Sunday's beautifully warm and sunny afternoon found me in shorts and T-shirt for the first time this year. And after a wonderfully lazy impromptu lunch outside on the terrace - sausages, spare ribs and salad - I decided it was the right time to organise my vegetable garden.
Armed with a hoe, fork and trowel (well, the beds really aren't that big!) I marched down the lane, whistling loudly and accompanied by my constant shadows - Hamish (dog), Geoff and Tiggy (ginger cats). Misty (the third cat - white, fluffy and really quite peculiar!) has become decidedly independent and hasn't yet wanted to join in on family expeditions. But she will in time, I'm sure of it!
I have four raised beds, each about 1.5 x 3m, surrounded by white stones on a small plot of land just next to my house. They are exactly the right size for growing vegetables - well, they're just the right size for me anyway! I am still considering digging up the adjoining area of grass so that I can expand in to more demanding vegetable growth (potatoes, carrots, onions and parsnips - vegetables that "proper" gardeners seem to grow with pride!) although perhaps I'll just see how I get on with this year's crop.
As I surveyed the job ahead of me, I realised that there was actually quite a lot to do. The beds were filled with greenery... of the wrong sort. Plenty of rain and the recent warm weather had encouraged a mammoth growth spurt of weeds (mauvais herbes - how is it that so many words sound so much nicer in French?). I bent down and dug, pulled and twisted at each and every one of them, removing great handfuls of unwanted growth from every bed. The large prickly beasts, the smaller varieties with long deep roots, and the flatter large-leafed spidery weeds that seem to spread quicker than a heat rash. I wanted to be sure that I removed them all. I wanted my seeds to have the best possible start in life, so that they would yield the best possible crops later on.
I pulled and tugged at them all, happily throwing them over in to the field where they will rot down in to the earth. Once all the weeds were out, the earth needed to be turned over. It needed to be prepared properly for the mass of seeds I had brought down with me to plant. Runner beans, dwarf purple beans, climbing peas, butternut squash, courgettes and a few gourd seeds that were out of date - but you never know!
Still whistling and humming to myself all the while, and chattering away to the animals, I became lost in my own little world, while the unusually constant trickle of cars and walkers went past me in search of the Barque of Licheres. It has just been renovated you see, and the area is now perfect for picnics - so our tiny hamlet is expecting a much heavier footfall this year. Stopping only to nod the occasional "Bonjour messieurs! Bonjour mesdames!" I felt thoroughly alive and completely content - and, more to the point, I RECOGNISED the feelings, and let them grow even more. Now that's new!
Mind you, who couldn't feel peaceful and happy in this place? Warm sunshine, twinkling river and the friendly banter of French passers-by (one winked at me, nodding towards my raised beds while telling his fellow walkers about these four ancient tombs of Licheres being the latest tourist attraction... I love their sense of humour!). It was nothing less than an experience of total contentment and joy, as I prepared the soil. Removing the larger stones, watering the earth, planting all the seeds in straight rows, and patting them down in the sunshine, knowing that very soon the green shoots would start poking up to greet the warmth of the sun. I just love the sense of creating something. Of starting something new. Of nurturing a future.
And then there it was right slap bang in front of me. All of a sudden I realised I was crouched in the very place where all of this started. Back to the home of my little lolla rosa lettuces of last year. I sat back on my heels, took in a deep breath, closed my eyes, and smiled. Because my oh my, how things have changed since then!
Yes, I truly am right back where it all began... in so very many ways! Today I have been making final preparations for the first ever team meeting of The Top Banana Bunch. And it feels absolutely amazing! I have somehow managed to re-capture all the old innocence and positive energy from the original start up all those years ago - every single ounce of it, and so much more as well! For on top of 11 years experience, I now have the most fantastic, inspirational bunch of people right here with me - and I just know we're going to create magic together. Bigger, better, and even more powerful than ever before. I am literally fizzing with the excitement of it all, and the anticipation of the future.
As well as that, I now know for absolute certain that I am loved and supported in so many wonderful ways and on so very many levels. I have never felt happier in my entire life! And now I have also finally realised that I AM worth it. That I AM exceptionally good at what I do, and that I DO deserve success. And this time I'm brimming with confidence and determination, because all of it now is up to me - just me, nobody else. And I now welcome all of these good feelings in to my life - all of them. And, remembering that Top Banana was incredibly successful all those years ago, then how's it going to be this time around? Well... there's simply no limit!
As you know, Thursday (our team day) is also the anniversary of the very day I finally found out the truth about the snake who had been masquerading as my loving husband. Such sweet and beautiful irony, and such a wonderful way to bring closure on the old and breathe new life-force vitality in to the new.
They say true life mimics art? Well in this case I would defy any director to produce a better plot or structure than the masterful labyrinth of experiences that have brought me to this place. I honestly couldn't have planned it better even if I'd had a lifetime to prepare the script! Which, I suppose, I have had in all reality. Perhaps there is no such thing as coincidence. I'm much more inclined these days to believe that we are all part of a major plan. And that every moment of my life has been leading to this point - not through some random journey, but through purpose.
Perhaps now I'm just learning to read the signs and listen to my instincts better...!
So now, preparing for my epic journey across to the UK tomorrow there is another beautiful irony to this whole tale. Like so many other people, my flights have been cancelled due to Iceland's volcano. On Sunday, though, I had still believed that I would be OK, since I was due to fly on Wednesday (tomorrow). This time I decided to take precautions in any case (a marked change in approach and attitude I can tell you!) and I persevered in calling Eurostar. After countless failed attempts, followed by 57 minutes on hold, I finally got through to a very helpful lady called Paula. She said it was fully booked, yet still she searched. And she searched. Until finally she found me one last remaining ticket for tomorrow evening.
I shall arrive in to Kings Cross at 21.12. But I will not be taking the normal route from Paris Gare de Nord. For this time, the only way that Paula could get me across to the UK was by taking the train from Disneyland Paris. You know what? I've ALWAYS wanted to go to Disney. What a wonderful model for the new Top Banana, and what a perfect route to take on my way to the start of my whole new life!
Come on, altogether now: "When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true!"