We’ve spent the morning replenishing our firewood supply. At the moment, we’re using up all the old beams we salvaged during renovation work. So I drag them out of the stable to Chris and Benj, who are waiting outside to slice them up with the chainsaw. Then I load up the wheelbarrow and squelch down to the woodshed with the cut pieces, helped by Caiti and Ruadhri. We get through roughly a barrowful of wood on a cold day I would estimate. But that’s pretty much all we use for heating. We have central heating but run it as little as possible – maybe an hour in the morning so there’s a warm kitchen for breakfast and hot water for washing. Then it’s off until evening when it comes on in the bathroom and bedrooms to take the chill off. We live in the living room in winter (easy to see where the name comes from!), only dashing to the kitchen to get meals and cups of tea. We wear two jumpers each as well.

And it’s bearable although not very convenient. So it really got my hackles up when the French government proposed to add 5 cents a litre to heating oil and the same per kilo of gas, as a so-called ‘green tax’. We couldn’t use any less gas than we do already. I turn the Antargas guy away several times a year. He appears every  now and again, begging me to let him fill our tank up, but I say ‘no’ firmly! We need less than one tankful a year. We can’t afford to be tempted into using more than that. The price of petrol and diesel is going to be bumped up by the same tax. And again, I don’t see how we can cut down on our mileage any more. There are no local bus or train services, so we have to drive to get our shopping. Mondays and Fridays we make a 22 km round trip to get Benj and Caits to the nearest bus stop for their coach to lycée. We go into Boussac perhaps once a week for the grocery shopping, and maybe to Gueret or La Chatre every fortnight for a bigger food shop and other necessary items. I’ve cut out trips to the swimming pool and other such ‘frivolous’ jollies. Ruadhri takes the school bus now, even though that means a very early start for him with a lot of wasted time sat on the bus as it meanders along the country lanes. Up to now we either cycled or walked him to school, nine days out of ten. Sadly his school at St Marien is about 12 km away, too far for biking. And I recycle everything to the point of ridiculousness. How could we be more green? Frankly, until the government ministers are doing the same as we are (just keeping one room warm in winter and hardly using their cars) then they should stop hitting us with carbon taxes when we’re doing everything we can already. Its manufacturers they should turn their attention to. A couple of reasons why: we had to saw our way with a breadknife to get into a few of our overpackaged Christmas presents this year. France seems to love that deadly, razor-sharp hard plastic packaging for everything. Way over the top. And then Chris bought a new electric screwdriver recently. He only needed a new battery for it but it proved impossible to buy that separately. So he had to buy the whole outfit, even though there was plenty of use left in the old screwdriver, battered as it was! That’s where resources are being wasted and huge carbon footprints left. Not by us huddled round our fire.

Put another jumper on, Sarko.