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Everything posted by Cerise

  1. Hi Marjorie Good luck with the move.  We did bring a lot of our stuff with us and it has moved OK - we took the opportunity to get rid of anything cheap and nasty (yes we had quite a bit of that) and anything we had never liked then moved the rest.  We still had to buy a lot of stuff here but have managed to mix and match. I bought beds and bedding from La Redoute (if you want a catalogue send me a pm and I'll be your new best friend to get you one!!)  They deliver large items to the house - a great boon if like me you live nearly 2 hours drive from IKEA. You need to decide about bedding as English & French sizes are not the same.  We decided to buy rather beautiful bed covers and have all boring white linen which makes life a lot easier as you don't have to look for matching pillowcases when in a rush.  We have one French (square) and one English (rectangle) pillow for each place.  I buy reasonably cheap ones and throw them out regularly.  They get stained and bettered quite easily so you will need to replace quite often.  If you are doing B & B you will need more linen than you could ever imagine - plus a place to keep it. If you are getting beds, make sure you can get them in.  The sommier (base) of French beds does not come in 2 bits and I had the bright idea of buying an extra long bed for one of our rooms.  Suffice to say it would NOT go up the stairs and its subsequent journey via the back terrace and the upstairs office window, supervised by my neighbour's mountaineering son-in-law with appropriate ropes, the plumber, various other neighbours and my horrified husband is something that will be talked about in these parts for a long time to come.  If we ever sell the house it will be staying here! Maggi
  2. After reading the various topics on rules and regs, I wonder if I am alone in wishing to discourage people from eating in their rooms.  I don't actually forbid it, but do my best to persuaded people to eat in dining room, on terrace etc. We do not provide a food preparation area for guests, although they have got a fridge for picnic things and cold drinks and picnic bags and cutlery for their use.  We allow people to picnic on terrace or in the garden and to bring back takeaway pizza etc, but provide them with cutlery, plates, glasses and ask them to eat downstairs. The house is also our home and we don't eat meals in our bedrooms.  We do have tea and coffee making facilities, but I really don't want to encourage people to eat meals there.  French bread seems to make enough crumbs in the kitchen and dining room without spreading all over the house, and in the summer I feel that it encourages flies, ants, insects of all kinds - and whisper - what about mice if you live an old house. Am I alone in this stance?  What does everyone else think? Maggi    
  3. The problem is not whether it is good value or not, but the fact that there is such a wide spread difference in attitude between departments.  I am nearly 80 km from our Préfecture town and maybe the people there simply can't be bothered to make a trip of 160 km along winding roads to see if I am OK.  I would willingly go to the office of the neighbouring dept - very nice and not far away - but administratively I can't. As I pointed out in previous posting it is not that I don't want to join GdF - simply that I find it difficult to pay loads of money to people who start out rude and unhelpful.  Interestingly, at a meeting of the local tourism committee this point was brought up (not by me, but by a French gite owner) and the regional tourism representative did admit it was a problem but skirted round how to address it.  The French person's problem was not just rudeness but the fact that they had been waiting several months for a promised inspection which had still not happened. I think I will stay as I am for the moment and perhaps get a rating from one of the other organisations.  Interestingly, I have noticed an increase in business from French internet sites so perhaps as more French people turn to the internet for holiday bookings our local offices will pull up their socks. Please note Miki, Quillan et al that I am not doubting the efficacy of GDF, but sadly Alan, Abi and I have not had your happy experiences.  Maggi  
  4. I am interested in Alan's findings as I am at the other end of the same department as him.  I am not with GdF as, when I came here 3 years ago, I contacted them and they were unpleasant.  I speak fluent French, but they informed me that that was not good enough, my husband had to do so as well.  They refused to visit to inspect unless I completed all sorts of formalities including an accurate scale plan of the house, accurate map of the area, photos, written request and all this with no guarantee they would even visit.  They were indeed also deeply suspicious of the fact that we are not far from the village train station (a plus for us with visitors). I spoke to the mayor and asked whether I could go ahead without their blessing (they having told me it was a legal requirement to be registered with them) and was informed that I could.  I wish to do everything in the required manner and have subsequently become a member of the local committee for tourism - at the invitation of the local council - and vice-president of the local tourist office.  I would quite like to have some sort of rating, but do not like being bullied.  I also find it rather unusual that an organisation who require us to pay them a lot of money expect us to jump through hoops - the paperwork is a great deal more than just a simple form to fill in - without even advising whether or not they will accept us. I am considering registering with either Clévacances of Fleurs de Soleil to get the necessary rating.  I don't want to get into a debate about the merits of GdF as I know it works very well for some people and in the adjoining departments - Aveyron & Tarn - things are conducted differently.  What I do find worrying is that if registration becomes necessary it will be very difficult for people in areas where such organisations consider themselves above criticism.  I would gladly join GdF if they would behave nicely.  To be fair, I have not contacted them again since being here and maybe things have changed.  I was considering doing so for next year, but Alan's comments have made me think that things are no different.  I will be interested to hear how you get on Alan if you decide to go ahead. Maggi 
  5. Having just got back from a weekend in UK to find that you lot are still bickering over tedious meanings of of unclear and uninteresting small print, I think I won't bother to read any more here until the autumn. Now I think I'll go and send an e-mail to my repeat booking French customers who are coming back for a week in August, to say that they had better go elsewhere as they can't have any of the interesting meals they enjoyed so much last time because I'm probably breaking every rule in the book by supplying them with the Indian meal they begged me to make - even had some of the ingredients from the UK. What now will I be guillotined? Seriously, aren't all these nit picking threads getting just a bit tedious.  We all know what the regs are, and as Winterbunny points out there are plenty of unregistered, unlicenced and un-anything else you like places willing to pick up the trade if we aren't a bit flexible.  Miki is right - just get on with making a living, follow the rules with a bit of common sense added in and try not to upset the local officialdom.  Maybe I'm just lucky but everyone I've met in my area has been trying to encourage my business not throw spanners in the works. Having got that off my chest, I'll go and iron a few sheets as nobody is eating anything at all tonight. Hope you are all busy. Maggi   
  6. Quite right Buns.  I think no-one should deliberately be a restaurant, but commonsense has to come in somewhere. At least 2 French CdH in my area also 'cater' for private parties.  Not officially you understand, but everyone knows that in the off season they'll do a dinner or birthday party for you.  Do I care, no I don't - and neither do the restaurants around here which are largely shut out of season.  I have a very good relationship with the local restaurants - actually wish some of my clients would go out a bit more often and certainly try to encourage them to patronise local places.  One day last winter the chef from local hotel/restaurant actually asked if I would feed his only two guests on their 'closed' day as it would save him having to prepare a meal for 2 people - in return he would feed my only 2 guests the next day.  Shock, horror, I said yes.  I have never felt that the local gendarmerie would be round to imprison me for this heinous offence.   I am in favour of regulation but not taken to ridiculous extremes and as you rightly point out if we don't try for a bit of flexibility there are plenty of unregulated places that will.  Maybe it is different in other areas but in this area even the authorities seemed a bit surprised that I wished to do things legally - the man at the Customs was pleased, but slightly astounded when we went to get a licence saying that when he drove around he saw loads of signs for TdH but issued very few licences Maggi
  7. Think the answer to that depends on each individual and perhaps their ability to speak French. We do have B & B, but I would consider us very well integrated (whatever that means) with our neighbours.  They are all French, we see most of them on a daily basis, we help each other when the need arises, chat over the fence and invite each other round for aperos, coffee etc.  None of my neighbours in England were my best friends, we were simply friendly on a daily basis - if anything I see more of the neighbours here than in UK simply on the basis that the nature of our job here means we are at home, whereas in UK we were both away all day. I don't make friends with people on basis of nationality - but I can see that you might need to if you did not speak French.  You cannot really have a proper friendship with people if you can't get past 'Bonjour'.  I can understand why people would want to mix with others that they can communicate with. We also have little time for lunching out or sitting in bars as we are not retired - and I do feel that this is the kind of social life that many English people have as they have a lot of leisure time.  I work part time as volunteer in the library, am on the local Committee for Tourism and go to yoga classes - obviously then I meet people, but not necessarily other English people. Many English people in France are retired so it is perhaps more difficult for them to learn the language, and maybe they don't want to.  So long as people make an effort to communicate in the rest of their lives i.e. administration, shops etc I can't see it matters if they want to live purely with other English speakers.  It wouldn't do for me as I like to be part of what is going on, but we are all different. Maggi      
  8. Hi Calva Sympathise with your feelings of panic, as being left high and dry and penniless is not funny - I know, I've been there.  However, we run our B & B legally and we would have to be earning a lot more than we have so far to pay any tax.  I think you will probably find - as Ian says - that you can operate legally and pay no tax, so why not find out.  Be aware that it is very hard work and if your children are very young you may not find it physically possible if you are on your own.  However lovely your children are, your holidaymakers may not want them around all the time. Hope you manage to find a solution.  Don't be too proud to ask for help and don't be tempted to operate illegally, that may just add to your problems.  I wish you every luck in finding a way out of your current predicament. Best wishes Maggi  
  9. I don't know the region terribly well, but we are about 100 km further south and before the A20 was finished used to drive through that way.  Now there is A20 from Brive to Montauban - very fast with good services - we no longer use that route and neither do many people we know.  If the hotel is actually in Gramat may be that passing trade at least has dropped off.  It is reasonably near major tourist attractions especially Rocamadour, but the area is a bit like Dartmoor and I imagine would be very bleak in the winter.  As I say, we are further South in Tarn & Garonne and, even here, we frequently get temperatures of -10° in winter and not too many tourists.  If the figures look OK the only thing to do is look. Good luck Maggi
  10. Dear Coco Now I am panicking  I am not from the Correze, I sometimes make my own clafoutis, but more sinister my French girlfriend often brings a homemade clafoutis if she calls round.  I have long suspected cultural differences, but in these 'furrin' parts does this have another meaning. Is she trying to lure Him Indoors with something that I a mere English woman, not from the Correze, can never offer.  I thought my impots form was complicated but now you and that wretched Swiss Barry have given me a whole new set of things to worry about. Maggi PS Do you think Swiss Barry has ever seen a real clafoutis - and more to the point should he even be mentioning such things on a public forum  
  11. Dear Steven Hi I'm not Ian but I will reply anyway.  I think you should be able to buy and maybe renovate for that money - but don't forget to allow yourselves some money to live on.  If you want a swimming pool it may eat a large chunk of that renovation money.  Your budget is not unsimilar to ours 3 years ago - but I would say that we have virtually nothing left and the money is slow in coming in.  Whatever you do, don't borrow for the project as that way disaster lies.  If your wife wishes to set up her own practice does she, and for that matter you, speak French.  If not it would severely limit her clientele and she would need to be near a large concentration of English speakers.  If you are planning to run the chambre d'hotes alone be sure that you are prepared for sheer amounts of housework, washing ironing etc.  Maybe you are super househusband, but I know that my other half was shocked by the amount he has to do and there are 2 of us. As to area, I think Ian's suggestion is a good one - providing you are happy with area for yourselves.  If you have not already done so think you should visit a few areas before committing yourself. Good luck Maggi Forgot to say that we only spent about 100,000 euros on house purchase and about the same on renovations and kitting out house.  But we still have bits of work to do - looks OK to the guests but we know there are things to do.  
  12. We don't smoke - and I hate the pong, so smoking only outside on balcony or terrace or in garden.  I have been known to give in and let someone have a cigarette in the dining room after dinner when it was snowing and we had not other guests. As we have plenty of outside places and provide ashtrays there, so far we have not had any problems.  Even though we have dogs ourselves we say No Dogs as I won't have them in the bedrooms.  Having said that we have accepted the occasional dog when it has only been for one night - but only if the dog sleeps in dog cage provided. Amusingly, we thought guests might object to our pets - but so far not.  In fact, we had to prevent American guests taking the dogs to their room.  One night when we had been to the cinema we came back quietly to find a large male guest asleep on the sofa with a guilty looking dalmatian on his lap!!  Wish I'd had a camera.  We can easily separate dogs and guests and normally do, but guests are always asking for them to join us.  Dining room is out of bounds, but both dogs have learnt very quickly - especially old dog who is very cunning - to look starved and unloved if the there is a barbecue in the offing. Great idea to come and see us all - perhaps we could offer the Living France B & B tour of the regions.  What do you reckon? Maggi
  13. I probably shouldn't say this - but gloomy is the word that comes to mind for some of the C d'H that I have stayed in.  Always clean, breakfast varying from mediocre to brilliant, hosts ditto, but accommodation often not very bright or cheery.  I think I have a British perspective on things and do like bright, well lit and cheerful.  Have to say though - usually cheap and good value for money. By coincidence i.e. we didn't look for them, most of the places have been G de F and looking at the rules and regs most of the places I've stayed didn't comply (not complaining simply remarking). Over last 2 years we have not got out much but next week we are taking 2 days off and going to stay in French C d'H in Pyrenées Atlantique and eat in - something we haven't done before.  Will be interested to see what it is like and how we compare.  I think anyone staying with us would know instantly from decor that we are English - but don't apologies for that as I AM English (OH being Indian perhaps I should sprinkle a few elephants around ) and it is my home.  French guests seem to like it and as others have said remark that we are much more flexible than some of the French run places around.  We cater for any nationality, but don't pretend we are French. Interestingly, the majority of C d'H here seem to be run by 'foreigners' - and French friends who do have C d'H are thinking of converting to gites as they find it 'too hard work'. Maggi      
  14. We do eat with our guests on the nights they eat in - but that's mainly because I can't be bothered to make something separate for us.  However, I see no point - whatever the rules - of forcing guests to eat things they don't want and I fully confess to asking guests what they would like, if we only have one couple here.  This really started because I was knocking myself out making 4 course dinners and a dear Liverpudlian lady asked if they could just have sausage and chips as they weren't that keen on 'fancy food'. So rules now are, if we have several lots of guests who want to eat in or obviously looking for 4 course dinner - then that's what I do.  If only one party then I ask the question - I find that particularly house hunters, or other people who are here out of season, but not on holiday, do not necessarily want to eat 4 course dinners every night and enjoy - even prefer - chili, spaghetti bolognese or whatever.  The restaurants in this area are all a bit sameish - very nice but there is only so much duck you feel like eating.  I'm not doing restaurants etc out of business as out of season it's often hard to find somewhere open.  The locals eat at lunchtime and many restaurants here only open evenings at weekends. Our French clientele are more traditional and they nearly always want the full works.  However, split is about 40% French, 60% other (mostly English) but the majority of our French guests are in the summer months.  Certainly, round here the idea of weekend breaks has not caught on much, so out of season I am mostly catering for the English. Like Ian I do make jam, but would not have a guilt trip if I had to buy some.  I agree with Miki that some of the requirements seem a bit pressurising and to be honest when I have stayed in one or two French chambres d'hotes I have had not only bought jam but the dreaded nasty little packets.  Our French customers always remark how nice our breakfasts are and are surprised that they get things like local yoghurt, fresh fruit salad etc.  Most of them tell me they have stayed in other chambres d'hotes so I guess not everyone is adhering to charters. Providing people provide clean, comfortable accommodation and their customers are happy, I think it is a good thing we are all different - surely that is the charm of chambres d'hotes - otherwise you may as well be in a chain hotel.   Maggi
  15. Like Ian I run a B & B and I have quickly adapted to cooking less vegetables if the guests are French - as too many leftover veg make my two dalmatians not nice to be near My French friends mostly seem to put veg in soup, and eat tinned or frozen haricot verts.  However, last night we had French friends to dinner and one (in his early 50s) was saying that as a child they only ever had meat on Sundays and the rest of the week was veg only.  My neighbour also said that you don't get much veg in restaurants as if you are PAYING for food you want it to be luxurious i.e. meat. Recently, an organic farmer locally was selling parsnips on the market and I quickly found myself surrounded by Frenchwomen wanting to know what I was going to do with them - they didn't seem convinced though!! Interestingly, there seems to be a convention about which vegetables you can eat with which meat and friend looked amazed when I mentioned having ratatouille with lamb - assured me I really should be having beans.   Maggi  
  16. Hi Coco Got one from La Redoute catalogue on promo.  Very good quality and they make different sizes. Best wishes Maggi
  17. Well done for sensible decision and taking everyone's comments so well.  If more people did the amount of research you obviously have, there would be far less tales of woe. Hope it works out for you and hopefully next year you can changed your registered name to 'Confident' or something like that!  As Chris said, keep in touch and let us know how you get on. Good Luck Maggi
  18. I'll reply to David H - anyone mad enough to run Chambres d'Hotes doesn't have human rights (joke before HR activists start!) Actually, as everyone is at pains to point out elsewhere, we are not full all of the time so we have our 'Quality Time' when we can. I have to say that after years of salaried jobs it took us a while to realise that we could have Thursday off if we wanted to, provided there were no guests. If I want a night off from cooking in the summer I usually look around for a local event - Jazz Night at the Pizzeria, local fete, etc and suggest to guests that we all go.  The non-French speakers anyway are delighted to be taken to something 'local' and surprisingly people always want to go.  We also offer at the start of each visit to book restaurants for prople and recommend several - hopefully then they will go out some nights. If you want to be a perfect guest David then can I suggest the following:- If you ask for breakfast at 8.30 - don't stay in bed 'til 11. If you stay at the house during the day (quite a few guests do) don't follow host/hostess round like a small dog - it makes people feel stalked. If you have wet clothes hang them on line provided not bedroom chairs. Don't harrass whoever is doing the cooking. Relax and be a guest - people constantly offering to help make me feel I'm not doing my job properly. If your hosts are especially nice to you, they probably want to be so don't feel guilty.  The best compliment we have had is when one of our neightbours popped round and said "Oh I didn't know you had friends staying - haven't you any guests this week?"  We were pleased to point out that the folk having such a good time were our paying guests. Maggi www.les-cerisiers.net              
  19. Interesting topic.  We tend to be somewhere near Quillan's approach.  Have had some lovely evenings but I hate eating so much.  However, I have now started missing out a few courses and so long as I have a plate in front of me no-one seems to notice. We have found it difficult to get some (not all) of our French guests to relax, they tend to be much more formal than the English - we had one couple who never even told us their first names and continuously addressed us as Monsieur & Madame.  At the end of their stay however, they wrote very complimentary things in the guest book and even sent us a thank you card afterwards. If anyone has any bright ideas how I can keep my guests out of the kitchen I would be grateful as the position of said room means that people pass by on way to and from terrace, lounge and their rooms.  I've tried shutting the door and then they just pop their heads in the window on the terrace - grrr. Seriously, I think anyone doing evening meals has to really like entertaining and like Coco I wish that our budget would allow us to shut for a couple of months - one day perhaps?  Actually I find distant relatives and vague acquaintances the worst guests as they tend to presume on the relationship and hang around all the time - even worse try to be 'helpful' by moving things or laying table wrong way etc.  Even though you tell them through gritted teeth that you are fine, they insist on dumping all the apero glasses on the worksurface you have just cleared to lay out 8 starters.  I like strangers or close friends best as the former are on their best behaviour and the latter you can tell to go away if they are annoying you! As to the worry about having things stolen - well, we felt that we would have to be relaxed about it and so far we have not lost anything.  As we have a maximum of 8 guests I suppose it is quite easy to keep an eye on people, but we let everyone have keys.  My husband has his collection of Hornby trains in a glass cupboard in the dining room and we have ornaments, pictures etc everywhere.  It is our home after all and we feel that people do respect that.  Perhaps we are simply lucky, but other than one or or two rather obnoxious children our guests are generally charming people. Maggi  
  20. Hi Petrified Please don't do it!!! Don't borrow money to try to enter any tourist orientated project.  It's doomed to failure - you have to start paying the money back straight away, and how are you going to do that without an income?  My house, like Arnold's, was a bargain but we took 18 months to renovate it and had no income at all during that time plus we lived in major discomfort (no heating when it's -10 outside is not that funny).  This was OK for us because we are adult and chose to do so, but I understand you have a family - it really is not fair to do that to them.  Even with our bargain house we still spent more than £90K. I know 2 families who have tried borrowing.  They are both back in UK living in grotty accommodation and the bank is trying to sell their half finished ruins. I am not trying to ruin your dreams but if you are really OK as a builder why not buy a small house, register as a builder, work here for a while get used to the life and then perhaps buy a renovation project to fulfil your B & B dream.  Don't forget once it is renovated you still have to furnish and equip it. Sorry to sound like someone's maiden aunt, but it is better to hear the truth now - however unpalatable - than when you are already here and desperately broke. Maggi  
  21. Hi Coco No you don't sound sickly to me.  I detest housework with a passion - but do it because that's what it takes.  I live in a beautiful place, in a lovely house, and consider those to be perks of the job.  We don't earn much money - in fact I think we are officially poor - but we do have fun, meet great people and have a lifestyle which we enjoy.  If I'm honest I suspect it won't be forever, but for the time being I am happy. Evening meals are not very profit worthy, but I enjoy cooking and entertaining and we get to eat nice food 'free' - so not too many complaints.  I cannot think anyone would seriously contemplate this life if they wanted to be rich, and I would never advise anyone to borrow money to do it.  We don't have any debts, but neither do we have another source of income other than a little - and I mean little - savings.  I know that everyone would not enjoy what we do, but as you say it is a way of life.  Our guests at Easter took us out to dinner, and lots buy me presents, flowers and, maybe I have been lucky, they  are on the whole a pleasant bunch.   Before all the usual suspects accuse me of rose coloured spectacles syndrome, I have the usual amount of irritation with French bureaucracy etc, but we CHOSE to live here and we can unchose if we want.  Nowhere is perfect, we have the same problems here as anywhere else plus a few extra caused by living in a different culture. A bit off topic for Petrified's question - so, we had over 200 nights in our first season - we have 2 double rooms and a family suite, and a large number of repeat bookings for this year.  I think it is important to be in a fairly tourist orientated area and to work at getting the bookings.  I have been invited by the local council to be on the committee for the future of tourism in this area and I work very hard at promoting our business locally - also I do speak French which I think is a great asset for getting French customers. I was told that viable is 70 nights per room per year, but have no idea how that was worked out.  Not rich picking but maybe possible to live on if you want to.   Maggi  
  22. Hi Petrified Wouldn't recommend anyone to set up a B & B in an area they did not know.  The Limousin is beautifully green because it rains a lot!!  Therefore, perhaps not the area for out of season tourists.  I'm sure I'll be immediately contradicted by everyone who lives there Suggest the only real way is to go and look.  Speak to the local tourist office to see what kind of accommodation is being sought.  Round here, for example, there are too many large gites and not enough for 2 or 4 people.  It may be that they can recommend an area where there is insufficient accommodation.  Don't forget that very few properties are immediately occupiable as B & B - and bathrooms etc take time to come by.  You need to make sure you have sufficient income to see you through until you start earning, possibly several years. I am not being pessimistic, just realistic.  Does someone in the family (you don't say how many people) speak good enough French to deal with all the formalities - if not, do you know a good local translator who you are prepared to pay. B & B is hard work, if you really want to do it - and who am I to talk, we gave up good jobs, security etc to do just that - book yourself a working holiday and go and do the research.  Stay in Formule 1 or similar so you are not tempted to lounge around enjoying yourself and go and ask lots and lots of questions.  The tourist office, chambre de commerce, other local traders and the mairie are people to ask whether such a business is viable in their area. Good luck Maggi www.les-cerisiers.net  
  23. The court where the divorce took place will provide you with a copy.  However, you might want to wait until someone asks for it, as I was previously divorced and have never been asked for mine.  I have done most things, e.g. carte de séjour, bought house, medical cards, registered car, licence for B & B etc etc and no-one has ever asked.  I am in unusual situation in that I changed my name so my marriage certificate is in different name from birth certificate (as is my passport) and although that makes most French officials look twice they have never asked for anythng relating to previous marriage. Maggi
  24. I find it interesting that most people say 'why did you leave England' rather than 'why come to France'.  I never consciously thought of wanting to 'get away' - simply wanted to try something different.  We thought about going to Greece, but my husband thought the language would be just too difficult, whilst I already spoke French and he had a smattering.  3 years on we feel we have made a good choice, but not necessarily forever.  I have never moved anywhere and thought 'this is for the rest of my life'.  I enjoy my life here, we have made good friends and we have fun. Sure, the administration drives me mad and there are many things politically that bother me - but no more, or less, than in the UK.  This is something we are doing now, in the future we may want to return to the UK or move elsewhere.  What I do know is I'm glad we gave it a go.  There is good and bad wherever you live, but the most important thing is to live life, not just dream about it. Maggi    
  25. My French girlfriends and neighbours are shocked to the core that I do not worry whether or not I get home at 'midi' to feed Him Indoors.  I, in turn, cannot understand why they all turn into demented things at 11.45 and find it incredible that they feel unable to ask their own 'mecs' to discover that the big white thing in the corner of the kitchen is the fridge and the thing next to it the cooker!!  Him Indoors says 'Vive La Difference' as whenever Her Supreme Heartlessness (me) takes off for a day or a week without spending a fortnight leaving provisions for him, he is immediately inundated with invitations to eat properly!  I recently went to UK for a week and he managed to get invited out every day, and two of our elderly neighbours almost came to blows over the right to feed the poor neglected foreigner! Maggi  
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