This weekend was a sandwich of mixed emotions. The first weekend of Strictly Come Dancing which is always a happy occassion in our house glitter, sequins, spray tan, copious quantities of make up and lots of people attempting to dance, some well, some dubiously. One does enjoy being an armchair critic with a bowl of crisps and a glass of wine.
The main birthday party was on the sunday when I was little more adventurous with baking and made a new apple cake recipe from a friends timeline on facebook which was gooey and delicious, the family favourite lemon drizzle cake and chocolate chip fairy cakes. Here is a pic of the remnants. It is such a pity that smarties now lack the extra chemicals in the colouring which used to make them extra bright. Oh well I suppose they are looking after our health.... or something.
It was a nice change from sausage and meatball construction. Good for the soul probably not so great for the waistline.
The miserable sandwich filling to the happy bread was, as some of you already know, another attack on our sheep by dogs. Though on this occassion some quick thinking by the neighbours and the fact that both Gavin and Patrick were immediately available meant that the dog was seen and the owners found. Sadly they were also neighbours to the fields we use regularly for our sheep so after some rather unpleasant and frankly unecessary behaviour from the young man he finally admitted that his dog was at fault. Bit difficult to deny it when presented with a dead sheep and 4 witnesses. Another 3 have been injured but the insurance companies should pay out this time for our losses, thank goodness.
So yet another week with hours taken up with visits to the gendarmerie, the vet and the Mairie, moving of sheep treatment of sheep and on the phone. Hence another week where there do not seem to be enough hours in the day.
Oh well buck up Helen.
See you all soon.
The saga continues
Last Friday Gavin bit the bullet because he was getting increasingly concerned about the whereabouts of his passport and some important documents, so he rang the paying line for the UK visa section. The first advisor initially could not find any information, then finally discovered that the last recorded date for anything to do with the passport was 26/08/2014. He requested Gavins name in full and his passport number?*.............Note to all if you send your passport away anywhere to be processed take a photocopy of the photo page because apparently they can only find your passport if they have your passport number. Duh............Luckily we are now french trained but Gavin had to find the information so the advisor said that he would email us in 5 minutes so we could email him later with the number. OK.....3 hours later no email so Gavin phones again. The next advisor takes the number for the passport and then says he will send another email confirming the "escalation" (!?* what does that mean) of the dossier. Email arrives addressed to Mr Devin Franklin. Lord help us. (keeping it clean folks at this point). BTW the 2 calls which were not long cost 18.50 euros.
Monday morning 9.20am. French woman phones Gavin on his cellphone number:
"Mr Franklin we have had your passport here in the Paris office since 28/08/2014 you can come and get it this morning"
"I am in the Dordogne. Why have you not eailed me?"
"Because there is no email address" (weird as you fill the form out online with an email address and then they take it down again when you hand in the dossier)
"Why have you not phoned before then?"
"If you are not here by Wednesday the Passport and documents will be sent to The Zimbabwean Embassy. That is procedure."
"Fine" He puts the phone down
We are momentarily speechless. Firstly, he could have gone to see our friends in London who were over from Australia, secondly, we have just been done out of a month on a 6 month visitor visa and thirdly, I suppose we had better purchase another extortionately expensive TGV ticket for Tuesday.
Interestingly the same day we receive another email from the escalation people saying please fill out our survey form commenting on our service, which I have kindly done for them though I don't suppose they will be so delighted to read it. Nice to know that all sections in the visa department talk to each other.
One annoying visit to Paris later and another 150 euro return ticket, the procdure for dossiers returned from London is:
1)They scan the barcode which in theory sends an automatic email.
2)The dossier then sits for another week if not collected they scan the barcode again which in theory then sends another automatic email.
3)If it then sits around again, which in our case is another 10 days, they then think about phoning you at the number that is provided on the dossier.
4)I guess if you are not in then your passport disappears into the Zimbabwean or another countries administration system. Yippee. Because of course all diplomatic missions know exactly how to find all the members of their country.
This information was given to Gavin by "a young boy who is apparently the manager" oh dear oh dear. He then asks Gavin if he would like to fill out a complaint form. An hour later Gavin leaves the building relieved but irritated beyond belief.
It is so reassuring to know that all your most important documents, passport, marriage and birth certificate and income tax details are so well looked after and we wonder why there is so much identity theft maybe the powers that be should look to themselves more often rather than always pointing finger at Jo Blogs.
Ok moan over back to work. With any luck next week we will finally have some exciting pictures for you.
See you soon
What a beautiful demonstration in information gathering we had this week. Those of you who read regularly are aware that Gavin made an application for a visa to visit the uk on 7th August with the hopes of seeing our friends from Zimbabwe who have been living in Australia for 13 years. At the offices in Paris he was informed that he would be notified by email on the progress of his visa.
Having heard nothing for a month, and our friends having returned to Australia without a visitor from France, an email arrives from Uk Visa Services informing Gavin that seeing as they have received a decision on Gavins visa please could he complete the online survey.
Quelle surprise! The survey team have information to which we are not privy.
Yay, progess. Quick we may discover more.
Page 1, "Have you received a decision on a visa application in the last three months?"
Page 2, "No"
Page 3, "This survey is now complete".
Being the synic that I am I figure that the survey form is actually a cover to discover where they are in their queue for visas as they are still recovering from the fiasco of passport applications during the summer, although in theory the visa section is a different department from passports. I would have hoped that given Gavins connections with his wife who is a UK citizen by birth and his residency status in France would mean that he does not fall in the 1% bracket of people whose visas have not been processed by 30 days, according to the statistics for uk visa processing in France.
We are now working on the theory that 30 days actually means 30 working days, oh whoops we have completed 30 working days as well. So that must make Gavin one of these incredibly complex high risk visa applications that only gets completed in 60 days so we will have a response by either 7 October or 31 October.
What is really super good is that there is no contact email address and one of the phone numbers for enquiries does not work and the other one costs 1.34pounds/minute which you have to pay for upfront using a credit card.
So the moral of the story is if you want to be spontaneous, plan ahead!
See you all soon
PS Oh yes the photo is of my friends puppy and it has nothing to do with the topic of the blog other than to relieve the frustration of administration. Enjoy!
Scotland and Sheepdog Trials
Well never for one moment did I imagine that I would be visiting not just Scotland but Tain in Scotland, which is on the last estuary or inny-bit on the right hand side of the map, and actually have just a t-shirt on in September but yes folks it did happen. The weather was beautiful, quite a change from the 3 week camping trip I did as a child in 1978 or 79 en famille, when it rained for 2 weeks and 4 days. The other 3 days we were in Betty Hill right at the top where the sun shone and we swam in the sea. Hmmmm amazing how little one feels the cold as a child. There were lots of castles in our area and I was informed they are mostly owned by wealthy Russians, Chinese oh yes and Madonna. Rumour has it Robert Mugabe has a castle somewhere in Scotland too. The Highlands were stunningly beautiful, I had never seen them before due to fog. They are not dissimilar in fact to an area called Nyanga not far from where we lived in Zimbabwe. Maybe that explains why Mr. Mugabe purchased a castle in the region.
The pictures at the beginning show firstly the French team competing at the trials and then the south Africans who were competing in The World Sheepdog Trials for the first time this year along with Spain. There were 240 dogs running from 25 countries. The dog pictured below is father to one of ours he, Gary did not have a successful year this year only making it through to the semi finals day. Apparently trialing is an excellent leveler probably because there are so many variables over which one has little or no control, sheep, weather, dog, judge. So, on the right, or wrong day, a novice handler can beat an experienced handler.
This years winner was a local Scotsman Mike Shearer and his dog Bob. Scotland also won the Team prize.
There was more to my trip than just dogs as I met up with friends from Zimbabwe and we swapped catch up info for 10+ years which was fun and interesting and it is always amazing how old friends just seem to slot back into place with no effort whatsoever as if we had only been together last week. Nobody had changed much, a few more grey hairs and wrinkles but humour, conversation, tea and brandy flowed.
Gavin's parents flew back to Zimbabwe today and were lucky enough to have enjoyed a little bit of France's beautiful summer weather before they left. They should be landing right about now.
Back to the markets this weekend and birthday parties to organise the following weekend.
See you all soon
I am farming sheep and goats on the Dordogne/Gironde border with my husband and our 3 children. We have an on farm butchery and sell our meat direct to the public via the markets and delivery points in our local area