Car Wash, California Style.

My friend Katja is a very stylish girl. When she’s washing her car, she does it with colour coded accessories from the finest origin. Her car duster—I for one, I don’t drive a car, in fact, I don’t even have a driver’s license, didn’t know such a thing exists—is not only made of some fleecy material in the exact same red as her little Nissan, but also from California—I don’t know why, but anything Californian has a lush appeal to me, one automatically thinks of sun tanned boys, bronzed despite any zeitgeisty fear of the sun’s side effects, I’m from the 80s, I remember a time when bronzing was not yet a health hazard, lean, with sun bleached blonde hair, broad shoulders and narrow thighs—or girls, chose a sex according to your orientation—lying on a beach, or better yet, coming out of the water carrying a surfboard, one always should carry a surfboard, it’s so becoming, but I digress, anyway, Katja is the kind of girl who turns car washing into a sensuous undertaking, we both forgot her car’s registered not in Malibu but in Luxembourg and that any ocean is far away from us. I certainly couldn’t come up with a better style to wash a car…

Natural habitat.

I have never spent as much time in the garden as this year, a year, where temperatures started rising above 30 degrees Celsius in early spring, a year, where we had breakfast under the walnut tree before it had any leaves on it. Over my morning coffee, I witnessed every single step of a walnut’s circle of life, right now, I’d say the tree is seven months pregnant, the walnuts in their green peel are getting bigger every day. This year, I had rhododendrons in full bloom to my left when dipping a croissant in my morning coffee, and not the kitchen cupboard. I’ve been admiring the blossoms every single day from dusk till dawn, now I’m trying to ignore their decay when watering them, there are just to many to pick them off, it’s kind of a Sisyphean task, I constantly feel compelled to nonetheless as I’ve never been forced to water the rhododendrons on a daily basis before either, which is even more Sisyphean a task, I must admit. But a gardener’s work is never done, so we’re all kind of Sisyphean people, aren’t we? Yesterday, I restarted my eternal fight against snails by dispersing crushed eggshells, organic as hell a remedy, as they are the remains of our breakfast eggs, the shells are supposed to keep those little bastards from devouring our hostas. Over these last weeks, I’ve grown so accustomed to care for my plants every need, they now have breakfast before me, I started to carry my coffee mug with me when hosing them off with the spray gun in the morning, faking some morning dew. Or I tell them it’s raining. You see, plants believe anything you tell them, Sally Brown is my authority on this one, and many other things too, by the way—you do know Sally Brown, don’t you? She’s Charlie Brown’s sister, but if you don’t know him, I really cannot help you. But do try crushed eggshells.

Le Ritz UK

We had a guest who considers herself international. In fact, she’s got two passports, did her baccalauréat in Paris and over the years, she’s spent more time in California than some Hollywood actors. Much more. As a consequence, she constantly speaks four languages, sometimes all of them together, language barriers obviously are not hers to ever cope with, and so we happily adapted: over tea and under the walnut tree, we played Scrabble in three languages. Strangely enough, the extension of our vocabulary didn’t make it easier at all. So I layed out “Dieu” to get some help from above…

EAT PLANT LOVE

We felt like we needed flowers. Some more hydrangeas for example. Or some lavender. Or maybe both. And so we bought even a tiny olive tree at our local garden centre. And geraniums. And petunias. And hostas. And summer lilac to feed the butterflies. And why not some eucalyptus, too. I guess, you get the point: we went nuts over flowershopping. Planting, however, is hard work in this heat and so we went hungry, too. Luckily, we had enough to eat to recover and some vino verde for a much needed wine spritzer, they’re quite refreshing.

The heat is on.

It’s never been that hot. Never. For the first time ever, we did not find a single place in our garden that would offer some shade for our tea time. We were stranded. Heatstroked. Sunstroked. Roasted. Burnt. All dried out. All in all, we were desperate—until my father discovered a tiny spot under the ivy covered apple tree. Shade! We went nuts and decided to skip tea and prepone happy hour. A bar was improvised. Ice cubes were fetched. Lemonade was made. Shy beginnings, you know. Then gin was poured. Laughter got louder. People started singing. My mother got kissed by my father. It was heaven! And so I come up with one new maxim: summer can be heaven, if shade and drinks can be delivered. Mark my words!

A garden’s quite an asset.

The other night, I was binge-watching The Durrells, I couldn’t help myself, I just had to, I had fallen in love with their place by the sea, their entire living situation in Corfu is totally gorgeous, much more than the family itself, they’re really lovely but also quite odd, truth be told, I wouldn’t have watched the entire first series in a row if it hadn’t been for their garden, as a matter of fact, I’ve started wondering if our garden has the same effect on people, do they only come to visit for the oleanders in bloom, I would get that, I was most attracted by the ones in the Durrell’s garden, they were most beautiful, and do they endure our conversation over tea only for our hydrangeas, just as I was enduring Lawrence Durrell’s obnoxious love for his morning gown only for his family’s olive trees? Is our garden an escape for our friends where our presence is being tolerated just as long as we keep serving drinks, just as I was tolerating all this English eccentricity when escaping to Corfu last night, a place that’s actually Greek, not English? It’s hard to say, I guess. But I better keep the garden in shape, otherwise I’ll end up as a hermit.

An ode to my kitchen.

My favourite room has always been the kitchen, it’s not only the place where you always meet a member of your family and one or two of the cats, always starved to death, of course, but most importantly it’s the place where all the good things are, except for the wine, the wine’s in the wine cellar, but still, there’s the coffee machine and the espresso machine, there’s the toaster and the bread, the marmalade, the cookies, the chocolate, the honey, the apples and bananas, strawberries and artichokes, organic and terrific, the olives, black and green, the pasta, the spices, cinnamon and chillies, basil, rosemary, and paprika, there’s the tea canisters you’ve imported from Paris, all those fancy Mariage Frères and Kusmi boxes, then there’s the fridge, of course, filled with salami and cheese, buffalo mozzarella and Crottin de Chavignol, yoghurt and lemonade, the milk for the coffee and the tea, milk in first, by the way, always, there’s your china, the Spode and the Royal Copenhagen, the inherited cutlery with some dead guy’s initials on them, the oven, the oven that I shamefully haven’t mentioned before, the oven to make some yummy cake in, or a soufflé, or whatever, the hissing sound of lit gas alone is heavenly, it tells you stories of great menus in the offing, or the roistering one when the water for your tea comes to a boil, the minutes you wait for the brew, five minutes to do nothing at all, just counting down the seconds while looking out of the window and listen to some blackbird’s ramblings on… oh, that place we call the kitchen, it would be the same by any other name, of course, but why not call it heaven?