Saturday 16 December 2006

Queens Speech

This is the last entry in the blog for this year. We will be leaving for France soon and it won’t be easy to connect for a while. We’ll be back in the New Year and normal service will resume.

I’d like to wish everyone reading a Joyous Yule. I also have a few other things to say but if you don’t know me or feel you know me too well, go now, find your dear ones and treat them kindly. May love, peace and happiness walk with you always.


Still here? Well then, please indulge me while I make a silent scream in the echoing conch shell of cyberspace.

This blog, what’s it all about? After nearly two years of blogging I still don’t know. It started as the usual simple narcissism prevalent across the whole of the world wide web and was an attempt to provide me with an outlet for some of the words that bubble and won’t be suppressed. Naturally, that didn’t work out too well or I’d be standing on a street corner now spouting my stuff and scaring passers by. Inhibition, even in an empty room, is too deeply embedded to ever be stripped away.

Then came the French farm and some sort of theme was established. Having taken a few stats in the last weeks I am surprised to discover I get quite a lot of hits for the more practical entries with viewers from all over world stopping by for a few seconds to learn about medlars or coppicing. It shows potential for a good direction to take. I can share these experiences and my knowledge and that might be a contribution worth making, but that doesn’t satisfy my need to create – it is reporting, not invention. And it carries no scope for commentary outside of its subject.

Which brings me to my writing style – I hate it. It reminds me of myself at age 10 reading my first prize winning essay to the school. My teacher, the adorable Mr. Benny (was that his name? I forget but it fits) said I sounded like the Queen with constipation. It is only too true in this blog. It is constrained for no reason, pedantic, slow. A true reflection of me maybe but writing is like acting, it should be possible to assume a new persona for as long as it takes to produce an impression. Where has my ability to perform gone?

I had some correspondence recently about writing. During the discussion it became clear that for me the most successful moment to write is when I’m raging angry about something. And I have been suppressing anger for too long now. Temper gets the better of me but the injustices that really make me angry are too terrible to face, bring physical sickness and total despondency. Something like that happened two and half years ago and although it has no place in here it has been destroying me ever since. Can I write about that, no fucking chance. Even now I am incoherent in my mind, screaming hysterically, ripping myself to shreds. So it’ll have to stay sedated in the darkened padded room for a while longer yet.

There are things that make me angry in the open world of course. I was watching an episode of M*A*S*H last night, the show set in the 1950s and made in the 1970s was about a group of children in the care of the Red Cross. As I watched the actors, adults and children, happily interacting physically, tickling, cuddling, innocently depicting normal human relations my 21st century sensibilities were triggered. Surely it wasn’t right for middle aged men to invite 5 year olds to sit on their laps or offer them sweets.

The media and a few horrific cases have made all affection between adults and children suspect. Our children are suffering now from a lack of community love that must surely have adversely affected their connection with society. It was enough to reduce me to tears and fills me with dread for the way our world will develop. We need to fight the manipulation of our natural instincts by the greedy attention seeking press. We need to show our love for children and be worthy of their trust.

Future plans then are to continue here with the French blog, making it more practical and trying to capture some of the wonderful times we have there. Next year I hope to finish the cider making records and describe a year in the vegetable patch (words to conjure with ) but maybe I’ll also find the time and words to write something more fulfilling and temporally pertinent. That would be a good aim to take.

Manda Gwinn 2006

Tuesday 12 December 2006

Tree Nursery


When I got back to England in November I planted 50 sweet chestnut seeds, one of which might be coming up already. There will be acorns to plant at xmas and plenty of self seeded small trees from around the farm to transplant to make another coppice area. This coppice will be for green woodworking and will supply fencing, bean poles and other bits of treen.

The other great thing about coppice is that it is a very dynamic environment for wildlife, which is maintained by the regular management of the trees. As usual the biggest pests will be the deer who much prefer tender young tree shoots to the abundant grass and herbs available to them.

Of course, we hope to do all this from first principles with a pole lathe, traditional tools and a flat cap. Paul fancies making furniture and hurdles, I'd love to be able to turn bowls but doubt I'll ever achieve the necessary skills.

Probably the biggest problem facing us is the lead time for these materials to become available. Between 7 and 12 years will have to elapse before the baby trees will be harvestable. We might be dead by then. If so, I hope someone will carry on where we left off, and enjoy the head start we've given them.

I haven't found many useful web resources for green wood working but the books of Mike Abbot are required reading.

Monday 11 December 2006

Strangely blue


One of the last pictures I took before leaving France, the moon through the pear tree with a mist rising.

We're going back to France for the holidays - must get on and book that - so I suppose some of my mood can be attributed to the stress of the travel looming. Really want to get back there but this time it will mean sacrificing seeing the family because nobody seems to have time to join us.

I'm a bit worried about the prospective state of the place. Each time it rains the water comes in under the front door and puddles in the inner hall. There has been so much rain in the last month it's a frightening prospect. The wind has also been very strong and even though the place has clearly stood several hundred years of weather I can't help feeling pessimistic.

We'll be able to find out if the cider worked too. That should be good for a laugh.


Saturday 9 December 2006



The winter solstice this year is on Dec 22 at 00:20.

Thursday 7 December 2006

Beta Blogger

Just moved the blogs to the beta.blogger account. Not sure what the benefits will be but I was tired of the nag screen...

Need to change the template too, had a play last week and broke the lot, then rebuilt it back to how it was. Maybe I'll remember what I'm supposed to be able to do for a living and create my own from scratch. None of the templates cut it for me.

I think the paint fumes are making me sick.

Monday 4 December 2006

Going Nowhere

festive cake

I've been back from France for a month now, and beginning to get twitchy.

We planned to make another trip at the end of November but the difficulty of placing the cat for a short break, the weather, depression all combined and we didn't get it sorted in time. Now in the run up to the midwinter break all our weekends are booked for gladly anticipated meetings with friends in the UK but that means another three weeks before I can see my home from home again.

In the meantime we're trying to keep busy here, redecorating rooms left untouched since we arrived nearly 8 years ago now so that the abominations of DIY left by the previous owners can be removed and the place returned from a badly executed Changing Rooms folksy style back to the simple fixings of a budget Seventies estate build. Clean and plain is good. Faux Victorian skirting boards and wonky picture rails are not.

And I've made a cake for the midwinter festival.