Thief 2

Crikey! I was unwell.

Not just reading the last post with it’s melancholy tone, but the way I have felt on the last day and a half have confirmed just how ill I felt. Now feeling the joys of Spring, literally as its been 20 degrees here for the last couple of days, I am much more chipper about the whole thing!

Xavier, the digger driver, has scraped and levelled the entire garden but I have only raked and prepared half of the area. This is not, due to any any circumstances other than, as usual, priorities change when you are actually here rather than planning works from 600 miles away. This time, I decided that while we had a digger on site it would be wise to clear the area beside the big barn that will eventually become our pool courtyard.

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This area had been used by the farmer for dumping bricks, blocks, polythene and bundles of bailing string over the years he kept his cattle in the barn. The idea to scrape all this waste to one side, dig a big hole and bury it, soon became an impossibility as we hit solid rock 30cm down. This left us with a massive pile of rock, blocks weeds and rubbish and nowhere to put it. After much head scratching I walked up to the farmer’s house to explain the problem. He jumped in his van and came down to speak with Xavier and quickly came up with the solution to fill a hole on his land. Problem solved.

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Beside the barn

Whilst all these ground works were going on I was planting bundles of bareroot hazel, roses and guilder roses around the newly cleared boundaries. This is where I committed my second incidence of perceived French thievery.

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The string line

Emerging to a beautiful frosty morning at 8.00am to start work I noticed that a string line had appeared overnight, on the newly cleared and planted boundary.

I was soon accosted by Robert, who hands on hips, pointed out that I had planted about ten plants the wrong side of this line. He asked for them to be moved, showing me a stud set in the ground by the surveyor at the time of the sale of the house marking the boundary. The irony of this being it was only our actions of clearing the site that had exposed said stud! Anyway best keep everyone on side.

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New multistem Catalpa

Saturday morning, departure day, I was out on hand and knees replanting these plants before cleaning the house and packing. This was made all the easier as due to a busy weekend on the Eurotunnel and massive supplements on my prepaid ticket for sensibly timed departures, I had booked into a budget hotel in Calais, thus relieving time constraints on leaving Frelon Cottage.

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Ready for seeding

I am writing this after a good night at the rather funky Ibis hotel in central Calais and am now on the train home……..all in all a good week!

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Surprisingly nice Calais centre

Has the Romance Died?

This is the question I have been asking myself a lot over the last couple of days regarding our French house.

Plagued by lingering ‘Man Flu’ the journey seemed arduous, yesterday pruning the fruit trees in a raging gale finished me off by lunchtime and during the afternoon I just could not get warm despite having both woodburners blazing and today the discovery that half the garden has only about 10cm of soil over rubble are all not good.

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This is coupled with the reality of a hard Brexit making the dream of spending the warm six months of each year in retirement, possibly only that… a dream. The whole point of all this work possibly taken away.

This visit is one that I have not been relishing anyway. Despite being in horticulture, I am extremely trepidatious about ploughing up the entire garden, levelling it and sowing a lawn that I have to leave for six weeks at a time hoping it will be ready for the summer. Anyway this is underway. My French digger driver, Xavier, arrived this morning and promptly started work, unfortunately on the upper level. This is where the soil was found to be very thin. This caused much head shaking and faces of concern, not improving my mood in anyway.

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After lunch, (in a rather unFrench way, Xavier only took fifteen minutes, leaving me shamed for taking nearly and hour and sitting at the kitchen table!), I got stuck into cutting back and tidying the beds planted last year and the year before and Xavier started to look a bit more comfortable as on the lower level the soil is very deep.

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By five oclock, he had levelled the entire garden and things started to look up. Feeling better after a hot shower (better than our one at home), I went out to photograph the work and was greeted by Robert, the farmer who handed me a box of ten freshly laid hens eggs.

I chatted with him for a while (yes chatted, even I am impressed with how well my French is coming on), as the setting sun shone on St Victor across the valley.

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At this moment I realised exactly why we had bought this house…..to be part of rural France, and we are. If this is not romance, then I don’t know what is!

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All is not so bad!