Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We’re recovering from a superb bonfire night firework party. We introduced our French friends and neighbours to a very English fête. Two of our neighbours couldn’t get their heads around the fact that we’d be outside all evening and so concerned was Paul, neighbour and pig farmer, that he arrived in his huge green John Deere tractor with several huge lumps of tree trunk and stumps to add to the two van loads of non-recyclable pallets that I’d collected from him earlier, to ensure that the bonfire burnt all night and kept everyone warm. With a huge barbeque made from half of an old water cylinder filled with bricks, borrowed from Thierry and Beccy, and our washing-machine fire (see photo above and blog of 2nd September) everyone kept adequately warm all evening.

We served mulled wine, then pumpkin soup prepared according to a Delia Smith recipe using a huge pumpkin grown by Andre, who was very proud both of the soup, which was very tasty, and the hollowed out and carved pumpkin on display (photo above). This was followed by spare ribs marinated and prepared to a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe and finally an apple and walnut tart with walnuts from Caroline and apples from Carole. Alan then helped me let off a good selection of fireworks. It’s perhaps a measure of how well we’ve integrated here since April that we had fifty guests.

It’s a lot different to my life in Brighton, which I enjoyed, but where I only spoke to the neighbours opposite and on either side, never had dinner with any of them and the relationship between the neighbours on one side and their neighbours on the other side developed into a battle over a loft extension and boundary that became so acrimonious it went to court and made the papers. We’ve changed country and moved from a lifetime living in towns and cities to the countryside, so I wouldn’t like to say which factors are at play. What I can say is that we have found a real community spirit here.

“Peoplecare” is one of the ethics of permaculture. On my permaculture design course run by Patrick and Cathy Whitefield, the “peoplecare” and “living in communities” sections were my least favourite bits, which is no reflection on the course but rather on me. I thought it all a bit too hippy and fluffy and wanted hard practical details on how to do permaculture. The living in a community is probably one of the most important things for us now and adds to our efforts to permaculture our lives immeasurably; I think, for example, that Annike, our 70–something neighbour who’s never heard of the term could’ve probably written the book, and it’s fun to see the expression on our neighbours faces when they look at some of our permaculture experiments, like the no-dig potatoes under a straw and cardboard mulch.