Today we completed the weeding of the rose garden, and Jackie cleared out the potting shed, to which she adapted a set of shelves to fit.

This afternoon, I scanned a batch of colour slides from a French holiday in September and October 1981. We shared a house in Cabrieres, Languedoc with Jessica’s friend, Sue Sproston. The house belonged to a colleague of Sue’s who was in the process of renovating it, but hadn’t been too bothered about fixing potential leaks in the roof. Trust us to experience the worst thunderstorm locals could remember.

Here, Jessica and Sam see me off on a trip for the obligatory croissants from the boulangerie.

I found the local gardens fascinating. Some were carefully tended;

others seemed to be spaces to park trucks or trikes.

Cacti were in abundance. It seemed to me that, if the barbed wire had been designed to deter inquisitive fingers, it was probably somewhat superfluous.

Here Sue joins Jessica and Sam in investigating the local lake.

It was clearly the time of the vendanges, or the grape harvest.

We drove around the area and visited a number of villages, like the beautifully kept St Guilhem, and the almost abandoned Villeneuvette, where Sam sloshed in the fountain, a little less elaborate than the one in the grapes picture.

Wikipedia, currently has this to say about Colbert’s social and economic experiment:

‘Villeneuvette is a commune in the Hérault department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.

It lies close to the town of Clermont l’Hérault.

Villeneuvette is a small village made up of a group of buildings initially erected in the 17th century to create a royal clothmaking factory and provide accommodation for its workers. Apart from a hotel and restaurant, the buildings are now restricted to residential use, many for holiday purposes.

Creation of Villeneuvette was promoted in 1677 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert the noted finance minister of King Louis XIV. It was one of his many initiatives to develop France’s industrial base. Power for the factory was hydraulic with water supplied via different water courses from existing basins. The factory was privately owned and produced cloth for the king including uniforms for his armies. The factory was in existence until 1955.

Since 1995 the village has been classified as a “Zone de Protection du Patrimoine et du Paysage” recognising the originality and importance of its heritage.

The original inscription above the gateway was “MANUFACTURE ROYALE” but was later rather crudely changed by the Republic to “HONNEUR AU TRAVAIL” – Honour in work.’

When we stumbled across the commune most dwellings were unoccupied, except for a few people who, to us, appeared to be squatters. We were able to amble around and marvel at the higgledy-piggledy nature of the accommodation, often with one family’s upper rooms above those of the residents below.

In 1982, J.K.J. Thomson published ‘Clermont-de-Lodeve 1633-1789’. Since it contains an erudite history of Villeneuvette, I had to buy it. It was, in fact, far too academic for my taste, but I did struggle through it. Interestingly, the book jacket shows the changed inscription mentioned above.

I was, perhaps fifteen years later, rather pleased I had, when one of my consutatiion clients told me that a couple of her friends had bought one of the residences which were now being sold on the open market. I was able to describe what we had seen, and to hand over the book. I didn’t expect to see it again, but, it was eventually returned to me by the  wife, who happened to be  a committee member of another agency client. Even then, before we were all overtaken by the Web, it was a small world.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious lamb jalfrezi, savoury rice stuffed with goodies, and vegetable samosas; followed by apple strudel. We both drank Kingfisher.

The Thunderstorm

Running HillIt was very clear this morning, as I walked the postbox loop, why Running Hill is named after the streams that run down it. Yesterday’s rain continued in abundance, although the wind has eased.
The raindrops that kept ‘falling on my head’, were not just those that came directly from the skies. Have you ever noticed that when you walk under trees those drips whose descent is interrupted hit you and your clothing with a much louder plop? This is because they slide down the branches gathering bulk on the way, and are veritable droplets by the time they reach you. My raincoat was again hung over the bath to dry.
In October 1981 Jessica, Sam, and I spent a fortnight in the holiday home of friends of Jessica’s friend Sue Sproston in Cabrieres in the south of France. Church buildings 10.81Buildings 10.81Buildings from above 10.81Rooftops from above 10.81Photographs taken on that holiday are in the next set of random black and white negatives I identified and worked on today.
Buildings on hillside 10.81Street 10.81Like all French houses, especially in the south, attractive shutters kept out the heat of the sun, but that didn’t stop a young woman basking on the stone steps to her house. I remember the steep climb back up from the baker’s in the morning after we had shopped for baguettes and croissants. This was my first French holiday.
Stone wall 10.81Abandoned truck 10.81
Treelined avenue 10.81The stone garden walls intrigued me, as did abandoned vehicles behind them. Dappled light lent  enchantment everywhere, especially when flashing through the treelined avenues along which we drove in the Renault 4. My train journey up to London, on a bright day, has the same strobe-like effect.
It is perhaps fitting that the tiled rooftops fascinated me so much, given that we were to discover that they occasionally leaked. One evening the clear blue sky suddenly darkened. Deep indigo replaced the brighter colour as clouds filled the firmament. Violent lightning rent the air and lit up the rooms in the wake of rumbling bouts of thunder. The raindrops that followed made this morning’s drips seem quite insignificant. They fairly hammered incessantly on the roof and skylights, finding their way through the many cracks and crevices. The house was soon filled with buckets, bowls, pans, and any other containers that could be found, all rapidly filled with first spattering, then splashing, rain.
We learned in the morning, when the day was as bright as that in the pictures above, that the storm was the worst in local memory. The owners of the house had thought it fairly safe to leave the roof to the last of the refurbishments necessary for their holiday home. I am, of course, now accustomed to such storms in Sigoules.
With our own lesser rain still descending this evening we dined on delicious prawn risotto (recipe) and green beans, followed by scrumptious apple crumble and custard. We both drank Cimarosa zinfandel rose 2012, which Jackie enjoyed and I found rather too scented.