Thursday, July 26, 2007

Weather Forecast

In town:
Close the curtains. Turn on the TV.
The weatherman (or –woman) will show you maps of Europe with lines and the arrows at which he/she will wave significantly. Totally irrelevant to whether you should go out with an overcoat or a brolly, but you just have to wade through it to get what you want.
Eventually your patience will be rewarded with a grit full of suns or clouds, with or without dotted stripes, and numbers.
Fortunately the weatherman (or –woman) will explain all the suns and the clouds and the numbers, so you know what to expect the next few days.
In case the weatherman (or –woman) is wrong: Off with his head, or to be more modern: Sue the company.

In the country:
Open the curtains and look up at the sky.
Assess the direction of the wind. To help you, plant a flag in your garden or on top of your house.
Tap on the barometer to see if the pressure is rising or falling. Rising: take a sunhat with you. Falling: umbrella or raincoat.
In case you are wrong: tough luck!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

General Assembly

of the 2CV Club Basse Normandie.

Obligatory means of transportation to the meeting: your 2CV.

Meeting from 11 to 12. Starting with introductions, lots of kissing and ending with drinks: crème de cassis and white wine, or water.

Followed by a luncheon, which lasted well into the afternoon.

We were French, in social class ranging from a vicomte, who tried to insult me, to a retired construction worker, who was well informed about European politics. More importantly, he owns the oldest vehicle, dating from 1953.

There was also a Japanese/Argentinean couple; a few crazy Englishmen, who thought the Hundred Years War hadn’t ended and had decided to settle not far from where they burnt Jeanne d’Arc at the stake; and us.

We sat on the little terrace of the president/secretary/treasurer of the club, who—with his Danish wife—had prepared the meal, and talked a lot about cars!

The next day it rained 23 mm!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Walk through the Woods

This walk takes a little under two hours.

When you have gone though the gate, shut it behind you to keep out the cows. Turn right. Immediately on your left you see the small cottage hugging the shoulder of the road. In an amiable way greet the couple who will undoubtedly emerge to see who is passing by. Have a short chat, but don’t become over sociable, for they have a tendency to stick their noses into all your affairs. In addition they are inclined to an overindulgence to alcoholic beverages.
Having shaken them off, follow the road up. Above the field with the tied-up goats you see a house. So does the dog, who will bark at the two dogs in the yard. They will run along the fence, and will sometimes slide under it to come closer, but they are harmless.
The house is inhabited by a truck driver who was once convicted for sexual abuse of children. After he had spent his time in jail his boss gave him back his old job. He lives alone with his animals. At night we sometimes hear opera coming from across the valley, or jazz. But we’ve never seen him.
At the end of the road turn right, cross the main road and take the trail into the woods on the left. At the next intersection turn left again. After you turn right where the path forks, you will come to the best chestnuts in the area. They are small, but they are full and without worms, so they are worth a forage.
Be careful, the track here gets muddy. Avoid the puddles by walking on the Left Bank. Watch out! The dog loves the pools and tends to rush through them in order to splash as much mucky water as he can.
When you’ve reached the road, turn left, cross over at the intersection, and when you’ve come to the main road again, take the road across, slightly to the right. Turn left into the tree-lined lane between the fields. Then right onto the rocky path that goes steeply down.
The small mansion you pass on the right is P’s dream home. Look at the vintage cars in the shed, peep through the windows. Although the house seems to be abandoned, you will still see a dirty glass on the kitchen table next to a half empty wine bottle. The palm tree in the living room is still standing, although the grass outside is high, and the weeds are everywhere.
The owner was long gone, leaving unpaid bills. But the other day he turned up at the tax office and paid all his debts. So gone are P’s dreams to buy the house.
Turn left at the T-crossing, and left again at the next one.
When you’ve reached the top of our road again, turn right into it.
After a friendly wave at the neighbours you deserve a nice cup of tea!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Papa Pomodori

M wrote this delicious recipe in our French cookbook, which she got from Jamie Oliver, I believe.
This is my variation:

Fry onions in olive oil, with garlic.
Add fresh or canned tomatoes and water.
Cook until done.
Add salt, pepper, basil or other herbs like tarragon or oregano.
Mix with the mini masher.
Stir in old bread.
Serve piping hot with crème fraîche.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Complete silence
reigns at night.
for an owl
in the distance.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Garden

I´ve never been a gardener. Gardens are lovely places to wander in, to admire, but digging earth never appealed to me.
Until now.
Here I´m turning into a proper middle aged lady, scoop in gloved, soiled hand, babbling about Lupines and fertiliser and sunny or shady borders. I´m becoming besotted with digging and planting and replanting, stealing seeds from flowers I like, asking friends for cuttings, foraging wherever plants are for sale.
The results are stimulating. I now have lavender and foxglove, hollyhocks, roses, phlox and daisies, dahlias, poppies, lilies, and the list goes on.
I´m beginning to create my own cottage garden to wander in and admire!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Laundry Day

After days of showers Friday woke us with sunshine. We quickly jumped out of bed and stripped it. An hour later the sheets were billowing in the wind.
A few years ago we bought antique linen sheets in a jumble sale. I sewed them together into a modern duvet cover. It is wonderful: crackling thick and slightly rough; comforting in winter; cool in summer, easily absorbing our night sweats.
We depend on the weather for a dryer, so we always need to choose our laundry days with care. The linen sheets are especially hell to dry.
The wind did the job and the sun bleached them.
In the evening we snuggled up into our new bed, fragrant with summer air.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Weather Report

28 mm rain since Sunday evening;
15° C;
Barometer 763 mm, and rising ever so slightly.
A steady drizzle at this moment.

We'll light a fire and read another book.
Fourth game of scrabble.

Monday, July 09, 2007


The train is full, bursting at the seams with piles of luggage and holidaymakers pushing their way to their reserved seats. Smart Parisians who have rented a cottage for the summer on the fashionable coast, foreigners visiting friends who own a house in the country and do not care about fashionable: it is the simple, unspoilt land that attracts them.
In Lisieux about half the train disembarks. The Parisians drag their enormous suitcases across the platform where the local to Dauville is waiting. All the others are met by frantically waving relatives, who have already arrived, who have already put on their shorts and funny sunhats, who have already shaken off the hustle of city life and look relaxed, décontracté, the business of contracts and appointments shed.
We are picked up by Bernard, our farmer friend, who looks odd among these people, with his plaid cap shading his rugged face, his gnarled hands thrust in the pockets of his neat Sunday pants. The dog Tazi has spotted him long after we have, but is the first to greet him, jumping up against him.
In the car home we hear the main news. How the family is doing, which shops have changed hands, that the summer has never been this wet. That is a real concern. The farmers cannot reap the corn, or bring in the hay. They will need at least three weeks of dry, sunny weather.
Although Bernard retired a few years ago, these things naturally still worry him. It puts our city worries in perspective.
At the house the grass has grown ankle high and the weeds have had a field day. But the hollyhocks are in full bloom against the half-timbered walls, and the sun is shining on the terrace. We open the shutters and make a pot of tea.
We are home.