Once upon a time, Rocket and I were on holiday in Provence. We had rented what turned out to be a ramshackle farmhouse in the hills above Nice, it’s crowning glory being a stepped garden with a pool terrace hanging on to the edge of a precipice from which there was a stunning view across the landscape.
The house was set in a sort of pine forest, along a track, there were a few other old stone houses dotted around but no immediate neighbours – lovely.
We had the house for a couple of weeks, the tail end of which was to be a first foray in to a French house hunt that lasted for some time, and resulted in our current abode known as The Shack -which is nowhere near Provence.
No1 and No2 joined us for a long weekend in the first week and Karl-Heinz popped across afterward for a few days.
I remember it as a relaxed time, raking around the pretty villages of Alps Maritime and the Var on some days, and on others simply lying under a tree by the pool. A BBQ at night accompanied by the sound of a thousand Cicadas. I also remember it as the holiday on which Rocket proposed to me as you may know if you read the post “Starry Starry Night”.
Back to the tale.
So one evening, (I’m setting the scene), Rocket was barbecuing on the house side of the pool, ‘Potatoes’ (No1’s partner) was entertaining their baby son Sausage somewhere nearby, No2 was skulking around for reasons that are obvious only to our immediate family with the benefit of hindsight and No1 and I were happily ensconced at the little dining table on the far side of the pool immediately adjacent to the sheer hillside. A glass of something chilled in hand and the sun just beginning to drop away to dusk, fabulous…
Wind back to the night before the others arrived …. Our bedroom, in the farmhouse built into the side of the sloping garden…
“Rocket”……”Rocket”…..” “hmphgrhhhhsnuffle” said Rocket….”There’s someone outside”….”ehhhhsnufflewa” “THERE IS SOMEONE OUTSIDE THE WINDOW!”
“OK I’m up” he said flying to his feet – you can take the boy out of his training camp but you can’t take the training…bla bla bla.
He peered through the glass, found a torch and tiptoed toward the kitchen door, I tip toed behind him, keystone cops have nothing on us except…” I don’t like it, let’s call the police, don’t go out – it might be an axe murderer” said Rocket…only joking obviously moi, a complete coward, afraid of the dark as well….
“Don’t be stupid, go back to bed!” No chance of that, I held on to the back of his T shirt, I accept that he may have found that annoying but I felt it was comforting and would help if said axe murderer appeared because we would be bumped off together…I have no confidence in these situations, I am a towny in all senses and was probably crying, can’t remember….
Rocket made a thorough investigation – “it was a deer“he said…. Let’s go back to bed.
“How do you know?” “I saw it” he replied…..that was good enough for me, back to the duvet.
Rocket confessed in the morning that he did, in fact, think that we were under attack and that he hadn’t seen a deer at all, he was trying to pacify me, also, he said that he had been in training for that moment his whole life – he thought “this was it, and he would get the baddies”. Boys are strange….
Stepping out onto the terrace in the morning all the house owner’s carefully potted crimson geraniums had been turned upside down – not eaten or anything just tipped out. “You see”, says Rocket, “it was the deer”…you said there was no deer I continued. Rocket said it was just an animal, “so why haven’t they eaten them I persist”….”they don’t like the taste of geraniums” he says, “they are a bit too perfumed.” Hmmm.
Back to the tale, the terrace and No1.
Sipping our wine, enjoying some lovely tapenade or delicious snacky thing and chatting we suddenly hear from below us a very loud, deep throaty roar… it’s how I imagine a lion sounds when it’s trying to roar quietly…we jumped up and peered over the edge, No1 is asking what the hell was that – I believe it is the beastie from the deep who doesn’t like geraniums. I quickly relay to No1 the story of the other night and she is convinced, it is a beastie and it’s down below….we are laughing quite hard and making pathetic attempts at a sighting. No2’s interest is now peaked as is that of Potatoes, but Rocket stands resolutely beside his barbie telling us we didn’t hear a thing…
No more roaring that night – the girls and boys depart with the mystery unresolved.
Geraniums continue to be turfed from their pots, I spend every morning returning them diligently, Rocket remains resolute.
We trotted off to Grasse, the most amazing place and the centre of the perfume industry, filled shops selling fragrances and soaps in every conceivable plant evoking waft – the air is thick with the scents of Provence, lavender, thyme….
Collecting Karl-Heinz from the station for his stay, we relay the story of the beast on our way back to the house.
Later that night, when we are all very chilled, the boys do some cooking and we enjoy and drink before dinner, when….we hear the roar again…this time, Rocket concedes he heard it and he doesn’t know what it is.
Karl-Heinz and I giggle like girlies…No further news from the beastie though…
Next evening, is a late one for us not by design but sitting around chewing the cud has meant that we’re up later than the previous night….suddenly Thump, Thump, Thump down the hillside at the back of the house, the ground shudders beneath our feet, we jump up – more giggling, we hear the low roar……
In hysterics now, we move swiftly and see the shadow of a large figure coming down the slop at the side of the house, more roaring and some stamping….
It is the biggest pig I’ve ever seen, proudly sporting ‘tusks’ and a mohican wig.
I find myself in the kitchen with the door closed…I find Karl-Heinz beside me. A pause, we look around, where is Rocket?
The door is pushed open a crack, the exterior light shows Rocket standing on the far side of the pool with his camera in hand…..”I’m going to take it’s picture he announces boldly”. Karl-Heinz shouts through the crack in the door “ come in you fool, it’ll gore you, they can be very nasty you know” ….” No it won’t, I’ll just jump in the pool if it comes close” says Rocket. Hysterics follow as we have images of Rocket being trapped in the pool with the punk piggy circling him for the rest of the night…..then me getting a bit sniffly and trying to insist he comes in.
Let’s just say that there is no photo of the pig in a wig, and Rocket did manage to survive the incident by swiftly following us inside when things got sticky. For the rest of the stay the big piggy visited the garden and we realised very latterly that she sometimes had her little ones with her – she was understandably protective of them. We figure she didn’t dislike geraniums but might have been searching for roots, truffles acorns or other treats.
We left Provence with fond memories of those balmy nights on the terrace with the piggy for company.