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Bon Courage!

A French Renovation in Rural Limousin

Bon Courage! by Richard Wiles
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US$ 14.99
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A dilapidated, rat-infested stone barn set amidst thirteen acres of overgrown woodland and unkempt pasture might not be many people’s vision of a potential dream home. But for English couple Richard and his wife Al, the cavernous, oak-beamed building in a sleepy hamlet of the Limousin region of France is perfect. Tussles with French bureaucracy allied with fierce storms that wreak havoc on the property do little to dampen resolve as they immerse themselves in the calme of this quiet corner of France, taking trips in Richard’s balloon and starting their very own llama farm. Their colourful, often eccentric neighbours are always ready to lend a hand: the jovial ex-Gendarme and his wife, who is able to foretell the weather; a lonely widow who offers copious amounts of gateaux in exchange for convivial chat; and a brawny cattleman with suspicious motives in offering to clean up the couple’s land. This often hilarious and heartwarming tale is one of obstacles overcome and dreams fulfilled.
Summersdale Publishers Ltd.; Read online
Title: Bon Courage!
Author: Richard Wiles
Not content with nibbling through the groundsheet of our inner sanctum and stealing our supplies of chocolate while we had been shovelling manure from the adjoining barn, the mice were taking liberties now. As I played the meagre beam of the torch along the tent, I traced the shadowy, scurrying bodies of the despicable rodents as they queued up along the apex beneath the flysheet, eagerly awaiting their turn to launch themselves down the canvas sides as if our tent was a giant theme-park slide. The torch flickered and its beam became still dimmer. I whacked it against the palm of my hand and it became bright again. With eyes blinkered by romance, this wasn’t exactly how I had foreseen the first visit when we would finally take possession of the rundown French farm we were in the process of buying. It was bitterly cold that evening. We each wore two pairs of jeans, several layers of T-shirts and fleeces, hats, scarves and thick socks; additionally, our feet were encased in black plastic bin-bags, held around our ankles with blue binder twine. ‘If we keep our feet dry, it’ll help us stay warm,’ Al had claimed earlier, with knowledge of survival techniques gleaned from her seven-year solo round-the-world trip. I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of her words. My fingers were white and numb. I was unable to feel my nose, and I had to work my jaw from side to side to prevent it from locking shut. Outside, the rain continued to lash down and the wind to howl, while we sat huddled within the tent, assembling yet another gourmet meal with a sputtering camping stove, a wok and a saucepan. I left the mice to their fun – they were probably only trying to keep warm, after all – set the torch down and scraped some lettuce, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes from a paper plate into a carrier bag, added a drizzle of huile de noix and some ground black pepper, gathered up the neck of the bag and shook it vigorously. The makeshift salad tosser seemed to work quite well I thought, proud of my inventiveness, although I could discern an oily wetness dripping onto my trousers from holes in the bottom of the bag.

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