Monday, 27 April 2015

Age is no obstacle

When we are in France we try to visit a friend whose freedom is limited by the needs of her husband who is in poor health. She is a remarkable lady in many ways. We knew that this would be our last visit to her in France because she is moving back to England to be closer to family members who can help her as demands on her inevitably increase. A few months ago she acquired an elderly upright piano and was teaching herself, and her six-year-old granddaughter, to play. This time when we walked in I saw that the piano had gone. She told us that her neighbour, learning of my friend's imminent departure, had asked if she might have it, and the piano had been duly moved across a few metres of gravelly courtyard to the neighbour's house, where it resides just inside the front door. 'I am making progress,' the neighbour said to my friend. Nothing very remarkable about that - except that the neighbour is 101. I found this story quite uplifting as well as funny, and I have related it to my own oldest piano pupil, who is a mere 86.



Unrelated, but beautiful - here are some of the plants that were in flower in our French acre.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

New life

We shouldn't, perhaps, rest too heavily on symbolism - but this beautiful little Pasque flower, having miraculously survived two British winters outside, opened its first flower to the sun on Easter day.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Is it spring yet? France in February.

The trees are still skeletally bare -  dead-looking, if we didn't know better. Globes of mistletoe hang from leafless branches, and tiny birds are visible, hovering hopefully, waiting for a turn at the seed-and-fat balls I distributed around the big magnolia that grows not far from the kitchen window. The blue- and great tits hang perilously, blithely upside down, the robin is more tentative, and the chaffinches don't even try; they're content to peck in the sodden grass for fallen treasures. The greenfinch, though, while a shy visitor, is surprisingly adept at managing a tremulous fat ball, and the bold wren perches on the edge of my plant pots and eyes me beadily.
Several mornings dawned to a mantle of crackling frost, slowly melting as the sun rose, and dripping from the twigs. On two days it rained almost unceasingly, turning our steeply-pitched long drive (truthfully, a track) into a muddy stream. It was cold enough for many warm layers outside and a good fire indoors. But there are signs: a clump of snowdrops, a few brave daffodils hesitantly showing their colour, a solitary primrose protected by the house wall; and in the field next door a batch of noisy energetic lambs, two white, four black, with their dams.



 In our water-meter pit the fire salamander that I wrote about a few months ago has acquired a - what? Visiting relative? Consort? Offspring, even? I couldn't get a picture because they were lurking in the pipe, showing a tantalising tangle of shiny black-and-yellow legs, heads and tails.
 I don't know much about these curious creatures. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Closing down for the winter

We have just spent a week at our house in France, and with all that's going on and all our commitments as we approach Christmas that will be the last visit of this year. There's little to do in the garden now, but I did plant another tree: a white poplar, so that when the trees are in leaf we will have a range of colours, from shades of green (apple, catalpa, willow, oak, hazel)  through deep reds (plum, redbud, flowering crab) to almost black (physocarpus) and now silvery white (birch, poplar.)
We took down with us a massively heavy log-splitter, in an attempt to save my husband's back as we chop up chunks of tree for our wood burner. In a very short time he amassed four barrowloads of usable logs from huge trunks which had been lying around for years, too big to go on the fire. This impressive machine works with a resounding crack as the log splits apart.









This was our second visit with no landline and no internet. In our experience getting things fixed in France is not a speedy business, and so it proved this time, despite my attempts to get someone out to repair the fault in the line. I realise just how much time I spend (one might say, waste) on the internet! However, it has had a fruitful effect, because without its distractions I have made good progress with the first draft of novel number 5. The finishing post is in sight, and this is the part of the whole process I find most exciting as all the plot-strands, so carefully laid down, start to come together and draw tight. It is also often one of the points where characters start to behave in unexpected ways and the story takes a turn I hadn't envisaged. A good story is a living thing - maybe that's why (for me, and I'm sure for many others) it's so engaging and engrossing. I'll report on progress here from time to time.

Our next visit to France will probably be in late January or early February. As plants grow from bushes into trees they need to be shaped and pruned, and I'll do it before the sap starts to rise in the spring. One day we'll have to give up our house and garden across the Channel, because it'll involve too much work for two creaky old-timers, but I hope to leave behind a park, however rough, dotted with beautiful trees.
Almost the last of the autumn colour- a berberis.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

A Shed in a Cucumber Field is launched



I held a bit of a party last Saturday to celebrate the 'coming-out' of my new novel.  It was a good evening following a long day and I am tired, but what really stands out for me is the realisation of just how blessed I am with loyal friends:absolutely priceless.








With fellow-author Susan Pope ('Lighter than Air.')


Friends and supporters
                                                                                                         

                                                       




                                       

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Progress

As it happened, happily my books vanished from the internet for only a few hours. A rescue package was made available to affected authors and I hope and trust the books are now safe and available around the globe. It was certainly a bad few hours. Bad for longer, sadly, for the company and its loyal employees: no quick fix for them.
This episode made me think about the worst things that could happen, and in what order of  devastating effect. For me, it came to this: first  would be to lose my faith; that would be a disaster of immeasurable proportions and eternal effect. Then, like most of us, to lose a family member or close friend - or my dog, come to that. Perhaps next might come some physical disaster, such as the chimney falling off our house in France, or one of the big trees coming down and taking the roof with it. But clearly losing years of work would be up there too, very close.
We are sometimes asked to consider what would be our dream come true; more rarely what our worst case might be. I wonder how you would answer this rather sobering question.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Important news

I have just heard that the company which has published all my books has ceased trading, owing to competition from a well-known internet giant. This of course is a disaster for me and many other authors. I hope in due course to have my books back in circulation and available online but this will take time. Meanwhile you will as of now find me nowhere on the internet! I do not plan to stop writing, nor to making my books available, but patience will be needed. I will post any progress here.