In this country …

… there is more mistletoe on the winter-bare trees than I’ve ever, ever seen anywhere else.

… when seasonal pruning of roadside trees is done, the prunings are piled up into a series of bonfires a couple of inches from the main roads and set alight with petrol.

… huge trees growing inches from the road are not cut down on the grounds of health and safety, a white line is painted round the trunks that show up in the dark.

… car indicators aren’t used much here and if they are, it’s occasionally advisable to not believe the indication.

… roundabouts are a fairly new phenomenon here and are used as if they’ve never been seen before.

… white plastic bollards by the side of winding roads up steep hills are cleaned – by men wearing high vis jackets and using buckets, mops and cloths.

… speed cameras aren’t really used here but the police sometimes lurk with their speed guns. It’s possible, however, to look up on a website where they’re going to be over the proceeding few days.

… it’s possible to have a leisurely breakfast, go out for a drive, criss-crossing your way through three other countries and be home in time for afternoon tea and cake.

… there are houses painted the colour of highlighter pens. I’m serious.

… the average property price here, irrelevant of colour, is over 500,000 Euros.

… the population is half a million. Nearly half of those are, like us, ex-pats.

… it is advised that an annual blood test be carried out. This, the doctor told me, “may highlight any problems early which can be dealt with before they get more serious”. This sort of pro-active malarky can be hard to take in sometimes.

… when prescribed daily iron supplements (see above), they may come in the form of individual glass vials, the top of which needs to be snapped off. I feel like I’ve morphed back to a bygone time.

… when buying glycerine at la pharmacie for cake-icing purposes, you will be asked how much you want, the quantity of which will be decanted from a huge glass apothecary bottle into a tiny glass bottle and labelled, handwritten. Bygone times again.

… it is impossible to buy any form of painkiller anywhere other than a pharmacie.

… it is possible to buy large apothecary bottles, 20.00 Euros for eight, from flea markets.

… the locals are likely to be able to speak three languages, often switching between them mid-conversation. This is both maddening and hugely impressive.

… when in waiting rooms, whosoever joins the room will say hello as they enter and goodbye as they leave.

… it is highly likely you will be greeted as you enter a shop, probably asked if you need any help and if you advise you’re just looking, you will be left alone. I repeat, you will be left alone to browse.

… there is not a Starbucks on every corner in the city. There is not a Starbucks. This makes me happy.

… there is a supermarket which supplies various fancy restaurants which is also open to the public although not over the lunch period. The supermarket shuts for lunch.

… by and large, on the whole, generally, women are more well-turned out and better groomed here than in Blighty.

… vet bills are considerably cheaper than in Blighty. This is just as well given Le Chat Roux seemingly requires weekly trips for various ailments or afflictions.

… there is an annual potato festival.

… the old, now unused railway line which passed through our tiny village, complete with tunnel, has become a well-kept cycle path.

First: Red Rose

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Tomorrow there is someone coming round the house to troop through rooms taking pictures so someone else can see if they possibly want to come and live here whilst we’re away in the Small Country for, um, a fair while.  I’ve tidied and picked flowers from the garden.  The red rose is from my Ena Harkness hybrid tea which has never flowered well, as I moved it from one house to another, left it in a pot for a while and then planted it in wholly the wrong place.  Still, this morning it has thrown out a first, rather perfect bloom. 

Joe Brown sleeps in our new house in the Small Country for the first time tonight.  I shall join him at the end of this month.

I shall endeavour to participate in the August Break this year but I’m going to be pretty busy so don’t be surprised if I trail off.