A pottery studio in St Civran, France


Welcome to this blog about the quiet rural life in the Berry Province of France where I have tried to open a pottery studio to hobby potters.
Your comments will be appreciated.

07 May 2011

57. My Helpers in 2011

Apple blossom by the pergola  in my garden in 2009

Through the HelpExchange website I have been in touch with a number of people since February to see who would come to help me with my pottery studio this summer. I first expected a Helper from Latvia to be my caretaker in the pottery house but he had to change his mind in March. So I had to leave the house unattended and empty without water or electricity while I moved to my attic summer abode in the next village.

Then for the Easter long week-end in April a couple arrived from Great Britain to see the house with a view to be caretaker, i.e. occupy the place without a rent but paying their own expenses. I picked them up at the Limoges airport on Easter Saturday and we drove back to St Civran, an hour's drive on the A20 motorway towards Paris. When they visited the house they did not appear to like the place at all but did not say anything. We spent the weekend together in my attic sharing a barbecue in my garden with an English friend and my son and his family. They also went for drinks to a local pub to meet other English settlers. We also walked the 5 km between the two villages. They figured that the area was indeed very quiet and very rural. Being used to suburban life near a large city they thought the place was not for them. I drove them back to Limoges on the Tuesday to finish off their holiday visiting the city. I haven't heard from them since.

At the beginning of May I got news from a young woman Helper from Finland with whom I had exchanged a number of e-mails. She arrived in Chateauroux where I picked her up at the railway station. We've been sharing the attic since then and I have to say we're really getting on well. So far we have been working in my garden and sharing meals, books and stories. Although we converse in English she is a keen student of the French language.

I intend to go to the pottery studio next week with her and spend some time tidying the workshop. But for lack of a caretaker in the house I won't be able to open up to the public this year again... Ah well! Good folks, come again another year!

This blog is a non-pottery blog after all... LOL!!!!

04 May 2011

56. JUST FOR FUN

I found this list of 100 questions on Chikblog who had found it on Sue Pariseau Pottery

Here are my answers, just for fun!

1. Started your own blog YES
2. Slept under the stars SURE
3. Played in a band NOPE
4. Visited Hawaii NOT YET
5. Watched a meteor shower YES
6. Given more than you can afford to charity YES
7. Been to Disneyland NO WAY
8. Climbed a mountain NOT SURE
9. Held a praying mantis YES
1O.Sang a solo NO
11.Bungee jumped NO
12.Visited Paris YES
13.Watched a lightning storm at sea YES
14.Taught yourself an art from scratch YEAH
15.Adopted a child NO
16.Had food poisoning NO
17.Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty NOT YET
18.Grown your own vegetables SURE
19.Seen the Mona Lisa in France YES
20.Slept on an overnight train YES
21.Had a pillow fight YES
22.Hitch hiked SURE
23.Taken a sick day when you’re not ill NOPE
24.Built a snow fort NO
25.Held a lamb YES
26.Gone skinny dipping NO
27.Run a Marathon NEVER
28.Ridden in a gondola in Venice NO
29.Seen a total eclipse YES
30.Watched a sunrise or sunset YES BOTH
31.Hit a home run NO
32.Been on a cruise YEP
33.Seen Niagara Falls in person NO
34.Visited the birthplace of your ancestors YES
35.Seen an Amish community NO
36.Taught yourself a new language YES
37.Had enough money to be truly satisfied PERHAPS
38.Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person NO
39.Gone rock climbing NO
40.Seen Michelangelos David YES
41.Sung karaoke NO
42.Seen Old Geyser erupt NO
43.Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant NO
44.Visited Africa NO
45.Walked on a beach by moonlight YES
46.Been transported in an ambulance YES BUT NOT FOR ME
47.Had your portrait painted NO
48.Gone deep sea fishing YES
49.Seen the Sistine Chapel in person NO
50.Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris NO
51.Gone scuba diving or snorkeling YES
52.Kissed in the rain YES
53.Played in the mud YES
54.Gone to a drive-in theater YES
55.Been in a movie NO
56.Visited the Great Wall of China NOT YET
57.Started a business YEP
58.Taken a martial arts class  NO
59.Visited Russia NO
60.Served at a soup kitchen NO
61.Sold Girl Scout Cookies NO
62.Gone whale watching YES
63.Got flowers for no reason YES
64.Donated blood, platelets or plasma YES
65.Gone sky diving NO
66.Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp NO
67.Bounced a check NO
68.Flown in a helicopter NO
69.Saved a favorite childhood toy YES
70.Visited the Lincoln Memorial NO
71.Eaten Caviar YES
72.Pieced a quilt YES
73.Stood in Times Square, on New Year's Eve NO
74.Toured the Everglades NO
75.Been fired from a job NO
76.Seen the Changing of the Guards in London YES
77.Broken a bone NO
78.Been on a speeding motorcycle YES
79.Seen the Grand Canyon in person NO
80.Published a book YEP
81.Visited the Vatican THE WHAT?
82.Bought a brand new car YES
83.Walked in Jerusalem YES
84.Had your picture in the newspaper YES
85.Read the entire Bible YES
86.Visited the White House NO
87.Killed and prepared an animal for eating YES
88.Had chickenpox YES
89.Saved someone’s life PERHAPS
90.Sat on a jury NO
91.Met someone famous NO
92.Joined a book club NO
93.Lost a loved one YES
94.Had a baby YES
95.Seen the Alamo in person NO
96.Swam in the Great Salt Lake NO
97.Been involved in a law suit YES
98.Owned a cell phone YES
99.Been stung by a bee YES
100.Read a book in one day YES

20 April 2011

55. The Snail and the Cheetah

Quince blossom
 Here's the story my grand-daughter told me as we were sitting on deck chairs in the shade of my quince tree this afternoon.

"Once upon a time there was a Snail who was friend with a Cheetah. They were very different but they were very good friends.


One day they met a Little Fairy who offered to grant them a wish. So they said they wanted to swap being what they were, the Cheetah wanted to walk slowly and the Snail run very fast. Unfortunately the Little Fairy disappeared before she could grant the wish and forgot even to give them her mobile phone number. Luckily they knew where the fairies' castle was so they started walking in that direction.


They walked for two weeks, Snail pace, the Cheetah by his friend the Snail. At one stage they saw two round towers in the distance, with a bridge up high between them. The Cheetah bounced, ran and got there in no time forgetting about his friend the Snail. As for the Snail he eyed a field of lettuces nearby and hurried to a crunchy one, eating at leisure. Meanwhile the Cheetah, realizing his friend was missing, started looking for him everywhere dragging his nose in the grass. He came to the patch of lettuces and running fast past a lettuce provoked the Snail to jump high and fall on his back. He didn't like the feeling of something crawling on his back until the Snail came to his forehead and fell on his nose and on the ground.


They were happy to be back together and realised that they didn't really want to swap being what they were. But, as they didn't want to have come all this way for nothing, they decided to go and visit the Fairies' castle anyway.


From outside it looked quite ordinary but once inside they saw that each wall was of a different colour and highly decorated. In the middle there was a kind of small village all in black and white and that's where the young Fairies were taught how to become proper Fairies. They met the Little Fairy again who was quite a debutante really and she said they had just arrived for a party. It was the beginning of their long holiday starting at Easter and lasting for a long time. They all looked for chocolate eggs together. The Cheetah found 11 eggs, the Little Fairy found 10 and the Snail found 5. They added all these chocoloate eggs and ate them sharing them.


Then the mother of the Little Fairy said it was time for dinner. They all said they were not hungry because they had eaten too many chocolate eggs..." 

16 April 2011

54. IN JUNE PERHAPS

My plan was to open my pottery workshop to the public on 1st May. That will not be possible. I have to postpone opening till 1st June.

Three reasons:

1) I have been looking for a caretaker for the house next to the workshop to help me welcome hobby potters and their friends when they arrive. So far no one has shown any serious interest in the 'position'. It is not a paid job. The arrangement is that the house is let free of rent, all charges like electricity, water and telephone being at the expense of the caretaker.

2) Accomodation in the old mansion with creaky stairs is not ready. My customers will have to find their own accomodation independently. That has been the ongoing problem for me right from the beginning. I can't offer a holiday pack for that reason. It turns a lot of people off when they realize they have to look for their own accomodation.

3) Not the least! I haven't officially registered as a business as yet. From previous experience I dread it. At the tax income office the other day I was advised to register as 'help to the person' which is in France the category for people working with old age persons. I tried to explain that my aim was to attract tourists in the area and look after them and entertain them. I'm not a pottery 'artisan' either. When I looked on the net for the 'self-enterprise' category, I couldn't find anything dealing with the tourist industry, 'tourism' being for hotels, B&B and campsites, and 'industry' in French being for the manufacturing industry alone.

My BerryHobby summer camp in St Civran will open in June perhaps!

St Civran pottery house in March 2009

30 March 2011

53. Brits in France

I know, 'Brits' is somewhat derogatory, I should say 'Britons' but it looks too much like 'Bretons' which is the name in French for the inhabitants of Brittany, whereas inhabitants of Britain are usually referred to, in French, as 'les Anglais'. Note that Brittany takes double 't' while Britain takes a single 't', but Britons and Bretons really look identic. A little ribald song in French will perhaps help here to identify the Bretons as opposed to the Britons. Bretons of Brittany with double 't' are said to wear round hats, wherehas Britons of Britain with single 't'... well, anyway, here's the little song:

Ils ont des chapeaux ronds,
Vive la Bretagne,
Ils ont des chapeaux ronds,
Vive les Bretons.

What prompts me to write a post entitled 'Brits in France' is my recent reading of a small great book entitled 'French Flea Bites' by a world reknown Briton under the name of George East. Mr East travels in France, lives in French villages and writes hilarious passages about his encounters with the strange French folks of France including the Bretons. He is usually to be found west of a line running roughly from Greenwich to Perpignan, tasting the chicken feed prepared in a cauldron by his farming neighbour for his chickens. You can usually find the recipe of what he's been tasting. Or, organising a boot sale whereby local inhabitants can bargain a single shoe on a stall. And he writes about it all with great gusto and humour.

His latest opus is about the Loire Valley, I think, and it could be published in May this year, if my source for this bit of intelligence is right. What I'll do, as soon as I get my meagre old age pension monthly instalment, is to connect to his website and shop there with a virtual basket for a few more of his real books.

21 March 2011

52. WHAT'S A FRIEND

In my previous post 49. Host and Helpers in 2006 I mentioned that "the only regret I have is that we never became friends". It sounds strange. I'd better qualify it.

As a college girl in France in the early sixties my idea of friendship was rather medieval in style, chivalry, loyalty, undefective support, that sort of thing. I was a fan reader of St Exupéry and I followed his line of idea re. friendship, more like mateship as I would call it now. We, girls at college in those days, used to be taught literature written by men. Things written by, say, Mme de Lafayette or Mme de Sévigné, or George Sand, or Jane Austen or George Elliott, were seen as very minor literature. So, when I was 16, my idea and practice of friendship was chivalresque. For instance I wouldn't let a 'friend' be punished on her own, I'd insist to be punished too if I had anything to do with the deed. Boyscout ethos was my type of definition for friendship.

Unfortunately once out in the big world I realised that chivalry and boyscout ethos was not on and definitely not expected of a woman. Women were seen as special creatures without any of the noble characteristics of men. I was supposed to be treacherous and unloyal.

When I made up my mind to part from my Australian husband, I wanted to be seen as a loyal friend despite the splitting as a couple. When we parted I think I said something to the effect that if he needed a hand in anyway one day, I'd be there for him. I meant it.

We parted in 1973 and I came back to France in 1974. In 1976 as I was living in a flat in Lyon, I received a letter from my husband who had joined the French Foreign Legion and was based in Corsica. He was asking me to help him deserting the Legion... (Sorry BJ if you read this, I've got to get it out of my system). So, me and my friends of the time who had a similar chivalresque idea of friendship, we mounted an expedition and my husband was smuggled out of the Legion. I hated it, I hated him for it. So many years later I still have a sour feeling in my throat. Why should I help a foreign husband get out of a French army corps? He joined. I had nothing to do with it. But of course my undefective support as a 'friend' was at stake. And so I did. My definition of friendship was somewhat altered after that.

What's a friend really? The dictionary says: "A person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection and loyalty"... 'known well to another' implies time spent in the company of each other. You can't call friend someone you met at a party and never saw again... 'regarded with liking' implies feeling positive towards that person you know well... and 'affection and loyalty' implies real support.

If a friend is 'a person known well to another', how do you become friends then? That's where I find I'm at odds with a lot of people around me. In my eyes you become friend with someone by allowing time to get to know that person, asking questions, being generally curious about his/her life, social background, family, area, history. BEING CURIOUS. Asking questions. Wanting to know.

When I was 19 and 20 I lived in Israel and that's where I learnt how to make friends fast. There in the sixties, people who arrived hurt from all over the world were in a hurry to 'make friends'. The urgency of life made you want to know other people well very quickly. I remember being shocked at first when someone, within minutes, would have asked me where I came from, what sort of family background, what language I spoke and how long I had been in Israel. Within minutes they also would have said that, for instance, they had arrived two years back, had lost their family, spoke a number of languages and were working here or there.

Later in my life I studied at university a subject called Ethnology. If you have an interest in a given group of people, you are supposed to take enough time to get to know them. You are supposed to be curious about them and to ask them questions about their way of life. I actually learnt how to 'make friend' with total strangers. It probably sounds weird to most people. But forever after that, I have felt cheated whenever people calling themselves my friend just don't bother asking me questions and show no interest in me whatsoever. It is lobsided if only one asks questions. It's an interview then, not an attempt at making friends.

Anyway what's a friend really?

26 January 2011

51. Credit or no credit

Should I ask for a credit? That was the question. I finally decided to return a request form for 5000€ to one of those credit offers you get advertised in the mail.

That was last Friday. This morning, Tuesday, I get a call on my mobile phone asking if I would answer some more questions... How long have you been retired? - For a year or so... No, you've been retired since you're 60 so that's 6 years. - I didn't ask for my retirement until I was 65. And what credits have you got running? - None... Yes, you are owner of your house and you've lived there since 2000 and that must be on a credit. - Sorry, no, I have had that house since 1994... You said you've lived there since 2000. - Sure, I was living abroad and I only came back to France in the year 2000.

It went on like this for quite a while. I always answered nicely to the lady's harsh voice and demanding tone. At one stage I blew up and said:
- Don't you talk to me like that! I asked for a credit, you grant it or you don't but there's no reason to talk to me as if I was a criminal. She went on saying they could not lend me more than 3000 anyway, did I want it. I said no, I need that money to open my pottery business and that won't do, thanks. She had to finish off by saying it was 'refused'. Yes, thanks, good bye.

What happened to that country since the last 30 years? What's wrong? Is that so very difficult to deal with people in a kind and friendly way? It hits me in the face every time. I am not getting used to it.