We've been busy for a while, so no blog entries. First of all Ali and I took a short week in England to attend our friend Ingrid Thomas' book launch. She's written the most gorgeous, definitive book about shells called, for some obscure reason, The Shell
. The perfect Christmas present for someone who loves beautiful books.
While we were in London we did a huge shop for silly things the English here miss, like curry spices and horseradish, and also for English Breakfast tea which is requested daily all through the summer by our B&B guests. A very happy day was spent ambling along the South Bank and around the Tate Modern. Another night we were on our pal's alpaca farm
- a haven in the middle of Oxfordshire.
But the prize for the most comfortable bed goes to Nick Kent, who oh-so-sweetly lent us his divine house in Maida Vale. Yes, we are very lucky people. Thanks Nick.
But the really big news (to us that is) is that we have paid the deposit on 10.5 acres of vineyards and forest just ten minutes from Le Couvent. We've signed the papers and would cough up right now, but we have to wait a couple of months for the agricultural organisation S.A.F.E.R. to decide they don't need the land more than us. After that it's ours. Meanwhile, the current owner, the sparkly-eyed 87 year old M. Gineste, has given us permission to start work on the land. As a result Ali and I, along with my family comprising Justin (aka Freddie), Michelle, Poppy & Josh plus Teddy and Nicola, have been working our socks off.
The vines have not been tended for nearly three years, so are pretty overgrown but, according to our expert pals who've been tending vines all their lives, they're rescuable. We're only going to look after the best of them, many will be grubbed up to make way for a new forest. (Freddie and I were, after all, children of the New Forest in Hampshire) Our purchase includes shares in the Cave Cooperative in Roujan, so with luck we'll be able to take our grapes there.
A couple of things make this land extra special. The views are absolutely superb - on almost any day you can see all the way to the sea at Sete. Secondly, there is the most delightful small building (known as a mazet) which has been used over the years as the centre of fun for the whole Gineste family. Oh, and I forgot the huge reservoir that doubles as a swimming pool.
Here we are with M Gineste and Christiane & Michel Rouille, plus Freddie & Poppy.
For the want of a decent-sized tractor, or any tractor at all, Josh had to clear the first vineyard using a domestic lawn-mower. He's young, it only took all day, and there're just 9.75 acres to go, so what's the problem?
Apart from producing some grapes to go off to the co-op, we intend making some oil from our olive grove and using the mazet as a place where we can bring guests to play during the summer. The walks are superb - a walk in the wild herbs is better than aromatherapy, the pomegranates, pears, figs, kiwi, table grapes and cherries are all divine and will appear on the Le Couvent breakfast table during their seasons. As Michelle said yesterday - I can't wait.