Everyday life in France – Week 3

(For anyone  in danger of loosing the sequence, that’s week beginning Sunday 26 May 2002)

This has been a very leisurely week compared with all our “holiday” weeks spent here. Helen’s all for retirement – and might even bring herself eventually to use the word. We’ve moved quite a lot of stuff gradually back to the farmhouse, since the visitors left, done some gardening, Helen’s watched quite a bit(!!) of the French Open Tennis on TV and we’ve both pottered around and generally enjoyed the sunshine.

Picture the scene a the moment – it’s nearly 6pm on Saturday evening and still very hot. Across the fields to the south east the church bells have just started ringing (has there been a wedding? – possibly not as we haven’t heard car horns hooting – but then what was that poster as we turned the corner with a female in chains looking up to a male?), and from the field immediately to the north of the house comes the hum of the of the baler and the bagger, making hay while the sun shines. Flies are buzzing in through the open windows, too soporific to find the way out, and upstairs on the TV Agassi has just won his latest match. (But perhaps we’d better not mention sport since France’s inglorious match against Senegal last night! Today’s paper was full of pictures of the rejoicing Senegalese community in Remiremont and St Die and words like “desolation”. They tactfully claim that it feels a very French victory, as most of the Senegalese players play in France anyway, while the French players play in England and elsewhere!).

I’m sitting in the dining room, which, for those of you who know it, looks a bit different now, with the addition of the computer (on Leila’s computer desk) and many of John’s cookery books on my mother’s old dresser and in John’s Dad’s old bookcase (so lots of family reminders). Outside the front door, John is just starting to mix up some concrete to make some fence posts rigid in the ground (the posts being designed both for threading the wire to support the fruit – see below – and to form the outer edges of a fruit cage).

We’re getting more ambitious to cultivate more than black plastic in the old vegetable and fruit garden. During the week we’ve very belatedly planted out into it the two Worcester berries and the loganberry which we’d intended to bring out in March (and also a pear in the orchard). We also brought 3 grape vines from the Nottingham garden which have now been planted. So the fruit garden, which already has summer and autumn raspberries, blackcurrants, grapes, strawberries (the first ripened yesterday – delicious!), myrtleberries, and herbs is looking fuller, and the birds will have more of a treat than us without a bit of protection! There are still several apple and a mulberry tree to plant, when we can decide where to put them.

This afternoon we’ve cheated and been to the outdoor market in St Die and bought some tomato, basil and courgette plants; but from the agricultural co-operative we bought some beetroot, carrot, pea, bean and lettuce seeds although it is getting towards the end of planting time. It’s beginning to sound as if we’ll be far too busy with the garden for working on the house! This morning Helen unearthed our gardening books from one to the many cardboard boxes, in order to help us do things properly.

The orchard is also looking far less wild since John strimmed just about all the grass and flowers during the week. We’ve not seen it so clear in all the time we’ve had the farmhouse and it looks completely different. The remaining nettles have been fed with glyphosate (Round-up) in an attempt to kill those that can’t be cut with the strimmer. Wonder how many sheep it would need to keep the grass down?

On a more leisurely note, you’ll have gathered from last week’s news that we’ve become addicted to flea markets and vide-greniers (empty your haylofts/attics). Last Sunday was the first time we’d been here for the Entre-deux-Eaux flea market. We had a preliminary scout round in the cool, dull morning, then went over to Xonrupt Longuemer at lunch time for their market (much smaller than last year when John bought his mechanical calculator), where we had ham and chips in the drizzle, but then wandered round in the sudden sunshine. Afterwards, we returned to the Entre-deux-Eaux flea market in the late afternoon which was really alive and packed. We were rather pleased with our finds/purchases from the two markets – two silver serviette rings, a silver plated wine taster, a mystery silver object, three books, five euros worth of plasterboard hanging brackets (which would have cost around 30 euros from a bricolage), and 10 French marigolds (though here they’re Indian rather than French – oeuillets des Indes.). Tomorrow we’ll probably also stroll around one or two more markets in other nearby villages in the increasingly hot sunshine which is forecast (but then cloudier later in the week).

On Tuesday morning, which was overcast, we went into St Die to look at the national newspapers (the village shop only stocks 2 regional ones, which are fascinating if you want to see photos and accounts of committee meetings, firemen in action or car pile ups, but don’t have a huge amount of national and international news). We bought Le Monde and Figaro to help decide which, if any, national newspaper might become our choice of reading (except for weekends when we need the local paper in summer for information on the location of flea markets!). Then we decided to find out about local groups and societies to join. My instinct, of course, was to head for the library, but as we were nearer the tourist office we started there, and were given useful leaflets. They didn’t have the address for the local history society, but said that the museum was a contact and meeting place. Well, talk about unhelpful! The museum couldn’t possibly give us the phone number of the President as he was on the “rouge” list, but we could buy all the publications of the group (three times she pressed us to buy) and eventually she agreed to pass our names and contact details on to the President. Then something suddenly changed – she discovered we lived in a village a few miles from hers (and possibly the fact that Helen was able to identify our parish – never been asked about that before! It’s always the secular commune – and that we were English rather than German made a difference) and suddenly she was telling us about all the other things we could join. Phew! We escaped without buying any (very expensive) publications (“They’re bound to have them in the library”, I said, though the Museum Assistant thought it highly unlikely that the library would have any of them.) Next we went into the library (attached to the museum) where we found all the useful leaflets, the latest museum publications and an excellent selection of magazines and newspapers! So I think we’ll have to allocate a regular morning to the reading room. (Goodness, how soon we could become like all the seedy old men who haunted all the newspaper tables of all the public libraries Helen has worked in!)

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