I’ve been to too many family funerals in the last twelve months: my Grandmother’s in Cornwall, a favourite cousin on my wife’s side in the Camargue and last week, my Mother in Law in Bordeaux. Anne-Marie Dal Bon died in St André Hospital around mid day on 11th November, as we were speeding down the motorway to be with her.
We spent a dreadful ten days in what is undeniably an elegant and prosperous city, dealing with the legal formalities and with family members who flew in from all over the world. To create breathing space during a period of otherwise unrelenting ugliness, we took off to the countryside using our dog as an excuse to escape the unpleasantness and preserve our sanity. As an Auden character says: “Healing is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.”
The Parc Bordelaise is just around the corner from my Mother in Law’s house: 28 hectares of city park designed by master landscaper Eugène Bühler and opened in 1888 by the then President of France, Sadi Carnot. After storms in 1999 brought down more than 700 trees the park, which had suffered from years of neglect, was renovated and replanted and is now hugely popular with the residents of this part of Bordeaux. It is an area populated by well-dressed joggers and stylish ladies; dogs are kept on leads. Our dog failed to understand the rules and twice a day rushed about chasing squirrels and letting off steam. I have posted photographs on this blog of some of the magnificent trees to be found here but this time did not take pictures of the wonderful autumn leaf colour; I regret this but was not in the mood, even though the Liquidambar and Gingko combination near the lake did it’s best to lift a heavy heart.
A trip to a stormy beach also pleased the dog but my favourite was a visit to the newly reopened Parc de Majolan north of Bordeaux at Blanquefort, an amazing creation built between 1870 and 1880 by banker Jean Auguste Piganeau. Practically abandoned, this treasure was purchased by the town and gradually renovated to reveal at least some of its former glory. The park features a lake of 4 hectares and outstanding caves, canyons, fountains and bridges built in the romantic baroque style from iron, limestone and concrete. We have a few features constructed the same way in our garden here in Chabris, also in need of renovation.
Finally returning home, the relief was palpable, in spite of mountain of paperwork and hundreds of junk emails. Chantal is concentrating on her Mothers affairs while I busy myself with the Garden Design Academy. Some interesting offers of international design work have come in while we have been away and of course, there are enquiries to reply to and students’ assignments to read, comment on and mark.
There were also Iris germanica to plant, removed from my Mother in Law’s garden to be grown on here with us and when a neighbour heard we had returned he dashed over with Hibiscus seedlings because we had once admired his plant in flower. We found Ceps in the wood and cheered ourselves with steak, wild mushrooms and a bottle of Bordeaux red. Life goes on……