Meet Casey

Long, long ago, I drove to a local shopping centre to pick up a prescription for one of the kids, and I came back with two tiny, scruffy abandoned puppies in the boot of the car.  We rehomed one, and the other was our little rogue Scamp, who made me smile every single day of the eighteen years she spent with us.

In keeping with family tradition, the LSH went shopping in Manosque a couple of weeks ago and came back with a puppy in the boot of the Fiat 500.

No tiny, cute puppy this time, but a big, nine-month old (approx) lummox of a dog.

We did the usual – got him scanned for a chip; reported to the Gendarmes; posted him on the local lost pets page on Facebook.  As the days passed and we feared we were Getting Attached, we were hoping more and more that no owner would turn up.  Apparently the legal amount of time before one can assume ownership here is one week.  We waited two, just to be certain.

Rosie and Cookie were not sure that they wanted a gigantic baby brother – their furry little noses were quite out of joint for the first few days.  Then he and Cookie started to play, cautiously at first, with Madame putting him sharply in his place if he became too rough.  Soon all three dogs were spending hours hooning around our little garden like lunatics.  The LSH and I weren’t the only ones in danger of Getting Attached.

We were afraid to name him, because it would only increase any potential Attachment that might or might not be happening.  But after ten days, we began to try out names.  We came up with a few that work equally well in French and English.  Luke.  Mati.  Beau.  None of them seemed right.  We’re Munster supporters – how about Zebo? We tried it for a day, but neither of us felt natural saying it.

During the course of a sleepless night, I began to run themes for names through my head.  Other rugby players.  Famous horses.  Animals.  Birds.  Place names.  Eventually I hit on fast food joints in Cork.  Jumbo?  No.  Just… No.  Lennox the lummox had a certain ring to it…  Dino wasn’t bad… but how about KC’s, our favourite chipper in Douglas?  KC – Casey?  Yes, I liked that one…

In the morning, the LSH agreed.  Casey it is.

He’s now chipped and registered in our name.  Lummox or not, this dude is going nowhere.

Sometimes Silence is Golden

A friend remarked last week that I haven’t been blogging for ages.  I guess the main reason is that I hate to come across as a moany ould so-n-so.

In a nutshell, my back is still giving me trouble, despite two massages a week from a physio and an hour of yoga almost every day.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s much much better than it was.  The acute lumbar pain is all but gone and there’s no sciatic pain any more but I’m still not doing ‘normal’ things, like riding for more than thirty minutes, or gardening, or paring my horses’ feet.  Every time I do something a little out of the ordinary, I have pain the following day.  I fear that once I resume living my normal life, it’s just going to flare up, leaving me crippled for weeks again.  I’m due to start a new treatment with a physio in April and I’m holding onto the hope that that course of treatment will finally fix me.

Then there’s the horses.

Aero is coughing – it’s pollen time and he’s now allergic to every speck of dust floating on the breeze.  We’re trying a homeopathic treatment prescribed by a vet/osteopath who is into homeopathy.  Her prescription included the advice that we should soak his hay… no shit, Sherlock!!! But they have a new field companion, so there are three horses in ‘our’ field now.  We’d have to soak hay for all three, because Prince Aero doesn’t like soaked hay and he’d eat everyone else’s feed.  And there’s no water at their field so water would have to be brought down.  And we live in an area of drought so it’s sometimes difficult to get water at all in the summer.  The alternative to soaking hay for all three would be to keep him on his own, which he would hate.  I’m holding that as the ultimate last resort 😦

Both horses had the dentist (a new one) in January and when I started trying to ride Flurry (very carefully, to protect my back) I realised that he’d been badly affected by the treatment.  He pretty much told me everything that was wrong – he was shaking his head constantly (atlas/axial joint was out), didn’t want me to touch his head (two frontal plates were out), particularly didn’t want me to touch the left hand side of his face (something else out there).  So he was also seen by the vet/osteopath who treated all of the above plus a long standing blockage at his withers.  But I notice him still shaking his head from time to time, so either he needs another visit or (oh please god, no) he’s also become allergic to pollen and that’s why he’s started head shaking.

So that’s all my moaniness off my chest.

I’ve got a more cheerful post on the way, I promise.

The Great Piano Caper

Forty something  years ago, my family returned home from an outing, to find a piano in the porch.  As far as the very youthful me was concerned, this was just amazing.  A piano, appearing out of nowhere?  Just sitting there? In OUR porch?  Didn’t the mysterious piano benefactor know that we already had a piano?  What would we do with two pianos?

I soon realised that this wasn’t just a weird and random event.  My Mum (known here as Granny) had finally bought the piano of her dreams – a Bechstein upright, from Piggotts in Dublin, if that rings a bell with any Irish readers.  Of course, no-one had mobile phones in those days – in fact, it’s even possible that this happened before we had a phone in the house – so when the driver delivered the piano and found no-one at home, he just left it in the porch.

I’m not sure how we got it into the house (two adults plus three smallish kids hauling 250kg up two steps?), but it was installed in the hall, and a short while later, the old piano disappeared, sold to one of Granny’s students, if I remember rightly.  So the Bechstein upright was the Murphy family piano, and the piano Granny gave lessons on, from around about 1970 right up to the mid 1990s.  And then Granny bought the REAL piano of her dreams – a beautiful Bechstein baby grand.  But what to do with the old one?

No-one wanted it to leave the family and, thankfully, my brother and sister were happy for it to make the journey to Cork where it became the Greenlee family piano for almost twenty years.  And then…

We moved to Provence (for a year. Ahem.)  And our house was rented out.  And there was no way I was leaving my Mum’s beloved Bechstein behind in a rented house.  What to do?

Fortunately, Tansy was studying music in a Cork college.  They kindly allowed her to keep the piano in one of their rehearsal rooms for two years.  And then she finished her course, and the LSH and I found ourselves still in Provence.  What to do?

Well, I have some lovely friends, one of whom offered to temporarily home the piano (thanks, Denise).  Until we either returned to Ireland or bought a house in France.  The latter happened and, once we were installed, I began to look into How to Get a Piano from West Cork to the Alpes de Haute Provence.  Initially, this involved asking a friend who deals in antiques for advice and then sitting back while he made lots of enquiries!  But Mike drew a blank – all of the quotes he was given for transporting it from Cork to Provence were outlandishly expensive.

Griffins Pianos in Cork, who looked after the Bechstein for me in Cork, were fantastic, and put me in touch with a guy who would transport it from Cork to England, where Mike has a contact with a transport company, RGTS.  The Bechstein left my friend’s house on the 23rd of November and sat in Griffin’s shop for a couple of weeks.  It finally arrived in England in the middle of December, and stayed in the RGTS warehouse until there was a van coming down this way.  Last week, I got a call saying that the piano would arrive on Thursday.  Hooray!

But there was one more hurdle to negotiate.  Our living area is upstairs.  The staircase is steep and narrow, with a sharp bend at the top.  How were we going to manoeuvre a 250 kilo piano up the stairs and around the corner?  What about the balcony? Could we get a small crane in to lift it onto the balcony?  What to do, what to do?

I asked around in the village.  Climasphere have a Manitou, I learned.

For the uninitiated, this is a Manitou

For the uninitiated, this is a Manitou

We already have a contract with Climasphere; they installed the pomp à chaleur central heating system in our house and they continue to maintain it… The head honcho came around for a look.  Yes, we can do it, he said.  Lift it up on the fork of  the Manitou, hoist it over the balcony, four or five of the lads will then take it down and into the living room via the double door.  Plan A was established.

Plan B, if Plan A failed, was to manhandle the piano up the stairs, around the corner at the top and into the living room.  Plan C, if Plan A failed dramatically, was to sweep up the heap of firewood and ivory from the patio and NEVER EVER tell Granny what had happened.

And how did it go?


Lining up the fork of the Manitou to take the piano out of the van


Safely strapped on


Coming in the gate


The Manitou is too big (or our garden is too small) to drive straight down and line up with the balcony…


…so it basically half-passed across the lawn until it was in place


Lined up with the balcony, and getting ready to go up


The Ascension


Just a little further…


We learned our balcony railing will support the weight of a man…


…and our balcony will support the weight of seven men plus a 250 kilo piano




Lowering her down as gently as they could…


In through the doors


Et voila.

So, thanks to all involved in the Great Piano Caper – Denise, Griffins, Mike, RGTS and Climasphere.  The Bechstein’s  history continues to unfold, thanks to you.