Coffee with Hilary – Canvas update

On my way to Cornwall for Stella’s funeral I stop by to see our painter friend who lives near Whimple.  She is working on two canvasses, portraits of the rear elevations and garden at our French home.  It’s a couple of months since I saw the two pictures and there is more paint on the canvas and the colours are gorgeous.  The two views are representations of the house in early morning and early evening lights.

Hilary gives me coffee and lovely biscuits and then I must get underway because I need to call at Cornwall Gold before Stella’s funeral.  There I will drop off 4 short gold chains and the heavy gold necklace Nick gave me on the occasion of his Retirement party on the Silver Barracuda on the River Thames twenty years ago.

Hilary just asks me to take a few photos for her working portfolio.   I step out of her tiny kitchen into her small courtyard and cross to her studio which is not much more than a shed which has been made secure as a working space for a painter.  IMG_6121 (2)40.jpgSuch marvels she produces from this bijou artist’s domain.

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An Oasis of Calm

Nestled between towering mountains in the beautiful Cape winelands lies the magnificent Franschhoek Valley. It is reputed to be the food and wine heartland of the country with its splendid wine estates and top chefs create world-class cuisine. The scenery is breath-taking on a grand scale.

Spectacular vineyards cover the mountain slopes and the valley, settled more than 300 years ago by the Huguenots, who brought with them their age-old French wine and food culture.

Arriving at Val d’Or Wine estate we are drawn into a beautiful and tranquil setting at the foot of the Klein Drakenstein Mountains.  The reception area of the main house is pleasantly cool as we check in.  IMG_5797 (2)40We are shown to the villa, a serene and spacious building looking out to the vista of Groot Drakenstein Mountains on the other side of the valley.DSC01417 (2)40 Nick and I have a calming green bedroom which acts as a conduit to the hues of the foliage of plants, shrubs and trees and to the lush lawns of the garden outside our French doors.  The grounds are laid out to lawn, flower borders, shrubberies with two ponds adjacent to a swimming pool.  We are going to ‘eat in’ so Charlotte and Ryan drive along to Franschhoek to buy meats for a braai and salads.  We have the bubbly that we bought at Vergenoegd.  In the mellow warmth of the early evening, we eat by the pool. DSC01419 (2)

We wake on our first morning in this idyll and since we are in wine country a winery visit or two must be made.  But first we walk up to the main house to eat omelettes.  DSC01449 (2)40Thence into Franschhoek town which strikes me as oh so French and I then learn that the town’s name means ‘French Corner’.  Here there are lovely shops including several art galleries.  Teddy poses with another outside one of them.  IMG_5756 (2)40

In one of these the Perrymans find a pair of pictures which are, in fact, photographs with much of the detail stripped out.  One is of elephants, the other is a hippo.  They will sit very happily alongside other Africana that they have in their home in England.  In the same shop I see a occasional table which I like very much, made as it is out of plate glass shelves and driftwood.IMG_5761 (2)40

We have a drink in the bar which is the old Railway Station then visit La Motte which is one of the wineries on the main road into the town.  IMG_5782 (2)40Seated at hand-made tasting tables, a welcoming tasting counter or on comfortable sofas, visitors have an unimpeded view of the working and maturation cellars through large glass panels.  We paid a sum to taste seven different wines, probably drank far too much of each and ended up ordering two of the whites and one of the reds.  IMG_5766 (2)40Forty-eight bottles between us.  A bonus was that we could pay in Euros, which gave us a cheaper price and the wines could be delivered from Germany to France.IMG_5778 (2)40

Back at the villa we rested and then spent some time around the pool, accompanied by the lovely dog, Bagel, who belongs to the owner of the estate.  In the evening we went to a restaurant in Franschhoek specialising in South African cuisine.  Aptly named Ryan’s Kitchen the establishment rates no. 2 out of 51 on Trip Advisor.  Ever intrigued by new dishes I chose the Prawn Tapioca “Pudding”, prawn crackers, chopped chives, charred lemon gel to start with.

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I think I am probably one of the easiest people to feed that I know, but I did have to admit to myself that I found the frog-spawn appearance and imagined consistency a bit unnerving!  I know I am on safe territory when I choose Roast Duck Breast, Honey and Dukkah glaze, spiced chocolate & cashew nut puree’s, roast Kohlrabi for my main course.

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The following morning we must check out and return to Cape Town to take a flight to Johannesburg.  IMG_5792 (2)40The next stage of our holiday is going to begin.  Before we leave Val D’Or I take a walk around the grounds and take some photos.  IMG_5748 (2)40The most appealing area is focussed around the pond where there are numerous weaver bird nests suspended in the trees.  DSC01427 (2)40

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With my passion for basketry in all possible materials I find the bird-made structures beautiful.  I’d willingly give one houseroom.

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It’s time to give thanks and move on………………

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Hawkchurch Days

Leaving Cornwall I have another visit to pay before I return to Dorset.  My sister is to have a small procedure for which I can be a helpful driver and overnight companion. Her home nestles in a lovely little corner on the east side of Devon.  She is a very private person and her home is a sanctuary upon which I do not encroach with my camera.  She is a fabulous needlewoman , a talented watercolourist and an extremely knowledgeable mycologist.  She is probably as near as dammit a national expert although she would deny this to be the case.  Back in the autumn she took me for a walk along her  special lane and we saw chanterelles.  She crops her small supply from time to time.  Amazingly there are still plenty tucked into the bank but she says they will be water-logged and not worth collecting 😦  They make an attractive sight all the same.

Before I head for home she takes me to a farm shop nearby.  Miller’s Farm Shop  is an Aladdin’s Cave of wonderful food.  Some of the vegetables are grown on the farm, the rest are provided by local suppliers passionate about good quality food. Fresh fruit and vegetables are locally sourced and colourful arrays of seasonal plants are available. You can find Lyme Bay fresh fish, beef, pork and lamb from local farms, local milk and cream, cider from Lyme Bay Winery and Perry’s Cider Mill and sample a variety of local cheeses. Malcolm and Angela travel to France once a week to scour markets in different regions for quality produce for the shop.

On top of all this they have a seductive section where they sell artefacts with a marine theme.  Here we spy a range of ornamental table glassware where scallop shells and octopus form the dominant design.  There are also sea-themed ‘kissing rings’ decorated with shells, driftwood, other marine invertebrate remains.  Liz and I admire the goods and on the spur of the moment Liz asks if I would like the glass bowl clasped by an octopus as my 70th birthday gift.  Would I?!!



Beating a Retreat

Some time before 9 a.m. we loose off our mooring ropes and head for the open sea.  We have a long passage ahead; our aim is to tie up at Villefranche-sur-mer by 5 p.m.

This time we decide not to risk cutting the engine whilst at sea for lunch.  In any event the sea is not inviting us to swim and it is overcast.  Fefe and I sit at the little tables in the cockpit as the men monitor the boat’s progress on autopilot.

Passing Monaco some time around lunch time we have a bread, butter and ham moment.  Occasionally speed boats race past us much to quickly throwing up a bow wave which causes ‘Till’ to lurch violently.  The Tailles do not have a Derrick-style procedure for readying the vessel for sea by battening down hatches and securing or stowing loose items in the galley so stuff clatters around.

The journey passes for me with a combination of audio-book, paperback and BridgeBaron.  Without an internet connection I can only wonder what is unfolding after the Leave vote.

Once at Villefranche Nick and I go to the cobbly beach nearby for a swim.  Then, connected to the Marina WiFi we check our mail, Facebook and look at the BBC news.  Francois has gone up to the shopping centre to get some supplies and when we meet up with Fefe she tells us Francois is angry. ??!!!  Actually she means hungry and it is proposed to eat at the little restaurant in the marina.  A good move as I am able to order beignets of calamari – a real comfort food.

The following day I am still brooding over the Referendum results.  Nick and I take a swim at the cobbly beach, followed by a good shower in the Marina’s facilities.  Afterwards the men make another victualing sortie and Fefe invites me to join her for a little walk into town to look at the Chapelle Saint-Pierre Villefranche-sur-mer which is tucked down near the quay frontage where all the little bars and restaurants are.

The chapel was probably built not long after Villefranche was founded, in 1295.  It is famous now for its association with Jean Cocteau who took part in a renovation project which started on June 5th 1956.  Inside the walls are decorated with frescoes, two series of panels depicting some episodes from the life of St Peter and the whole vault represents a homage to the fishermen of Villefranche.

Cocteau made the drawings and these were projected onto the walls and vault with transmitted light.  Cocteau decided on the design and his assistants fixed the lines with paints and colour.  The overall effect is monochrome embellished with washed-out dawn-like colours.  Cocteau wanted no vulgarity in his colour scheme.  I really loved this little chapel and took Nick back to see it later on in the afternoon.

In the evening we are delighted to meet up with Nick’s long-standing friend, John, who is a resident in Monaco.  John drives over in his vintage Aston Martin and he is a welcome contribution to our hitherto somewhat cloistered life on ‘Till’.  We meet at the little restaurant in the marina, Le Cockpit, and the mealtime chat takes us beyond the immediate aspects of shared living on a small boat.  It is characteristic of John that he does not immediately plunge into a discussion of the EU vote and the fall-out.  But we turn to it half way through the evening.  He can be fairly detached from it, as a Brit without a vote, but I wonder if he has a sense of how it might affect his two children.

Fefe is animated by the evening but on several occasions I catch Francois looking somewhat reserved when Nick and John chat to each other in English.  But it is really good to catch up with John and when the evening comes to an end Nick and I walk him back to his car to view his wheels and Nick earns himself a short spin back to the marina and I walk the little path back and enjoy the stillness of the calm night and the view across the bay.



Parisian Pursuits

Between our planned city visits we spend a day of decourverte in Paris.  Allowing drizzle to ease off we left the flat at about 11 o’clock and rode the metro to Denfert Rochereau only to be confronted by a queue for the Catacombs which we had been hoping to visit.  Whilst we might have tarried a while when a rather surly doorman told us we could expect to queue for 3 hours we abandoned the idea.  We ate delicious boudin noir and mash at a nearby restaurant and ten took the metro to Trocadero where we had planned to visit Musee de Quai Branly principally for the vertical gardens which Marian had described to us.

But on the way we spotted Palais de Tokyo and, my, did we enjoy the art installations therein.   It is a building dedicated to modern and contemporary art and we loved it.  Especially the Henrique Oliveira ‘tree’ and the Venice Lagoon experience.

Time for a quick selfie with the Eiffel Tower then on to Branly and that building contains a fabulous collection of Oceanic, Asiatic, African and American primitive art.  The interior decor uses a terra cotta coloured leather as it’s principal raw material which is so earthy and atmospheric.  But the display cabinets are densely positioned and contain lots of objects and the route around is not easy to trace.  You have the unsettling feeling you might hae missed a chunk.Blog-ParisEiffelSelfie  This Museum will require a second bite as I loved the plethora of shelly artefacts and when we emerged at 1900h we were tired.  Feet beginning to blister – note to self I must buy a reeaallly comfortable pair of shoes.

Despite tempting ideas for terrace bars and riverside strolls flagged up by Claire we repaired to rue Victor Massy for a quick freshen then supper at Deux Cocottes.  (Thank you for all your Parisian serving suggestions Claire, oh for more hours…….energy  too 😉


A Gallery of Curiosities

Sunday morning, bright as buttons we leave The Old Workshop with packed breakfasts, girly cabin bags and the week’s trophies.  Hackney-bound, we make very good time arriving late morning.  We deposit two very excited girls with their equally excited parents and walk down to London Fields to visit Tom, Delphine and Juliette.  We have a mission to fulfil; as part of Jeu de Douze Mois we are delivering a consignment of ‘shopping’ as a wedding gift.  It includes a bottle of Bolly, some cheese, packets of bickies and jars of toothsome condiments.  We enjoy a late brunch with them at The Laundry, a eating establishment which offers better than average brunching options.  We take a little walk afterwards, down towards Columbia Road Market and buy cakes at a newly opened shop to drink with tea before we head back to Downs Park Road.  Back with Dan & Co we bid a fond farewell to the Hackneys and drive back to Winterborne K.

We are returning to a mixed week of fixtures: visiting conchologists, a luncheon treat at Clos du Marquis at The Leckford Hutt with the Palmers, the village walk and a Wildlife Trust fungus foray for Nick over the weekend.  Nick learns about some different edible fungi to look out for.  He now knows a Parasol when he meets one, and we have jars of dried ones for winter stews.  For me the week culminates in two days of Bridge tuition with my neighbours Sally, Celia, Chris and Helen, hosted at The Old Workshop and taught by Barry Farncombe of Kitchenbridge.  I’ve tried to learn Bridge several times and although I understand the essential principles of the game, I have failed to retain the rules and protocol of bidding to play the game,  with a bit of insight.  As adjacent neighbours we women are well placed to consolidate what we learn although the other 4 will be at an advantage as they do not spend half their year outside the UK.

One of my conchological visitors comes to collect the shell collection of a mutual friend who has shifted his enthusiasm from shells to a detailed research project on Churches in NorthWales.  The thing that marks this collection out as exceptional is the meticulously curated assemblage of shipworm shells and samples of the wood into which they bore in life, and from which they were extracted once the wood had been cast up on the shore.  Shipworms are thoroughly idiosyncratic molluscs, having the ability to colonise a habitat which is rarely utilised by marine molluscs.  My other visitor has to come to browbeat me into taking up my scientific pen to write a couple of chapters for a specialist book on molluscs in archaeology.  Notwithstanding this we take him and his wife round to the Greyhound for an excellent lunch.

Amongst all our hosting activities we find time to do some stuff in the garden, including the planting of two new trees.  It has taken me 18 months to make a choice!  Finally after consulting knowledgeable friends and surfing the net a bit I have selected Prunus subhirtellus autumnalis for January flowers and Parrotia persica for a good canopy and autumn colour.


The latter is strategically placed to obscure the house on the far side of our neighbour’s garden, which separates us.  Nick continues to dig round the L-shaped border on the east side of the garden.  Into the shorter limb I move one of the Crinodendron hookerianum from the front garden, and a small Pittosporum which experience tells me will grow fast to add to the screening we are looking for.

Before we board the ferry on Wednesday I have also managed to make a whirlwind visit to Hilary Goddard.  It is really good to catch up with her since the occasion of Tom’s wedding and I looked through her portfolios of sketches, some of which will be worked on to produce her lovely oil paintings.  We are hoping for an oil of the French house based on the sketches and studies she made whilst she was our guest.  I am going to buy a gouache study of Canterton Pond, something she had decided should be NFS.  But for our shared love of mauve she agrees that I may buy it once it is framed.  We lunched at  The Jack in the Green at Rockbeare.

To round off our eventful pre-France interlude there is Book Group at the Greyhound, followed by a spot of Bridge revision at Celia’s on Tuesday.  On Wednesday we board the ferry in heavy rain for a windy crossing, and arrive in sunny Cherbourg four hours later.

Lights Alight

Paul and Viv, and their long-time friend Hilary Balogh arrived at 104 on Wednesday afternoon.  Lovely to receive our kin and I last met Hilary at a family wedding fifteen years ago when we were seated adjacently.  We were ships that passed in the night back then, but more of that in my next post.’

P and V are now on their countdown to Tom’s marriage to Delphine.  We have a couple of days to share in St Vaast before we shift to Brittany for the run-up to the big day.

No sooner has she arrived than Hilary gets out her sketchbook, pencils, pastels and begs a chair, small table (and I insist on an umbrella) in order to draw our house.  What a thrill.

Meanwhile Nick consults Paul on the health of one of our Mimosa trees and has his suspicion of moribundity confirmed.  They set about pruning the tree to test its resilience and tidy up the shape.


Somehow Wentletraps weave their way into the conversation and Paul expresses a wish to go on a hunt for them.  Leaving Hilary to her mission, we drive across to Pointe de Saire where I show them my favoured beach pockets but to no avail.  Nevertheless it is an excuse to spend some time on the shore, and afterwards for a glass of wine at the delightful watering hole on the headland there known as Le Goeland.

Returning to 104 we find Hilary is still seated at the bottom of the garden, and when we say that we are going to eat supper at Le Debarcadere she asks if she might be excused in order to carry on the lovely work which is evolving ‘a l’ombre de notre citronnier’.  I set out the makings for a simple salad, some of the St Emilion wine she likes, and we slope off for some sustenance and atmosphere at Le Debarc’.

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Aujourd’hui je suis Mme Blogueuse Francaise

So here we are in Normandy and Nick has issued a challenge: to blog this post in French.  So, without labouring too much  to get it all grammatically correct (constant referral to translation facility), here goes.

Nous arrivons et trouvons que la maison est en tres bon etat et chaud aussi, grace a Daniel.  Nous dechargeons la voiture et tout de suite nous accrochons le tableau que nos enfants nous ont donne.   On trouve un endroit parfait.   Notre premiere rendez-vous est de manger chez Poulet avec nos bons amis.  Malheureusement pour Anne, vers la fin de la semaine elle est enrhumee, avec une fievre, donc nous continuouns avec le diner, mais ce se passe chez nous.  Chaque femme a fait un cours, pour les Lumieres, c’est le dessert, donc je fais quelquechose tradionellement anglaise: un trifle.  La soiree est tres sympa; c’est tres agreable d’etre parmi nos amis apres une absence de quelques semaines.

Des notre retour nous avons trouve un jardin qui est bien colore en jaune, mais aussi en besoin du entretien.  Apres toute cette pluie recente les mauvaises herbes sont grandes et luxuriantes.  Heureusement pour moi les racines sont facilement tirees de la terre humide.  Je passe plusieurs après-midis dans le jardin et dans les semaines que nous passons chez nous je vois de plus en plus plantes qui commencent a se reveiller après l’hiver.  Je vais faire un article de blog dedie a notre jardin.

Maintenant que Nick est en France, il et Anne en profitent musicalement.  Presque tous les après-midis, a part de 1700 hr, ils se trouvent chez nous pour passer une heure en jouant leur bodhrans avec des cours qu’ils trouvent sur YouTube.  Peu a peu ils font du bon progress.

Je fais des petites balades, par exemple autour de la Hougue avec Christine et pendant un après-midi je suis allee a la peche a pied des coques.  Christine m’a emmenee a la plage autour du parc a huitres.  Il ne fallait pas descendre loin sur cette plage d’en trouver.  La plupart etaient d’une taille moyenne mais nous en avons peche assez, les deux, pour faire quelquechose comme repas pour le soir.  Mais mince!!  Je trouve que presque tous ces coquillages avaient des petits crabes residents la dedans.  C’est une espece qui vivent comme symbiotique dans la chair de ces mollusques.  On les trouvent aussi dans les moules.  Cela rendent l’experience de manger soit les moules soit les crabes un peu croustillante 😦

Mais nous avons eu d’autres moments de gastronomie bien agreables.  Une soiree au Debarcadere avec les Duponts, Daniel, Bri, Georgy nous a plait.  C’etait un repas de reconciliation après quelques ‘problemes’ sur la renovation de la ferme au Vast.  Ailleurs nous avons mange a six chez la Bisquine, et un soir nous avons fait, pour Bri et Georgy, une soiree de Poker avec Poulet roti a l’anglaise  chez nous.   Nous avons mange un beau repas a l’Armoire a delices a Cherbourg avec Anne et Francois après une séance au cinema pour le film Les Garcons, et Guillaume, a table Ce film multi-prime (en traduction Me, Myself and Mum) est disponible en version sous-titre en anglais.  Anne, Nick et moi ont vraiment aime cette comedie, mais Francois n’etait pas convaincu.  Bienque j’ai suit le film assez facilement en francais, il y avait des scenes avec des nuances de dialogue que je veux bien revoir en version anglais.  Nous passons un week-end assez tranquille qui nous donnent l’opportunite de voir tous les episodes qui nous restent pour la serie anglaise Line of Duty.  C’est un de nos plaisirs de voir plusieur episodes consecutifs.

Dorset Doings and a Private View

Back in Dorset now, until we cross the Channel to prepare for a Family Christmas, we are able to catch up with our fellow Winterborne Walkers over Christmas Dinner at the Countryman Inn in Wool.  The following week it’s time to meet up with my fellow readers to discuss a book which has proved to be an unanimous hit, The Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.  The following evening we have our lovely friends Eamonn and Celia to supper.  In amongst these Dorset days we make a weekend visit to Godalming so that I can go to Mary’s Private View.

With her 90th birthday just days away Mary is a marvel.  She did not take up painting and potting until she reached 60 after which she developed her ranges of slipware which are well-known locally.  Her work has its devotees amongst which I count myself, being particularly fond of her Quince plates and dishes.  Sister-in-law Lis, nieces Harriet and Briony have all received a Wondrausch item from me and I have a some lovely pieces too.  Her latest project has been to embark on a series of paintings which are a combination of watercolour, gouache and collage of snippets taken from magazines and other literature.  These pictures have two themes.  One set of pictures features still life compositions incorporating nature’s harvest: medlars, mushrooms, quinces, globe artichoke.  The other range consists of portraits of Mary’s large collection of vases, jugs, pots and glassware embellished with floral arrangements.  Five of Mary’s paintings have found their proper home on our walls in St Vaast 🙂