Thursday, September 27, 2007



My friend Asdis rightly said in her comment, it is like discovering you are pregnant. You want to crack open the champagne except you mustn't be too excited and besides it's best not to drink at this early stage; You want to (and i did) buy loads of big floaty pregnancy outfits; You want to share this miracle with everyone you know..

However, a lot can happen (and it did) in the first two months.

Talking to a new friend who is an adoptive mother, we agreed that, despite their very unhappy and premature endings, we were both glad we celebrated our pregnancies. Julian and I received the flowers and the congratulations gladly, and I would never send any of them back. Even two months of being pregnant is an incredible thing and, even if I never got to play the Mozart opera for sixteen weeks with a foetus growing in tune with the cello's vibrations, there was magic (as I sat and breathed in to my pregnancy in front of our Inglenook fireplace, surrounded by our four Sussex wattle and daub walls) that I am glad I have known.

And now, with an 'agrément' promised but not in our hands, some people, especially bureaucrats, are being weird, like people are weird when you tell them you are pregnant before your first trimester is up; like it's bad luck or something.

Julian and I are both people who celebrate every step of the way. We mourn but we don't look back. We are planning a trip to Mali in November or December. It is the journey I have longed, all my life, to do. For some reason, because my best friend had a desire to trek in Nepal, or we were on tour in Singapore and it was a short hop to Bali, or I was travelling solo so opted for a course in Indian singing in Kerala, I always went elsewhere on my travels. If our journey leads to a better understanding of the culture from which our child might come, all the better. If it leads nowhere but itself, that's good enough for the moment.

The temperature, meanwhilehereinfrance, has dropped twenty degrees from 29 to 9. The terrace, finished at last and having hosted at least a week of breakfasts, lunches and aperos, is blowy and wet. It is time to light a fire, or time perhaps for an adventure...


Friday, September 21, 2007

motherly love


It’s a strange experience being described in such glowing terms; like having a gilt frame put around us.

Everyone had said ‘Of course you will get the agreement. You’ll be wonderful parents!’ Nevertheless, the doubts creep in as one peels away the layers merely to find imperfections and a willingness to plunge into the unknown. Sometimes, especially with the psychologist, the house felt sorely unfinished, the childhood role models inadequate, the amount of therapy not enough, the choices foolish and the boho life too chaotic.

However, as we read through our social worker’s description of us - of our family histories and the warmth and wisdom we have gained from them; of our passions and our travels; of the place where we have chosen to make our home; of our journey towards each other and above all towards becoming a family – we were both a little choked up. She had woven a tapestry of light and love, of maturity and wholeness, of art and music, and placed it like an offering at the foot of the magnificent Mont Ventoux. This tapestry, fashioned, it seemed to me, in quince and golden threads of ‘lumière’ and ‘chaleur’, is what will be presented to the authorities in Mali or Togo who will decide whether or not we are the people into whose arms they want to place an orphaned baby. As I looked at our wonderful Madame Bergère through my teardrops I noticed a line of little freckles following the contour of her cornflower eyes, just above the line of her glasses, and was overwhelmed with love for her. Our midwife, I thought.

“Is there anything else you would like to add?” the psy asked us at the end of each of our rather gruelling sessions. We both stood up proud in our hearts, me at ten o’clock and Julian at eleven, and stated how happy we were in our life togetther, and how ready we felt to have a family.

We have the thumbs up and an ‘avis favorable’ from both, apparently. This, unofficially, means we will have our agreement next month.

There is a love that, I suspect, is like no other. I have shut it away because feeling it has, up till now (with a brief exception six years ago), been to feel impotent and broken. This love is starting to stir in my breast like a mouth opening and taking little gulps of air ….

Monday, September 17, 2007

first day of the vendage


It was a balmy day of butterscotch and honey but we were nervous.

First we had to confront our terrace maker, now that he has finished his wall.

The walls around here, unlike those in the next village, are all cobbled together higgledy-piggledy with reddish rounded stones, red local sand and lime.

“Could you build us a wall like this please?” we said pointing to the wall of our house. “No concrete, no cement.”

“Ah yes. à l’ancien, With pleasure.” He answered.

The wall now in front of our house is neat and gleaming as a child’s row of teeth, with white sand and white stone from Crillon-le-Brave. However, we have decided to accept it as it was made with care, even if over a very long period of time. However, on Friday, we returned home to find someone we had never seen pouring cement on the ground and plunging stones into it.

‘We said no cement!’ I almost screamed.
‘My boss said ‘rustique’ he replied.

I got my neighbour over to confer. When it rains, he agreed, the water has nowhere to go and will run around the terrace, whereas with lime and sand the rain will be soaked up and then released back into the atmosphere. Not only that but the earth can’t breathe through the cement.

Julian was not ‘d’accord’, especially on a Sunday, but I summoned Monsieur Reymond. His reaction was surprising:

“I pay this man 15 euros an hour. This is not right. We will have to start again. It has to go. It must be lime and only lime. That is how it is done.”


On to the next nerve racking experience: The first meeting with our psychologist. As we drove along the windy road towards Vaison la Romaine, watching the brushed yellowing poplars flirtatiously revealing their underbellies in the breeze and the vines turning aubergine, we couldn’t help but relax. In the session, we glowed with love and good health.

We now know we have a yes vote from our wonderful social worker who will meet us for the last time on Wednesday and suddenly, with our second and third appointments booked with the ‘psy’ for Thursday, we are almost there! We almost have our agreement to adopt!

This good news called, naturally, for lunch, which we had in Gigondas under a plane tree where, over too rare calves liver, we discussed another source of excitement: the possibility that we may be able to rent some land from a neighbour.

I had heard, by asking a loitering peasant on my run, that Mme Eveyline was ‘beaucoup riche’ and that she rented land to a woman in the village to grow sunflowers and veg, That afternoon I walked straight up to Mmme Eveyline’s grey-blue door in the prettiest hamlet for miles and put forward my proposal. It turned out that not only had her hamlet been in the family for years, but that ours had too, and that only for lack of heirs on that side of the family, it had been sold ‘à la bougie’ to the family that have now let it run to ruin. Touched, I think, by our desire to save at least our little piece of her history, she said she would see what she could do.

After lunch we made a visit, via a favourite tree of Julian’s, to a vineyard where the empassioned Yves Gras smoothed his palm over the oak barrels and showed us the little imperfections in the grain.

“These are smooth and round like a woman’s body, and these marks here are like her stretch marks. Beautiful.”

We went away with too many boxes of Côtes du Rhone Quatre Terres loaded on back seat of the mini, soaking up the amber autumnal rays.

A siesta, a painting , a few hours researching Malian babies, and the planting of a wisteria later, six years exactly after we lost our baby, here we are. Though I will have no stretch marks to speak of, we seem to be on our way to a terraced family garden life.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

questions of frequency


People often say to me:

“I love music but I don’t play an instrument because I am tone deaf”.

Or: “I cannot learn a foreign language. My accent is rubbish. ”.

The worst is: “Our son Jimmy’s just like me, tone deaf, so we won’t bother with the cello.”

Then of course there is: “You speak fantastic French because you’re a musician.”

As it happens, I do grasp languages (I can get by well in German and Italian and speak good French) and accents very easily until…

It comes to Spanish where, after ‘donde cerveza e jamon’, I am completely at a loss. I haven’t tried Japanese or Hungarian yet.

I always sensed that recovery from being ‘tone deaf’ had something to do with learning to listen, but actually it doesn’t, it has to do with hearing, and this is not something we can consciously control.

‘You cannot reproduce a sound you cannot hear.’ Says Alfred Tomatis

Coming across his work (about which I have always heard and giggled a little because he sounds like tomatoes) through a friend who is learning Italian through the Tomatis method has been a revelation.

Essentially, because every language uses a different set of frequencies, we are, literally, ‘deaf’ to other frequencies unless our ear is retrained to hear them.

Is it so mind-blowing, then, that I can speak German, French and Italian when they are the languages of Opera which I have been playing all my life? When I walk down the street in Venice or Paris or Salzburg and I need to say something, am I not drawing on the frequencies from Don Giovanni, Carmen, Hochzeit, Pelleas et Mélisande? But then what about my desk partner who has been sitting next to me all the while but can't pronounce a word in any but her mother tongue?

The German language is, apparently, the language that has the widest spectrum of frequencies. Is it then surprising (asked Julian) that there are there are more Great German (speaking) composers than any other? Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Bach for starters….

And perhaps recovering those frequencies that were killed off during twelve years sitting in a pit in front of the timpanis and the trombones at Glyndebourne could help me with my Spanish?

Meanwhile, for Peter (the other), here is Manon on the new bedspread. Still to come, slate grey Oscar on the new granite worktop. One day, both of them on the terrace...


Sunday, September 09, 2007



For three days I have been sharing a little hot provençal air and some fierce mistral wind with my mother, who has been visiting from Puglia.

With the excuse of three family dinners to come, and an urgent request for painting subject matter from the hemp heights of the studio, a tour of the gastronomic pleasures of Carpentras was in order.

Julian had wanted to paint a croissant a few days previously but had (on purpose, I suspect, so he could scoff them sooner) squished the two he had taken a special trip to find, so we started off by buying more plump buttery whirls of calorific suicide - in a box please, not a bag. At the ‘Marchés de Provence’ we weighed shapely ceps (another request) in the palms of our hands. Unfortunately, neither of these gifts from the muse ever made it onto the easel as Julian was taken by a sudden yearning for the sea, but they did make their way successfully to the artist’s stomach. In the market we bought a small bag of barley from a shrivelled grain of a man advertising his ‘nouvelle récolte’, which we later partnered in a fennel-new season’s-barley risotto with Coquilles St Jacques bought from our bright-eyed fishmonger (only after Mother had established the poor lass' complete maritime history). Throughout, Mother babbled in a sometimes senseless but always charming mixture of Verdian Italian, South London 50’s school French and Boho English.

At Vigier’s cheese shop, Mother – intolerant of cow’s milk - hooed and haaed and mama miaahed at the leaky creamy display of goats and sheep cheeses.

“Elle est pleine de poesie, cette dame” cried Madame Vigier.
“Ah, no, it is your shop and your formaggi which are ripieno with poesia, Madama”

Many grand gesticulations were made to accompany these exchanges.

We do not have an easy relationship, but, when I went up to check she had her water, or if she wanted a shower before retiring, three words that had not been spoken till now fell into our midnight embrace. Three words better spoken late than never and that always lighten one’s journey through life.

This morning I said goodbye and put her, along with with the book she has written on Monetary Reform for the Simultaneous Policy, on the train for her low carbon footprint journey back to her trulli near Brindisi.

Bon Voyage Mama Mia!

provencal lunch late summer.JPG

Saturday, September 01, 2007


reines claudes anf figues.JPG

There is something in the air today. The first funghi - the heavy hooded 'cèpes' the matrons of the mushroom kingdom; the feather-lite saffron fans of the 'chanterelles'; the ominous black bugles of the 'trompettes de mort' - are sidling up out of the earth to join the late tomatoes - streaked and misshapen, red, black, green and purple like so many bruises. Similarly, their is a crisp messenger riding on the hot balloon of summer air, and skin and wool fight to be closest to the wind.

The pool has closed, my last laps swum under departing swifts, and I can almost feel my body melting into winter dough. The wood is ordered and, despite the twenty seven degrees and available peaches, the recipe books are falling open at hearty stews.

first funghi.JPG