Monday, May 24, 2010


I come to you fitter than I have been for a long time. As an antidote to sitting poring over drafts and drafts of my final OU piece - the one that is used instead of the exam that most other courses insist on - I have been Sorting Out The Garden. My back - initially quite achy - is now quite a bit stronger and I have developed a love of actually being quite physical. I think my new mp3 player might have something to do with it. If only I hadn't got so carried away with ordering shrubs when we first designed the garden. When we bought the house our garden consisted of a sectioned-off piece of the forest that we back on to. I'm afraid I went a bit overboard and planted too much stuff. Now, some seven years on, a lot of the shrubs are lying on a huge pile in the garden waiting to be taken to the dechettterie. There is still one big border that I've not yet managed to begin sorting out. It is largely in the shade from the silver birches casting their shadows and nothing seems to thrive, except of course for the stinging nettles and dandelions that I hope will be gone soon.

Our bit of France is currently full of holidaymakers - a mix of Brits on the lookout for their dream home in the country and also of the French come to live the simple life - a life of canal walks and forest shade. It really is idyllic here and so why am I sitting indoors on a glorious day like this? I've promised myself that I will not leave this room today until I have the first draft of the commentary that must accompany this ECA, in which I reflect on the course and my writing. Everything I have put so far sounds so cheesy, and cliched comments are totally discouraged. Is there anything original left to say though? Who'd be an examiner?


Lulu LaBonne said...

nothing better than gardening therapy.

Hmmm cheesy commentary - I'm sure you write with great brio (or a great biro)

the fly in the web said...

Gardening therapy is great.

When I was working, I'd just drop a problem, go out into the garden and, very often, a solution would turn up.

Now I'm still working but not being paid gardening still does the trick, whether it's the peace, or the aggro of wrestling with a stubborn root.

Yes, I'd be an examiner...someone might pay me!
Thanks for your comments on mine...I'll take your advice.

Doubt it about cheesy...but if you're picky about your work then that's a good sign.
Good luck.

willow said...

Pulling those weeds is so therapeutic. I always end up getting poison ivy, though.

Scarlet Blue said...

Good luck with the commentary. I've done this course, so I know what you're going through. This is the final hurdle... and such a brilliant feeling when it's finally posted.

Nora Johnson said...

Examiners are in my "10 most detested occupations" category along with politicians, traffic wardens, realtors and, er, the list's actually endless... 'nuff said!

Bonne chance!


Laura [What I Like] said...

Oh "canal walks" has such a romantic ring to're making me quite jealous!

French Fancy said...

Lulu - I love that word 'brio' - maybe, just maybe, there is a little bit of brio in my commentary...which is now done. Yes HOORAH

Hello fly - I don't quite know what has happened to me. This gardening thing has become a bit of an obsession lately.

willow - I use one of those old lady style twizzle weeder sticks - I know it's the easy option but they work so well.

Scarlet - yes, it's such a bloody nuisance that I can't submit it online. I never knew you were an OU-er (but then why should you know, thinks Scarlet - but in a nice way)

Nora - I know someone who is an OU examiner and she told me they take on average four minutes to mark a paper. Doesn't seem very long to me.

Laura - we've got miles and miles of the Nantes-Brest canal where we are. Take your pick. It truly is lovely and peaceful but atm it is full to bursting with cyclists careering along and ringing their bells for all they are worth.

A Super Dilettante said...

Dearest welcome back - the blogsphere without you is so desolate. Having you back in here is like an oasis. I hope you'll take it easy with your gardening. I realised it's a manual job to keep the beautiful and orderly garden alive! Good luck with your commentary! Thinking of you xxx

Anonymous said...

I could have sworn that I read your poem on your blog this morning. I was at work, so couldn't leave a comment. And now the poem has disappeared.

I just wanted to say that your poem blew me away - so mysterious and lovely and dark.

Anonymous said...

My first, and favourite tutor always told us that there were no wrong answers, only bad arguments. Write from your soul, as you always do here. You'll walk it.

Vera said...

Oh wishing you yards and yards of patience with your writing. I can well remember a similar situation when I was an OU student. Ah, happy days! By the way, was drifting about in my mind the other day about doing another course with the OU. Thought about French. But then un-thought the thought because of the amount of other things I am currently engaged with. Like Piggies, and baby Rabbits, and de-weeding at least one acre of the five hectares we have! Ah, the joys of country living! Anyway, all the best to you as you finish off your course.

Sarah said...

Good luck with the final hurdle. Garden therapy is brill so is going out to dinner/lunch, reading something completely different, going for some exercise, seeing one's buddies.

It's all about relaxation I suppose. I'm sure you'll come through shining :)

C. Troubadour said...

Amazing how things grow and spread as much as they do! We've been cautious about planting in our garden because it's so small (trying to make sure nothing we've chosen will overwhelm the bed). But we do look forward to having lots of green things to enjoy eventually.

Good luck with that commentary -- I always found it hard to talk about my writing seriously when I felt it was so full of missteps. But giving myself permission to take it seriously led to some better insights in the commentary. A surprising turn! Hope you're getting through it.

Anonymous said...

I originally read this at work and so could not comment. All the very best - though I am sure you will not need it. I have just got my third TMA back so need to start thinking about 04 now! And careful with the gardening - I have a pain creeping up my right arm; it started with my wrist and is now past my elbow. I think I must have overdone it at some point recently.

Re your comment on mine - given the holidays I have now booked for this year (three, yes, three. Count 'em) there is no chance of me getting to France this year. If you make it to London let me know as I can get there easily. Otherwise I have promised Lenin a trip to Paris next year so perhaps we could meet up then.

Jennysmith said...

Hey FF, aren't cliches the truest words?

Don't talk to me about exams - I'm doing invigilating tomorrow - sob!


e said...

Bonne chance, FF! Your writing is wonderful and I'm sure the desired commentary is cogent...Congratulations for getting done and spiffing up the garden, too. I wish you fitness and health to go with your sense of accomplishment.

Ayak said...

It's interesting to hear that gardening has helped to strengthen your back. I've been a bit worried about damaging mine further with weeding so I've not been doing as much as I should do. Maybe I'll have the confidence to give it a go now.
Glad to hear the course is finally done...good luck for very good result.

Rob-bear said...

Bonjor, FF. Good to have you back.

Bear also spent much time in "garden therapy" today. It rained yesterday; it will rain tomorrow. So I thought I should make the best of one day's sunshine.

Hope your studies go well. And as Moannie quite properly put it, "Write from your soul."

Bon chance!

French Fancy said...

ASD - it is good to feel free enough to spend time on here. Now - as for gardening, well of course in an ideal world I would wander around with my trug over my arm and my sun hat at a jaunty angle with my two gardeners under instructions. If only - eh?

Fi - No, you did not imagine things. I did put my poem up there but then thought people might find another poem to read (and it did have 40 lines) a bit of a chore.

Moannie - thanks for that but as it's creative writing for once my essay does not have to contain a central argument. I might have had less trouble that way :)

Vera - oh yes, it would be such a commitment for you with all your animal husbandry on the go. I've done the basic French course the OU offer - L192, it was okay but very very easy.

Sarah - yes, I think I need to find other forms of relaxation as well. It's just so lovely to either be moving around the garden or sitting relaxing out there listening to music

Hello CT. I went so mad when we first moved here and planned the garden. I sent off for various plants from a couple of online nurseries and now - seven years later - it is just too too much. I've now got a huge pile of things that have just not developed as I'd hoped or over-developed and encroached on neighbouring shrubs. At last I can see space between each specimen

CA - three holidays sounded so wonderful when I first read it on your blog and it looks even better on here. Mr FF will be too busy for us to get time to holiday this year - and some would say my life is pretty much like a holiday all year round. I would love to try and meet up in Paris but it all depends on doggy care I'm afraid.

Jen - oh, you're back with the invigilation again? Try and remember where the pupil is sitting this time, Jen. Anyone who sticks their hand up to request something - make them hold a balloon till you've sorted it. At least it would lighten all their poor nerves

e - oh such kind words my friend. Thank you. I wish you were one of the examiners

Ayak - I'm astonished at how much more flexible it is. I've been using loppers on quite high branches so first lots of stretching is involved, then comes the bending to carry them over to the pile. As for weeding - I've got a kneeling stool which I use for about 20 mins, then I bend over from the waist and then I sort of squat - to try and use all the muscles and not just one group.

I've not read about varying the technique - it just seemed to make sense and I've got to say that it is reducing my flab and toning me up. And it's quite addictive.

Rob - Isn't it lovely being outside. Each night I lie in bed and think about what garden project I will tackle the next day - of course this is to alleviate the pressure of sending in this final marked piece. Diversionary tactics and all that

Selina Kingston said...

Oh lucky you, living in what is clearly a very beatiful part of the world. Good luck with the final stretch of your studies - I'm in such awe that you have been disciplined enough to do this. I don't think I could.
And thank you for your lovely encouraging comments on my blog. I think it will make me put on weight though as every time I see that lovely profile pic, I feel the need to pop into the kitchen to see if there is anything sweet to eat !!!! A French Fancy is quite a favourite of mine as I think your blog is set to be xx

Angie Muresan said...

I hope it goes well for you, and that you get out there and enjoy yourself too.

Reasons said...

Maybe it would be a good idea to go back to the may be hit by inspiration there.

Reasons said...

P.S. so glad you are feeling fitter. Good girl FF!

French Fancy said...

Oh Selina, I've got to say that your blog is quite addictive and I am slowly working my way through it. You are my lunchtime entertainment together with Julie Powell's blog (the blog that got turned into the film Julie and Julia, which I have only just seen)

Angie - I hope to get some entertainment in as well. There are lots of touristy things on the go here - this is the area for lots of Breton street dancing and processions in national costume and it's all very quaint and attractive.

Reasons - I'm now on the final draft (I think) - I bet masterpiece novels are written with less of a hoohah than my 3k words

Lane said...

Glad you've had a good garden workout. I long for the day when I can just do a bit of pottering and pruning in the garden, instead of the hard labour it takes just to keep the jungle from taking over. Can but dream...:-)

Good luck with finishing your commentary. I'm sure it's anything but cheesy:-)

Anonymous said...

I leave the gardening mostly to Bruce. What shrubs have you got?

Owen said...

Sounds like a perfect time to get out and go look for wild rhododendrons and the odd rhinoceros in the woods out there then...

French Fancy said...

Laney - I've still got to do battle with the biggest border - the one full of overgrown shrubs, shrubs in the wrong place that must be moved and hundreds and hundreds of nettles etc. I should be able to simply potter in about a year.

absurdoldbird - Oh, I've got too many to list really. All the usual (is that a cop-out?). Lucky you having Bruce.

Owen - well there's adders in them there woods. Yes, the woods we back on to do have quite a lot of snakes who are now fairly around and I would be too worried to take the dogs with me (and I wouldn't walk in the woods without them)

French Fancy said...

p.s. absurdoldbird - Sorry Val, I didn't realise that was you. Glad you are back in the blogosphere.

(got dozens of shrubs from a catalogue when we first got here, some of them quite unusual and lots of them now included in the big pile of debris to take to the dechett when Mr FF is around)

Delana said...

Gardening clears your mind. Keep saying that to yourself every time you duck outside. And geez FF, get all this stuff done because we miss you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie, that's okay - I should remember to put my name at the end of my comments!! There's a comment to yours waiting for you at my blog, too.

French Fancy said...

Delana - I never used to be a gardening sort of person - just a lazy person who would sit in the shade and eat strawberries. Now I can barely sit still out there, it's all very odd

Val - hello again

Rob-bear said...

I never used to be a gardening sort of person either Julie; what's happened to me?

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Ah, now you have taken on the creative writing and gardening mantel, ma chere, I am taking on the sitting in the shade eating strawberries one!

Perhaps I shall be your donkey! Have a sweet weekend, ma belle FF! xox

French Fancy said...

Rob - me neither, weird innit?

AWONI - I have just tucked my course books into the back of the cupboard and I feel gloriously free. As for strawberries - I polished off a pannet of them yesterday.


marc aurel said...

"shrubs are lying on a huge pile in the garden waiting to be taken to the dechettterie." Aren't we all?!

I Wonder Wye said...

I haven't been physically able to garden for a year now, and not only does the yard look like no one lives here, but I am going through withdrawals...but I just started back on pilates and the therapy pool, and am hopeful things will begin looking up!

French Fancy said...

Mark - and they are still there waiting, you shrub you

IWW - I really hope you will be back out there soon