Tuesday, 26 June 2012


At best, my gardening can be described as haphazard, with at least half a dozen projects on the go, none of them finished.

Creating a new border, I strim off the grass, throw in a few plants and expect them to fend for themselves.  Usually this is a dismal failure and I remember them a few weeks later to find they are swallowed in couch grass and bind weed.

Sounding like the Tories still blaming the previous government years into office, I am still blaming the cold in February and the rain in April for all my current failures as I struggle to bring my half-dozen projects back to some semblance of order.  Weeks back, before our friends arrived, I realised the cottage borders were a disaster; the bushes burnt and shrivelled, only slowly recovering and smothered in rampant weeds. So I filled pots with cheerful geraniums and hoped no-one would notice the borders.

Our friends now departed, reluctantly I headed back down to the cottage to try to do something with what I laughingly had called "the hot border", where last spring I'd dug out yet more builders rubble, scattered some summer bulbs around and hoped for the best.  I don't even remember if they flowered last year. I was too busy to notice, trying to keep the young trees and new hedge alive in the field with twice daily watering.

And there they were. In all their glory. A feast for the eyes. Did I really choose those colours? These last few days, despite the earlier weeks of cold and wet, the lilies have all burst into magnificent bloom, towering above the inconsequential weeds below.  Just sometimes haphazard gardening works. And it's such a wonderful surprise when it does.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Holiday in the Rain

Hours of cards and board games, Mexican dominoes and scrabble.

An afternoon's half-finished jigsaw left on the kitchen table for later, covered with a tablecloth while we have supper.

A walk snatched along the canal tow-path before the next downpour.

A stroll through Saturday's market and enticed by a plant for the garden, a sweet ripe melon, musky tomatoes. And fresh, tender French beans to be added to an evening's warming curry.

Visits to our local crêperie, where we relish the welcome of our hostess and the cosiness of the old colombage room. Outside in the courtyard - a place of delight on hot summer nights - the wind eddies and gusts.

A dash across the carpark at Buzet between showers to the wine warehouse full of noisy French tourists relishing the degustation, to buy a pretty bottle of wine - soft blue glass fading to clear - where the look of the bottle is more important than its contents.

A trip to Leclercs to buy a warm hoodie and luscious prunes dipped in dark chocolate.

The days slip by and we scan the météo, hoping for better news. Tomorrow our friends leave and for the first time in a week we are promised fine weather.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Builder Fatigue

How do they do it on Grand Designs?  One minute the place is a wreck and workmen are everywhere. The next, Kevin McCloud is walking up the path between manicured lawns and a door opens onto sunlight streaming through huge, polished windows, leather sofas, a new sound system and a pristine empty kitchen worktop.

Two years ago, we got as far as the place being a wreck, workmen everywhere, the furniture coming out of store and then that was it. Builder fatigue set in.  We could not face the sight of another van in the drive, another pile of tools in the hall, another "bonjour monsieur, dame" as heavy boots clumped along the veranda.

And the still to be done niggly small stuff that irritated us - like the naff blue plastic water pipe emerging from the smart tiles in our two new bathrooms and the loos not flushing quite properly - stayed just that, stuff still to be done.

It has taken us two years to recover from builder fatigue.  Finally, we have someone cheerfully doing "the snagging" and at long last the blue water pipe is hidden under smart conduit, the flush is "formidable", the lights that were never quite right have been changed, cracked bathroom tiles from settling walls have been replaced and we are even contemplating further work!

And the reason for the cheerfulness through the snagging process? We have a different builder. It's like doing someone else's washing up. So much more fun than doing one's own.

And who knows, maybe in five to ten years if Kevin should stroll up our path he would find that our "Grand Design" too is finally finished.

Grand Designs