Not Exactly Silver Bells and Cockle Shells

At the end of half term week we take the girls back to Hackney.  Emsie cooks us a delicious roast chicken dinner then we head back to Winterborne Kingston.  A sustained interval of visitors and visiting has drawn to a close.  We face a month in our Dorset home before we repair to St Vaast at the beginning of December to prepare for Christmas.  I have many tasks I would like to tackle, some are long-standing and involve rooting out cupboards, weeding out drawers, organising and arranging the trappings of my life.  Above all I want my garden back.  I began to lose it in April and May.  By the end of June when we returned from France after our three week sojourn in the south of France I had acquired a wildflower meadow.  The borders had run rampage.  Fortunately I had made the decision back in May to vacate many of my pots and leave them with montages so I did not have many dried out and shrivelled plants to dispose of once autumn arrived.  There is a resident in the village who is a keen gardener and grows an assortment of plants which he sells and gives the proceeds to charity.  I walk round to Broad Close to see what he has to offer and buy small Viola, Primula, Wallflowers and small Cyclamen.  I spend £40 and get all the plants I need to populate the pots I have waiting in the wings, some of which, with bulbs, will be overplanted.

Out of the blue I get a message from Barns enquiring whether we will be about over the weekend of the 12th. img_6426 Fortunately we will although I have committed the Saturday morning to a pro-EU group who are running an Outreach stall in Bournemouth.  This will be my first experience of lobbying, in a minor way, out on the streets.  Meanwhile Barney and the children will join Nick for the village walk during the morning.  After my ‘reaching out’ I get home before the others return after their pub lunch.  The rest of the weekend is spent playing games, eating good food and on Sunday we do a walk in the morning which does push me to my limits.  Barns proposes we drive to Worth Matravers, walk to St Alban’s Head, along the coast to the cliffs above Chapman’s Pool and back to the car.  This entails those nightmare steps which need to be negotiated in order to cross the deep valley running down towards the coast.  We count 217 down and about 180 up the other side but there is a stretch of unstepped slope on the up side.  I complete the ‘crossing’ having found it extremely taxing.  (My leg muscles will ache for at least four days afterwards).  After a delicious slow-roasted shoulder of lamb Barns loads the kids into the car with all their clean laundry and drives the back to Oxfordshire ready for school the next day.

A relatively uneventful week ensues, culminating in a pleasant inaugural lunch at The Old Workshop to launch Splinter, a somewhat conspiratorial group of erstwhile village book group members.  Four of us eat my quick version Paella followed by Lemon mousse, choose our first joint title to read for discussion and decide on other titles that we have variously either read, or intend to read and which we will talk about as and when.  The following day I am going to drive to Sandford Orcas to forage for a basket with Kim.

And Shall there be Ormers and Tripe for Lunch?

After Charlie’s visit Nick crossed to France and I spent a week at Winterborne K sorting and clearing.  I weeded out papers from the filing cabinets and folders.  I ditched lots of Conference and Meeting Abstracts, reports, correspondence and notes that I just don’t need and nor will anyone else.  I carefully sift out things that I will pass along to Simon Taylor who now holds the post in Conch Soc that I held for twenty years.  I manage to deal with shells awaiting labelling and curation and get a backlog of glass and plastic containers tucked into drawers.  I play some Bridge with my girls.

On Mothers’ Day I drive to Godalming where I am royally spoilt, having dropped boxes of JMBA with Malcolm and Christine Storey to await collection by Ian Smith.  Ryan and Ted are chefs for the day.  I get presents and CJ manages to read Girl on a Train in one sitting.

On Monday morning I commence my nannying duties.  They run a tight ship, them Perrymans, and there are things to remember each day.  Fortunately Demi, the nanny who is on holiday, has drawn up a big flow chart with clouds of information and five sides of exercise book of ancillary notes.

IMG_5832DemiChart IMG_5833DemiNotes

Demi’s crib sheets are extremely helpful and I would have been all at sea without Ted’s timetable and kit requirements day by day.  But I am amused that she reminds me that it is a good idea to make some preparations for Ted’s evening meal before I pick him up from school and then get the meal ready during his session on a computer game.  It is also useful advice to know that I must remember to clean the food off the sides of the dishwasher door and wipe all kitchen worktops with Multisurface cleaner!

During my week in Godge I have lunch with Vikky and with Charles and Lis, the first at the Thai Roof Garden Restaurant in Guildford and the second in the café at the Watts Gallery.  The latter is a good find, the food is delicious and well presented.  Meanwhile Nick is in St Vaast with Andrew, the two men having crossed the Channel for a few days in order to bring the timber for the pergola back to England.  Andrew experiences the best of French hospitality chez Taille.  NickAndrewOystersblog

My most enjoyable sociable occasion whilst in residence at 88 Pep is spent at Hambledon Farm amongst the best of friends.  Charles and Susie have arranged a small supper party with the Charlesworths and Upcotts and Susie’s good friend Cherrie.  We are all avid readers so it’s a kind of book group get-together but we cover lots of other topics, not least the forthcoming Referendum which already is threatening to divide the nation.

At the end of my week I drive back to The Old Workshop, take in a game of Bridge with the girls on Friday night, and drive myself to Poole on Saturday morning Cherbourg-bound.  Arriving in the afternoon I am then plunged into an extended weekend of feasting chez des amis.  Bri and Georgy invite us and the Poulets for supper on Saturday evening when our hostess served us Lapin a la Moutarde.  On Sunday, together with Lorraine and Stephen, we are guests of Miguel and Bibi for a Mexican lunch and what fun that was.  We ate tortilla chips and guacamole with our apero, and then enjoyed a chicken broth with rice and assorted ‘sambals’ to sprinkle over.  So healthy and so delicious.   The authentic guacamole would be lovely to eat up as a single course.  We have another lunch date on Monday when we are the guests of Dede and Francoise Burnouf, along with the Tailles, and both their neighbouring couples, who we already know from previous events at their house on the quay. IMG_3495 Dede cooks a lunch, starting with a tasty dish of ormer (‘fished by Dede from the wests Cotentin) and he follows this with Tripes Normands.  In anticipation of a dislike of tripe on the part of Nick and myself, and also Fefe, Dede barbecues some fine magrets de canard on his open hearth.  I do taste the tripe but it is a very poor second to pink-cooked duck breast fillets.

During the lunch conversation is very lively and good-humoured.  Even when the sub-mariner neighbour of F and F launches into a light critique of the English.  I always knew he is an Anglophobe, he has barely been cordial on occasions when we have met chez Taille.  He is probably a misogynist to boot.  Well, that is his loss 🙂  Shame because his wife is lovely and cooked the best tarte aux pommes I have ever eaten, for our dessert.  I even got a doggy bag to bring home.  Our hostess, Francoise, is also lovely and I hope to spend more time with her.



Open Homes, Open Gardens, Open Studios

I’m sitting in the kitchen at 104, it’s coffee time and there are sounds of yet more dismantling from the front of the house.  The last bits of timber are being removed from the ceilings and walls, and more evidence of the dry rot fungus has been found 😦  It is almost certainly dead but it is unsettling.  We wonder yet how far the house must be unpicked to rid ourselves of the scourge.  It is bringing a new meaning to the concept of Open-Plan!

Progressing the work has been painfully slow because so many interests are involved: the builder who renovated the house before we bought it, his two insurance companies who are involved, the expert and the technicians responsible for remedial treatment and us.  They communicate sporadically and phases of work inch forward.  I am amazed how well Nick manages to comprehend what is happening, follows and conducts conversations entirely in French.  His vocabulary has expanded in unforeseen directions!

We crossed the Channel on Tuesday.  I left a calm and orderly house and garden.  My study/workroom is unpacked and I have just about enough shelf space for books and papers.  There has been time to set up my microscope and start the protracted curation job that will be necessary to sort, label and box up specimens.  At some point I need to decide how to deal with my collection.  One museum has already expressed an interest.

Best of all I have made the curtains for my room.  I waited until I found the right fabric, and I knew it when I saw it in my favourite shop in Godalming.   It’s a large sweeping peacock-feather design on an off-white background.  They are light, airy and gorgeous.

Just about all the plants that needed to be planted out are safely bedded.  Some things are growing really slowly and I think this must be because the soil is poor and we need time to feed it up with vegetative material.  The beans and peas in particular are not putting on growth as they should.  Nick’s compost making is prodigious and he has been persuaded to bring some of the precious commodity back from France for the Dorset garden.  The Tom Thumb tomatoes I sowed and planted in containers are doing really well and the asparagus crowns we ordered from Suttons in May have nearly all sprouted.  On this basis we may be able to harvest a very few spears next year.

One morning I slipped over to Cerne Abbas for coffee with friends.  The lady of the house is a keen gardener and allotment holder.  She is new to the game but her plot is verdant and fruitful.  It is set on a gently sloping hillside, with an open, picturesque aspect, on the periphery of the village, a 5-minute walk from her home.  I get a tour, also of her pretty cottage garden which will be on show over the forthcoming weekend when the village runs its Open Gardens scheme.  My star of her show is the pot of blue Himalayan poppies in the dappled shade of a tree at the edge of the lawn.

I’ve managed to be on the spot for both June Book Group meetings.  My Godalming read, A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, was an engrossing and rewarding book.  David Mitchell is an author who does not fail to please.  Other books have been a bit lack lustre and I’m waiting for the next page-turner to light my fire.  The trip to Godalming coincided with Surrey Artists’  Open Studios so we were treated to a glass of wine in fellow reader Christine Charlesworth’s studio.

Her sculptures are receiving increasing recognition, most recently at the Society of Women Artists’ 150th Exhibition in London where she won an award.  She sculpts her people – often the subjects are children – starting with an armature which she coats in clay.  From this a latex mould is made which will contain the bronze resin mix.  Then there are various finishing techniques to carry out.  This enables her to produce limited editions of her sculptures which are more affordable than solid bronze.    And they look wonderful.

Christine is inspired by the human figure and aims not just to capture a likeness but to show life and natural movement in each piece.  Looking at her collection I think the last thing in her sculpting process is to breathe life into her figures.