Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day sixteen

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day sixteen
Mini does yoga

Day sixteen or maybe day four

I have been thinking that I should start counting the time in lockdown in terms of number of cakes baked rather than in days; making today number four, which seems a lot more manageable than number sixteen. That is until I realise it means we are getting through a cake every four days. I have a feeling the longer this goes on the more difficult the habit of a daily slice of cake will be to break. At least we are all keeping active and even Mini joined me for a morning yoga class today.

April Fool

It is April fool’s day or Poisson d’avril here in France, the day French children sneak up behind you and stick a fish on your back, just so they can laugh and snigger at you. With no one going out or getting within two metres of anyone else, I’m guessing there will be no sticking of fish this year. I think life is doing a pretty good job of acting the fool at the moment anyway. If I’d said to you last Christmas that by April the world would have come to an abrupt stop, with no work for millions, flights grounded and a deadly virus keeping people in their homes, you’d have thought I was a mad fool. There are times when if I wasn’t writing this every day, I’m not sure I’d have grasped what we are living through either. 

Most of the news stories seem unbelievable these days so I guess it’s no surprise I actually fell for an April Fool this morning – the announcement that the Tour De France would be raced on Zwift this year. Rather than risking riders, teams and the public in a big outdoor event, everyone gets to ride or watch via the online training app Zwift. Adrian has already switched from outdoor cycling to doing indoor online rides, so this seemed a logical outcome to me. How Adrian laughed at my gullibility. 

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day sixteen
One barrow a day

Back in the garden

The winds of yesterday have blown themselves away and I was tempted back into the garden to resume my daily barrow of weeding, to enjoy lunch alfresco and even to relax with a book on my sunlounger this afternoon. Life is certainly easier to cope with when the sun is shining, and the birds are singing, so, long may it last (the good weather not the lockdown that is). I have also decided that life in lockdown means it’s ok to wear whatever combination of colours/clothing you like.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day sixteen
The Deux-Sèvres Monthly

The Deux-Sèvres Monthly

This latest Deux-Sèvres Monthly magazine is now available, but for this month it is online only. You can read it here and find my monthly contribution on page 31. Many of you know I have been a regular contributor for eight years (or 94 issues) so it is sad not to see a paper copy this month or have anything to write for next month, as understandably the sensible thing to do is to have a pause in publication for a while.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day sixteen
I need a haircut


I’ve a difficult decision to make, do I resort to a rather dated headband look (see garden pic above) in order to keep my fringe (bangs) out of my eyes, or do I try and cut it myself, or even let Adrian have a go? Answers on a postcard please.

Stay indoors, stay safe.

Lockdown library

Today’s reading suggestion is Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman that will be released tomorrow. You can read my review and enter a giveaway here.

Book review of Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman

French Village Diaries book review Summer in Provence Lucy Coleman
Summer in Provence Lucy Coleman

Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman

Is a change as good as a rest?

When married couple Fern and Aiden have a windfall, their reactions could not be more different. While Fern is content to pay off their mortgage and build a nest egg before starting a family, her husband is set on traveling the world.

Fern’s not much of a back-packer so, before she knows it, the idea of a ‘marriage gap year’ takes shape. And, as Aiden heads off to the wilds of Australia, Fern chooses the more restful Provence for her year out.

Set amidst the glorious French scenery, Château de Vernon offers a retreat from the hustle and bustle of normal life, and Fern agrees to help out in return for painting lessons from the owner – renowned, but rather troubled, painter Nico.

As their year unfolds in very different ways, will the time apart transform their marriage, or will it drive Fern and Aiden even further apart…

Let Lucy Coleman whisk you off on a heart-warming, sun-drenched and magical French adventure.

French Village Diaries book review Summer in Provence Lucy Coleman
Summer in Provence blog tour

My review

Wow, this book is another great read from Lucy Coleman that is powerful, packed with emotions and totally drew me in.

From the beginning I felt sorry for Fern. At a time in their lives when they have the money to give them financial security for their future, she is forced into heading away and doing something different for a year. The prospect of trying to carry on as normal and avoid moping around alone while husband Aiden is travelling around the world on his gap year, isn’t appealing. 

I don’t think we were supposed to like Aiden and I certainly didn’t feel much warmth towards him as a character, but his selfish actions did at least enable Fern to do a bit of self-discovery at Château de Vernon in Provence. Here she quickly becomes an integral part of the close-knit team running the retreats for the lost souls who find themselves there, just at the time that is right for them. The magic of the Château starts to work on her too as she processes the confusion and changes to her life imposed on her by Aiden’s need to travel. She meets some fab new people who became as important to her as her family, as well as learning some new skills and discovering a talent for art. 

As their marriage gap year draws to a close, both Fern and Aiden have had the opportunity to look at life differently and things have certainly changed for them. They have had many emotions to work through, including confusion and love in its many forms, as they come to realise what is important for them.

This book will be your perfect escape from the current madness we are living in during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Purchase Links 

French Village Diaries book review Summer in Provence Lucy Coleman
Linn B. Halton/Lucy Coleman

Author Bio 

From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton - who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman - says 'it's been a fantastic journey!'

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels - including Summer on the Italian Lakes, Snowflakes over Holly Cove, The French Adventure and A Cottage in the Country. She is represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she's not writing, or spending time with the family, she's either upcycling furniture, working in the garden, or practising Tai Chi.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her 'rock', Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she is an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and the SoA and writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

French Village Diaries book review Summer in Provence Lucy Coleman
Summer in Provence blog tour stops

Social Media Links  

French Village Diaries book review Summer in Provence Lucy Coleman

Giveaway to Win a signed paperback of 'A Springtime to Remember' and a Boldwood Tote bag (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also by Lucy Coleman:
A Springtime to Remember
The French Adventure

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day fifteen

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day fifteen
The Masked Man at Lidl

Day fifteen

Yesterday seemed to be a good day to achieve things, today not so. The sun has returned, but it’s still a bit too cold for me to resume my gardening chores and the wind today was wicked. It was the sort of wind that made the house creak and rattle and drove me mad as it messed with my head. I don’t like windy days at the best of times, and it seemed even worse with the added weirdness of life in lockdown. There was no way I was spending time outside in it. The forecast does show warmer temperatures should return later in the week, so that at least is something we have to look forward to.

Adrian’s escape

I am not much of a shopper, for either clothes or food, and as I’ve already ventured out twice for fresh veggies and basics, I was in no hurry to leave the safety of home again just yet. Adrian, on the other hand, hasn’t left the village in two weeks, which I think might be a record in the fifteen years that we have lived here. As you can imagine, he was feeling the need to break free, and under the excuse of topping up the other essentials I hadn’t deemed essential enough to buy; wine and beer, he took a brave leap this morning. The shop was empty of customers, full of stock and no queues at the checkout, so it was deemed such a success he has now been promoted to head of purchasing, even if the beers he bought outnumbered the courgettes by 9:1. 

Double yoga day

The best thing about today for me was being able to do my normal morning yoga for fitness class as well as an extra class this evening. It is the last week of our six-week term and Marc and Kate at Phoenix Yoga have generously allowed us to take as many online classes as we want this week. Two down today and I’m hoping for another two or three before Thursday evening. I am in heaven. I am also quite enjoying being able to watch the birds in our garden as I’m breathing and bending, and this morning I saw my first hoopoe of the year. I’m still waiting for the swallows, but they can’t be far away now, maybe they too want the easterly winds to die down before making an appearance.

Stay indoors and stay safe

Lockdown library

Today’s suggestion is the lovely Villa des Violettes trilogy, by Patricia Sands, set in Provence. I have been a big fan of Patricia's novels for many years and through these books you will find yourself in the lovely south of France.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day fourteen

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day fourteen
Sporting our new face masks


Two weeks in and we awoke to snow. Can things get any worse? Having made a mad dash into the garden to move the more tender pots back into the barn, where they were safely sheltering until last week’s mild weather prompted a flurry of activity from us, we went straight back to bed. Warm and cozy under the covers we watched as the large flakes charged past the window, dancing left to right and up and down, in the strong wind - snow is not our thing. Thankfully, nothing settled, and normality was resumed to our lives, although I have gone back to wearing my warmer winter socks and we’ve put the heating back on. We also seemed to have developed a habit for a third morning coffee, talk about living confinement life on the edge.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day fourteen
My first mask

Online learning

Today was another day for indoor fun and games. Adrian has been working hard on his online French lessons and has taken part in a half hour cycling workout. I’ve completed the first day’s tasks for the Arvon 5-Day Short Story Challenge, and have learned that finding short phrases from instruction manuals like “grip the handle and place thumb on.. or do not iron clothes whilst wearing them” can be used for writing prompts. 

I’ve also been playing with my sewing machine and achieved a sewing first; following my first ever YouTube instruction video. Thanks to writer friend Laurette Long for posting the link on Facebook and giving me the idea. We are now the proud owners of custom made, double lined, face masks. I’m not planning on leaving the house anytime soon, but I’m hoping Adrian will take a selfie in his when he hits Lidl tomorrow.


We are not normally that TV focused, but we have enjoyed a few family film nights and thanks to a new Netflix subscription, the choices available should be much improved as I’m guessing Ed won’t be too keen to keep watching Mamma Mia and Mamma Mia Here We Go Again. However, the search facility on Netflix isn’t doing much for Adrian’s blood pressure as time and again all it seems to suggest to him is a film about football. The sooner Netflix learns we are not a football family, and shows him the cycling films, the better.

If you would like the pattern I used to give making a face mask a go, here it is, along with the instructions I followed here. Print this image to A4 size.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day fourteen

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day thirteen

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirteen boulangerie #lazysundayinfrance
Croissants from the boulangerie

Day thirteen

An unlucky number for some and sadly our luck seems to have run out in terms of sunshine, mild weather and blue sky. Today has been more grey, cold and with a frisky wind from the east. Time to forget the garden and huddle together indoors for a lazy Sunday. #lazysundayinfrance

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirteen boulangerie #lazysundayinfrance
Paris-Brest, Tarte-aux-fruits et éclair-au café

Tasty treats

It’s not been all doom and gloom though as just a peek through the boulangerie window this morning was enough to put a smile on my face, so I thought I’d share some of their deliciousness with you too.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirteen boulangerie #lazysundayinfrance
Easter treats from the boulangerie


Too much cake however, and not enough cycling, isn’t going to help maintain my almost 50-year-old form, but thankfully I have my hoop. Internet exercising seems to be quite the trend at the moment, so I’d like to invite you to come hoop with me. I think confinement madness my have arrived, but we all need a laugh in these tough times, so I hope this puts a smile on your face today.

Video filmed by Adrian Brown and Ed Brown.
Edited by Ed Brown
Music composed and performed by Ed Brown

Thank you for all your encouraging comments on my daily diary posts of life in lockdown, it is lovely to know you are enjoying them.

Stay indoors, stay safe.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day twelve

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twelve
From our evening walk around the village

Extended confinement

Last night it was officially announced by the French Prime Minister that our original fifteen days of confinement, due to end on 31st March, has now been extended to at least 15th April. Anyone who has caught even a glimpse of the news headlines in the last two weeks won’t be at all surprised by this and many of us feel a further extension will be likely. All current rules on lockdown remain in place and you can find the form you need to fill out every time you leave home here

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twelve
Attestation to fill in before leaving home

Maybe it is time I admitted that this has been my cunning plan all along. With Adrian often working away from home we have spent many birthdays and anniversaries celebrating from afar in different countries. April is a special month for us as it’s our wedding anniversary on the 17th and Adrian’s birthday on the 22nd. Looks like this year we won’t have any choice but to be together for both, yippee!

What we will do to celebrate, I’ve no idea but I know the things we won’t be doing. We won’t be cycle touring this Easter on Ile de Ré, as we had planned, especially now the poor little island has been invaded by over 5000 germy Parisians, looking for somewhere better than Paris to sit out the lockdown. We also won’t be returning to the Pays Basques just yet to climb the mountains we had such fun doing last May, but I will have to come up with something special as it’s Adrian’s 50th this year. 

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twelve
Jackfruit and wraps

It’s a wrap

Our first sample of Jackfruit last night was a hit, even if it raised some skeptical comments from some of our friends. It certainly smelt more fruity than meaty when I opened the can, and I’m guessing by itself it doesn’t have much flavour, but once cooked in the sauce of spices, tomato purée and vegetables, it did a pretty good impersonation of meat and we all enjoyed it.
French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day twelve
Ed working in the orchard

Today’s exciting activity was hoovering the dust mice from behind the TV cabinet, and we even moved it out from the wall to properly get underneath and behind it. That is a job that doesn’t happen often around here, and it showed. My daily barrow of weeds was accompanied with a barrow of prunings today, cutting down the many plum tree saplings that seem intent on taking over the potager. As our garden waste tip is currently closed, weeds are being stored in an open barn where they can’t re-root into the ground and the prunings were all shredded by Adrian and added to the compost heap. My courgette seedlings will enjoy the fresh homemade compost later in the year.

Ed has been doing his best to get a bit of driving practice in, mowing with the tractor mower and the orchard is looking fantastic with freshly mowed grass and fruit tree blossoms.

Tonight our clocks go forward an hour, so I guess that is one less hour of confinement to endure and at least when I wake up at 6h15, as usual, it will actually be 7h15 and I’ll only have fifteen minutes to wait for the boulangerie to open.

Lockdown library 

My reading suggestion of the day is Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris. I first read this book over fifteen years ago and it is a very special read, one of those that stays with you and the characters pop back in your head even years later. For a little bit of magic between the pages, don’t miss out on the current 99p price reduction on Kindle UK.