The Cemetery Of Saint-Floret – or – A Tomb With A View…

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The cemetery above Saint-Floret can be accessed via a relatively challenging, 15 minute walk/hike. This route, while the quickest, is not recommended for those that struggle with inclines, or families with small children. It could also be viewed as somewhat dangerous to attempt it during inclement weather. Happily there is a longer, safer route up to the graveyard or, if walking is not your thing, then it can be accessed via car, with a car park at its base.

 

As you will see from the following photographs your ascent, whichever way you decide to undertake it, is rewarded with some stunning views…

 

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Saint-Floret – A Beautiful Place To Stay…

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The view from our bedroom window

 

 

Nestled in the heart of Auvergne, in the Puy-de-Dome Department, is Saint-Floret, a small village of less than 300 inhabitants. Settling on this as our ‘base of operations’ for our holiday, we stayed at a lovely little three story refurbished maison. We knew we had made a great choice when we arrived and found our accommodation was situated right next to the river, meaning we would be able to fall asleep each night with the soothing sounds of the water lulling us into the land of nod.

 

Local amenities were scarce – there were just a couple of restaurants, which served decent grub at reasonable rates, and no supermarkets to speak of – however we were pleasantly surprised to discover the village came equipped with its own 24/7 bread-vending machine – something of a novelty to us Brits and meant that each morning could be started with a lovely, fresh baked repast.

 

There is a small playground within the village – no swings though! – so for families with small children you are guaranteed to have somewhere to go when you brood needs too unwind. Be advised though that the roads are quite narrow and traffic can sometimes go through at above the recommended speeds, so if you are coming with children then please be aware of this.

 

Sights within the village were outstanding, with the small windy alleys leading to treasures for the eyes, while venturing further afield led to even greater discoveries. Above the village lies the cemetery, with stunning views of the Saint-Floret and the surrounding area. A short walk – or drive if you have children – to the north of the village leads you to the ‘Tete de Lion’ an impressive, naturally formed rocky outcropping that is accessible via a not-too-challenging 1.3km circuit – this distance will allow you to see the Lion’s head and get you back to your starting point.

 

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The aptly named ‘Tete de Lion’

 

All in all a great place to stay, possibly lacking in much in the way of excitement for the older children, however if you are a walker, a person with an interest in history, or simply someone who admires beautiful views then this is heartily recommended.

 

West Yorkshire Graffiti Artists Invade Sleepy French Village!

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TRANSLATED FROM ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN FRENCH NEWSPAPER ‘LE MONDE’

 

A sleepy French village was rocked to its foundations this week, after it was invaded by English Graffiti Artists. St Nectaire, famous for its relaxing spas and beautiful views, is now synonymous with this ‘art form’ thanks to the efforts of the two spray-can-wielding Brits.

 

The defacing duo – Big Daddy Pimp (AKA Cumberland Sausage) and his sidekick Lil Bitch-Slapper (AKA Chipolata Sausage) – have claimed ownership of the ‘Ladybird’s Delight’ (their words) which now adorns the abandoned tennis court in the hills of the village. The artwork, which depicts a ladybird on some leaves, is said to highlight the difficulties facing the ‘urban artist’ in modern France. And also West Yorkshire.

 

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Lil Bitch Slapper, with the artwork in full.

 

“It’s about being true to yourself, yeah” Said Big Daddy Pimp, when he was interviewed earlier this week by the UK Graffiti Bible, Take A Break, “You can be all the colours of the rainbow – as long as they are mainly black and red – but it don’t matter but a ‘ting if you ain’t in touch with where you are coming from”. When asked to translate this into English, Big Daddy Pimp just said ‘Peace. And stay away from the yellow ladybirds, yeah? ‘cos everyone knows they is poisonous”.

 

“Also dere is a grasshopper” he expands “Because I bought too much green spray paint”.

 

The duo were raised in the UK, in an ‘Urban Ghetto’ as Pimp refers to it, called Wakefield, West Yorkshire. “Growing up on them streets was tough, yeah” says the urban warrior “Some weeks we was having to work 35, sometimes 37 hours, just to be able to put food on da table” Tears well up in his eyes as he recalls the depths he sometimes had to sink: ” Some weeks I had to work bank holidays…and even Christmas Day…for triple time”.

 

“I remember that Christmas” chimes in Lil Bitch Slapper “Daddy bought me a Lego Police Station”.

 

Big Daddy Pimp and Lil Bitch Slapper first met when Big Daddy Pimp’s Fiancee gave birth to him in 2010. The two, while not immediately close, soon formed a bond that developed into a collective love of art. This love found an outlet in graffiti, with the two going on to ‘decorate’ numerous walls around their area. Together the duo went on to form the graffiti collective known as The West Yorkshire Whippets (AKA The Alotment Boyz).

 

Feeling the heat led the duo to move away, in an attempt to break free from the underground graffiti scene which was threatening to endanger the lives of not just Big Daddy Pimp, but his family too. “We had run ins wiv da police, and a collective from Barnsley – The Flat Cap Pork Pie gang (AKA Revenge Of Kes) – and it was just getting too much”.

 

“Dey even keyed me car once” He recalls”I had to get it fixed at Daz’s Chips, Dents and Scratches in Chickenley. It Cost me £130. We only ate two takeaways that week”

 

So the family upped sticks and moved to France, and for a time it seemed that their completely-illegal artistic-activities had been left behind. But for ‘Cumberland Sausage’ the call of the streets was too strong. “I see a wall, empty, unused and it touches me inside. And if that wall is attached to a tennis court that is rotting away…well I iz going to sort it out and make it magical”.

 

“Daddy was going to do a lady boy at first weren’t you Daddy?” ‘Chipolata’ chips in “But then I asked him what a lady-boy was, and he went all quiet, and said we should do this instead”.

 

Following allegations that the artwork featured is not the property of ‘Big Daddy Pimp’ or ‘Lil Bitch Slapper’ and in fact that they are not graffiti-artists, but are just two ex-pats standing in front of someone else’s graffiti, Le Monde would like to apologise to our readers for any confusion caused.

The Dangers Of Giving Nicknames To Miserable Neighbours…

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So since moving to France I’ve made an effort to get to know, and get along with, my new neighbours in our village. We live in a block of six houses – kind of like a row of terraced ‘cottages’ – and by and large everyone is nice and friendly.

 

With three exceptions.

 

I have taken to calling these three exceptions Chicken Head, Turtle Head and Bland. Chicken Head and Turtle Head live together, in the house next-door-but-one to us. Bland lives on the house at the opposite end to us (we live at the other end). On many occasions have I said hello, good evening or tried to make eye-contact with these three, but have been met with grudging replies or, if I don’t make the first move, nothing at all. A stark contrast to the other neighbours.

 

Being the petty-minded person that I am (hey, I’m a big enough man to admit I’m a small man about some things) I have taken this personally and given them the above monikers. Why those names I hear you ask? Well it’s a straightforward case of ‘if the shoe fits’. Thus Chicken Head has a head like a chicken, Turtle Head has a head like a turtle (maybe more like a terrapin, actually, but that doesn’t roll of the tongue as easily) and Bland is, well, bland.

 

It wouldn’t be so bad if they were all rude and ignorant in their own individual ways, but they do it together. Yes, in a threesome or, as we are in France, a menage a trois. They only talk amongst themselves, which is unfortunate as they both have children and one of them is in school with my son, in the same year. She’s absolutely adorable, and very friendly, so thankfully the miserable-gene seems to have skipped a generation. But still it’s doubtful my son will be getting invited round for play-dates.

 

At first I thought it was just me, maybe they don’t like the British. But then I observed their behaviour with the other neighbours, and realised they were just very ‘cliquey’. Oh and did I mention Bland is pregnant? At least that’s what my partner thinks, I personally hope she’s just fat. Why hope? Well because she smokes like a chimney, and I refuse to believe in this day and age, and with already having a child, that she would be putting herself before this new life.

 

But yes, she may be pregnant, and the only man she spends any time with, in fact all of the time with, is Chicken Head’s husband. That’s not to say that it’s just her and Turtle Head, they aren’t ducking away to do their seedy business, at least as far as I’m aware. No, it’s always all three of them, all of the time.

 

This ambiguity over the possible-pregnancy’s possible-parentage has also  led to them being collectively labelled as ‘The Sect’. I wouldn’t risk the wrath of the internet by putting up pictures of them, I’m not that small a man, but believe me when I say, this is not a sect you would want to join. Unless small, bald men or round, sturdy ladies is your thing.

 

So yes, I have given them these nick-names, and have clearly been using them with a bit too much abandon. This was brought home to me last night, when the kids and I were out at the front of our house in the glorious sunshine, just messing around on bikes. After finishing work my partner joined us, and we were sat chatting with a girl who lives next-door to one of the aforementioned neighbours (they have a swimming pool but, this young girl informed us, they don’t let her play in it as ‘They have enough with their own daughter’, nice people, eh?).

 

It seemed like this mention of the neighbours was enough to call them forth because, like a trap-door spider, one of them popped out and immediately began puffing away on a cigarette.

 

My son pulled up on his BMX in front of us, and maybe a few yards away from where the  miserable neighbour was stood, smoking away. ‘Daddy, daddy’ he called out to me ‘Look, it’s Chicken Head!’.

 

Things to note: 1) in future don’t use your secret names for your neighbours in front of your kids and 2) be grateful they don’t speak a word of English*.

 

 

*I hope

Now We Are Five…

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So we said that we would get a cat when we moved to France. It all seemed so abstract when we said it, even the idea of actually moving to this lovely country seemed like a dim and distant dream. But here we are. And now so is he.

 

His name’s Jesse, he’s a black cat. Just a generic one, nothing fancy, thought it best if we start out with a standard model, before looking at something else in ten years time (that’s how long they live, right?).  I wasn’t all that bothered to be honest, I’m more of a dog person. But then I was constantly beaten about the head with this promise we’d made to the kids.

 

That plus my son already has the name picked out.

 

As luck (depending on your viewpoint on cats) would have it a colleague of my partner had just found a stray kitten, abandoned and alone. What a heartbreaking story. My partner approached me and, using her largest eyes, convinced me to take it on. After all, we had promised the kids.

 

He settled in well on the Sunday we brought him home, he was already trained to do ‘his business’ where he should so that was one box ticked. Then the next day my partner went to work, and it was just me, the kids and a cat. Approximately two-hours after she’d left I sent her the following text:

 

START ASKING YOUR COLLEAGUES IF THEY WANT A CAT. THAT CAT HAS TO GO. WE DIDN’T THINK THIS THROUGH. IT’S TOO MUCH. IF I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THIS FOR THE NEXT SEVEN WEEKS I’LL GO MAD.

 

Oh yeah, did I mention that this is the start of the 8-week Summer holidays, here in France? Well it is.

 

So after that frantic text I sent both kids to their rooms in a bid to de-stress. It may not sound like much, but after being used to coping with two kids, settling into that groove and knowing how to run things smoothly, you introduce an 8 pound (I’m guessing, I haven’t weighed him) ball of fur, claws and teeth into the mix and things go to hell.

 

I came down into the living-room, full of plans as to who we could give him to, who would need a cat…anything to get him out of the house as quickly as possibly. I sat on the couch and who came up to me, purring like the world’s smallest lawnmower? Of course it was Jesse.

 

He stayed like that for ten minutes, purring away, until he fell asleep. I think it was right then that I decided he was part of the family. I quickly sent a text to my partner, in a bid to erase the earlier one, knowing full well that she would never forget it and bring it up, again, and again, and again….

 

He’s alright. I like him. He doesn’t half sleep in some funny positions too, which is amusing..

 

But on the other hand, he’s curious about everything, which can mean it’s difficult to get any work done…

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Computer restart due to cat jumping on all keys, in case you were wondering.

 

So yes, our relationship got off to a rocky start, but now we seem to be firm friends. You know, as long as I feed him, water him, clean up his poo and give him lots of cuddles.

 

I’ve got a third child haven’t I?

 

Oh and for the record? I still want a dog.

Ill-Matched Wrestling Matches & A Whole Lot Of Tossing On Day 3 Of Les Fêtes Franco Écossaises in Aubigny Sur Nere..

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So we come, at last, to the final day of the festival celebrating the Auld Alliance. As you read this the people who came to entertain and enthral the crowds will be packing up their kilts, deflating their bagpipes and making sure there’s enough fuel in their cars to make the long journey back to Scotland.

 

Except for the people who actually live here that is – they’ll just walk 100 yards to their house.

 

The festival co-coordinators have been lucky in their timing – the weather has been glorious throughout – which has brought the crowds and, crucially, made the crowds thirsty. My plan for next year’s festival is simple – buy lots and lots and lots of alcohol and fizzy pop and then sell it. Then the following year I will be blogging from my yacht.

 

If only.

 

Anyway, enough waffle from me, have a gander at the last lot of photographs…

 

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No idea what the sales tactic was here? Perhaps trying to target that Planet Of The Apes/Scottish Highland Fan demographic?

 

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Took me right back to Braveheart…’Hold!!!!’

 

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There was seldom anyone actually monitoring this stuff, so if someone wanted to flip out – say someone who had two kids and was stressed out on a hot sunny day – then this would be the perfect/worst opportunity to do so.

 

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These guys were trying to get volunteers to take part in the ancient game of ‘Embarrass yourself in front of your friends by getting them to try to throw a heavy weight over a giant limbo pole, fail miserably and then have to watch you do it expertly while your girlfriend looks on and sighs to herself’

 

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It seems ‘almost’ feasible when you look at it…

 

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Having said that even the sol called ‘experts’ messed up a few times.

 

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Having to lower the pole…never a good sign. Still at least you aren’t doing it in front of crowds of people….

 

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Pah! He can nearly touch it with his hand now! Amateurs* (*I still didn’t try)

 

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Load of Knight Templar chilling out. I don’t know what the plural for a load of Knights Templar is and I’m not googling it either.

 

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Look at the size of those two dogs! We were told they used to hunt bears, wolves and….

 

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ENGLISH MEN!!!! RUN AWAY THEY’VE CAUGHT MY SCENT!!!

 

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This looks so authentic, but she was reaching down for her iPhone.

 

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First mismatched wresting match – the guy on the right weighed half what the guy on the left did.

 

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Now this was clearly only ever going to end one way…

 

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Or was it….? (he did actually let the little fellow win)

 

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This is a bit more like it…

 

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Yep, this one was a very evenly matched….match.

 

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This was one of many wrestling matches between the professional Highland Wrestling Team and a group of boy (and girl) scouts who were in the area. No prizes for guessing the outcome here….

 

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So, as Porky Pig used to say ‘the the the that’s all folks’ I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at the photographs I’ve taken during the festival. I’ve no doubt that this time next year, when the streets of my village ring out with sounds of bagpipes, I’ll be back to cover it again. Have a good one y’hear ken?

 

BAGPIPES GALORE! On Day 2 Of Les Fêtes Franco Écossaises in Aubigny Sur Nere..

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Do you like bagpipes? They are great at new year aren’t they? Really making ‘Auld Lang Syne’ go with a bang, if you are lucky enough to have them playing live as you see in the next year. The rest of the time though, if I’m being honest, I can take them or leave them. Not much chance of avoiding them today though.

 

My ears still hurt.

 

Anyway feast your eyes, and I will spare your ears, on the pictures I took of the many, many battalions of bagpipe players. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but there’s no denying that these people are awesome when they gather en-masse…

 

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Day 1 Of The Scottish Invasion for Les Fêtes Franco Écossaises in Aubigny Sur Nere..

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So for those who don’t know my village is twinned with a Scottish town called Haddington. This is to celebrate the ‘Auld Alliance’ between France and Scotland, and to further celebrate this every year, for three days, the Scottish descend upon our little village.

 

For more background click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auld_Alliance

 

I will be blogging about this over the next three days, with each blog mainly comprising of photographs.

 

I hope you enjoy them…

 

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The French School Holidays Start With A Good News/Bad News Scenario…

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The bad news? It’s raining cats and dogs…

 

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The good news? The pool’s filling up nicely!

 

What a start to the 8-week ‘summer’ holidays, eh? Fingers crossed that the weather picks up or, speaking just for myself, I’ll be a dribbling wreck in two-month’s time!

Happy holidays everyone!

A Selection Of Conversations I’ve Almost Had In French…

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I pass a gentleman on my daily run, I’ve passed him before and exchanged pleasantries with him. I’m actually walking today though, due to the heat, and he questions this and then, realising I am English, asks me how I came to be here.

WHAT I THINK I SAID:

‘I’m walking today as it’s too hot, so I’m doing a mix of walking, then running and so on. Yes I live in the village, my partner is French, and we’ve got two kids. We used to travel here a few times each year but it was a long journey for the kids, 13 hours!’

 

WHAT I PROBABLY SAID:

‘IT’S TOO HOT FOR ME, I’M ENGLISH, I WALK IT RUN LIKE THIS I AM LIVING HERE AT THE VILLAGE CENTRAL MY WOMAN IS HERE, MY KIDS ARE HERE THEY COME WITH US BUT IT IS LONG FOR THEM 16 DAYS OF JOURNEYS SOMETIMES A YEAR’

 

One of the other dads at the maternelle (the French equivalent of nursery) that my daughter goes to has noticed there is a problem with one of my car tyres, he shows me that there’s a rather scary looking split in the tyre.

WHAT I THINK I SAID:

‘My wife bought the car, the seller assured her that the tyres were new, clearly they aren’t. I’ll show this to her when we get home and get her to call the garage’

 

WHAT I PROBABLY SAID:

‘MY WOMAN BOUGHT THIS, SELLER TYRES NEW, HE SAY TYRES NEW, THEY NOT NEW? SHOW WOMAN TYRES WHEN I GO TO HOUSE. CALL THE MAN LATER’

 

I’ve decided to buy some flowers for my mother-in-law as a personal thank you from me to her, for looking after the kids and just generally being brilliant. I head to the local flower shop and browse, the lady who owns the place comes out to offer me help.

WHAT I THINK I SAID:

‘I’m wanting some flowers for my mother-in-law, not too expensive but pretty. I don’t have long to look though as I have to pick up my daughter from nursery. Sorry about the French, I’m English, do you take debit cards?’

 

WHAT I PROBABLY SAID:

‘I WANT CHEAP FLOWERS, FOR THE MOTHER OF THE MOTHER OF MY KIDS, CHEAP FLOWERS? CARDS OK NOT CASH? CARDS CASH? CHEAP FLOWERS? I AM ENGLISH MY DAUGHTER HAS TO BE PICKED UP, SORRY ENGLISH, CHEAP FLOWERS?’

 

I’m at the post office, I’ve bought a faulty item from England and want to return it to the seller, but I need to know that it will be tracked and signed for at the other end, I also don’t want to pay yet as I need the seller to pay me the postage first.

WHAT I THINK I SAID:

‘Hi there, I’d like to send this to the UK, it’s a faulty item and I need to get it back to the seller. I need it to be tracked and signed for at the other end. I don’t want to pay today though as the seller has to give me the money first’

 

WHAT I PROBABLY SAID:

‘HELLO HOW ARE YOU? I HAVE PACKAGE FOR SEND TO ENGLAND, BROKEN IT IS. SIGNATURE AND TRACKING? I NEED SIGNATURE AND TRACKING? WILL IT HAVE SIGNATURE AND TRACKING? IT WILL HAVE SIGNATURE AND TRACKING? GOOD. I AM NOT PAY NOW. I PAY WHEN MAN WHO SENDS IT TO ME BECAUSE IT IS BROKEN PAYS ME MONEY TO SEND IT TO MAN WHO SOLD IT TO ME BROKEN. I AM ENGLISH. I NOT PAY TODAY. WILL IT BE SIGNED FOR?’