Une Bonne Raison d’être dans le Dorset

Sur cette magnifique journée en juin j’ai rejoint mon amie Celia à Waterston Manor pour un événement Open Garden. Je m’attendais à de vastes jardins, formellement énoncées et présentant des plates bandes avec profusion de couleur, et aussi avec peut-être une tente de thé ou deux pour des rafraîchissements. Ce que nous avons découvert était un événement animé avec de la musique live, un marché artisanal et une gamme de stands vendant des plantes. Sous l’ombre des arbres, nous avons trouvé deux commerçants particuliers qui vendaient merveilleuses plantes vivaces haut de gamme à des prix fabuleusement bas. J’ai acheté deux cépages blancs d’ Agapanthe, un mauve pâle Campanula glomerata et un couple de géraniums aux fleurs rouges sombres, et aux feuilles à lierre. Ceux sonts pour les paniers suspendus à TOW. Il y avait des stands vendant des articles sculptés et tournés en bois, articles de linge de maison, patchwork, bijoux. Comme je m’apprêtais à partir, j’ai trouvé un commerçant de Lyme Regis vente d’une gamme attractive et inhabituel d’articles rendant hommage à la mer. J’ai acheté quelque chose pour la chambre supérieure a numero 104. Pour le déjeuner Celia et moi, nous avons évité les diverses tourtes Dorset, et les scones, confiture, crème, tout tentants et offerts comme partie du ‘Thé à la Crème’: petit repas typiquement Anglais, chez l’Orangerie. En preference nous avons acheté un bol de poulet et chorizo Paella d’un traiteur espagnol.

Au cours de l’après-midi, il y avait différentes présentations de la CPRE et le groupe d’action (TAINT) contre les eoliennes dans notre coin. Il y avait aussi un spectacle de chien d’amusement.


Juste avant 16 heures, je rassemble mon shopping et je rentre à Winterborne Kingston, en s’arrêtant dans le lay-by juste avant la sortie de notre village pour photographier un champ de coquelicots dont la floraison ne pouvait pas être plus opportun.


Massive Fan of Masterchef

Today Ted is 7 and although he does not find out till later, he is going to meet his hero.  Ted loves Masterchef, as do his mother and I.  We are all going to be hugely treated by a meal at Le Gavroche in Upper Brook Street.

It is a divine dining experience and the normally shy Ted is dumbstruck when Michel Roux comes out of his kitchen to greet Ted and sign a menu.  It was a real privilege, as Ted’s grandparents, to be invited.

Somewhere in Somerset….

…….. there is a country house garden where alpacas may safely graze, giraffes stalk in daisy-rich grassland and wild boar lurk on the lawn.  On one May weekend a gathering of French and English guests spent a sunny afternoon or two sipping champagne, playing petanque, croquet, jeronimo and volley ball.  All you needed for an excuse was a wedding.  When Julien married Lucy the sun shone bright and we partied till the early hours of the morning.  Perfect.

A Treat from Maddy

A beautiful walk in Dorset countryside with mellow weather and flower meadows.  The route was a circular one focused on the Dorset Wildlife Trust field centre at Kingcombe and taking us across some prime countryside and through the village of Hooke.  Just heavenly.

Andrew picked us up from the field centre and drove us to the Fox and Hounds at Cattistock where I was treated to an excellent lunch.  This pub consistently wins Best Dorset Pub (3 times) and no wonder.  The food is well cooked and presented, and the prices are exceptionally good value.

Maddy and I took some photos; hers are beautiful and capture the soft, light and misty atmosphere in which we walked.


We Have Martins at the House

A couple of days after the ‘Roux’ departure we fetched up on French shores.  It was no surprise to find a garden in need of some attention, and a crop of budded leeks which we uprooted and I processed in various ways.  I made a curry base with them, adding peppers, onion, garlic, tomatoes and the usual spicy suspects.  I also cooked up a pot of poireaux fondus which I divided into portions to freeze.  I had to cut out the central stem from the larger leeks but there was still plenty of leaf to use.  We also had rhubarb pickings and I stewed the most tender and made rhubarb, apple and ginger chutney as well.

On Saturday it was Anne’s birthday and she cooked a meal chez eux for us, the ‘Roux’ and the ‘Osmonts’, and afterwards the men entertained us with games of pool.

The Martins arrive the following week.  They have already spent a few pleasant days in Brittany and whilst they are with us the beautiful weather persists.  On the afternoon of their arrival we sit in sunshine on the terrace and drink tea and eat cake.  We exchange family news and think about how we will like to spend their time with us.  Friday is excursion day starting with lunch at Grandcamp Maisy where I discover that the dilapidated Maison de Maitre that I had much admired during our house-hunting days in Normandy has apparently been sold and has certainly been rendered beautiful again with a sympathetic renovation to the exterior and one hopes the interior as well.

After lunch we stroll down to look at the house we were at one time considering, and find this is in much the same condition as when Charlotte and I viewed it, and it appears uninhabited and probably remains unsold.  The town generally looks well, there is much evidence of new paving, paintwork and planting.  It looks as if it would be an agreeable place to live although I am not sure what social opportunities would be on offer.

We drove to Pointe du Hoc to find it populous.  Since our last visit to the site of this famous artillery battery there has been much improvement in the form of a small museum and excellent information panels on the approach and return route to the firing command post, shelters and casemates.  We press on to seek out the house at La Cambe that we nearly bought too.  The house looks sad, and saddest of all for me is that the dark and brooding garden at the rear of the house where there was a stand of mixed conifers and a ground flora of cyclamen has been hacked back.  We conclude that nothing much has happened here either.

A visit to the German Cemetery at La Cambe is sobering. It is very different from the Allied cemeteries, simple but powerful.  Over extensive grounds where 22,000 war dead are buried in pairs, there are clusters of black Maltese crosses.  The site is dominated by a tumulus flanked by two statues and topped by a large dark cross in basalt lava, which marks the resting place for 207 unknown and 89 identified German soldiers, interred together in a mass grave.

The next day was spent in a very different way.  We went to the market which was very busy and was sporting some new stalls, notably one selling some amazing nougat in large wheels reminiscent of cheeses.


After the market we met in the bar for a midday drink with friends, staying in town for a sandwich before we attended the Baptism ceremony of the new Lifeboat.  In the evening we went to a short musical play based on the evening of June 4th 1944.  With friends in the cast it was fun to watch and after the show we enjoyed a ‘repas campagnade’ in the Salle Polyvalente at Barfleur.


On Sunday our new English friends, the Daniells, invited us to a BBQ at their house in Crasville.  It was a beautiful sunny day and we sat outside chatting to their other guests, Caroline and Georges da~Costa.  Early afternoon drifted into late afternoon and before we knew it we were dropping Georges off at La Pernelle where we saw the lovely garden Caroline, who had driven home earlier in the afternoon, created in a sloping field 20 years ago.

On Monday morning the Martins took flight after much hugging and expressions of shared enjoyment during their stay.  I went to yoga.  On Tuesday Francois and Fefe Taille came to lunch with the Lerminez and we made plans for 14th July when we will be back in France.  On Thursday we crossed back to England with a busy weekend ahead.




A Dart to the Moors and Moment of Repose in Shang-ri La

We took our friends to join their ferry for their return to France.  We then headed off, bound for a destination new Drewsteignton, in a wooded valley on Dartmoor.  Before we return to France ourselves we have two important visits to make.  Arriving chez Payne we unload, eat a croissant and coffee and then before I become too relaxed I take the road to Shang-ri La to visit my dear and long-term friends at Reskadinnick.  It would be a mistake to call Stella Maris a Grande Dame of Conchology because anyone less grand I cannot image.  Yet Stella is cultivated and mannered, whilst being one of the wisest and warmest friends I have.  I so admire her, and her companion Rose, because they still maintain their life-long passion for natural history and at 89 they are still contributing the academic pool.  It was a short visit, no more than a couple of hours and then I headed back to Dartmoor to rejoin Nick and the Paynes.  Nick had been in his element tending a bonfire aided by a delightful, barefooted nature child called Jasmine.  We ate a pleasant supper (including delicious sorrel soup) with other guests.

On Monday we went for a day-long walk taking in moorland and wooded slopes carpeted with fragrant bluebells.  On Tuesday morning we returned to WK where we prepared for our next sojourn in France.

We Welcome Bri and Georgy

…. but first we have another Dorset week of ‘things’.

On Tuesday evening we eat supper at The Botany Bay Inne with the McGoverns.  What a disappointment this is – we hope for better things when our local Greyhound is back up and running.  We hear that it will not be long now.  The following day I go to the Plaza with Celia C to see The Love Punch, a light comedy made entertaining for the most part by Emma Thompson who never fails to please.  That evening I meet my sisters for a ‘board meeting’ at The Rajpoot.  The next day there is medical stuff and on Friday I drive out to Chetnole for a Memorial Tea Party in honour of Dennis Seaward.  Saturday sees me on a London train bound for a meeting at the Natural History Museum on molluscs in archaeology.  This brings us to Sunday and the arrival of our French guests.

Bri and Georgy are good friends from Reville.  It is Bri’s first visit to England and they arrive late in the evening full of excitement.  On Monday we spend a low key day driving over to Portland Bill for lunch at the Lobster Pot Café, afternoon tea at the Moonfleet Hotel and supper at home.  On Tuesday morning Nick and Georgy must leave early bound for the Snooker Championships at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

It had been our original plan to give the men’s Sheffield days to a girls’ trip to London.  In the event Brigitte preferred to stay put; we went shopping in Dorchester then watched snooker on the telly all afternoon on Tuesday.  On Wednesday we took the train to Godalming where we joined Nick and Geo chez Perryman before going to dine at Bel and the Dragon that evening.  On Thursday we left Godalming and drove to Brighton where we had coffee in the now ghastly pub by the Marina, redeemed later by a great fish lunch at The Regency.   Really, though, it was principally a day spent in the car and I think we misjudged the value of factoring this outing into our friends’ itinerary.

Friday was a day much anticipated by Bri; we visited Maddy and her menagerie including the famous Bertie.  On to West Bay to soak up some Broadchurch atmosphere for our French fans, thence to Morecombelake where Paul and Viv were hosting Hilary, Jensen and Riby.  This provided a good dose of Englishness for our French friends and Georgy was moved to say that there was something of the Royal ladies about Viv, and I know what he means!

On Saturday we drove the short route to Kingston Lacy, enjoyed the garden and the house, meeting one of our evening guests whilst there.  Both Bri and I found a birthday gift for Anne Poulet in the shop.  After a sandwich we came back to The Old Workshop to prepare for our small dinner party in the dining hall.  My sister Liz and my friend Celia arrived and we spent a French-speaking evening which was good for everyone.  Liz and Celia made me very proud.