Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blooming marvellous

The blooms have been abundant this May, and as the blossom has blown off the trees so has the small buds of fruit taken their place. Cherries, sweet and sour, adorn the branches, small green bumps begin the pears and fat, bright green stumps creep down the branches of the fig.

The season of bounty is almost upon as June enters the fray, the strawberries slowly taken on a shade of pink easing to red and the melons are beginning to be seen at the markets. The poppies, the wild lillies, cornflowers and clover slowly begin to ebb away as summer gently takes her turn and starts to heat the landscape up.

The crickets have been chirruping for some weeks now and the frogs will not keep their peace, the Hoopoe and his mate have been seen in the fields and hiding in the hedges. The wheat fields are rising around us like soldiers and the maze is making its story well known.

Dining in the heat of the evening is almost becoming de rigueur as the guests flow constantly south in a bid to eat a slice of French heaven. Cherry jam, cherry liquer and elderflower cordial are all being sketched out to make the most of this local abundance and to capture the essence of our sweet French summer.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Weight pulling

Their angry mutterings were voluminous as they slapped the dishes and cups into the dishwasher; "how dare they - don't they think we are pulling our weight". This outburst followed the rude and outrageous demand for them, and only them, a couple amongst four other couples, to tidy away the greasy plates and sticky cups of ten children after their tea-time. Naturally they were pissed off, and who wouldn't be? When your holidaying with four families and you have ten children between you, clearing away the plates is a never-ending, dull job that someone, anyone, must do.

A year or so after we had our twins we realised that it would be better to holiday with friends, that way when the children were all in bed we could relax and enjoy a cool glass of G and T with our buddies whilst listening to the crickets, and, during the day the children had each other to frolic with. The idea was genius but putting it to the test proved to be quite different.

Families parent differently, obviously, so going on holiday with another family can be tricky to say the least. One disastrous week spent with really good friends in Italy went horribly awry; they fed their boys cans of fanta for breakfast - naturally - our two wanted in on that. The evenings weren't spent alone in the heat of the evening relaxed and sun-kissed but listening to their son play computer games as he wasn't sent to bed until they went...surreptitiously we left early.

Fortunately we are blessed with a gang of friends who parent their children in the same way. No one feels the least bit shy of telling each others children off, or of asking each and every one of the ten to say either please or thank you. We hang out each others washing, share the cooking, cleaning, clearing and bath-time. This arrangement has continued for four years and we have watched in the sun, and and the rain, with joy, with fear and with absolute happiness as all of our children have grown up. As blooming tums have become plump babies, cheeky toddlers until they are finally big enough to herd with the older children. We agree on the bedtime and every single last one of the ten adhere to it from the babies to the ten year olds. Our evenings are spent devouring each others divine recipes, sharing bottles of good wine while the crickets chirrup and the stars and planets unfold above us.

Despite the disgruntled mutterings in the kitchen the couple had been blatantly chosen to keep them out of the way. So the children could decorate the garden with home-made love heart bunting, rose petals, pink and white cupcakes, soft macaroons and glasses of chilled champagne - it was their twelth wedding anniversary and we wanted to celebrate their love. Of course they had pulled their weight, every single last one of us did and that is why it works so beautifully.