I am spending my days in the trees. Days in the silvery trees. We have been olive pruning. We are olive pruning when the weather permits us to go outside and work. February is traditionally the rainy season here but this year it really has been persistent. I am not complaining because it is feeding the earth and giving the plants an excellent dousing – I can almost see them growing taller. More importantly, because so many other areas of our planet have been suffering badly. My heart really goes out to those in Australia who are losing their homes to bush fires and those in Britain or Brittany who have been flooded out.
These climate extremes really do give cause for thought.
Our wonderful and very loyal Algerian gardener, Quashia, who sadly for us took retirement at the age of seventy-eight two years ago, decided he could not stay away. He came back for a month or so late last year to help clear up the land after the olive harvest and announced that our olive trees needed some very serious pruning this year and he would manage the cutting. He has returned again to oversee this work. The team is three: Quashia, Michel (my husband) and Francisco, a lovely Portuguese man from farming stock who has taken on the role of caretaker for us. They make a terrific trio. I wanted to do some of the pruning on the smaller trees myself because I really enjoy close contact with those silvery branches but Francisco is handling the young fellows at the top of the land while Quashia and Michel work on the centenarians. Homer, our male German Shepherd, keeps Francisco company while I serve coffees and give an instruction here and there.
When the sun shines, there at the summit of the hill where the youngest of the trees have been planted is a fine place to while away a few hours of the day. It is very tranquil with a fine sea view and over one hundred small olive trees as companions. I am including with this blog a photograph of Homer sitting at the feet of a few of the shorn trees. As you can see, the pruning everywhere on the land is severe and we will probably have a very small harvest as a result of so much trimming back this year, but the groves’ needs were urgent. I can almost see the trees breathing, opening out their branches to receive the light now that they have been freed of the dense growth that has been constricting them. The poetry of local olive lore states that a healthy olive tree is one that a swallow can fly through without its wings touching the branches. Well this year, I think the eagles will find a passage through!
On the rainy days all hands are turned towards house repairs: we are painting the shutters – seven sets of French doors on the upper level of the house – and the garden furniture. The furniture is looking very jolly. Each piece is decked out in two colours. When the spring comes, the tables and chairs will be placed out beneath the trees for meals and reading and sitting with chilled glasses of wine. Ah, spring, please come soon!
We have made another big decision, which is to offer our cottage at the foot of the land for holiday rentals. After Quashia retired, we gutted it and thought we might use it for guests but friends usually stay with us up at the main house and so the cottage has been sitting empty. It is a pretty little space and I prefer to see it occupied. It is not a luxurious Cote d’Azur villa but is ten minutes from the beaches of the Riviera and is entirely independent of the main estate. It has one old olive tree in its garden and space for parking a car. If you are interested, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
So, back to Bookville. All editing has been completed on The Only Girl in the World, which is at the printers as I write and is to be published on 3rd April. Hotel Paradise, a short-length novella for Kindle, has also been given the editor’s eye and is due to be published in late February.
I have no excuse for not attacking my novel, which is taking shape, but it is too early to say anything about it yet.
By the way, if you are reading this in China, Happy New Year. I have just received in the post the first copies of The Olive Farm in Chinese. It looks terrific and includes lots of photographs.
Well, it is raining again, beating hard against our flat roof. The men have packed up for the day, the trees are being watered, a log fire is blazing in the hearth and a bottle of rosé is being served.
I wish you all a very pleasant evening. Above all, I hope you keep safe and that Life is being kind to you.