June ending

We’re approaching the end of June which seems to have flashed by in the blink of an eye. I’m ensconced in the small top bedroom following a daily routine of swimming continuously in circles for fifteen minutes and swimming very short lengths to practise breathing for another fifteen minutes. It’s more effective than it sounds!

My daily zoom calls, team restructures, admin and HR continue and when possible I try to do something creative. I’m getting more of a handle on this new job and distance has actually been my friend with the hour time difference buffering me from the UK. There are return to office discussions, apparently the start date is September 1st (Covid permitting) so I’m making the most of my time before I have to start the slog back to Camden with my fingers crossed for the next lockdown!

I leave the house on average twice a week which means I’m well protected from Covid, as if we still care. In rural southern France it’s almost like it never happened. Life is a little more slow and simple as apart from work, I am sewing cushions, growing succulents and occasionally watching tennis and football.

And so as the weather heats up (30 degrees this week) the pace slows down a little as out of office replies bounce through and Summer Fridays are a nice corporate perk where every second Friday is a day off.

Enjoy the moment.

Under the fence

3am and I was awake. Why?

The outside lights were left on and when I went downstairs, the switch didn’t work and I couldn’t turn them off. Agnes came along to see what was going on and despite my better judgement, I let her out into the garden.

I went back to sleep, dozing off in the already hot June night.

“Bow wowww wooowwww” woke me not long after. Agnes doesn’t bark much but when she does, it sounds a lot like the crow of a rooster and isn’t appreciated by anyone in the early hours so I leapt up, grabbed her lead and went out in search of the source of my irritation.

I could hear her rustling around in the giant hedge but couldn’t see her. Turning on the torch on my phone, I saw a furry brown leg and a black tail pass by… on the wrong side of the fence.

The escape artist tendencies of the Welsh Terrier haven’t been particularly strong in Agnes but there she was, clearly on the wrong side of the fence which meant it was just a matter of time before she jumped off the wall into the neighbour’s garden and vanished into the night.

As she passed by again, I grabbed her back leg as I managed to wedge myself into the hedge (in my nightie, 3:30am, being bitten by mosquitoes…) I tried to shine my torch with one hand and hold her leg with the other.

Eventually I managed to move my hand up to reach her front leg and then to her collar where I was carefully able to attach her lead (full contortionist at the point) and turn her around to face the hole.

Pushing the green diamond fencing up, Agnes wiggled back underneath with a lot of encouragement (pulling) from me until she popped out on the right side. Phew, crisis averted, I’d been bitten by mozzies but at least the dog was back in the garden and I didn’t have to knock on the neighbour’s door to look for an errant Welsh Terrier (in French!)

Back to bed we went, lights still on, now with a hole in the fence and Agnes firmly attached to the lead.

It would be a very slow day after the night time shenanigans.

Back to Work

Yesterday I started back at work which means I’m now ensconced in the small bedroom with my new desk and chair.

600 emails awaited me and so I logged in on Sunday in order to relieve the shock of having to weed through so much correspondence in one go. I was glad I did as it meant I could skim read everything and be back up to speed as I joined my first zoom for the week.

The internet seemed fine and while it did get a little warm in the afternoon, the set up was pretty good. I’m tempted to invest in a portable air conditioner or perhaps splash out on a Dyson fan. The temptation to stay cool will be an obsession as things heat up in July and August.

But so far so good. I’m structuring my days to suit the time difference so it means I have time in the morning to email, breakfast and swim before the work day begins in earnest.

It’s only Day Two, let’s see how things progress!

Blown away

After four years, we have finally bought a leaf blower and what a difference it’s made.

For a house with nine olive trees and leaves everywhere, it’s possibly the best thing we’ve ever bought as suddenly the paths are immaculate, the paving around the pool, leaf-free, the drive, well we didn’t quite get to finish the drive because the little dog was going berserk.

Agnes loves to catch leaves and loves to bite the vacuum cleaner but she doesn’t like the hair dryer. This new contraption caused great fun (moving leaves!) and cleaning (yay!) but great concern as it was very windy so lots of barking ensued.

It seems Agnes may not be participating in leaf blowing any more as she’s noisier than the machine!

Taking the plunge

The pool is back up and running and I’m pleased to say I’ve been in three times so far as I get back into the daily swimming.

The water is perfectly clear, not a hint of green and the temperature, a surprising twenty four degrees. Very nice indeed.

Now I just need to get my fitness up a bit!

Desk with a view

I now have my new desk and chair set up in the Little Bedroom with views of the garden below. Sitting by the window, I can see the tops of the newly pruned (or chopped) olive trees, slim elegant cypress trees popping up randomly across the horizon, and in the distant haze, what I’m sure is Cannes but as ever, the sea view is elusive.

Last summer I found the downstairs studio a little dark and while it was a nice space, I was sitting at a tiny old wooden desk on a very hard wooden school chair. This year I decided it was time to invest in a little more comfort to make working remotely from working remotely more feasible.

And so, with the sound of birds in the garden, a light breeze carrying the scent of rosemary, lavender and jasmine and the occasional dog bark, it’s quite a tranquil location.

I’m feeling a lot less stressed and am looking forward (well, almost) to getting back to work next week.

Could be worse!

One week later

A week later and things have been cleaned, pruned, vacuumed and swept and are looking a lot better. The pool is starting to clear and has changed from forest green, to jade and is moving towards turquoise as it gradually rids itself of the winter algae.

We’ve had the olive trees cut back as this year, I am not doing any more stupid jobs like grouting the pool, trimming the giant hedge, replacing tiles on the roof or pruning olive trees which were just the tip of the iceberg last year. Essentially I overdid it and now am spending my time planting succulent gardens and sewing which are much more gentile activities!

I’m off work this week but will be starting up again next week so am getting my workspace set up and staging my backdrop with a new desk and chair, a new fan (essential in July and August) and testing the speed of the internet which is pretty slow.

Hopefully I’ll be up and running by Monday as I’m already up to 400 emails and it’s only Tuesday!

Southern migration

We left Calais at midday the next day and headed to Paris by train. Two hours later we jumped on the metro and travelled from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon where we were met by crowds of people. Paris in COVID looked very similar to Paris before. It had been a long time since we’d been around so many people.

From Paris it was a five and a half hour journey to Antibes where we were met by our taxi driver and delivered to the house around 11pm.

It was dark, quiet, overgrown and dirty. Daunting to say the least.

After the long and stressful journey we had our work cut out for us as the waist high grass in the garden would attest.

Still, everything looks better in the morning and this was no exception as daylight revealed it was really just the kitchen that needed cleaning and after a bit of weeding and strimming, things started to look a lot better.

We’re still bringing the pool back from the winterisation, green (usually my favourite colour) doesn’t work well for swimming so the murky pond is still a work in progress to return to the crystal clear turquoise water of the summer.

Work to do.

Several days later…

Hello and bonjour from France and what a journey that was!

We moved our tickets as France was introducing tougher border control for Brits. Rather than quarantining for ten days, we hoped to get in before the gates were shut.

Picked up in Folkestone and eventually dropped off in Calais, we had everything from PCR tests, animal travel certificates, justification for travel and double vaxxed for good measure.

It was all a bit stressful as we sat in Linda’s dog taxi for four hours as there were delays and a tailback when we arrived.

As it turned out, it was all fine and we were dropped off, a little shell shocked in Calais about six hours after leaving London where we checked in to a hotel and went to the beach. How surreal.

A little sand on the nose
Hotel de Ville Calais

We spent a pleasant albeit exhausted evening in Calais eating delicious cold pink prawns followed by moules mariners and frites washed down with a lovely Rosé before our arduous journey continued the next day… the days of spontaneous travel are over for good!