Cold Water Swimming

In recent years my ideal swimming temperature has been a rather balmy 26°. No sense of chill on the tummy, just a bath-like condition (not always as refreshing as it could be) but quite ideal for wallowing like a sedate hippo!

As this long French summer very slowly moves into Autumn I’m finding my feelings have changed. Twenty two degrees and below and for the first time, I’m enjoying the cooler water, the refreshing chill and the daily plunge which cools the core quickly.

My goal has been to swim every day in September while I still can. With only two weeks left and limited swimming in London (indoor health centre with fumes of chlorine, floating pubic hairs and Covid) I’m determined to make the most of the time I have left.

Each year I spend hours trying to find a clean, not too cold, outdoor pool in London and never seem able to find a solution. Too far, too cold, too indoor, too dirty… I know I’m spoiled but there’s nothing like having a pool outside your back door even if you do have to swim round in circles.

I’m not sure I’m brave enough to venture into temperatures much below 20° but it’s all about the transition and adjusting gradually so who knows, maybe I’ll be able to find a pool this winter to keep swimming.

Back on the tiles

It had been a while but with preparations for winter well underway (I am vacuum-packing every item of linen in the house) it was time to get back up on the roof to repair a couple of tiles.

This time was tricky as I was carrying a canvas bag with heavy pot tiles, secateurs to trim back the olive tree and a bottle of water as it was getting a bit hot.

Up and over the top I went, daring to stand up on the ridge to obsessively look for a sea view ( I’m convinced we have one but it’s reluctant to reveal itself). No such luck from my lofty heights. And so over the other side to perch precariously over the edge of the drainpipe to replace a tile and cut back a large branch of olive.

It was a bit much in the end as the olive branch almost took me off the roof and so I decided that enough was enough and it was time to get down and cool off in the pool.

That might have been the end of my roof repairing activities!

And a pomegranate tree

There is a stunning pomegranate tree down the road and each summer I watch the fruit begin to ripen as we prepare to leave France for the winter. By November the leaves will have dropped and all that remains are the ripe fruit (one of my favourites) hanging like Christmas decorations waiting to be plucked.

I’ve been after a pomegranate tree for a while and so when we just happened to be at the garden centre on my birthday (just a few more succulents for my desert garden) we spotted the fruit trees being wheeled out and lo and behold, a lovely tall pomegranate tree for the bargain price of €24.99. Perfect!

Big T bought it for me as part of my birthday celebrations, agreed to the requested location (where it could be seen from the kitchen) and planted it into our side garden which is a work in progress. I hope she will enjoy her life, be surrounded by lavender (next year) and start to grow spectacular fruit!

And hopefully I’ll be here to pick them!

The tiny avocado tree

I have been trying for months (or if I’m honest, a couple of years) to germinate an avocado from a seed. I’ve tried the toothpick method in water many times to no avail and so this summer I stuck a few avocados (we eat a lot of them) in a pot at the bottom of the steps and left them to it.

A few weeks later I noticed I had five rotten stones and, hold on a second, one stalk. We had lift off!

A couple of weeks later, we now have a tiny avocado tree with seven leaves. I also have a new batch of stones stuck in the soil in case they’re inspired by the tree already growing. Come on chaps!

Agnes and the little avocado tree

I am very excited about this as it’s been an exercise in perseverance. I hope it survives the winter as I won’t be here to look after it but nature is often better left to itself.

While I’m reading that most commercial avocados grow fruit from grafts, I’m optimistic that in about ten years or so, we may have a freshly-picked avocado from the garden.

One can dream!

Yet another birthday!

Another year gone by and yet another birthday, they seem to keep coming thick and fast. This year, 51. How did that happen?!

Last year was a tough one for me. I wasn’t ready to be fifty (as if I had a choice) but by running away to Iceland, I managed to cope with the transition whilst surrounded by stunning nature.

As a contrast, this year wasn’t so bad!

With the events of 2020 so far, we’ve literally been out to eat once since March so to go out to a Michelin-rated restaurant conveniently located in our local village, certainly seemed like a treat.

The St Pierre du Clos is a lovely restaurant with a shaded courtyard near the church and local square. We wore masks to enter the restaurant and then, once seated, were able to remove them and enjoy the ambiance of the day.

It was possibly one of the best meals either of us had enjoyed, perhaps the atmosphere, or the novelty of eating out or perhaps it just was sublime cooking.

We started with an aperitif, a coupe de champagne for me as it was my birthday, a G&T for Big T and then we shared a bottle of bio Rosé which tasted of lavender and Provence.

There were two menu options so I went for the most delicious and delicate risotto of girolles with a little truffle jus followed by a perfectly grilled fish with a crispy skin, charred broccoli, the smoothest pomme puree and a silky velouté. I would eat the entire thing right now if I could.

Big T started with a chevre salad with translucent haricot beans and pesto, refreshing and cool, followed by lamb (cooked pinky), aubergine parmigiana and potato fondant.

We shared an incredible plate of cheese and ended with ice-cream, fruit and a waffle. Fig for Big T, pear for me and then coffee. Bliss!

We would love to go more often but perhaps it’s nice to have a special treat now and then so the memory lives on. A very special lunch.

Tour de France 2020

As with all things Covid, it’s all good if you wear a mask.

The Tour de France was no exception as we headed up to Châteauneuf de Grasse (ten minutes up the road) to catch the third stage as they passed through.

We were a bit early but luckily there was mobile fruit to add to the excitement.

Melon on wheels

And the obligatory 2CV in gingham.

An egg carton
The yellow jersey

It was all very French with the crowd taking a break for lunch and a queue out of the Boulangerie blocking the road but eventually an exciting moment of long awaited anticipation as the blur of cyclists passed through the village.

Just another Monday in France!

Pros and cons

In some respects, travel has returned to the way it used to be, or perhaps should be.

Quiet airports, a dignified silence, a cleanliness not seen for years, partially empty flights and the list goes on. So you have to wear a face mask and use hand sanitizer, seems like a small price to pay to escape the rabble of summer travellers in the UK!

Of course it’s terrible for the airlines, the holiday and travel industry, the cheap flights and package deals but then again, is it?

It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for travel. Will we go from face masks to hazmat suits and oxygen tanks? It’s certainly hard to imagine going beyond Europe these days.

House Arrest

After a two week sojourn in London where I completely self-isolated except for essential food shopping and a haircut, it was time to return to France for the last hurrah of the summer and sort the house out for the winter tenant.

We’ve been waiting for the French to announce a reciprocal quarantine but it seems they’ve been sensible and have accepted it’s not realistic and, in the case of the UK, completely unenforced.

I’m optimistic I won’t be under house arrest in France where they would be round every day to check up on you.

I’m also hopeful that I’ll be able to travel without any complications and without being exposed to rising Covid numbers in the South of France. The fun continues.

At least I’m not on the trains today!

It’s all white

Five months ago I had a haircut.

It was a very long time ago and while I was tempted to have a go at self mutilation (cutting my own hair) or a home dye job to attempt to colour the little grey hat which sat rather too comfortably on top of my head, I resisted the temptation and I was glad I did.

With five months of regrowth under my belt, I decided to embrace the grey or at least try to. This week I was finally able to get my hair cut and coloured. What a relief!

Three inches of dry straw were chopped off the bottom and rather than attempt to cover the grey, I went for a whiter shade rather than gold and I’m quite pleased. My hair is quite white at the front and darker at the back, it’s a little Devil Wears Prada (or Cruella de Ville) but I’m thinking more along the lines of natural hair colour or free highlights.

Let’s see when I get my next appointment.

The best laid plans

And so with all things Covid and 2020, plans are made to be changed.

I returned to London a week ago. Big T stayed in France. It was all a bit complicated but with quarantine changing daily in the UK and possible quarantine in France, it wasn’t worth Big T taking the risk.

So far the French have kept their side of the bargain and haven’t introduced a reciprocal quarantine but who knows what could happen this week.

I am due to return to France next weekend where we’ll stay until the end of September to get the house ready for the winter tenant and enjoy the last of the summer freedom. Unless something changes of course.

After that, it will be the winter of discontent I’m sure!