Saturday, 30 May 2009

Pic d'Estibat

With the recent hot weather, getting out in the morning for a run/bike ride is the best option, as it is simply too hot in the afternoon to be doing anything remotely energetic. With that in mind, I attempted to restrain my wine consumption yesterday evening and was up and out of the house shortly after 09.00 hrs this morning for an assault on Pic d'Estibat from the Col de Port. It was a very pleasant 18 degrees when I parked up. It's a hefty slog straight up the hill from the Col de Port ...400m of ascent over a distance of just 1.5kms. But the views from the Pic are worth the effort;The circuit is a nice little outing on some lovely terrain now that the snows have melted. The bracken is not yet out in its full glory thank goodness which makes the going easierBy the time I returned to the car after just over an hour out, the temperature and humidity were starting to become uncomfortable and the pooch was well and truely pooped! Still, it was good to get my hill legs and lungs working again and to get out in the good weather. Tomorrow, we are planning a morning roadie outing up over the Col de Port to Tarascon for coffee and cake then a return back up the hill which will be interesting!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Perfect weather for the roadie

The weather is glorious again, with temperatures in the low to mid 20s and clear blue skies which cloud over later in the afternoon - perfect conditions for a short outing on the road bike. Neither of us is bike fit at the moment - my last outing was the Cyclosportive at the end of February and Andy's was goodness knows when. So after my recent health problems, a short outing was called for in order to get the bike legs back again. We parked at Seix and headed up the Ustou Valley to the bottom of the road up to the Col de Latrappe. Everything was working well and I had a good blast down on the drops on the way back - I felt really good and really strong. Instead of heading straight back to Seix, we then took a left at Pont de la Taule and headed up the valley to Couflens which is a lovely road to ride. After a short break, we turned round and headed home. We were only out for 1 hr 30 mins but it gave me confidence that my bike fitness will be quick to return. The only thing I have to be careful about is turning my head around quickly to look behind me, as I quickly lose my balance and start wobbling!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Hot and sticky and a run

We have been experiencing typical, variable Spring weather recently. Yesterday, we were treated to sudden violent gusts of wind which you could hear as they approached, buffeting the trees in the woodland down towards Massat. When a gust hit us, the trees around Pissou bent double in protest at the sudden shock. They cracked and groaned but stood their ground, straightening with relief as the gusts moved further up the headland. As suddenly as they came, they went and an eery calm returned.... until the next one landed. The pattern continued all day but fortunately no damage occurred.

Today has been a mixture of overcast skies and then violent heat as the clouds have occasionally parted to allow the sun to peak through. It is now 18.00 hrs and the weather station is showing 30 degrees in the shade. I took advantage of a cooler spell earlier this afternoon to take the pooch for a run from the Peguere route forestiere up to the Cap de Campets (1500m) which has stunning views towards the high mountainsThe path up to the Cap has some lovely running, which is your reward for the preceding steep climb up through the woodland!
From the Cap, a fun descent down to Col de Portel and then lovely woodland tracks down to the Roc de Peyre Caussille followed by a steep descent on narrow sheep trods to the path that meanders its way back through the woodland and eventually to the start of the route forestiere. On the way, some lovely views down towards Massat, nestling in its lush, green surroundings11.3kms and approx 500m of ascent in 1 hr 40 mins. A steady, unhurried run. A nice outing.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Potager progress

A quick update on veggie progress in the potager.... the top plot....From left to right, peas are in flower, the early Nantes carrots are doing well, the mixed Italian leaf salad that I have sown between them is doing well, spinach and rocket have been gracing our plates with the coriander also making good progress, first sowing of beetroot is thriving and the second sowing is not far behind, 4 capsicum plants are now established and the 2 aubergines at the top are developing fruit. The baby carrots that I sowed last week are not yet up and the shallots and garlic which are out of the picture to the right are being attacked by voles. Hopefully some will have survived.

Then in the bottom half ........ from top to bottom, F1 carrots (not visible) are making progress, leeks are developing well, Charlotte potatoes are thriving, dwarf French beans 1st sowing are now 4-6 inches high and the second sowing is now coming through, tomato plants are looking promising but the chillis are still struggling. Then the yellow and also white turnips that I only sowed 3 days ago are showing at the bottom of the picture. Out of shot are the cauliflower and savoy cabbage plants which are becoming established.

Elsewhere, the kuri squash plants that I grew from our own seed are thriving and the courgette plants too. The second sowing of peas are now an inch high and the strawberries are swelling nicely. Regular and thorough watering is the order of the day, as it has been dry and very warm over recent days.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Eat your heart out 'propane Elaine'!

Simpsons fans will know what I am on about, but for those not so 'au fait' with those American icons, I should just explain that we have had the most scrummy wood-fired BBQ this evening with 'jerk' chicken, homegrown organic salad leaves (rocket, baby spinach, lollo rosso lettuce leaves) and vegetable kebabs.... the smoking wood did a great job of keeping the biting insects at bay on the terrasse and the scrummy bottle of Anjou rosé for me (OK, not local, but hey) and Languedoc Roussillon red (for him) did a great job of washing it down. I am hoping I have now finally turned the corner after the worrying health issues recently, which culminated in some stupidly high blood pressure readings this week (sorry if I've been quiet folks, but 180/108 is not good and makes you feel kinda rubbish really and not exactly communicative). But all that is now under control plus there is some good news on the horizon, with Francoise and Daniel out the back having signed for a house this week, which means they will be gone before the end of July.... woo-hoo! Let's hope their son and his girlfriend will be moving with them. And the potager is coming on great guns. The peas are now in flower, the second sowing of French beans has come through as have the yellow and white turnips that I only sowed 3 days ago ... excellent!

So to end this evening's post, a photo of the front of house, complete with a copious quantity of rose blooms and lush greenness

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


Temperatures have reached 30 degrees in the shade today. After some potager tidying up (me) and strimming (Andy) this morning, we retired indoors this afternoon, where the thick stone walls have done a good job of keeping the heat out. One has to wonder what kind of summer we are in for this year... a stinkingly hot one I wouldn't mind betting!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

I wasn't going to, but .....

....well, I did. And other than very tired, I feel really good for it! Kev is away at the moment, so I went over to Pat's yesterday evening and she somehow persuaded me to give the trail race a bash today. Since Thursday night when I took my last meds, their side-effects have been steadily working their way out of my system and my stability has come on in leaps and bounds. The good thing about the race today is that it was very well marshalled and there were several 'get out' spots in case I needed them. It was never going to be a 'race' for me .... I set off rather nervously and with some trepidation, with the intention of simply completing the course. But Pat accompanied me all the way round, giving me massive encouragement and some excellent advice, when it became apparent that my fitness is some way off where it was in early March which is when I last did a meaningful run. It would have been a tough race on the best of days as it included some incredibly stiff ascent. The last one was an absolute killer with 250m of ascent in just 2 kms (there was a total of 600m of ascent over the 13km course).But I made it around without mishap ... and did not come in last which was a bonus! It had been a great outing on some fantastic footpaths, tracks and trails in perfect weather, with a fine atmosphere and was topped off by the post-race communal 'repas' which included a very tasty venison casserole. Purfik! THANKS PAT and thanks to the hubby for chauffering me over to Foix three days on the trot :-)

Friday, 15 May 2009


The past couple of days have seen a tremendous amount of rain fall again here in the Ariège. But it has been cold with it - just 4 degrees up at the Col de Port (1200m) this morning. The potager always benefits from a good soaking, but we need a good spell of warm weather to follow on. Fortunately, that is just what is forecast for the weekend :-)

A trip down to Foix this morning to see the ear specialist at the hospital for more involved tests to try and establish what is going on with my inner ear workings. I have been on reduced meds for the past 2 days and off them completely today. Tanganil has given me strong feelings of light-headedness and imbalance which have not been altogether pleasant (but better than the full-on vertigo) and have meant that I have been unable to drive. I was therefore hoping for positive news today. After a battery of tests, the good news is that my actual hearing is unaffected and that the symptoms of the vertigo are much reduced. However, tests also proved that the vestibular system of my left ear has simply ceased to work. No specific reason. No explanation. It is simply not functioning. Time may well sort out the problem. I have a prescription for some drugs that I need to take twice a day for the next 6 months, yes, 6 months, which will supposedly help the remedial process. But it is quite possible that the vertigo will return in the meantime. I will be living on the basis that it will not be returning. I expect to be able to drive within the week and will get out running as soon as the effects of the Tanganil are out of my system. Unfortunately, I won't be able to take part in the trail race on Sunday that I was supposed to be doing with Pat, but hey, there will be others.

Just a final word ..... in my experience to date, the French health care system deserves its reputation as one of the best in the world. It is efficient and thorough in every respect and, provided you are 'in the system', it does not cost an arm and a leg. I am lucky in that I found an excellent accountant who is an expert in both UK and French accountancy and who has enabled us to get set up in the most cost-efficient manner, meaning healthcare costs are taken care of and we have peace of mind should one of us require medical treatment.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Bumper strawberry crop this year

... or at least that is that is what I am expecting if the slugs don't get there first!There is a tremendous amount of blossom on the plants which appear to be thriving in the current conditions. I can't wait for the first fruit!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Some piccies

This blog has been a bit dry on the photo front recently, so this post is a gratuitious photo post, just for the hell of it.

The climbing rose 'Ena Harkness' at the front of the house is now in flower and with simply tons of buds waiting to bloom;
...the pretty stichwort alongside the pig poke wall;... the Charlotte potatoes in a tub poking through;... and last nights rather colourful and totally delicious dinner of a gésiers de canard (duck gizzard) salad which included home grown rocket and baby spinach, crusty croutons and a garlic, anchovy and olive dressing - yum;

Saturday, 9 May 2009


Great news! The parsnips have germinated! Little green shoots are poking their heads out in two nice ordered lines! I have read so much about how difficult they are to grow, I was not optimistic about the chances of success. I sowed the seeds on the 13 April, so it's taken 3 weeks for germination to occur. Let's just hope the voles/mice don't take a fancy to them and snaffle my hard earned 'snips before they reach maturity.

The coriander is also now coming through along with the Charlotte potatoes that I planted out in the potager - the ones in tubs on the terrasse have been up for a few days already. The beans are also now well and truely up and the tomato plants that I planted out on Wednesday are really taking off. The combination of wet weather (VERY wet on Thursday with literally a river coming down the hill and past our front door which ended up flooding Claudine's, next door!) and warmth (24 degrees in the shade today), seems to be to the potager's liking.

Pottering today has been interesting. The nystagmus flickering eye movement and dizziness seem to be stabilising and the nausea consequently subsiding. If I am standing up or sitting down, provided I don't move my head, everything is stable and normal which is a BIG welcome relief. But if I walk or move my head, my balance is not yet there and I am decidedly wobbly, particularly if I attempt to turn round in a narrow space such as between the rows in the potager. But things are improving and the drugs are slowly working on my inner ear's vestibular responses so I am optimistic that full service will be resumed in the course of next week :-)

Friday, 8 May 2009

Le spécialiste

Spoke to the doctor yesterday and was given orders to head down to Foix hospital this morning. The drugs should have stopped the vertigo. It wasn't 'normale' that I was feeling no different. I needed to see a 'spécialiste'. So, hospital it was. Bank Holiday here today, so chances of there being a specialist available were small. But I was in luck. They were able to get one in to see me. What a nice man :-) After various tests and examination of my eye movement and balance he confirmed that the vestibular system of my inner left ear was indeed malfunctioning fairly severely. Some IV drugs and some saline followed and eventually, 3 hours later, we left, with instructions to make an appointment with the specialist next week for a more thorough going over. More drugs to take in the meantime and hopefully over the next 24/48 hrs the movement should start to stabilise. I can't wait.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Le vertige

Vertigo. It's not funny. Since Sunday I have been experiencing increasingly frequent, increasingly prolonged and increasingly severe 'crises' which culminated yesterday in a bout of vomiting and a visit to the doctor. Probably an inner ear balance mechanism problem, he reckons. An injection was given to relieve the vertigo. Home for a lie down with a brief nausea relief stop on the way. Horizontal and with eyes shut brings relief. The drugs don't work. More of the same in tablet form later and fingers crossed. This morning, no improvement. More of the drugs. Walking is 'interesting' and nye on impossible without support. So the morning is spent horizontal with eyes shut. I would like the world to stop spinning please. Another call to the docs this afternoon is in order. This is really really not very nice :-(

Monday, 4 May 2009

Potager update

We had a fine, warm day yesterday, which is just what the potager needs. More is forecast for later in the week, although today is cold, grey and damp. But the veggies are coming along well and we had our first handful of rocket and baby spinach leaves in a salad yesterday which was lovely. The pea sticks are now in, as the plants are shooting up. The second sowing of both beetroot and rocket are now coming through, the second batch of garlic is sprouting nicely, the French beans are just starting to show and the mixed salad leaves and lambs lettuce are also showing signs of life. The various sowings of carrot need a decent spell of good weather to take off and despite being under a cloche, the capsicum and chilli seedlings seem a bit hesitant. Sun is what we need now and lots of it!