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14th November

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There was a slight breeze today and now the garden is covered in fallen leaves, we have two huge oak trees that are shedding their load. Etienne has been planting the seed for the winter wheat. We are surrounded by his land and can watch him drive his tractor up and down with an attachment that deposits the seed at regular intervals in perfectly straight lines. The field he seeded across the lane just a few days ago is already flushed green with new shoots. I don’t think he stopped for lunch. I debated whether to tell him one of his sheep was loose on the road but wasn’t sure if one can stop a tractor mid planting. The sheep managed to find its way back in soon afterwards so that was all right. Fatima, who lives on her own not far from us dropped round with 6 eggs from her chickens and I gave her two butternut squash in exchange, they go well with couscous. Fatima doesn’t like eggs, but keeps chickens as she enjoys their companionship; they follow her round her garden. I think there are six of them; they all have names and look rather exotic, certainly nothing like the Rhode Island Reds that I kept many years ago. When I apologised for not visiting recently because I’d started an OU course on creative writing she was very interested and said I should write her story, there was so much to tell. She is a single mother, for an 18 year old Algerian woman in Paris the seventies it was very difficult , she was thrown out of her home when her parents found out she was pregnant and there was no communication with them for 10 years, until her father died. She is happy with her life now, but struggles on a meagre pension. She bought a wood burning stove recently but can’t afford to install it and relies on electric radiators to heat her house, only using them on the coldest days. I will go round and spend an afternoon with her, I’ve promised to go halves if I write her story and it becomes a best seller.

The conservatory man telephoned this afternoon, wanting to know some details about our design. We were so excited that he was finally ordering the materials; we drove up to his workshop and went through the plans again. His injured employee (off work for several months after cutting his foot on some glass) will be back at work next week, so things are happening at last. The builder called too, but to say there would be some delay on installing our wood burning stove in the barn as he was in Ariege with his terminally ill father. Philip still hasn’t finished plastering around the windows, he decided we were running low on food in the freezer, so is currently making a huge batch of broccoli and stilton soup. In France we use Auvergne blue cheese instead of Stilton, but it tastes just the same.

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