The French Don’t Do Stripes But Their Bubbly Is Lovely

Bonjour. In a never to be repeated, once in a lunchtime event (it is lunchtime and I am aware of the smell of conft duck coming from the kitchen) I am writing this from my ‘belle chambre dans le gite de paradis” (beautiful room in the cottage of paradise’) somewhere in northern Europe.

Hmm. Bubbles. Yes. Very pretty but not quite what i had in mind.

Yup. You’ve guessed it Sherlock, I’m on my jolly holiday en France. I am here on the advice of my freind and colleague Drew, who was in these parts last year and may well be here again, so I raise a glass to him to say Merci for the recommendation. Fabulous place!

Mind you, this working on holiday lark is a puzzler. Subsequently I don’t know if I have a great deal to say, as the all too tempting tendrils of French cooking scents are invading both my nostrils and my mind, and the thought of a ‘popping’ sound and tiny bubbles bursting under my nose is taking away my ability to think properly but what I will say is this. The countryside around here is lush, the food is fab, the wine flows faster than barbed comments from the pen of Jay Rayner and the French don’t like a stripe on their lawn. Non. Non bande! (No stripe). Drew, in fact, mentioned this in his blog of last year but I think it is worth another peek. The French and stripes are not friends.

I don’t mean fabric stripes, fashion stripes. Oh mon Dieu there are stripy towels, bathrobes, shirts, gowns, trousers, coffee pots, rugs, et al, just no stripes on the lawns. In fact, if you see a stripy lawn in front or back of a house in this part of France you pretty much know it belongs to Angus and Katy Bowles-Wallace from Chichester.

Why is this I wonder? What is it that is so quintessentially British about rolling up and down your lawn and creating a striped effect? If you talk to French people about this, as I have, they just don’t get it. They think it’s a classic piece of British eccentricity…which I might be forced to admit, it is!

But it’s not just stripes. The lawn in general seem to be a fairly British obsession, in Europe anyway (while we are still part of it).  According to journalist, critic and enthusiastic lawn fan, Quentin Letts, writing for the mail online, it is likely that the first lawns were laid down in medieval monasteries, as an aid to meditation and reflection, the verdant growth helping thought and prayer I suppose.

This makes sense to me.  I’m no lawn expert but there is something about wandering through a well-ordered garden trying to gather one’s thoughts that is very peaceful, and I do a lot of my writing gazing at the lawn… often wishing I could be bothered to cut it, but you know what i mean.

All the cottages around here, in South Normandy, seem to be plonked down amongst wildernesses (that’s not easy to say after a couple of glasses of the Bollinger 2007!) These wild gardens are pretty, wildflowers and surprise corners with little seats and hidden herb pots but I can’t help thinking there is something so soothing about a loved and nurtured expanse of striped green.

But not just soothing. It shows a bit of class also I think. And it makes us feel as though we can all own a little bit of Wimbledon or Lords or our favourite football ground or wherever those people with strange trousers play golf.

Mr Letts (he is such a good writer) mentions in his excellent article that lawns also show off wealth. Absolutely they do. The bigger your property, generally, the more

Allett Kensington 20k Cylinder Mower – Not the first but VERY good!

expanse of lawn you have to show off. Lawns were pretty much to territory of the top toffs until the mid/late 19th century, as no cap doffing simple peasant could afford a herd of cows or a day with a scythe to cut the grass and cows in town were very non u.  However, it is no surprise to me that lawns became more widespread after the first proper lawn mower was invented…by an Englishman of course.

Edwin Beard Budding, from Stroud created and patented the first mechanised mower in 1830 and guess what? It had a substantial rear roller.  And what do rollers mean? Stripes of course. So from the beginning of the general public’s lawn obsession stripes have been there or thereabouts.  As it happens, Mr Budding’s invention doesn’t look so very different from the cylinder mowers we have now…well…ish.

Right. Well it is definitely time for confit and bubbles now. I hope your week is as pleasant as mine is so far, and I will catch up with you all when I return. In the meantime “Vive Le Stripe”…as they don’t say in France.  See ya.     Holly.

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