Thanksgiving Surprise

We decided to have a quiet Thanksgiving this year. Our friend, Diane, has recently been transferred from her job in L.A. to the London office of her company and flew over to be with us.

We had a lovely meal with just us, Mom, Diane and Shmoo Alexander.

Strange things happened starting on Friday morning: On Thanksgiving, Shmoo had needed an extra walk and we decided to go along the road to Lavalenet, which we haven’t been doing lately. One of the houses that way has a bitch who goes into heat all the time and there are always tons of dogs hanging around. We saw a very sweet looking border collie lying next to the driveway on her own.

Then, yesterday, Diane and I went out to visit friends and afterward I stopped in at Mom’s. When I was coming out, I saw the same BC wandering around in the street. I called her over and she came right away, then I went back out to try to give her some treats but she had wandered off.
JM immediately insisted on going out to find her and took a few biscuits. She went to him as soon as she saw him and came home with him. I got a spare collar and leash and we fed her and after lunch I took her to the vet to see if she was chipped or tattooed. She was neither. I think she looks to be about 6 months old, the vet thinks 7 or 8 months but not more.  Her health is good, but she had severe constipation and we were worried she might have a blockage, but we gave her a laxative and she finally passed it this morning.

She is TINY. I would guess under 30 pounds and her head comes just up to my knee. You can see from the pics that she is pretty classically marked and is a smooth coat.  Incredibly affectionate; she practically wants us to wear her.

There are a few problems with Shmoo, but I’m hoping they will resolve them. Shmoo actually tried to play with her this afternoon, but she freaked out because she is afraid of him. I really hope that goes away.

Today, we took the two dogs to the Foire au Gras in Limoux. She is VERY good with other dogs, totally non-reactive. However, one of the Bandas (marching bands) turned into the street where we were and she totally freaked out! If we hadn’t held onto her as tightly as we could, she would have been gone in the crowd. Note to self: buy a smaller collar ASAP!

We’re all home now and resting, so hopefully things will improve daily.

And, how could I forget: her name is PEACHES!

Ciao for now

Heating worries

Our furnace stopped working last night. You could hear the kind of pre-ignition sequence start, but then it never actually clicked on. Finally, I dropped the thermostat so it wouldn’t keep making noise.

The furnace has to be over 25-years-old. We know that one day we will have to replace it, but we’re not rushing to do it if we don’t have to. Part of the problem is that the technologies are changing so rapidly, I’d rather wait to see what develops in the next few years.

Our plumber likes air/water heat pumps. I really don’t want to do that for a few reasons. First, if it gets REALLY cold, then that won’t heat the house (although we probably don’t get that cold around here). Second, the condenser will have to go outside, which means it will make noise that our neighbors can hear. Our plumber says it’s within the “norms,” but that doesn’t mean that it won’t bother people. I think that when you live in a village you need to do what you can to be a good neighbor, and that means not having things that are irritating to others, even if they are legal. Also, an outside condenser strikes me as something that would be a tempting target to passing drunks and teenagers…

I think something wood burning is the way to go. I like some of these new, pellet furnaces that have an automatic feed tube system. However, the pellets are apparently very sensitive to humidity and swell up and block the tubes, so I feel a bit insecure about that.

I’ve been researching a bit and see that there are several really interesting possibilities including furnaces that burn logs but have an autonomy of 24 to 48 hours. They don’t pollute or leave creosote behind, so they’re a very ecological and economical alternative.

Luckily we didn’t have to make that decision today. It seems that a small screw broke and kept a contact from touching. It was easily repaired, so we’re good for now. And, with luck, by the time we have to replace the darned thing we’ll have made more money and I will know what I want to buy!

Ciao for now.


Dangerous Surfing In France

It’s all about the internet, of course, and the really, really fine print in the contract.

Now that so many people are choosing to use smartphones and netbooks for most of their internet access, they are tempted by the exciting offers of the various telephone companies. Unlimited internet via 3G sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, although the TIME you are online isn’t limited, the amount of bandwidth IS limited! Also, since we’re all one happy European family now, most people don’t hesitate to use their phones and net services when they cross the border into Spain or Belgium.  They soon discover the error of their ways.

Yesterday the big story was about a man living in Northern France near the Belgian border. He signed up for an account with Orange in August. His first bill for for 45,000€ for one month of access!! The gag is that much of that cost was for “roaming”charges in Belgium. Only he hadn’t set foot in Belgium. How could it have happened? Well, apparently when you are on the border between two networks, your phone automatically picks the best network. Because of his location, that network was often the Belgian network! This is apparently a big problem for everyone in similar circumstances, because most people never bother to look to see which network their phone is using.

Today, a host of other cases are making the news. Many, many people are discovering these horrible, abusive invoices from their service providers. And they are not all uniformed consumers; a lot of them are people who think they understand what they’re signing. But clearly this is not the case.

I am sure that this will have to be addressed, as you can’t have so many individuals finding themselves in massive debt to a phone company without some action being taken. I don’t know where it will go, but I’m watching. And I’m also feeling very relieved that smelled a rat when I renewed my cell phone service and decided not to go for any “extras!”

Ciao for now.



The rainy week was welcome because we needed it, but I have to say that it was a pleasure to wake up today to find clear skies and gentle temperatures.  As usual, the villagers were out in droves after days of staying inside huddled next to their fires.

For the first time in ages, the Hers was actually running high, although the Blau is still looking decidedly shallow. I don’t know if having pretty much solid rain for most of the first two weeks of November was enough to affect the drought or not though. It’s a lot easier to go into drought conditions than it is to get out of them.

Sad news to report: Telé Chalabre is off the air. I haven’t really been able to get the details, and only know that there was a problem with the transmission tower. I think it has to do with it being sort of “unofficial,” but I’m not totally certain. One of the rumors I heard was that Orange complained that it was interfering with the cell tower, but I don’t know if that is fact or not.  Besides no longer seeing the revolving slideshow of important events, times, etc. of village happenings, this also seems to have impacted the TNT signal that people in the village were getting. I hope that a solution is found soon for everyone’s sake.

Ciao for now.


Update on the “Super-Pooper!”

Today’s Independant had the scoop on our Possum Kingdom Serial Pooper!

They received a letter signed “Résistance Chalabroise” taking credit for the attacks. According to the article, it’s written in bad French, but no one is sure whether that is meant to hide the real identity of the perpetrator/perpetrators or if they really can’t write properly. The motive appears to be political and linked to the economic crisis. However, it wasn’t immediately clear what they actually wanted to achieve, other than making a statement.

So far, the Gendarmes say this is merely a misdemeanor, but the places that have been hit multiple times are definitely upset and lodging formal complaints. The Post Office camera seems only to cover the inside of the post office, so there aren’t any clues there as to the identity of the “doers.”

Thus, for the moment, the mystery remains. Will “RC” strike again? Only time will tell.

Ciao for now.


Going Postal French Style

There have been a lot of stories in the French press lately about employees (specifically at France Telecom) committing suicide.  So far, there have been 23 suicides of France Telecom employees since February 2008. Many of them take their lives at their offices, so there is no question that job stress is the culprit. Part of it appears to be corporate restructuring, where people are transferred to another area, while their families are forced to stay behind. Clearly, it’s an idea that doesn’t work to create happy marriages or happy families.

Still, you read about things like this, but it’s always happening to someone else. But this week we read about a UPS deliveryman killing his boss, the boss’s adult son and himself at the depot in Toulouse. Now, unlike in the States, in areas like ours, companies like UPS, DHL and FedEx use subcontractors, as there wouldn’t be enough business to have big, individual depots all over.

It turns out that the shooter was the very same deliveryman who delivers all of our Black Coat Press books to our associate in Pamiers! I really think this is the first time that I’ve had such a close “connection” to a story in the news. Our friend Philippe, who has met this delivery guy many times said he was always nice, pleasant and helpful. What’s shocking is that the people at the delivery company said the same thing! This isn’t one of those cases where everyone seemed to KNOW that there was a problem. Nobody knew ANYTHING in advance!

And, because this is a smaller, regional company, it is a very personal tragedy for the victims’ families. The wife of the man who was killed ran the business with him, and their son, also a victim, worked with them. Their daughter had already been seriously injured in 2001 at a huge, chemical plant explosion in Toulouse that was a major area tragedy.

This is truly unusual in France, where you just don’t see as many violent personal acts as we’ve become used to in the United States. I don’t really know what it says about French society, if it says anything, other than that tragedies occur all over and we need to try to understand why they happen if we’re going to stop them.

On a less violent note, there has been a mystery happening here in the Possum Kingdom. For the second time in about 2 months, a clearly angry local (probably a farmer) has “attacked” various financial institutions in the middle of the night, decorating the doors and windows with horse manure! Last time he only hit the Credit Agricole and the Groupama. Last night he hit both of those as well as the Post Office (which is also a bank) and the Trésor Public (across the street from us).  The Gendarmes are on the case and I think that the Post Office has a camera out front so the perpetrator may not remain a mystery for long.

Clearly, people are in an unsettled state of mind. I hope things calm down soon for everyone!

Ciao for now.