Tag Archives: village

Wednesday Vine Report #5

Vine report number five already. I can’t believe 5 weeks have passed since I began wondering what kind of grape our chosen vine was.

We know now: she’s a Merlot, and our baby is doing just fine. After rain through the week, our vine is showing vigorous growth.

Merlot vine

our Merlot shifting up a gear

There’s growth all along the leader in this midweek photograph. Here’s this morning’s picture.

Merlot in May

after a few days’ rain

Her sisters are doing nicely, too. Soon there’ll be more green than the brown of the earth.

Merlot vineyard

Merlot vineyard showing steady growth

Once these beauties get going, you can almost hear them growing. (I’m a writer, prone to fanciful thinking)

We’ve had a substantial amount of rain this week. The air cooled. There was fresh snow on the Pyrenees at the weekend, I’m told. Friends of friends couldn’t drive where they were supposed to be; they had no snow chains with them. When the wind blows from the southwest, over the peaks of the mountains, it cools everything down on our side. I had to rummage in my clothes storage boxes and drag out a couple of fleeces. We don’t expect cold winds at this time of year. But the walk through the vineyards is as lovely as ever and, even if you can’t actually hear the vines growing, you can smell the fresh green of them.

Across the lane, in the Chardonnay plantation, here’s the latest:


Chardonnay grapevines growing fast

Don’t they look fantastic? Oh, I’m imagining paella cooked on our outside gas burner in one of those huge circular shallow pans; the sounds of bubbling juices; the smell of mussels and saffron and prawns, maybe a few scallops and some chicken on the bone for extra juiciness AND dewy glasses of chilled Chardonnay, crisp and dry and definitely more-ish. Summer heaven.

I walked a different way back to the house. There are so many lanes criss-crossing the vineyard plantations, you can vary your route every day. You get to see a different view each time you turn a corner. I took this picture of poppies planning to use it as a header. All the pictures at the head of my pages are from my own photographs.

April poppies

April poppies along the vineyard lanes

Last week, I spotted drifts of blue flowers on furry, mauve stalks and couldn’t put a name to them.

Borage flowers

Borage flowers and stalks taste like cucumber






It’s borage and you can eat it. The flowers and stalks taste like cucumber and the darker leaves can be cooked and used like spinach. You can find out more about edible wild flowers here at the Edible Wild Food website.

Himself was with me this morning. Fancies himself as a bit of a David Bailey from time to time. He took these:

poppies on May 1st

May poppies – a photo by himself

I think the boy done good.

Along the lanes, there’s always something new to see. Almond trees are showing off their new fruits in their furry cases. They are very bitter, though. I don’t know anybody who actually uses them.

almonds in their cases

almonds in their furry cases

The vineyards roll across this Herault hinterland. From above it looks like patchwork with all the rows going in different directions like stripes. Some vineyards have sea views.

picpoul de pinet

Picpoul de Pinet vines love sea breezes

At Pinet, not far from our own village, the vineyards run down to the Mediterranean coast.In this picture, you can make out the oyster beds in the bay. Oysters and white wine: is your mouth watering yet? Wait, there’s more.

Noilly Prat vermouth

a great aperitif

The white wine of Pinet is one of only three varieties used by the manufacturers of Noilly Prat, a world famous vermouth produced at Marseillan also nearby. Marseillan is now the only place producing this fabulous vermouth. No, it’s better than fabulous. It’s the best vermouth you’ll ever taste. There’s a great story behind the making of this famous aperitif, but there’s enough for a whole new post. In the meantime, take a look at their website. It has a cute entry page, but they won’t give away any production secrets.

Back to our own village vineyards. Because of the lie of the land, the vineyard lanes are sometimes below the level of the growing fields. Great camera angles.

elderly vines

old vines still producing

Elsewhere there are new plantations. The baby vines are protected from the ravages of winter winds.

young vines

young vines are protected

Young vines are not allowed to produce fruit for the first year or two. The vine’s job is to get itself established with a strong root system and build up nutrients for grape producing when it’s a grown-up. The wine grower keeps the vineyard free from weeds and pests during this time to give the young vines the best start.

Soon, these young vines will take their place in producing grapes that go into wine known and respected all over the world. Did you know that Languedoc is the biggest wine producing region in the world? Ah, what a place to live, huh? The pleasures of watching it grow, followed by the pleasures of drinking it.

Languedoc vines

vines of Languedoc

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I’d love to hear from you. I’m not an expert on wine, but you don’t have to be an expert to know what you enjoy. That’s my philosophy.


See you soon.

How do you write a novel? A bit at a time.

It seems you’re expected to answer this question of how do you write a novel. At some point, your followers are going to want to know. That’s lovely. That’s why I’m writing this blog: to reach people I’ll never meet in the flesh. I’m delighted to have some followers. I hope to have lots more.


the lady diarist at her desk

Other writers will be curious, too. We all have our own ways, what works best for us. There are probably as many different ways of setting about the writing of a novel as there are different kinds of books. I have a link here to tips from published writers. I read both Larry and Holly and I think their information is so valuable to new writers setting out on their journey.

I don’t beat myself up about targets. I write here about letting it happen. Sometimes, my plans take a day off and the page stays empty. Other days, an idea explodes out of nowhere and I have to drop what I was writing and scribble down this new idea for a short story. It isn’t a problem. I let it happen. Why would I want to shut out new ideas just because I’d been planning to edit chapter fifteen of something else?

So, I run with the sprint of a short story when it presents itself. Writing a novel, though, is a marathon. Planning is a must. I plan everything in great detail. I know my characters inside out and upside down. By the time I get around to writing their scenes, I’ve lived with them for weeks. I know exactly where they live and how it looks. I won’t use all that information, but it’s useful for me to visualize them when they’re walking along the streets of the village I’ve invented. I even draw maps.

map of Montalhan

my version of Montalhan sans Vents in the novel Trobairitz

Okay, so the drawing isn’t fabulous, but this is the village my Trobairitz is imagining when she tells her stories at the overnight truck stop. She knows where the vineyards are in relation to the housing developments. She knows where the river runs past the chateau on its way to the sea. She knows the narrow passages and steep steps linking levels of the circulade.


circulades are spiral shaped

In Trobairitz, the shape of the village is reflected in the stories she tells. There is a central theme, hiding under the archways, shrinking back into the alleys, revealing itself only gradually. I like that kind of a tease in books.

I plan a timeline, too, so I know how events from the three books fit into a chronological order, even if in the narrative I don’t treat them chronologically. The whole thing becomes a magnificent obsession, to borrow fromMagnificentObsess Douglas.

Now, there was a story. I wonder whether its themes would stand up today? That might be an interesting exercise one day; one day when I’m not obsessed with my own creations.

Sometimes, the short story I dashed down in between writing chapters of the magnificent obsession pops back, like indigestion. Erm, over here, it says, have another look at me. I’m not finished.

And I have another look, and it isn’t finished and, would you believe it? There’s enough there for a whole new novel. I’ll make that another post.

24 hours without internet. The joys of living in France


A whole day!


Twenty four hours without the internet. 24 whole hours!

The Gollum Boy (see earlier post ) began pacing as soon as he got home from school. What? No internet? How could anybody DO THIS TO HIM? Didn’t they know he had an appointment with Syndicate on YouTube?

He had to resort to the X-Box WITHOUT KiNECT. Saints preserve us! Saint Louise, actually on the fifteenth of March. Saint Louise of the Daughters of Charity, the ones who used to wear those huge starched cornettes on their heads that made them look like seagulls. Her saint’s day is the fifteenth of March. It says so on my calendar.

Not the Ides of March! Oh, Blimey, I’ve just realized. We lost our phone and internet connection on the Ides of March. It must have been an omen. Well, we live along the Via Domitia, don’cha know. Julius Caesar passed this way on his way to Spain. You can hear the ghostly legions tramping by in their skirts and sandals. No, that’s Gollum Boy, tramping by on his way to raid the fridge. He has a face like a wet weekend and his eyes are like slits. (He’s still very grey, by the way, but he has had a wash.)

So, what can one do when all the connections are down? One could go for a walk. One could read a few chapters. One could learn a new recipe. One could watch a movie on TV. One could go for a walk. One could read a few chapters. One could . . .


Oh, No!


The truth is, we’ve all got so used to having these connections at our fingertips, we take them for granted. And, I believe, we allow them too much say in our lives.

One of the joys of living in a small French village is that, from time to time, we are thrust into a past when such household commodities didn’t exist. In any case, what use would winegrowers and their fieldworkers have had for such things? Their days were already full of working to earn a living. Now, the winegrowers’ grandchildren have laptops and X boxes and Playstations and tablets and smartphones and none of them want to follow grandpa into viticulture. No. They want to be the next Syndicate. The next #1 Solo Gamer.

But they can’t all be number 1, can they? At some point, they’ll have to start paying their way. Give unto Caesar etc. We’ve let this internet stuff take over our lives. Its marching through our homes and families like the legions of the Roman Empire.

Well, we all know what happened to that, don’t we?

The trouble is, how will I keep up with Twitter and Facebook and Linkedin and my website when the Internet Empire collapses?

Two Days of snow! A south of France winter.

Next year's Merlot under a blanket of snow

Next year’s Merlot under a blanket of snow


We don’t often get snow here. This week we had plenty. It doesn’t last, though. As soon as the sky clears, the sun comes out and melts it all.

In the distance, the Montagnes Noir overlook the village, another source of inspiration for me. One in particular features in my story The End of the World PartyView towards the church

View towards the church