Sunday, 16 August 2009

Give Us A Break!

Andy Fellowes is a decent enough chap. He climbed the ladder to the top of the Cirencester Bugle without making too many enemies along the way.

But I can't say I was prepared for the tirade of abuse that was waiting for me from Andy on my ansaphone when I got back from my weekend in Plymouth, tonight.

"For God's sake, Bill - cheer us up!" It was a sad entreaty. According to Andy, the whole of the UK is currently blanketed under a grey cloud, making this the worst August (weather-wise) since records began.

It's a tall order. But here goes.

This is a snap of a little village called Beaumont - which, loosely translated, is called 'Beautiful Mount'. You can see why...

Saturday, 8 August 2009

In Bergerac

When most people think of a ‘holiday’, I doubt it would involve two days of hard labour trying to whip a garden into shape. If you live in a garden-less flat for most of the time, however, the chance to pose as Mellors and get down to a bit of hard graft is too tempting to resist. I suppose some might call it ‘gardening leave’, but since I am technically retired that would be a misnomer.

If I’d been on holiday with the ex-Mrs Blunt, I rather think I’d have been tempted to spend my entire first week in the garden at Bergerac - mowing the lawn, pruning the trees and generally knocking about in the out-houses. In fact, anything to avoid having to talk to the ex-Mrs B.

As it was, I was travelling with a delightful acquaintance of mine who made sure that my hours of toil were balanced by trips out and plenty of rest and relaxation, so the work element of the trip seemed really quite negligible.

It’s a huge garden, with a mix of peach, apple, pear and walnut trees The peach trees were in full fruit, with the apples and pears ‘almost’ there, so an enjoyable early morning task each day was to pop out to pick a few pieces of fruit for breakfast.

A former vegetable patch on the property was rather overgrown, so I made it a particular task to raise it to the ground with some rigorous scything, raking and burning. From my experience, that kind of work is made all the easier if accompanied by copious amounts of pastis and water, although I’m not entirely sure whether more experienced gardeners would concur on this matter.

The neighbour’s donkeys seemed to take an interest in my labours, and I repaid their solicitations by now and again treating them to a sugar cube or two. After getting the odd nip from their teeth, I decided I’d better wear a gardening glove to aid the feeding process – until one of them tugged it off and started chewing at it on the ground. It was the one in the middle – and I’ve got his number, I can assure you...

It was all worth it in the end, though.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

En Vacance

When the Cirencester Chronicle invited me to write a few pieces about my summer sojourns, I was sceptical at first. What Bill Blunt gets up to on his holidays doesn’t usually make for scintillating reading, and I wasn’t convinced that the good people of Cirencester would be up for it.

But, a commission is a commission and, since they promised to pick up the tab for my travel and accommodation, I thought it would be churlish to decline the offer.

‘This is the summer everyone’s staying at home, Bill,’ the editor of the Chron told me. ‘They need a little cheering up’. Once I’d cleared it with them that I could also publish a few articles on my blog, it was time to settle back and plot my trip.

I’m not a great fan of long-haul (which I suspect the editor - with a keen eye on costs - already knew), so continental Europe was my oyster. At this time of year, I sometimes like to pootle about in mainland Spain, but something drew me back to France again. The lure of the garden at the house in Bergerac that I sometimes stay at, and which I’d only recently whipped into shape during a brief visit there, was too much to resist. So, I thought I’d combine a trip there with motoring down to the South of France for a little sun on the Cote D’Azur, which I last visited a couple of summers ago.

Hence my absence for the last couple of weeks. To follow will be the bits of my travel journal that the good folk of Cirencester didn't get to see.