Sensing movement on the terrace I glanced down to my right. I’d heard on the radio that very morning about a study of snails who like to travel ‘follow-my-leader’ style and slither along taking advantage of each others’ slime trail. So a snail striking out alone on the wooden deck seemed worth watching! I thought of it as she, though these critters are hermaphrodites. She ventured into the sun, leaving little dolloped rounds of a trail on the wood. Turning, she crossed the ridged part of the plank and reaching its further smooth edge made back towards the cover of the mint leaves…there was another snail lurking there. She approached, stopped for what looked like a wave and a chat and then glided on. But soon she turned and approached her friend from a different angle. As she advanced, the static snail began to move a dry leaf into a different spot beneath his right side. Up she slithered, horns waving, now she was in a better position for them to lock necks and caress each other.
A little time passed – and the two heads were soon covered in bubbly foam – they had indeed mated! They sat there together in the fragrant shade for a long time basking in the afterglow – I could almost hear the Jacques Loussier soundtrack!
Living on my own as I do the pattern of everyday patter remains for the most part a dialogue with myself. So one of the charms of a holiday with others is the daily chatter, sharing interests and developing thoughts together – during the time spent in Brittany there were many themes weaving in and out of the days. The vegetable gardens, the stories of Guy de Maupasant, the daily swim, the social plans, discussions around the topic of identity and individualism, the welfare of an ill friend, the new washing-up machine, ideas of digging a little lake, everyday shopping needs, the changing appearance of the moon, what to do with the glut of courgettes – we made chutney – and green beans – we gave them away – and of course the wonderful Well; all these and others came and went, resurfaced and took turns to share the limelight.
And through them all hopped and stamped the Andro – a traditional Breton dance that we’ve been booked to perform at a family wedding in October! We definitely need more practice – perhaps a trip to the French folk-dancing venue On Bouge to recreate the Fest- Noz will help…
Back home the allotment was an early destination: watering and harvesting. The blackberries ripen by the thousand and an hour’s picking yielded about 9 lbs. Sugar was bought, jars were sterilised, and Lola and I set about the making. Despite our rather hilarious and haphazard methods, and some very last-minute improvisation with both recipe and containers (including a pint glass), we now have lots of delicious and beautiful rich claret-red bramble jam. Feeling keen and greedy we’re already planning the next lot..
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
from Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney
Between the early-morning picking of the fruit and the evening making of the jam I spent the day walking amongst the trees and groves of a really magical place – Hannah Peschar‘s Sculpture Garden. Somehow it seemed as though I was seeing light and shadow for the first time: the sun through the branches, bouncing off the paths, reflecting the redness of the clay through water, illuminating the luminous green leaves, dappling the rushes, transforming those titans of gunneras into caverns of coolness.
I fell in love with the tall purple thalictrum marshalled together and restrained by a little clipped hedge; I lost my heart to the mosaic ceiling of lapped and layered leaves, neon upon night-dark. For me on that day the stature of the trees and the very charming mother nature of the watery landscape rather overtook all but the grandest of the sculptures. Yet it was entertaining to come across the work as we wandered; we set off mysterious music by the oriental pond, glimpsed rust-red deer on the ridge, stroked smoothed sinuous wood and pondered the giant marbles and three painted ‘vessels’ set on the mossy slopes. It was also a great pleasure to be welcomed by Hannah herself and learn a little about the garden and the magnificent life’s work of her and her husband.
And Susan and my life’s work in the form of the special handbound and signed edition of 200 copies of the book is now available here. Have a gander – they do look lovely, though I say it myself!
On Sunday, as part of SouthBanquet, a blustery corner of the Riverside Terrace of the RFH was transformed into Sophie’s studio. There was a constant stream of visitors, who singly or in groups were eager to tell their story about a special food experience; to each Sophie sat listening, then writing and drawing, working swiftly with wit, genius and graceful spontaneity. Six hours later she’d taken fifty stories! So there were fifty sheets photocopied and stuck on the wall for everyone to read, fifty stories copied and taken home by the tellers, fifty lovely originals for her on-going collection. What a work!
As I motor around I often find myself talking to other drivers. For ages I’ve wished I had a little messaging system – a neon sign I can flash on that says SIGNAL??? or NO – STAY PUT or MANNERS! and even, sometimes, THANKYOU. I’m thinking of starting with a series of cardboard flags I can hoist at a moment’s notice….
Meanwhile – SE19 locals – look out for your mid-September copy of The Transmitter..