As beautiful as it is, I have committed to a huge amount of work. As I clear the overgrown hedges, I find hundreds of shoots of three inch baby laurels, which will be coming out fast. I hate to discard them. I’m sure someone will be paying a garden centre handsomely for baby plants somewhere. I haven’t yet discovered Freecycle France or eBay. We are sufficiently remote not to get the internet, though I am really surprised that I can get a phone signal. Before I consign them to the bin I will ask Veronique if there is a local site I can advertise them on. More of the lovely Veronique later!
Now, I sit here under the veranda, looking out at the soft yellow stone walls of the tiny building (far too beautiful to be called a shed) that houses the oil tank. Interestingly, the gauge doesn’t work, so it will be a nut on a piece of string, the roof being far too low to allow a dipping stick access. The pan tiled roof is covered in moss and ancient stems of climbing roses that look very dead. Yet another job to tackle, but first I will have to borrow some secateurs.
I’m particularly annoyed with myself because, having, over the past few months been acquiring packets of seeds of blue, white and pink flowering plants, suitable for hot, dry gardens (this region is the second sunniest in France, after the Mediterranean coast) I have arrived to find they were not in the car. I had been carefully moving them around with me and can only think they went into one of the boxes I decided not to bring, by mistake. I have all the newly acquired seed trays, the compost, the name tags, but no seeds. SO annoying!
At the back of the tower garden, there is a patch of land, the size of a large swimming pool, bordered on one side by another honey coloured garden wall, a honey coloured house wall on the other and the church car park wall (honey coloured again) on the third. It would make a wonderful potager, but currently holds an enormous pile of dead branches (laurel again), a massively overgrown laurel hedge bordering the car park and three trees that have numerous trunks. More like massively overgrown bushes. They are all going to have to come out, but removing the roots will be a nightmare.
Yesterday we ventured forth, all of hundred metres, to the Mairie, where we introduced ourselves to the delightful Veronique, the secretary to this tiny village. In this immaculate little village of 198 souls – I suppose A and I bring it to over 200 - I was able to find information about all the local activities, was given a calendar of bin collection days and was able to sit at one of five desks and access the internet for several hours, had I had the time. It all feels so very civilised.
Veronique is the fount of all information. She even found me the number of the bike shop. The first time she had been asked for that, in all her years of working! Our newly elected mayor is the incumbent of our rather attractive chateau, whose entrance lies a couple of fields to the east. The chateau and the parkland have an ethereal quality that reminds me of Le Grand Meaulnes, a book I studied a million years ago at school in the north of England, where, looking out over the Pennines and towards Kinder Scout , the thought of owning a house in France didn’t even enter my subconscious.
As I look through and clear the borders. I find that there are many young laurels and baby boxes, overgrown buddleia bushes and in a couple of places, beech trees growing up through overgrown bushes. Grass cuttings and prunings have been piled up in various corners of the garden, which are going to be expensive to remove. Way too much to get in my car, unless I do hundreds of trips. Another question for Veronique; are we allowed bonfires? If so, do I do multiple fires, one in each garden, or do I have one? There are so many bushes and overhanging trees, many of which need pruning, I’m not sure there is a safe place to have a bonfire, and certainly not without ruining a (weed filled) patch of lawn. I need a French equivalent of Bonfire night!
We apparently have some English neighbours, but they are away, so I must bide my time. At some point in the future, we have two pantecnicans with two equally large trailers coming out with all our belongings. There are several pairs in that ensemble, so it is crazy to go out and buy more; better to wait.
I’ve also discovered that there is an English magazine, offering the services of all sorts of artisans, so moving to this area instead of my original choice in the Dordogne, which seemed like mini England, might not have led me to a less anglicised department. I love the British and, will without doubt be making friends with many of them – in fact, I’m looking forward to the return of my new neighbours, but I moved to France because I like the French – and the honey coloured stone – and the wine – and the food – and the climate. Though not necessarily in that order! Hopefully, though, one of the many listed people will be able to come to my help. I’ll know more after I see J tomorrow. She has been looking after the house in the owners absence and will, no doubt, be able to fill me in on how we clear the dead branches and the twenty bags of leaves to the local composting area….or who to get to help.
And thus ended my first week in France. Now, two years later, I know so much more, have tamed the garden and have met so many people… French and English… there are many tales to tell…