Oh my goodness we’ve packed a lot in so far this weekend. It began with one of those early Saturday mornings when you wake up with the sun streaming in through the bedroom windows, and even though you’d dearly love a lie-in, you just know that you have to get up; it would be a criminal offence to waste such a beautiful start to the day. And as the forecast yesterday had promised much warmer weather and plenty of sunshine, there was much to do and no time to waste after months of winter and weak sun. Suddenly everything felt so different!
The main job of the day was making a start on Project Ivy, and tackling the alien invader that is covering the old wall at the end of the garden. Thank you, thank you, thank you all so much for taking the time to comment with your thoughts and offer advice about this. I think deep down we knew it had to go, but sometimes one needs a little push, a little affirmation that it is the right thing to do, and an ‘oh it’s definitely the right thing to do’ in your ear; not just because ivy is, as you have all pointed out, so destructive, but because I can see it is going to look fantastic.
So my first report for the weekend is that Project Ivy is underway, and the good news to go with this is that the wall behind the ivy is remarkably undamaged in any way. This is mostly because the ivy actually has its roots in the mound of building stone in front of the wall, and it has become almost a series of small trees along the mound, leaving the wall behind untouched save for a cloak of ivy shoots; these actually pull off very easily and they’re only attached to the wall at the very top. The bulk of the heavy effort is going into dismantling the mound of rubble and getting at the root-mats of the ivy ‘trees’; these are all intertwined in the top three feet of the stones. Roddy at one stage came back from the barn with an old anchor and some chain which he attached to the back of the ride-on mower and we pulled a great deal of it out like some gang of ancient land clearers. But I am so excited, already there is such a difference; there’s much to do and it’s going to be a long job, but it’s going to be worth it and I will of course update you from time to time on our progress!
Leaving Roddy to the ivy for a while and the children half helping and half playing I wanted to go and search through some old tiles that are up in our attic. They were left by the previous owners and as it was a warm sunny day I thought I would go up there and have a look after lunch. I rarely go into the attic, it’s always freezing cold and full of cobwebs and spiders. Anyway, I wanted to see if there was anything suitable for a bathroom renovation we are contemplating. The roof above the attic is relatively new, and we were told it was completely restored about ten years ago. The floor on the other hand is a different matter; it has some very dubious spots which Roddy has had to board over and I had to tread carefully in places.
Several things had been left here for us; there was an old lamp, broken picture frames, some old floorboards and this beautiful stone mantle (although goodness only knows how this ever got up here!). I knew all of these things were here though, as I’ve looked at them briefly before.
The tiles were stacked fairly high and against some old planks. Slowly I removed pile after pile, putting them to one side as I tried to get to the ones at the bottom so I could see if they were of any interest. I lifted an old piece of wood which had been leaning against the them and as I did so I realised it was in fact not just an old piece of wood at all but was actually the half-broken back to a mirror. Incredibly the glass was still totally intact; I carefully lay it down on the floor, terrified it would fall apart as the back was falling off, my heart beating just a little bit faster.
Lying on the floor behind where the mirror had been I found this old zinc pitcher, tossed to one side; it’s a typical utilitarian item that had obviously been discarded decades before, but to me it was another real little treasure and another piece to add to my collection. This was turning out to be quite a little adventure.
There were no tiles that I really wanted, unfortunately, but my little haul of relics more than made up for it. Carefully I climbed back down the strange old ladder and out into the afternoon sunshine, my eyes taking a second or two to become accustomed to the bright light. I ran down the garden so excited to share news of my loot and to get someone to come and help me bring the things down.
Meanwhile all was progressing well with the wall, but I couldn’t hang about and help for long. I had to take Jack to a party and Gigi to a friend’s house for a “soirée pyjama”, which is such a lovely expression; ‘sleepover’ is one word that has not yet made it into the French language, well, not around us, anyway! We hear ‘le weekend’, ‘le shopping’, ‘le parking’ and ‘non-stop’ on a regular basis but not ‘sleepover’, and long may its French equivalent remain as far as I am concerned as it conjures up such pretty images. Despite the intricacies of our afternoon schedule, Millie, Hetty and I also managed to fit in an hour of tennis on our village court.
This was an action-packed day as we also had friends coming over to dinner and I had to get cooking. Even though the days are a little warmer the nights are still chilly and Roddy had made a big beef casserole which was bubbling away in the oven. I had to make dessert; I have long since stopped worrying about cooking for the French; I used to fret about it, but I now know my baking can hold its own and in fact our French friends thoroughly enjoy our ‘English’ food. I think for them it is a something a little different maybe, with the way we eat our vegetables at the same time as the meat, and how we rarely have a baguette with a meal; and just as we love eating in a French kitchen, so our French friends seem to love eating in ours – it’s a mutual appreciation.
This was a wonderful way to end a busy Saturday, with friends and family, good food, good wine and a happy gathering with much laughter and chatter around the kitchen table.
Today “Project Ivy” continues, as does the current warm spring weather and blue skies. Millie has a tennis tournament later this afternoon and she has just been notified it will be played outdoors instead of on the usual indoor courts; this alone is a sure sign that we are moving determinedly into spring! Our usual Sunday roast is already gently cooking in the oven; we might even eat lunch outside, the first time this year. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend too, whatever you are doing. Susan x