The village is perched on a hill, reached by roads that wind through evergreen and deciduous forestry, late summer sun flashing and sparkling through the foliage. There are sometimes alarming drops one side but sturdy trunks should prevent any serious careening down long banks too far. The church bells cling-clang continentally for a few minutes three times a day; seven in the morning, noon and seven in the evening with an extra set of cling-clangs at three on Friday afternoons. There is no shop but a bread van toot-toots through the village at any time between late morning and early afternoon most days.
Like some of the houses in the village, ours is spilling over the edge of the hill, facing the morning sun and the valley beyond which is soaked in the green of tall pines and tinges of Autumnal golds although our view is mostly obscured by the equally old house on the other side of the narrow road. We’ve lamented this lack of wide view but I suspect the house opposite will take most of the flack of cold easterly winds during the winter. Our windows are old and there are gaps in doors which I suspect will whistle with wind in the coming months. Even during the unseasonally warm weather over the last week or so, the downstairs of the house remains resolutely cool and once the sun falls out of view from the back garden drops to cold. The butter in the butter dish is just about spreadable despite being left out of the fridge. The heating, of slight bizarre system involving a trip in to the attic, has been on during evenings. The warmest room in the house is the large living room on the first floor.
Outside the back door is a terrace which spans the width of the house, to the right is an outbuilding and to the left leads to a covered area awash with flattened packing boxes and round to the small barn. The barn door key for the door to the front of the house is huge. Facing the back of the house beyond the terrace is a retaining stone wall which is taller than I. Steps lead up to the garden which slopes upward and is ringed with waist-height wire fencing. A variety of other back gardens are beyond and two sheep graze in a small patch at the far end of the garden. Their owner talks to them gently in what I believe to be a German equivalent of kootchie-koo fashion. Beyond the sheep there ‘s a clump of trees and on the other side of the shadows these cast are geese, chickens and a loud cockerel. Occasionally I can see a slinky black cat. To the right is a strip of land owned by an unnamed man “who lives North” which is dotted with a number of fruit trees – apple, cherry, damson and apricot. Some of the apples fall on our side of the fence and the apricots fall and roll down the roof of our outbuilding in to the gutter. These can be collected by walking across the flowerbed, bending down and picking them out of the gutter. Hateful conifers, mercifully only knee-height, have been planted along the left and back perimeter of the garden, in front of which are rows of newish box plants. Flowerbeds are mostly awash with numerous lavender plants and a few short shrub roses and attempts at vegetable-growing have been made in wooden box-like raised beds. All the beds are barkchipped, with evidence of weed control fabric. It took me two days before I saw the reason why. Mare’s tail. Overall, the garden looks dull but, due to vile pernicious weed, challenging. I have done nothing to rise to this challenge as yet.
At the front of the house is a narrow flowerbed which, until last weekend, was full of old, tatty lavender which I dug out, leaving only three. There is another tiresome row of small box, planted in a regimental row and now only visible as the lavender’s gone. The family next door but one are southern mediterranean, numerous in number and loud. We are told we won’t hear a peep from them over winter as they huddle inside against the cold. The couple in the old house opposite are smiley, helpful and generous – Joe Brown was given a small pot of homemade jam before I arrived and I was the recipient of a huge hunk of pumpkin and a bag of locally picked apples last week. Their garden slopes to the point of needing climbing gear. My garden challenge is nothing in comparison.
“Come, come see” said the man last week. He’s worked hard and is slowly terracing, differing levels containing vegetable beds, shrubby areas and a host of herbs including one which is more usually grown in people’s attics. His garden has the constant sound of rushing water from the run-off from the hill which goes under the orchard area next to our garden, under the road and cascades down in to the valley. There are steps down the side which go a considerable way down with, apparently, evidence of where local women washed their laundry in times gone by.
“They must have been strong women to carry wet washing up all those steps” I mused to the Herb Grower as I stood and looked over the wall. I haven’t ventured down then back up them yet, my venturing has been concentrated on being in control of a vehicle on the other side of the road. So far, I seem to have managed it.
I picked Joe Brown up from the airport on Friday afternoon after his week away on business and we picked the cat up from the vets on Saturday after stint two on a drip. Ultimately, his kidneys are failing but, for now, all three of us are at home.