...there is nothing actually stopping me from blogging and just writing about stuff. Winter has arrived, with one white frost and this morning, some flakes of snow, but I don't feel like going outside to take photos. I've done it before; the cold hurts my hands and they are numb enough right now anyway.
Before that we had several days of April showers - I did think of taking some pics but moments later I'd be sheltering from torrential downpours, sometimes hail, and it wasn't the weather to have a camera out with me whilst I worked as the ground was drenched. There's nothing very interesting for the viewer about brambles or ivy, which I've been chopping back. In fact many of my garden sorties have involved looking up and deciding which branches need lopping because they are either shading out other trees, growing into each other or dangling down in our way, particularly over the drive. It's amazing how trees grow! Of course they do as they are plants, just like shrubs need pruning and weeds need weeding, so the amount of work needing doing in winter during the dormant months equals the summer work.
There's the perimeter fence which needs clearing of saplings and ivy; brambles and whippy growth which grow out into the main pathways smack K as he tries to mow, and the ever encroaching ivy jungle which threatens to take over all my trees. The enormous Leylandii hedge desperately needs its once every two years trim (that job is now given over to the professionals and the guy is supposed to come next week as he was too busy in November), the elm saplings need constantly hacking back in the chicken runs, sycamores self seed everywhere and need pulling out or chopping off. And that's all before looking at the veg patch, which has a jungle growing over every inch of soil. The orchard fruit trees haven't been pruned for two years, ditto clearing the stream over there of all the brambles and other vegetation which swamp it. Flower beds and shrubs need a good sorting out and compost added to the soil. All the while I mostly laze around indoors unable to get motivated to do anything about it, not that I have the strength to do half those jobs even if I was raring to go seven days a week. I accept that I currently have a semi broken body which needs a lot more time to heal and cannot keep up with this garden.
So what is the answer? Well there's the obvious, which was our original thought. Sell up and move somewhere with less land, an easier to maintain garden, and in our preferred area near the south coast of Morbihan or Loire Atlantique, near to all the good birding areas. This would also fit in with our PLAN, which would be hard to execute whilst living here (more about that later). But first we'd need to declutter all the accumulated junk, all those 'might come in handy one day' things, plus all the really technologically obsolete things which make up a huge bulk when you move house. Maybe someone might want a load of punk LPs at our village vide grenier in May? I'd give them away to a happy home rather than take them down the tip and chuck them. Ditto paperbacks; I've tons here, far more than fit my shelves as we had a number of plant and book swaps some years back with friends and somehow I seemed to end up with bagsful of 'bodice rippers' which my OH likes to call them, which I don't read (unless I'm really desperate). We're both using Kindles now anyway. And don't get me started on the photo albums! However I think the videos can go in the bin, except for our wedding one!
Then there's the house - a lot of it was never decorated and we've been too busy in the garden here to ever get to it, so upstairs we have a lot of bare plaster walls in the hallways and stairwells, plus one of the bathrooms. I really want to do something about that this year and feel like it's time the house had some attention after all this time.
It just seemed like such a mammoth amount of work we'd need to do this year in order to put the house on the market in spring next year, much worse than just the regular jobs which need doing outside, which at least don't involve tidying up outside to make it look as neat and pretty as possible as well. And it would involve work both inside and out. Not necessarily great when you are wallowing in post chemo depression and can hardly get out of bed.
On top of this I have been looking at houses for sale, and they all suck. Big time. Even the really expensive ones miles out of our price zone. Do you know why? I know one can change them, albeit one is usually constrained by existing walls, windows, doors etc, but why are kitchens so forgotten? Why are they so small in relation to the rest of the house, with so little storage space? I'm not a professional, just a normal person who cooks and bakes, and I have a lot of kitchenware, and it all gets used. Plus the large things which reside in cupboards in the huge bathroom next door. Deep fat fryer, breadmaker, ice cream maker, food processor..... I can tell you where some people kept things like that as it was all too obvious from the cluttered photos. No work space left.
Then there were the dreadful designs, mostly in the newer properties. I'm sure they were designed by people who've never cooked in their lives and know nothing about the cooking triangle. Huge living dining spaces with a tiny corner given over to the kitchen, which is open onto this large room. This seems to be the way all houses built in the last 20 years have been designed, ditto a lot of the old house renovations. I HATE that! It's bad enough being in the living room trying to watch telly when my OH is clattering away in the kitchen next door. If he was doing that in the same room I'd go nuts! And I love having a kitchen which is big enough for a table - we have different living spaces this way, and one can be in the kitchen at the table, listening to the radio, whilst the other watches TV in the living room, which is big enough for a dining table too.
Then there's the Breton style houses where they shove all of upstairs inside the sloping roofspace. Another hate. It may be fine for a four foot high child but a six foot 4" husband? It's so impractical as well as ugly as sin. We're very lucky in this house as we have less of that as all the top floor rooms have dormer windows, and we don't live on that floor anyway. We've fewer problems with that on the middle floor.
I was rather taken with the styles of houses south of the Loire - they have the terracotta canal tile roofs which I find very attractive. Many houses within our price range had swimming pools too - but as K pointed out - a swimming pool would just go the way of the exercise bike. A novelty at first then barely get used.
Whilst all this has been running through my mind these last weeks, I've started to look at my house in a new light. I LIKE this house. It works for us. I don't like the tiled worktops in my kitchen, and I wouldn't have chosen this design of cupboards, but it has storage space galore. I counted the drawer and cupboard knobs and there were over 50! We have a good amount of worktop space too and I use every inch when I'm cooking but like to keep it clutter free in between times. Plus we have more things in the mud room/cellier, mostly relating to freezing and preserving, but we don't need to find room for them in the kitchen. I thought, if only we could transplant this house further south.... because another thing. We've been there and done that round here over the years and after a while it gets boring. Yet go a bit further afield to new exciting places and it makes for a long and tiring day out. Then there's the problem of having poultry if we were to go for an overnight somewhere - we could leave the cats alone overnight but the chickens are the worst tie as they have to be shut inside the shed at night for their own safety. I could try to rehome them but I don't want any of them going in the pot!
And so a decision has been made, we are staying put. We will look into getting some help in the garden and we won't be growing any veg this year. No, not even courgettes (although we might still have some cherry toms in pots up by the house. I don't think I could be so drastic as to not grow a few tomatoes!) so my neighbour may be happy to offload excess courgettes on us. We plan however to get out and about more often, but I am keeping the details of what that's about to myself for the moment until the big PLAN comes into fruition. It's just that if cancer should come back to bite me in the non existent arse, I would like to have made the most of this time doing something a bit different that we will both enjoy, rather than just slogging away at same old same old. Watch this space! In any event, I am now going to try to live for today and not plan too much beyond the next few years. Who knows, any of us could get run over by a bus!!!
I'm also breathing a huge sigh of relief as I don't really want to move. The thought of starting all over again somewhere new is scary. We know everyone here in the hamlet even if we sometimes don't see them for months or even years on end. And we need to be within an hour of a hospital, and an airport which has flights to the UK, which meant Rennes or Nantes anyway. I could wave goodbye to my lake, but would feel sad about leaving my buried pets. I'm now beginning to feel a bit less gloomy too - December was a dreadful month for me and I spent a full three days in bed after the chemo port was taken out. Not due to pain. I can't tell you why. I'd feel teary for no reason, plus people kept dying - not people I knew personally but either friends of friends or family, or virtual friends, which was affecting me greatly. I think there was a bit of survivor guilt in there too.
Back to this place - we can't stay here forever; it never was our intention with a big house and so much land to still be toiling away into old age. But for now Chateau Moorhen will live on with us as its guardians.
I can't post without mentioning the death of an absolute genius in the world of music and art - yes that bloody disease took him too but I am not taking this one to heart. But he will live on through his music, like all the legends.