It’s not gone unnoticed in certain quarters (thanks, Val…) that it’s been quite a while since I put up a new post here on My Trike. There have been one or two reasons for this state of affairs, which I’ll come back to in a moment, but I’m now about to remedy all that! It’s not that I’ve had nothing to post about – far from it actually, because I’ve got loads of photographs from the week that I spent with Val at the end of May, when I picked up my new car, plus a flight that I did with Wim to talk about and more photographs and a video that I shot at the time. So where to begin?

Easy things first. A few weeks ago, I had a computer crash and BSOD (blue screen of death) and afterwards my computer refused to boot up at all for a while. I was still running Windows XP even though I’d bought Windows 7 and tried to install it on several occasions but ultimately found each time that it and my computer just didn’t get on together. I’ll explain. My PC has a Core 2 Quad 6600 CPU which is basically one of the last Intel processors that were intended for Windows XP. I installed a reasonable graphics card (Nvidia GTX560) which worked fine with XP but it was becoming more and more obvious that with XP, it didn’t have the legs that it ought to have done. So that’s when I ‘upgraded’ to Windows 7, with disastrous results. I had to go with the 32 bit system because of the processor that I was still using but somewhere in the whole kettle of fish, there was an incompatibility that meant that sooner or later the system would just freeze, crash or just stop running certain programs, usually Microsoft ones, which made it even more infuriating. So I always ended up going back to good old Windows XP that was maybe a bit slower, but rock-solid nevertheless.

All that began to change in April, when Microsoft withdrew their support for XP, but I took my crash and refusal of my system to boot as a warning shot. It’s happened to me before – you ignore the signs and pretty soon you end up with a system that’s totally FUBAR that you have to completely reinstall from scratch. So this time I had no choice but to persist with Windows 7. And it’s been a painful week or so. I’ve had all of the same old problems that I experienced before but I’ve managed to get a system together that runs sufficiently well for me to work with – for now. I’m typing this post on it, but I can’t say that I’m not holding my breath while I’m doing so. But this time I’ve bitten the bullet and even though it’s an expense that I’d rather have avoided, I’m investing in a new processor and motherboard. And this time I’m kicking Intel into touch. I don’t now need, and in any case can’t afford, the latest, fastest CPU around. And because AMD own Nvidia, so if they can’t make one of their processors play nicely with my graphics card nobody can, I’ve gone for an AMD FX-8350 4GHz processor with an Asus motherboard. I’ll let you know how I get on when they’ve both arrived.

OK, next subject, lawn mowers, another rather prickly one for me. In the just-over two years that I’ve been here, I’ve totally destroyed two of them. The reason was the same for both – hitting hidden stones and rocks in my grass and the areas that border it, resulting in bent blades and, ultimately, bent shafts for both of them. My first mower I bought new, but after the rocks had bent the blade and shaft and smashed the front wheels off it, I soon learnt the folly of doing that again. So the next one I bought second-hand, as I mentioned in a post on here a few weeks ago. Well, already it’s died a death and when I took both mowers off to the ‘décheterie’ to clear a space in my ‘cave’ for the next one, I found that they were by no means alone. The mowing season had obviously arrived here in the Dordogne, because the skip was already half-full of mowers that were just like my two, with bent shafts and other terminal damage 🙂

So before I went off and bought another, I had to try and do something about the source of my problem, which I did by spending the best part of a whole day ferreting out and digging up all the rocks, stones and other rubbish that I could find in my grass. And at the end of it, I was amazed to find that I’d taken out 5 barrow-loads of the wretched things. If you don’t believe me, here’s a picture of them all piled up under one of the trees in my back garden.

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A few of the bits that you can see were rubbish left over from jobs that I’ve done, such as my lounge floor and fireplace and my roof, but they don’t account for very much. I felt much better for having done the job at last, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve had no ‘mowing incidents’ since, thank goodness. Then I had to go out and find myself my third mower, and I think that I did really well. The last second-hand one that I bought turned out to be very disappointing because it was in worse condition than I’d thought. I’d trusted the (British) seller a bit too much, because when I’d viewed it, it was pouring down with rain and I took him very much at his word, mistakenly as it turned out. The ‘tractée’ (self-drive) system didn’t work properly and there were too many plastic bits underneath that just couldn’t take the punishment meted out by my garden. But this time it was ‘third-time-lucky’.

I came across a mower on Le Bon Coin not that far away to the west of Brive and was pleasantly surprised when I went to see it. It had a 50cm cut, a Briggs and Stratton engine with auto-start and a fully working ‘tractée’ system. And the best part was that the (French) seller only wanted 80€ for it, so I ended up taking it off his hands straight away. Here are some shots I took of it after I’d finished mowing my grass earlier this evening.

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The ‘auto-start’ system uses a recoil spring that winds itself up when you release the throttle to stop the engine. When you next open the throttle, the spring automatically engages and the engine bursts into life without any effort on your part. It doesn’t always work and then you have to use the normal pull-cord starter, but it works pretty well and I’m very satisfied with it, especially at the price I paid. Another advantage is that it doesn’t have a grass bag but has a ‘mulching’ system instead. I think that that just means that it smashes the cut grass up into much smaller particles than usual, but whatever it is, my grass looks better afterwards than either of my other two mowers succeeded in doing.

Regular readers of My Trike will know that I’m working on a tight budget for all of the changes and improvements that I’m making in my house and garden and am therefore always on the look-out for a bargain. It’s an ill wind, but it’s a fact unfortunately that there are quite a few British ex-pats who are having to sell up in France for whatever reason and move back to the UK. They frequently have to dispose of stuff for quite low prices and I was fortunate to buy my bedroom furniture from one such. It was on the way back from the Gironde with the wardrobe on my old Astra’s roof, a chest of drawers in the back and another in my trailer behind, when the alternator belt snapped and the whole shebang had to be recovered to a garage on the back of a large vehicle transporter.

I recently came across another ad for some lounge furniture that I dropped in to see on my way back from Val’s after picking up my new car at the end of May. As soon as I saw it I said that I’d buy it and handed over the… wait for it… princely sum of 50€. I couldn’t pick it up until last weekend and fortunately my good friend Victor was able to take me across in Madeleine’s new Yeti towing his enormous 4-wheel trailer, which swallowed the whole lot in one go. Here’s a pic that I took of it all set out in my lounge.

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I love it. It’s in fabulous condition and means that I now have comfortable seating for 6 people. And it also came with a complete set of spare loose-covers. I’m sorry for Jane who had to sell it at such a low price just to clear it out of her house, that has now been sold, but if I hadn’t bought it, I’m sure that someone else would have 😉

Next post, catching up on my week away with Val in the Languedoc at the end of May, with photographs of some great places that we visited.