November 17th 2008
I was in the middle of an important email for work last week when Iain yelled Rosine is here. That’s my lovely Italian neighbour. She said, in heavily Italian accented French, I’m here to show you how to collect olives and with that she marched me off down the garden. I have the best intentions but if it was left to me, they’d shrivel up and die so thank God for Rosine. We have eight trees, one of which has the most amazing ripe black olives on it. She reminds me of the old villagers in that advert for Olivio. She is shorter than me (about five foot) and well into her 70s but wasted no time foraging through the branches and in an hour, between us we collected 8 kilos of olives. Then she set up a makeshift olive table to sort good from bad, weighed them with a set of amazingly archaic scales and finally we left them soaking in a basin of water. She told me ‘beaucoup du sel et un bonbonniere pour demain’ but I don’t even know what a bonbonniere is so I have to knock for her at 3pm so she can take me to the shop in Grasse to buy one. Then she is coming back to help me soak the olives in the right amount of salted water with a bouquet of laurel and rosemary from the garden. She has restored my faith in neighbourly relations, even if it did cost me a much needed magazine commission. She was waiting at her gate for me so she could show me where to buy the bonbonniere and I spent the next hour practising my French as she chattered away. It truly is the best way to learn. She gave me a jar of her own olives harvested from last year...delicious, hope mine are as good. Spent the weekend in Mandelieu, the weather was amazing, me and the girls were in bikinis on the beach, which is bizarre but fab for mid November. My lovely Dutch neighbour Rudolph told me that the Parisien problem may soon be over...she is searching for another apartment as she finds it too noisy. Hang out the flags. Lastly, I had my experiences of ex-pat life published in the Sunday Times yesterday. As a writer I’m used to seeing my name in print and it was a small piece but a huge buzz, as for the first time I’m writing about our personal experiences rather than someone elses.
Thanks for all your comments.