Thursday, December 02, 2010

All work and no play …

We’ve been on holiday. With livestock, it’s not that straightforward to take time off together, in fact, we haven’t had a proper holiday together since our honeymoon three years ago. Gabrielle took charge of the organisation, and a fine job she did too.

Merle and Darrell came last year as volunteers, became friends and have been promoted to house sitters and honorary smallholders. And so, leaving them in charge, we headed off towards Normandy, leaving the autoroute for a more cross country and coastal drive, a relaxing journey punctuated by text messages from my mother.

I must admit to being an Arsenal fan but quite how being obsessively fascinated by a bunch of petulant young millionaires kicking a football around fits with my permaculture principles, I’m at a loss to tell you. Call it an affliction.

Arsenal coach Arsène Wenger
When I’m not able to follow a match on telly, radio, or even via the Internet, my dear mum listens to her radio and texts me as the goals go in. We are trundling along the French countryside when my mobile buzzes. Gabrielle reads the message that Mum is sorry to have taken her eye off the ball but it’s half time already and we are beating Tottenham Hotspur 2 - nil: smiles all round, what a wonderful holiday this is going to be.
I receive three more texts. 2 – 1; 2 – 2; 2 – 3 … oh bugger. Thankfully my disappointment is short lived as we roll into Honfleur.

Gabrielle had booked us a room with a view: we looked out onto the beautiful old harbour. We drank, we ate, we went to the cinema, we visited the French composer Eric Satie’s house (he was clearly mad as a March hare) and, if you think November a curious time to want to take one’s annual holiday, we even had a touch of the Tropics. The movie at the top shows the room at the top of the Satie museum, and the music is the first of his Gnossiennes.

Naturospace is a tropical ecosystem in a building, home to a host of brightly coloured tropical butterflies, some as big as your hand. If you wear glasses, you’ll know what happens next. As I walk in from the cold, through the plastic screen into the Tropics, I get a white out and have to wait a couple of minutes until my specs warm up and the steam clears. There are no moats and no glass walls, they fly where they please and Gabrielle even had one alight on her hand. To keep the ants under control, Chinese quail run around the floor and finches sit in the branches: very permaculture !
Chinese quail

Do you know Magritte’s painting, Ceci n'est pas une pipe? Well, “this is not a shop”. Check out the tarpaulin covering this building under renovation in Honfleur.

After four days we headed back via Bayeux, where we saw the tapestry, had a very English afternoon tea in a very French patisserie and visited the D-Day landings museum before heading home through the sleet.
Thanks once more to Merle and Darrell for making it possible.

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