We’re visiting our friends Jill and Simon. They moved to Lot-en-Garonne, near Villeréal in south west France five years ago, and now we’re grey nomads (I didn’t make that up but really like it) we finally have the leisure to drop in.
To reach their place we navigate a winding single track lane then a long downhill drive. It’s very green and peaceful and seems far from 21st century life. The only sounds are natural ones — birds, crickets, frogs, hens, three stroppy cockerels and the occasional sheep.
Jill’s a garden designer too, that’s how we met, but unlike me she and Simon work their socks off designing and building beautiful landscapes in France. On the day we arrive she’s off for three hours of French lessons. I think she speaks the language well, better than my mixture of schoolgirl French and sign language, but she needs to be pretty fluent so she can cope with long, detailed business meetings with potential garden design clients.
Simon doesn’t make it back for our visit in the end because he’s been delayed by this year’s fickle weather. They have a huge landscaping job for the owners of a chateau about a hundred miles away, and he needs to make the most of the break in the rain to catch up on the build. They’re also doing most of the work renovating their farm buildings too. It isn’t all beer and skittles, or even toute du vin et jeu de boules, but they love the place and after a couple of days we start to fall under its spell too.
Gertie’s parked up by the side of the ancient stone barn, looking just a little incongruous. She’s a big bride and not exactly unobtrusive, but we’re completely self-contained so are undemanding and pleasant guests (just in case anyone out there would like us to come and visit.)
The sun comes out as I write. Hens are pecking gently around my toes, Jill’s dogs Ruby and Arnie sleep peacefully by my side and I am completely content. Who needs beer and skittles anyway?