After our relaxing, relatively speaking, week of birthdays and dinner parties, we continued with our renovations and works. We were refreshed, attacking jobs with a renewed vigour and keener eye. We ticked off many items but our to-do list continued to grow longer as we discovered other items needing replaced or other projects we suddenly felt excited by. Ensuring variation in our tasks kept our interest and energy high. Our focus is on working hard, but we have the freedom to stop, rest, take a day off, have a dip in the pool or try something new when the mood takes us. We are tied to nothing, our time is ours to use as we wish. We have been foraging, baking cakes, learning music and languages, stone wall building, roofing, planning orchard tree layouts, digging our fledgling vegetable patch.
A previously ignored stone chicken shed, with a semi-collapsed roof, surrounded by weeds and with years of thick, compacted rubble inside was suddenly seen as a potential man-cave. I would sneak away to work on clearing this at intervals between prepping or painting walls. Looking for more outside jobs whilst the weather was good, Nicky got excited about uncovering the circular stone well set tight on our boundary. It was almost entirely blanketed in ivy, with a thick carpet of moss on the broken canal tiles scattered loosely around its ineffective roof. We added its revival to our long list of to-do works. We dipped in and out of these unessential garden jobs at the whims of mood and weather, enjoying our time outside and the constant, obvious progress that such distinctive clearances offered.
We had a visit from friends Monica and Ken from our previous house-sit in Cazeneuve. After a long, enjoyable road trip on their shiny new Triumph motorbikes, they arrived with us early afternoon. We fell into their easy company, swimming in our pool in the afternoon heat and sipping beers as we caught up. We later walked around our place, giving them the full tour and garnering their helpful opinions and experiences on the works we are undertaking or planning to do. We took a leisurely walk along a local grassy chemin to loop around a small lake, before returning for an al-fresco dinner and drinks. We sat outside until darkness then retired to our lounge and chatted long into the night. After breakfast we said our goodbyes as they headed off to further explore our region, visiting our recommendations of Oradour-sur-Glane and Brantôme.
One fine day, as a different sort of effort, we cycled the 30km to Saint-Junien to visit an advertised airshow. We followed minor roads and off-road trails where we could, waggling our way north all the time. The route was mostly downhill, a very pleasant roll passing through the small hamlet of St-Martin-de-Jussac to the river Vienne where we crossed the bridge into St-Brice-sur-Vienne. Only then did we face a long, steep climb away from the river to the top end of Saint-Junien to reach the hosting airfield. We abandoned our bikes and walked into the event, exploring lines of classic cars and obscure farming equipment, cannons and warfare implements, all manner of motorbikes and of course, small acrobatic planes that were the star of the event. Local flights were available for all who wished it.
We checked out the museum displays and small stalls, surprised that the show was not busier. We read posters describing in detail many planes and their uses, and watched a long queue of people take their turn to experience a virtual reality flying experience. After a thorough look around and a few cheap sugary crêpes to fuel us, we got back on our bikes. We took a different route home, simply for variation and exploratory purposes. We passed through similar scenery and beautiful but hilly woodland paths, before stopping at Saint-Auvent to look in their pretty church. Soon after, we paused at the étang de la Pouge, a long, thin lake that we hoped might have swim potential. There were no signs saying no, but with the presence of fishermen, we feared it was not the best location for swimming.
We entered a local 10km race, as something to shake us from our slumber on an otherwise lazy Sunday morning. We drove twenty minutes to the village of Condat-sur-Vienne where the race would begin, parking in a nearby Lidl car-park. It was a busy event, popular and bustling, and we felt good to be a small part of such a thriving running community. The run took us on closed roads and along gravelled woodland tracks, with overhanging trees providing welcome shade from the morning sun. 52 minutes later we had completed our two laps of the marked 5km loop, having enjoyed the wonderful paths and the cheering crowds. The mayor and other eminent locals presented a wealth of prizes in multiple categories, along with a tombola, using your race number, that gifted bottles of wine.
After a further few weeks of house-related works, we decided to treat ourselves with another break, this time a long weekend at Saint Pardoux. We had visited it previously, enjoying the swimming lake and woodland trails, and it was close by, only 40 mins north of us. We reached the comfortable aire, much less busy than on our last visit, and picked out a prime spot to relax into. We knew our way around from before, so it was easy to plan our days here. We ran each morning, following the coastal woodland trails on soft paths of tree roots and pine needles. With only one bridge splitting the lake, we faced either a 27km loop of the entire lake, or more local laps around the lake edge and inland backroads. The latter enabled us to create circular routes of 10 to 12km which suited our running level.
Post-run, we rewarded ourselves with plenty of beach time, thinking of nothing other than the book in our hand as we soaked up the toasting sun. We had frequent cooling dips into the cloudy water, but little real swimming. Still feeling a little disappointed with her swimming performance in this summer’s SwimRun event, Nicky tried out various combinations of trainers, floats and neoprene shorts trying to find the optimal, speedy solution for her. From the beach I timed her swims from buoy to buoy to ascertain how each outfit fared. We ventured out for short evening walks, enjoying the burst of deep-red sunsets over the still water and the soothing sounds of calling birds. Other motorhomes came and went, milling around busily, as we stayed still, unruffled, the calm centre of our restful universe.
Fresh bread, croissants and pastries were available from a well-stocked vending machine behind the tourist building, refilled twice daily, so we had no need to move. We could have stayed longer, enjoying our running and the fresh, lake-side air. But we decided to return home after two nights and three days, as we found ourselves missing our house, and jobs not yet began were creeping back into our thoughts. We were being taken over by a compulsion to work, to keep busy, to better our nest. We wonder how long the novelty will last, this daily excitement of hard, physical work, so we want to utilise our willingness and drive whilst the determination still exists. Yet these two nights in Benny, our time filled with runs and swims, re-sparked the interest and excitement of the road again.
Longer trips will soon be visible on our horizon.