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We all know what a potato looks like so we’ve chosen Mr Potato Head for to illustrate 1st October . . . a very different toy to what was available to French children at the beginning of the 1800′s.
We only have a record of toys that were made for the rich. The poor made do with peg dolls and string animals. No doubt potatoes were whittled onto temporary toys, and then plunged into the pot.
Potatoes were consumed in bulk during the first Paris siege in 1795. Here potatoes were first grown on a large scale, even in the Tuileries Gardens to reduce the impact of the famine.
Potatoes thus became a staple food, crucial to the happiness of the populous and cropped in October.
Apart from instigating Small Pox vaccination. Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, born 1737 died 1813, is remembered as the promotor of the potato as a food source in France and throughout Europe. He hosted dinners where many potato dishes were served. He gave bouquets of potato blossoms to the King and Queen. Definitely the first Mr Potato head !
This cheese is from 36, the Indre department, in central France. It’s characterised by its grey colour and wonderful shape. Legend has it that it used to be made in the shape of a pyramid. That was until Napoleon chopped the top of with his sword ! What a strange man he must have been . . . loosing in Egypt must have had a serious effect.
Sauvignon Blanc goes down a treat with any ash !
Bibi and Babu in Africa
by Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen
When Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen decided to take their first holiday to Africa together in their 70’s, the experience was not only amazing, but life changing.
I read this book with my Grandsons and before they opened it, the first thing they wanted to know is “Who are Bibi and Babu? Of course I couldn’t tell them, however we soon discovered that they are the Swahili names for Grandma and Grandpa.
Sitting together, reading the story, it seemed as if we were sitting with Bibi and Babu, looking at their 2013 Africa holiday album, it was lovely to see so many natural photos.
The book starts with an introduction to Africa, and then Bibi and Babu set off for their adventure in Tanzania and Kenya. As we worked our way through the book, the children loved seeing and learning about other children who live a totally different life, on the other side of the world. They were especially fascinated finding out about the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre in Pasua, Tanzania and the work which goes on there.
Being children who are bought up with animals, seeing the amazing African animals in their natural setting was a part of the book they loved, and I was pleased that it gave me the opportunity to explain how important conservation is for their continued survival.
This is a lovely book for children. For me, the most important part of it was that there were no cartoon animals and imaginary places which don’t exist, this couple’s journey was real. By being presented as it is, it makes Africa, it’s peoples and wild life come to life in a believable way, and teaches children, whether they are read it, or read it themselves, the wonders of the real world.
Oh, and Babu won the respect of our two little boys, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why!
Reviewed by Susan keefe
Available from Amazon in Paperback and Kindle format http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bibi-Babu-Africa-Travel-Book-ebook/dp/B013JEZHWE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443170469&sr=8-1&keywords=bibi+and+babu+in+africa
Miss Me? (Max Larkin Detective Series Book 3
by Todd M. Thiede
In this action packed story, Detectives Max Larkin and Jesse Fairlane are looking for a man who has raped and murdered.
However, they soon find themselves teamed up with FBI Agent Timothy Michaels, who informs them that the man they are looking for has in fact been raping women for a decade. Despite the best efforts of the law enforcement agencies, and incredibly, the fact that he makes no effort to hide his DNA, he is still at large!
What’s more, the rapist insist on ‘marrying’ his victim before he carries out the act. Why is this? What reasoning for this lies within his twisted mind?
This book is a real action packed page turner, full of excitement and mystery. The tension escalates as you go through the book, following the attempts of the detectives and the FBI agent in tracking down the culprit.
The author has yet again combined all the essential ingredients for a really great crime thriller, a gripping plot, great characters, and I have to say, without spoiling it for readers, that the storyline has a fantastic twist at the end!
This is the third book in the Max Larkin, Detective crime thriller series and having thoroughly enjoyed the first two I couldn’t wait to start reading this one. I have to say although part of a series it stands alone perfectly as well, although I can guarantee that after it, you will want to read the rest!
Reviewed by Susan Keefe
Available from Amazon in Paperback and Kindle format http://www.amazon.co.uk/Miss-Max-Larkin-Detective-Book-ebook/dp/B00NG7U1NK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443170753&sr=8-1&keywords=miss+me%3F+by+todd+thiede
The Orange Crystal-Like Doorknob
by Mike Hanmer Walker
Sometimes, seemingly terrible life altering things can happen, however, when this happened to Mike Hanmer Walker he used it as an opportunity to rekindle his love of poetry and became an author.
This is the first book of his poems I have read and I just love them! They are a great assortment of observations on life. Some are inspirational like ‘Happy New Year,’ some thought-provoking ‘What Would You say’ and some are humorous like ‘Uncle Eric.’
Whatever mood you are in there will be something to suit you in this wonderful potpourri. That the author is a people watcher, and a generally a great observer of life is obvious because these poems capture ‘life’ so brilliantly.
It would be difficult to pick a favourite, but if I had to, I think it would be between, ‘The Middle Road,’ which I really loved, and ‘I Did This…’ because, well because I am a mum.
I can’t wait to read more from this talented author and poet.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe
Available from Amazon in Paperback and Kindle format http://www.amazon.com/Orange-Crystal-Like-Doorknob-Hanmer-Walker/dp/1499028806/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1441099281&sr=8-3
Slashtag (Max Larkin Detective Series Book 4)
by Todd M. Thiede
Life is good for Detective Max Larkin, he’s riding on a high after solving an important rape and murder mystery (Miss Me?). What’s more, he is very happy with life, he has been asked to join the FBI, and to top it all, is in love with a wonderful woman.
As the book opens he is about to attend a TV interview in Chicago.
However, the interview doesn’t go quite as expected, and he finds himself targeted by a killer who is out to kill everyone he loves. The killer is very clever, his revenge on Max is out there, on the internet, and there are dire consequences if Max doesn’t play ball…
As the grizzly death toll grows, the murders are carries out in unspeakable ways, egged on by the powers of the social media.
The author has paid great attention to detail, which makes this book not for the faint hearted. It has a gripping storyline, great characters, incredible attention to detail, and a plot which will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.
Although part of a series, the Detective Max Larkin crime thrillers can all happily stand alone.
I thoroughly enjoyed this no-holes-barred, exciting psychological thriller and would like to highly recommend it.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe
Available from Amazon in Paperback and Kindle format http://www.amazon.co.uk/SLASHTAG-Max-Larkin-Detective-Book-ebook/dp/B013RKZ7SY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443171064&sr=8-1&keywords=slashtag
The Ol’ Duck and Dog
by Mike Hanmer Walker
This author and poets has a wonderful way of conveying through his poetry his observations on people and events that have happened in his life, to those around him, and of course at The Ol’ Dog and Duck.
He jumps in straight away with a great poem anyone with a sibling can relate to – ‘What My Sister Did.’ I loved ‘Health and safety Ideas,’ as anyone of our generation would, it just puts into perspective the strange molly coddling attitude these days. However I have to say, I think my favourite is the humorous ‘Not Too Honest,’ which had me laughing out loud!
Whatever your mood, I am confident you would find a poem to suit it in this lovely collection.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe
Available from Amazon in Paperback and Kindle format http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dog-Duck-Mike-Hanmer-Walker/dp/1499028741/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443171257&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Ol%27+Dog+and+Duck
by Gill Pound
At the time of writing we have had a little rain which has at least refreshed the garden. Many of the summer flowering perennials and shrubs are beginning to look a little tired but the ‘Mexican’ sages (salvias) which are among my favourite plants are still giving a good show of colour.
There are about four species and many, many hybrids of these sub shrubby sages which come from northern Mexico and dry summer areas of Texas, Arizona etc. All are winter hardy, appreciate full sun (although some will take partial shade), good drainage and an occasional watering during the height of summer. I cut the ones in the garden here hard back in early March and they will usually start blooming around the middle of May, with this year’s very hot and long summer I cut them back lightly in July and the autumn flowering has been much improved as a result, they will now flower until the first frosts. Colours include white, reds and purples, blues and yellow and orange shades; there is a list of varieties in the garden here on our website and the accompanying photos give you some idea of the range.
Tasks for October include:
* if you have not already done so; planting bulbs – planting instructions will be on the packets but in general plant the bulb at about three times the depth of the bulb and a similar distance apart. Remember to look at the flowering times on the packet when buying so that you maximise the season of interest . Remember too that most spring flowering bulbs come from areas with summer dry climates and prefer sunny positions with good drainage.
* dividing herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses.
* once we have had some rain – planting trees, shrubs, perennials and hedging plants. Do incorporate some organic material (terreau or compost etc) and some river sand or gravel to improve the clayey soils that most people in this area have and water the plants well after planting. Most plants, even if they are ultimately drought resistant will need supplementary watering during their first summer or two. When you are choosing new plants for the garden remember that this is a difficult climate; we have hot, dry summers, quite cold winters in much of the region and strong winds. Choose plants which come from Mediterranean climate zones of the world, or from other areas with similar climates rather than tropical or temperate zone plants; they will perform better and require less watering.
* sowing seeds of plants that will flower early next year such as larkspur (pied d’alouette), wallflowers (giroflé), sweet peas (pois de senteur) and hollyhocks (rose tremière)
* pruning summer flowering shrubs such as Cestrum and oleanders.
We still have spaces available on our Gardening Course: Introduction to Gardening in Summer Dry Climates, Wednesday 14th October (11am – 1, 2 – 5pm) and Thursday 15th October (10am – 12.30, 1.30 – 4pm) 2015: This is a two day course designed for those who are relatively new to gardening in the Languedoc climate. The aim is to provide information and promote discussion in a relaxed and informal atmosphere which will help those interested in creating interesting and easy to maintain colourful, ornamental gardens in our summer dry climate. We’ll look at the nature of the local climate, the physical problems associated with gardening here (heat, drought, cold, wind, soil) and how to cope with these varied problems particularly dealing with drought and thinking about “waterwise” gardening; recognising plants which are appropriate to this climate; buying plants; planting techniques and maintenance. We shall also look at design basics and working out planting schemes, succession (planting for year round interest) and plants for particular situations, for example dry shade or slopes. Appropriate resources and useful French/English vocabulary will also be included as well as a guided tour of the garden here to illustrate points made. The course is designed for a group of between six and twelve people to allow time to discuss individual issues and problems. The timing of the course is designed to assist anyone who may be coming from some distance and wishes to stay overnight on the Tuesday, if you would like suggestions for local accommodation just ask. Course fee: 100 euros, including teas & coffees. We ask you to bring a packed lunch. For more information or to book a place please contact Gill@lapetitepepiniere.com
For further information contact Gill Pound at La Petite Pépinière de Caunes (shrubs and perennials, ornamental grasses, unusual plants and plants for dry climates, garden advice and consultation), 21, Avenue de la Montagne Noire, 11160, Caunes-Minervois.
Tel: 04 68 78 43 81, email Gill@lapetitepepiniere.com
Open from the beginning of September until the end of November every Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 10am until 6pm or by appointment
Remember that you are welcome to visit the garden with no obligation to buy but just to make observations.
October was a bad month for the French with the 21st being the anniversary of Trafalgar and the 29th being 600 years since Agincourt !
Pierre-Charles Villeneuve was commanding admiral of the combined 39-ship Franco-Spanish fleet that, on Napoleon’s orders, set sail from Cadiz to blockade Britain. Waiting for him was the 27-ship British fleet under Admiral Horatio Nelson. They spotted the French over an eleven miles horizon and, because the wind was only light, Nelson and Captain Hardy had time to sit down to a breakfast of pork and a half pint of wine.
As battle was about to engage Nelson issued those famous instructions to his flag officer:
His Lordship came to me on the poop, and after ordering certain signals to be made, about a quarter to noon, he said, “Mr. Pasco, I wish to say to the fleet, “England confides that every man will do his duty” and he added “You must be quick, for I have one more to make which is for close action.” I replied, “If your Lordship will permit me to substitute ‘expects’ for ‘confides’ the signal will soon be completed, because the word ‘expects’ is in the vocabulary, and ‘confides’ must be spelt,” His Lordship replied, in haste, and with seeming satisfaction, “That will do, Pasco, make it directly.”
And so was determined one of Britain’s most emotive messages . . .
Nelson never used the same strategy. Each engagement demanded a different approach. Possibly because of the odds on this occasion he decided that the French flagship needed to be quickly taken out of the action. Messages from the French flagship were crucial in instructing a bi-language fleet . . . so Captain Hardy was instructed to sail the Victory through the French line, and break with the line-on-line tradition of fleet fighting
Naval tactics usually involved the lines of ships sailing beam to beam and blasting each other for an hour and a half until someone was sunk or disengaged or fled. Nelson could not allow the French to flee, they would be too difficult to find again.
Each ship needed 6,000 trees and hulls were at least two feet thick. But the stern (the back end) was where the officers lived and ate, where the captain’s cabin was, and where there were windows, and the bulkhead wasn’t so strongly reinforced . . . so sailing the Victory through the French line and to the rear of the French Admiral’s flagship meant that the Victory could fire its broadsides through the most vulnerable part of the ship.
All their decks were raked with shot. British ships fired one and a half tons of iron in every broadside. British ships could fire three times faster than anyone else. Knowing this one can start to understand what it was like to be in the ‘heat of battle’. Noise, splinters flying, smoke, more noise, cannon balls ricocheting around the decks, limbs cut off, more noise. Hand signals were used because no one could hear anything. More noise and devestation.
The French fleet relied on flag-signalled instructions from the admiral. This was particularly relevant here because we have a combined Spanish and French fleet. The British fleet was allowed to have their own initiative in battle . . . so taking out the French flagship was a coup and because there was no Twitter or Google Translate the French fleet didn’t have a coordinated strategy.
Victory then engaged with the French Redoutable, which included a strong infantry corps. They locked rigging and engaged in close quarter fighting. Here Nelson was mortally wounded by a musket shot fired from the mizzentop of the French ship.
HMS Temeraire rammed the Redoutable, lashed itself to the French and raked it with continuous gunfire before the French infantry could board the Victory. Their fighting compliment was immediately reduced from 600 to 150.
A gale blew up and the sea finished off most of the mortally damaged ships . . . a very memorable day for Britain and not the most auspicious day for France!
Even though before the engagement the British fleet was out-manned and out-gunned the result was 14,500 French casualties against 1,500 English.
What followed . . .
England vanquished the French and secured British supremacy on the seas for the next 100 years.
Napoleon’s blockade and subsequent invasion never took place.
Britannia ruled the waves.
JMW Turner immortalised ‘the Fighting Temeraire’ in his painting of the ship being towed in the thames by a steam tug to her last berth to be broken up.
London’s Trafalgar Square was named in honor of Nelson’s victory. William Beatty the surgeon who cared for Nelson and the 150 injured crew on Victory raised money for his statue on top of ‘Nelson’s Column’.
Nelson faces the Mall. Here each lamp post is capped with a small ship of the line. So Nelson is always there to survey his fleet over the top of Admiralty Arch . . .
by Cristina Gemmino and Louise Sayers
Autumn is here
I found this lovely quote from Maurice Chapelan (a French writer) about autumn “La veillesse embellit tout : elle a l’effet du soleil couchant dans les beaux arbre d’octobre” – roughly translated, this means “Age makes everything beautiful : it has the effect of a setting sun on the beautiful October trees”.”
Whether in the city or in the countryside, in the mountains or by the sea, France is always beautiful in its autumn colours which start to appear in September and give way to winter in December. The season is characterised in general by lower temperatures and in the north, the arrival of rainy, cloudy and windy days.
However, in the Pyrenées-Orientales region things are different: the region’s capital of Perpignan regularly appears as one of the sunniest cities of France (for example in the magazine Le Point). In fact, Perpignan boasts an annual average of 15°c with sunshine, and very attractive and unique weather, which is due to the proximity of the sea. Here we have pleasant temperatures throughout the year, perfect for visiting the city and the surrounding countryside.
La Semaine du Goût 2012
Given the French love affair with food, it is no surprise that France celebrates the Pyrenées-Orientales(Taste Week) which this year is from 12th to 18th October. The aim is to educate both children and adults alike about food, taste, nutrition and careers within food. What a brilliant idea!
This year my 7 year old’s class will be visited by a nutritionist. In previous years they have made cakes with the chef of a local restaurant and visited to a greengrocer’s shop.
You can find out all about La Semaine du Gout and events in your area by clicking here.
The month of October will end with the long holiday of Toussaint for all French schools. According a vote expressed by the Superior Council of Education, the Ministry of Education decided to increase the All-Saints holiday to two full weeks (can you hear the collective cry of “help” from all parents in France?!). The dates are the same for all zones – from 17th October to 1st November inclusive.
The clocks go back
Don’t forget that on Sunday 25th October the clocks go back at 3am throughout Europe. Enjoy your extra hour in bed!
Fête des Vins Primeurs
Throughout the Languedoc Roussillon the third Thursday in October is the annual Fête des Vins Primeurs, celebrating the first wines produced from that year’s harvest. This year it falls on Thursday 15th October. The evening is celebrated in Perpignan with tastings and general merriment in wine caves, bars and restaurants throughout the city. Many of the smaller towns and villages will have their own celebrations too. These wines are generally fruity and light and are designed to be drunk quickly (as in not kept for years to age rather than downed in one!).
Jazzèbre music festival
Perpignan’s annual jazz festival, Jazzèbre, runs from 25th September to 18th October featuring a raft of concerts with the objective of furthering the knowledge and appreciation of jazz music.
The Foire Saint Martin rolls back into town
Perpignan’s annual fair comes to the Parc des Attractions (opposite the Palais des Expositions) towards the end of the month. Open all week from 2:00 pm until midnight (and until 1:00 am on the weekend including Friday as well as the day before public holidays).
September marched in like an army on the attack: searing searchlights scanning a night sky thunderously full of rumbling grumbling. What a storm! The vines held their breath and scuttled for cover. This is emphatically not how we like to start a harvest.
And talking about unsettling, what a year it’s been so far: record breaking – the wettest March, the 3rd hottest July since 1900, and the earliest harvest since 1950. Quite a lot to take on the chin, if you are a vine.
These statistics only go to endorse the one and only absolute truth: this harvest, like all harvests, is quite unlike any other. For us it is also the first time that we seem to be more or less in tune with everyone else, instead of lagging three weeks behind, as we always do. Why? Perhaps it was the heatwave in July, followed by rain in August: who knows?
Tuesday September 1
Furious activity as we finish cleaning the barrels, putting them back into place, polishing up the press and the sorting table, testing all the equipment. Yes, we are ready! But are the grapes? We go into the vineyard at the lonely crack of a lovely dawn, tasting the grapes, and picking them randomly to test their sugar levels. We are getting very close, maybe the end of the week.
Everything is in place. And then one of us goes and backs the trailer into the gleaming flanks of the new VW.
Everything not quite so in place after all.
Wednesday September 2
Bettane & Desseauve is arguably France’s best-known wine critic duo. They produce a wine guide which is unarguably the biggest: an absolute door-stopper.
“Refined and endowed with freshness” they say of Rives-Blanques in the newest 2016 edition, just out today.
Must be talking about Jan.
Pleased to see our whole range included again. The other important and very good wine guide, Les Meilleurs Vins de France that came out last month was much more lyrical about our wines, but these guys at least got our nationality right.
And of course, who could argue with ‘refined and fresh’?
Thursday September 3
We were supposed to be harvesting today. But the steady, gentle rain that accompanied us throughout the night has put paid to that. Damn. Frantic calling round to our harvesters for a Monday start. Half of them don’t reply. Tearful, pleading telephone conversations with our machine harvester for a weekend start: he can’t confirm.
The tractors remain firmly anchored to the starting block.
Saturday September 5
Hey ho and away we go, picking the grapes for our chardonnay Pays d’Oc. It is cool and fresh, and there is a clean breeze. This is the only wine we pick by machine, and we always pick at night when it is really cold. So here’s another record broken: the first time ever that we’ve machine-picked in the daytime: not what we wanted, but a compromise with the machine’s driver. And again we are lucky – the grapes are as cold to the touch as they are when picked at night. And we know, because every single one of them passed through our hands on the sorting table. This is a very good start. One down, eight more to go.
Time now to clean up and call it a day.
Sunday September 6
Yesterday’s juice is settling happily in its tanks. We settle happily into our breakfast, and
can prepare for the onslaught tomorrow, when the harvest truly begins and the whole crew shows up. There’s even time to read yet another newly published wine guide: Dussert Gerber’s 2016 edition. We sent him only three wines to taste, and have to say, he has given us three very good and interesting tasting notes in return.
The most perfect pre-harvest day ever. The weather is magnificent.
Monday 7 September
Mauzac for the Blanquette
We were woken up by things going clunk in the night in the winery, and all stumbled out to source the noise. There was nothing, just a big silent black sky punctuated by stars cut in crystal and a dazzling moon. Good omen, and like the best of good omens, this one came true: the day today was magnificent, a most perfect and happy beginning to our harvest.
The team is en forme, all the old hands back again for another round. Lots of hand-shaking and back-slapping and catching up before we set out and pick the grapes for the fizz.
Very nice to drink, but not nice to pick, the mauzac. Its mangled tangle of leafy branches go in all directions, while the grapes hide in the very middle of this muddled mass, impossible to find. It is also awfully low and difficult to get to. Actually, a good one to begin with when you’ve still got the energy.
And there’s nothing like a glass of Blanquette at the end of the day to give you hope.
Tuesday September 8
We’re doing well. Cleaned out the field we call the Jardin, and now on to our highest field for the Blanc de Blancs. The view is extraordinary. The grapes look good. It is hot.
And then, just when things are going swimmingly, the press breaks down.
Which is how we find ourselves cooling our heels and waiting impatiently for the technician to come. Everything draws to a halt.
Harvesters go home. Sun sets. Moon rises.
Just before midnight we sit down to a hurried dinner once the press has got going again, and then troop back to the winery to pump the juice into the tanks and to clean up.
It’s been a long day.
Wednesday September 9
Magnificent weather continues. And it’s awfully hot. Now we’re pulling in the chardonnay from a field called Vincent, named after some long-forgotten vineyard worker who planted it nearly half a century ago, not after the patron saint of wine. We were here doing the same on exactly the same day last year and the year before – but a month later. The grapes were magnificent then, coded VVG in our harvest notebook.
Now there’s a nasty surprise waiting for us. Two days ago we noticed small pockets of a fungus called botrytis here and there in Vincent. It has spread like wild fire. So we go into overdrive on the sorting table, secateurs snipping furiously at offending bits before the bunches fall into the press.
Another very long day. And we still have a long way to go: storms forecast for the weekend, the absolute last thing we want.
The trouble with hand-harvesting is that you can only harvest as fast as a hand can. If the forecast is correct, we are in a loosing race against time.
Thursday September 10
Uncanny how the weather can change and flip from hot and dry to cool and grey: it clearly isn’t reading the forecast. We wake up to a cool, cloudy day with little spots of rain here and there. Nothing at all like the forecast. Nice and refreshing for the harvesters. A bit worrying for us. It’s not so much about what the weather’s actually doing, it’s more about what it might do. And it still thinks the weekend’s going to be bad. But does it know?
Friday September 11
What a magnificent Chardonday! The weather has done another one of its turnabouts and is fantastic – the mountains are smiling down at us, and we’re smiling back up at them. We set off into the rising sun and start picking the vines in Pech, one of our two top fields for our top chardonnay, Odyssée. The grapes are in great shape … and so are we. The pickers move fast, and by noon the grapes are all safely home and hosed.
The big question is, where to next?
Weather forecasters are still prophesying doom and gloom: the Norwegians, the BBC, France Méteo. Do we bring in the best grapes, or do we bring in the most vulnerable? We have only half a day left; how much will they be able to pick in a single afternoon? These hurried discussions take place against the dull roar of the sorting table. Somewhere along the line, a decision is made. We will bring in the most vulnerable, and leave the most valuable to fend for themselves.
Things are heating up and the harvesters are beginning to tire. On the sorting table leaves and rotten bunches start jiggling past, sure sign that the team is tottering. Even two secateurs fall onto the table with a resounding clang. It is becoming clear we will not be able to finish this field today.
Particularly if they don’t have any secateurs …
Our importer in Latvia stops by on his way to Spain with his family for the European Raceboard Championships . He knocks himself out by walking into his open boot door. I administer ice and arnica. One of the pickers comes up with a swelling eye, she has had a massive collision with a hard plastic basket carried by the porters: more ice and arnica. The Latvian importer’s son puts his bare foot on a wasp: frantic hunt for an antidote. Then a porters slips, and falls on his own basket spraining his wrist in the process. The ex-legionnaire jumps into action and binds it up professionally, while I whip out the arnica out from my back pocket. Oh dear, this day that started so full of hope and glory is waning rapidly.
And this last batch of grapes doesn’t look good. We go into overdrive on the sorting table.
Saturday September 12
Got an email from Valters, the boy who stepped on a wasp, with a picture of his Mum’s brand-new raceboard.
She launched it with a bottle of our Blanquette from her garden in Riga … before going on to a glorious win in the World Championships with it (the raceboard, I mean).
A serious bit of kit, this (the Blanquette, I mean).
Sunday September 13
We wake up this morning to a complete calm. No rain, no wind, no nothing, just a rather quiet humid day. Terasses de Larzac have been hit with a double whammy: last night they had three months’ worth of rainfall in a single blow – that on top of the rain just before the month started. For those whose harvest is still out there, this spells the end.
They say there’s no such thing as a bad year, there are just bad winemakers. But when you get a hammering like this, there is absolutely nothing you can do. Just awful.
Jan goes out and inspects the vines in preparation for tomorrow’s harvest. The mauzac looks great.
…./to be continued.
by Mick Moat
A couple of days ago, a letter arrived in the midday post with a cheque inside. There’s nothing particularly stunning about that event in itself, except that this particular cheque took the total raised so far in 2015 to over 11,000€.
However, when this is put into perspective, it is a stunning result. Consider this: in 2013, Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts opened 4 gardens, all of which were in the Creuse, for 1 day and raised 300€.
In 2014, we had 28 gardens in 4 departments, which were open for 1 weekend and raised 3,050€. In 2015, we had 75 gardens in 14 departments and the first open day was in February and the last ones will be in mid-October.
The final tally won’t be known until the end of October and, because the vast majority of visitors have already paid their annual joining fee, it is unlikely that the total will rise substantially. However, even if the final total were only to rise by a couple of hundred euros, this is still a result of which we should all be immensely proud.
The main part of this Newsletter is devoted almost entirely to an explanation of our financial position so that all of our members, gardeners, coordinators and helpers will understand how the money we have raised, is to be apportioned. The conseil is committed to the concept of transparency where income and expenditure are concerned. One of the most frequent accusations levelled at trustees is that they haven’t been open with their accounting processes and we consider it to be one of our principle duties to be completely clear about our policy in this respect.
Our main beneficiary will once again be A Chacun Son Everest, a French charity that organises activities for children with, or in remission from, cancer or leukaemia. It should also be said that this charity will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be our main beneficiary and, as our expected income increases in years to come, we shall be sending correspondingly larger donations to it. This year, our donation will be 5,270€ and this will be sent within a matter of days.
Our original target for 2015 was 5,000€ but it quickly became apparent that we had under-estimated both the success of the concept of Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts and the generosity of our supporters. One part of our forward plan is to seek out other charitable organisations in France, which are worthy of support and it was anticipated that this would start in 2016. However, due to the unexpected increase in revenue in 2015, we will be in the fortunate position of being able to make a handful of smaller grants towards the end of the year.
We are hoping to support smaller charities or associations, for whom a donation of around 500€ would make a significant difference. These are likely to be fairly local and, in this respect, we welcome suggestions from any of our supporters and participants. There are 2 reasons for this: firstly, you are in a better position than we are to identify a local charity and secondly, it would be nice to think that we were able to make donations to charities in areas where Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts has a presence, so that local people can see where there money is going. In time, a new and separate section of our website will be devoted to information about these charities and how we have helped. So, if you are aware of a local worthy cause, please let us know about it and, if applicable, send details of their website etc.
So where will the rest of the money go? Let us assume we end up with about 11,300. One of our biggest expenditures is publicity and more particularly, printing. As with any product, if no-one knows you’re there, nobody will buy your product. For the 2015 season, we had 10,000 A4 folded leaflets and 20,000 DL leaflets, nearly all of which were distributed.
A significant number of coordinators have joined us this year, with a view to develop new areas for our project. As a consequence of this, we are hopeful that, as well as our existing areas, we will see gardens in the following “new” departments in 2016: Finistère, Morbihan, Côtes d’Amor, Ille-et-Vilaine, Savoie, Var, Loir-et-Cher, Lot, Haute-Garonne, Gironde and Charente-Maritime. Furthermore, it is probable that over the coming months, we will attract yet more departments.
This entails a significant increase in our order for various leaflets for next year and, in keeping with our increased profile, they need to be professionally presented. Because of this, the total for printing is likely to be around 2,300€.
Generally speaking, our overheads are fairly basic: all of our helpers work in a voluntary capacity so there are no staffing costs and there is no expenditure on an office, phones, services or any other building-related cost. Our main costs are printing (in-house and professionally produced), postage & packing and administrative expenses. However, like any growing organisation, we need a suitable infrastructure and in our case, this is almost solely our website. Our current site was put together in a hurry and has been praised by many of our users. It does, however, have its drawbacks, mainly in its inability to compile a database and undertake other automatic processes. It is also quite slow when scrolling through gardens. The reason for this is quite simple: we had a very limited budget at the end of 2014 and a purpose-built site will cost around 10,000 – 15,000€. We shall retain some of this year’s takings to put towards this cost but we are also working hard to find additional sources of income, including selling advertising space. That said, we remain committed to the notion that as much money as possible be given back in donations to worthy causes.
It has been some time since our last newsletter, simply because the May to July period is the most hectic. Future newsletters will give more information about the arrangements for 2016 and I am delighted to say (and I know you will be even more delighted to hear!) that processes for next year will be simplified.
As I sit here finishing off this edition, I have to say that I am so pleased to hear the drumming of raindrops against the window and see heavy, grey clouds overhead; there is no sign of the sun and I am ecstatic! It’s been a long haul without rain here in the Creuse and many parts of France, but things are improving. The grass is turning green once more; the shrubs, previously so sad and drooping, are picking up their heads with interest and the trees have ceased shedding their leaves.
Finally, there are still some opening dates on the calendar, so 2015 hasn’t quite finished. There is yet time to savour the true delights of sitting in a garden with a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Even though we haven’t finished the season, I should like to take this opportunity to thank all of you – coordinators, gardeners, visitors and helpers, all of whom have contributed to such an amazing result, which is nearly 4 times as much as 2014 and over double our target for 2015.
Thank you a thousand times!
by Mick Moat
Raising money for charities in France
Meeting generous-spirited people and looking at beautiful gardens in the knowledge that you are also helping French charities is a delightfully rewarding way of spending your leisure time.
Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts is a French association, based on the National Garden Scheme in the UK. The aim is to encourage owners to open their gardens to members of the public, who purchase an annual membership card which allows access to all the participating gardens.
The bulk of the funds raised are currently donated to a charity which organises activities for children with, or in remission from, cancer or leukaemia www.achacunsoneverest.com and the target of 5,000€ for 2015 has already been exceeded. Indeed, such has been the success of the project that we are now expanding our list of beneficiaries.
Already in just 2 years, the project has expanded from 4 gardens in 1 département to over 70 14 départements. A key factor in this rapid development has been the recruitment of area co-ordinators in several areas.
The association’s goal is that Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts should eventually become a national initiative and the current rate of progress suggests that this could happen within 5 years.
In order to do this, however, it is essential that we recruit more and more area co-ordinators throughout France.
The role of a co-ordinator is to look for local gardens and, ideally, encourage them to open on the same day(s) so that visitors can look round a group of lovely gardens, meeting other visitors and finalising their tour with tea and cake – a perfect way to pass a few hours.
In some départements, we have attracted several co-ordinators who now work really successfully as a team. The central organising body of the project provides all the necessary administrative support, publicity at a local and national level, insurance, leaflets and other advertising material, which leaves you, the co-ordinator, with the enviable and pleasurable task of looking at beautiful gardens and meeting potential garden owners.
If you are a good organiser, love gardens and gardening and like the idea of supporting charitable causes, we would love to hear from you.
It is a particularly exciting time for Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts and we want you to be a part of it, no matter where you live in France.
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