Really. It hasn’t stopped raining or being grey. Almost to the point where I’ve forgotten that this is truly summer. Oh wait, we’ve had the solstice so the nights are already drawing in again dammit. There’s a Douglas Adams book (The Long Dark TeaTime of the Soul, maybe) in which a truck driver is followed around by rain wherever he goes because he doesn’t know that he is a Rain God. He keeps a note of every type of rain he encounters, and gets very grumpy about it. We’ve certainly been treated to a good selection from his list in the last few days.
Spills. Every day something gets poured on the floor/table/child in an epic way. Today Jude knocked an entire washing-up bowl of dirty dishes, in hot water, onto our kitchen trailer floor, which has that particular kind of wood-effect flooring that hates water. Not good.
It’s just been a really wet, drippy kind of week. Soggy.
And then there’s Brexit. Which has pretty much broken our world. Temporarily, but emphatically. The majority of Jude’s clients are expats from the UK who have bought property to renovate here in Normandy as a retirement project. They have very little money (or they would have relocated further south) so they want cheap, English builders to work on their houses. So up until now, Jude has had plenty of work, so much he has even turned people down. Britain leaving Europe has changed that completely and has made us aware how fragile our existence here really is, reliant as we are on these expat types for our sole income. No one knows how this change will affect their futures here, no one has any idea how this will play out in the long term, everyone is just waiting.
The only thing to do when everything feels as gloomy as this is just to knuckle down and get on with what you can. We have decided that we are going to concentrate entirely on getting this piece of land looking as good as we possibly can so that it looks irresistably beautiful by the time we come to put it on the market. Jude has taken down and replaced our neighbour’s fencing on both sides of her garden and begun preparing our side for hedge planting. Doing everything on a budget which still allows us to eat has been tricky these last few weeks with zero income but it is still satisfying to see some progress. Most of the plants we’ve put in so far are cuttings I took about two years ago; the majority are rosemary, which rooted incredibly easily and quickly and a few bits of honeysuckle from the roadside which I also rooted for the first time. This seems to be my new thing: I’ve lost track of the things I’ve snipped and potted up this year… my latest addiction is to try to root rose cuttings and I would be so happy if my lilac cuttings survive too. Note to self: label everything! You will NOT remember.
The girls finish school this week and then we have Les Grands Vacances, when France basically shuts down until September. Nothing is open, everyone is at the beach if it’s sunny. One thing the French really do spectacularly well is to do everything en masse: the right time to do things is when everyone else is doing them too. The looks we get if we, in our English way, sit on a bench and eat a sandwich when it’s not lunchtime! Craziness! Jess and Milly once asked their neighbour for a biscuit when they were over there playing together and were politely informed that it wasn’t biscuit time…
We did have a bit of a treat this week actually; our lovely neighbour Françoise, of the new hedge, invited us over for lunch. Now, in England if you were to pop over to a friend’s house for lunch you might be offered a bit of quiche, maybe a little salad and a cup of tea. We started with aperitifs (white wine and cassis for Françoise and I, Pernod for the boys – I silently waved goodbye to Jude at that point 😉 with a selection of nibbles. Then, cold meat stuffed with a mayonnaisey salad mixture. A little pause, a few anecdotes, more wine. Then the main meal: beef bourguignon, mashed potato and gravy and oh, it was heavenly! Just perfection. And more wine of course. Red with the meat. Of course. And then egg custard pudding. More wine. Then coffee. And dark chocolate. We waddled home together afterwards and collapsed in a puddle of contented after-dinner haze. And then picked the girls up from school and fed them pasta. Of course. Lellie slept VERY well that night: she spent the whole time playing with Françoise’s four-month-old fluffy puppy, who she’d picked up from a local farm having gone there to buy some chickens. Evia, her previous dog, died fairly recently and Françoise was devastated and swore she’d never have another dog. Then turned up at my front door a couple of months ago with a little white cloud of two-month-old fur, looking slightly shell-shocked but ecstatic, telling me that she’d gone to the farm and out of the litter of puppies she’d chanced to find there, this one had jumped up into her arms – chosen her. And promptly left a little pool on her lap.
We will get though this miasmic trough that we’re in. With our wellies on, spades in hands, even if there are days when it really does feel an awfully long way off, we will wade forward to the bright future that must surely lie just ahead, sniffing the roses along the way.