Good grief it’s August!

Suddenly it’s August and time is running out fast.

I have been busy (and stressed) with work, we had four action-packed days with family staying, we have rented the house to a new tenant for the winter (unless she gets cold feet) and we have an Airbnb booking starting on the 15th which means we’re heading to London on the train on the 16th.

It’s a lot and needless to say, there’s a lot to be done.

And as before, the future is unknown.

Are we heading back to another lockdown? Or quarantine? Or will France be on the banned list so we won’t be able to get back?

The fun continues especially as the pool has remained stubbornly cloudy for the past ten days which has seriously tested my mettle. Quite frankly, what hasn’t this year?

And so on to vacuum bags to avoid mouldy bedding…

Angels with Attitude

Yes, not so much angels after all but Angels with Attitude!

Apparently the French gardeners took criticism badly when questioned about why they hadn’t cut one part of the hedge…

Oh well, it all turned out well in the end and Big T will finish off the hedge because luckily I’m not tall enough!

Leaf blowers and chain saws

I had been cutting down dead fir trees (much more messy than pruning an olive tree) when two chaps showed up and proposed doing some gardening. Angels in the guise of rustic Frenchmen it would seem!

We agreed a price and they set to work cutting a giant laurel hedge in half (it was about eight metres tall so could afford to come down a bit) and prune two big olive trees which would have been way beyond my capabilities.

There was a sudden buzz of activity as we went from the slow snip of the lone secateur to the vroom vroom of leaf blowers and chain saws resonating through the garden.

In a couple of hours, it was job done. I had equipment envy as I’ve been after a leaf blower for ages.

What a difference the right tools make!


This morning I heard a cuckoo for the first time in quite a few years. It was loud and sounded quite close so quite exciting.

Of course cuckoos are nasty birds laying their eggs in other bird’s nests and either killing their young or tossing out the eggs, but still, it’s such a distinctive sound reminiscent of summers past and quite a lovely sound to hear on a summer morning in the South of France.

Pruning Olives

Having returned to ground zero, I decided I needed to prune the branches away from the house (to avoid having to clear the gutter again) and so up the very tall ladder I went.

The trouble with the South of France is that every plant is a behemoth and needs constant cutting back. Miss a year and suddenly you’ve got a garden full of triffids.

The tree (and giant hedge of ivy) were no exception and so I cleared branches away from the house and the power lines until a large pile of leaves and branches stopped me from getting down the ladder.

And then I stopped for lunch. I was getting a bit tired and it was getting a bit hot.

After lunch, perhaps I was touched by the sun as I embarked on pruning another tree. And it was a big one. Actually it was more like three trees as it had three trunks. What was I was thinking?

A few exhausting hours later I had blisters from the secateurs and couldn’t do any more.

The branches were opened up so a bird could fly between them (apparently a good guide when pruning an olive) and I was in big trouble for making a mess!

A big mess
My first attempt at pruning

As we have another nine olive trees in the garden, I have plenty more to do!


Another relaxing weekend

Saturday morning saw me climbing up and over the roof in order to clear out the gutter above the mouldy landlord’s cupboard.

In order to get to the gutter, I had to cut back the olive branches and clean the old leaves and olives out from between the tiles.

There are a couple of tiles I’d like to replace so I suspect another journey will be necessary.

Inching forward (one hand holding on at all times) I reached the precarious edge and managed to clear the debris out from within.

Olive trees are very messy things and while very picturesque, they are quite hard work. I didn’t realise just how much hard work lay ahead.

After a good hour I descended the roof with the assistance of Big T’s back and then the pruning began…

Grouting the pool

Another relaxing day was spent transitioning into the South of France by repairing the grouting in the pool.

As the pool had to be partially drained to reset the chemical balance, it seemed like an opportune moment to repair some of the old grout which had disintegrated over the years.

With a washing up bowl and a cup of waterproof grout, I spent a satisfying few hours waist deep in water repairing any missing grout above the waterline. With the excess cleaned off, the grout was gleaming white and I felt it was a worthwhile job well done.

I would add however that repairing swimming pool grout is really only for the OCD, not an activity to be undertaken by normal people!


A few days later

It’s fair to say that sixteen hours of travelling wiped us out. Agnes and I were exhausted after we went over the wall, or rather under the channel and it took a few days to start to settle down.

Of course, that didn’t stop me from going on a marathon washing session as, over the winter, our storage room had leaked and everything inside was covered in mould. It was a discovery Big T had made upon arrival so at least I was forewarned.

My obsessively well-organised stacks of bedding (by bed size) were in chaos, some sheets were in holes, some with mould, some had miraculously survived. Clothes had to be thrown away and the whole thing was a sorry sight after being a delicious wealth of lavender-scented cotton.

All there was to do was to wash all the bedding again with vinegar, bleach and anything else and then bake everything dry in the sun to see what survived.

There were casualties and there will need to be replacements and of course, the next project will be to find the source of the problem and then try to remove the mould from the landlord’s cupboard.


Marseille to Antibes

By the time we arrived in Antibes, everything was starting to drag and we were very tired.

Agnes was pretty fed up with sitting under a seat for ten hours so insisted on standing in the aisle which was moderately inconvenient as passengers insisted on walking up and down. Most inconsiderate of them!

We pulled into Cannes where an announcement was made, something about the police which I didn’t quite catch so we sat for ten minutes waiting. It felt like another ten hours.

But eventually we were off, the train creaking forward slowly and ten minutes later we were in Antibes where a very tanned chap was there to meet us.

We’d arrived!

Lille to Marseille

I had booked first class and thank goodness, the second class TGV looked like an outing to Butlins.

Originating in Brussels, it looked as though the whole of Belgium was going on a package tour. We set off to the other end of the train.

A nice quiet cabin (only two small children) and a calm environment meant that Agnes tucked herself under a seat and went to sleep, at least for the first couple of hours.

We weren’t alone as we had two different neighbours but with my brave attempt at conversation, “j’ai une chienne, Monsieur, pas de problem?!” things seemed to be ok.

Let’s not jinx it, we’ve still got over three hours left to go….