The holidays of Christmas and the New Year are almost upon us and I am hardly aware of them. Of course, I know these days of rest and merriment are creeping towards me, bringing with them blizzards, sack-loads of fallen snow, shoppers bustling to and fro, office parties, coloured lights in the streets, but such images are hard for me to picture while I am travelling in southern regions wandering through olive groves. For me the joyous tidings are that we have begun filming on ‘The Olive Route’, the television series based on my two books, The Olive Route and The Olive Tree, and I have to admit I am having a wonderful time, whatever the season. Suddenly, the sixteen or seventeen solitary months I spent inching my way around the Mediterranean in search of olive clues, olive stories, the history of this mythical tree, its fruit and its earliest moments of cultivation are all rising up before in glorious high-definition pictures.
Of course, now, I am not alone. There is a very small team at work alongside me and together we are shooting ten films or ten hours of television using the finest camera equipment so that we do justice to every season of this magnificent region. When the team is complete, we will have two directors and two cameramen. I already have a co-writer. The working days are conducted in French but I will write in English and the others will also write in their mother tongues. It is a multi-national endeavour, which adds to the challenges, the excitement and the range.
We have begun revisiting places that feature in the books, meeting with the ‘characters’ and deciding where they will stand within our stories. I am travelling to all the same countries, meeting new people, experts, digging deeper into the stories of the Mediterranean itself. Last week I was in Andalucia and Rome. The week before I was in Malta where we were filming the wonderful couple who in the books I christened ‘Nat and Julia’. Last Sunday, I wandered about the Mezquita, the magnificent Mosque/Cathedral of Cordoba.
I have been working every hour known to man (or woman) and most days I have been living on snatched sandwich breaks, while on other days I have been wined and dined by Med olive growers, farmers and chefs. Can you blame me for almost forgetting that in a couple of weeks it will be Christmas when all about me busy fingers are harvesting small purple fruits?
So, where am I writing this letter from? The Olive Farm. I have snatched five days in between trips to return and catch up on our own harvest, Appassionata’s groves. Our olives have produced less oil than I had hoped for because we have gathered them in and pressed them earlier than usual, but they have produced a superb rich green oil, sharp to the taste and almost as thick as mango juice. And it is ORGANIC. Yes, we have achieved it.
Next week I will be back in Rome for nine days discovering other treasures for the films, visiting monasteries, wineries, hillsides, ports, ruins, farms. Onwards, to Paris to find Michel, my husband. Before we settle for the holidays, my mother and one of Michel’s daughters and offspring will join us and I am absolutely delighted about that. Gathered together, we will indeed semi-close ‘the shop’ for a few days, quitting the fairyland of the wintery, illuminated Champs Elysées to drive slowly south to here, our blissful Olive Farm where we will walk this hillside, play with the dogs, decant our freshly-pressed olive oil and give thanks.
Next year promises to be hectic. Alongside, the tremendous work required for the film series, Return to the Olive Farm will be published in paperback in May, having sold very well in hardback (a few copies are still available if you are looking for Christmas presents). I have signed a contract with Scholastic to write another book, set during World War II, my fourth for their My Story series and I am writing a diary/travel book based on these filming experiences. As well, I am still at work on the fiction books I spoke of in one of my recent Newsletters.
Phew! Yes, 2011 will be hectic but great fun.
And whenever I have the opportunity, I am taking photos along the film journey of ‘The Olive Route’ and we will begin to add a few to this website gallery in January. Do take a look.
Below, olive groves outside Baena in southern Spain on a hazy morning.
While I am enjoying this moment of rest, sitting by a log fire, sipping a glass of fine red wine as I type, I want to wish you, every one, a very Happy Christmas and many blessings for 2011, surtout la santé, as we say here in France. In English, good health above all and peace to you all.
Thank you for dropping by here. If I could offer you a glass of wine and toast your year ahead, I would certainly do that, but we will have to make do with a virtual clink of the crystal.
My Facebook page, OLIVE FARM, will also be celebrating a virtual Christmas. However, there will also be a few dozen from that group coming along to the France Show at Earls Court in January (14th to 16th), to enjoy a real drink and buffet lunch with me after one of my talks. If you want to join us, go to the OLIVE FARM page, http://www.facebook.com/olive.farm befriend me and come along to Earls Court to the France Show. All are welcome.
Warm greetings and a very Happy Christmas and New Year to you and your loved ones. Let’s give a thought and a helping hand if we can to those who are alone, in poor health or without.