Updated: Nov 21, 2018
It’s happened. The long hot summer, which actually carried on until almost the
last day of October has come to an end. We’re finally waving goodbye to the warm, sunny days that we’ve enjoyed almost endlessly since the end of May and have finally succumbed to lighting the wood burner. The year isn’t over yet, but as we enter month 11 of 12 I think it’s a good enough time to look back at everything that has happened this year in this new life of ours.
It would be quite ‘un-British’ of me to not go into some detail about the year’s weather. Let me be clear, just because we live in the south of France doesn’t mean we have consistently good weather. We had consistently bad weather for about the first five months of this year. The local farmers were completely baffled and not best pleased and everyone said it was ‘inhabituelle’ – or ‘unusual’ to you and me. Then around mid-June everything changed, the switch was flicked and what ensued for four and a half months can only be described as (mostly) scorching, dry, heat-wave weather with barely a droplet of rain. We’re very much hoping for a somewhat drier winter this coming year, but we’re more than happy to welcome the hot weather back in Spring!
Family and friends
It’s fair to say that since we arrived here in France we’ve had A LOT of visitors. Not only family, but also friends and plenty of neighbours! This might be rural France but on some days it is anything but quiet. It’s always lovely having people visit, even though things are a bit chaotic around here.
It must be hard for our families to have ‘lost’ us to France, but I hope that us living out here provides a new type of ‘family time’ where they can enjoy not just seeing us, but also the countryside, the lifestyle and (most of the time) the much better weather.
One bonus of having visitors is an endless supply of goodies (everything from baked beans and Marmite to hot chilli sauce and halloumi) but the one thing we continue to crave is a good old curry!*, they do So in times of crisis we’ve teamed up with some friends we met out here, who by complete coincidence also happen to be from our home city of Coventry and we’ve created the ‘Cov Curry up’ - a regular curry-fest to meet with friends, drink beer and eat lots of curry. A great antidote to missing take-aways!
*I should add there's a great new pie shop in Saint Antonin (La Noble Pie) who also do a curry night on Monday's. Unfortunately we can't afford to go every week, but it certainly does do a good curry (though we also have to add more chilli!).
Pimping our accommodation
Our gardens have undertaken an ongoing transformation since we arrived here, with most of the hard work done by Jim and a lot of the weeding done by Jim’s mum and dad when they’re visiting! There are dozens and dozens of new trees and shrubs and when it’s all in full bloom it’s such a beautiful place. There are probably hundreds, if not approaching a thousand new plants in the ground, as well as old stone walls demolished and rebuilt. And in the same way that we’ve been pimping the garden, we also took some time at the end of the summer to pimp our cabin accommodation, which has now got a lovely new paint job, a more spacious walk in shower, new bed linen and the biggest towels known to man!
Cycling and guests
I think I can speak for all of us when I say that year two of our cycling holiday business has gone really pretty well. I won’t lie, it is TOUGH to set up in a new country and start a new business at the same time, but if we can build on this year’s success and make it bigger and better for next year then we will definitely be heading in the right direction.
In a quick re-count, we’ve run 9 weeks of cycling holidays in total now and we’re hoping to increase that by over 50% in 2019 with another 5 scheduled. It’s very pleasing to be going into the new year with cycling bookings and deposits already paid for, and some return customers too - we must be getting something right! In fact I KNOW we’re getting things right because just reading back some of the reviews we’ve had from this year’s cycling guests is a great affirmation that people like what we have to offer and that’s probably the most important thing. What we now need is more people to hear about us and hopefully that will tip the balance in the right direction.
A New Life in the Sun
And I guess that brings us onto our 2 days of filming for ‘A New Life in the Sun - the revisit’ , which happened back in September. I don’t think any of us were particularly looking forward to being behind the camera again, particularly during a busy cycling holiday week, but sometimes you just can’t look a gift-horse in the mouth!
Look North, the producers of the series, descended on us during two very busy and very hot days. The aim of the revisit was to tie up some loose ends from the first series, meet some cycling guests, see how much the place had changed and to talk to us about how our lives have changed too. And boy have they changed!
It was great to have the crew back to see the swimming pool we built as that all happened long after the TV crew had left the first time round and it’s something we’re all very proud of. There have also been lots of changes to the gardens since then too, so we’re all hoping the fruits of our labour will be evident when it airs New year 2019. Watch this space for dates!
And how can I not mention the biggest change to life at As Plos this year, which involves welcoming the newest member of the family, little baby Lois – a very loved cousin for Amadie and my first ever niece. After way too many hours of labour for Mel, baby Lois burst into the world in summer, suffering a little medical ‘drama’ in the process, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. Lois is now well installed into the madness of life here and is settling in just fine!
Lois wasn’t the only baby born this year. Marcus and Jim also gave birth to their own baby (micro) brewery too! Knowing Jim and Marcus, though they won’t admit it, this was probably their proudest moment – forget life’s other great achievements – brewing your own (drinkable) beer seems to be the pinnacle!
So we are now the custodians of a very professional looking, bijou brewery. I think 5 ‘brew days’ have been held to date – some successful, some not so successful! However 18 litres of ‘French-friendly’ craft beer were provided (for free) to our neighbour’s birthday fete recently and went down remarkably well. In a French-man’s own words, it is ‘unusual to drink more than one or two small glasses of beer in France before moving onto wine’, but at this party all 18 litres of that barrel went by in an evening so the ‘Binbags Brewing’ boys efforts came out on top!
I will leave you with this...