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24th November

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Back from a few days in Bristol, it was another world, full of students and busy, purposeful people. Bristol is my second favourite city after Edinburgh. I didn’t hire a car, so spent 5 days walking between our younger son’s student flat in Clifton and my sister’s flat in Redland where our other two children stayed for the weekend. Rather than go grocery shopping I did an online order and had a delivery of lots of Christmassy things like mincemeat, christmas pudding, crackers and other things that are difficult to source in France. We enjoyed a meal out on Saturday evening, the children made a roast lunch on Sunday after a run on the Downs (I walked). Christmas shopping in John Lewis on Monday, then on Tuesday we went for an early morning swim in the university pool, on the way we passed a row of cars with smashed windows and a young woman weeping next to her vandalised car, a reminder of the downside of city life.

When checking in at Bristol airport to fly back I discovered my sister’s bathroom scales had miscalculated the weight of my bag and I had to transfer all the heavy items to my hand luggage (while being closely watched by a long queue of fellow passengers) to avoid being charged a huge sum for excess baggage, I wasn't even allowed one excess kilo, and despite lots of repacking had to ditch the strong white bread flour which probably wasn't necessary anyway, there must be a local equivalent.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather in the UK, it was even warmer when I arrived back home. I was slightly disappointed that the cats didn’t seem particularly pleased to see me, but very pleased to find that Philip has dug in most of the large pile of sticky cow manure into the vegetable garden and finished painting around the new windows. Today was the monthly lunchtime book club, the chosen book was Monsieur Montespan, Le Montespan was a Gascon whose chateau was not far from here, it wasn't a work of great literature but full of the sort of details of personal hygiene and explicit language that children and my fellow book club members really enjoyed, there was some debate about how much of the plot was true, La Montespan sounded like a most unpleasant character. We had such an enthusiastic discussion that the hostess forgot about the pumpkin soup she was preparing for our lunch, until smoke filtered through to the salon. So we just had salad with bread and cheese. This evening our French neighbours dropped in,  with perfect timing, I had just mopped the kitchen floor and vacuumed everywhere so hopefully they’ll think this is how we normally live, an hour earlier and I would have been embarrassed, Philip hadn’t done any housework in my absence . I opened a bottle of wine and we caught up with the news, it’s Saint Catherine’s Day tomorrow, we toasted our fete day in advance, (our neighbour is also a Cathy.) It’s also an important date in the gardening calendar as the optimum day to plant all bare rooted plants and trees, garden centres do their biggest trade at this time of year. Philip came back from walking in the mountains and after we’d exchanged our news about happenings in the village we talked about dogs and which breed to get, I think we are getting gradually closer to becoming dog owners.

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