for my flight.


Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Not the perfect start!!

March 10 - 12, 2006

When we decided to actually get serious about France, we started looking in the Charente. We had spent a magic week at Bas' place near Confolens, and naturally this was the first place we looked. Finding a house in our price range wasnt going to be easy though. There were a number of houses shown on the various internet sites, but they were in a condition even more perilous than we were prepared to take on.

Susan at dinner with Bas, Terracher
There were a number of criteria that had to be met. We needed a large garden of at least 2000 square metres for growing our self sufficiency vegetables. It had to have guest accomodation for paying guests. And it had to be in the country, far enough away from a town that it was quiet, but not so far away that the market was inaccessable.

For various reasons, all of them too distant in the past to be able to justify properly, we started looking at a small town called Argenton-Chateau in Deux Sevres. There was a nice large ex-forge overlooking the river which was just about in our price-range. After emailing the immobilier we waited......and waited. After a while, we received an answer, and arranged to see the property. Then 2 days before we were due to leave we received an email saying that it had been sold. We decided to visit Argenton-Chateau anyway, as our flights and accomodation had been booked.

The flight (from Gatwick to Nantes) was delayed by 4 hours and 59 minutes, meaning that we arrived at past 2.00am in France. BA had given us food tokens at Gatwick, but only one restaurant was open (and that soon closed) so I bought about £30 worth of biscuits and bottled water. At Nantes, BA booked us a hotel for free because the car hire place was, understandably, closed.

The house and it's view near Thouars
We went to the immobilier in Thouars, who took us to see a couple of properties. The best one was part of a farm complex, the rest of the farm still being in operation . It didn't grab either Susan or myself, even though it wasn't expensive, and the agent said the owners were willing to make a deal. The main problem is both houses were small, and it was out in the sticks. The garden consisted mainly of a huge concrete hardstanding. It had a great view though - a derelict chateau standing (but only just) about 100 metres away. On reflection, we may have been expecting a bit much!

The house at Argenton Chateau
That afternoon, with another agent, we visited a few properties closer to Argenton Chateau. Once again there was no enthusiasm from either of us for any of the properties. I then asked about a propery that I had seen advertised, but which filled none of our criteria. It was a house which had been converted into a hairdressers at some time in the past, which stood exactly opposite the church, only 50 metres or so from the Market square.

For some reason this place really appealed. We told the agent we were seriously interested and left for the day. We spent the whole of the next day in and around Argenton Chateau, and on our return to London, decided to make an offer. We rang the agent, decided in consultation with him as to what our offer would be, actually put the offer in - and then the vendor decided not to sell.

This put us both into a bit of a sulk. The next trip was to be more inspiring.


Sunday, 20 August 2006

How it all started

Well, this bit of the adventure, anyway.

After four trips to France to find the right house in the right place, we've now paid a deposit on a house in the Loire valley. It has a hole in the roof over the staircase, hasn't been occupied for 35 years and is absolutely filthy. The garden is a mass of brambles (Rubus fruticosus agg) - which last time I saw them were as high as me - and a thriving elder tree (Sambucus nigra) which is preventing the garage door from opening. In addition to the house and garage there is a stable cum grain store, tasteful stone dunny (a la turque) and a woodshed.

Our surveyor has produced a report and somewhat Eyeorishly told us that it will take twice as much money as we were expecting to restore (and therefore twice as much money as we actually have). We are funding the project with the proceeds of the sale of my house in Australia and I am determined not to borrow any money, so Plan B is to do the roof and restore the house and then take a deep breath. Anyway, although we have ideas about converting the garage and the stable/granary into living space, we have not enquired yet about planning permission, so this may be pipe dreams.

We always said that we would not take on a house that needed a new roof, but now that we have had a little time to get used to the idea, we can see there are positives. If we are very lucky, fixing the roof will fix a lot of other problems as well - cracks in the walls, heat loss, general damp. Thus, once the roof is done, the rest is just decorating! Hmm...

The negative is that this will be the single biggest outlay on the house and we have to do it first, with inadequate French language skills and no experience of dealing with French tradesmen. Hmm...Pretty scary, so now I am deliberately blocking this part of the project out, and mulling over ideas for the garden. Getting the roof fixed is clearly bloke stuff, so I will delegate it to the bloke half of the partnership. It will ensure his French comes on no end.

I had an email from my friend Chris today, reminding me that her father approached the restoration of their house by first making sure there was somewhere pleasant to sit and have a drink in the evening. That is obviously my responsibility, and working on the garden plan is therefore entirely appropriate.


Sunday, 1 January 2006

Previous Thoughts

Into the face of the young man ... there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.
P. G. Wodehouse

The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.
A. A. Milne

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

Guess, if you can, and choose, if you dare.
Pierre Corneille

By putting forward the hands of the clock you shall not advance the hour.
Victor Hugo

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom
Marcel Proust

Australia is properly speaking an island, but it is so much larger than every other island on the face of the globe, that it is classed as a continent in order to convey to the mind a just idea of its magnitude.

Charles Sturt

Don't knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while.
Kin Hubbard

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?

J. B. Priestley

In my view you cannot claim to have seen something until you have photographed it
Emile Zola

Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live.

Nicolas de Chamfort

What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists! One understands absolutely nothing and it's charming.
Edgar Degas

Autumn is a season followed immediately by looking forward to spring.
Doug Larson

He who lives without folly isn't so wise as he thinks.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.
Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne

To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.
Abraham Maslow

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
Albert Einstein

Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.
Coco Chanel

Carry on any enterprise as if all future success depended on it.
Cardinal Richelieu

I hate women because they always know where things are.


The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.

A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.

Marcel Proust

An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't.
Anatole France

It is better to understand little than to misunderstand a lot.
Anatole France

Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything.

Blaise Pascal

A witty saying proves nothing.

Everyone has talent at twenty-five. The difficulty is to have it at fifty.
Edgar Degas

As one grows older, one becomes wiser and more foolish.
Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.
Gustave Flaubert

All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.
Alexandre Dumas

As long as you know men are like children, you know everything!
Coco Chanel

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
Douglas Adams

Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.
Jean-Paul Sartre

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

Albert Camus

All human evil comes from a single cause, man's inability to sit still in a room.
Blaise Pascal

To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.

If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climbed, races won, or lasting happiness achieved.
Maurice Chevalier

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Douglas Adams

No clock is more regular than the belly.
Francois Rabelais

There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.
Marie Antoinette

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.
Diane Ackerman

Nothing is more fairly distributed than common sense: no one thinks he needs more of it than he already has
Rene Descartes

Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.
Bertolt Brecht

Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will, but remember it didn't work for the rabbit.
R. E. Shay

We don't stop playing because we grow old; We grow old because we stop playing
George Bernard Shaw

The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.
Aldous Huxley

Anything invented before your fifteenth birthday is the order of nature. That's how it should be. Anything invented between your 15th and 35th birthday is new and exciting, and you might get a career there. Anything invented after that day, however, is against nature and should be prohibited.
Douglas Adams

If you wish to make an apple pie truly from scratch, you must first invent the universe.
Carl Sagan

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.
Lewis Carroll

If it squirms, it's biology; if it stinks, it's chemistry; if it doesn't work, it's physics and if you can't understand it, it's mathematics.
Magnus Pyke

The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime, makes the ridiculous; and one step above the ridiculous, makes the sublime again.
Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.
Leonard Bernstein

Un tas de pierres cesse d'être un tas de pierres dès qu'un seul homme le contemple avec en lui l'image d'une cathédrale.

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.
Helen Keller

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?
Winnie the Pooh

Life has taught me that there are occasions when you should, and occasions that you shouldn't. Life has not yet taught me to distinguish between the two types of occasion.
Douglas Adams