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07 September 2006

September 7th

The hedges are laden with blackberries and we picked at least 5 kilos last week between us.

Just had a big morning in the garden, composting, weeding tying up the myriad of tomatoes, and generally preparing the garden for next year. I collected a pile of Iris corms from next door and started planting them around the edge of the garden. It will eventually be encircled by beautiful iris. It’s just too hot now to work out of doors, so have to get all that physical work done in the mornings. September heralded a beautiful autumn, cool misty nights and mornings, but hot in the afternoons. A huge improvement after August, and a very sudden change. They say it’s going to be a cracker year for wine in Beaujolais, and the vendange started this week. I haven’t read any reports yet about Burgundy.
We decided to have my birthday dinner at the beuatiful Château d'Igé, as it is a bit special. A small château with round towers, with lovely garden surrounds, and a very good restaurant. About 20 mins drive from here. The people who own it now bought it about 16 years ago and have spent some years doing it up. They have excellent rooms and suites. They also seem to have a super chef or two, who must have been slaving away that evening. We were surprised - this is a small village in the middle of nowhere, and the restaurant was almost full. It must be a great asset to the village and wine community of Igé. When we arrived, it was raining and as we parked our car, a women rushed out with an umbrella to help us in, then we were shown into a sort of lounge sitting room where we had an aperitif and made our menu choices, but also the sommelier came to help us chose our wine etc. Then we were served an aperitif looking out on a beautiful garden, amuse bouches, etc etc. Moved into the restaurant - a smallish room with about six tables old beams etc, opening into other similar small rooms. Beautiful food, I will have to think about what we ate as the menus were quite complicated, but the basis was for our starters - crab, caviar, some kind of jelly and salad, I had foie gras, some kind of chutney and salad, then for mains, John had veau and I had rack of lamb, but with beautiful additions. Then we had the 'pre desert' John had cheese which i declined, then desert which was quite something. I had souffle only because it’s something that I would never cook myself, and John had roasted peach embellished with all sorts of things. We then moved into the withdrawing room for coffee and little sweetie things . Wow it was superb. A wonderful experience. What a choice we have around here.
On Saturday we had dinner next door with Jacqueline, Alain and Madame Laforet. It was superb - a home made kir to kick off with, then a beautiful crisp salad from Jacqueline's garden, followed by a plate of mushrooms Alain and Jacqueline had picked early yesterday morning in a field near the vieux moulin, followed by a delicious andouillette, a kind of sausage, (which we've always been terrified to eat in the past cos we didn't know what meat might be in it!), and spuds from their garden, and finished with a tart of their own little mirabelle plums and a bottle of champers to celebrate France getting to the world cup final! Just general chat but all good for my French. I rarely have to have things translated now, and can contribute to the conversation most times. Still a long way to go, and I frequently lose my confidence, need lots more practice.Also we learned a very nice French phrase which could apply to us all, which translates as "keeping one foot in the stirrup" - ie keeping your foot in the door.Time for me to cook lunch - poached eggs!

John accepted a UNICEF job in Moldova. 5th – 15th September. He has been contracted to do some media training for politicians there. He was ambivalent at first but was talked into it, so do hope he enjoys it. He is not really enthusiastic about working any more, so we will see. He keeps a close eye on politics, me very little, but he does keep me up to date.
He went to Moldova on Tuesday so we set off for the 100kms + to Lyon airport very early to get there in plenty of time. Of course there were the usual buchons so we were glad to be early. We have had a bit of a busy time, all before he left. Saturday a nice brekky with Rachel and Alain, neighbours down the road, then back here – Gilbert, our workman helper, came in the afternoon and put up new light fitting in the living room, he came back early this morning to clear the caves. We have had a big clean up, got rid of the old fridge, cooker, washing machine etc which have been sitting there for years. He will repair them and use them for his family members - he says he always does this and is glad to get them. He is also fixing some tiles in our bathroom, putting a windowsill in the living room the one where we usually put table mats to cover up the fact that there never has been one there, and is making a gate for the garden. We are feeling pleased with ourselves for the amount of improvements we have managed to make this year.
The weather was awful for the whole of August. We even had a fire several days, and there has been so much rain. Nothing was ripening, so don’t know what the farmers are doing, perhaps despairing.

One Sunday we went to a concert about 50 kms away, at a little church at St Didier en Brionnais. The concert was on a Sunday evening at 5.30pm - a good time - and featured local talent. One was a Russian woman, described as coming from east of the Urals, and she was a powerful mezzo soprano. Sang beautiful Russian love songs among others, and finished with an encore of Moscow nights. Lovely, brought a tear to our eyes and floods of memories. I suppose she must have been around 50 ish, tall and handsome, and a powerful voice, but perhaps untrained. She has settled in this region. It was all very enjoyable and worth the drive. There are some really nice concerts here held in Romanesque churches and although they vary in talent and comfort (dreadful wooden pews) mostly they are really worth going to, and a dip into local rural French life here, usually very well supported.

All well here - hard to believe that we have only a few weeks left before we leave on our return journey. We are stopping in Ireland for a week, and two nights in Singapore, due back in Sydney 11th October. Where has the time gone?

We read a lot, walk and travel. Love the garden and its produce, and do lots of work on the house. We have made quite a lot of improvements this year and planted two trees, so hopefully they will be strong in the winter.The hedges are full of blackberries and we picked about 5 kilos last week between us.

My computer here is so frustrating, it keeps crashing all the time. I would like to take it to the top of the nearest hill and throw it.... but instead I have taken it into the repair shop in Macon and have decided not to get it fixed as the quote was as much as a new computer.
We went to Geneva for the weekend to catch up with John and Mehr Williams, also Peter George and his daughter Scarlet who have arrived this week to join Susan who has taken very important job as Communications Director at UN Human Rights. Had a great weekend, Geneva is a lovely town if expensive, did lots of walking around the old town and spent some time in a huge bookshop with large English section.
Rosamond’s rose is already growing really well on the pergola and think it should be in good shape for next year. The two new trees look happy, and just hope they survive the winter and that it’s not too severe.
Have made some blackcurrant jam this morning, and am about to cook some of our apples. We had to take some off the tree because it was so heavily laden even though they are not quite fully ripe as yet.

I went to my book group last night we were discussing Toni Morrisson’s book Beloved, a horror on slavery and an extraordinary fragmented style of writing, I hated it but the discussion was passionate. Some nice people at least.
I think that’s about all for today.

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