Keeping the grass cut

It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain my terraces, not least because the amount of land that has been cleared has increased and because this year – after a completely dry May and normal early June, we have had far more rain than usual in the last four weeks.

I no longer do the cutting myself; I rely on Joris, a young man from the local village of Serres.  Fortunately for him, as he is unemployed, but unfortunately for me, he has been taken on to do holiday cover at the only local factory, Well.  This means that grass cutting happens at the end of the day.  Also I have to compete with the understandably more interesting company of his girlfriend of a year and work on the flat they are doing up in le Vigan.  The net result is that it has taken over a month for Joris to do the equivalent of a day’s cutting and he still has one terrace to go. When he finally gets round to the last terrace (he rarely comes when he says he will) it will be time to start again at the other end.

Nevertheless the impact of his punctilious if slow strimming on the terraces between the house and the bassin are very gratifying.  It is hard to believe that two months ago these were a muddy, churned up building site.

Julie’s 40th birthday

We have known Arnard and Christine for 20 years now.  Christine has three daughters Julie, Sara and Claire.  I know Sara best, as she spent several months in Edinburgh about 15 years ago.  I’m getting to know Julie and Claire better as they come up here to use my internet connection when visiting their mother.  Julie, who lives in Toulouse and seems to scrape a living doing organised walks plus playing her flute in jazz groups, invited me to her 40 birthday celebration, which was in Arnard and Christine’s splendid old barn which she uses when visiting the Cévennes.

It was not a big gathering – perhaps half a dozen ‘oldies’ and a bit more of her age, mainly old friends from lycée days.  But what a wonderfully unusual evening it was, mainly because of the carefree dancing (not by me!) and highly talented jazz improvising.  I had not heard Julie play before, but she is really pretty good.  But not as good as Marius, who was mesmeric on flute and trumpet.  Again, I don’t know him well, though I’m friends with his parents.

Dinner in Avèze

A jolly evening out with Jenny and David Kerridge, their neighbours, Richard and Louise , and visitors, Ralph and Margaret.  We were at the bistro in Avèze, which serves moules et frites on Friday night.


Canal barge for sale

Disposing with possessions after the loss of a partner or spouse is heart-breaking, as I know.

In this case it has taken Rose, a friend of my Brighton friend, Sally, four years following her husband Tom’s death in a horrible car accident, to face up to decisions about what to do with a canal barge on the Canal du Midi.  This barge was Tom’s retirement dream come true and Rose had been unable to even look at it until now, when, egged on by Sally, she had come out to the boat yard near Narbonne, where the barge, Desert Rose, is stored.

I got a call from Sally, asking if I would help out over the phone with interpretation, as neither really spoke much French.  They were suitably grateful when instead I packed my bag and drove down to help out. The barge – a péniche in French – turned out to be in a similar state to that of my friend, Yves, visited in January – elderly, dated and shabby.  Much as I adore boats, I think this one was sadly a liability.  A converted tour barge, it did not even have a flat roof for sitting out.  Sally and I agreed the best thing to do would be to sell it – quickly, Rose was having great difficulty in coming to terms with reality.

We all agreed that whatever was decided about its future, the Desert Rose needed a good clean inside and out, its engine overhauled and made to work, and perhaps the hull cleaned and painted.  Rose and Sally had been rescuing objects Rose wanted to take back to England, and were in the throws of taking all other moveable contents to the tip.  My role was to get quotes from the boatyard owner for doing all the cleaning and overhauling work.  I did this, and in the course of various discussions with him, obtained a competent, clear opinion: the barge was suffering badly from years of no maintenance, let alone the fact that it was a very dated design with diy additions, and was not worth more than 1000 to 15000€ in its present state – far less than the 30-40k Rose had been hoping for, after unrealistic phone conversations with a boat surveyor.

I left them with all this information and have yet to hear what is the outcome.

Controlling the bamboo

A few years ago I planted bamboo to hide the neighbour’s house.  Apart from the efficient speed with which bamboo shoots up, I like its look.  Ah, said friends, gloomily.  You will regret planting bamboo, it will quickly get out of control.

Well to an extent they are right: it is beginning to edge into my car turning space and to hide access to my compost heap.  But Jacky agrees with me that it provides an efficient shield against the neighbours and that I have enough space not to worry too much – just a question of routine uprooting of unwanted shoots.  He did this today.  Passing by with his bulldozer, he called in and in 15 minutes uplifted unwanted bamboo and planted it elsewhere.

Eventually I will have bamboo most of the length of the wall separating me from the neighbours.  The walnut tree in the middle is also growing like mad now that it is no longer strangled by jungle, and will have to be pruned right back this autumn.


Sylvia’s grandchildren

The school holidays have started – which means grannies everywhere looking to entertain their charges.  I was very happy to see my friend, Sylvia, come across with two of her grandchildren, Jules and Rose plus a friend of Rose.  Despite the wind and cool temperatures they loved the bassin and warming up afterwards in the jacuzzi (jacuzzi photo taken on a second visit, on Sunday 13).

More photos for Sylvia plus two movies here.

2014-07-06 Concert in Bréau

Christine Capieu and a contralto (on the left) whose name I can’t remember, accompanied as usual by Pierre Paolichi, gave a concert of songs by Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Wagner and Tchaikowsky.  Not as exciting as the superb concert given by Christine’s ensemble this spring, but still, very good.

The weather!

We are really having the most extraordinary weather this year: balmy summer days in March and April,  a drought in May with unseasonably cool temperatures, and the second half of June and first half of July unstable and unseasonable.  We can have a day of 30 degrees, followed by a thunderstorm and plummeting temperatures, and frequent strong winds.  The rain storms have been impressively torrential and frequent, so everything is looking very green, and persuading Joris to come often enough to keep my terraces under control is a huge headache.

You don’t expect to see the hills to the south so often wiped out by clouds and mist.

Josie Shepherd

I had another delicious meal with my friends Josie and Tony Shepherd, who have a holiday home in nearby Mas de Sarrot.

Josie has become an enthusiastic iPad user – like me, it sits close to hand as a permanent reference book in addition to its other many uses.  We discussed its increased ability to take decent photos, so I pointed my iPad at Josie and given the limited light indoors, not a bad result.