Golden days

This day of golden December
a single swan bathed the house
in its glorious white shadow

we watched enthralled
caught between white wings
and up-springing meadow

gold slides from top to bottom
slips among dormant trees
heart can’t help but follow
full of hope.

the trees are bare
but the green
is oh so green

in the valley
where the stream runs
trees weave the night shadows

where badgers and foxes are born
and the deer wait
to lie in the quiet
of a moonlit meadow.



They were her eyes or perhaps her mouth
that breathed in and out,
took in hay and owls and let them all fly,

but the rain and the wind got in,
and the floor was shot,
and there was no more hay to keep out the wet,

so we stopped her mouth
and closed her eyes
with regret and apologies to the owls,

but the red paint shines out
so bright,
splendid in the setting sun.

July 4th

It’s our wedding anniversary today and the weather is finally starting to settle down. We took a picnic out, all the way to… the plum tree.

house and picnic table

picnic table

and we had our first pan bagnat of the year

pan bagnat

Finbar was tied up just in case he decided to run off, but I think those days are over. He’s getting very sensible in his old age.

Finbar 4 July

Trixie didn’t move from the chair she’s appropriated.

Trixie's chair

Ninnie got as far as the doormat.

Ninnie on doormat

It’s a good thing we don’t crave excitement.

A walk around the house widdershins

We walk through the porch and turn widdershins, north, and into the shade, past the barn door where tomatoes have set themselves in the compost around the hydrangea, frazzled by the morning sun,


Tomatoe plants

and the well with its old hand pump, water deep, four, five metres now from lack of rain, festooned in ivy and wild irises.


Left, along the north-facing wall, the old barn, window below and shutter on the hayloft above,


windows attic.jpg

and what was once the main door, stuck fast now and patched at the bottom with tin and old planks.


old main door.jpg

Turning south, along the west-facing wall, the passionflower, transplanted from Bordeaux, mown down twice, a stem recovered (twice), rooted and replanted (twice). This stuff is indestructible.



Left again, along the south-facing wall, beneath the study window, like the Gobi Desert. Hollyhocks are hanging on, and the roses planted this year with two cutting of the old vine. Morning glories thrive, but bloom only in the morning.


beneath the study.jpg

Hibiscus grows everywhere here, great luxuriant bushes.


Another vine cutting, happy that the sun has moved around, and nasturtiums that will grow anywhere.


Even the sun-loving plumbago has bleached in the fierce sun this year. From delicate sky blue, they have turned almost white.



A sad cutting of honeysuckle brought from Bordeaux shot into life here and rambles everywhere. A small pot of sage bought on the market is a huge bush now.

sage bay honeysuckle.jpg

Back into the porch where geraniums, basil, bay cuttings and hydrangeas sit in the shade and watch the evening sun bake the meadow grass.

plants in the porch.jpg

Time to water it all now.

Three Line Tales: That house

This short story is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt.

photo by Thomas Shellberg via Unsplash


“All the years I’ve driven past that creepy house,” she says, stopping the car and opening the door, “now I have you to protect me,” she throws him a cheesy smile, “I’m going to have a look inside—coming?”

The doors and windows yawn and wind moans in the hollow rooms as he hangs back on the threshold, glancing uneasily at the way the house seems to crouch, waiting for them to…to what?

“Come on—you’re not chicken, are you?” she says, tugging at his hand, as the house gives a great sigh, slips, slides, and swallows them up.


First thoughts on returning to town after settling the first of our belongings in the new house.


For years you were home to others,

Fathers, mothers,

Daughters and sons,

The way life runs.


Since time before electric light,

To chase the night,

Heat came from fire,

And from the byre.


White plaster walls not smooth and straight,

A rough plank gate,

Clay tiles, warm red,

My feet now tread.


Do you feel the change in your stones,

Your old house bones?

Mine feel right here,

Happiness near.

Microfiction: Sunlight after the rain

The Daily Post prompt is: transformation.



We first saw it in the rain, a light drizzle that hung a diamond on each blade of grass in the meadow. The farmhouse of grey stone, colour of the low cloud, glowered, a squat, stubborn expression on its façade. Tall trees stood behind it like a squad of security guards, casting no shadows but obscuring the edge of the sky. From among their branches came the mournful cry of a large bird, repeated and echoed back and forth across the valley.

I remember the glances we exchanged, caught between admiration of the spot and unease at its loneliness. The bird called again and again. Was it anger at the disturbance of their solitude? Or was it simply the language of the avian world that did not even notice ours? We pressed on, around to the door, past shuttered windows that might have been blind and might have been monitoring our passage.

The key turned, a long, slow, grinding turn in the lock, the wards clicking with disuse, age, weariness maybe. We pushed the heavy door open, half-expecting to find the persistent rain falling inside, mice scuttling into hiding, spiders darting back into their lairs among the rafters. Instead the air was mild, still and dry. A fire was laid in the big fireplace, and on a long, age-blackened table, houseplants, freshly watered, waited for someone to place them back in the window. We went from room to room, opening shutters, letting in the cool, damp air, and the light, silvery and steely like a mountain stream.

High in the sky, the sun was poking at the clouds, dragging them apart, and through the ragged holes, the light fell, changing from silver to gold. It fell through the old bubbly glass and kindled a slow fire in the terracotta tiles. It caressed the plaster, white and uneven and glowed in the grain of old polished wood. I caught your eye as you reached out a hand to catch a golden beam, the cupped palm filling with light, and you smiled. We had come home.

Another grand day out

Yesterday we went to start the proceedings for the acquisition of what will one day be our new home. Buying a house takes ages in France and as our place is on agricultural land, it has to be offered to the local farmers’ association first. They won’t make up their minds about whether they want it for many weeks.

We talked to the grand-nephew of the owner about aspects of the property that he would know about, like who has been responsible for cutting and baling the hay, who is responsible for keeping the vegetation along the stream under control, and something that has been worrying me, how will the neighbours take to Finbar.

There is a section in the country code referring to sight hounds that forbids their use as hunting dogs, and insists that they must be kept on a lead at all times. Hunters hate them because they chase anything that moves, and particularly rabbits and hares. Chase, but not necessarily catch, the reason for the Spanish Galgos being abandoned in their thousands after every hunting season. In the countryside, the hunter has a lot of privileges, and can chase game that have been started across anybody’s land. There have been cases where a deer has taken refuge in somebody’s front room, only to have the hunters barging in claiming that the poor creature be handed over. Hunters are trigger happy. They take pot shots as animals and people that annoy them.

The good news is that not only are the neighbours not hunters, but there aren’t many rabbits to send Finbar crazy. Even better, deer come onto the property to drink at the stream. As long as Finbar leaves the deer, the sheep and the owls alone we should be okay.

I did try to take some photos of the house, but after a single shot the camera gave up the ghost. My phone only does outdoor pics with any great success, so for the moment, until I get the pics other people took, I’ll just post a few photos of the nearest small town.

Tonneins in on the banks of the Garonne, built on river cliffs with a promenade all the way along the foot of the embankment. In the main square there’s a bandstand with a splendid view of the river. The guy in the pic is nothing to do with us.

Hundreds of cranes flew over while we were there. You can just about see them, tiny specks against the white cloud.


Looking downriver towards Bordeaux


Along the walls there are old stone water chutes that send rainwater cascading down to the river, after a brief and picturesque stop over in a stone basin.



Beneath the bandstand are the public toilets. Not a place I would visit in the normal course of events, but somebody had a pressing need, so down we went. They were medieval but clean. The picture is from the toilet window. There were cormorants flying past, out of the shot too quickly though.


And finally, the kind of strange shot my telephone does best—the ghost in the machine type shot.


I’ll post the pics of the house anon.


Apart from having a nasty flu bug, and mail still not connected which is a right royal pain, I have two reasons to celebrate. First, today I was offered a contract for the sequel to Abomination. I’ve been writing blurbs and tag lines, a real chore. Does anybody actually enjoy writing blurbs? It means there won’t be an unreasonable hiatus between volumes one and two, nor with volume three if I send the manuscript in soon.


I’m also pressing ahead with the follow on series to The Green Woman. 60k words on the clock of volume two so far. I’m hoping to give the whole thing a makeover. That might take us into 2017 though.

As if that isn’t enough to celebrate, our house-buying plans are going smoothly. The obligatory once-over has revealed nothing more terrifying than dodgy electricity (we knew that from the porcelain plugs and switches), and a bit of lead piping that ‘needs watching’. There are no drains worthy of the name, and heating seemed to come mainly from the adjoining cowshed. But it’s the south, the winters are mild, we’ll dig a drain and change some of the porcelain light switches. Our youngest is trying to convince us to get a herd of llamas for the grass/meadow since the stabling won’t be a problem, and I don’t think you have to milk llamas. Not like goats that don’t eat the right kind of grass either.


As an aside, I have been asked why I don’t write about my ‘experiences’ living in France, and I suppose the answer has to be, would you write about your experiences living in a semi in Stoke? If that’s what you know, there’s nothing extraordinary in it. I’ve never bought a house anywhere but France, never dealt with workmen anywhere but France, never had children or sent them to school, anywhere but France. There’s a lucrative market in writing ‘humorous’ books about life with the baguette and beret brigade, which generally involves poking fun at the ‘French way’. Sod that. I live here—if they do it, chances are I do it too. Seems to me, the people who write these slapstick comedies don’t really live here. They’re voyeurs, ex-pats, people who feel their real lives are somewhere else.

So, I won’t be writing posts about how hilarious French plumbers can be, but I hope I’ll be writing pieces based on our new found country peace and quiet. I hope. Just so long as the neighbour doesn’t decide to swap his sheep for quad bikes…

Microfiction: Georgette

A less than 200 word story for Sacha Black’s weekly writing prompt.

She is everywhere in the house, Georgette. Not surprising since she lived here for ninety-seven years. There’s a photo of her on the wall, as well as her parents and husband. No children though. She lived here alone with the two cows until her nephew persuaded her to move to a flat where he could keep an eye on her. There’s a smell of sprightly old lady and cats. Her chair by the stove has a ball of knitting wool shoved down the side. The messages about groceries and visits stuck on the wall by the phone still shout out that life goes on.

In the garden, her bulbs are coming up. In the cowshed, the hay bales smell fresh and spring-like. There is no feeling of emptiness or sadness, but expectancy. What is the house waiting for?


She has left a trail, determined and defiant, as if she has just gone down to the shop to buy a packet of coffee.

We’ll take good care of your house, Georgette.

I make a promise to visit her in her new flat, show her how life has forged another link, and take her the first narcissi.