Saturday, June 23, 2007

Guy's garden



Going to Guy's garden means getting lost. I planned my route, kept the Michelin atlas open at the page, found my way successfully through the lush and rolling hinterland, arrived at Perret, and , yes, for the third time, I was lost. Which lane is it, they all look similar? Sense of direction deserting me, I had to ask at the bar.


When you get there, you can't mistake it, but once inside, you're lost again. Once it was a rectangular field, now it's a labyrinth, a spatial conundrum, rooms and paths and portals and changes of mood as you pass through it.








'Marie-Lise is picking raspberries,' says Guy, 'go and join her. Josette is pruning the roses, she speaks English well.'



Josette I do not know; she is francophone Swiss-English, and has lived in Poole; she has little accent in either language I can discern, and is very charming. I am soon lost again in the raspberry canes having a broken conversation with Marie-Lise, whom I glimpse intermittently. I eat a number of framboises and quite a few wild strawberries, and we establish a connection with a reference to Bergman.

Like Guy, Marie-Lise and her husband Jean-Paul, who is presently given a job with a rake, are my students. They have been teachers until recently, and are keen and competetive in class.

Guy was born in Perret. He spent his childhood there, then went on to Rennes and Paris, where he met beautiful Claudine, the kind of Frenchwoman who always makes me wish I'd been born French, who helped him in his modern maths class, and he became an educational psychologist. He loved to frequent the quais and the flower markets, and claims to have once given Catherine Deneuve instructions as to how to plant water lilies.

Much later he fulfilled his dream and bought, in Perret, an ancient longère with a field behind it. Claudine said that it felt at first as though they were living in the middle of the road; she had only ever lived in an appartment, never in a house. Until the hedges and trees and flowers grew up she says she felt something close to agaraphobia. In a little more than 20 years, it has become a magical place. They still don't live there all the time; Claudine is still working as a primary teacher in St Brieuc, they have an appartment there too.


Charm is the word. Un nid de chardonneret, I described it to them, a goldfinch's nest, and later thought of the connection with the word charm. Charming, pretty, welcoming, to be sure, but also when there one is under a charm, spellbound, elsewhere, apt to be lost.


Inside is a lustre of treasure, stencilled plates and dishes and bols for cider, pots and jugs and other vessels, old tools and country bits and pieces, restored and given dignity again, pretty, worn, oddly shaped and slightly mismatched wine glasses. The front doorway is no more, it has become a china cabinet,

and everywhere Guy's paintings. In the Paris winters, and later in St Brieuc, and dreaming of garden and village, he decided to paint it. The work grew and grew, last year he had an exhibition in the Rohan pavilion in Gouarec, and was beside himself with happiness. They are rich, colourful joyous oils, proficient but slightly naive. He's lately been amusing himself painting on old pieces of glassware, a need to embellish every surface.


Claudine arrives, cheerful and serene and brisk as ever in spite of having worked all morning and come back to a houseful, some of whom she doesn't know. Without ever once seeming to fuss or flap, she keeps us up to the fairly tight schedule, before the events of the afternoon. It would be very easy to dawdle and linger and gossip. We brave the blustery showers and eat our sandwiches and then the raspberries with crème fraiche outdoors under the parasol.



Other people, and this rather engaging King Charles spaniel, appear over lunch time. When the tour party, mostly English, arrive, and set off round the garden, everyone seems to be doing fine without my help, so I lag behind and take in the detail.









I didn't bother with grammar corrections, lessons are finished, we're on holiday. Anyway, it's too late now, it's been printed, and it's very sweet.



Frogs in our garden are brownish, secretive, occasional, far outnumbered by toads, who are all right in their way but have some rather nasty habits. The frogs here are jewelled and enamelled green and gold, and bask and display themselves and are very much at home. I can imagine any of them would be more than happy to retrieve the golden ball and be kissed in return.

English-style, they tell me proudly, which means paths not straight and David Austin roses. But to me it has only its own style: created with purpose and passion and large amounts of love.



20 comments:

Jan said...

Lucy, WOW!
All wonderful but that King Charles spaniel...his eyes are something else!
You lead a superb life, Lucy.
What a lovely place to be living in.

Catalyst said...

It's a wonderland . . and once again, superb photographs.

zhoen said...

Magical space. Grown lovingly, inside and out. Oh. Oh.

meggie said...

Just wonderful.
Thank you for sharing the wonders.

stitchwort said...

Sensational garden.
(But I could do without the frogs.)

Avus said...

Superb photographs, Lucy. Looks like you had a great day out.

Tall Girl said...

Looks like the sort of place that should be open to the public. Fantastique!

Lesley said...

The photographs are superb but I enjoyed the words even more: descriptive and generous.

Lucy said...

Thank you, people. It really is a wondrous place, they are so dedicated, I feel lucky to know them. They have invited parties in a couple of times a year, but too many and they fear the wear and tear.
the King Charles was a really lovely fellow; they aren't usually my favourite dogs but he was so chunky and calm - he was meant to be a stud dog and is a very good one apparently.
My sister came to visit them last year and she's with Stitchwort on the matter of the frogs! However, even she admitted those frogs were rather beautiful ones.

Lucy said...

Thank you, people. It really is a wondrous place, they are so dedicated, I feel lucky to know them. They have invited parties in a couple of times a year, but too many and they fear the wear and tear.
the King Charles was a really lovely fellow; they aren't usually my favourite dogs but he was so chunky and calm - he was meant to be a stud dog and is a very good one apparently.
My sister came to visit them last year and she's with Stitchwort on the matter of the frogs! However, even she admitted those frogs were rather beautiful ones.

leslee said...

Wow, what a feast for the eyes here! Wondrous is right. Thank you for sharing these photos and your descriptions. I've had a happy little break from my packing and cleaning. Lovely.

If you hadn't described the frog picture as a photo I'd have thought it was painted for an illustration in a children's book. How sweet.

apprentice said...

What a gorgeous place, what wonderful shots and sun, what is that again?

marly said...

Delicious and magical, Lucy!

marja-leena said...

Oh, so magical and beautiful a garden - like a fairytale! Your photos and words are so wonderful, like being there. How lucky you are in your friends and home place.

zephyr said...

what a jewel of a day! captured in your lovely words and marvelous photographs...

herhimnbryn said...

Magical images and words L. I loved the blue gate beside the chair under a tree and the french coffee pot on the hearth ( have been looking for such a pot to go on out wood burning stove) and the frog, oh, the frog.
You have inspired me to get out in the garden again and create!

Lucy said...

Good good good!
lovely to see you all.

andy said...

I'm a bit late saying so (just trying to do some catching up now), but that looks like my idea of what a perfect garden should be: informal; full of secret, unexpected corners, tempting eye and feet to explore what's behind... what's around... and places too I'm glad to see just to sit and be part of it all. Magical, as so many have already said.

Peter said...

Well, I'm later.

By the time I got to that first interior shot, if you were to tell me it all happened in that landscape over the mantle, I may have suspended disbelief.

A beautiful account, the whole thing.

Lucy said...

You're both very welcome, at any time, and thanks for lovely comments!