The weekend proved chilly, but not cold enough to stop work in the garden or visits to one of the local chateau open to the public.
It also hasn’t stopped the ancient cherry tree in the gite garden becoming a frothy mass of white blossom, which is in great contrast to the gnarled lichen covered trunks of the tree. These conveniently split into three at a perfect height for placing a blanket and sitting, or, as is the case at the moment, for A to stand upright in the crook, arm up-stretched in an attempt to get the internet. Asked if it’s a successful ploy, she answers ‘vaguely’. Teenagers…
Yesterday, Sunday, whilst working on the drive from the gates to the road, a tarmacked area about twenty five feet in length, bordered with small cypress trees, weeds and dead wisteria leaves four inches deep, a meeting took place on the village land on the opposite side of the road. Lots of animated talking, assessing of stone walls, picnic tables and neatly staked trees by ten or twelve people led me to think that this might be the equivalent of the parish council.
My morning task was to remove from the gates two pieces of woven plastic fabric, attached with hundreds of rusty metal plant ties. Presumably put there by the previous owners (well, the current owners at that time, in reality), and at a guess, to stop people looking in when the property was empty. They had been attached with a singularity of strength and with a certainty that neither wind nor deluge would remove them. With no tools, it took me two hours and left me with sore and painful fingers, but the end result was worth it. The metal gates are now in a state where they can be rubbed down and painted. The only downside is that the removal of the plastic flowers, also part of the gate decoration and a visual draw to the eye, reveals to the passer by quite how scruffy they are in their peeling state.
The highlight though, was that I met the charming former mayor, Michel, who told me that it had taken him four years to get permission to remove the collapsed buildings on the land opposite and turn them into the pleasant amenity space now facing the house – I didn’t like to mention that the car park would be perfect for guests at weddings, one of the plans for the profitability of the house. I’ll save that for a later meeting. Michel pointed out the place in the wall of the church where there used to be a door from the garden directly into the sacristy. Perhaps my original thought that there must be a tunnel between the two is too far-fetched... though there are ancient steps, now sealed up, from the house into the cellar. One to explore later, as there is now very solid shelving on the walls in the cellar and I’m not about to move that! Those will prove very useful when the pantecnicans arrive from England. The shelves won’t stay empty for long.
When the delightful Michel took his leave, I was interrupted in my work by two neighbours on a quad bike, who are weekenders, but who, I discovered, have three bloodhounds and two boxers, which might account for the occasional outburst of frenetic dog barking that can be heard. I discovered there is to be a training exercise in a couple of weeks for gendarmes who use bloodhounds to hunt escaped prisoners – it’s obviously not quite the backwater I thought it was! Sadly, not owning the house yet, I couldn’t agree to put them up, which I would have loved to do. However, I volunteered to help with the cooking for the meals, which are going to take place in what I think is a public barn on the village land. It might have been my imagination, but I think there was a certain reticence in the reply. Perhaps the French still think the English can’t cook. I’ll have to do something really good to prove otherwise!