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Friday, April 30, 2010

Painting My Way to Respectability

How I have been longing for spring. After a cold winter--admittedly nowhere near as bad as what I left behind in New England but taxing when you take into consideration 6 weeks of no heat because of the late Feb tempest, beyond a portable paraffin/kerosene heater--and after a 2-week taunt followed by more cold and rain, I've been longing for sunny afternoons spent idyllically (idly?) in my tiny garden, lazed out on an Adirondack or LaFuma chair soaking up rays.

Of course, that doesn't really happen because first of all, spring means gardening, so days have been busy starting seeds--tomato, bell pepper, various annual flowers, herbs--growing in my glassed-in verandah which deliciously doubles as a greenhouse--and starting those outdoor seeds in the raised beds, including carrots, leeks, white onions, spring onions, arugula, spinach and romaine lettuce. All now have been showing their sprigs encouragingly, while my garlic, planted last September, looks like a mini-field of corn plants, and my autumn-planted leeks are even taller. Tulips and daffodils are cresting near decline and the camelia, an intoxicating raspberry and cream mix, is also beginning to wane. It's always exciting to see what's growing. And for me, having only moved here in July, many are a delightful surprise.

Spring also means all those DIY/home improvement projects I pushed off since Christmas, pledging to take advantage of the cool but temperate conditions, which now threaten to keep me indoors against my will.

Earlier this month, my neighbor, Chris, happily abandoned all the latest projects he's been doing in his gardens--hardscaping mostly--to helping me plaster, sand and paint. The man's masochism knows no bounds.

Actually, what really galvanized me into needed action was a telephone call. Back in 2007 I did a housesit in northern Italy for the Rathgebers, Ken & Anna, and had the good fortune to finally meet them for the very first time last year en route from Tuscany to France before I closed on the purchase of this house. They were going to be in Versailles late April and asked if they could possibly stop and stay a night on their way back to Cessole. I was delighted! They had already alerted me to their 5-month stay in Italy--a first for them so long a time together, because Ken's just retired from his career at a Canadian bank--and invited me to come visit them in Cessole. I suggested mid-June because I was already slated to be out in the French Alps the first two weeks of June. They agreed although they warned me they were renovating their bathroom--the only bathroom in the villa--the first two weeks of June and, well, they pointed out, I knew how Italian contractors could drag out a job.

I have, however, become quite European in my outlook these days. I asked if, when desperate, could we pee in the fountain in the front garden? Ken said no, it was reserved solely for ladies bathing naked and suggested I could find plenty of accommodating farmland. So I accepted. I mean, it's not like my puppy Tilly cares if anyone watches her pee. Surely we all learn from each other!

In any case, Ken and Anna's visit proved to be a real treat and I was sorry they were only staying one night.

I was really glad I used their arrival to galvanize myself into stripping, smoothing and painting the walls of the guest bedroom because I'll be enjoying the fruits of my (and Chris's) labors for a long time to come.

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