PHOTOS DECEMBER 2009
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I talk a great deal about the weather round here, for the simple reason that at times it is quite extraordinary. One phenomenon with which we are plagued is that of the Hanging Cloud.
I'm 667 metres (about 2200 feet) up here and the mountains are riven with small valleys. Quite often the low clouds that are heavy with rain meet a counter-wind coming up a valley from somewhere else and so they stall on top here obscuring everything. This one was an excellent example.
But when the weather is bad I can work inside. There is plenty to do.
At the moment there are no stairs inside my house - access to everywhere is by ladder and I have vowed that by the end of the year I will have stairs of one sort or another to all of the levels. That means that I need to get cracking as there isn't a great deal of time left for me to do this and I've never built a staircase in my life.
Christmas is a-cumen in. Lhude sing Rudolph. And while no-one in the whole wide world can imitate anything that the Americans can manage to do (after all, who around here can afford the electricity?) they can have a pretty good go at it.
This is the little village of Le Quartier not too far away from here and you can see that the residents are doing their best
Just as an aside, the local newspaper La Montagne published this photo as its "image of the day", in glorious technicolour. It's nice to see my name in lights.
Christmas is a time of the local Christmas markets and while most of the stuff on sale is just cheap tat with not-very-much going for it, it's still a local event and local events need support. And of course you never know what you might find and who you might meet.
At Pionsat today though, there wasn't really anything worthwhile and there wasn't really anyone I knew either. But seeing as I'm now a local resident I feel obliged to show my face here
Although there had been a few hints and suspicions we had to wait until 12th December for the first snows of winter covering our land. Not very much, I agree, but snow just the same, and more is forecasted for tonight and tomorrow.
The first snow is always ominous and it makes me aware of just how isolated I am up here. However I'm well-stocked up with wood and gas and food so I don't much care right now. It will be very much different if we have three months of it
Pionsat's 3rd XI football team are struggling at the foot of the Puy-de-Dome 4th Division but they are a right friendly bunch of guys and I always go to watch them whenever I can, home or away.
Here at Effiat they were early for a game and I caught them going through their pre-match training ritual. It clearly worked because after the meal they went out and spannered Effiat 5-2. Perhaps they should do this more often.
Just a couple of days before my target date of Christmas I finished the stairs up into my little attic.
They aren't exactly finished in a permanent sense - this is merely a temporary arrangement and they will be replaced by proper treads and risers and the like in due course. But it means that I can now climb up into my little room without spilling my coffee everywhere and that is definitely progress
The stairs up from the ground floor to the first floor are also completed after a fashion. Once again it's only a temporary measure at the moment using one of those cheap sets of stairs.
The plan eventually is to put a suspended floor in with an air gap underneath and then I can build a new set of stairs in the correct position. But that's not going to be for a while yet.
Here at the end of December on my way to Liz and Terry's I went past my favourite photography spot, the birdwatching site at the back of St Gervais. Of course it's always the same view, the different weather and lighting conditions make it seem totally different each time I pass.
The snow has all-but-gone from around here and even the Puy-de-Dome is bare. However the Mont Dore and the Puy de Saucy "Puy de Sancy" - ed are still plastered with the white stuff and look quite impressive away over there in the distance.
And a Merry Christmas to all my readers. The most strenuous thing that I did on Christmas Day was to wander over to Caliburn and rescue the cake that Liz made for me. It's a home-made totally vegan Christmas Cake and isn't it magnificent? It's almost too good to cut. Nevertheless, half of it is now in a Tesco storage container downstairs in the verandah and the other half is up here in a Tesco storage container.
And it's delicious too! It's far too nice to eat. It was really thoughtful of Liz to make it for me.
You may remember that a few weeks ago that I was in Neris-les-Bains looking for a shower and today I actually found one - in the municipal swimming baths at the old Roman spa town of Neris-les-Bains about 15 miles away from here.
You've seen the town in the daylight and so here's a pic or two of the town in the early evening at Christmastime, with everywhere lit up and the decorations all out. It's all quite impressive.
And a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. I wish for you in 2010 everything that you wished for everyone else in 2009.