As I coast up the shallow slopes of dreamworld the unmistakable sound of tractors passing the house seeps into my consciousness. The oystermen are on their way to work. As a large sign on the outskirts to the port informs the visitor, St Vaast La Hougue is ‘Le berceau de l’Huitre Normande’ – the cradle of the Normandy oyster. Here it all started and much has been written about it although a quick search on the Internet has drawn a blank for an informative site, but I will continue to look for a suitable site link. It is a matter of pleasure to me that I can enjoy the friendly sound of a tractor, with its connotations of agriculture and productivity, except in this case, aquaculture of oysters and to a lesser extent mussels, in the waters off St Vaast and Utah Beach to the south.
Before I went outside I needed to draft a reply to a fellow CS Council member about the disposal of shell collections with scientific value. I laboriously pasted my replies into his document, amended the name of the file, then clicked Save, realising just too late that I had saved to a Temporary Internet folder. Could I find the document? Word disclaimed all knowledge and even though I could see the file sitting in a folder with some rubbish name, when I attempted to resave the original file just so I could get a look at the contents of that folder, I could not access it as I could find no way into the hierarchy of folders leading me to the target…… Until Nick came in and after our customary shouting match over troubleshooting incidents such as this, he clicked something and up popped the document. But the time it took………. I could have retyped it over more than once in the time, but in your mind you know you will never find the same words again!
Lunch was brief and aimed at sustaining rather than putting us to sleep. I grizzled a few scallops in some garlic and ginger then popped them in the bizzed up courtbouillon vegetables and seabass stock, with a dollop of creamy naughtiness and away we go – yet another incarnation of fish soup. Scallops (both in their shell and imported shucked ones) are easy to buy here and not expensive. There is a big fishery for them out of St Vaast.
The rest of the day was devoted to the garden with more seed-sowing, planting out my mother’s two blueberry bushes to join their fellows, and weeding. Late in the afternoon Marie-Christine popped in, having seen Nick working in the garage. I am informed that he is ‘courageux’ and that’s as maybe. He certainly is courageous but the adjective also means ‘spirited’ and ‘hardworking’………. so all of the above. By now he has refixed the cupboards in his evolving workshop and can start to decant tools and equipment from the old one. When M-C sees me in my scarecrow garb and fly-away hair she tells me I am courageuse too so, again, all of the above I’d like to think.
I know Nick will stay in the workshop until the last minute so supper is easily prepared and can wait. I am tired and could do with a bath but haven’t time, so pretend I’ve had one and change my clothes and feel revived. Is this why there are uniforms for certain professions? To put you in the mood, and make you feel proper?
Half way through supper Francois calls to book a pool session. Daniel has already booked in, so some time after 9 the men retire to the top floor and soon I hear all that rowdiness spiralling down the stairs. I am left to clear up and draft up some blog. I don’t even look at the blank TV screen in the salon-sejour. Well done me.
When Nick draws the curtains in the morning and places a mug of tea beside me, bless him, I see that it can be another day in the garden. I allow myself half an hour with one of Edith Wharton’s New York Short Stories whilst Nick talks to his sister Jenny on the phone. We breakfast on baguette and Tiptree marmalade which is a marriage made in heaven. We are out of butter so Nick makes do with some unpasteurised clotted cream.
I’ve finished sowing seeds for the time being, so most of the day was taken up with weeding and pruning. Hydrangea, Fuchsia and woody Salvias have now been cut back and shaped. One of the latter is a variety called Salvia microphylla Hot Lips. Whoever named it had a sense of humour: it has white and red bicoloured flowers with red lips. I bought this plant at Hampton Court Flower show 2 years ago when I was a guest of Eileen Hunter. As it happens she and her husband are due to arrive on Saturday for a long weekend. Eileen is a gas, we should have a lot of fun.
In the process of cutting back and yanking out weeds I discovered the Phlomis plant which Charles Evans gave us. I’d forgotten it was there, also the Lily of the Valley which I ended up digging up and dividing into pots. I have found Lily of the Valley difficult to establish, but then again it won’t help to keep digging it up and moving it around. My ruthless cutting back of shrubs and removal of the numerous plants of Arum italicum that have set themselves rewarded me with the offer of space to plant out some hollyhocks I have had waiting in the wings.
By the end of the afternoon I was ready for a change of scene and decided to give 30 minutes to the treadmill. Half way into my session Nick knocked at the door and told me he had brought 2 visitors………… ‘What!! Now?!** It is Claire and Ty from over the road who are down from Paris for a site meeting with their architect. They are curious to see the gym and bathroom. Again I am caught unawares with fly-away hair and a red face so I must just be courageuse! After they have gone I finish the film I was watching, have a quick shower and cobble some supper.
A year ago I bought 25 metres of curtain material for the windows of the salon sejour. At very long last I find the moment is right to lay the fabric out and, with Nick’s help, measure out 8 lengths of 282 cm, allowing for the pattern repeat of 55 cm. It is a bit nerve-wracking but after checking and triple-checking my maths, and aligning the pattern I manage to cut the lengths and mark the tops of each pair with different colour threads. The relief is so good I feel the curtains are as good as made!
Nick phoned Barney this evening and they had a good chat, Nick then went out to the workshop to do a bit more tidying up before turning in. He needs to get up at 6.30 tomorrow morning to go fishing with Francois. For a shortish fishing trip they don’t usually bother with food but they will be out for up to 10 hours so some sustenance will be necessary. I have defrosted a pack of Waitrose Cumberland sausages to grill. Before I go to bed I grill them and manage not to eat one.