Welcome to my blog. I spent the morning trying to remember Keats and eventually found all the verses of ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. We’ve not quite got ‘a cyder press oozing’ although we have two of the four granite crescents that were part of the original press. Our orchard is full of spilled apples, every tree with a skirt of red, golden, green. The butterflies fly from one to the other, the wasps thankfully all gone but invaded now by les mouches attracted no doubt by the manure heap in the next field that is beside our front gate. After nearly extinguishing ourselves with fly spray we found old fashioned sticky fly papers – that and a plastic fly swatter do the job. The summer is gone but still the huge pots of geraniums hold on near the wall, and we can sit out to have our coffee when it’s not actually raining. The field is brown and ploughed, becoming slowly weed free with just one small plot of leeks and cabbages – Phil has removed about ten huge rolls of barbed wire and the ancient fence posts burn well on the fire. The enormous garage with its two inspection pits and 15 feet of door has been gutted and now has windows and doors for the kitchen to be built in one half and two windows and a front door space. Getting down the lintel – 15 foot long and reinforced with about twenty iron rods, was a huge effort – all those regrets – did we really want a kitchen anyway, why had we started, how would we keep the winter out? Now it’s done the kitchen is again enthusiastically looked forward to.
It’s been a summer of poetry. The day after we arrived I went to Katherine Gallagher’s five day course at Le Moulin, driving home, wrong side of the unfamiliar road, late in the night. It was inspiring and I missed the unpacking of the camion demenagement which had just been hauled out of the middle of the field where it had stuck in the mud as I arrived back from Villebaudon. In September Penny Shuttle had two Master Class workshops at Le Moulin, an inspiring three weeks – part of the time helping and part writing. Phil built my book shelves and my workroom, and me, are functioning. For the first time I have sent off poems to magazines and competitions and my novel is also out on the rounds. I have become a proper writer, the day job – at last I have grown up and decided what I want to be. It is quite different to have time and space for writing and reading – although I am trying to learn to also be a good French housewife in the bits between poems. People arrive all the time with walnuts and queches, mirrabelles and damsons – basket after basket. Then our trees are loaded with apples and pears – some are cider varieties (this year no use to take them to the ciderie – there are too many apples). I have laid them in the barn up on the sagging floor – not alas in rows with moonlight on them – well maybe – I never looked. We have lovely French neighbours in the only house nearby who bring flowers and enormous pumpkins and all sorts of fruit and I try to reciprocate with walnut cakes, cup cakes and Dorset Apple cake. ‘Je ne sais pas si it’s OK’ goes the usual dialogue. I need to learn more French but it does get easier, Phil has extremely expressive Gallic shrugs. We have a good social life, and are getting to know people, we have nice English neighbours about a kilometre away up the hill who bring us back golden syrup and custard powder when they go to England for a visit. It is hard sometimes when there are too many ‘first time’ things to be done – equivalent of MOT for the car, visits to the garage, the shops, telephones – all the things that you take for granted when you do them in England but that here you have to work hard at. It’s satisfying though and each time it gets easier and there is always someone on the end of the phone to help.
This blog will be part of my writing activity – with links to poems, stories, ideas and also a way of communicating with people whowant to keep in touch. If I can manage the technology I will put a short series of photos showing progress at Le Marais (this we discover is the actual name of our house not Les Madieres as insisted by France Telecom and locals – we found out from the mayor when we took our plans to him). So many people sent us good wishes and I hope that you will enjoy reading this and keep in touch too. I will send printouts to people who don’t have email. We had a few visitors in the summer and look forward to more next year and even some during the winter. We are nice and warm with our log fire, the two guest bedrooms are functional – it is a great way to experience stars on a clear night and total silence in the day in our truly rural backwater. We are about 50 minutes drive from Caen and a bit more from Cherbourg. We will always meet people off the ferry if they come as foot passengers – you know who you are!