Oh Deer, Deer, Deer

During our last stay in France we were blessed with fine weather, back at home it rained.  The neighbour who was going to water my pots was excused this chore and I had expected to see developments of a colourful nature.  At the very least some flowers on the Godetia plants from Rollo, the first flush of Morning Glory flowers and some of my July-flowering perennials.

Glass of wine in hand I took a turn round the terraces and lawn.  It was all too evident that the Roe Deer that live in the woods backing our garden had been dining at our expense.  Nibbling has been widespread, just the leading shoots of plants are taken, like the Toad Lily, and flower buds just before they open – day lilies, campanula, michaelmas daisy.  The rose which is tucked in the narrow border running along the wrought iron railings by the pond, our only rose in the English garden,  has not escaped attention.   But I’m pleased to see that the Gladioli have been left alone.  The garden is verdant enough but distinctly lacking in colour.

I’m put out and come indoors resolving that it will be the steps inside and out, and the deer which drive us away from 88.  It is not as if we have not attempted to restrict access to the garden.  We put up a deer fence a couple of years ago but it does not run down our boundaries with neighbours and despite the yew hedges planted by Andy nine years ago, the deer slip through between bushes.  We have also tried an electric fence but it is not a deterrent.

The woodland area of our garden has been neglected for a couple of seasons and the bark paths are thick with weeds, the fernery at the very top is smothered with greater stitchwort, violet, hedge woundwort, bramble, sorrel….  I take the collapsible round green weedbag to the top of the garden and some hand-tools.  As I reach the top of the stone steps, under the great oak,  there is a rustling and a small red-brown animal zips through the laurel hedge into the next garden.  Not Muntjac as well I think!  Gloom….  I peer down onto the lawn in time to see a female Roe Deer leap our hedge and disappear in the same direction.

I set to work on my knees, it is satisfying but hard labour.   After about an hour I hear rustling and cracking of twigs near  the compost bins.  Peering into the corner I see a young Roe Deer which is now panicking as I draw near.  It struggles to get through the wire mesh of the deer fence and I fear its head will become stuck.  I’d like a photo and capture something.  I think the best thing will be to go out of the gate into the wood and approach the fence so the deer will bolt.  It sees its moment and vanishes down the steps.  What I took to be a Muntjac earlier was clearly the twin of the fawnI have just seen.

During successive days I see at least two female deer with twins.  They are there very early in the morning but may come back to the garden early afternoon.  On one occasion, a good few years ago, we found a pair of very small fawns curled up in the long grass at the top level.  We now know that the mother had left her offspring briefly in order to browse.   But at the time we thought they were abandoned.  Fortunately we left well alone.

I put in two days of garden clearance in our woodland garden.  At the end there is a lot to show for it and I am dog tired.  As I take bag after bag of weeds and cut foliage up to the waste heap we are growing in the woods, I notice that there are hazel nuts on the ground.  These are the nuts which are empty and would not ripen.  We gathered some one year kept them until they were nicely brown and cracked them open…..  Zilch!

It’s only mid-July and there are nuts on the ground.  Some of the flowers I had looked forward to enjoying will not be entertaining me this year.  The Gladioli I saw upon my return have now been munched.  Will we still be in this house when they come round again?  The jury is out.

Bocketts Workout

It was time to top up my Teddy-pot.  Charlotte and I met him from nursery on Friday after he’d had his lunch and just in time to stop him stripping down for his afternoon nap.  Well trained!  We bundled ourselves into the car and headed for Bocketts Farm which is near Leatherhead.  It is a working family farm with wonderful play areas.  The website tells all.  The pictures and slide show below tell our story of the outing.

Fast Food for Thrushes

With the exception of the occasional shower, Mum’s visit has been graced with fine weather: sunshine with moderate temperatures.  We have eaten virtually every meal at the round table on the terrace.  The awning has rendered good service by protecting us from early morning or late afternoon sun and light showers.  The table has also served us well in that Mum and I have used it to tidy up potted plants, prepare food for meals, sit with a drink and watch the birds feed from the fat ball and the blue plastic box of seeds on the low wall.

This latter receptacle of bird food has given us much amusement because the birds tend to stand inside the box and peck at the contents, periodically lifting their heads to check that the coast is clear.  Our French garden avian fauna is different from the species we watch in England, where our most frequent visitors are tits, nuthatches, robins, magpies, jays ……… squirrels.  Mum and I have seen a charm of finch species (Green, Chaf-, Bull) and house sparrows.

We also have Thrushes in our French garden.  Nick had noticed that they use the paving slab between the two narrow beds adjacent to the gravels by the back gate as an anvil.   Ever anxious to encourage garden birdlife, Nick has taken to rounding up garden snails………… and precracking them!……….. to lay out as offerings.  If only there were a mutation of thrushes waiting in the wings, to make good inroads into our garden snail population.  (I initially typed ‘regiment’ of thrushes then thought to check for a collective noun. I love collective nouns.)

Of the 6 sunflower seeds I set, three germinated.  One fell when snails undermined the central stem, another is weedy.  We have one fine flowerhead which I hope will ripen sufficiently well that we can harvest it and offer it as a platter for our birds later in the year.

In the same flowerbed my two Echium are now huge and I am left wondering if they will flower this year.  As similar plants (I think the same species since they are multi-stemmed) were in flower back in late April on Tatihou I wonder if mine are going to keep me guessing another year.

Before Mum and I leave St Vaast I pop over the road to see my friend Anne.  Currently housebound, it’s really good to see her and I take over a pot of smoked mackerel pate.  She is busy making new blinds for the windows of their long road frontage.  But she has some good news in that they have recently secured the services of a gardener who they would recommend.  Since one of our great frustrations is that we find ourselves working flat out in the last days of a spell French-side to get the garden sitting pretty – only to return in a month to the threshold of wilderness – a young man to support our horticultural labours would be ticketty-boo.

Before we leave France I take a photo of Mum standing next to the Fuchsia and Hydrangea she has lovingly pruned of dead foliage.  Before I left England I arranged with a neighbour for some watering of pots in dry weather.  I gather it has been rather wet so she has been relieved of the task and I’m expecting to go back and find things looking verdant and a bit colourful.

The Dressing-Gown Grannies go out to Lunch

On Sunday Dan, Ems and the girls need to leave the house by 9.30a.m. to give them a comfortable journey along the north coast in order to connect with their train to pass through the Chunnel.  Emma has been up way before Dan and has pretty much done all the work.  Dan trickles down in due course and has his own agenda of important things to do before departure.  Not least he must road test his Batpod on the treadmill to identify its maximum speed per hour, and ideally make a short video.

Mum and I are up and about and can be useful, so we delay our morning toilette until the young family are on their way.  We wave them off in our dressing-gowns.  We can have a leisurely morning because we are going out to lunch at Au Moyne de Saire.  The restaurant is full and all the patrons are French including a scattering of small canines who have obviously been trained to keep a low profile under their owner’s tables, and wait for titbits.  Fortunately for them they are all low-slung dogs!

The chef has been trained in Paris and offers a traditional Norman cuisine.  Mum chooses a Marmite de Pecheur which is a trio of fishes in a delicate pink, creamy sauce served in a shallow casserole dish (which is what a ‘marmite’ is) and which she loves.  I have a steak perfectly cooked.  Nick spots Aiglefin on the menu and is curious to know what species of fish it is, so he chooses it, and it turns out to be Halibut.

Once back at the house there is only one sensible thing to do and we all do it, waking for tea and biscuits which we can have in the late afternoon sunshine on the terrace.  We are just putting a bit of salad together mid-evening when I realise we haven’t seen the cat all day.

He tends to disappear at the sound of childish voices, as a big soppy Tabby can only handle just so much loving.  Lola loves to ‘soft’ Rooney whilst Ruby investigates his feline facial features.  They would love a pet and word on the street is that there is a campaign being waged around the acquisition of a puppy dog!

“Rooney…..Rooney-Biscuits…!” brings a stripy vision of lumbering fur from beneath the Mimosa.  He often hunkers down underneath the lowest branches with their ferny foliage which sweeps the grass.  His camouflage is perfect.

And talking of cats, on Monday the Circus comes to town……….. again.  We are all pottering about in the garden when we hear the sound of the horns belonging to VERY LARGE vehicles in the distance.  In France any kind of vehicular convoy (with the obvious exception of a funeral cortege!) elicits sustained blaring of horns to express triumphal or joyful sentiments of “Here we come”, “Get a load of us”.  Hardly a weekend goes by without a stream of wedding cars passing by the house with much tooting of horns.  We get it on the way to the registry office, on the way to the church, on the way to the reception, on the way home.  Every time they pass our house.

This time the circus train, which consists of pantechnicons some of which are hauling two similar-sized covered trailers, is accompanied by a loud commentary over a loud-hailer.  It’s sing-songy, nasal French and not easy to decipher but the message is clear “Roll up, roll up to see clowns, llamas, lions…” and indeed a trailer with open sides covered in large gauge mesh and carrying two male lions passes a few feet away from our front gate.

Nick went fishing and caught a lot of mackerel.  He was hoping for larger fish but they were not biting today.  No matter, this catch is the first of the season when mackerel are so plentiful.  You will go on catching them as long as you dangle a rod over the side of the boat.  Nick has brought home about 60 so I grill a few for supper, souse some and smoke most. You cannot waste such bounty.

Francois is at our house when we set up the steel box fish smoker on a fire on the barbecue.  Aware of an audience, I am rather cavalier about quantities of oak dust/shavings and the length of time they will require.  Sometimes bravado kicks in and you hope for the best.  As it happens when I open the box, the smoked mackerel are a lovely deep golden colour, cooked but still very moist and pronounced delicious by all, including Francois who drops by the following day to gift us some of the eggs he has been given by a patient.  He would like the recipe…………. Recipe?!

Mum has not long gone to bed and I am esconced in my office communing with Dot on Facebook when I hear Nick calling me, and the relentless sound of distant drums.  A front gate spectator for the second time that day, as the drumming gets louder, I see a glow of coloured light approaching the crossroads just to our left.  A phalanx of pedestrians hoves into view, people of the town, some in fancy dress, and processes carnival-style across the road and continues alongside our house towards the college grounds behind the fire station.  (We really do live in the thick of it!)

There is a banner which I read fleetingly and it announces (loosely translated) that this is the St Vaast Caribbean Association.  Certainly the timbre of the drums speaks of that culture.  (Too late as I click away on my digital, do I realise that I have quite the wrong setting for night photography!)  Tant pis, I’ll post the pictures anyway because they have captured the eerie atmosphere.

Adults and children, babies in buggies, and a sea of coloured paper lanterns on sticks aloft, we conclude that given the hour, close to midnight, this is an opening event for the local celebrations for Bastille Day.

Don’t Worry, don’t Hurry and don’t Forget to Smell the Flowers

We’re back in French mode.  Mum is with us and Dan, Ems and Lola are waiting to greet our arrival.  Lola is thrilled to show us the little house, with astronauts in residence, that she has made with grown-up Lego.  Dan is thrilled to show us his fully functional Batpod with working suspension that he has made with grown-up Lego.  My how the years have evaporated!

After supper Mum is installed in her room on the top floor.  Lola is still sleeping in the mauve princess bedroom with the mosquito net which serves brilliantly as a coronet arrangement to hang round the little Ikea metal day bed she sleeps in.  So Mum has the room with my favourite floral bed linen.  She has everything she needs up there, and I decide to sleep on the top floor to keep her company.

On Saturday the house is very awake by the time I surface.  Mum gets tea and tartines on a breakfast tray.  La tartine is the French word for a slice of bread and butter, a suitable word for the English to adopt I’d say.   She gets hers with some of my homemade rhubarb and ginger jam.  This has proved very popular and it’s easy to make.  The Hackneys are keen to have a jar to take home.

There will be a market expedition during the morning but first I have to take two chairs that need recaning to an artisan caner who has a pitch in the market where you can drop off, and collect the following Saturday, chairs that he reseats either in cane or rush.  These two chairs go back a long way, to my Great Aunt Jessie, who had a full 8-piece Art Deco bedroom suite.  Mum has some of the pieces in her room at Chestnuts but the other bits are going elsewhere in the family and perhaps some day all 8 items will be reunited.

I drive in and the town is chocolate block with traffic and parked vehicles.  There are a number of festivals taking place this weekend, the Festival du Livre de Mer et d’Aventure for a start.  I went to this the first summer we were here and really enjoyed it.  Unlike most Book Fairs in England, where you can expect to buy a huge range of books old, new, second-hand, this event hosts about 60 regional writers, ten exhibitors, book signings, round tables, films, exhibitions …. all against the backdrop of the Fort de la Hougue which was renovated in the 17th C by Vauban.  

Luckily I find somewhere to park by the church to drop the chairs off but am not so lucky when I try, a bit later, to drive Mum to a convenient spot to leave the car and slip through into the market.  But we manage and eventually meet up with Dan and Co.  Because Lola has dropped the piece of spring roll sample she was given to taste, we end up buying some of each kind from the stall selling Chinese food and which we take back to the house.

Dan has bought some mackerel which he is going to cook for ‘lunch’ later.  So we sit down and have a spring roll tasting – would you believe the French call them ‘rouleaux de printemps’?!  It’s about 1.30 and with a glass of white wine and the prawn crackers which were thrown in with the rolls, I count this as meal number 3.  Mum and I have already had our breakfast tartines, followed an hour or so later by a Spanish omelette cooked by Dan.  You just go with the flow…………..

The afternoon is taken up with pottery stuff, Lola mows the lawn with Nick.  Ruby, we are told, has spent much of the holiday playing with the little toy mower.  It has a rather piercing clicking sound as it rolls along and I think this noise must be very satisfactory to young ears.  Ruby escorts Great Granny round the garden to inspect the flowers.

Somewhere about 4-ish Dan cooks lunch: mackerel with rosemary and lemon from the garden.  We eat these with a bit of salad and the girls have tea-time pasta.  We try to keep this meal light as Dan and Emma are going to Le Cabestan for supper on their last evening here, and I have defrosted some crab claws for a little plate of risotto.  After her bath Lola is allowed to come downstairs for a story or two.  She is hungry so snacks on bread and wild strawberry jam (bought in the market earlier in the day).  Nick, Mum and I eat our risotto with a few of our own mange-touts.  Dan and Emma are not back late.

None of us intends to make it a late night but I make the fatal error of reading my emails and pick up a message from Bas which requires answers.  I am just too dog tired to craft an email so I pick up the phone. An hour later I come out of the office to find the house in darkness.  I tiptoe to bed.

Do I love Rollo enough to give her my last Rolo?

I’ve just been to Dorset and back.  This was my destination for Sunday, but more than that, I think we might end up transferring our English home to this county.

I went there on egg – a boiled one, then left Nick to run his bath and prepare for a day with JACS.  It’s a good 2 hour drive to the village where my friend Rosemary lives.  We met when I transferred to the Green School in Dorchester to complete my sixth form schooling, because my father was transferred from Whitehall to Portland Naval Base.  She and I then trained as bilingual secretaries at a college in Weymouth.  We moved to London and got ourselves jobs.

More than 40 years later we are still good friends and I think I am one of few people who still use her youthful nickname.  For many of those years we did not meet – when our families were growing up and we were making our respective ways in the world.  But one of the bonuses of retirement is that opportunities to spend time with friends are more plentiful.  So it is that she and I have slipped back into our old routine and it feels just the same.  We are different in many ways, some might feel an unlikely pair to be such kindred spirits, but we are both Aquarians and if there is anything in astrology – which, in truth, I doubt – it might by that our star sign, as well as our shared history, unites us.

Arriving at the cottage I find Rollo’s sister Dorothy is visiting.  She has come to talk moving house, and what she might wear to Katharine’s wedding in September.  As the mother of the bride Rollo already has her outfit although she needs to buy the hat.  Rollo has a collection of outfits she has worn to various events: garden parties, school open days, weddings.  So we go upstairs and Rollo brings out a succession of floral wonders which she wafts before our eyes.  Cue – trying on session.

Dorothy is matched with a pretty Laura Ashley dress in muted blue and beige.  It is a simple style with short sleeves and which fits her figure well, but the hat to go with this outfit is a star – the colours are perfect and it has panache – it will sweep into a room taking its companion with it.  There is one dress whose fabric is a summer flower garden.  This is a Frank Usher dress in search of a party.  I’m allowed to borrow it.  In return I promise to try and hunt down a hat for Rollo in a shop I know.

After a salad lunch we linger at the table until Carolyn, with whom we went to Tenerife for a bridge week in February, arrives.  We gravitate outside and help Rollo weed and tidy up an area of her garden.  I pull out long clumps of couch grass and other tall weeds, Carolyn clips the pinks.

Terry has offered to drive us up to the cliffs via a track which runs south of West Chaldon.  He calls in on the farmer whose land we must cross to collect a key to the gate through which we can pass out onto the upper slope of the cliffs.  Here we can look down to the Chalk headland which is Bat’s Head.  Beyond this to the east lie Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Worbarrow Bay, Broad  Bench and Kimmeridge Bay.   This is as far as Ro and I got on our coastal path walk in 2008.  If we are to pick up where we left off almost exactly a year ago we reckon to have 3 days walking from Kimmeridge to get to the place we are standing at this moment.

A year ago I slipped on the loose scree of a gentle slope and fractured my left wrist.  Mid-way between Chapman’s Pool and Kimmeridge we then had to walk to the point at which a I could rendez-vous with an ambulance.  We have now bought ourselves walking poles but have been procrastinating about resuming our coastal walk.  Perhaps Terry wants us to see what we need to do.

This particular stretch of the Coastal Path will be taxing because we can now see for ourselves what the map shows only too clearly –  close contours which indicate steep inclines and dips to negotiate.  As we look down to the most seaward of the track options for a coastal walk, coming down from Bat’s Head, we comment on the fact that this day is a perfect walking day, sunny but with a gorgeous breeze.  Ro and I agree that we have missed a trick.

We all walk west for a while, towards the coastguard cottages at White Nothe.  These cottages are isolated, remote and are not supported by mains electricity.  We can hear a generator running nearby.   Terry spots an adder sunning itself at the side of the path.  He then investigates the signposted Smugglers’ Path which zigzags down the cliff.  You can get to the beach at this point.  By now it is 6 o’clock so we make our way back to our vehicle.  This short taster might just have whetted our appetite for the Dorset Coastal Path.

Carolyn and I catch up over a glass of wine and I check out my photos, Ro gets a Lasagne in the oven.  Whilst we are eating this Terry’s brother and sister-in-law stop by.  Although I have put a marker down that I am not in a bridge mood, we end up playing a few light-hearted and ‘open hand’ games.  There is much laughter.

On Monday Rollo and I do a bit more weeding during which Christine (the other member of the Tenerife Four) calls by to apologise for forgetting the soiree.  She has a gorgeous 18-week old Jack Russell called Bertie in tow.  Ro conjures up a sandwich lunch then it is time for me to leave for my afternoon appointment.  I am kept for three hours after which I drive home.  My mantra is Good Drivers Just Drive!

A Tale of Two Murphies

After a four week absence it is difficult to know where to look first in the garden.  We can immediately see that the grass is clover-ridden and lushly, greenly too long, and there are monstrous weeds to be pulled.  We walk down through the garden taking in the state of the borders on either side.  As I pass the Mimosa tree I can see ahead to a lovely stand of frilly, brightly coloured poppies beneath the Yucca in the bed bordering the gravel.  The seedlings were set, equispaced, to form an under-storey of plants whose form will complement the young palm tree.  I think it works although I’m not sure Lis, who arrives a couple of days later agrees!  It might just be a bit too regimented for what she describes as our cottage garden.

The Echium are enormous and now provide entertainment in the guise of some very hungry caterpillars who have been munching their way along the leaves, growing fatter each day and they will eventually pupate under a gauzy silk web which causes the leaves to roll and brings the edges of the leaf together.  Checking on the web I conclude they are Painted Lady caterpillars – Echium is given as one of the host plants for the larvae and we had a flutter-by of these butterflies back in May.

It’s good to see the white rambling rose, Long John Silver, which I planted in November is in flower.  The roses smell like very expensive face cream.  Also the Brodea which Andrew Tompsett planted beneath the trees are also in flower now.  What joy to see that we have a crop of mange-tout and another of broad beans.  They have grown amazingly.  There are still strawberries to pick and more to come despite the regular harvesting that Daniel and Valentine have carried out.  There are artichokes ready to cut and more waiting in the wings.  It looks as if we will have a fair number of figs – and most amazing to us, the olive tree is in flower.

Despite the fact that we are tired after a poor night’s sleep and the drive from Caen we set to.  I go for maximum impact in the shortest possible time so pull all the very large weeds, and any that may seed at any moment.  I also pull some spent foxgloves and stake up tall plants.  In the course of my weeding activities I find two flower spikes of a Broom-Rape (Orobanche), a genus of parasitic herbaceous plants which, having no chlorophyll of their own, are dependent on other plants for their nutrients.  Their seeds can lie dormant in the soil for many years until compounds put out by potential host plants trigger the broomrapes to put out root-like growths that attach to the nearby host.  Rose Murphy, my botanist friend who lives at Reskadinnick, tells me that my flowers are probably Orobanche minor which has numerous known host species.

Nick fixes the mower he has brought over.  This turns out to be a bit of a prize.  It was discarded by a neighbour because it was continually running rich and he’d already tried having it repaired, unsuccessfully.  Nick googled the problem and found a soul who’d identified that the gremlin was being caused by a dodgy gasket.  Nick bought and installed the new gasket and hey presto.  It’s a hover vacuum mower and will happily cut long, wet grass and get rid of the long stems of coarse grass that are left by a conventional mower.  He then mowed the lawn.

I need to rationalise pots: remove spent and dead plants, plant out contents or repot others.  Lots of watering is required although this has not been the principal problem for the garden.  Nick moves on to the gravel-weeding task.  His leg is still giving him stick in that it swells up rapidly after he has been on his feet for a while.  Elevation brings about rapid relief but how much can you achieve in a garden like that?  He finds a solution, bringing into service the small trolley we use for transporting heavy items around.  Seated on the trolley he manages to shuffle around and painstakingly weed the gravels.  He reminds me of the street character in the Eddie Murphy film, Trading Places.

The stalls in the market on Saturday are laid out with the freshest looking produce.  Bunches of carrots, turnips, radishes with unwilted leaves, huge beefsteak tomatoes for 1 Euro 50 a kilo, deliciously small Charlotte and Cherie new potatoes, and cherries…….

I now have a quartet of cheeses I buy when we have visitors:  Fourme d’Ambert, Tomme de Savoie, Reo Camembert, some sort of Goat.  Then I buy 2 dozen oysters for lunch.  I might have staggered this back to the house if I had not seen a large potted red verbena.  It is a mature plant in need of feeding and repotting but it will be just the ticket as a summer centrepiece for the round table on the terrace.  Nick gives me a lift home.

We toil in the garden right up to the moment Lis and John arrive at about 5 p.m on Sunday.  Then it is tea in the garden and a grand catch-up of news.  They have been on holiday in Brittany with Piers, Nia and Nia’s widowed father.  They will be with us till Tuesday morning so we spend the next day and a half in low-key mode.  Lis is willing to accompany her brother in the gravel-weeding exercise, John has a novel to read in the sunshine.  Lis is less happy when we go for a spin round Tatihou on Nick’s boat.  She is not a water baby and is glad to step back onto dry land.

We are treated to supper at the Debarcadere on Monday evening.  We have been kept guessing as to when Dan and family will actually arrive.  They have brought their arrival in St Vaast forward a few days after illness knocked out their plans for a weekend at Inshriach.  Nick and I wake up on Tuesday morning expecting them at 2 that afternoon.  At 10 a.m. I get a text to say they are making good time after their trip through the tunnel and along the north coast.  They expect to be with us in just over an hour……………..

Toodle Pip Penzance……..Ca va, Saint Vaast?

So our three night break in Cornwall was pronounced one of my better ideas and much enjoyed by us both.  It’s not quite such a long schlep to the Land’s End Peninsula as it was in the days when we drove a cartload of monkeys down for their two-week summer holiday.  Much of the A30 is now dual carriageway but we needed to stop every 45 minutes or so to enable Nick’s leg to get some exercise.

We turned off at the sign for Perranporth to seek out a cafe with a seaside view and we found just such an establishment where we drank our tea and watched families at play.  The thing that most struck me was the clothedness of the children running around the beach.  Nearly all clad in protective swim/beachwear, very little young skin exposed to the sun.

We were almost at our destination when we spotted a sign for Hardy Exotic Plants.  Tucked up a lane just off the A30 it is a delightful nursery with many unusual plants for sale.  The website has some useful features like a zone map which helps you identify plants that are suitable for your part of the country.  It looks as if we are Zone 5 in Surrey whereas southwest Cornwall is in Zone 2.  The plant labels are marked up with a 3 star scoring system, the more stars the more robust the plant.  Nevertheless I buy a gorgeous one-starred Dietes bicolor (Zone 1-4) for France and a second plant for Anne.  If our banana plant and the Tibouchina managed to get through this last winter I am hopeful we can have some success with the Dietes – Peacock Flower.  We choose a few other plants including Polygonatum multiflorum, an old fashioned plant which I remember in my grandmother’s garden and which goes by the name of Solomon’s Seal, or if you are a fan of Edward Lear, Manypeeplia Upsidedownia.

Although the internet has given us a good idea of what we might expect at Hotel Penzance, we are delighted to find it does not fail to satisfy.  It has a small verandah overlooking a bijou swimming pool planted around with exotics, palms in particular.  The dining room is light and airy, a sun lounge/bar is adjacent to a room where tea, coffee and cakes are freely available.  There are two fluffy Persian cats, Tom and Jerry, which lounge around in decorous fashion.  The location is handy for the town centre and harbour, our room has a sea view.  We spent three happy days based at this hotel and ate our dinner there each night.  The menu, service and cuisine are quite as good as Hotel Fuchsias which is a bit of a benchmark for us.

On the Monday I visited Shang-ri La Nick walked to Newlyn and back.  This was perhaps a rather ambitious expedition but he returned to the hotel in good time to have a lengthy afternoon nap .   Although our trip to Porthcurno was perfect, and we drove round the north coast towards St Ives stopping for views from Pendeen cliffs and tea at a hostel in Zennor, our attempts to visit Prussia Cove, another old haunt, on the day of our return to Surrey were thwarted by a Car Boot Sale gone wrong.

Far too many people had arrived with laden cars expecting a plot to be available only to be told the field was full.  Cars arriving at one entrance gate had been sent to the other to gain access.  The result was a complete bottleneck at the top of the lane to the Porth-en-Alls estate and with no immediate prospect of angry drivers being dispersed, we abandoned the idea.

Back in Godalming and we must prepare for departure on the following evening.  We are booked on an overnighter to Caen.  Arriving at our French house earlyish on Friday morning we find the lesser of two evils awaits in terms of the state of the garden.  We might have found a dried up wasteland but instead the weeds are llush and more than knee-high and plants are flourishing.  There has evidently been enough rain, topped up by the watering carried out by good neighbours.

It’s a month since we were in France.  A new assemblage of plants are in flower and there are dramatic results from the last minute plantings I managed before we had to leave, as always, in a tearing hurry to catch our ferry…………………