Apologies for not having posted for a while, but since Christmas, it has felt as if we have been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride with lots of switchbacks & changes of speed and direction in just about every aspect of our life, but all we can do is hold on tight, and hope that it all starts to slow down and settle a little soon.
We arrived back 10 days ago, after spending 3 weeks in the UK, finalising the sale of the house there and trying to decide what to do next. If I’m honest, we have tended to stumble through life, not really making hard and fast plans, more following the route that life has taken us on, drifting with the flow and seeing where we have ended up. Now though, we are faced with having to make some real decisions, and that has led to many hours of chatting whilst out on walks and on the bikes, just trying to really decide what to do for the best. As I say, it has all been a bit of a jolting and disorientating ride, and we know that we aren’t at the end of it yet.
We had a lovely time back in the UK, catching up with friends and spending time in the little Cotswold village, where we spent our first years together; where we were married and had both the boys. It was a real trip down memory lane, visiting old haunts and even having a visit from our old neighbour, who is now 94, and still remembers the name of our retriever, that we had at the house over 30 years ago. Unfortunately her husband, who sometimes stood on the toilet to look out onto our garden through the Velux window has passed on, but we did have hours of endless entertainment watching him appear ‘Chad-like’ out of the window, sniggering like children on the day there was a crash as he fell, and disappeared in an instant, and another time when there was an ominous splash as he slipped.
It also reminded us of the time another neighbour asked Andy if he could go into the attic to bring down her negligees from the trunk that was up there. Not a normal request from a woman in her 70s, but she explained that she was tired of the same neighbour passing comment about the washing on her line, so she was finally going to give him something to talk about. She had ordered some new black ‘Sloggies’ and was going to hang them out with the freshly-washed negligees, and just wait for him to say something, and when he did her response would be that she was getting ready to pack for a naughty weekend away with her gardener. I still wish I had been there to see the neighbour’s face, as her plan apparently went just as she had hoped it would. In so many ways they were very happy, simple days…
We left the village in the very early hours of the morning, driving away from the UK, and heading south on the Autoroute du Soleil, with the most stunning sunrise guiding the way..
Arriving home 16 hours later,exhausted and elated to be back, we were welcomed by a well-fed, purring Pusscat and a superb quiche left for us by a neighbour…
It was just so good to arrive home, and since arriving back, we have managed to quickly settle back into the gentle life we enjoy here, and have got to grips with sorting out the last bits of the work on the house that need to be done, finishing painting the shutters….
Finally putting up our clock, giving a gentle heartbeat to the house….
And most importantly, getting around to ordering a new kitchen.
When we opened up the old utility room to create the new kitchen space, with access directly onto the terrace, we believed that we would almost immediately fit it out with bright new cupboards and equipment. We had imagined the space for many months, drawn lines on the walls where the new units would be, and had spent hours scouring magazines and catalogues for ideas on what cupboard design would be best.
Whilst we finalised our ideas, Andy quickly fitted it out with the old units that he had taken from the old kitchen corner, together with the broken sink, and the tired old taps held in place with cable ties….
…using ply-board that had been used to cover the gaps in the walls during the work, balanced on a workbench for a makeshift work-surface, with the gas bottle for the rusty old hob underneath.
It was basic beyond belief, but we honestly believed that it would only be a few weeks, perhaps a month, before the new kitchen was installed……. If only we had known!
The new kitchen slowly dropped down the list of things to be done, as other, more pressing, issues came up. From dental treatment and new glasses, to having to fit a new engine in Fifi as her old one was burning almost more oil each time we went out, than we could physically put in. Everything else seemed much more important than a shiny new kitchen.
But what we had was functional, and over the years we have had a lot worse – I would say that the 4 months we spent with a camping stove on a pasting table when I was pregnant was probably the worst – so we were happy to wait. It may not have been my perfect space, and certainly wouldn’t grace the pages of a home and lifestyle magazine, but I was very happy to live with it for a little longer than planned.
The ‘little longer’ turned from weeks into months, 15 months in fact, and yesterday, I finally pressed the last button on the order for the new units, oven, hob and work-surfaces. It will seem very strange to have a hob with burners that actually all work, and an oven that doesn’t fall slightly forward, when we pull the door open, threatening to hurl the piping hot contents across the floor. Also the idea of being able to turn on the tap, without it swinging wildly in whichever direction the fancy takes it, is almost too much to bear. But if all goes well, in another 10 days various vans and deliveries will arrive, and we will be able to finally rip out the units that have already been recovered from the skip once!
I say we, but in all honesty, I will be acting in an advisory, perhaps management role from a reclined chair, as I will be recovering from a leg operation, and the last thing I will be able to do, will be to carry, shift and construct cupboards. I’m sure though, that Andy will welcome my advice and gentle guidance as he calmly gets on with the job in hand, only time will tell!
So this last few days we have been making the most of getting out and about, walking, cycling and just enjoying the first signs of spring that are starting to emerge…
I love this time of year. The valley is peaceful, the villages sleepy and calm (a far cry from the busyness of the summer months) and the landscape is starting to show the first blush of colour, among the drab browns and greys of the winter. I love the sense that everything is starting to wake again, after the long, cold winter’s sleep, with our morning walks now filled with the sound of birdsong and the rattle of woodpeckers making themselves heard in the trees.
The colours seem to brighten, with even the ochres at Rustrel looking more vivid than they did a few weeks ago. I know that can’t be the case, there is no reason why they should be brighter, but they just glow with warmth.
The flowers are also starting to emerge, with banks dotted with the purple and white of violets and periwinkles, and even the papery petals of flag irises…
Early orchids, pushing their spikes of delicate purple flowers towards the sun….
And of course the almond and apricot trees coming into flower, with a froth of pale pink and white blossom, filled with the gentle buzz of bees, making the most of this new source of nectar.
It’s that wonderful moment when the trees are in flower, before the petals start to fall, when everything looks fresh, bright and full of life, a simple moment of pleasure in the midst of what is now the most difficult and worrying of times.
The lavender fields are starting to show the pale olive sheen of new growth, bringing with it the promise of the spectacular purple fields to come…
And I watch the skies for the first sign of swallows, martins and bee-eaters returning for the summer from their winter homes, the warbling chatter of the bee-eaters providing background sound for our summer days. In fact Andy nearly drove Fifi off the road a couple of days ago, when I yelped with delight at the sight of a Hoopoe flying overhead, surely one of the most beautiful and characterful birds around, and a sign that spring is certainly well and truly underway.
I have a feeling, with the way everything is going at the moment, that summer will be on us and then gone again in a flash, but just seeing the first signs of what is to come, is certainly putting a smile on my face at the moment.
Let’s hope it continues going on that way …