Today is Saturday and our annual Christmas tree buying day, even though we won't be putting it up for over a week. My building-site-house is grimy and shabby enough without adding a dust-trapping tree into the equation.
Simon and I rarely go out anywhere together during the day, so today is exceptional. Ordinarily, I would take the truck out and get it myself but being 'over-surgeried' this year, that's not going to happen. Hence, Bah-Humbug Simon is commissioned as a somewhat reluctant chauffeur and tree carrier.
(Brief medical interlude while I remember, being the reason this blog was started and to get it out of the way: when using a hammer drill to help Simon with house renovations ten days or so ago, incredibly sharp pain ensued in the recently broken and pinned shoulder. Hence hammer drilling stopped almost immediately. Huge, unbearable and overwhelming pain during the following night in every sensitive spot/recent wound/surgical reparation, including spine. Sigh!
Shoulder surgeon says I'm bloody lucky not to have rebroken said shoulder and to leave off that malarkey for a further four months.
In my defence, I didn't know it wasn't a good idea or I wouldn't have done it!
I have a few hobbies which get me out of the house, namely pottery and singing. Fitness and Pilates is still on the back burner until everything is healed properly. Simon's passion is still football, even at his ripe old age playing for Villéreal Veterans.
I'm a member of two all-year-round choirs.
That's me busy each Thursday evening in the contemporary, 'lower key' choir Chœur en Cœur at Monflanquin, immediately after a singing lesson.
Some Tuesdays, and almost every Friday morning, it's back up to the beautiful and historic bastide town of Monflanquin, for the more serious stuff at the more 'polished' Canta Vivace. Upon wanting to join the choir, all choristes have been through the nerve wracking ordeal of The Audition, so if accepted into Canta Vivace, we are duty-bound to take it pretty seriously. Lovely Vicky O'Neill is the Chef de Cœur/Capo di Tutti Capos/The Boss/Musical Director of both choirs and demands great things from the two of them, even though they are both very different indeed.
At this time of year in France much as elsewhere, the marketplaces, churches and halls are alive with the sound of Christmas music. Inevitably, this means that a number of seasonal choirs spring up to add musical atmosphere to seasonal fayres and carol concerts. So that's me sorted for an additional seasonal weekly rehearsal with Lovely Stanley's choir, La Coeur de Grangeneuve then.
Now, with Father Christmas about to dust off his sleigh, we are all in full-on, eye-popping concert mode. That is: feeling more than slightly frazzled; trying to remember old stuff; struggling with new stuff being added at the last minute; suffering from nerves; remembering to watch the conductor; where has my breath gone?; forgetting to watch the conductor and eff everything up; getting alarmed every time you hear a sneeze; sleeping less; needing to sleep more; remembering the nuances; certain soloists worrying whether their voices will fill the huge space; desperate not to be the one that stuffs it up... you name it.
Last weekend there was an informal gathering of some Canta Vivace choristes at a local fundraiser for Lipizzaner horses over in Bosnia. This weekend, we have an abbreviated 'taster' performance at Sauveterre La Lémance Christmas Market.
Next weekend though, are The Biggies which we have been working on since September.
Canta Vivace will be at capacious Monflanquin Church on Saturday evening. Visible for miles, dominantly perched at the highest point of the village, way up above the open landscape and surrounding rolling hills. Grand and imposing.
The following day on Sunday afternoon we are returning to atmospheric Cuzorn Church. Loftily situated, high up on an oak-covered Dordogne hillside and this time, nestled virtually alone among the trees, and teeny, tiny in size. It's one of my favourite places to sing.
If you are local, we would love to welcome you to either or both.
The following week, two more concerts with Lovely Stanley at the helm in the barn at La Ferme de Grangeneuve, and we would love to see you there too. Not only carols, but mince pies and wine at this one too.
That's the singing.
For me, pottery is becoming one of my life's favourite pursuits. My passion for it is so inflamed, that I have recently invested in a small potters wheel. There are also plans to turn a corner of the back room in the house into a small studio so I can pot to my hearts content.
Playing with clay is a joyfully messy business. I love the process of creating something from a lump of the earth. After allowing the creation to dry thoroughly, it's then bisc fired - a process of firing to 1000 degrees Celsius - allowing it to get to a state of easier handling in preparation for the dreaded glazing.
Glazing and I don't get on, although it is slowly improving. It's a voyage of discovery every time. Never reliable, even when I'm reliably informed it will be reliable. Perhaps that's part of the fun?
Or maybe not.
For Simon, who spoke almost no French at all when we arrived here eleven years ago, joining the local football team was a prerequisite of any life anywhere at all. Venturing to the local training session for the first time, he was welcomed with open arms by our postman who was then the chairman of the club. Despite the obvious drawback of having almost no French to speak of, Simon bravely got stuck in and still loves the game and of course the socialising.
Two evenings a week, when weather permits, he wraps up warm for a runaround and a post-training/match chat about life's hopes, dreams and aspirations over a few beers with his chums. His highlights of the week.
That's about the extent of our separate regular social life at this time of year, apart from a few evenings out with friends.
Summer is very different.
But today we venture out together. With the usual Bah-Humbug Simon snuffling and moaning about "Festive fucking cheer!".
He does concede though, that Christmas tree shopping on a December Saturday in the UK would altogether be a very different experience.
No traffic jams or parking charges in our closest sizeable town of Bergerac, which must be a marked difference to Christmas shopping in UK's Cambridge, as we used to in our previous lives.
Despite this, I feel a twinge of 'homesickness' as we speed past the local airport at Bergerac that connects us with the ties of family and old friends. I can't help thinking of children, grandchildren, parents, family, friends we love and miss. Some scattered in various parts of the world, some departed and scattered in another way.
I struggle to suppress a tear.
To buy the tree... where one is found quickly and without trauma. Thankfully, we both choose the very same one which is almost the first we both see - a fresh looking, 'proper', old fashioned Christmas tree, with that wonderful smell, just desperate to undress itself by dropping it's pin sharp needles everywhere.
The largest delay is at the till, as we choose the wrong queue and dive into another, promptly realising we should have stayed in the first one.
So the tree is back home and drying out in the porch, until it is hoisted in and festooned during the week before Christmas.
And I carry on practising for the concerts where I will rapturously and unequivocally be overjoyed to sing the very last note for this year's festivities.