Monday, June 23, 2008

Raspberry Season - La saison des framboises

I promised myself that I would stick to a regular rythym (except when traveling) and churn out a letter every two weeks on Friday or Saturday. Here it is, Monday morning, and I'm finally getting around to it.
Almost every morning for the past week, I 've been going to the back of the back yard to pick myself a bowl of raspberries. This is the time of the year I love our garden. This year, the raspberry crop is not extraordinary; I don't think I'll be picking so much in one day that I can freeze them. Last year I managed to freeze a big bagful, make a couple of jars of jam, and eat fresh berries every day. This year, we eat all that I pick. I do leave a few ripe berries on the vines for Neal, our three-year-old neighbor to find.
I wish I had the patience or stamina to clear out the weeds and grass that seems to have taken over the yard. Because we were away from mid-April through most of May, I never got around to planting tomatoes, courgettes (zucchini), etc. But last year's rhubarbe is still thriving. (Last year, one of my jams was raspberry-rhubarbe.) And one of the artichoke plants from two years ago finally grew before the snails could eat it back to the root and we have an artichoke! We also have so many dandelions that we could make dandelion salad if this were war-time and we were desperate.
Last time I mowed the lawn, a couple of weeks ago already, I guess I did something I shouldn't have, or maybe it was in rushing off to an appointment right after. What ever I did, that nerve in my neck that wreaks havoc on my left arm seems to have gotten pinched again.
That did not prevent me from going to England last week (June 13-16). Julia, family and friends, rented a cottage in the Cotswolds for a week so I decided this was a great excuse to go see Claire, Geoff and family. I took the Eurostar to the new St. Pancras station in London. We were delayed an hour and a half because of a "problem" in the tunnel. I'm still wondering what kind of problem they could have in the tunnel, but because it was a problem with the tunnel and not the Eurostar, passengers do not get any kind of compensation for the delay. It's a little more comfortable than sitting on a runway for an hour and a half. You can get up and walk! Once in St. Pancras, I had to get my bearings. At Waterloo, I finally knew where to find the ATM, but now I had to hunt again. Once I had some money and got myself some lunch, I headed to Waterloo to get a train to Woking, where Geoff's parents live. I took my time. In fact, I had enough time to do something else if I wanted to, but really my arm was hurting, so I just went straight to the station. It was a little early to drop in on Geoff's parents, so I had a cup of coffee and read a while before calling. They live a short walk from the station.
It was so nice to see Alison and Ahmad again. Alison and I had time for tea before Nigel and Valerie arrived with Charlotte and their baby, Noah. Just a nice quiet tea time for us to chat.
Then the troops came. Noah is almost three months old (born March 28), so he's past the eat and sleep stage. He's quite awake! He loves smiling at people and having them talk to him. As the French like to think, he can say "ah-reux" (heureux) and make people happy. He's at the jerky movement stage, not quite grabbing things, but getting close. Charlotte is happy with her little brother. She's just a happy little girl. She has a whole stock of toys at the house and sets about settling in immediately on arrival. Geoff called to say that Claire was still at work and they would be late, so we started dinner without them and they showed up a little before 9:00. They ate; Nigel and Valérie left to put the kids to bed and we followed shortly afterwards to let Alison and Ahmed recover from the houseful.
Nigel and Valérie live a short walk away, but we had to park the car, so we went by car. We played a game of Balderdash before going to bed. Lunch on Saturday was a barbecue at Alison and Ahmad's, so Geoff and Nigel left in the car to put up the tent (we were expecting rain). This is a BIG tent that Nigel had bought for his catering business and this was the first time putting it up, so it meant making sure he knew the procedure and how long it would take. Valérie, Claire and I followed later, on foot, with the kids. It turned out to be a really nice day. The tent was useful to keep us out of the cool breeze, but there was enough space in the garden to sit in the sun, too. We celebrated Father's Day a day early since Geoff would not be spending Sunday with Charlotte or his father. Lunch lasted until tea time and we ordered pizza for a light supper.
Sunday, we (Claire, Geoff and I) headed off to the Cotswolds.
Julia found a cottage in Stanton, south of Broadway. It's a small, one-pub village. It's beautiful - perfect - like a movie set! And that Sunday was open-garden day. It's a charity event -- for £4, you can visit gardens (almost every house made its garden available) and even have tea. We all thought how much Ken would have liked being there and how clever Julia was to have found such a place and timed her arrival with this event. Imagine not having to go anywhere for your first touristy outing!
When we arrived, Julia and Max were at "home". Max was in his Spiderman costume! When Brian, Kelly (his sister) and Andy (their friend) came in from their walk, we all headed to the pub for lunch. And from the pub, we got our tickets for the garden tours and meandered our way back home. These are private gardens, but true to the cliché, the English love their gardens and they are all beautiful. The roses are just magnificent.
After tea, when Claire, Geoff, Julia and Brian decided when and where to meet the next week (yesterday, actually), we headed up to Northampton. I found it nice to be just with Claire and Geoff. We had a simple spaghetti dinner (Claire put a bit of bacon in her tomato sauce and that gave it an interesting taste!) and went to bed. Claire dropped me off at the station on her way to work and I got a train almost immediately. Again, I didn't feel like doing anything while waiting for my train back to Paris. I had enough time, but wasn't up to taking in an exhibit or go shopping or just walking around. So I got myself a few books at W.H. Smith and a sandwich and water at M&S and sat in a sunny spot (St. Pancras has a glass roof) and read until it was time to board. I was home in time for dinner.
Sans vouloir trop me repeter, je suis allée en angleterre rendre visite à Claire et Geoff. Au fait, nous n'étions chez eux que quelques heures. Le week-end a commencé le vendredi soir chez les parents de Geoff à Woking. C'est là que nous avions rendez-vous avec Nigel et Valérie. J'ai eu la chance de bavarder un peu avec Alison avant l'invasion des autres. Ahmad se reposait. Une fois Nigel et Valérie arrivés avec les enfants, j'ai eu la chance de faire la connaissance de Noah, le bébé (né le 28 mars), lui donner le biberon et m'amuser avec lui. Charlotte a eu le temps de refaire connaissance avec moi. Elle est devenue très bavarde et elle est toujours aussi affectueuse et amusante. Claire et Geoff sont arrivés un peu tard car Claire a du travailler plus tard que prévu.
Nous avons passé le samedi tous ensemble dans le jardin où nous avons déjeuné sous la tente! Les roses de Alison sont en pleine beauté !
Dimanche, Claire, Geoff et moi sommes partis dans les Cotswolds pour voir Julia (cousine Pickar), Brian et Max (son mari et fils de 3 ans) et Kelly (la soeur de Brian) et leur ami, Andy. C'était le jour des jardins ouverts dans leur village - une magnifique sortie pour la journée ! Puis nous sommes partis chez Claire et Geoff à Northampton et Claire m'a déposée à la gare lundi matin en partant au travail. C'était un bon weekend, quoique fatiguant.
Depuis, je me régale de framboises ! Chaque matin je commence la journée en recoltant un bol de framboises à comsommer immédiatement !

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