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I promised you honesty in the first blog.

Here it is. In spades.

And I’m not sure if I like it.

Saturday starts pretty much like any other Saturday.

Simon is the Masterchef of cooked breakfasts and rustles up a beauty.

He has decided that two days a week must be spent in the garden, as much for his own sanity as anything.

Outside he toddles, with that boys excitement bubbling under the surface, knowing there is going to be machinery involved. Branch by branch, he starts to bring down a monstrous conifer in our garden that we both loathe. It’s smack bang opposite our main, actually our only door, and has increased in size dramatically over the ten years we have been here. It has created an enormous full stop in front of the house and casts a huge amount of shade during the winter. The only wildlife it appears to support occasionally, are a couple of collared doves we nickname Colin and Collette. Simon and I both prefer to see the seasons changing with the trees, such as the oak woodlands at the top of the drive. Our mature American walnut (juglans nigra) to the left of the overpowering conifer on our garden photo is beautiful, although needs some work to remove a few tired branches, the enormous box circle, ditto. The mirabelles as we call them (prunus cerasifera), to the right, are amazing for the bees at this time of year and yield mountains of cherry plums in early summer, if we ever get time to pick them.

Monsieur le Conifer’s demise is planned after much discussion and complete agreement from us both.

Listening to his chainsaw whirring away, he busies himself starting from the bottom, as each of the enormous green arms start to tumble from the at-least-fifteen-metre-high beast. Carefully clearing up as he goes, it’s starting to look different already.

I’m not sure what has happened from then on but it isn’t good. The tree clearing continues unabashed but lying here for hour upon hour by myself, listening to the chainsaw gnawing away, occasionally popping up to watch the enormous change manifesting itself, something starts to happen inside my head.

A slide, a definite slide downwards and I’m not expecting it. It’s happening so fast it feels as if I’m being sucked down into an abyss in the bed while trying to hang onto the bedcovers.

I’ve experienced The Black Dog before and that has been gradual, after months or years of stress that has been outside my control. This time the slow, downward slither is turning into a full-on nosedive and I’m sinking fast.

Simon works on through lunch, forging ahead with his weekend task.

The tree. It appears to be the tree that has triggered it. I don’t even like the thing so it’s not as if I’m not sorry to see the back of it.

At 18h00 the nurse arrives, just as Simon is starting to pack stuff away. Diving in for a shower before friends arrive for a G&T at 18h30, he’s brimming with fulfilment at his half completed task. I turn into the spectre at the feast and all I feel is utter frustration throughout the evening.

The house renovation. That seems to be grinding away inside in the cogs of my mind. Wearing me down little by little. Ten years on and we don’t even have a proper bathroom yet. Yes, the gite is done and we have both been working up until a few months ago however…tempus fugit and all that.

I‘ll be dead before I get a kitchen.

Our lovely friends leave and I decide to head upstairs early to bed, rather than lounging in self-absorbed brooding silence on the bed downstairs. Same thing, different view I guess.

Yes, there’s progress on the house but it is slow and I don’t want to know about ’temporary’ any longer.

Poor chap is doing his best, being neither a builder, electrician or plumber, but doing a very good job indeed at all three, albeit slow.

I’m now as good as useless so it seems to me presently, as if our French dream is set to dwindle away into the dust.

Morning arrives after a long and again deeply medicated night’s sleep.

I’m so entrenched in the gloom I don’t even want to get up. My appetite is zero so I lie and read for a while.

Finally I slink downstairs. All sadness, misery and face like a slapped arse. Simon offers another hearty weekend breakfast option but I can’t face anything much so struggle with a clementine and the obligatory pills. I instinctively reduce the paracetamol and codeine by 50% and hope this helps with the dreariness in the head.

After a freezing walk up to the end of the drive in a biting northerly wind while trying to pull myself from the mire, I skulk back inside and Simon and I have words. Those sort of words you don’t want to have. Unhappy and troubling words. Poor Simon! I know as I open my mouth that every word is cutting and unfair.

It’s inequitable of me I know, as I plough on, biting the hand that quite literally is feeding me and doing everything else in my life for me at present. But I need to start getting ‘it’ out, although I’m still not quite sure what ‘it’ is, so nothing makes sense.

I’m still struggling to put everything together as to why. All I know is this isn’t the me I know of late and this has never happened to me before literally over the course of a few hours. But here it is and the tree seems to have triggered everything.

I retreat upstairs again to the womb of our bedroom and sniffle with turgid frustration into the pillow.

Frustration at not being able to move properly, at not being able to do anything normal, nor think straight, not able to cook, nor drive the tractor, at being stuck inside on a bed by myself for hour upon hour, at not being able to help with the house renovation, in fact utter frustration at everything to do with my entire life as I see it at this particular time. I’m trying to process things but I can’t readily articulate what’s going on.

Suddenly I see why the tree has kick started this.

Progress in the house is by nature of it being a one-man-band operation, slow. It does advance in fits and starts, but months slide by with other distractions or occurrences coming to the fore, most of them valid, so impetus is lost and achievements feel infrequent.

The tree seems has been such an enormous dominating presence in our lives, yet it’s gone, completely gone in a weekend. Such a huge difference and one definitely for the better.

I simply wish there were things renovation related that could be seen to be so progressive, over so little time. I’m exhausted with both patience and frustration I guess.

So, the tree is no more and as I start to come to terms processing what my brain is telling me through the medication fug, things start to feel a little less bleak. Understanding why I feel like this helps a good deal.

When I have felt like this before, there has always been work to plunge myself into, a house/building site to attempt to tidy, or dogs to give a brisk walk. At present I can do none of those easily if at all, with my only escape being to lie on my side and spew out this blog, and attempt a half hearted dog walk.

Thank you all for reading and keeping me occupied.

Once again venturing out into the blustery chill and up that significant hill that is our drive, I start to feel things lightening yet more. Simon is still beavering away, relentlessly clearing the last of the conifer’s boughs and twigs. An enormous trunk lies on the ground, oozing sticky sap like amber coloured tears.

I need to give Simon a big cuddle. He hasn’t deserved this at all. Thankfully he is receptive and cuddles back.

Slowly, slowly I can sense a definite upward shift in my brain.

Just a bad day, after all.

Upward. Onward.



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I’m Jill, a RHS gold medal winning English professional gardener, garden designer and landscaper living in South West France since 2012. This is a personal account of my gardening life, some of the jolly and occasionally not so jolly japes that ensued while working, that probably caused my subsequent back problems.

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