MY HOME IS A CASTLE--the tale of how and why I became a chatelain , four times .This is my present home. If you are visiting for the first time you may care to read the older posts first.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Back to the farm!
To briefly re-cap:-

In 1989 , we ( my husband and I) had bought this abandoned 80 roomed Chateau in the Loire Valley France, with a next to none knowledge of the french language- Moved in with the dogs and my 82 year old mother--- Renovated the Chateau over the next year and turned it into a holiday letting business by creating 15 self-catering appartments-- bought six horses -- traded successfully for two seasons, and were now contemplating purchasing a nearby derelict farm with its 170 acres with the intention of creating an 18 hole golf course!!!

We must have been totally in cloud cuckoo land!

NO! Not that one!

Yup! That is the one --up with the fairies!

Well, I suppose you would call us risk takers-- but we did have a plan!

Our plan was 1) to get as much information as we could about creating a golf-course and everything that has to be done leading up to it. Then, 2) to buy the farm and the land. Then 3) hire a golf-course advisor(?) to create it for us on paper. Then , 4) Apply for planning permission for the course and a club house ( the farm) --and finally, 5) we would then sell the whole deal ( farm and all) to somebody who had the money and ambition to go ahead with the course! Sounds simple enough doesn't it? Yes you are right - it wasn't!

However , we threw caution to the winds, and we bought the farm! Now that was fun at first, as we set about exploring all those acres that were ours, and climbing up into the attic of the old farm building and finding things, like original wooden clogs ( goodness knows how old they were, and what a pity I haven't a photo of them) and boxes of old abandoned pairs of glasses? Wasn't that a strange find! We wondered why they were kept, there were at least 50 pairs;

We also found two fantastic huge old pots which were full of some alcoholic substance, my cousin who was there at the time sampled some and thought it was brandy! We kept those pots and they stand today in our courtyard......

Is it my imagination or can I still smell the brandy ?

These are Chris' legs , bless, to give you an idea of their size -- the pots not the legs:)

Another great joy at that time was I could take my horse up there and ride to my hearts content!

You will perhaps have noticed by now that , referring to the plan, point one was not actioned at all, i.e. we took no counselling apart from buying lots of golf magazines and visited a few golfcourses about an hours drive away! Incidentally, neither of us had ever played golf, and I still haven't, enjoyable though it looks!

I try not to let my posts go on too long as there is always so much to relate! It is getting towards evening meal time now so I had better start cooking , we have fish tonight, so à demain!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I am outraged, so much so I feel I have to talk about TWITTER in this post instead of resuming my tale....

I awoke this morning a bright and happy person looking forward to all that the day had to bring, and looking forward to resuming my post about the farm.

Sitting at my computer I thought I would, first of all, check into my Twitter site which I had only begun two weeks ago! To be perfectly honest I was not quite getting into it , and also was not understanding why it is so popular. My daughter and her husband are on it so I thought I would give a reasonable try. My initial problem was uploading a photo! I tried numerous shots but they were all rejected, mainly because they were too big, but even after I re-sized one or two, they were rejected; not wishing to give up I persevered and finally got one through --

I was on --so I sent a few messages - nothing! Read a few twitters - it did nothing for me to know that A was having a cup of cocoa - or B was going to blow her wages on a pair of shoes. I tried contacting a few stars ( famous people) - received no replies----- what am I doing wrong? So this is how I went on for that first week, feeling let down and dejected but slightly amused at me determination to succeed--
I logged on to my home site, and there was a new lady smiling back at me!! One that I had not seen for 3 years! It was actually me in that picture, but it was not the photo that I had posted. The picture that I had put up was a recent one and I was quite demure in a white dress and a red jacket! This new 'me' was wearing a low strappy white tee-shirt and looked three years younger ! I am making light of it now , but I was really angry when the facts hit me!!
'THEY',presumably the ' Twitter' company or whatever you would call them, had actually delved quite happily into my computer photo files ( and goodness knows what else) and had looked through all my photos deciding which one to choose to post up on my site -
Can they do that and get away with it?
The photo that was put up was in a totally differnt folder and file to the one I had chosen! They had hacked into my computer -- I am still furious.
Needless to say I have sent them an irate email, demanding an explanation. I have also deleted my site totally.
Has this happened to any of you, my friends? If so, what was the outcome?
Do you think I am over-reacting?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


As recorded yesterday in my other blog, we are having tree problems which has interupted my blogging for today-- Have any of you had any similar problems following last Winter? Even back to last Spring our Horse Chestnut trees were looking sad and did not produce any healthy conkers. Take a look at our devastation!

Back tomorrow....

Sunday, April 26, 2009


In war-torn London, on the 27th. April 1942 , Priscilla gave birth to a 7lb 4oz girl! She had waited for 12 years for this moment..... she looked at the little screwed-up yelling bundle with a red face and instantly changed her mind on the choice of name! Her and Frank's choice had been 'Bonita' but this little wriggling thing, could never have been nicknamed ' Bonnie' so she re-named her first-born ( and last) Loretta Delphine ! Yes that was me.... 67 years ago...... and today is my

wee me and mum

So feeling nostalgic, here are a few old photos, sorry about the quality...

I think that I was standing on a table here! I do remember that this was taken in Jersey. I bet it was a nightmare for my mum to comb my hair out--I know it was for me!

on the beach, I remember that costume it used to fill up with water whenever I went into the sea- I would come out looking like Michelin Man!

my first boyfirend - I rember his name- it was Peter . Great cornets!I wonder now who the legs belonged to?

Couldn't resist putting this one up- what bathing belles they were, with costumes not leaving a lot to the imagination; Mum is the one on the left with her friend Lou-I think it was before she became a Mum!

This is me as an aspiring dancer at the age of 17, it came to nothing, although I have always loved to dance, and still do!

Taurus as from Google archives.....

" Personal Traits Taureans tend to be slow, methodical, practical and reserved. They are also stolid, tenacious and determined. Possessing tremendous willpower and self-discipline, they are inclined to stick to tried and traditional methods. Their greatest satisfaction derives from results produced directly by their own personal efforts rather than by others.

Roots are very important to the Taurean. A sense of permanence, a feeling of security is essential. Generally an easygoing person, slow to anger, but once roused is known for a ferocious temper. Very difficult to deal with when angry. Usually set off by jealousy due to a possessive nature. Loyalty is important to a Taurus, and a true friend of a Taurean will speak well of their great generosity. Honesty, integrity and dependability are notable Taurean characteristics. The calm, pleasant, and well intentioned Taurus exterior belies the volcanic temper that can erupt when sufficiently aroused. The bright side of the stubborn bull's nature is, they are incredibly and uncompromisingly loyal to their friends. Established slowly, a Taurus friendship can, and often lasts a lifetime

Positive Traits
Taureans are warm, loving, gentle and charming most of the time. Motivated by self preservation, the Taurean is not a risk taker and weighs every decision carefully, in a slow and methodical manner. To more impulsive people, the Taurean is a bore. Opinionated and stubborn, once a Taurean makes a decision, it is written in stone. nobody can alter it.Basically physical people, they prefer the known to the unknown and the tried to the new. They love the earth, possessions, and generally treat those they love as sacred possessions.
Main positive traits: Stable, dependable, practical, conventional,determined and patient.
Negative Traits
Taureans can be very caring and warmhearted but there is a tendency to be extremely jealous, possessive and very stubborn. Taurus must strive to keep an open mind because his strong personal convictions can blind him to the ideas of others. Risks are taken only if it is absolutely necessary and only after much consideration. This is a sign that's slow to change and would prefer a steady routine in
Main negative traits: Possessive, stubborn, materialistic, lazy. "

Not sure if I would agree with all that! Some of it is correct particuarly the stubborn bit!

Finally a picture of as I am today, sorry it is a bit posey, directed and taken by Chris - Bless him!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Winter arrived again at La Roche Hue, loaded with snow, cold, but, oh so pretty!

Our french was really improving and we found that we could both converse now without difficulty, and make ourselves understood! I found that, sometimes, I would dream in french - that felt weird. The love we felt for France ensured our well-being , and in spite of missing our children and grandchildren , it really felt like home. We would take time out each year to visit our family and loved being with them , but, every time we stepped back onto french soil we would smile, breathe deeply, and be so glad to be back after the hustle and bustle of England!

Passing those Winter months was fun with all the jobs around the property to do, plus the upkeep of the animals and the marketing of the business, but the initial buzz of the huge transition we'd made, had disappeared , and Alex and I began to get itchy feet with a desire to break into another venture! But what? We didn't know what!

Every time I went out riding on my beloved Hortensia,

I used to leave Roche Hue by the bottom gate, take a track through the farmers crop field , cross a road and take a lane through farmland on which stood a derelict farmhouse and outbuildings.....

The lane was about 1.5kms long which led to over a 100ha of woodland , scattered with bridal paths -- great for hacking out!

The farmhouse and 170 acres of farmland belonged to our neighbours, whose ancestors had previously owned Roche Hue, and had , at one time, all had belonged to the Chateau.

Talking to Jean, the farmer, one day he mentioned that he was thinking of selling the farmhouse with the 170 acres of land, and suggested that it would be an ideal situation for a golfcourse!!


The idea was born!

A GOLFCOURSE -- BUT......we didn't have the cash!!
....but we did have the enthusiasm-- a lot of serious thinking was neededand A PLAN!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


It is now a year later following Alex's TIA, and we find ourselves totally settled into ' la Vie Française'! There had been no futher major health shocks in the interim, as Alex had finally signed on with a good french Doctor who prescribed a permanent blood thinner and life returned to normal for us.

The second trading season of 1992 had been a good one, however the pound had started to slide against the franc , which was not good for us as we had decided to charge in pounds instead of francs, and we were losing on the exchange. On the other hand it was good for increased bookings, so it balanced out that year.

Our camper holiday destination for that year was decided when our daughterMichaela telephoned us to say that she would be docking at Naples around late September ! Michaela was a petty officer on the Q.E.2.-- Italy was one of our favourite places so we arranged to be at the docks on that particular day. Finding the docks was easy but finding a parking place for the camper was difficult however .....

...............we made it just in time to see the magnificent ship come rolling up to the quay!

The first thing that grabbed me was just how massive this ship was as you can see in the next picture......
It seems bizarre that it actually has to be tied to its post by the ' handlers' the same as any small boat! How tiny the people seem !

Here is our lovely daughter with her Dad. She had got the Captain's permission for us to be aboard the ship for that day, and that we could could ' take a tour ' of the facilities.

On deck there were squash courts, tennis courts , golf practice and putting, and swimming pools, and a jogging track etc. In fact everything for the sporty people.

There were two main restaurants ( one of them above) apart from the many 'eateries', bars and cafes etc.

I was not impressed however with the corridors leading to the cabins and suites etc., I found them quite narrow and claustraphobic. We weren't able to see inside the cabins as they were all occupied, however we saw inside Michaela's cabin and it was really so limited "you couldn't even swing a cat"-- now where on earth did that horrible expression originate I wonder?

Finally here is a picture of Michaela looking down on to the stage and main dance floor. as you can see , the upper balcony houses all the designer shops ( money, money,money) for the rich!!

There turned out to be a special reason for our invitation, Michaela introduced us to Darren, another petty officer , in the engineering department of the ship-- they had become inseparable on board AHHH ' aint luv grand'! He was ( and is ) a lovely boy who is now her husband and father of their three children!!! Happy days!

As you probably already know the beautiful old ship has now been sold to retire gracefully as an Hotel in the upmarket tourist resort of "Palm Jumeirah" in Dubai.

and here she is.... I think she deserves the rest!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Our short break at the end of our first season , mid september, was drawing close ( thank goodness) and we set about tying up all loose ends before we set off!

Isabelle ( our girl groom) was happy to work shorter hours during the Winter which was essential as there were six horses to exercise, groom and muck out! I mucked out with her nearly every day, and I actually enjoyed it and found it quite theraputic, especially laying down all that sweet smelling hay . Trouble with horses though, the first thing they do when they enter a clean stable is to ' mark their territory ' , and then roll, thus scattering the hay everywhere!!!!


Victoria, my daughter was going to be in charge of the telephone ( for future bookings), her boyfriend would be in charge of the pool and grounds, and Archie our faithful friend would look after the general running of the Chateau and odd jobs. All three would keep an eye on Mum. Jacqueline , our cleaner would return to just a couple of hours a day during the Winter as all the apartments were closed down for the season end.

So with bags packed into our car we headed off to the south of France , one of our favourite destinations. We had nothing booked, just decided to go B&B or small hotels. Our longer holiday, planned for late October would be in the Camping Car.

I remember the weather being very warm and gentle down at Narbonne Plage which is where
we decided to bed down in a little hotel overlooking the beach.

Alex relaxing in the hotel-- dig those crazy tracksuit bottoms!

We used to go camping there many times when the children were young, so the visit was quite nostalgic; As usual it took quite a few days to finally unwind, and we spent those days re-visiting old haunts including the "ABBAYE DE FONTFROIDE" which was beautiful....

...... as you see!

Time passed quickly and we were anxious to get back home again to see if everybody had coped well without any problems; Little did we know that we were to experience a problem which was about to shape our future lives together.

We packed our bags and set off on the long drive up the motorway heading towards Bordeaux and then the Loire Valley. We always took it in turns to drive, at least, my joking husband always said that he did 60% and I did 40% ! I was at the wheel whilst Alex was fast asleep beside me when we approached one of the large ' peages' - toll booths. I nudged Alex awake to find the necessary payment as we always do; I knew something major was wrong when he did not respond in his normal manner! He stared at me as if I were a stranger and did not know where he was or what we were doing! At first I thought he was joking or had been having a bad dream, but I soon realised it was real. He began to wander off in his mind and I knew I had to get home as quickly as possible! I cannot begin to describe the terror I /we , were both feeling . Alex had no memory of where had been or what we had been doing, he was unsure of everything.

I think the car must have grown wings for that journey which must have taken at least another three hours! Alex began to settle down and come out of it but was still not himself. I didn't know the name for it but I guessed he must have had some form of mini stroke. As soon as we got home I immediately telephone our old English doctor who talked to both me first, then Alex over the phone and diagnosed a ' TRANSIENT ISCHAEMIC ATTACK ' which, in effect is a mini stroke or advanced warning of a stroke. He suggested we go to a french doctor, which Alex refused to do initially, then agreed finally to start taking aspirin immediately on a daily basis. I was shocked because he had seemed so well, as you can see from his photo! He was a heavy smoker though and would not give them up.

I telephoned the girls back in England and we were all reeling with the news and after some badgering Alex agreed to enrol with a french doctor and have some tests. He laughed it off but I knew that deep down he was really shaken.

What a holiday that turned out to be.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Back to La roche Hue........

That first Summer was drawing to an end and we were feeling quite tired and a bit down, when suddenly a last minute ' long- weekend ' reservation came through! It was for an Agatha Christie weekend!! I had heard of them before but had no idea of the format. We contacted the people for the details on what was expected and were pleased to hear that they would arrange it all-- the only thing we had to do was to keep the bar open ( haha) and enjoy the occasion. It was just what we needed to give us a lift!

What fun it turned out to be--everybody bought costumes for the scenes which were to be enacted in order to discover the murderer.

For those who are ignorant on how it works ( like myself)-- everybody is given a part to play with a written synopsis on the story and the character they have to play ; with details on what they were doing around the time of the murder..

The only person who knows who the murderer is, is the one person who receives that written information. I am not explaining this very well, probably because I have never taken part-- all I know is that they did, by questioning each other and by trial and error, discover who the muderer was ............. errr, I think it was the vicar !!

Another surprise event was a demand for wedding photos to be taken in the grounds of the Chateau. There was no payment involved, but we decided it was good to be able to offer something to the community, so we agreed. It turned out to be a very strange event, for no guests at all showed up for the pictures and the bride and groom looked so fed up and not at all happy!!!! This is the picture we took of them.......

You see what I mean? The body language says it all.............

We made hay for the first time that year too, with the help of neighbours who owned all the farmland around the Chateau. Their family were one of the original owners of La Roche Hue, and it was them who sold the Chateau to the Algerian Government, from whom we bought our lovely home.

Making hay whilst the sun shines!!

So that was it the end of the first year and ALEX and I were preparing to go away for a good rest and leave the Chateau in the capable hands of Archie and my daughter and her boyfriend.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Putting aside blogging withdrawal symptoms, we have just spent a wonderful Easter. My daughter, her husband and three of my lovely grandchildren came to stay for the whole week. Chris stood up to invasion remarkably well and loved all the fuss and attention directed his way!

Leaving the two men behind to do their thing, us girls took the kids out exploring and guess what we found in the centre of a ' petit village' called Noyant right in the centre of France?

We stumbled across a part of

This statue is enormous !

Noyant from the turn of the 19th/20th century was a coal mining town, and virtually all the male villagers were employed down the mines. By 1955 the source became dry and the subsequent unemployment sparked off a mass exodus! In order to re-populate the empty village, the local authorities agreed to repatriate a large community ( over 1000) of vietnamese who took over the empty miners houses. In 1982 they constructed this huge Pagoda set into gardens of peace and tranquility where they could meet and worship. So for half a century now the Indo-Chinese have lived in perfect harmony with the french in this pretty little village;

Below is their place of worship...

Once a year the buddhists come over to pay their respects....

and, finally, a little picture of my three little monkeys and their Mum--I am missing them already!

Back to my story tomorrow, I hope you all enjoyed a great Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009


The family is coming for Easter and to give Chris a big hug, so I shall be taking a break for this coming week.
Do have a fun time everybody and I look forward to catching up with you all soon!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


My man is home and all is well with the world..........

With reference to yesterday's post, we had another exciting occasionthat first year! The local region's Brass Band asked if they could perform a concert in the grounds of the Chateau . It would be an event which would be open to the general public-mainly local residents! How could we refuse! Not only would be find it enjoyable but so would our holidaymakers, and the Bar would maybe profit from the occasion as well!

Preparations were put underway, leaflets were put around the town, we rushed of to the local 'cash&carry' for extra stock for the Bar, and waited with anticipation for the day to arrive...

The day dawned hot and sunny, local guys arrived with stacks of benches and arranged them facing the rear of the Chateau. The Band arrived early to set up! They were mostly young men and a couple of girls, and all beautifully dressed all in white. In fact they looked like an English cricket team ( smile). They arranged their chairs and instruments at the base of the steps leading down from the Gallery and its terrace.

Suddenly people started flocking in-- that was such a relief for us because although we thought it might be popular, there was always that doubt that not many people would turn up,which would have been awful for the local committee who had arranged it all. Everybody started to arrrange themselves on benches and greeted each other in the only way that french people do, like they hadn't seen each other for years!! The air was abuzz with french conversation.

After initially tuning up, the Band started to play, and they were GOOD! It was a thrill for us to be hosting an occasion like this and light years away from the life we had back in England. We thought of our daughters still there and wished that they were with us.
The interval came and there was a rush for the bar, and we were ready for them. It was great to see our English tourists mixing and chatting to the french locals- getting along really well.

So what an evening that was! A good time was had by everybody and , I suppose, we were involved in helping along a little " entente cordiale "!

We were so happy with our life at the end of that first summer, but little did we know that there was a dark cloud on the horizon!

Monday, April 6, 2009


Firstly, thankyou to all who joined in my little quiz yesterday! The answer was Muskrat, in France called a Ragonda! I felt a little drained yesterday, and my heart wasn't into my story. Today I feel good and energised, especially as Chris is so much better, and will be allowed home to recuperate! So back to my story......

In our first year of opening our doors, we had a few exciting group bookings, and one of them was from a group of hot air balloonists- in french 'Montgolfiéres'. They were from England and quite a jolly bunch. They had sponsors for their activities, the main one being British Airways. Their intention was to fly ( is that the right expression? or float?) before 7.00 a.m.! This, apparently, the safest time because there is no wind. If there are any balloonists reading this, please correct me if I am wrong because I am just using my memory of our conversations with them at that time! So, in order for them to fly before 7am, they had to start getting the balloons inflated at about 5am !!! So as we wanted to share this experience, we had to get up at that time too with our cameras--help!

One is going up, the other still needs more gas

The group leader kindly asked if one of us would like to join them in the basket! Well I have no head for heights, neither did my husband, but our son-in-law leapt at the opportunity, and took a camera with him.

This is him about to get in the basket- how brave

So up up and away they both go.............

The horses just could not believe their eyes! At first when the colouful objects started to grow before their eyes, they all galloped madly around their field. When they had finally exhausted their nervous energy, they all drew up and stared and stared.........

This is the shot that he took from the basket.....

And this next and final photo we took the following morning when they decided to go even earlier. It is lovely to see that bright orb just floating quietly over the roof of the Chateau in the eerie early morning light!

What an experience that was- I just wished now that I had had the courage to go up myself!