And that’s that

And so with the usual journey back on multiple trains we were suddenly back at home in the UK.

It wasn’t too bad despite Agnes throwing up on the train and then doing a poo with only fifteen minutes left. Bad timing but perhaps masks aren’t such a bad thing as no one seemed to be able to smell anything. Perhaps they all had Covid?!

It was certainly much cooler (and not in a good way) as we stopped briefly in Marseille and again in Lille. The obligatory European winter puffer jacket and scarf were out in force as wardrobes had already transitioned.

Arriving back in London it was jumpers and heating on as the weather had certainly turned from the hot and heady days of August, and with that, the party atmosphere of London parks combined with working from home had certainly ceased. Apparently the party now starts at 10pm with the pub curfew.

And so, with a nice few months in France to break up the challenges of 2020, we’re back to work (from home) and are busy thinking of new projects.

And in the meantime, Big T is trying to get his giant Biot jar delivered. That should keep us laughing for a while!

Big T and the giant Biot jar

The horn beeped at the gate and Agnes and I dashed out to see… a rather forlorn looking chap sans giant Biot jar. Apparently (and not entirely surprisingly) the jar had refused to travel in such a tiny car and that was that.

Or not.

Refusing to give up, Big T will now be organising a pick up and drop off while we return to London.

Yes, perhaps that would have been a good idea in the first place… but I certainly wouldn’t be the one to say that!

The giant jar also seemed to have damaged one of the back windows in the Mini so we had to cover it with plastic and tape it up so it’s hopefully weatherproof until it can be repaired. Did the jar have the last laugh after all?

With merely hours until departure, did someone say fiasco?!

An optimist and his giant jar

Old sew and sew

I think I was about seven or eight when I wanted to sew. It’s all a bit vague but I think my first sewing machine was a blue plastic Holly Hobbie hand-operated toy in the 1970s. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t use it.

I think I was fifteen when I took myself to evening classes after school to learn to sew (properly) I got my first real sewing machine and I started sewing my own clothes. They were pretty bad… shorts, trousers, dresses, shirts all with wonky seams and badly fitting but I loved trying and in another world I might have gone into fashion design.

In 2020 where the world has turned upside down, I sewed my first piece of clothing in at least thirty years and after unpicking a few seams to make sure I’d actually wear it, it turned out quite well.

The question now is, will it be another thirty years or is this something to keep going with?

A new acquisition

Sunday morning and Big T set off to chip a fountain out of a patio and try to squeeze an enormous jar into a very small car. I declined to attend as I had other (less insane) things to do!

Several hours later he returned. A large pot with a lemon tree sat jauntily on the passenger seat and a rather charming fountain (with a little chip in the foot where it had been prised from its resting place) lay very heavily on the back seat. He would be returning for the large jar apparently!

The fountain was extremely heavy and took a great deal of work to manoeuvre it out of the car and gently prop it up in its future home. It was the perfect fit and will create a lovely entry if we’re able to get it working next year. In the meantime it will rest for the winter and hopefully not fall over.

The new lemon tree was carefully placed on one of my brick circles in the side garden where it will also stay until we decide if it needs to be moved. Hopefully it will survive the winter.

As for the large jar, well I’m waiting to hear the beep of the horn which will announce the arrival of…

The Final Swim

It was a lovely last day weather-wise and with the water temperature cooling rapidly (18°) I was sad to take my final dip for the summer.

I tried to capture the feeling of the cool water, the warm sun and the cornflower blue sky as a memory for when I’m reduced to swimming at Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre which is a very different proposition and not an olive tree in sight!

I met my challenge of swimming every day and would probably continue into October (and perhaps beyond) if we were here but now is not the time and so with my last tiny length of five strokes, it was the end of the summer.

After the rain

It was a surreal week in the South of France as torrential rain gave way to gale force winds.

Tall cypress trees were bent in half, olive trees were battered into dropping their unripe cargo and our large and very heavy outdoor umbrella was lifted up on the side of its iron base and almost whipped into the air Mary Poppins style.

As I was swimming at the time I was battling white caps and a head wind (an interesting conundrum in a small 8 metre pool) and had to dash to drop the umbrella before it took off.

The pool was filled with debris and the freshly painted gates were pock marked with water droplets and covered in a coating of small black flies like 1970s fly paper. It would seem it wasn’t the week to try to clean and pack up for Winter!

An almighty deluge

It looks like it might be a wet winter in the South of France.

We went from bright sunshine at lunchtime (after the fountain viewing) to one of the heaviest storms and downpours I’ve seen here. I thought it would be fun to go for a swim but after a couple of circles around the pool, I was wondering if it was possible to be struck by lightning in water and decided to get out.

The pool was getting very full but then I remembered the downstairs studio and rushed down to discover waves lapping at the doors as the drain had blocked. It blocked a couple of years ago and the studio flooded so it appeared I was just in the nick of time.

I unblocked the drain with a broom handle whilst the rain poured down soaking me. Agnes, the lunatic Welsh Terrier who loves jumping in rain and drinking bucketloads of water, attempted to help by gobbling up the puddles.

Luckily the drain unblocked and several inches of water drained away, crisis averted.

After a couple of hours, the rain subsided a little and the sky began to brighten. Distant rumbles of thunder implied it might be back but for a moment, calm as the rain continued to fall.

La Fontaine

Of course, with only a few days left before we head to the frozen North, we decided to go and look at a fountain. Priorities? A fountain we won’t see for the next nine months, what a good idea!

I’ve had my eye out for one for a while as we have a spot which looks like it used to have one and where one is certainly needed. Fountains don’t come cheap so when Big T spotted what looked like the perfect one for the bargain price of €90, we thought we’d better go and have a look.

It turned out to be so much more than we thought as the lady was selling lots of garden pots, the fountain, furniture and more as she was downsizing and moving to Cannes. Big T spotted an enormous Biot jar used for storing olive oil, they normally cost €1800+ but she was asking €60… it had been cracked and repaired but worse than that, it was full of soil and sitting precariously on a wall by the pool. It would have to be emptied and then rolled very carefully not into a Mini ideally. The fountain was cemented into the patio and would need several crowbars or brute strength to break it out. Hmm.

Despite calling in reinforcements, we still weren’t sure any of it would be possible but ever the optimist, Big T arranged to return on Sunday for another go. The lady said we should take a picnic!

So, perhaps a fountain or perhaps just a photo… it looks better in reality and is the perfect size.

As for the biot jar, well, time will tell whether we manage to get it home. It looks a bit like this but doesn’t cost $4288!

A Tomb with a View

Wednesday saw us taking a day off from winter preparations and going on an excursion to Menton.

Sandwiched between Monaco and Italy, Menton is known for its micro-climate which is unbearably hot in the summer but the ideal place for winter sun. As a result we saw a lot of very wrinkly old brown people.

We had an itinerary for the day starting with finding Aubrey Beardsley’s grave, followed by the Menton market and finally the botanical gardens. A nice day out!

We found Aubrey Beardsley’s grace quite easily. Perched high above the glistening Mediterranean, it certainly was a tomb with a view as the town of Menton stacked below in hues of rust, ochre and sienna, the azure blue sea beyond.

Only twenty five, imagine what he could have accomplished had he lived longer but then again, look at what he did accomplish!

A lovely final resting spot, so tranquil and scented with coastal pines.

We donned our face masks and headed down the hill to the market.

Swimming in the Rain

As our last week progresses, I continue to swim until the final hour and as the mediterranean Autumnal storms begin with huge flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder overhead, I’ve been swimming in the rain.

The water temperature hasn’t cooled too much (a comfortable twenty two degrees) and so it’s a refreshing and enjoyable experience to swim with heavy black clouds swirling overhead instead of cornflower blue skies. The olives are starting to ripen and fall with increasing regularity into the water which fills and blocks the pump basket if not emptied but it’s a lovely thing to swim every day and something I’ll miss again this year when we leave.