Sunday, 29 May 2011

May has disappeared...

... in long, hot rainless days of gardening, and cleaning and ridding the cottage of our winter muddle so it's ready for friends this summer. And watering, more watering and yet more watering. This was not the year to plant a hot border, a hundred meter hedge and over a dozen young trees.  Hose pipes snake across the field and filled watering cans sit ready to grab at the sight of a wilting tree or shrub.

Our huge underground water tank has been a bitter disappointment.  In eager anticipation, following serious discussions in our local brico on which pump, piping and attachments we would need, we opened the tank to find no more than a muddy puddle in the bottom.  All the captured rain of the last two winters has leaked through the concrete walls.  We did not realise - our builders should have lined the tank to keep it waterproof. So with much gnashing of teeth and frustrated swearing, yet more evenings have been spent dragging hose pipes and lugging heavy cans.

We left our house, spotless cottage, trees, freshly planted pots and shrubs and Vita in the care of Guccio (elderly sad-eyed Spinone - he who hates thunder storms) and his master (who promised faithfully to water) while we slipped away to Poland for a week.

I expected grey post-communism and found vibrancy and colour, beautiful old churches and historic, cafe-filled town centres.  We drove from nearly down south (Cracow) to nearly up north (Gdansk), sight-see-ed 'til we dropped, ate like lords on traditional Polish dishes, stayed in elegant hotels, window-shopped in modern shopping centres, had afternoon tea with mouthwatering Polish cheesecake and took our lives into our hands as we played "chicken" with oncoming motorists past convoys of lorries nose to tail on busy, pot-holed single carriageways, while wishing that the miles of motorway under construction alongside were already finished.

We came back late (after a long drive from the airport north of Paris) to the warm dark of the French countryside, filled with the sound of crickets and frogs, to thriving plants and a dog who barely said "where've you been?" before she rushed off again to find her best playmate. We sat on the veranda and gossiped into the night.

As Sinatra sings:  "It's oh so nice to go trav'ling, but it's so much nicer to come home."

Wroclaw town centre

Cracow roof tops

Cracow - Basilica of the Virgin Mary

Wawel Castle, Cracow - Ancient Seat of Polish Kings

Carving in rock salt by miners - Wieliczka mine

 Poznan Town Centre

Poznan Baroque Church

Gdansk - Baltic Agate

Gdansk Street Musicians

Gdansk Woodland

Cafe Nightlife

Gucio and the thunder storms 

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Nothing. Not a Drop

The météo promised a thunder storm yesterday. Little flashing symbols were shown on the chart for our area from about 11pm onwards.

Great, we need a good downpour.  I think it's rained twice in the whole month of April.

We had seen the promise of last night's rain on the graph for several days, so we thought it was a good moment (while things were still dry) to dislodge ourselves from the comfort of the cottage and move back into the house.  The First of May was spent trudging backwards and forwards with television, clothes, food, bedding, all our computer paraphernalia, bits of furniture.  Vita thought there was a danger we might forget to move her as well and so spent all day hurtling up and down the drive trying to make sure she was with us at all times.

As the day wore on we watched huge anvils of thunder clouds bank up on the horizon and congratulated ourselves on our prescience.  It would be a relief not to have to water, dragging hose pipes (probably strictly forbidden) across the field to water the hedge and the new trees and lugging watering can after watering can round the flower beds as I try to catch which shrubs are beginning to wilt. Most look remarkably healthy.  Amazing since the ground is rock hard and the only way any water gets through is via the cracks opening up in the clay.  Vita and Tod return with bone-dry feet from their early morning through-the-long-grass walks.

For the last two nights, we've had the faint rumbles of thunder and seen distant lightning flickering. Someone's getting the rain promised on the météo, but we've had nothing.  Not a drop!  So the water butt stays empty and I turn on the tap again.

We have a huge underground concrete tank down at the cottage holding two winters' rain water.  There is a small square concrete "lid" with two rusty hooks as handles and no means of getting the water out. Making use of the water has felt like a daunting task, but it's time to sort out pumps and hoses and connections. There's only "light rain" promised for this week and and no guarantee we'll actually get what's forecast.