Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Strawberry Fields Forever

Deborah Rey

The house is hidden behind two gigantic rows of pine trees and only very few people even know it’s there.

Yves, the postman—a big black Guadeloupe Papa—he knows where they live and once every week, he brings the mail up to the house instead of putting it in the mailbox.

He comes all the way up, to see how the "Little Lady" is doing. Ebony and ivory sit together, drink a cup of coffee, and gossip about the French.

On the slopes of the land, the DingoDog, a Border Collie, herds a flock of fourteen Cats. He has no baa baa, black sheep of his own and the ones he sees passing by every morning, have their own sheep dog and shepherd.

He hears their cling-clang bells from afar and gets all excited, but they’re not his. Keep off! Oh, well…. That’s why he herds Cats.

Long, long ago, the property used to be a vineyard. It’s well over a hundred-and-fifty years that a certain Monsieur Blanc planted his first vines, and with huge stones and rocks constructed two cabanas: one way up on the slope, the other at the bottom. The one below grew into a house, the one up high remained as was, and in the summer welcomes a few, privileged guests.

The previous owner tore up the vineyard. His excuse? Lack of time to cultivate it. Now, the slopes are covered with grass, but here and there the odd vine survived the man’s mass destruction and even today gives him the ‘bras d’honneur’: one arm bent at the elbow going up, the hand closed, except for that one cheeky finger in the middle. Up yours!

The Little Lady’s better, no, best half mows around the courageous vines, and wild strawberries and orchids that keep them company. True, the terrain does look a bit scrawny and patchy, but who cares? Nobody there to see it and even if they did…. Those old, old vines, the unique orchids, and delicious pinkish-white strawberries are more important, aren’t they? Strawberry fields forever.

It is a land of silence. The sounds of silence sing in the chant of so many different bird species, that they had to buy a bird encyclopaedia to recognize them and their song. The nightingale of Berkeley Square sings on Les Hauts d‘Embarry, there are partridges in the pear tree, and two pairs of vultures are building nests in the crevices of the white cliffs above the property.

Vultures? Yes, vultures. Majestically circling high in the sky, naked-neck-funny-face-Jungle Book ‘So, what shall we do?’ vultures that leave behind perfectly cleaned white carcasses of sheep and other animals, for you to study when you go for a long stroll off the beaten track. Come to think of it, the only place to stroll there is off the beaten track.

Vultures became extinct in the region and a colony was set out not too far from where they live. Twelve vultures. That was fifteen years ago. Today, the colony has split up and is building nests all over the region; even in the crevices of the Cliffs above the house.

Above the cliffs are the Highlands. Home of giants and trolls. You can see them mooning, when the weather is nice and sunny … which is almost always.

Elves and fairies stay closer to the house and make their home underneath, or between the rose bushes, where the Little Lady placed several, imported from the US, nicely decorated toad houses for Timothy Toad the Second. Timothy occupies only one of them and doesn’t seem too keen on shacking up with a lady toad, so the elves and fairies squat the other domes; the ones that are decorated with flowers and butterflies.

Birds are building nests all over, even in the antique amphora that lies in the rose garden the Little Lady’s man promised her before they came to live there. He kept his promise and the amphora was his pièce de résistance. The Cats can’t get to the nest inside the old vase. Oof! That’s a relieve.

The other birds turn their Rock-a-by Baby in the Tree Top nests into soft and colourful nurseries, with the threads of wool they find in just about every tree.

Spring is here, it’s almost full moon and sometimes during the night, the dog starts to bark like mad. The signal that a family of wild boar is crossing the property.

The vet told them wild boar are very intelligent and actually know which piece of land is safe, and which one isn’t. The hunting season is over, but for a French hunter to let a boar cross his land without shooting him, would mean utter frustration for the rest of his life.

It’s strictly forbidden to hunt on their land. No, they did not put up ugly signs, but the hunters know, after having tried it once and not getting away with it. The wild boar know it, too.

When the dog starts to bark in the middle of the night, they both wake up, get out of bed and stand in front of their bedroom window. By The Light of the Silvery Moon they watch the marvellous spectacle of most of their fourteen Cats and a boar family of thirteen sauntering together on the slope. Cats and wild boar get along well, they even like each other. Nobody knows why, but they do.

Oh, look! Look at those tiny piglets! Wow, the family has grown again … that makes eighteen! Let’s hope the Mistral will blow and shake a lot of fruit off the trees. The boar family will clean up for them.

When the boar pass, the Little Lady and her man switch on a few outside lights and sit and watch in Silence, while Jean-Jacques and Jeanne, the House Bats hover in front of the large window looking for moths. Big eyes, big ears, sharp little teeth, almost transparent wings, tiny bodies … gotcha! Gulp! Yum, yum!

The large shutter that rolls in front of one of the bay windows, will not be painted again this year. It wasn’t last year either. During the day, Jean-Jacques and Jeanne sleep behind it and the smell of paint would bother them.

The house is hidden behind high trees, but the Little Lady and her man see The World Spinning Round and On a Clear Day They Can See Forever.

She likes to sit on the terrace and look at the town down below and across the valley. She likes to be The Fool On The Hill and is quite contented that Nobody Wants To Know Her. Well, maybe they do want to know her, but … she prefers being alone with her man and Nature, and Silence.

The house is a house of Silence and the only sounds heard at times, are his music or hers or theirs, and the soft tap-tapping of her fingers on the keyboard of her computer.

The house is a house with the waxed walls of days-gone-by and tiled floors. It’s a house with wooden beams and bouquets of dried lavender, old clocks, antique watches and Eskimo Art, and a huge open fireside, complete with an orange witch’s cauldron.

It always smells of herbs in the house. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Are You Going to Scarborough Fair? No need to, it all grows right there, out in the garden.

The kitchen is very large, of course. It has a long and thick wooden table, Bless the Beasts and the Children, it is perfect to hide beneath.

In the winter, it often becomes a tent, which young Dylan shares with Tiger Lilly and the Dingo-Dog, or with King Arthur and Lancelot and a few Cats.

The house is hidden and far away from the real world outside. It’s a silently happy house and once you’ve been there, it Stays In Your Eyes And In Your Ears. Like Penny Lane.

It’s their Strawberry Fields Forever.


Deborah Rey, born in Amsterdam, has from the time she was a little girl worked in radio, (later) television, publicity and the theatre, as a broadcaster, entertainer, scriptwriter, translator, editor and actress, in the Netherlands, Canada, and the USA. Today, retired, she finally has the time to be a full-time writer and editor for other authors. She is the co-founder and chief Editor of La Fenêtre Magazine.

Deborah Rey is married, has one daughter and one grandson, and lives at the French Atlantic coast with her husband, two dogs, and six cats.

Rachel Sarai's Vineyard, Rey's autobiographical novel will be officially launched in April 2008 by Bluechrome Publishing UK. It relates the author's life as a "baby courier" in the Dutch underground Resistance during World War II.

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© Deborah Rey

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012