At La Hune this year it was a hotter, sunnier and bluer-sky holiday than for many years. The ageing swimming pool took the strain well, staying warm (near 30 degrees for most of our stay) and clear. There were night skies emblazoned with shooting stars, hot dusty afternoons, rumbling evening and night storms with occasional warm torrential rain, bats under the eves (nine to be precise), ripe melons and plums, garlic strings, card games, sudden appearances of Belgians, late night discussions heated by wine, a cornucopia of unfeasible insects in unexpected places. There were one or two cloudy and damp days over the period but it was rare not to be able to lie by the pool each day in comfort and warmth, as Alli and others demonstrated. I drove down with Jessie via a very pleasant stopover for lunch chez the Baumruckers of Apples, near Geneva, arriving just after the departure of the Miles of Luxembourg and just before the arrival of the Davises of Paddock Wood. We went to colourful markets in Valence, Montcuq, Fleurance and Lectoure, and to a classical music concert in the rococo church of St Pierre in Lachapelle. We had excellent dinners with friends at newly discovered as well as at familiar restaurants. We spent time in roseate, scorched Agen and visited the Honey Museum thrice with assorted children. The local restaurant, Mansonville’s much-criticised Escale, came to our assistance a couple of times by providing good pizzas quickly on demand. The first time was when I managed to burn the dinner while we entertained the Verdiers to drinks on the night of my turn to cook for the La Hune Collective. The second time was when we returned early having gone for dinner at friends who thought we had come for drinks (this a very rare faux pas from Alli). Jessie also had her first driving lessons on the country roads around La Hune. I can’t decide whether it was the teacher or the pupil who was more uncertain as we travelled haltingly along narrow country lanes, mostly in first gear. One particularly memorable evening was spent attending an English language production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Lauzerte’s Place des Cornieres under the church tower, a tapestry of bright stars and by the surreal upturned corner paving. Just before leaving we had an authentic Gascon dinner with our house manager Jacques Cazaubon and his partner Martine – just a modest repast of melon au porto, foie gras, champagne, floc, cepes, magret de canard, patisserie et fromages. On our last day I dropped the rest of the family off at Toulouse airport then gunned it 900 kilometres back home with Bonnie patiently obedient on the back seat. Somewhere on the way I completely forgot that I was pulling a trailer and seriously dented my own car while reversing in front of a coachload of merry Italians.
Uncle Dick died while we were away in France and on the evening of his funeral in Scotland I thought of him and his brilliant life, watching the sun go down past the castle at Flamarens on the refulgent horizon, just as he must have watched a similar scene a few years ago when he and his family visited the house.
Back in Basel we were greeted initially by heavy skies and dark groaning clouds. I got back on the bicycle and was rewarded with several soakings to and from work, but to be fair the month is ending in a minor heat wave. The girls went back to school to face new challenges and variations of friends and teachers. This is Jessie’s last and most decisive year; she is on the last lap of the race for good grades for university and course, while Ella starts her final year of the Middle Years Program. Both have made serious furniture purchases from Ikea and have modernized their rooms in white. I am in awe of their ability to make up the flatpacks from the instructions, obviating the need for me to get annoyed doing it myself. Jessie completely redesigned her bedroom and built a desk and wardrobe from flatpacks and a thousand screws within an afternoon; Ella was similarly skilful and undramatic in her construction tasks. Gwen, who could hardly wait to get back to school, has many new friends already, including the three children of our new neighbours across the garden, with whom she has struck up an immediate relationship. But she is not yet big into DIY or Changing Rooms.
Just before leaving on holiday Alli and I had a major go at the garden, cutting, lopping and pruning, mowing and strimming. The bamboo around the pond has all grown anew and is now much healthier for having been reborn. The garden has a lot of character and I wish we could bring it with us when we leave the house. On this matter there is no further news. We know we need to sell our UK house before buying in the Basel region but also before UK prices dwindle back into shillings and pence, and pounds start to be exchanged for rappen. Alli no longer checks local estate agents’ lists on the computer. And not just because our wireless router seems never to work.
yours from way off line,