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.

Farewell Fragonard

Being in the South of France for the summer always involves several trips to one of my favourite shops, Fragonard, in the nearby town of Grasse. There are several Fragonard shops, from the main shop selling candles, room diffusers, soaps and perfumes all beautifully packaged, to fashion, home and les enfants.

Today we went for our final visit for the summer as I indulged in a few more lovely soaps, candles, scents and soap dishes.

We recently discovered a jasmine called Jasmin de Grasse and planted one in the garden. Smelling a beautifully packaged jasmine soap at Fragonard, it instantly recalled the Jasmin de Grasse and I knew it was a smell to get us through the winter of discontent ahead.

I love every visit to Fragonard, from the first time I went for my birthday three years ago to today, it’s a pleasure for the senses and could only be experienced in the South of France and, I might add, very reasonably priced!

À bientôt Fragonard, until next summer hopefully!

The Desert Garden

Last year I started growing my succulent garden in the driest, least fertile part of the garden. There was no other option than to plant succulents, nothing else would survive!

I started by buying twenty tiny succulents for €20 and each time I went to the garden centre, I would buy twenty more. Gradually a carpet of tiny succulents started to fill in the dust and then I left it to nature and its own devices for the winter.

Coming back in July I saw my desert garden for the first time in nine months and was surprised to see that nature was winning. The succulents had thrived, grown and even procreated, free plants!

I did a little reconfiguring, moved some, planted some and bought a few new ones and I’m very pleased with the result so far. With the winter departure not far off, the succulents will again be left to see what happens and I’m hoping that they’ll stay happy.

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!