Tuesday, 27 August 2013

one is of the scarecrow...the other
the lady of le manoir..for the day anyway.


I went to Le Manoir Quatre Saison for lunch. Beautiful day, wonderful inspired inventive food (perhaps not as bizarre as Heston but more cuddly creative, if there is such a thing, (no wine as I was driving and the M25 was awful, and my car showed I had a flat tyre, something wrong with the engine, and I needed more oil every time I turned a corner, and didn't when I was on the straight and narrow - so thank you up there who was looking down on me today for getting me back in one piece) and those gardens. The wonderful herb garden where everything has grown so much this year they told me, the summer menu may last longer than usual, actually everything may last longer than usual.

There is a scarecrow that resembles George Clooney but it is in fact supposed to resemble Raymond Blanc who commissioned it and kept asking when it would be ready. Folk lore (or the woman tending the gardens) told me the artist consequently made the scare crow look like Raymond.  It's a sexy looking scarecrow but it doesn't scare the birds away (she says).  There's a glorious statue of a stag and deer, although the deer do not invade the gardens thankfully - although they did once, coming as one would, through the front gates and raiding the gardens. They must have thought all their Christmases had come at once.  Some guests had seen them enter but perhaps they thought it was some stag do...    Well, it was funny at the time.

Which reminds me, when you walk into the gardens before or after or during your meal, between courses, speak to the gardeners. They are so interesting, knowledgeable, thoughtful and polite. There's a statue of a woman holding a basket of peppers called 'Our Sarah' which I had a pix taken with. She's the florist there and she arranges all the flowers in the rooms and on the dining rooms tables, and in the sitting room.  There is a wonderful Japanese garden there with a lovely pagoda and statues, including a great idea of a giant walnut under the walnut tree - which I may pinch as I've got a lovely walnut tree in France.   Or perhaps not.   There it seems right. My place it might be pretentious.

Le Manoir really is very special.  Each time I've visited it's been special and with someone special.   This was someone v special.   Amongst the other guests were loads of anniversaries and birthdays and the lyrical names of the rooms, Emily (who she?), Hollyhock and another one in the main house - can't remember name of - are charming. I have stayed in the adjacent rooms, think it was Provence or Provencial, with huge patio windows opened up into a courtyard.   Split level, very sexy, stayed there with Tom when he was three. So not quite so sexy. He was given posh fish 'n chips, so posh, he didn't know what they were.

I've also taken part in a cookery course there (got certificate to prove it and my name is writ same size as Monsieur Blanc's!), and learnt to make saffron spider crab ravioli from scratch. Totally useless but at least I always remember I made it ONCE.

And I interviewed Monsieur Blanc a few times, the first being over breakfast there,  when Edwina Curry was throwing everything she had at people eating eggs.   RB was furious with her discouraging people from eating the egg which he considered a masterpiece amongst other foodstuffs.  He was talking passionately about the egg as I was starting to eat mine.    'Ze 'umble eag eez ze purrfekt proteine' he said raising my soft boiled egg to my lips and kissing it (the egg that is not my mouth).    I have never thought of soft boiled eggs in the same way again.

Friday, 23 August 2013


I've just got my yoga certificate back which is framed (thank you Suzie).   I am proud of it. I worked bloody hard for it, and I am going to make a concerted effort to be a wonderful teacher (some day) and encourage others, no matter what standard they are, to do their best, focus on alignment, breath, inner peace, truth, beauty for the 1 1/2 sessions coz that is all you can do.   But as I received it I noticed the name of my teacher. T'was written large and loud, three times. And there was mine, once (which is enough), but compared to the signature it was tiddly.   Suzie noticed it, my neighbours noticed it, I'm sure the dog I'm looking after this week will notice it.    It's actually so pronounced it's funny.  I've asked some of the other girls who did the course and they have small names too so I won't take it personally.

On an unrelated matter, I've just read a very funny editorial by my editor (Richmond Magazine) about why there is a growth in feral cats (domestic cats behaving badly) and why this is. People are allegedly being pounced on in the streets (frenzied attack probably translates as badly scratched).    It appears the owners stroke them too much and this makes them sexually aroused and aggressive when they leave home.  I laughed.   I will be very cautious how I stroke the dog.   Or anything for that matter...

Sunday, 18 August 2013


I saw more wild animals in France than I did Canada.  Two wild deer, doe-eyed and beautiful by the roadside. Red squirrels all over the place and the kayaking amazing.   It's a stunning region.  So a part from chilling what did I achieve?    I cut down sixty trees in the garden, feeling like a lumberjack, and of course the super glued 800 crystals to curtains.  My fingers are now unstuck.      Started talking to the trees, which either makes me bonkers or becoming like HRH Prince Charles.   I'd prefer bonkers.

So what with the tree cutting and the crystal glueing - I'm evolving into a lumberjack hippy or a hippy lumberjack I'm not sure.   I stopped strimming the brambles when a black adder jumped out at me (a real one not a mini Rowan Atkinson). The garden is full of them - snakes that is, not comedians.   As I've attended Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows perhaps the green fingers are rubbing off.    Nahhh.  Still find it boring.  

Kayaked in under two hours as Tom can now speed ahead of me. He's fourteen, and started the route we travel along when he was four.     Know what I've got to do next to the house and garden, but every time I visit the French house, despite the bills, the work, the taciturn way of the English and French locals, I love it more.   Hope the guests look after it.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


Well not quite paradise but it's definitely Bambi-land. Instead of woken by planes at 5am, I'm woken by a blue tit tapping on the window.   He won't go away until I open the window and then he flies off.   Disney would approve.

I've booked the kayaking for tomorrow for the boys, who seem to have settled in nicely to teenage life, getting up at 2pm every day and grunting the odd yes and no and mumbling wishes and when you say pardon telling you "I've already said that".   My instinct is to go 'fuck you', but as the mother, I don't.   Any way, they sleep, grunt and eat and drink and when in a good mood are rather wonderful. Apart from that, I am v pleased they live in the gite and not the main house.

The French here are even more conspicuously contemptuous of the Brits.   Even the Brits who live here have become contemptuous of the Brits who visit here, as though it's a way to fit in, and they seek acceptance. They are not quite Brit and not quite French. Sort of a Frit or a Brench.  Or whatever admen probably call them.

There are no mosquitoes but the flies are here and there are loads and loads of butterflies.  Absolutely everywhere. It's the year of the butterfly.  And the humming birds (the only bird that can fly backwards, very determined).

I have been practicing yoga every morning - being trees, eagle poses hoping the farmers can't see me as they'll think I'm nuts. I think they think I'm nuts any way, so I don't think that matters.

Communicating with the outside world is still haphazard but I know the weather is crud in the UK and Boris was on a cycle at the weekend with a few other folk in London.

Markets here are theatre. The English locals attempt to sell to the English visitors in strangled French while the French watch on, bemused like wolves listening to people attempting wolf calls like they do in the Canadian wilderness,  not sure whether to pounce but usually too bored to do anything.     I met a man selling and making clogs who scowled at everyone who approached.  He has a hunched mean stance of someone who has crouched over his money for too long and now has a stoop as a result of it.   Either that or he has a very short wife.    Not a Disney character, or perhaps a wicked wizard, you put his clogs on and you sleep for eternity or die a violent death in a car crash in Paris somewhere.   And the woman who knits brought two sheep in to show people where the wool came from.  How original.    I don't think she gave them names. That would have been Disney.

Everything is slightly broken in the house which is a shame as people haven't taken care of the place, or the cleaner breaks things, but whatever, it's still sad.   But there was always a sad bit in Disney films, wasn't there?

Anything else?  Glued 800 crystals to curtains.   My fingers are stuck with super glue.  Watching Little Miss Sunshine.   Forgotten what a fabulous film it is and it's 'emotional lesson' - how you learn more from the misery years than you do the good one. So here we are being blissfully ignorant in France (except for the broken bits..)

Friday, 2 August 2013


The boho dance, like some old romance, is not asleep.   Listening to Joanie Mitchell on top of a hill in France and gazing far into the distance, her words as pertinent now as they did when she wrote the song. House beautiful, some bad news on a net, but I will sleep well tonight, and hopefully not drive too much.

Thursday, 1 August 2013


No sooner have I arrived home, I drove down to Hove and back for a meeting and now it's 11.30 and I'm starting a drive down to France.   I think it takes just over nine hours from Calais to where I live.   It seemed like a good idea at the time....