Last night I went to my expat friends Donna and Nik’s house, they live near me in France and we became friends after I interviewed Donna for The Good Life France about her dream of self sufficiency in France a while back.
Donna and Nik have a huge garden and often have Work-Awayers staying to help out – mostly in the garden as they’re trying to grow their own vegetables and raise their own livestock. Work-Awayers are people who want a holiday with a difference – they volunteer a few hours work a day in exchange for board and lodging with a family and it’s a chance to really immerse themselves in the culture of a country. (You can read more about Work Away here).
Last year one of Donna’s Work-Awayers was Susan Arbital who hails from Tennessee, US. She’s a glass artist (in fact a fabulous and well-known artist and was Dolly Parton’s in-house glass maker). Donna is an artisan artist and the pair got on really well and Susan’s volunteering work involved her teaching Donna and her husband Nik (an artist), how to make glass art. Through Donna, Susan got to know this website and our Facebook page and last night I went to meet her at Donna’s house.
Susan says she loves this little part of France where I live so much that she has decided to come back every year, catch up with the friends she made here and get to know more about the Nord-Pas de Calais region. Most Americans plump for Paris or Provence but Susan has made a discovery – this part of France is beautifully rich in culture, tradition, history and from here you can travel very easily to Belgium, Holland, Germany and the UK. She’s a gorgeous, warm and witty lady and it was an absolute pleasure to meet her.
Donna and Nik are animal lovers and when I got there the place was heaving with baby animals! Apart from a goat, three pigs and various poultry, their dog Enya had given birth to 6 gorgeous little Jack Russell puppies 5 days before – Nik proudly told me he delivered three of them personally! One of their cats had given birth to three kittens just a couple of weeks ago – after giving birth to a kitten just 3 months before. Their daughter had been given a kitten for her birthday and there were animals everywhere!
If any of you know what a sucker I am for an animal I suspect you might know where this is going!
So, we had a wonderful dinner, fantastic conversation – felt like we’d all known each other for ever. I told Susan I have three dogs, four cats and various geese, ducks, birds and two ducklings in the kitchen at the moment that I’m raising since their Mum had a few problems. Donna fixed her eyes on mine and said innocently ”would you like a kitten?”
The OH caught my eye with his – they were wide open and glaring – this means NO.
“No” I said, “I really can’t cope with any more and it wouldn’t be fair to the OH as I’m away working so much and he has to look after all the animals as well as go to work” (he’s a builder).
“Shame” said Donna “that little black kitten is getting pushed out by the mum because she has younger kittens to care for – we call her Shadow and she’s so sweet and affectionate and really needs love which is hard with so many other animals to care for…” her voice trailed off sadly…
Nevertheless – when the OH gets the glaring eye out I know not to poke it with a stick.
However… the company was so good, the ambience so friendly, the night such fun and several bottles of wine were consumed and at some point in the evening the OH said “If you want the kitten you can have it”.
So my friends… we bought little Shadow home! She is three months old, jet black with green eyes and very cute.
The other cats are not impressed – they are all strays who’ve strayed into my life over the last couple of years. Winston the neurotic old cat made low rumbling noises which usually means he’s afraid – he is actually afraid of just about everything. We found him under a van in Boulogne as a tiny, beaten, covered-in-blood baby. ‘Enry Cooper the prima donna of the house hissed at Shadow; Lou Lou who is very territorial growled at her and Ginger Roger who is deaf as a post hit her over the head with his right paw!
So now we are 12 in the house and only two of us are human!