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Cycling away from the canal, which I now considered ‘Home’ ,was always carried out with some intrepidation.

I loved the calmness of the water and the colour of the autumn leaves, which I crunched over more frequently as the days flowed by.

The stunningly Beautiful bridges with their mellow hues particularly caught my attention and often, rounding a bend in the canal, I would have to stop just to contemplate their beauty, take a photo or even sit and sketch them.DSCF4890.

(one of the many beautiful stone bridges I encountered enroute )

But cycle away from the canal I must ,up to Montelieu and then further afield, way out of my comfort zone of Mediative cycling.

To an Old Cistercian Abbey in the hills,

Now Le Monsieur of the abbey had a penchant for Pumpkins.DSCF4693DSCF4691

A fascination for the oddness of their shape,

They were everywhere! Painted ,sculpted, engraved ,carved into bowls,even jugs

My first morning at breakfast there were at least four different types of pumpkin jam.

some were made with rosewater, some with Cointreau, the ever present fruit flies were drunk with ecstasy.

we had to keep pushing them off our bread.

‘Ahhhh ! but you must try this’

Le Monsieur’s face loomed near mine, pushing a teaspoon of sweet syrup against my mouth .

‘you like it? 2009 was a good year for pumpkins’

‘Mmmm’ I said, widening my eye’s for effect.

‘And ziz?’ He persisted, dipping the spoon into another pot.

‘This turned out too sweet so I added some ginger, what do you think? different n’est pas?’

‘Qui, qui’ I murmured, savouring the hot sweetness, tres different.

He smiled,

‘And today’ He announced ‘you must paint’

‘No more gallivanting on that velo jaune, that yellow bike. Non you must stay in the garden and paint pumkins .

‘come! I will show you the best place’

I followed him out into the coolness of the morning. Our sandals made a flapping sound on the ancient flags of the cloister floors.

We headed up some steps and across the grass to the Grecian tower.

A few birds were up as early as us singing blithely in the nearby magnolia tree but otherwise all was still.

At the base of the tower was an open courtyard screened from the abbey by giant bamboo’s.

An ornate pond glistened in the morning sun.

I could see the shapes of goldfish flitting and hiding among the lily leaves.

The soothing sound of water trickling over stones relaxed me.

Placed around the courtyard were two old bedsteads. On the rustier of the two lay many pumpkins of the oddest shapes.DSCF4940

The remaining bedstead was covered in a throw of some exotic fabric and a few silk cushions were strewn casually against the head of the bedstead.

‘You may sit here’ He said, patting one of the cushions. ‘This is your studio, but first, go fetch your materials! vite, vite!’

And so I , usually such a strong independent woman, and certainly not one to be bossed about by a man, found myself scurrying off to do his bidding.

I hurried back across the lawn, past the magnolia tree, past the window filled with pumpkins,abbey du villelongue 005 past the zany sculpture made of willow,abbey du villelongue 004 past the blue wheelbarrow filled with pumpkins,abbey du villelongue 006 down through the cloisters I ran and up the stairs to my room.

The mirror on the landing showed a flushed face of a woman of middle years with the smile of a teenager.

Back in the garden Le Monsieur stood waiting.

He had donned a ‘Monet’ hat, white and wide brimmed ,complete with black ribbon, he looked for all the world, like the great impressionist master.

On a low table sat an elegant Basket with a silver handle and clasps. He undid the clasps and lifted the lid with a flourish.

I peeped in curiously.DSCF4944 A dainty ceramic teapot and two equally delicate bowls nestled in the padded silk interior .

He lifted the teapot and placed it on the able, followed by the two cups, then, with all the ceremony of a geisha, he poured the fragrant green tea.

the steam coiled up and the scent of jasmine wafted into the air.

a soft wind rustled the bamboo and the sunlight flitted and played with the shadows across the spear like leaves.

A few late butterflies danced and dipped among the hibiscus flowers.

The clinking of wind chimes hanging in a nearby peach tree  added a meditative feel and now and again a leaf broke loose and sea sawing  through the air, landed gracefully on the pond surface to be immediately investigated by the goldfish.

Le Monsieur finished his tea. ‘and now’ he announced smiling under the wide brim of his hat, ‘I will leave the artist to work’ .

He walked away ,and turning once by the willow sculpture, he raised his hand in farewell.

I sighed, took a deep breath and reaching for my paint bush I began to paint.

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My bedroom at the abbey was the last window on the left, a serene room where I could escape the madness of pumpkins if necessary.

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