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Bizzy Bizzy Bizzy

“Oh come on! It wouldn’t take long and you haven’t got anything else to do!” said my sister, phoning from London.

“Haven’t got anything to do?”

“Well I mean, apart from write a few articles, what else do you do, stuck out there in the countryside?” she asked.

I took a deep breath. There’s no point in arguing with people over this one - my sister isn’t the only one. Everyone back in Blighty thinks that we’ve been on permanent holiday since we moved to France.

Because the Cevennes are southern, Brits back home are convinced that the sun shines 365 days a year; because wine is cheaper here, they know we practically wash our teeth in it; and because this is a rural district, they think we spend our entire time twiddling our thumbs and watching the pastis plants grow.

How wrong can they be? I’m busier here than I ever was in London. Especially at this time of the year. The minute the kids go back to school the hunter/gatherer season starts. Green tomatoes, sloes, figs, apples, blackberries, apricots, pears, mushrooms... all this has to be picked and squirreled away in the pantry.

There’s chutney, pickle and jam to pour into pots; sloe gin, blackberry brandy and grape juice to strain and bottle; all sorts of goodies to pack into the freezer; tomatoes to bottle, soups to make, ginger beer, apple wine, dried wild mushrooms, a whole range of autumn goodies to collect and hoard.

Bur not only that, the wood-chopping season is upon us, meaning that the valley below echoes with the whine of chain saws and the grunting noises made by members of this household as they struggle with an axe. (I’m scared of chain saws and anyway, chopping keeps you fit and heats you twice - the second time is when you burn it.)

And of course we’re in the run up to The Festivities. This doesn’t mean shopping; it means international importation on a hitherto unknown scale in Moisson. Apart from the cranberry sauce, the suet for the pudding and the mincemeat, there are the crackers. More difficult than ever this year due to increasingly severe restrictions on what you can put in your Ryanair luggage. Apparently crackers are off. Or out. Anyway, verboten.

Presumably this is in case a hi-jacker takes to cracker-jacking planes by hitting pilots over the head with paper hats and bad jokes. What can I say? Is this just a tad exaggerated? Or are they right? Ryanair also recently confiscated a teaspoon from my mother, who is in her 70s, because they said that it was a lethal weapon...

Anyway while I mull this one over, do let me know if you’ve found a good cracker source this year.

“Animations” are the other time-consumers. We have them every year in the village: a carol concert, a tea party for the cheeky monkeys, a bingo night, a knees up for the oldies... and this year a newcomer from Marseille is making “Les Treize Deserts” for the whole village.

None of this is organised efficiently. Every single event requires meticulous planning - but this feat inevitably involves numerous coffee-and-cake sessions, plus at least one gargantuan communal meal. Needless to say, our contribution is the carol concert in the church. It’s in English because I can’t sing in French and play the harmonium at the same time, and involves a full month of rehearsals because it’s not just the concert... there’s also the community sing-along, and the local kids sing in English and the choir has to be er... not gagged exactly, more like er... tidied up.

This is all in addition to running a large house, servicing the furry and not-so-furry inhabitants, writing full time and attempting to have some sort of social life, too. So no, I actually won’t have time to collect David family photos from all over the world, sort them into chronological order, get copies made and then compile 20 photo albums as presents for everyone from me and my sister.

I might just about get round to slapping a few snaps through the scanner and emailing them out, but anything more than that is hallucinating.

Ho hum. I can just hear my sister ruminating this one. “And is all this countryside bizzy-bizz absolutely necessary, Sis?” she says finally.

“Well, it is necessary in London?” I counter. “Are you urban chic chicks absolutely obliged to go to galleries, museums, parties, theatres and concerts?”

Dead silence.

“So we’ll be going for the email option then?” I say, grinning down the phone, and I can hear her ear-rings chinking as she nods... so I add, “But only if you’ve got the time!”

Next column will be uploaded around 1 December.

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