23 July 2007

Rhubarb, rhubarb

Where I used to live (before moving to Oxfordshire), there was a café called ‘Rhubarb, Rhubarb’. I loved it there. It was also a shop that sold all sorts of objects, mostly very arty, of the ethnic kind, and very expensive, but there was the odd thing I could afford so I bought a couple of things from there. They played jazz all day long, served homemade food, and because there were only a few tables, we all had to share them with one another, which made for a social and convivial atmosphere.

I have always loved the fruit itself, rhubarb, so my love of the café had as much to do with its name as with the décor, atmosphere and originality.

One of the first things we grew with Monsieur l’Anglais was... yep, rhubarb. We put three seeds into three small pots, and when they were ready we planted them out into our vegetable patch. Then we started clearing some of the patch, and what did we find? A very old, slightly sick-looking rhubarb plant! So we now have four thriving rhubarbs!

In April, I harvested our first crop of rhubarb stalks. I was a bit worried that I had hacked everything and that we probably wouldn’t have any more rhubarb this year. I shouldn’t have been: three months on, I have another huge crop. Just look at that!

Tonight, we’re having guests, so I’m cooking an almond and rhubarb cake, of course with rhubarb from the garden. Here’s the result:

I just love gardening when it yields such wonderful results!

Spa day

I have finally ‘spent’ my Christmas present from Monsieur l’Anglais. On Friday 13th, I went with a dear friend of mine who, incidentally, has given me all sorts of baby clothes and nearly all the equipment for our future baby – whenever he or she might arrive, hoping that we’re not tempting fate in this way... – and who is going to go back to France with her husband and three sons, if not in September then most certainly by January. So it was a thank-you and farewell present all in one.

We spent the day in our bathrobes and slippers, apart from two hours at the gym (one in the morning and one in the afternoon).

We started with a free session on a massage chair for 15 minutes each. It was there for customers to use freely because the ‘creator’ wanted to do a trial and to get people’s opinions. I gave it a 10/10 – it was better than a masseur!

I then had a ‘hydrotherapy bath’. It was a bit disappointing. It was like being at home in your own bathtub but with lots of jets of water going up and down your body and with lots of bubbles. I was allowed one essential oil (I chose ‘detox’ because the lady also put seaweed powder, which is a detoxifying substance apparently), and OK it smelled nice, but 25 minutes in the Jacuzzi was just as nice, if not nicer because you can actually relax in a Jacuzzi, which you (or at least I) can’t in a bathtub (it is always two inches too long, I can never reach the end of the bath while resting my head gently above water). Unless I wanted to drown in bubbles and lots of moving water, I couldn’t relax, having to point my toes against the other end of the bathtub in a totally un-relaxed and un-relaxing position.

Then we read a few pages of our book/magazine and at 1 p.m. we had a delicious lunch, very simple, very healthy, but oh so tasty: free-range roasted chicken, penne pasta with pesto, a mixed salad with the freshest lettuce leaves and halves of cherry tomatoes, freshly baked bread, the smoothest butter I’ve ever tasted (yes, even in Normandy!), and finally vanilla yoghurt with blackberries, blueberries and strawberries delicately set on top.

Nicely full, we went to the gym and got some energy back into our bodies, enough to then go for a swim in the circular pool. After that, we relaxed in the Jacuzzi again, sharing our impressions about the books we’ve read recently.

At 5 p.m., we reluctantly left to get showered and changed and to go back home. Just like for my wedding day, I wanted to do it all over again!

New table and benches

At the beginning of June, we bought this lovely table and matching benches. Because of the horrible weather, we were only able to put them up a whole month later!

And because it practically hasn’t stopped raining since then, we have only been able to sit at it three times!

But when the sun is out, especially in the morning and in the evening, oh, what blissful minutes and/or hours I spend there, reading my book, writing my novel, dreaming, looking at the red kites above and stroking the cat!

House swap

I can’t believe how natural it was for me to say ‘Yes, it’s a good idea’. What is wrong with me?! I seem a lot more relaxed about a lot more things these days (and no, I’m not pregnant yet, before you ask).

And so I said ‘yes’.

And so in less than three months, we’ll be flying to San Francisco, and an American family from that part of the world will be flying to London and come and stay in our house for... six weeks!

OK, we’ve got the better end of the deal: the two of us are going to stay in a huge detached, 5-bedroom house in an area where there are no floods (but earthquakes), with presumably all mod cons in a BIG way (six-foot fridge with ice-cubes provider, icy-water provider, room-temperature water provider and the like), while the four of them are going to stay in our poky little 3-bedroom semi, with no dish washer, no TV and a tiny little two-people fridge. But hey ho, Mr American is the one who suggested the house swap in the first place – he can’t complain!

I must add that this is all a work thing that Monsieur l’Anglais is involved in and he does know Mr American. Still, I’m slightly nervous, and I know that I will be more and more stressed as October looms...

3 July 2007


I got too excited, that’s what happened.

I got too excited about the two little dark-green leaves that were growing on each of the two sunflowers that I planted two weeks ago.

I didn’t run or anything, but the wood of the decking was so slippery, there was no chance to keep my balance, and BLAM! flat on my arse I was, my right clog three meters away and my right knee in agony.

I screamed so loudly that my cry echoed in the quiet, sleepy town (it was 10 o’clock on Sunday morning).

I then shouted Monsieur l’Anglais’s name so loudly it sounded like I was about to die.

No answer. He was in the living room, the radio on, oblivious to any other noise and to what was going on outside.

Later, he told me that he had heard the racket I had made but thought it was the kids next door playing. As they do most Sundays. Couldn’t blame him.

It took another two long, loud shouts – along with seeing me outside the kitchen window clutching my knee – for him to come and see what had happened.

I couldn’t stop crying. It was painful, but mostly, I think, I had been sooooo scared when I had realised that the step I had taken that was going to get my balance back had been even worse than the previous one and when, in that split second where your mind disassociates itself from your body and you kind of see yourself from above, I had seen that I was unable to prevent a fall on my back, right on the edge of the step of the decking. My hands were also hurting quite a lot. I had used them to ‘soften’ the fall. The base of the thumb on my right hand was the most painful bit.

As we say in French, I think there had been ‘plus de peur que de mal’ – more fear than hurt. We put some ice on my knee, then I massaged it with body oil, as prescribed by my dad who’s a rhumatologist, and I tried not to use my legs too much. Fortunately, it rained more or less all day and I had intended to finish sorting out our wedding pictures, so it didn’t affect my plans. Our first anniversary is in less than three weeks (can you believe it?!) and we want to finish the album by then. It’s nearly done, we just need to add a few pictures of the day before, the day after and the French wedding.

Yesterday, my knee was better already, so I walked into town to run some errands. But I had to walk very slowly. It was nice actually. I realised what ‘slowly’ really meant. I took my time, told myself there was nothing I could do, so I had to be patient, and I made the most of it: I looked at the trees, stopped to find the bird that was singing so melodiously in one of the fir trees in the park (I’m hopeless at ornithology and my eyesight is not brilliant, so I don’t know what it was, but it was pretty!) and took in the busyness of the town, while I slowly wandered around its streets.

I might do that again today, especially since, for now, it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain so much...