Thursday 30 March 2023

Forsythia and chicken outfits

The lovely lady who previously owned our house had a forsythia foresight and planted a great circle of them in the back garden. Their splendid lemon to yolk yellows - according to the variety - punctuate the greens of the garden in every direction during March and early April, more so this year as we failed to get much pruning done in the winter . . .

The chickens are also in full blossom with fine new feathers after a molt period. This is Rod, after Rod Stewart, one of two in our flock who I always find difficult to imagine as female, her rockstar 'hair' and leopard skin more akin to stage and microphone and strutting rather than straw, egg laying and worm-hunting.

Sunday 19 March 2023


Just putting this here as I'll be making another 'blog book' soon and I was quite pleased with this photo of Mark I did for a card recently.

Mark Lockett, pianist, composer, cellist, excellent cake maker, accordionist, world music specialist; polymath generally.


Saturday 11 March 2023

A pair of boots, a pair of trousers, and fate

I'd nearly thrown out Mark's ancient walking boots but as I was about to hurl them to the dump pile we'd decided they might be useful . . . for something, so, they'd returned to the dark place under the stairs and I'd though no more about them.

A couple of months ago Mark had bought a pair of brown jeans from our favourite charity haunt without trying them on. They were just a little to large - waist wise, so I was about to put them in the bag for the next trip to afore-mentioned shop, but wondered if they might be useful, for something . . . so they remained in a drawer and I'd thought no more about them - until, our latest Workaway arrived almost a month ago. Christopher had noted on his profile that people call him the gentle giant, and he is, almost as tall as Mark - 6ft 6 - and just a little wider in the waist, his feet the same size 13!  As some of the work I had lined up was muddy garden/rock moving stuff and Christopher was traveling very light with no work boots or rough clothes the put-to-one-side garments suddenly had a purpose, as if they had been waiting for our visitor.

I've probably mentioned before on this blog that I think I do rather believe in fate. I'd approached Christopher on the Workaway website along with a few other people to come and work with us on various large garden and reconstruction projects. He'd declined at first saying he was looking further south, and I'd concentrated on trying to get one particular traveller to come and help as his profile looked perfect. After much chasing and stupidly long useless texts, etc, I realised it wasn't going to work and gave up, or perhaps decided to go with the flow a bit more, let the idea drop and see if anyone else approached me.

Then I had a response from Christopher saying he'd changed his mind about the south and would like to visit us. We had a brief chat and then a few days later I picked him up on a freezing morning at a motorway péage at 5:30 am. Fate obviously had stepped in, or maybe it was me just letting go a bit and stopping trying to make something happen. From the moment he'd reemerged from his room following a much needed sleep, it was clear we were not only all going to get on but he would very quickly become a member of the family.

We said goodbye to him this morning with great sadness but with the knowledge that we will certainly see him again, maybe often, maybe in his home country of Sicily, maybe here with his new family in France.

I must recommend Workaway. We've met some wonderful people through the site, moved forward with many projects but never quite as successfully as this time. The garden has in many parts been transformed, much wood has been cut, rubble cleared, a pond dug, a rustic BBQ made, walls pointed, a garden shelter made, the dog walked even more extensively; we have played rumba in the kitchen, been taught how to make Sicilian dishes, discussed world politics, history, literature, language, nature, environment, music, art, cooking . . . He has learned much too - that vegetarian food is actually really good! new music, life from perhaps a different perspective, improved his English, learned the names of plants, birds, and many other things. 

Happy travels, Christopher; good luck on your long hike, and I hope we see you again very soon. 


Friday 10 March 2023

My tree

I recently started reading a book given to me at Christmas named, 'Être un Chêne' - to be an oak tree. The author talks about having one's own tree, in his case an incredibly ancient oak tree. Having a tree to mean a special tree, a companion tree, a tree that you sit under, feel the bark, talk too, and perhaps hug, if no one else is about - or even if they are.

We are surrounded by trees in our garden. I like them all. I like all the trees that feature on our daily dog walks, but there's one in particular that I have homed in on as being particularly outstanding in its noblesse - an oak, perhaps two hundred years old, rather on its own standing at the edge of a large field with distant views of other oaks. Perhaps that's why I notice it so much. I rather feel it should be with others of its kind which it probably was before many of the hedges and trees were ripped up/chopped down by zealous farmers wishing to gain a couple more meters of sunlight - something they may slowly be understanding is not such a great idea as the summer heat increases each year... 

Hugging the oak is tricky as a ditch separates walkers from the field but I always stop and admire the tree's shape, observe the sparrows and tits hopping around its structure and perhaps have a word about the weather, state of the world, etc. How interesting it would be to be able to see what changes to the landscape the oak would have witnessed over the passing decades.

I have yet to photograph my tree with its new spring foliage, heavier summer canopy and lastly its yellow and brown phase but here it is in midwinter, and on a milder day when the snakehead fritillaries are just starting to emerge - one of the early signs of spring in our region of France.