routes in 2018

that our routes are not straight jackets that we feel obliged to stick to (see below!),
but aspirational suggestions for our journeys across France.
We employ the redoubtable Michelin Road Atlas of France to plan these progresses; this year
that's the A4 wiro-bound 2014 edition again. It is probable that we will get a new edition in 2019.
This post is mostly for my benefit, but if you, my dear public, are interested,
here are our routes so far this year . . .

The second outward journey of 2018, just completed as I tap this out, is a classic example of our flexibility in matters of the route. We don't subscribe to dogma: that once a plan has been contrived then one has to stick to it because what's the use of a plan if you don't stick to it? No Sir! We set out with an open mind! We changed our progression from Pèrigueux to enjoy a new way to Brive; scrapped the idea of going down to the Med from Brive, instead reversing the return journey of the spring (see above right, Sunday 6 May) over the hills to Florac and Alès etc. We came slightly 'off the rails' when we found the Caderousse Barrage across the Rhône closed so had to detour south to cross the river at Roquemaure . . . so I have annotated the variant plan accordingly, post-event, to present you with how we transited, rather than the original scheme of progress. It is shown below the riverside snap that comes after the next paragraph. I trust you are following this.

As a result of our deviation, mentioned above, we were able to take our lunchtime sandwiches 'riverside' under the great planes in the tiny village of Cubjac, a typical find of the type that gives us a boost, en route.

Watch this space for more routes as the year rolls on. But, dear reader, do get a life, you really should not be soaking up this pedantic hogwash, and certainly NOT watching this space!  I mean to say, I am (I am reliably informed) past help, but you surely, have far higher aspirations than what is represented here . . .

In case you were wondering about the coloured bullets against the road numbers: these indicate the colouration of the roads as shown in the aforementioned Michelin Road Atlas of France with the variation that minor non-coloured roads employ a black bullet prefix, and Autoroutes are in bold blue, not the double line red used in the Atlas. So you see, these routes are designed to be used specifically with the Michelin, and nothing else.

Our anticipated return [displayed left] was not quite  the dash I anticipated and we were in Roscoff in time to secure a table at Le Surcouf for our departure lunch.

I foretold: Thus it is that we will be gritting the dentures and using some autoroutes. It may seem counter-productive to set out back to Blightey in a southerly direction, but experience has shown that the A9/A75 Millau Viaduct route is the swifter if longer way to our first overnight at Rodez . . . Thereafter we shall have to resort to the A20 to make Angers comfortably. And then we repeat our spring return to Roscoff [but excluding the third hotel enjoyed then].

 In fact, the above prediction, and the route shown left, proved flexible and variable as described in the broad and the narrow posting, so why not open that up and find out what we actually did? You know you want to.

The third foray in 2018 is described as a projection in the posting the third return so if you want to get the whole story of the 2018 transits you will have to steal yourself and visit that posting and, who knows further extensions to be attached to that one. Complicated.

You are not still reading this, are you?
 Surely not!

Get on with you now, there's all sorts of matters to attend to…

footnote: Don't complain to me that you can't read the route descriptors illustrated here: they can be selected and thus enlarged, just as pictures can. If you will attempt to read this on a 'smart phone', is it really surprising that it come out in pixie sized images?


roses, that's why

SO, IF IT IS SO GOOD out there, down in Vaucluse, shacked up at number 1 Rue de F-B, what's with coming all the way back to Blightey in early May, only to turn round again and go back to Sablet in the latter third of June?

I have to admit this year I was wondering that myself. But as it happens, it was also this spring that the reason for our return became even more apparent. Bullsmead Court is not an estate that takes too kindly to being left to fend for itself. Over the years we have lived here we have done our best to tame the wilderness that some call a garden. We have not altogether succeeded in this respect; more dedicated types we know (and in one or two cases, love) must have wrung their hands at the sight of our unkempt borders and defeated vegetable patch, sucked their teeth at the tramp tramp tramp of the legions of ground elder that swamp even our most valiant attempts to be in charge, shaken their heads at the disgracefully moss impregnated 'lawn' which has to be tamed anew each time we return to the homestead . . . (I still recall two years ago being hospitalised after my fight with the greensward, with severe thorassic  cramps no less).  But what these superior green fingered associates cannot contest, is the gobsmacking display of roses that rolls up just in the spring-cum-summer interface. Bullsmead Court looks a total picture, our rose display is absolutely top drawer! This one (right) is Buff Beauty, Mrs Melling's scented favourite, often first out and also last out, flowers in swathes and multitudes!

You see, Mrs Melling is a rose woman. She knows her roses and is prepared to tend them with a mixture of brutality and love. It is she who has carefully added to the few oddball roses we found here when we took on the place, and now they are all well established and doing their stuff in droves. Most of them are old varieties of shrub roses, hardened individuals who can take the rough with the rough and look good on it. They have also been carefully selected for their scent. And the most prolific is a bit of a mystery as we were after a yellow trailer but the rose we acquired turned out white with a pink blush. Mrs Melling opines it is probably Paul's Himalayan Musk. No matter, it has become a firm favourite except when we have to try and prune the thing.

But what about black spot, aphid attack, rust etc? Well what about them? We care not a jot. The birds love the aphids and clear most of them up most of the time. Black spot is occasional and ignored. From time to time it is true we have said enough is enough already, to this rose or that, but usually after having cropped it back to zero, it shows up again and comes back with renewed vigour. Mrs Melling is also forever sticking bits of stem in that patch or this where in time another rose soon springs up if I don't accidentally chuck it out with the weeds: it is a long time since we took delivery of anything from a nurseryman.

2018 is the best year yet I think. Warm dry weather has allowed blooms to blossom freely. No rotting in the bud this year! Ad no dashing down by heavy rain (although there is still time). Numerous different shrubs, hundreds of blooms and hardly a hybrid-tea in sight. Mrs Melling knows their names, origins, the lot, of course she does. Once more I am reminded that I am a simple pleasure loving dolt . . .  It is a feast of colour and scent and at the time of writing this, it is at maximum revs. The garden is wonderful, the place to be!  And its not just the roses actually, there are the geraniums, the cistus, the flowering bushes and trees, the gooseberries even – and the set of the apple crop . . . in fact it is the space, intimate, airy, densely green and private, full of birds.

Sadly of course we have no such green patch in Sablet . . . the one thing we thought we wouldn't need and the one thing we miss the most. The envy we display at our good friends the Kaisers' shady jardinette with olive tree and good ground cover, is heart felt. We will be a bit sorry then, to leave the garden here in North Devon – as we are indeed going to risk the summer sun this year in Sablet (we held back last summer and boy, were we glad we did as it was une scorcher and far too hot for my cool temperate liking, according to the reports of those who sat out the 2017 roast . . .). We trust we may once more sip a suitable libation in the Kaiser garden even before June is out and hot July makes shade imperative. Other friends and accomplices of course may also ply us with refreshment, we won't hold it against them if they are sans jardin.

But right now?  Well we are getting the itch. The route is sorted, the hotels booked, the packing is in the offing, or soon will be. Hey ho for the open road and a return to Sablet, lightweight apparel and The Tour on Telly!

One or two of our roses will repeat and one or two might do so even after our third return,  the autumn trip. They are good friends . . .  if somewhat prickly at times . . .