EEC 18, 21st June 2005

There's still loads to do. I decide I hadn't put the shower wall fitting in the best place so I moved it. I did some more plastering round the door I fitted, but I've still more plastering to do. When I was at Brico Depot I bought a satellite receiver and dish, so I fiddled with that. Managed even to get a good signal with the dish propped against a couple of bricks. The wind blew a little and it fell over. I'll have to get a proper mount for the dish.

Wednesday was the dentist again, final fitting of my new bridge, and receipt of the bill. Oh lala. I could nearly buy a balloon for that much. Talking of which, in the evening I flew with Fabian, president of the local flying club. He brought Jean-Paul along for the retrieve. Jean-Paul must have enjoyed the retrieve, he offered, if I was flying again, to drive retrieve for me. It is quite fun, retrieving, a sort of challenge to get to the balloon when it lands. I enjoy retrieving myself. I like flying better, but retrieving is fun. He is going to come along to crew with me at the country Music Festival in a few weeks time, that's a five day balloon meeting. Well, they do have country music concerts in the evenings but the big bit is the balloon meet, with about 30 balloons attending.

Back down to earth Thursday, filling holes with cement, on the front step, in the kitchen, and the bedroom. Then I painted the bedroom ceiling, or part of it, where it had been stained by a water leak. I'd already painted a sealer over the stains, so it would not run through the paint. Then I washed the bedroom and lounge floors, then painted the greater part of the bedroom floor, and fitted an outside tap outside the workshop, the 2nd bedroom to be. Having now got water, I set the power washer on part of the lounge wall, where it was really dirty and whilst I had the washer out whistled round the vehicles. Whilst I had it running, I scooted round the concrete path which partially surrounds the house. I'll bet nobody is reading this, you're waiting for pictures. So far, there aren't any. Tough.

Monday I painted the rest of the bedroom floor, it came on to rain heavily, I found a leak in the chimney and another by the exhaust chimney from the propane water heater. I fixed those after it stopped raining, and whilst up on the roof there made my plans to repair the guttering, which leaks everywhere and needs relevelling, to let the water actually run down the down pipe and not hang around in the gutter. Tuesday I laid carpets in the bedroom and the lounge. Now it's beginning to be like home.

Little Lady Cat is back and forth regularly, now she's getting through 5 square meals a day. My doesn't she eat? Andre, my neighbour, fois gras producer, and charming man, is going to dig through the huge pile of rubbish in the outbuilding where Little Cat has stashed her kittens. Well, that's why she stashed them there, where they would be hard to get at. I can look after one cat, but we can't have a whole litter of wild cats running around the farm. Then when they are gone I can run Little (Lady) Cat up to the vet for the operation, so she doesn't have more.

Wednesday I head off to the UK, for my sister Helen's 60th birthday. I just missed tickets on special offer at 0.01€ each way, but managed to get in on the #2 special offer, 99 centimes each way. That's plus airport taxes, makes a total of just over €40 round trip. Not bad for a trip which would take 18.5 hours driving, and which would mean a hotel stop each way, plus a ferry crossing of at least €250.

I flew from Pau airport, a super, tiny airport, I could walk from the long stay car park to the terminal building, it was only about 100 metres walk. And the parking for a week looks to be around €25. At Stansted airport in the UK I had booked a car from Alley Cat Car rentals, a cheapie off airport car rental company, premises in a farmyard. Cheap in price maybe, (£99 for a week) but not in service. I phoned them when I arrived at the airport, they told me to go to the pickup point and wait, and in about 5 minutes my car arrived. A brand new, 750 miles, Vauxhall Corsa. Super little car, same as my own but, obviously, lots newer. We drove to the office, in the farmyard, filled in the forms, I was given a local map, was told where to buy petrol - at this station here, it's the cheapest in the area, not the other one, that's too dear - and fixed the time to return the car. Then, of course, when I return, they drive me to the airport. No website, but they do have a phone.

I'd told Tony I was coming but not Helen, she was so shaken to see me when I arrived I almost wished I'd told her in advance that I was coming! She was trying to clean the lounge, the night before after returning from a fantastic meal in a Michelin starred restaurant in Lincolnshire, they had found a pigeon had fallen down the chimney, there had been soot everywhere.

Today was the day she retired, reluctantly, from her job at the BBC. The BBC are making cuts, she is 60, they did not want to renew her contract. So we sat outside, and drank a bottle of champagne to celebrate her retirement. Then, because that went so fast, another! Bottle that is, not retirement.

Thursday Tony and I went shopping for some items you cannot get in France, such as a propane pressure reducer to fit my gas tanks, this type of connector is not available in France. We sought information about continuing to receive English satellite TV in France, and bought some oil filters for my Mazda van, also difficult to get in France. We went off to collect Helen's birthday cake, with an icing model of the BBC information bus, and a skier who'd been paragliding, a really super cake. Helen has been doing a lot of work with the BBC bus, disseminating ideas on information technology, and last time she went ski-ing took a para gliding flight, which is the reason for the decorations. She and Tony have been ballooning around 30 years so they decided they could miss out the balloon this year!

We'd bought some wire covers for the chimneys, to stop birds falling down and Tony fitted them. Course, they have lived here 35 years, it's the first time a bird has fallen down the chimney, but the covers need to be fitted right now.

Friday, Helen's birthday, was a superb dinner for around 30 at the Star in North Dalton. We started the evening with rather a lot of bottles of champagne. Note the label.

Toby, Helen's son, is head chef there, and he's good, really good - main course was fresh grilled halibut served with a kiwi, cherry tomato, spring onion and chilli salsa, accompanied by a bowl of assorted vegetables. Crisp, as they should be. Delicious! All absolutely delicious. So you know where to go if you find yourself in the East Riding of Yorkshire in the UK. The Star at North Dalton.

I spent some time relaxing in Helen's garden. The lovely geese are made from painted wire netting! And don't be confused by the little building in the middle of the photo. It's actually a bird table on a post at the front of the photo.

Monday I drove to Stansted, about a 4 hour drive, and stayed in a B&B ready to return the hire car next day, prior to checking in for my 2 hour return flight to Pau and now, Tuesday, I am back in St Michel, little cat is still here, and, drat, so are her kittens...........I'll better offer to give Andre a hand to clear out his shed.

Best regards

David Barker
Mirande, France

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