The best fish soup for a cold day

Updated: May 14

Having gone to bed relatively early after our thirteen hour journey across the channel and down the west side of France, we were up at sparrows and by nine thirty were deep into digging out the compost heap that has accumulated in the main part of the garden, opposite the house, since the owners left five years ago. An eyesore and not something I want the guests or myself to face, we started digging it out and bagging it into refuse sacks. I had hoped that I would be able to spread it out over the borders, but the leaves were dry and un-rotted and it was full of branches and twigs, so to the tip it is going!

Having been warned about the possibility of the various snakes we might encounter, we were heavily shod, me in my 3 euro wellies from Emmaus and C in heavy army type boots. A cold and rainy day, I kept persuading C and myself that it was better to be doing hard digging under grey skies as it was cooler, but I would have loved to have the warmth of the sun. We continued when it started to rain, a dank, cold steady but slow drizzle, but fortunately we were protected for the most part by the overhanging trees. Eighteen bags later, we went in and warmed ourselves with poison soup, as it’s known in the family.

My family recipe fish soup - delicious!

A secret recipe, passed onto my by my now sadly departed uncle, the soup consists of emptying a packet of poisson fish soup powder into cold water, adding fish and black pepper, cream if you have it and even better, a mixture of seafood. It is the most wonderful soup you can imagine and the taste implies the chef has been slaving over a hot stove all day! I cannot understand why it isn’t available in every supermarket in England! A hates fish, so I am unable to do anything fishy when she is here. When we have visitors who love any type of seafood, I am in seventh heaven as I can indulge in all the things I love and she doesn’t.

Suitably centrally heated, C took to revision for the test in grammar he was taking the next day and I headed back out to the garden, where I cleared the border by the church of as much debris as I could alone, dragging out large branches that had been cut down and left hiding behind all the bushes. It soon transpired that the renovations to the church that had been recently undertaken had resulted in a large part of the unwanted masonry being deposited in my garden to be! Something to take up with the mayor and not something I was in a position to tackle alone. The removal of large chunks of masonry and an even larger tree trunk needed reinforcements on my part and so I headed for the huge laurel by the side of the house and dragged more dead wood from out of the back of that.

The septic tank is behind the laurel and I trod very carefully. I have no idea how old it is, or how far beneath the surface the top of the tank is, but I had no desire to find out, especially as I was working alone and would no doubt suffer a very horrible and stinky death if it collapsed. By now the rain was quite constant and I was cold and wet and, having done as much wood clearing as I could there, I decided to adjourn to the veranda and build the new greenhouse under cover. I’d seen them for sale earlier in the year for £50 and debated buying one then but had balked at the cost, when there was so much else to buy. But on this buying trip, when I was purchasing the gardening equipment at our local discount store with the help of the manager as I needed so much stuff, the last greenhouse they had in the shop was reduced to £29.99, so I snapped it up fast!

A home for these babies at last!

The box had been opened and re-sealed, so I was taking a chance on all the bits being in it. I tipped out all the contents and realised that the instructions were missing. I was wet and cold and feeling marginally miserable as the day was so cold and grey, but I was determined to press on as the recently compiled list of jobs to do in the garden runs to two pages. There were hundreds of parts, but I decided to be logical and follow the photograph and managed to put almost all of it together. I felt I was doing a brain training exercise as I worked through, joining all the poles with the correct plastic connectors. There were many different options to choose from and here it felt as if I was in a virtual reality training exercise. Starting with the roof, I worked along until I had completed one side, including the inbuilt table, then began the second long side. Fortified with a lovely cup of warm tea, I finally came to putting the heavy plastic cover over the frame. Unfolding it, the instructions floated out gently across the veranda floor and settled on the terracotta tiles. After the initial feeling of annoyance, a wave of satisfaction washed over me. I had worked it out on my own, and succeeded! I did though have slight cause for concern as I was constantly aware, during the construction process, that I was talking out loud as I discussed with myself each stage of the construction. Hey ho, madness descends!

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