June 2006 Archives

sound of summer



The temperature has risen and the chuntering wallpaper of cicadas has drowned out the blackbirds in my glade: Now they are in unison; now another enters, his first chugs like the pistons of a toy steam engine increasing in speed until he rivals the other group; now suddenly they all stop as if obeying the command of an invisible conductor; a soloist dares to come in with its deafening squeak somewhere on the dappled bark of the plane tree above me. Faster, higher in pitch, but every beat with the same accent. He stops and for a second I can hear the butterflies’ wings flit. This brief silence is the sound of heat.

Thismorning at one o’clock I was sitting in our kitchen, a vat of Chateauneuf du Pape swilling around inside my belly, the charcoal smell of barbecued fish hanging in the air, playing Bach VERY badly to my four favourite artists and spouses as they sketched me. I thought it was a good after dinner party game at the time. The sketches were pretty nice when I saw them this morning lying next to the limp salad. I went outside, squinted in the bright and picked up seven corks. One was a magnum.

As we were watching the colours change on the Ventoux earlier in the evening, a jogger passed with a dog in his arms. He had carried the animal, slobbering from the parching beat of the sun, half way down the mountain. We phoned the owners and a girl arrived with her dad and took the ragged thing in her arms, setting a bottle of je nes sais quoi on our table as thanks. The dog had walked ten kilometres.

Courgettes are in flower.

The shutters are closed. The pool is open. I have a nice new bathing suit.

The cicada has started up again.

Summer is here.





I have had a month off the cello.

“I am just as happy writing” I say, blissed out in my fig shade glade, or with the cat on our bed, tip tapping away at something which might be a book one day.

Then we argue.

I take my instrument in my hands and begin to play Bach’s first suite: The unspeakable is spoken, secretly. My bow tells the truth without hurting anyone, without me having to stand naked infront of anyone. The cadences are perfect in their imperfection. The feel of gut beneath horsehair is satisfying yet agonising. The major key is terribly melancholic. I am dancing…. Dancing…

Julian produces a zen lemon.

What do other people do?




The work has finally finished in the studio and Julian is making up his own creamy chaux mixture and putting the finishing touches to his palace. Slowly, with each trowelled figure of eight, he is making himself at home; claiming and inhabiting his space. The new easel is on order so watch out for BIG joyous paintings!

What’s next?

Well, there’s the rest of the house….and then there is the question of land. I don’t think I’ll ever get my swimming pool here, but we have been advised by our estate agent to contact the man who owns the vines opposite the house and make a proposal to rent or buy a parcel of his vineyard.

“Just say you want to make a little ‘potager’” (a lovely innocent word for vegetable garden derived from the word for soup – not ‘I would like to have somewhere to put a pool or build a wall or bury the septic tank’, but ‘I would just like to have a little ‘soup making plot’’.).

I phoned Monsieur Vendran and first apologised for covering the front row of his vines with lime and hemp and having mixers clacking in the place he normally turns his poison spraying machine. Then I asked if I could come round one early evening to discuss the land.

“Call me after the tenth of July. ‘Je suis dans les cerises’” he replied.

It took me a moment to figure out if he was actually standing in a cherry orchard on a mobile phone and would be until mid-July, but no this was a land-line. He must have been at home. Then of course I figured that his whole world, until the season ends, is cherries, and that there is no space in his head for the fate of his grapes.

So what is it, this desire to ‘own’ a plot of land? Julian has always gardened and he misses it. I sat in a friend’s garden the other night under her fig tree which she had tended from young, amidst her wild roses and herbs, her budding cherry tomatoes and her lettuces, and it was not like sitting at the foot of the mountain - that's more like being in the presence of a God. No, it was like being amongst family.

I hope I get to find out. The following examples from a Steiner school model village (Yves' daughter's house is the hemp one) illustrate that the potaging instinct flowers in us naturally along with the nesting instinct if we let it.









Pierre came and put in his curly spirally copper thing to make the energy better. I think I actually felt it. At least we slept well these last couple of nights.


Then, when they were digging up the sand floor, the guys – possibly even more sceptical than Julian – found these really weird boules de something, apparently due to some freaky crystallisation, in exactly the place Pierre had located the band of negative energy, and where he had buried his curly spirally copper thing in the wall.


"Some very unhappy things have gone on in this hamlet. I wish we could take the magnificent energy from the cave over there and bring it here...anyway this should help."

Meanwhile, I have picked up my cello again after a month off. It feels…well…delicious! I have offered to play for a very close friend’s wedding in Sussex so I am getting back together with Bach and spirals and breathing and, well, the thing that makes me feel better than anything in the world. We (me, Manon and Bach) are communing in an ex negative spot in the bedroom as the rest of the house is still chocca with JULIAN and JULIAN’S MEGA MICRO-ENTREPRISE. Here we are together…you have to imagine the soundtrack.


The last of our hippy dippy workers don’t finish cold-showering and snogging in the vines and undressing and dressing each-other tenderly till almost nine. Personal Space is hard to come by. Then again we don’t have kids and ‘That’s the gig’ , as our family used to say. And the gig is good and full of love.

"I'm vibrating, man" says Julian watching the last ten minutes of the world cup (the importance of which, after a few years of marriage, I now accept)
"That's cos they've changed the energy" I reply.
"No, i've changed my own energy".


Cezanne and aubergines



Today we went to Aix for the Cézanne show. There were three highlights for me:

One was a painting I have been lucky enough to see before in Madrid (with less of a crowd) - a painting of his gardener. The man - identical to the one who served us our coffee in the café ‘Deux Garçons’ where Cezanne and Zola used to dine - almost floats on the extension of a bough like a melody, his left leg folded over his right continuing the phrase, whilst his right leg, an expression of the vertical; of harmony, is rooted in the earth he tends.

The second highlight was the last room - late paintings of the Mont Saint Victoire. To me there was a spiritual element to these paintings; a unity (“There’s as much blue in the green as there is green in the blue” said Julian about the earth and the sky). All was one and nothing was separate. Yet all was abstract. A note; a brushstroke….. a whole.

“The work in this room is the equivalent to Beethoven’s late quartets” said Julian.

The third highlight was a fuzzy photo in which Cézanne looked just like Yves.

It was wonderful to see these paintings not only in their home but in ours. They – sometimes quite simply of red earth and green trees - looked happy to be back where they were conceived.

We finished off the day stopping by the farmers’ market in Velleron. It was there that, amidst the shiny aubergines, baby flowering courgettes and sweet onions of each separate grower picked after noon that very day, we realised we had missed the still lives of the Maître and that another exhibit was surely due…..

We drove home to the red earth and green trees.

"Were you inspired?" I asked.
"Well, it's a bit like being a composer of jingles and hearing Beethoven. It's another world and no it isn't helpful in the slightest!" he replied.

For me perhaps it would be like hearing Steven Isserlis.....my cello hero and friend, who lives and breathes music and who fills my sound world with a feeling of expanse when I feel constricted or intimacy when I feel lost.....

...except Steven is alive and probably performing in a concert hall near you.


summer grace



The guys have taken a week off working on the house as Yves’ mother died on Friday.

I realised, opening the door from our kitchen into the hayloft to talk to a son in mourning, that I was frightened. I was really frightened of death and of his grief. Then I approached the man whose mother had been in a coma and from whom the doctors had just withdrawn the life support, and he looked at peace.

“I spent the night by my mother’s bedside in prayer. It was a beautiful night” he said. We hugged simply - a sign merely of respect and of friendship – and then we separated. No words were necessary and there was no fear.

As always, Yves was full of grace and in that moment I knew that death of a loved one was not something I had to be frightened of. I could if I wanted to, but it could also be an opportunity to give someone the ultimate gift of letting them go gracefully. In a meditation upon death, one concentrates on not holding on to the idea of eternal life and thus, like a summer bloom, one is fully alive whilst ready to welcome the winds which will ravage, and the frosts which will make one wither and fall. Could every moment with a loved one be infused with such presence?

Could I, without waiting for death, let my loved ones go, gracefully, every day?

It is June in Provence and nature could not be more vibrant. Yet every day is a day of death. The blossom has tumbled in to the ground, the broom will last another week. Baby rabbits are mauled on the path and the fruit, having paraded triumphantly in, will fall silently back to the earth: cherries, apricots, peaches, vines figs and quinces, mushrooms….and then it will be winter once more.

We are taking morning cycle rides amongst the bursting cherry orchards and the wheatfields, watching the vines grow lush and bushy. We are loving, , path by path, and letting go of our corner of the Vaucluse. It is a daily practice.


baleine liberée



Today is the day, Julian informs me in his deliciously imperfect French as we emerge from a plum orchard into the shade of a walnut tree and sniff the walnutty smell of a new leaf, of the ‘Dauphin Libéré’. This cycle race is to the Tour de France what Eastbourne is to Wimbledon, and today they are going from Tian l’Hermitage all the way to the top of the Mont Ventoux, through our village. 186 kilometres in five hours. Gawd Blimey. The locals and a few Dutch tourists are already lining the roads excitedly but I have come home to go to my glade to hear the blackbird sing and to write, with a bag full of cherries someone picked and then thought ‘Actually I hate cherries’.

“So when is the Baleine Libérée coming by?” I ask. Oops. Interesting slip. If I joined them I guess I would be the liberated whale and not the liberated dolphin.

Hang on, the cherries have disappeared. Could someone be painting them...?





On Friday there was a man walking round the hamlet with a small scarlet pendulum held between his thumb and forefinger. He was working in conjunction with Yves and he was dousing. I invited him into the house, curious to see if he would agree with us, and so many others, that the house had a really good vibe.

“I bet your cat likes to sit there”, he said pointing to Manon’s favourite spot on the sofa. “And there..”, indicating the exact spot on the other sofa where Oscar is often to be found curled up. “That is where the bad energy line is in the house, and cats are very sensitive to it. However, they are polarised, so they will pick up the negative spots as positive.” We continued the tour and when we got to the bedroom, Manon and Oscar were snuggled in a furry B shape on the new Provençal bedspread. “And, unfortunately, here. If you continue to sleep here you will not be well. Not ill exactly, but you will always be fighting for your health.” Moving on to the studio he said. “This room is not good, but there is a spot here…about where the easel is where there has very clear energy.”

Julian has been trying to persuade me to have our bedroom in the end room where we have built the en-suite shower, rather than the middle room where I like the morning light and where it is for the moment in our constant state of temporary arrangements. I have never been crazy about the end room but Julian loves it.

“This room, however, is fantastic. This is where you should have your bedroom.” Said the pendulum swinger.
“Can’t you feel the difference?” said Yves.
“No” I said, embarrassed and wondering if this is why our polarised cats have adopted it as their killing ground, often leaving mouse heads and bird livers to impress us during our morning ablutions.

Women it seems, though sensitive to the idea, often can't feel a bloody thing. Men, however, though open to Alfa Romeo Spiders, are not very open to dousing. Bloody ironic then that they are more sensitive to changing energetic patterns. I did a deal with the douser, agreeing on a price for him to come and clear the energy when he was next passing through. I was concerned that Julian would think it all a bit kooky, but he didn’t bat an eyelid.

"So what did the douser say?" he asked. Of course he liked being proved right.


wedding anniversary



The mistral is blowing fiercely and today it was the day to lay the hemp floor so Julian and I, swayed by the wind or going with the flow (not quite sure) cancelled our day on the coast to celebrate our anniversary. Instead we did some delicious 'tassing' of the sweet smelling floor, moon-walking over the mixture of hemp and pumice and lime to pack it down;


finished packing the prints; saved the cats from two lost puppies by phoning the happy owner; ate another cherry clafoutis made by Alexia; watched Yves put the finishing touches to a hemp model house for her class in Steiner School;


the lithe Thierry take his douche al fresco;


and now we are having pasta and sharing a 1989 bottle of Chateau La Nerthe Cuvée des Cadettes, which is a gourmet meal in itself. Then we will watch a Fred Astaire film.

So far - we're still dancing, they're still dancing, Fred and Ginger will be dancing...

A very nice wedding anniversary.