The long silence – as always at this time of year – is because I have been completely taken up by the family summer visits, first the BPs (Jude and family) for two weeks and then the Gillies (Kate and family) for an all too short week.
I suppose for my grandchildren I come packaged with three special assets: my bassin, or natural pool, Poppy the dog and now, a snazzy little car.
Until the last (cold, windy, inclement) day of the Gillies’ holiday, not a day passed without at least one session in the bassin.
All four grandchildren can now swim! Ella and Otto, both seven, are totally at home in or under the water or jumping into it. Despite looking as if she is about to sink, Willow (five) gets around with a confident doggy paddle sometimes turning into breastroke. Maddie (four) started the fortnight moving cautiously with multiple floats and armbands. Ed patiently gave her daily lessons and amazingly on the last day of their holiday she swam unaided across the pool. I had wrongly thought Ed was over optimistic.
Poppy meanwhile got through my entire stock of SuperU red rubber balls. Her favourite trick was to drop a ball into the pool and wait for someone to throw it. Some throwing was more enthusiastic than skilful, and I wander round the terraces hopeful of tracking down some of the missing balls.
At one stage Poppy was alarmingly ill. The vet was not sure whether it was intestines or a damaged tendon or something in her hip (perfectly possible with her vigorous leaping off terraces). Dosed with painkillers she magically got better after a week.
Various parents had mainly abortive attempts to have quiet reads beside the pool (hurrah for the kindle). And until the last few days one of the main concerns was how grownups could enjoy the sun yet protect the children from it, with temperatures invariably reaching the upper 30s while the BPs were there. Sadly for the Gillies, with their all too short holiday, there were three days when temperatures dropped and the wind got up (though still no more than five minutes rain).
The BP parents did their morning walk before breakfast while I looked after the children and the family undertook several ambitious walks later in the day, amazing given the heat. The Gillies children are less enthusiastic walkers but they too did the walk round the valley – and to and from the local river. Otto was a great hit with my friend, Margaret, and a neighbour, impressing them with his good manners while they chatted away in French. So he returned to visit her with enthusiasm, despite his problems with walking.
Both families made several visits to the campsite where we spent our summer holidays when Kate and Jude were children – two of many families to go back with the next generation to enjoy its relaxed ambience and lovely river. Sadly for Kate and Steve, the summer snack run by a French couple, now good friends, had just closed before their visits.
The future of the campsite, La Corconne, is very much up in the air, as Nol, the Dutch husband, died suddenly last winter and Peggy, the English wife now running it singlehanded wants to retire. A sale has just fallen through. Apparently a bunch of Dutch campers (many like us frequent returners) are talking of getting up syndicate to buy the site.
Both families each had a happy day visiting the extremely well run accrobranche park with its impressive circuits high up in the trees at Montardier. It is fair to say that perhaps Otto and Maddie were less enthusiastic (but still managed stages 1 and 2 of the green circuit). Ella and Willow went on to the more challenging third stage, Willow with a frightening confidence and nonchalance (I think her gymnastic skills come from Steve rather than our side of the family…). Jude very bravely accompanied Maddie and was the least enthusiastic of all!
The BPs made a long trek to a giant water theme park by the sea. The Gillies found a canoe company accepting six year olds (weeell, Willow is nearly six) and so Steve, Otto and Willow paddled seven kilometres down the Hérault (or rather, Steve did – with the occasional contribution from the passengers).
The animal world of course plays an important part in the children’s holiday. Poppy plays the star turn.
Also of fascination were the sangliers – the wild boar, who, as the drought approaches the end of its third month, are becoming disconcertingly unfraid. Ed and Jude saw several boar families on their early walks, while Kate and Steve reported a family living in the woods at the bottom of my land. I went on a couple of ‘boar hunts’ with the children, showing them the giant footprints and the earth unturned round my young olive trees. Poor Otto was traumatised by seeing a dead boar in the back of a hunter’s van.
Willow made a list of other animals to be found on holiday. These included:
One of the pleasures of these summer holidays is that my offspring have no illusions about me slaving over the kitchen sink: I really appreciate the meals turned out by Ed and then by Kate and Steve (alternating). All cooks said, in the nicest possible way, that my gas hob is awful. I agree and I made the decision to replace it by an induction hob. No sooner had I done this that the oven (universally loathed by all, including me) died. It chose a bad moment, when Ed was cooking an elaborate meal for nine on the evening the two families overlapped. It seemed to come back to life, with the odd blip, and then turned itself off definitevely when Kate was cooking the last meal of the holidays. So it looks like some updating in the kitchen department is required.
But first, some sheets and towels to put through the washing machine …