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Old Letters:

2006: Nov                                                                                  to enlarge pictures, click on them
2007: Jan Mar May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2008: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Xmas
2009: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug  Sep Oct Nov Dec Xmas
November 06 Letter
house and carThings are fine with Harry and me. We are now pretty well settled in.  The residence is official, we are enrolled in the French healthcare system with a doctor who speaks some English, we have a bank and a bankcard that has a 'flea' to work in the automatic machines here, etc, etc.
The house we have rented has been newly fixed up. It is a cottage made from part of the stable block of a farm that used to stand in the area. A number of the farm buildings have been converted. The car we bought is called a Kangoo. It is very economical, comfortable and has useful space for carrying things. Everything we have purchased for the house (stove, frig, sofa etc.) has fit into the Kangoo to bring it home. Mind you, we bought a small frig. Click on picture to enlarge. We are in the house with the brown shutters and the Kangoo is parked in front.

January 07 Letter
At Christmas we acquired a puppy. She is a Beauceron, a type of French sheep dog. They look a bit like a Doberman because Herr Doberman used them when producing his new breed. One of their oddities is double dew-claws on the back feet - so 22 toe nails. Click on the picture to see a larger version.
The mildness of the winter is a pleasant change. It hasn't frozen at night since New Years.
I am being very lazy about learning French. I sometimes feel a little embarressed.

March 07 letter
Greetings.almond flower
We hope to have visitors this spring and summer and we are looking forward to seeing them. This is a bit of a French backwater, but that has its advantages in lack of crowds and traffic.
Our puppy is growing like she is going to be a giant. She is so big that I keep forgetting that she is only 4 months old - a 20 kilo baby. Harry has joined a dog club.
Here is a picture of the neighbour's almond tree which bloomed for Valentine's day.

May 07 letter
HiKienzl's yard
The puppy has gone to a new home. She was just too active and demanding a dog for people as old as Harry and me. The new owners already have a Beauceron so they know what they are getting into and report that they are happy with their new pup.
While we are without a dog, we thought we would take a trip (maybe two or three). We drove to Austria to see friends we had not seen in 27 years and we had a wonderful time. (see Visits page)
The picture is the yard of the little Kienzl farm where we stayed. They produce organic eggs and vegetables.
I heard from brother George. He was injured in a fall and is in hospital in Kelowna.

June 07 letter
Hello, George
George Barmby died in the late afternoon of June 3rd at Kelowna Hospital. He was living in Merritt BC for the last year or so. He had been in hospital with a number of ailments (kidney failure, injury to arm, neck and spinal cord from a fall probably as he went into coma from the kidney failure, C. difficile bowel infection, and his pre-existing diabetes). He was improving, had a relapse and was improving again when he died of a heart attack.
He was cheerful to the end as he always seemed to be.
I never heard or saw George ever be unkind or mean to anyone. And I have never heard from anyone else a story of him acting unkind. The world was not good to him but he was good to everyone.
He will be buried beside his father, Wallace Barmby, on July3 (after the reunion).
Here is George before the beard.
PS - I crashed my computer. Everything was recovered
except for my email addresses and and a year's email messages.

July 07 letter

Hi, Dianne making breakfast
I went to Canada to bury George in the last half of June and the first half of July. Harry stayed in France.
While in Canada I was able to attend a family reunion, several Toastmaster meetings and do some business and shopping. (see Visits page). Ciara, Madeline and Marcia were lovely hosts so my stay was very comfortable. The photo is of Dianne making breakfast at the reunion.
Between my computer crash and losing my address book during my trip, I am not sure that I have all the addresses, phone numbers and email addresses that I once had. If you want to make sure I have your email address then sent me an email.
I am happy to be back with Harry. The summer is heating up and so my bones will be less creaky.

August 07 letter
Hello All, Bourges Cathedral
August is the holiday month in France. The usual shops we use may be closed; the towns and villages have their festivals and events. The temperature is supposed to be hot, but this summer has been mostly cool.
We had a visit from Paul (see Visits page) and Lucia. Below is a picture of the cathedral where we went sightseeing.
A friend, Murray Coons, who worked with me for over 15 years has died. He was in hospital for about 2 months after an attack (or accident) near his home. He was an extremely talented person.

September 07 letter
Autumn is here. White cliffs at Dover
We took a trip to England and came home tired. I did not have to take the cane out of the back of the car during the whole trip. See the visits page and second trip to Banbury in the family section. Below is a picture of the White Cliffs of Dover.
Walnuts are falling from the couple of walnut trees on our lot and we are eating them. Really fresh nuts are so moist. There were also a few hazel nuts in the back yard. The grapes and pears in the yard are now done. We missed the best of the grapes while in England.

October 07 letter    
RosesOn my birthday the digger finally came and started work on the foundations (see house page). The sun shone and we went for lunch at La Cocotte. About a month ago the roses finally seemed to be done for the year and so I pruned them. They immediately put on a spurt and now we have roses again. And to put a final touch on the day, there was 4 solid hours of snooker championship games. The snooker bunch are the most well-mannered, good-natured and sportsmanlike sportsman around.

November 07 Letter  
Amonite fossilsWell, the house is coming (see House page) and we have had a visit from Ciara, Ryan and friends (see visits page). While they were here they assembled a shed for us. The house was crowded and we could not all fit in the car - but the visit was great anyhow.
Now winter has come. They have had our first night frost and it repeated itself for several nights in a row.
The photo is of some of the many ammonites from the Jurassic in the limestone that has been dug out for the foundation.
I am now on Facebook.

December 07 Letter      
GingerHi. We had a big scare in early Dec, we thought we had lost our medical coverage with the French Government. But it was a false alarm - the new rules do not apply to pensioners like us. (!!Great sign of relief!!)
Last Christmas we treated ourselves to a puppy. But it did not work out. We were not prepared for the energy and personality of a Beauceron. (Don't do your reading about a particular breed after you get the puppy) We had to find a home for Tchorna with people who had and knew the breed. We don't like living without a dog so this Christmas we got a dog from the pound. She is a two year old mongrel (Lab X maybe Staffie) but quiet and even a bit scared, probably from being in the pound. We call her Ginger. Her photo is here.
EDF installed our temporary electrical supply on the building plot. (see House page)
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Janet

January 08 Letter
Bengy's churchHi, Nothing is happening this time of year. It is mostly rainy and I'm mostly lazy.
Harry is building a motorized wheel barrow, called the 'chariot', right now.
The right size for a dog, which Ginger is, is not too small for Harry's liking and not too big for mine. When we encourage her, she runs and jumps around, but when she is not encouraged, she lies about. So she is not running us ragged like the Tchorna pup did. In fact, she is often as lazy as me. Generally she is well behaved, quiet and affectionate. Her manners are very good with other dogs.
But the problem she has is that she has been traumatized some time in the past and is only coming to trust us after a few of weeks. If I have the back-scratcher or cane in my hand she hides. In so many little things like that, she shows fear of people especially men. But everyday she is a bit better and more relaxed.
Without the trees in the way, we can now see the church at the centre of the village (as well as hear the bells).

February 08 Letter
HyacinthHi, The Hyacinth bulb that Ciara brought from Amsterdam in November was blooming in early February and filling the house with its scent. Later in the month we got the neighbour's almond tree and some outdoor bulbs starting to bloom.
Harry is getting some major checkups of his lungs and heart since he has had some mild but unusual feelings in his chest. All the testing appears well so far. Our health care is all fixed up now that we have delivered papers from the British Pensions to the French Assurance Maladie. The French system is great.
Our drive is in.( see house page) We are awaiting a steel delivery. Bob and Dave will visit soon.

March 08 letter
cartoonHi. Bob and Dave came from Canada for a visit in March. (see Visits page) Spring was 'springing' with bluebells and daffodils in the front yard when we got some snow on Mar 4. So Bob brought some Canadian weather with him. I hope that is the last of winter.
It seems (fingers crossed) that we have got everything finally together as far as papers, bank account, insurance, licences, permits etc. etc. are concerned in France, Canada and the UK.
Nothing has been done on the house since the last letter. But we have more or less got things arranged for putting in the top of the foundation with the floor joists set in it.
Apparently, as well as Easter, March has Pi Day. I have put in this cartoon. Click on it to enlarge and if you like it, go to the Qwantz website for more of the same.

April 08 Letter
Harry with car and dogHi. Spring so far has been quite wet and we have spent a lot of time indoors. That can be a bit boring. Especially as we have had no visitors or gone anywhere or had any big problems or any great pieces of luck. Our health continues to be fairly good although not perfect. Ginger continues to improve and she has become quite attached to Harry rather than frightened of him. We continue to be amazed at how great her dog-to-dog manners are compared to her dog-to-strange-person behavior. She never picks a fight or lets another dog bully her. TV has only been so-so but there has been a lot of interesting things on the blogs I read. Harry has been doing many little things on the building plot but the rain has kept the progress slow.
I took a picture of Harry for his nephew one early morning and it is here.
You can take it that all is well in 'sleepy hollow'.

May 08 Letter
backyardNothing visable is happening with the house - just a lot of little things and talking to suppliers etc. We have not gone anywhere or had any visiters. No new purchases ....
We are well, the dog is doing well, the weather varies between OK and great. I have started a tiny gardening effort - just some carrots so far.
I took a few pictures. First is the back yard of the house we rent. The tree in the center is the pear tree and along the left side are the vines and the bay bush going towards the door. The second is looking over our back gate towards the northwest; the third is the northeast from the gate.

Janetlooking NE

looking NW

June 08 Letter
Harry resting
Hi, Rain, rain go away. What a wet spring! We finally got a sunny day and started making the top of the foundation on the 9th (see House page). Below is Harry having a rest 4 hours in to the 9 hour job. Now its raining again.
I have been busy starting a blog - so I am now a blogger. Great fun! 

July 08 Letter

grapes Hi, We have just had Fete Nationale or Bastille Day. It is the 219th anniversary of the start of the Revolution. It was the end of the monarchy and feudalism. It was the separation of church and state. So the road was closed around the neighbouring town of Avord for the airforce it strut its stuff. There was fireworks at the town hall. Thankfully our dog doesn't seem to mind fireworks or jet planes or cannons.
We have had the first really hot weather of the year. There are not many pears on the tree but it looks like there will be plenty of grapes (see pic).

August 08 Letter
the big acaciaHi, Summertime. (and no mosquitos!) My blogging is going OK. It has only been 3 months but I am getting more visits than this site gets after 2 years.
 Harry has almost finished the top of the foundations -(see House page).  He also has a new computer. Harry may have to have a carpal tunnel operation.
Caira and Ryan have set the date - June 09. They and others may visit with us in France after the wedding.
Here is a picture of the False Acacia at the near corner of our building plot. It dominates the other trees. It is very different from the acasias in Africa, but has thorns like them. It is also called Locust tree or Robina. They are in the pea family and seem to grow like weeds on our plot with their thorns .

September 08 Letter
grapes Hi,
On House page is a group of photographs showing how Harry put in the floor joists and also
pics of his motorized wheel barrow.
I notice that I have not had a picture of myself in any letters. Here is one Ciara took last fall.
Also below are the ripe grapes - tasty. We have also had several feeds of wild blackberries - well worth picking them among the thorns. What a wet summer we have had!
This is the 2 year birthday of this site. The number of readers of my new blog, Thoughts on thoughts, continues to rise.

October 08 Letter

MoonIt is my birthday month again - too soon. I turn 69 this Oct.
The weather is getting chilly and it is raining often. But now that summer is over, at least the TV is getting better. See autumn moon pic.
Harry will probably have an operation on his wrist this winter to cure his tingling fingers.
We are putting down the floor for the house.(see House Page) I say 'we' but Harry does the work.
I hope all my Canadian friends and relatives had great Thankgiving get-togethers.


November 08 Letter
Brain Hi, In late Oct my cousin Brian died. He was a lovely man. There is a picture below from his healthier days.
Harry has his wrist operation  on Nov 19. He only had to wait 3 weeks. It is an in-out the same day deal.
The weather is getting cooler and we have the heating on.
We made some progress on the house (see House page) but not that much due to rainy weather and Harry's wrist. There will not be much work for a while after the operation either.

December 08 Letter  
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,dog's walk
Harry's operation for carpal tunnel went very well and he is recovering quickly. Maybe too quickly - he is even feeling cheated that he didn't have a longer holiday (I mean recovery).
At the end of Nov, after 6 months in existence, my blog has recieved 5000 visits in total and it is now running at about to 80 a day. This site is steady at about 350 visits a month.
I have started taking the dog for a walk in the afternoon, if it isn't raining. We both need the exercise. The pictures below is taken along the walk on a misty afternoon. dog's walk
We seem to have less and less money these days as the dollar and pound both fall against the euro - it is a fairly steady fall. Too bad.
My annual Christmas letter is below.
January 09 Letter
 My combined Christmas and Birthday present is a new computer - Harry's was a camera. I have decided that this would be a good time to leave Windows and take up Linux. Currently I am setting up this Website and other things in the new software so this is probably the last time I am going to update before the 'new look'. With the new computer I am doing very little else (and I will need to catch up one of these days).
We have ordered the wood for studs and have bought a shelter for it to keep it dry. Next step is to erect the shelter.

Our health is fine but the winter weather is making us very stay-at-home-in-the-warm-ish.
The picture is a winter dawn.
February 09 Letter

misty day
It has not been a very eventful month. 
The wood for the house has not arrived yet. And this is a good thing because
a gale one night blew the tent away that we were going to store the wood in. We have had to get a new one. The dog is usually very good with noise but I had to stay up all night because the gale was causing a lot of loud and strange noises. I was not at all surprised that the tent was gone.
Harry and I have both had bad head colds that just would not go away. It is colder this winter than it was the last two. There have been no trees blooming this Feb. But many misty days, like photo, this year.
March 09 Letter
We have had a good month. Some progress has been made on the house (link above) and we have had visits from Ciara and Ryan and from Bob (link above).
Spring has come, sunny and warm. The narcissus was blooming when Ciara came and the bluebells were out when Bob left. (bluebell photo below) We are in good health and feeling cheerful.
There has been some strikes and demos in France but they have not affected our rural corner of the country. Time will tell whether the government can convince people that it's on their side. Janet

April 09 Letter
I have our taxes done for Canada for another year. The strong Euro compared to the dollar and the pound is not doing
anything for our finances. Still we survive.
The house progresses (see link above). We are raising walls.
Ciara said I should change the drawing of Ginger occasionally but we are just lucky I could draw her once. Below is a photo. She wears a choker chain rather than a collar because a collar is either way too tight or slips off over her head. She has a lot of fresh around her neck. That is the bit that is not right about my drawing - skinny neck.
I am getting to like the Linux system and hardly use my Windows computer anymore. Every once in a while I'm frustrated with it, but the rest of the time it's great. The Blog is going well and I get 3000-4000 visits a month. This site (JanetsPlace) gets about 300 a month.
All is well with us. Janet

May 09 Letter
Now it is time for the French taxes. We don't have to pay much but the form is a terrible job with our French. Last year Harry took the forms and our Canadian tax return etc. down to the Government office and talked a nice lady into filling the French forms in for him over a couple of visits, each bringing extra documents. This must have cost the Government a bit in her salary and there was no tax owed to offset it.
We have managed to raise the walls without any help. (pictures via house link above). We were a little nervous and hoping that there would be no big wind. Now that they are all there and fixed to one another we can relax about the weather.
Ginger goes over to the building site with Harry and stays in her wire cage. A couple of times she jumped out and wandered but came back when called. It is a novelty to have a dog come right back when called - at least for us. The photo is Ginger, 'at home' in the new house - click on it to enlarge.
We are keeping our fingers crossed that all goes well at Ciara and Ryan's wedding June 6.
Cheerio. Janet  

June 09 Letter

We have been here three years now and I have always been away (in UK, Canada, Austria) when the acacia bloomed. This year I'm here to see it, the biggest tree we have with lots of flowers. Photos below. I also found some wild orchids on the building site.
The French taxes are done. It is surprising how little ordinary people actually read the forms -"all the amounts are printed in when I get the form so I just sign it" they say. But ours does not come with the figures filled in so we have to read it. Still its done and the Republic is happy.
Work has started on the roof - see house progress link above for pictures.
I had to go back and use my Windows computer for a little chore. Now I'm convinced that I want to stay with my Ubuntu Linux.
The Duggleby reunion has been cancelled - but we still intent to go to the UK in Sept and include a trip to Yorkshire.
July 09 letter
Hi, Rain has again stopped house building but there has been progress during was some very nice weather before the rain  (see house link). The roofs are well on the way to being built. The man who mows the weeds along the edge of the road destroyed the temporary power hookup and Harry had to redo it.
We had a great visit from Paul for 5 days (see visits link).
Harry was due to have a little operation to remove a sliver that he couldn't get out of his finger. But the op was postponed because of a mix-up about seeing the anesthatist. A couple of days before the new op day, the sliver worked its way to the surface so we took it out and the op was cancelled.
The dog appears to be responding to the thyroid medicine. The dosage has been reducd but she is still fine. 
We had the hummingbird hawk moth back on the heather this year along with several types of butterflies and several types of bees. It was a busy little patch when they were all there together.
The picture is of the church in Avord which is about the oldest church in the villages around here, built in the 1000s I think. Paul, Harry and I were having a pastry and coffee across the street.

August 09 Letter
August is a very dead month in France - everyone who can takes a holiday. We never know what will be open and what closed. This weekend on the 15th is the long weekend, in the holiday month, in the summer season - really dead.
We are fine, in good health and good humour. The Vet has cut the dog's medication in half which is less work and expense for us but has not seemed to have been bad for the dog. Her skin is still good and she is not gaining weight so she should be able to stay on the lower dose.
queen annes lace
We were robbed. Someone broken into Harry's locked tool cabinet that was inside the house walls. We are replacing the tools as we need them and Harry has a more substantial tool bin and lock and also a sort of a locked barrier at the door opening. We are getting the roofs ready to lift (see house) and will probably be ready about the end of the month.
The picture is the back of the building site filled with Queen Anne's Lace; this is what happens when you don't mow the grass.

September 2009 letter
It is starting to feel like autumn again - not hot - lovely weather. house
The main parts of the roof are now on the house. For the first time it has a house-type shape and we will soon put in windows and doors. Photo is below and more if you take the link to 'house'. Now that we don't need it for a prop, we can cut down the little elm that is dying of Dutch elm disease.
We still intend to visit the UK but it will not be in Sept but early Oct - we hope. I have been looking forward to the trip all summer.

October 2009 lettergingerHi, Well its autumn, we have not yet visited the UK - but we still will one of these days. But it seems not this month.
Harry has had shingles but not a terrible case. It did scare him though until it was diagnosed. Otherwise we have been in good health.
I am now 70 and suddenly I feel like a survivor. Three other cousins that I grew up with are also 70 this year. Somehow we managed to be both depression babies and war babies at the same time. There were only a few months for that double billing.
We are working on the little second floor of the house (see house link). The photo is of Ginger defending her pile of sawdust.

November 2009 Letter
Hi, Some work was done on the house (see house) but not as much as Harry hoped.
Finally we took the trip to England that we have been planning since Sept. (see visits & see family) We left the dog in a kennel while we went to England and it did not go well. She was scared all the time apparently, but she is OK now that she is back home. The picture is of a bird sancuary, run by the Attenborough Trust, near the Hinsons in England. It reminded me of Wascana with the Canada geese pooping everywhere.
Harry turns 79 this month.
The autumn is definitely fully here. On the way to England through France, the trees had every shade: green, yellow, orange, brown and red with even some white and black; a week later they were mostly bare except for the evergreens. We have turned on the heat and got out our sweaters.
Bengy gives its pensioners a bag of Christmas goodies and we received one. French Christmas goodies are pretty good goodies.
Harry's shingle attack is over and we are both well.

December 2009 Letter
mistletoeHi, Except that it is rainy or cold, and sometimes both, with very short days, work on the house carries on in little things. But there are no pictures or progress report this month.
Harry's computer became flaky and so we bought another and had the usual fun and games getting it setup with Linux and the CAD program Harry uses. Still it is easier than it used to be with Windows.
I did not manage to find any Christmas stationary in either France or the UK and so my Christmas letter is without any colour this year. Still it is a letter and it is in the mail. There is a copy below. The picture in the letter is Loughborough marketplace in 1885.
The photo is mistletoe. Usually it is a small clump high in a tree, but this tree was loaded with large bunches from top to bottom. Place we lived in England had lots of holly bit only a bit of ivy and I don't remember any mistletoe. Here there is tons of ivy and a lots of mistletoe but very little holly.

2008 Charistmas letter

Another year is almost over and it is time for my second go at a Christmas letter. We have now been in France two and a half years so we are well settled in.
Our typical day is now to wake up with the sun and without alarm, have breakfast and do a sudoku killer puzzle. Harry goes with the dog in the car to get some bread and meat for the day at one of the local villages. We then do a bit of work around our rented house, on computers or across the street on the building site. Next is lunch and after lunch naps. Some more work in the afternoon and early evening. English television then takes over. We have dinner about 8. Harry often has a nap and stays up into the night, walks the dog and then goes to bed. I tend to go to bed earlier. Once a week Harry goes to a computer club and about twice a week into Bourges for major shopping. I sometimes go into Bourges with him. It is about the most tranquil un-stressful life you can imagine.
We have not done a trip this year and we just have one visit to us - Bob McIlwaine and Dave Rammage came last spring. Ciara and Ryan will be coming in January. We are looking forward to hearing their plans for their June wedding.
In the middle of November Harry had a carpal tunnel operation on his left wrist. It went very well - in and out the same day with only local anesthetic.  
Our new dog, Ginger, is working out fine. She is a little weird but pleasant and not demanding. She came from the pound and had been abused so she can be quite frightened by innocent things. She is also living a tranquil lazy life.
Most of Harry's creativity has its outlet in the house building and learning better French. Most of mine is used in maintaining my Web site and my blog. They are going well but the Cousin site does not get any visitors or letters into it. If there is no interest in the next few months, I will take it down.
From what I hear, Melvin is doing OK in Lang.
We hope you have great holidays.
2009 Christmas letter
Season's Greetings, loughboroughOur year has been fairly good. Our health has not deteriorated, perhaps improved a bit. The house building carries on, if sometimes slower than we hope. The highlight was having an audience on lawn chairs across the street when the roof was lifted onto the house. The dog continues to get used to us and become much less frightened of people. I am enjoying creating both my personal website and my blog on consciousness. Much of our year is on the website: http://janetsplace.charbonniers.org which I update monthly. The blog has grown until now I get just under 5000 visitors a month. This part of France continues to be a quiet and easy place to live. In fact, it is so placid that this may be a boring letter. My stress level has reached zero. And that is in spite of having learnt practically no French. We had visits this year by Ciara and Ryan (before their wedding), Bob, and Paul, all very welcome and enjoyable. We paid a visit to England, also a joy. We look forward to hearing from you and hope you had a good year. Best wishes for 2010!