Wednesday 14th January

Happy New Year!! Better late than never! I just don’t seem to have got round to writing up my diary this year. It is still my great passion, alongside P-O Life but there is so much going on around me, and I have kept waiting for a ‘slot’ to sit down and write about about my life in the P-O – but it just hasn’t happened. And suddenly it’s half way through January!

Well, summer’s here! Only joking. It’s still freezing first thing in the morning, crisp and dry after a cloudless night, but days at the moment are warm and sunny as long as you don’t stray into the shade too often. Last week though….oohhhh…last week! Rain, sleet, snow, very cold and un-south-of-Francish, but I do think that a bit of rubbish weather is quite a good thing as it helps you to appreciate the wonderful weather that we have most of the time and stop noticing after a while.

We have done some superb walks this month under blue skies and pale sunshine. My favourite so far has been from the Chateau Aubiry, chateau and cave just outside Céret, behind the large white building with the sculpture of the ear, on the le Boulou – Céret road, where we had the Christmas market.
Château Aubiry itself was built in the 19th century by a Danish architect called Petersen, the same gentleman who also built Château Valmy at Argelès.

He was commissioned to build these modest properties for a rather wealthy landowner, who wished to offer a little pied-à-terre in the country to each of his presumably very spoilt children. Dad! See how badly you treated me as a child. You never had a castle built for me. I am unloved!
Anyway, we left the car by the ear and headed up towards Vivès, cute little village nestled above Saint Jean-Pla-de-Corts, and then up towards Llauro. Most of the tracks were off road (easy to identify if you get the right map) and the views are stunning. We could see the sea shimmering in the distant sunshine and the air felt sweet and pure and unpolluted. How great is that?

I am just putting the finishing touches to P-O life and will hopefully be taking it to the printers next week. The final stages are always so exciting – seeing it come together as an actual magazine rather than a series of word documents and fitting photos to articles.

Martine-Sophie, the designer is amazing. She never complains about the thousands of changes-of-mind I make every day, the corrections, the mistakes…… she just gets on with it. This month, we have spotlighted Port Vendres.

This vibrant little town is one of the few places along the coast that actually remains open over winter. It is sometimes hard to find a restaurant or a café in the other resorts out of season, but because Port Vendres is a working fishing port, and a leisure port, there is always some activity going on. I took this photo on the port near the fishing boats. It seems that someone has a bit of a sardine surplus. What a terrible waste when the other half of the world is starving to death!

Sunday 18th January
Well, I’ve just been roller skating, yes I have! Such fun! And such aching feet! But such fun!
We parked next to the casino at Le Boulou and skated down the cycle path that heads down towards the roundabout going up to Les Chartreuses. Such fun! Haven’t worked out how to stop yet. In fact, not too brilliant at going forward either yet. But such fun!

I didn’t take any photos as I was not in control of any part of my aching little body, and you know the saying ‘flailing arms a good photo do not make’ Definitely going to go again soon – maybe not tomorrow but soon.

I might just have to find someone to teach me a little bit of technique and balance. Olivier is much better than I am, and was able to stop with a wobbly little flourish but it was mainly on the flat and I’m a little worried that he will be over confident if he gets on a downhill bit!

Her Royal Hairiness was a bit confused about the whole thing – not quite a walk speed, a little slower than a run speed…. In the end she chose laid back trot and adapted quite well to the new walkies technique.

Wednesday 28th January

Aie aie aie! Wottaweek! Olivier and I studiously ignored all weather warnings in a kind of smug ‘it-won’t-happen-to-us’ kind of way….. Until it did!

We have just returned to civilisation after four days of no electricity whatsoever, following on from la tempete Klaus, high winds throughout western France which apparently blew up to 180 mph in some parts of the region.

Here in Maureillas, believe it or not, it was all fairly still apart from the odd grumble and growl, so it was quite a shock to us when the house suddenly shuddered to a halt around Saturday midday.

In fact, we have had all the inconveniences of the strong winds, without experiencing the pleasure of extreme weather, which I love watching (from the safety of a warm house of course).

If you have a home in the region, but are in the UK, don’t worry too much if you are in the Maureillas area. It doesn’t seem to have been effected at all.

Olivier spent the day on Monday going round and checking a load of properties for clients and there was very little damage, compared to what we had imagined – mainly trees down, a few roof tiles but nothing major, so whilst by no means a storm in a teacup, it would seem to be the aftermath and loss of electricity, phone, telly and – horror of horrors – my computer!!

It was a little like losing an arm! I kept going into the office and pressing the button, hoping that there might have been a little spurt of electrical current.

Saturday night was candlelit scrabble and BBQ’d steak, a little red wine to wash it all down and lots of giggling because it was surely only temporary. By Sunday evening, we no longer had our mobiles as we couldn’t charge them and the freezer was beginning to niff.

Invited next door by the neighbours who felt sorry for us (we are ALL electric and the only gas we have is the BBQ outside) we ate pasta by candlelight, washed down by much red wine which warmed the cockles and lulled us into a false sense of security, leading us to reflect that life wasn’t really too bad without mod cons after all.

However, by Monday morning, the red wine glow of optimism had turned into a gentle head pounding. What’s more, we were becoming quite stinky, each and every one of us, due to no warm water and no motivation to try and get clean, due to an absolute conviction that the electricity would be back on any minute, so preferring to remain honking and on red alert to enjoy an imminent hot bath.

By Monday evening, we gave up! After sitting in the car, our only source of power, and listening to the radio, we established via France Bleu Roussillon, that we could be without electricity until FRIDAY! Mon Dieu! We rushed out to the shops first thing Tuesday morning and bought a gas cooker and hurricane lamps from Expert at Le Boulou, an enormous stock of candles from Gifi along with more candlestick holders, two enormous wind-up torches from Bricomarché….. and got home to find that the electricity was back on!!

Anyway, no harm done. We had to throw away all contents of fridge and freezer as they had been well above temperature for four days, but in the great scheme of things we have been very lucky.

As long as we are all healthy and loved, the material side of life is so miniscule. We take everything so much more granted. A little reminder of how lucky we actually are in life doesn’t come amiss.

Listening to France Bleu on Sunday, as they took calls from people complaining about being without electricity, there was a call from somebody who said “I listen to all these people moaning about the difficult day they have had without electricity. I am a single father, I live with my two young children and we have had no electricity for more than four months as we cannot afford it. We have no phone, no television…..

” It puts it all into perspective somehow doesn’t it?

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