France, 23rd December.................

Hi

Since I got back from my last tour at the end of August I haven't done a lot. In fact, I can hardly remember doing anything much at all. I do remember that I have been enjoying what I have, or haven't, been doing. I love it here in the south west of France!

Ah! I've fitted new kitchen units.

Note some of my products, from when I was running Romsey Woodcraft, still in use. Pepper mill on the right, on the table, and spice rack at the back. It took 40 pages of drawings before I was happy with the design for those mills.....

Here Pica is watching her 'TV'. I hang bird feeders just outside that little window over the sink and there are usually blue tits hanging on out there.

It's an old house, the walls are about 50 cm (18") thick.

I remember that I've been to a few museums, I've been exploring the local area, by bike and by car, I helped cut the fabric for a new home made balloon the other day. But I still haven't found the time to visit Spain, only 100 Km away, and, I'm told, a superb mountain park just over the border. I think I've been too busy relaxing.

Pica actually spends most of her time outside

But she too does find time to relax by the fire......

I had a load of logs delivered at the start of November so we'll have no problem keeping the fire going.

I must have done something else!

But who cares what I've done? I don't, and you don't, I'm sure!

Ah! I haven't done it yet, but I will soon. Early in the New Year I go to Mauritania to do an annual on a British registered balloon out there. They are paying my expenses and a bit on top. Sounds fun. I just hope it passes. Everyone - including me - will be a bit pissed off if it doesn't. It's an oldish balloon (330 hours flight time) but it was OK when I last looked at it about a year ago.

Oh well. Eleanor's back from Australia for Christmas, she arrived in Paris last Tuesday evening. She's still working on her masters in International Law over in Sydney. I might visit her in March or April, I have the idea to hire a camper for a month. But also I need to discover more of France, there's still lots to see. I've got my RV parked at Micki's so I need to get back to the US some time too. I spoke to Micki, by the way, a couple of weeks ago, I'm very pleased to say that now she seems OK in herself although out of ballooning.

There's so much to see, so many places still to go, yet I love it just hanging around in this part of France, doing very little. Decisions, decisions!

It's Christmas. So here's my menu for Christmas day, when Eleanor is here. Foie Gras de canard entier mi-cuit for starters. That's the very best my neighbour tells me. He should know, he's the producer, and this is his Christmas gift. Most of you won't know about foie gras. It is artificially fattened duck liver, and tastes out of this world. I like it on toast, accompanied by champagne. I received a delivery of 36 bottles of champagne last week, by the way, but I am not anticipating drinking all that over Christmas. Although I have already tested a couple of bottles, I need to make sure it's OK for the feast, right? After the foie gras, what then? Eleanor wanted a bird - volaille in French - but a turkey is too big, so is a goose, we are having duck to start so duck is out for the main course, chicken is too ordinary. I've decided on pintade, produced by the brother in law of Susanne who works one day a week helping Andre with the foie gras. Pintade is another local speciality, guinea fowl. Mmmmm....... To follow I have English Christmas pudding for which I will make some brandy butter as accompaniment.

I'm planning to enjoy Christmas. I trust you will too..................

And of course, a Happy New Year...........................

Here's a link for Christmas. http://www.youtube.com/theroyalchannel

Best regards

David Barker

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