Thursday, 5 January 2017

A Flying New Year Visit

Following a seemingly relentless sixteen-hour car journey from Nottingham to Charente, we arrived with trailer still attached to the tow bar. Paul and I were taking building materials and a rotovator to store in our barn, ready for renovating the building and planting in springtime.
It was dark when we reached Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, but the smell was unmistakable. Sweet woodsmoke and the aroma of the Linden trees were redolent of a perfume. Christmas lights were strung around the square and a frost glittered on surfaces – even the statue of Ludovic Trarieux looked as if he’d had a sparkly makeover.
The following morning we drove a few miles to the tiny hamlet of Bellon and unloaded the trailer. I make that sound easy, but everything felt incredibly heavy in freezing fog and drizzle.
Paul and I walked around the field and the task ahead seemed so much more daunting than we'd first anticipated. It’s amazing how much the verdant canopies, long grass and fat hedgerows of summer, hide overgrown trees, un-pruned bushes and neglected land. It also became clear that our field was overrun by rabbits, which meant the added expense of rabbit proofing the perimeter. I love rabbits, but I’m sure they love eating lavender plants too!
A very welcome surprise was to be invited into a neighbour’s house for hot mulled wine and mince pies. Andy and Sal are also renovating their property in Bellon. They say that the sunsets are beautiful and if you’ve seen my Facebook timeline, you’ll know that I have a weakness for tangerine skies.
Paul and I spent New Year’s Eve in Aubeterre Square, waving sparklers and dancing to Leonard Cohen’s, Dance Me To The End Of Love. Have you ever watched the film, Scent Of A Woman? Here is a beautiful clip where Al Pacino, a blind, retired soldier, dances with Gabrielle Anwar to this incredible song. Click for song.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Lavender Gifts

Our plan is to open a modest gift shop when our little place in France has a blooming lavender field. Hopefully it will bring in a small income, along with renting out our shepherds' huts. I've been giving this some thought because I want to make our gifts, not buy them in. Here are a few pieces of jewellery I've already made.
Here I cut out an image of a lavender plant and glued it into place. I then chose some beads to complement the colours and attached them all to a length of chain and fixed a clasp to it. My first necklace for our gift shop!
Here I've combined a few of my favourite things; (I feel a song coming on...) books, jewellery and lavender. I made these tiny books using cardboard for the cover, then cut paper for the pages, sewed them together, wrapped the cover in lavender paper I'd downloaded and fixed them to earrings with the addition of a bead each.
Another necklace! This time with a little more decoration. I cut out a picture of a lavender plant and glued it to a cabochon. I've added a sterling silver leaf along with more beads - all attached to a length of chain, with an added clasp for securing.
I've decided not to stick with shades of purple as this would restrict choice which would inevitably limit customers. So I making jewellery with nature as a theme, whether it be colour, flowers, leaves etc.
Purple beads matched with sterling silver jewellery findings and a diamanté for sparkle. A girl needs sparkle in her life!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Capturing A Dream

Four months ago, 23rd June 2016, Referendum Day. What were Paul and I doing on that day apart from voting and praying that we stayed in Europe? Before the votes were even counted, we signed our Compromis de Vent to buy a barn and two and a half acre field in France.
Some would call it fool hardy, but we believed we were capturing our dream before it escaped. We want to plant our field full of lavender and create winding paths and seating areas around the land. Did we get our priorities straight? Of course not! We bought a tractor and two thousand lavender plants before we'd even bought our little piece of France.
Can we speak French? Un petit peu! We can order a meal, pass the time of day with strangers and smile...surely the universal language. I suggested we take French lessons but Paul assured me everything was fine because he could say, 'Zut alors! Mon pantalons est en feu.' Our worries about the language were over.
We love France, especially the south-west of the country. For many years we've been visiting Aubeterre-sur-Dronne and I've even written a novel set in the surrounding area. We're thinking of our future and how we can incorporate the things we love (writing, creating and nature) in to a way of making a simple living. What better than planting a lavender field and building a few shepherd's huts set in amongst the rows of blossoming plants to rent to holiday makers? That's the dream. It will take time, but there's no rush.
Lavender takes three years' growth before its oil can be extracted. Our only job for 2016 is to transport the tractor and rotavator attachment down to France and dig up the field. We're wintering the plants in England, in poly tunnels that have taken over our garden. The big planting event will take place next spring and we hope to bribe, beg, invite family members to join us and help.
The plan is to spend each summer in France, making lavender soap and other beautiful-smelling products in what are at present, rooms that once stabled goats. I'll add to my new blog fortnightly, if not with news of the lavender field, then with creative ideas using this beautiful plant. I made some lavender shortbread yesterday, so I may even post some recipes. Just to whet your appetite, here is a photograph of the tiny flowers I pulled from the plant before adding to my shortbread mix.