Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Three times warm

People around here use the following expression when they talk about fire wood: it keeps you warm three times; the first time whilst chopping it, the second time whilst stacking it, and the third time whilst burning it. And although we only have been in the woods once to to chop up trees (and that was never to be repeated!), our fire wood manages to keep us warm three times as well.
Quite some time ago now we have found a guy who delivers wood neatly chopped up in bits of 1’-2” long, and his stères are quite generous as well. The disadvantage of his wood is, that it is rather wet, hence not ready for burning when you buy it.
For those not familiar with continental units of measure I will explain what a stère is. A stère is the amount of wood you can store in a box of 1 m by 1 m x 1 m (a box with all 3 sides of 3’-4”). Since the quantity heavily depends on how one stacks the wood, the effective volume of wood in a stère can very widely. Think of a matchbox; the box can contain a lot more matchsticks before you drop it on the floor than after you have been trying to put them back into the box haphazardly. A stère varies effectively between 0.8 and 0.6 of a cubic meter. Also, one wood merchant can be quite different from another, as we have found out.
Our first order, in 2005 was for 6 stère. On D-day a truck appeared, the man dumped what we thought looked like a respectable stack of wood, and we started stacking it. The wood was dry enough to be burnt straight away, which was a good thing, because we needed it there and then. Spring 2006 we took part in the affouage of Cormatin, and that was our first and last experience with cutting down trees in a forest. A year later we found a different and cheaper wood merchant; his wood however was rather wet, and had to be kept to dry for about another year.
We then found out the difference between one merchant and another, and consequently between one stère and another. This guy also turned up in his truck, and dumped what looked roughly like the 6 stère of the year before. Since this time we had ordered 12 stère, we were expecting the man to return once. But no; he made it quite clear, that his truck contained “only” 4 stère, and hence that he would return twice. The stères of the first merchant were about 30 % smaller than those of the second!
The disadvantage however is, that we always have two stacks of wood by the house. Normally the first 12 stère are dumped early in the year at the toilet block for the campsite. We stack the wood under the shed there, which is open on three sides. Hence the wind has got free play there, and the wood does not get rained on. After a year this wood is ready for “consumption”. At the end of the year another wood displacement takes place. The dry wood is then brought into the vide, a covered area between the house and the old kiln, and then re-stacked there. The advantage of having the wood here is that we do not have to plod through the snow in winter when we need wood, we just descend the staircase, fill a basket, and ascend again. And the next spring this whole cycle is repeated.
How much work is involved in stacking 12 stères of wood? I started clearing the way for the guy, opening gates, getting garden furniture out of the way etc. from about 9h00 until I heard the truck approach. The man who brought the wood arrived at 9h40, and dumped the first load. We stacked for about between one and a half and two hours, and just when we wanted to sit down for a coffee, the guy turned up again at 12h00. After a quick lunch we stacked again until 14h00. At 14h15 the last load turned up, and at approx. 16h00 we were finally ready to sit down. Who would complain about a 6.5 hours working day?
Anyway, our wood certainly keeps us warm 3 times: the first time whilst stacking it, the second while moving and re-stacking it, and the third time whilst burning it!

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Money is the root of all evil

Sometime ago, in view of a holiday abroad we wanted to buy some Jordanian Dinars. So what does one do? One goes to the nearest centre of the universe, in our case Cluny, enters the Crédit Agricole and asks for a fistful of Dinars. “No sir, I am sorry, but we do not deal in that sort of money. Dollars, Pounds, no problem, but ….” Maybe the Post Office? No way! There was not much choice left; Mâcon should have what we were looking for. Here the refusals differed, from “No, Dinars are only sold in Jordan itself”, “We can only help you if you have an account with us” to “Why don’t you try a Bureau d’échange?”.We had half expected this, so we were prepared. Mâcon does not have any Bureaux d’échange, and Jordan Dinars are freely available, also outside Jordan.

After a rather frustrating trip past Crédit Agricole, CIC, Paribas, Post Office, Banque de France and Crédit Municipale we finally ended up in the Tourist Information Office. The young lady behind the counter made one telephone call, and told us that the nearest possibility to lay our hands on such exotic currency would be the Banque de Paris in Lyon. Well, to drive 100 km to Lyon and back seemed to be a bit over the top, and hence we gave up. How we finally managed to get some Dinars after all? Elementary, my dear Watson! We were leaving for Jordan from one of the suburbs of London. And when you call Marks & Spencer one day beforehand, you can pick up your Jordan money the next day!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Friday, 7 January 2011

Amicale d'Europe

I could not have guessed what impact my previous blog had. Literally seconds after I had confirmed publication of the blog, an email came in from a completely unexpected source. The mail was written by someone who stayed on our campsite last year, and who obviously follows my blog with interest. The email simply said : “I would like to order x cards; how do I transfer the money?” Soon more mails with the same intentions arrived. However, we also did some physical begging work. One day we took the car and drove around the area to flog off cards to friends who live around here.
I think it is the first time in the history of the Amicale de Cormatin, that bingo cards have been sold through the internet. And it also would not surprise me, if this was the first time so many nationalities from all over Europe have ordered bingo cards. The cards were purchased by British, French, a Baltic camper who works for the European Commission in Luxemburg, a Dutch camper whom we may call a regular on our campsite, a Dutch skipper, who not only sailed Dutch waters, but is also very familiar with Belgian, French and German rivers and canals, a Frisian/Dutch couple, a handful of Dutchmen from other parts of that small country.....
In short, this bingo seems to cross borders, and is obviously not only restricted to Cormatin. Reason, why for this blog I came up with a brand-new logo for the Amicale de Cormatin.....
From this place I would like to thank all contributors. The prizes will be released on 29 January, and I will certainly report who has (or has not) won.

For our own website click here.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Charity at a manageable scale

This is a bit of a strange blog, mostly because I feel I have no other means to achieve my goal.
In order to get this goal across a short introduction first. The “Amicale de Cormatin”, a small group of volunteers, assures that each year the seniors of Cormatin are invited to a dinner party, and that for the schoolchildren of Cormatin a Christmas party with a nice present for each child is organised. To fund these events, the Amicale organises yearly a number of events, of which the proceeds are used for these good works. One of these events is the yearly bingo, and part of this bingo is yet another fundraiser, in which we somehow got involved.
The evening before the public bingo or Loto, there is another bingo evening (with attractive prizes), this time played with cards sold to friends and family of the members of the Amicale. All villagers are playing that evening with the cards sold on behalf of those who bought the cards. Only afterwards it is announced who has won the prizes. Last year we had to flog off 20 cards à € 2.00, but this year someone has decided that we should be in for double the amount.
We do not have that many acquaintances around here, through circumstances we received the cards later than the other Amicale members (hence all local friends have already been provided) and that is where the ex-home front might come in.
If those who are interested in helping the Amicale to help send us an email, and we will in our turn provide the potential benefactor with the relevant (Barclay) bank details. At the current exchange rate the cards should be approx. ₤ 1.70 per card. We will transfer the money to the Amicale, taking care of possible transfer costs, as well as safeguard the prizes in case you win something.
The prizes are : a TV with LCD screen, a wireless Hoover and an espresso machine. We will keep hold of the prices until the winners collect them, or until we can deliver them. Please, don’t let us down!

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

Burns’s words sprang to mind when I received a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” card via e-mail. The sender was a woman, who stayed on our campsite early July this year. Earlier that year Fifi had given birth to 4 kittens, was sterilised (a bit too late!) and had an accident with most likely a car on our track. Fortunately, the kittens were ready to go when the accident happened, so Fifi could rest in piece, as far as a young cat contained in a 1 x 1 m cage can rest in peace in order to recuperate. But until then we had kept the kittens in Fifi’s apartment, a cave under the staircase to our front door. The kittens were still sleeping most of the day, but when awake they caused total havoc in the apartment. Fortunately the weather was fine, we spent a lot of time sitting in the garden near the campsite, and to give them some freedom they could wonder around our table, drink and sleep at our feet. Some campers were very keen on stopping by our table, not necessarily for a chat with us, but to play with the kittens. Of course the situation became a bit more pressing when Fifi was no longer capable of feeding them. We had placed adverts at the local baker, newspaper saleswoman, butcher, etc., and verbally advertised the kittens to our campers.
However no one took the bait, until Ina L. popped in to pay for their stay with us. Casually she mentioned, that she did not mind to take “little light stripy” with her. With some regret we said goodbye to the little one, and soon after this first departure the other three were picked up by some people of the surrounding villages. So far our orphanage for cats; who the father had been we could only guess. Anyway, the Christmas card we received was not one with the obligatory Christmas tree on it, at least not in full glory. The card showed, sitting under the branch of a real Christmas tree, a cat strongly resembling our own Fifi. Being a habitual cataloguer, it took me only seconds to dig up a photograph of “little light stripy”, AKA “Dopey”, and nowadays roaming around a Frisian village under the name of “Sue”. Whether one should be happy and grateful to be immortalised by having a cat named after oneself, is debatable....

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle