On the train home from Paris last night I had a lightbulb moment that in three days time it will be officially the middle of winter. Which means its just six weeks until spring. Which put me into a state of mild anxiety to get done all the jobs I promised I’d get done over our quieter months.
So this morning I was a hive of activity doing all those bits.
We finally went and ordered a new dishwasher and its being installed tomorrow – oh happy day! Our Miele that came with the house has started making some strange groaning noises during the rinsing cycle. We suspect it is around 25 years old bless it. So its in with a new one exactly the same only it has a steel facing instead of black. It baffles me as to why in a lovely light cream painted kitchen black appliances were installed… so happily this is step one of replacing them. Next target is the crazy oven… a story for another day!
Another “finally did it” was filling out my order for dahlias from an agricultural college in Normandy that specialises in dahlias. How lucky are we to have that! I am a new grower of dahlias but they’ve proven to be surprisingly easy for such gorgeous blooms … you feel they should be harder to grow to get such beauty. I bought my first two “Cafe au lait” at the Courson plant fair our first year here, and the plant fair’s last year at Courson before its move to Chantilly. Mike carried them back to the car through the crowd and when we got there we had a bunch of broken stems and no flowers, but they triumphed on despite us troopers that they are, and each year I lift and store them away in case of hard frosts or rot in the wet over winter.
Already in the garden the little green tips of bulbs and tubers are starting to peak through. I think the bluebells will be first to bloom and the iris are not far behind but have further to grow. Random unidentified bulbs are coming up everywhere as I am a shocker at labelling anything or noting where I’ve planted stuff. Probably why every time I put a spade in the garden I machete a bulb to death. Safer are the hyacinths I’ve got coming along by the kitchen window. I’ve had one store bought basketful of hyacinths already come and gone and planted out in the garden, and round two are coming along a treat. I love the smell of them.
Also having a great time in the garden are the turtle doves, blue tits and sparrows. I’m now onto our second 10kg bag of nuts and refill their feeder every day. Its like Heathrow Terminal 6 outside the kitchen. The doves are fed from seed thrown out for them every morning and the little birds all zoom in and out of the bird feeder all day.
But I digress – back to the to-do list.
Tomorrow I’m going to start painting the ceiling beams in the bathroom of Le Jardin – our largest guest room. When we renovated in there I was really mindful not to erase every bit of character from the house with my love of white paint. It takes a fair bit of bravado to paint 300 year old wooden beams. But the beams in there aren’t that old and I love a lovely clean pristine bathroom so they beams are in for it. Before and after photos will be coming next week.
And I’m about to do the final thing on my list for today – book Trevor (one of our two cavaliers) in for hydrotherapy for his arthritis. Winter isn’t kind to those with arthritic joints, particularly those getting on in years, so a chat with our vet this week got us a recommendation for some extra help for him. Allez!
I’m not going to kid anyone, winter here in Normandy is long. OK, probably not nearly as long as in say, Norway or Alaska, but longer than our homeland Australia.
A few hardy souls have come to stay to experience the D-Day beaches in their serene and rugged beauty without the crowds here. If you’re prepared to rug up you’ll be rewarded with pristine photos without another soul blocking your shot, an open fire here to come home to, and the ability to get a same-day dinner booking at the fabulous La Rapier in Bayeux (impossible in summer).
We’ve only had one light cover of snow one morning and a week of hard frosts (bye-bye daisy bush and agapanthus), but its the lack of day light that I find the hardest. Its the price we have to pay for those 10pm twilight walks on the beach after dinner we have all summer.
But we’re nearly there. Its less than two weeks until spring and Arromanches is coming alive again. The sound of lawnmowers is leading the buzz, and the restaurants that have been closed for a well-earned winter break are opening again. We’re off to La Marine for a much missed sole-meunier tomorrow night. We’ve already had our first crepes of the season from lovely Thomas at Recto Verso. It’s just going to be a little while yet before we get tempted by the ice cream treats at Companie du Glaces down by the waterside.
On the home front we’ve had a list of jobs that we’ve been working through over winter to keep the house in tip-top condition. Paint touch ups, changing over bits that we weren’t really happy with (exciting stuff like too dim lamp bulbs) and those ‘drive you crazy in the cuckoos’ jobs like cleaning chandeliers. Next job is to paint the shutters now its warming up a bit.
Every day I’ve been looking out over the garden planning and scheming. The kitchen is now the nursery for two mini glass houses full of seedlings and as they germinate they head up to the attic to grow on in cooler temperatures and new seeds are planted in the warm kitchen. My first lot of 40 seeds only has 5 survivors now – so I’m really hoping my success rate grows. The billion or so tulips, alliums and grape hyacinths I planted last year are all peaking through the soil and I’m being patient to wait to put the dahlia and lily tubers in next month. There’s been some moving and shaking around the garden with things making way for new additions – including a four ball conifer topiary I’m pretty stoked about. Arne Maynard has a lot to answer for.
The garden has also been Terminal 6 at Heathrow over winter as my compassion for our two resident turtle doves who guard the mirabelle tree year round to keep their nest there led to about 40 other hanger-on birds taking up residence. Blue tits, gold finches, robins, and other randoms show up at daybreak each day and check the feeder every 3 seconds until its filled with nuts and seeds for them. Its kept a bit of life in the garden each day and I’ve now entered bird-nerd territory with my own bird watching book kept in the draw of the breakfast table in our kitchen. Gone is Vogue as my bible.
Its bizarre to think back that this time last year we were still renovating and not yet even taking bookings. We’ve come a long way and its been a cracker of a trip…. and there’s more to come with summer ahead!