We are driving to the French house tomorrow. We will catch a Eurotunnel train around 8.30am and then drive like the wind for about 12 hours, taking it in turns as we tire. The weather has been dreadful across much of France for some time so we are hoping we don’t encounter any flooding or other problems.
When we drive we always have a car packed full with a rich variety of different objects. In fact we always say you can distinguish the second home owners from the tourists by the contents of the vehicles. Suitcases, straw hats, and tennis rackets? Tourists. Pots of paint, ladders, sacks of compost, plants, empty egg boxes … part-time residents!
Everything you might want or need is available in our part of France, in some form or other, at some time of the year. But not necessarily exactly what you want when you want it. And bitter experience has shown us that internet deliveries are very hit and miss, especially since you might not be there to receive them on the crucial day anyway. So we order things online in the UK and collect them in a spare bedroom until such time as we next drive out and then load the car.
I suddenly got it into my head this morning that I needed a Tetrapanax Papyrifer Rex. I can’t be confident that any of the pepiniéres near us will have one in stock, so I’ve just made an emergency visit to The Big Plant Nursery in Ashington, West Sussex, just about 15 minutes away. I hadn’t been there for some years and they have developed their stocks since I last did. Oh boy, I could have bought 100 plants. Fabulous choice and so tempting. As it is I bought just 7 to add to the others already on our tiny Sussex terrace destined for France.
Here they are in the trolley and then (some) crammed into the boot of my characteristically drab looking car (irony alert), the remainder on the back seat. There’s a Tetrapanax, a Melianthus Major, a white-flowered Calycanthus Venus, the last they had in stock, Euphorbia Mellifera, Drimys Aromatica, Schefflera Impressa form rhododdentronifolia, and Hakonechloa Macro Aureola. I also have four trays of mixed sempervivums and a dozen other succulents to be planted in two existing old stone troughs and two new ones bought from Crocus and coming with us in the car. They will be placed along the edge of a gravelled area which covers the sand filter from the fosse septique (septic tank) to stop anyone from driving their vehicle onto the area.
Other random things we are taking include pillows, duvet covers, several pairs of sandals, empty egg boxes (for our chicken-keeping neighbour), ready-made curtains both indoor and outdoor for use on our covered terrace, boxes of man-size tissues, flower arranging pedestals, and various containers or flower arranging, a box of Oasis floral foam, a Slow Cooker, curtain rings, mixed seeds, 10 water bottles (for when all the family are with us, all different colours to hopefully avert misunderstandings), back copies of all the magazines we subscribe to (Country Life, The Garden, Gardens Illustrated, and The English Garden) from the last few weeks which we haven’t managed to read yet … and no doubt more that are not currently in my line of sight.
I think we can safely say that we’ll be identified as part-time residents rather than tourists!