Happy Easter, dear Readers and Friends!
I am moving offices! A few yards from one building at our home outside Paris (fondly known as the Mad Old Chateau) to another crumbling stone building on the same patch of land. Today is Good Friday, the sun is shining and I am traipsing back and forth through freshly cut grass carrying armloads of files containing yellowing invoices, letters, contracts and receipts that I notice now mostly date from before the turn of the century. So once everything is installed, the cobwebs wiped off, I will have to go through the whole lot and start chucking out mountains of redundant paperwork.
In between the toing and froing, when I stop for a rest, I have been observing a turquoise-headed Drake and his sweetheart preparing to build a nest along the far bank of our pond. Future ducklings paddling about in the rather murky water! … So much life, the cycle of birth and new energy.
As some of you know, it has been a challenging winter for me – well, for almost the entire world as well, of course. I am only now lifting my head up after several months of less than full health, which is a first for me. I realise that I have always taken my health for granted. Not anymore. I zapped about like a mad thing; I worked every hour I had something to do, something exciting to get down on paper. I eat late, stay up half the night. I write sometimes twelve and more hours a day. I organise the Olive Farm, the harvests, olive oil tastings, welcome guests, I answer emails, jump on and off planes to give talks, attend events, etc. On top of all that, last year I spent six months preparing and shooting the Channel 5 series Carol Drinkwater’s Secret Provence. (If you haven’t seen it yet, it is available on the Ch 5 catchup system). Almost as soon as Series 1 was wrapped, I began to work on ideas, locations for Series 2. And then completely out of the blue in early December, I discovered I needed surgery. It was a fairly routine matter, but unfortunately it went a bit wrong, causing bleeding and then a rather large and very uncomfortable hematoma which had to be drained and tested for leukemia and several other worrying possibilities. Other tests followed. Thank heavens, all was clear.
I am not usually someone who shares such details. I only mention this now because as the days rolled on, February was moving into March – I was in Paris with my agent and the producer of Secret Provence 2 – it began to dawn on me that in spite of all kinds of assurances, I was not up to strength mentally. My self-reliance had been zapped and I did not feel sufficiently confident to invite a film crew to the farm, to go charging about all over the south of France. The upshot is that the second series has been cancelled. I am exceedingly sad, disappointed. I had come up with plenty of ideas – places and people to visit – and had been looking forward to getting back in front of the camera and sharing so much material with everyone. I am also deeply sad that our fabulous commissioning editor, Emma Westcott, and Channel 5’s Director of Programming, the amazing Ben Frow, are not being given the second series they had hoped for. I cannot deny that I feel a sense of having let folks down over this.
Your letters after watching Series 1 – so many of them! – have been very encouraging and uplifting to read. Thank you. It has lessened the disappointment to know that there are viewers still watching the shows and loving them.
I have put all the new material aside and know that it won’t go to waste. I will use it for another programme, or for stories and articles … I have a couple of ideas for other TV shows too, which fingers crossed might get commissioned at some point before too long.
So, now it is Easter Monday. We arrived back at the farm on Saturday. The horrid dark days of illness are, please God, behind me. Spring has burst forth with such energy, as though it has been fighting all winter to get out there and display its vibrant colours, its promise. It is utterly joyous to behold. I spent hours yesterday plodding about the terraces staring at bees – plenty of ginger bumbles on the flowering herbs and big black Carpenters on the wistaria. Everywhere there are carpets of linen-white daisies growing in the grass, while birds are nesting high over head in the Cypresses. What a racket they make defending their territory.
After Covid, this unspeakable war in Ukraine, my own ill health, other world horrors, this spring is finally bringing me some peace. It is mending me, reinvigorating my optimism. My body has healed and I have given it plenty of rest, followed instructions, taken care of myself. Now, I am raring to get going again, to get back in the work seat. I feel that pulse of adventure-seeking beating within me once more. I am ready to sally forth and meet the world anew. I have been researching a new novel, also set in the south of France, sparkling with the ‘high’ life of the late twentieth-century Côte d’Azur. Now, I am tentatively putting pen to paper. I am rather excited about its subject matter. I think it is a bit of a departure for me, but I don’t know yet until I have the first draft under my belt.
We have a couple of building projects on the go. A willow roof to the pergola we installed last year (some of you may have seen it in Secret Provence) and stone-wall repairs. These walls are a never-ending challenge even without the wild boars to break them down.
Here is the view from the pergola. We have installed hanging lights for soirées with loved ones. When I look at the view I can almost hear the summer cicadas at their song, but I am not wishing this glorious season away.
However, I am looking forward to one or two events over the summer – if you are in Felixstowe, UK, I will be there for the Lit Fest the last Sunday in June. In Greece from mid-August for the Kastellorizo documentary film festival. Otherwise, I will be at the farm and scribbling away.
Last year we planted a bergamot tree. I had never seen a bergamot fruit before. It looks like a giant mandarin, don’t you agree? We had fourteen golden jewels on the little tree this spring and it is blossoming again, teasing us with the promise of more fruits for next winter. Cycles of life! Here is a photo of it below.
I wish you all love and good health. I pray the state of the world will improve and those who are using their power to personal advantage will be stopped. I pray for an end to this horrific war for the people of Ukraine. I also pray for other regions in the world where the horrors continue. Each small act of love and generosity we make will gently tip the balance. Our lives are so brief, so precious, we must give all we can in whatever way we can.
Easter is our celebration of rebirth. I feel it pertinence acutely this year. Love to you all and thank you for reading this.