The Optimistic Laundress

I’ll freely admit it.  In the bleak midwinter, I love my thermal vests and don’t give a damn whether my underwear is alluring!  And it has been bitingly cold here, so it’s been vests and long-johns, plus ski socks with pop socks underneath and sometimes woolly tights underneath those as well.   And then the layers of T-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants…. sometimes I get to resemble the Michelin tyre man.

Maybe I’ve got softer in the 26 year since I moved to southern France.  We do get wonderful, long springs and autumns, perfect for riding, but also stiflingly hot summers that you get used to and take for granted.  The old folks here used to say that it was usual to have a couple of very harsh winters every quarter century and as our first two winters in France were a perishing cold shock to the system (and our preconceptions),  the fact that the last two were also extreme seemed to prove the approximate truth of the saying.

So the milder December and January indicated that we were back to winter business as usual and the thermals stayed in the cupboard.  Until this recent wave of bitter chill which caught us out in several ways.

We’d just got the washing machine back from the repair man and were furiously catching up on a great big laundry back-log when, eventually, we could no longer pretend to ignore the ominous, “Glup, gloop, glup, glug, belch” noises coming from the exit pipe.  Then water refused to go down the sink and the loo.

Oh no.  Just what we needed.  Blocked drains.  Then the temperature dropped like a stone and the snow arrived and although we tried to shift the blockage we guessed, from previous experience, that roots had broken into the pipework.  Again.

It could have been worse.  When we bought our house, it already had a small septic tank serving one part of the house.  As we restored the rest of the house and created more living space (so we could let it out to holidaymakers) we added another larger septic tank and this was the one with the blockage.  At least we could still use a downstairs bathroom!

At the same time our electricity supply went on to a winter tariff.  We have a relatively cheap unit price throughout summer, but in winter, on 22 random days – generally when demand for power is at a peak, ie. when it’s coldest – the unit prices hikes up times ten.

I couldn’t use the washing machine until we could replace the outdoor pipework and wouldn’t have wanted to run it on a high tariff day anyway, but I needed to do some hand-washing;  the thermals were running out!   So on a sunshiny day today, I decided to chance hanging them out to dry.

Stiff as boards within 5 minutes, but made a surrealistic image in the snow!

A few hours of sun and chilly breeze later, after we’d spent the afternoon in a ditch, digging out roots and pipework and glueing new bits back in place (hey, we know how to have a good time!) the clothes were nearly dry….. and the system should be in use again tomorrow.

I took reference pics. of the pipework – so we’d remember what we’d done.  (Spot the helpful robin, centre stage, reminding me to put out more food!)











Then I wandered around with the camera looking for other interesting images in the snow…….




The neighbour brought a bale of hay and tractor tracks, as well as those of people, birds, cats and the wheelbarrow made an intriguing woven pattern.

The pool looked enticing – anyone for a swim? ;-|








The box hedges in the garden stood out beautifully (all grown from seed or cuttings!)








And the house was looking pretty as the light fell…

I’m so looking forward to  the thaw and watching the horses run freely again instead of building up ice high heels (despite the horrible tar smeared in their hooves) and getting back to regular riding again.  All the chores take so damn long in this weather!

Wherever you are, if you’re feeling the cold, I hope you stay warm, stay upright and cherish your thermals.


About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in '86, blogging - with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation - about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness.........
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6 Responses to The Optimistic Laundress

  1. Beautiful home, but crunchy laundry. Just like here. You may live half way around the planet, but we are having the same winter. I may show up looking like the “Michelin tyre man”- but I am going to refer to it as French lingerie. Thanks!


    • Having trouble with my captions here but glad you liked the post! My husband once bought for my birthday a cream, thick wool jumper with wide horizontal ribbing – now that was a genuine Michelin look! We no longer exchange surprise presents …..


  2. Margaretha says:

    It is only our second winter here in the south (I used to live in the Loire where I can’t remember winter ever being this bad) and it is very ressuring to know that other people are also finding this winter exceptional. We have brought the horses in every night for the last 9 nights and the mucking out is really getting to us!


    • Somehow the mucking out seems to take twice as long doesn’t it, all the barrowing and slipping around? And shlepping water around in buckets! From reading your blog, if I remember rightly, you have nine horses? With only three, it takes out a big chunk of the day so I really feel for you – and hope you have help? If the 25 year cycle is true (global warming not factored in!), normal winters here are mostly mild with a couple of sharp, cold weeks. But temps this low really are unusual – don’t despair, I’m telling myself spring is just around the corner (but of course I can’t guarantee that….!).


  3. twohorses says:

    We had our exceptional winter last year, with severe frost for weeks, our water pipes froze, so no showers, no water to flush toilets or run the washing machine and no water for the horses. It was a lot of hard work, but it was also very beautiful. Now we are back to the normal, average Irish winter, lots of rain and wind and mud everywhere and I need wellies and waterproofs instead of thermals!


  4. Weeks! Poor you, how on earth did you manage? We’ve had times of living in basic conditions whilst renovating, and subsequent drain problems and severe frosts, but I can’t remember being without a water supply to the house for long. And everything’s compounded with horses isn’t it? Rain’s a pain too – I love the freshness after a dry spell, but when it goes on and on and everything is muddy and soggy and all the radiators have something draped over them to dry and wellies and waterproofs seem welded on …… mm, the best you can say is that, at this time of year it’s all to look forward to (until I start complaining about the heat and the flies….).


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