Our eldest daughter Izzi is in London, and Millie, our number two, is in the Channel Islands. The other three children are here with us, thankfully at home with a large garden. We all video chat regularly, virtual meals with a smart-phone propped up on a mat in the middle of the supper table have become the ‘norm’. Rules have been broken, phones that have always been forbidden during meals are now allowed, but only under these exceptional circumstances. I know we all moan about the internet, how it has changed things and how people are far too hooked on social media, but right now it is a true life-saver for millions of people. Roddy’s sister often ‘goes down’ to her local Yacht Club at 6.00pm for an apéro with friends – not in real life of course, but in our brave new virtual world. So if you live alone, or if you are self isolating or feeling really low, never underestimate the power of a good chat – talk to someone!
Likewise you might like to embrace the extra time you have on your hands with a long term project. A British newspaper recently put out an article on things to do that help during confinement, and completing a project of some sort was one of them. It suggested we “Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world”.
When the lockdown in France was first announced, I moaned that we hadn’t found the time over the winter to build the greenhouse we had planned. I pleaded with Roddy to make me something temporary, to knock up a quick glasshouse in a couple of hours! Impossible I know, but Roddy is not nicknamed McGuiver for nothing; he can make me just about anything, it might not always be beautiful and perfect but it is always functional and solid. However, this latest request was beyond even his capabilities, purely because we had no spare glass just hanging around and all the shops were due to close in an hour. Enter our neighbour, who just happened to have 8 windows he’d picked up for free and who willingly gave them to us. We do have the best neighbours ever.
Two hours later my temporary makeshift greenhouse was built.
It’s neither fancy nor big. But it’s doing sterling work. My tomato seeds are thriving, and the cucumbers are now just starting to germinate. The four tomato plants I grabbed the morning before lockdown are in flower. The courgettes have trebled in size.
The little glass hut has been a godsend and a packet of seeds goes a very long way and costs very little.
But that was a quick project and although it continues to provide a place to bring on tender seedlings it doesn’t need any further work. The garden takes up endless time, but these are mostly routine tasks and I felt we needed a big project as a family. The teenagers needed to get outside, get their hands dirty and make their muscles work. We always do things as a team, we rally together, we’re particularly good at that as a family, and so I came up with an idea.
As anyone who has followed me for any length of time will know my vegetable garden is of great importance to me and a place where I love to work. I get immense pleasure from being able to feed the family with fresh produce that’s still warm from the sun, and love watching our guests helping themselves to tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, courgettes and aubergines for their lunch or supper.
This year I ‘stole’ one of the beds in the potager to start a new cutting-garden. I love fresh flowers in the house and I wanted to have an abundance this summer and rather than robbing the borders I decided to sow an area dedicated to blooms that will fill vases. But that meant I had lost some space where I normally grow vegetables, and a little ‘recompensation’ was needed. Our potager is protected by a huge stone wall which faces west. Flanking the wall is an abundance of abandoned ancient stone. This in turn was covered with decades worth of ivy, nettles and weeds. I know it is a haven for insects, but we have plenty of wild areas in our garden and we guard them furiously. This was a few square metres that we could reclaim. I put forward my suggestion that here we could make a wonderful new large vegetable bed and was met with faces each masked with a look of horror. But I persisted, it would be possible and it would be fun!!
I rallied the troops and we set to work. We played music, we laughed, we swore loudly as huge roots threatened to defeat us and as our legs were stung by nettles. Roddy’s back ached as he heaved heavy stones. But it was fun.
And it still is, it’s an ongoing project, but I hope within a couple of weeks it will be finished. We’ve come a long way!
Then everyone can begin planting there with me. Then we can start on the other side, which is even worse!!
Whatever you are doing and wherever you are, just remember this crisis cannot, and will not, go on forever. Take some time for yourself to read, to relax, or to start a new project. If you don’t have an outdoor space just sit by an open window, breathe in the fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun. Roddy swears the air has not been so clean and pure since he was a child. But at the same time, remember it is also okay and totally normal to feel utterly defeated and down. I am not a physiologist nor do I have any medical background, but I do know that we all go through ups and downs. At times I feel nothing but utter despair, but I force myself to remain positive to remind myself how lucky we are.
What I also find bizarre is that sometimes I just wander outside aimlessly, I have so many things I want to do, jobs lined up, small and big projects. And yet occasionally I lack the motivation to get any of them underway; there is suddenly no time limit, no deadline that forces us to crack on and leap into action, no sense of urgency. Sometimes I can’t seem to find the enthusiasm to get going, although I know I must and in the end I do. This is totally new to us all and so I hope my posts here and on Instagram and Facebook don’t come across as too saccharine sweet or as though I am acting as if nothing has happened. I struggle as much as anyone else, I worry for the family not here with us, and the elderly I know, and I worry that our business has just been utterly crippled and that our income has dwindled to zero overnight. It’s all incredibly stressful. But, I also know the importance of staying positive, of helping anyone we can, I know we are so much better off than so many people, we have space, we cannot complain, and I know the power a smile and a friendly voice can generate. So although everything is far from normal I continue to post our daily ‘normal’ life here in France. So stay well, stay safe, and big hugs from all of us. We’ll be thinking of you all as we take an apéro in the sun this evening. xx
PS; on another note, last night we watched the Queen movie “Bohemian Rhapsody“, altogether as a family. I know we’re about two years behind everyone else, but that just about sums us up really and we’re not big tv watchers anyway!! It is absolutely brilliant and I highly recommend it to anyone who has not yet seen it. A fabulous two-hour distraction.