The cows regard me with their dark, solemn eyes. Lifting their heads as I pass them, watching me as I watch them, both of us wondering if we can trust the other enough to make friends. Sometimes I pass them in the car as I drive through the tunnel of trees that is our drive way, and they canter along beside me, peering through the windows. Sometimes I meander slowly passed them with the boys on the way back from walking through the fields to scrump apples from the farmers tree. Other times I pass them alone, in the early mornings when I just need some time to myself or in the evenings when the sun is setting and the mist is already gathering in the hollows of their field. The walk up the drive is my favourite. I love its wildness, the untamed nettles and gnarly old trees, the littles faces of the red squirrels as they too peep at me from a safe distance.
It's times like these that make the tough bits of being here worth it. Like when you have a house full of people and suddenly water starts to seep, then trickle and them finally pour through the cellar walls and you realise that somewhere a pipe that leads from two of the ancient fosse septics is leaking. A day spent digging huge holes in the stinking mud of the the freshly weeded and dug over flower beds at the front of the house may have temporarily stemmed the flow of septic tank run off into the cellar - but it lost us a day of getting on with other jobs. Time here, it seems, races away and before you know it the day is done before you've even got started.
We were warned by many people that getting things done in France takes time. That there is a French way if doing things that we'd just have to get used to. Like the fact that you can only spend €2,000 a month on your debit card, so if you buy €1,500 worth of mattresses in Ikea pretty soon you'll have to painstakingly write out a cheque every single time you need to buy something.
Or that to get the new septic tank you so desperately need you have to first get a man to come out and assess your needs. He will then write a report that has to be approved by another man, in another office, before you can ask one of the men on the approved list of fosse septic installers to come and install it. Which of course he may or may not do on the day he says he will depending on what the weather is like, how tight his trousers are or if his wife is making his favourite boeuf bourguignon for dinner.
One day I will be able to update the renovation section of this blog and hopefully soon we may see some progress. Eventually we will find someone who is willing to take on the mammoth task of re-wiring and re-plumbing this house. Although it seems that French plumbers are as unreliable as British ones, and at this moment we lack the language skills to call them and find out where they are when they don't turn up. So we resort to new tactics, we've found their offices on a map and we plan to drop in and introduce ourselves in person in the hopes of getting them through our front door.
Between our many guests we continue to work outside, clearing and tidying and trying to get on top of the garden. Everyday we uncover something else to add to our ever growing list of jobs - like the procession caterpillars nesting in our fir trees, waiting to strip them of needles and possibly poison the cats and the children. Those nests are currently meeting a fiery end on the bonfire and the trees, children and cats are safe - for now. Tomorrow (or the next day, or the next) there is the hole in the stable roof to fix, the nettles to strim, the gravel to weed, the leaves to gather... And when the weather turns we still start restoring the windows, all 48 of them, and their shutters - the first step in giving this house the facelift it deserves.