It’s time for more St Vaast days…. but not many on this occasion. Nick has been in France for a week already. He travelled over to rendez-vous with our builder, and his two insurance agents and an expert on dry rot. We found the evil ‘champignons’ earlier this year and removal of plaster below the windows in our bedroom and the second principal bedroom shows the insidious tendrils creeping laterally along the walls to who knows where? Who will pay for the eradication and remedial works that will be necessary? Fortunately we have all the invoices and guarantees the Lecanus handed to us the day we completed on the purchase of our French abode. It clearly states that water-proofing was applied to all the exterior walls at the time of repointing etc. So it should be ok, but you never know. The meeting takes place and Nick tells me with justifiable pride later, that he is fairly sure he followed all the deliberations. Given that French spoken between themselves can sometimes sound like bursts of machine-gun fire I’m impressed. Before treatment can be applied the builders will have to remove plaster from exterior walls in all rooms of the house to check the extent of infestation. However as far as we are concerned business at 104 will continue as usual.
But let’s not be worrying about this. For the immediate I have met up with long-time friends John and Gill on the Cap Finistere which is crossing from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. We happen to have booked on the same ferry and they are going to take me to St Vaast and stay overnight before continuing to Monaco. Nick and John occasionally worked together and the friendship has continued into retirement. Gill and I get on well. It’s great to welcome them to 104 not least because we have had some good stays at their home on the Somerset Levels. I am treated to a ride in John’s vintage E-type and arriving find Nick has done a sterling job. The house and garden are beaming, as well as the sun – in which we sit to have afternoon tea.
In the evening we go to Au Moyne de Saire for dinner which is fine because we have good dining company although it would have been great to take our guests to Fuchsias if the hotel were open on Monday evenings when the choice is limited.
Before they leave we take John and Gill on the customary walk around the Hougue. It’s a fine slightly breezy day and all six of us enjoy the trot, not least Gill’s girls – Esme and Blossom the little white terriers – who lead a charmed life and have managed to behave well in their short time with us. We can even forgive them for chasing Rooney because we have never seen him shift so fast and the exercise must have been beneficial!! There is just time to whistle round Maison Gosselin and show Gill the delights of our local grocer before he shuts for lunch. It’s a great place to shop at Christmas if you want to give friends consumables as a present. It seems more and more of our contemporaries prefer such gifts.
We’ve got pate and cheese at the house, so buy baguettes and have lunch in the sunshine. After a conference over the GPS and who will have it, they are off, he in his Jag, she in her hired Mini Cooper.
Most of these St Vaast days are spent gardening. But I do get a phone call from Imprimerie Charon telling me that the crepe paper that Anne has ordered on my behalf awaits collection. On July 18th the ten-yearly Fete de la Mer will take place in this small coastal town. It’s a Festival to the Sea and the St Vaastais decorate their houses with garlands of paper flowers. Each road has its colour scheme andmany of the local women join forces to make the simple flowers and string them on cords. This is only required for the heart of the town and as it happens the Poulets and Lights have houses the other side of the crossroads which mark a limit. It’s not de rigeur for us. But not a bit of it, we are going to decorate our houses in any event and Anne things a glorious riot of colour would be a good scheme. So I collect my order – a large box of pre-cut crepe paper which sets me back 60 Euros. When I calculate the many hundreds of flowers to be made, and each flower will take at least 2 minutes to make – that’s a lot of fiddly finger-work.
To my huge relief when the Poulets and Daniel come for a Red Thai Salmon Curry (thanks to Waitrose recipe cards) later, I learn that the box contains paper for a quartet of adjacent houses: ours, the Poulets, Daniel and his mother, Genevieve. Well that is better…… and Genevieve – a seasoned crepe paper flower maker – is going to help. Better every minute. After the meal is over Francois suggests pool, and I get my lesson in paper-making. It’s a mountains of flowers that needs to be made, and the volume will be vast at the end. In the year we are juggling houses and belongings but, tant pis. When in Rome, When in France……….
As I go round and put the garden to bed for the next three weeks or so I stop to enjoy blooms current, and gaze at the buds of blooms to come. I find the Solomon’s Seal which I bought at the nursery in Penzance has three lovely stems. A favourite of mine and my Mums’ we always think of Lear’s inventive cartoons. The Lewisia plants I bought with some trepidation with Anne last autumn have budded stems. I’ve not succeeded with these before. The surviving Echium, plundered from the gravels in the garden on Ile Tatihou, is a giant who will surely flower in this third summer. I think I am going to miss the Dutch Iris and the bulbous lilies I rescued from the narrow bed and potted up. This year I have seen the Camassia in their prime and the dwarf bearded Iris too. Definitely a case of swings and roundabouts.