We closed for the winter a week ago and since then we seem to have done no end of clearing up jobs. The trick has been to have no lists, no preconceived ideas of the forthcoming day and no outside calls on our time. That way we've gently muddled around the house tidying a little here, cleaning a bit there without it costing too much energy-wise. It's amazing how much can get done by taking it a tiny chunk at a time.
Having missed them all summer I have been off to my favorite markets in Clermont l'Herault and Pezenas, to a boot sale in Canet and the giant flea market in Marseillan. What fun. My super bargain find was a complete and perfect John Jaques croquet set. "C'est anglais" said the man on the stall. "Je sais, moi aussi, j' suis anglaise." "Au niveau de prix, c'est bon?" "Mais non, c'est beaucoup trop cher, vous m'avez donner le vrai prix, pas de l'occasion." What would I know? I've never bought a new set, nor even played croquet, but he seemed convinced. At this point his price halved and we started to negotiate. Finally I handed over 25 euros and heaved away a large wooden box, anticipating some fun with guests next summer. Poor chap. I hope he managed to diddle the next punter to make up the shortfall.
The weather's been exceptional too with each bright, hot sunny day following another. I swam in the pool yesterday in celebration of the fact that it had finally started raining despite being 27 degrees. The rain stopped instantly some three minutes after it started. I was somewhat relieved, having spent the day digging fifteen large holes in the amphitheatre vineyard - not wanting them to collapse in a deluge. This afternoon I'm picking up 15 eucalyptus trees to plant. During the summer guests often tell us to 'keep the change' when they are settling their B&B bill. We save it up in a commemorative tankard (Runner Up - Dustman of the Year 1987) and tell them we'll spend it on trees. This year we'd saved 130 euros. I scoured the internet for the least expensive young eucalyptus trees and by complete chance tripped across a private wholesaler in Roujan, just 200 metres from Le Couvent. So the planting ceremony will take place late this afternoon, just before the rainy season begins tomorrow - I hope.
In three weeks' time we're off on our own hols - to New York - perhaps. The apartment's booked and paid for, as are the flights, but we've had a slight dog/house-sitting disaster as our planned sitters couldn't get the time off work and everyone else is busy that week. So we're panicking. I'm sure something will turn up otherwise we'll have a very nice holiday to give away. If you're free from 23-31 October and fancy looking after Le Couvent, two very nice dogs, a cantankerous cat and nine hens, do drop us a line. Previous guests and friends only please.
Ooh, by the way, if you're house-hunting, there's a wonderful house for sale in nearby Servian. It's been superbly restored by some good friends of ours and there is absolutely nothing that needs doing to it. Have a look here: Maison Vanille