Monday, 20 July 2015


Several years ago my friend Natasha's little cat Molly went missing, she was distraught. Molly was one of of Lucie's kittens - a little black cat with a very loud Miaow. We launched an intensive search, but alas we never found her. The not knowing what had happened to her was very distressing.

Not long after I arrived at La Petite Maison, a young tabby cat appeared one day whose name tag proclaimed her name to be Molly. 

Her markings reminded me of my poor Freddie who died almost five years ago after a long and happy life. 


Molly was a friendly little cat and visited us occasionally before disappearing back to her own home down the road.

As time went on, we did not see  Molly, until as the renovations gathered momentum she reappeared - fully grown and minus her name tag. 

This time she became almost a permanent fixture and we grew used to having her around; checking on the changes as work progressed.

Even my Much-Appreciated Men-Folk fell for her charms. 
William a self professed "Dog Person" declared in a gruff voice, "Nice little cat that!"

It was obvious from early on that Molly had adopted La Petite Maison as her own property. She would be there when we arrived in the mornings and saw us off when we left in the evenings. There was rarely a day went past when she was not around.

We would see her face peeping in at us through the window, 

or open the door to see her relaxing on the step outside the bedroom French windows.

 Any activity at all and Molly liked to be involved when she wasn't having a rest.

She soon established a routine where as soon as we arrived, Molly materialised, slipping past us indoors and finding somewhere to make a bed. The Belfast sink that sat in the corner of the new kitchen extension waiting to be installed and covered with a protective blanket was one of her favourites.

Another desirable sleeping area that she frequently sought but that we did not encourage was in the fibreglass insulation under the eaves. When she was successful, it took a lot of coaxing before she emerged, slightly peeved that she was prevented from staying curled up in her chosen sleeping place.

In the garden, a small indentation in the hedge provided a popular bed for her.

On one occasion Molly’s curiosity and desire to seek out new places to sleep around La Petite Maison led to an unfortunate turn of events for her.  Arriving home after being away for a couple of days, upon opening the front door I heard the sound of a cat crying. At first I thought it was outside, but as I entered the bedroom I heard the noise again. The mews were definitely Molly's and my first impression was that it was coming from the chimney.

The room was empty, so there was nowhere for her to hide. The mewing came again, still from the direction of the chimney breast. A terrible thought that she might be stuck in the chimney occurred to me, but an inspection of the chimney breast revealed that the back plate was closed, so the only access to the chimney was from the roof. Visions of the Fire Brigade dismantling my newly plastered chimney breast as part of a cat rescue mission came to mind. 

The cries came again, but this time they seemed to be in the wall below the window. I checked outside, but there was no Molly and no way in from outside. I stood in the middle of the bedroom and called to her. This time she meowed louder and there could be no mistaking it – she was under my feet below the floor!

I raced outside to where a vent was located below DPC level. The vent gave way as I pulled it and a black hole yawned in the wall leading to the cavity below the floor. I peered in, calling to Molly. 

Moments later two green eyes blinked at me from the darkness beyond and after a seconds hesitation, Molly sprang through the opening and tore down the driveway. 

Later questioning confirmed that Mr Long Suffering had called at the house the day before and seeing the vent loose had replaced it, thereby shutting poor unsuspecting Molly into a dark dungeon overnight.

Nevertheless her traumatic experience did not put her off and the very next day she was back, calm and composed, forgiving us for her inadvertent captivity and as friendly as ever.

Molly had the sweetest nature and she stole our hearts as we fell totally under her spell, stroking and talking to her as she lay in the sunshine in the garden. 

We discovered that she had a liking for cars - if the car boot or door was left open for even a few minutes, Molly would be in, quick as a flash, settling herself onto the drivers seat.

Once when it was raining

she jumped onto the bonnet of my car and I was unable to decide whether it was for the heat of the engine, or to get my attention so that she could come inside.

Apart from us - her devoted slaves bewitched by her charm, there was something else that La Petite Maison had to offer Molly that no doubt had something to do with her habitual presence. 

Enticed by the Nepeta (cat mint) growing in the garden, Molly just had to sniff it, rub against it, nibble it, 

half closing her eyes with pleasure as she got her fix.

One thing that we noticed about Molly was that although she used to drink rainwater from an old container laying in the garden, she never asked for food and showed no interest in sharing our lunches. I had never met Molly's owners, but it was clear that Molly had a good home further down the road where her feeding requirements were excellently met. At the same time every afternoon, Molly would get up from where she was resting, trot down the driveway and disappear down the road. Tea Time!

Last weekend something was wrong at La Petite Maison. There was no Molly!

It was the morning of the 13th of July and there was still no sign of Molly. A rather anxious looking man hesitated at the bottom of the driveway as I was deadheading the roses in the front garden.
“Have you seen my cat?” he asked. “She’s been missing for two days!” 
I knew immediately it must be Molly and I experienced a feeling of dread.
“You are talking about Molly, aren’t you?” I replied. “The little tabby cat?”
“No! Not Molly,” he responded to my surprise, “Evie! She’s called Evie and is twelve years old and a much loved darling cat.” 
A conversation ensued and after he had shown me photographs we confirmed that my “Molly” is actually Evie and the original “Molly” does exist but lives further away and is not my latest friendly feline visitor after all.
This discovery did not solve the problem – Evie, formerly known as Molly, was still missing. Knowing that her owners had also not seen her for two days made it even more concerning and I was starting to feel sick with anxiety.
We both agreed that it was the not knowing that was causing so much worry. I experienced a sense of déjà vu and remembered the other missing “Molly”.
I begged K (Evie’s owner) to let me know as soon as he had any news, and it was with a heavy heart that I resumed my gardening after conducting an extensive search around La Petite Maison – including checking for any loose vents.
Later that afternoon, true to his word K arrived back. He had found Evie but it was not good news….
After calling her name and hunting through neighbouring gardens, he thought he heard a faint cry coming from the scrubland that backed onto the gardens. Climbing fences and beating down brambles, K followed the sound of her cries until he found her – she was alive! Hooray!
But she was barely alive. A terrible injury had been inflicted upon her and her back leg was in a terrible state. The vet diagnosed severe bleeding to the brain as well as the major leg injury. K and Mrs K were faced with the awful choice as to whether to try and save her or to put her to sleep and out of her misery.
The decision did not take long – she was too lovely a cat to allow dying in such a horrible way without making an effort to save her.
What had caused the injury? The vet did not believe her injuries stemmed from contact with a vehicle and was more inclined to suspect a boot clad human being.
I will not say too much about the person who may have inflicted these horrific injuries to poor sweet Evie, but what I will say is that I hope one day they too will have to endure the same degree of pain that they brutally imposed on poor Evie.
As for poor Evie, she has undergone major surgery. Rather than remove her leg, the vet has rebuilt it with metal plates, and has christened her The Bionic Cat. She is in a bad way, but the bleeding on her brain has stopped and with the pampering she is receiving from the veterinary nurses, who have fallen under her spell, it is hoped she will make a good recovery, although her little life will have changed forever. 
She remains in the animal hospital while La Petite Maison and the road it is located on are empty without her presence. 
The vets bills are now £700 and rising by the minute. I am distraught that this lovable little cat should have had to endure such a horrific experience, but I am told that her sweet nature has not changed and she is worth every penny to save. 

Updates on Evie’s recovery will follow shortly.


Saturday, 4 July 2015

Taking Time to Smell the Roses

As work on the garden at La Petite Maison continues, and I swelter in the hot humid weather, I realised that engrossed as I am with all the digging, laying of cobbles to edge the winding path, planning seating areas and helping Mr Long Suffering install the heavy and cumbersome old railway sleepers to create new steps, I am in danger of missing experiencing my favourite time of the year.

So on a sultry muggy evening, after an unpleasant and sticky commute,

(view from car window as I sat - hot and fretting and not going anywhere quickly in the motorway traffic)

instead of racing home to don my gardening clothes, I deviated from my route by a mere fifteen minutes and took a stroll around the local Rose Gardens. The vast gardens with their sweeping grassy slopes and ancient trees are a world away from the stifling city where they reside, even though the motorway, which during rush hour masquerades as a car park, runs along part of the wooded perimeter of the park.

The trees stood stately and majestic, motionless in the sultry air; 

below them at their feet a patchwork of roses. 

The fragrance of roses, freshly cut grass and trees wafted around me, as I took a deep breath, drank in the scent and felt as though I had been holding my breath for months.

I wandered around the rose beds, the familiar roses greeted me like old friends as they flourished in the hot sunshine, 

Comte de Chambord


Louise Odier,

though many were in need of deadheading and a few of the beds were badly neglected. 

William Lobb Moss Rose

The tall William Lobb moss roses were in a terrible state, tangled together, as unsupported they have fallen over, battered by strong winds and heavy showers that preceded this unexpected heatwave.

Some of the roses were stunning;

the bourbon rose Madame Isaac Perier

was superb,  

 heavily perfumed,

 huge rich blooms

softening the colour of the masses of deep crimson flowers

produced by the floriferous rose Albert Colomb.

The gorgeous soft, velvety blooms frame the beautiful old house that once belonged to Lady Dixon, but now regretfully is being allowed to fall into disrepair.

The paler blush pink of Centifolia Rosa Fantin-Latour was more delicate, the scent as exquisite as the beautiful furled petals of the roses.

Constance Spry was outstanding

 - huge blooms like pink waterlilies held upright on strong growth.

This rose is growing outside the front door of La Petite Maison, but although it is healthy and undoubtedly beautiful, it flowers only once in June and so I am tempted to replace it with a smaller flowered climbing rose, that flowers repeatedly.

A long-flowering clematis grow through it to combat this problem, but with so many other gorgeous roses to choose from, I am undecided as to whether the brief monthly beauty of Constance Spry is just a luxurious waste that doesn't compensate for the eleven remaining months without flowering.

David Austin's rose Mortimer Sackler caught my eye. The almost thornless dark stems and foliage is as graceful and attractive as the soft pink roses.  

Crimson / purple Gallica Rose Charles de Mills is a must have on my list of plants for the garden. 

Reine des Violettes is also on my list, but today although the roses were pretty, they were sparse and I was briefly tempted to take it off the list and replace it with Madame Isaac Perier.

But then again, maybe I shall just get both! 

I was not alone - a little bunny appeared from below the bushes, nibbling at the grass in front of me.  

A movement distracted him and he turned and hopped unhurriedly back towards the shelter of the bushes, his little white tail bobbing up and down behind him.

My walk amongst the roses and the statuesque trees did me good, grounding me and reconnecting me again with nature. 

Looking at the roses as part of the landscape was revitalising, and made me realise that with the pressure of taking on so much all the time and trying to get everything "exactly right", I have become weighed down; my mind stuck, fixated on small things, meaning that I have been incapable of standing back and feeling relaxed and free enough to refocus in order to see the big picture!