Newsletter from La Behorais
After settling back into my new way of life after my holiday, and my neighbours returning from a trip to La Rochelle, I invited them in for an English evening with Gifford's Hall white wine and Sloe Gin, strong Cheddar cheese and English bics and my sisters fruit cake: a good time was had by all.
Back to work. Pierre, who had given me a lot of floor tiles last year, offered to help me lay them in no. 1, this involved laying a 100mm screed and laying the 30 x 30 mm tiles direct onto the screed as you go, the room is 7 x 5m. Thank God for Pierre, as I could never have kept the levels on my own, he let me do the grouting in and put the skirting tiles round the room on my own, I think I passed my Apprenticeship as I got a "oui" and only minor nit-picking, which is as good as it gets with mon Patron Pierre, who is a good old boy. This took up the first 2 weeks of March, the 3rd week saw me undercoating the walls and fitting the wood burner, now I have reached this stage it is looking fantastic, it was my intention to put it on the market but I can feel a change of plan coming on.
Towards the end of March the weather had turned to really warm and wonderful, it was time to turn my attention to gardening. At the back of no. 3, Huguette - this is Riggette whose name I have been spelling wrongly all these months - has kept a vegetable garden for the last 10 years which I have taken over. She kindly left me 30ish strawberry plants, and I have set out peas, leeks, radish, spring onions, lettuce so far.
I have also cleared a patch 10 x 10m further down the hill to the right of my paddock for a pommes de terre patch which I shall be planting at the end of April, this was cleared by hand which bloody near finished me off. I was offered the loan of a tractor and plough by the farmer next door, but explained to the farmer that I would rather remove the turf by hand and dig it to save less weeds in the future. He agreed with a sardonic smile - I am a pratt - the turf has been turned inside and laid in a mound which I have covered in plastic till the end of May when it will be uncovered, weed free I hope, and planted with marrows and ridge cucumbers.
As the good weather not only held but also got hotter I bit the bullet and decided to clear the last ½ acre of my land from brambles. As I started this it became clear I had a young forest growing under the 3m high brambles, although it took twice as long, I, as a tree lover, wanted to keep them, only one accident in which a young Ash tree was departed to the great forest in the sky, now it is cleared I have a small copse of 19 Ash, Oak and Elm trees from between 1m to 4m high. It looks great, and a view of the farmer's 25 year old disintegrating Opel car, I have pushed my disintegrating caravan closer so they can get acquainted, who knows I may be able to present Stuart Seaton with a small camper van!
The last week in March Huguette informed me it was now time to make an appointment with the Notaire as her late husband's will had been approved, this we did and by the beginning of May I will be the owner of all my kingdom and broke - no change then!
April the seventh dawned to a nice hot day and to my surprise has not been declared a public holiday although avril trente is St Robert's day. Maybe next year the French authorities will see sense and organise things properly! This special day turned out to be an asshole - probably what my parents thought 53 years ago - everything I touched went wrong and my computer finally succumbed to a virus and gave up, not the best birthday.
Still smarting from yesterday's upsets I moved on to no. 1 garden. Readers may remember this was cleared last Septembre/Octobre of its brambles, but the sods are trying a counter attack. Although I am no lover of chemical warfare - and being mindful I might be targeted by the Bush/Blair lunatics who have as yet not been returned to the asylum - the brambles were treated to a dose of Round-up as this is the only chance of establishing it as a garden again.
The top 20m of the garden was not cleared last year with the exception of a bit being dug up to find the illusive septic tank. It is now cleared and the trees lopped and thinned out.
I would like to issue a warning to any reader with a laurel hedge. If it is neglected for 15 years you end up with a 4m high and 5m base of a hedge that a WW2 Japanese Soldier would be happy to live in - I had a large heap of slate in the garden which must have come from when the old chimney was rebuilt, this has now been made into a path and terrace in the Garden. The top part has the makings of a nice wildish garden with plenty of trees and good views of the forest, the bottom garden I intend to develop as an orchard over the next few years.
As the fine spell is holding and getting hotter I am in outside mode. No. 3 has rendered walls so it is time to paint them a light coffee colour and also plant a few flowers and shrubs in two small semi-circles - all looks very pretty and much praised by the locals.
On the social side of things I have been out to a party with some new English friends I have met, out for a meal and down to the café a couple of times, but increasingly I find I am becoming more of a hermit. During this hot spell I have taken to sitting on my marrow mound with a bottle of wine in its ice bucket watching the sunset over the valley and forest, and most nights I am joined by Polly who sits next to me clawing the plastic sheet.
Good Friday - which is not a public holiday en France - found me at the Sous Prefecture's office collecting the VW en France registration papers. Yes, after 6 months I am 100% legal, and they do have a sense of humour as the registration is 491 BBQ 44 and it smokes like one when it starts on a cold morning.
Yesterday found me at the Estate Agents office as it has dawned on me that as I am about to own all the land at the back of the cottages I can carve it up to give derelict no. 2 a good size garden and access to the rear, so it is on the market for 10,000 euro and the agent thinks it will sell because of its position and view. If it does, the loot will be enough to finish and furnish no. 1 and a bit more work on my home, no. 3.
Huguette has all her grand children here, it's a bit like Baghdad at times outside, but I have given them some chocolat Pâques oeufs to keep them quiet.
That's all my news on this Easter Sunday, I wish you all a happy one, return e-mails always welcome but alas seem sparse.