I came downstairs the other morning to find my husband, in beret and scarf, striding back and forth in the garden in front of a tall, thick hedge. This hedge is the height of a house, thick and ivy-choked, and Donn had his head tipped back as he walked, eyes constantly searching the pale pink dawn sky.

The night before, the children were playing soccer at dusk, and Elliot managed to kick both the ball and his shoe into the hedge, where they immediately sank from view. This was amusing to the children, but not so much for the parents. “Guess I’ll just have to stay home tomorrow,” quipped Elliot, but we didn’t agree. Yes he has only one pair of shoes at the moment. The other pair, sandals, were left at our other place of residence. We tried searching the hedge, getting wet and muddy for our efforts, and we tried dragging out a ladder and looking from the terrace, all to no avail. Beyond the hedge, a pack of stray dogs barked wildly.

It was time for the kids to leave for school. Donn went for a walk and found some workers doing construction nearby. They obligingly climbed their ladders and spotted it. Elliot complained about wearing something so squelching wet, but we refused to listen to him and hustled him off to school anyway.

How is it going, you ask, in your current temporary location?

The answer is great. I think this is my favorite place so far. In fact, A & J, if you’re reading this, feel free to extend your vacation another week or two. This is a great house. It’s sprawling and comfortable and in every single room there are books piled haphazardly on flat surfaces, books you want to read, books that call to you and entice you. I’m currently reading about 6 books; I set them down and drift into another room where I pick up another one. Apparently there are upstairs books and downstairs books, which makes it sound very posh and comme il faut. Don’t worry, A, I’m not mixing them up. The downstairs ones can be borrowed, so I’m trying to get through the upstairs ones before we leave.

This plan isn’t working, as a classic way I deal with stress (i.e. moving constantly) is to read mindless books, preferably a nice light murder mystery, and these people have STACKS of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Not to mention I’m improving my mind by reading memoirs and literature and travel and I just started GK Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy.” And today each boy has 2 friends over, yet I’m not stressed at all–I just made cookies and sent them all outside to that lovely, landscaped garden…um maybe I should be worried.

This house has appliances. Elliot was ecstatic to realize that his week of dishes coincided with a week of a dishwasher. And I am especially grateful for the dryer. Usually, I have to plan things out–if I wash my pajama bottoms this morning, they won’t be dry until tomorrow, so what will I wear tonight? Ilsa needs her sweats on Tuesday so I need to wash them by Sunday. Etc. Now, I just toss things in a lovely big American-size washer and dryer without a second thought.

This place also comes with a car. And what a car! It’s fantastic. It’s about 25 years old, old enough to be hopelessly outmoded but not quite an antique, an ancient Renault. It is treated with loving care by its owner. We’ve taken it to the garage twice in the two weeks we’ve had it, and each time it is greeted affectionately by the mechanics.

If I had to describe what riding in this car is like, I would have say “It’s a blue tin can.” You get in and you feel there is very little between yourself and the large bus that is not slowing down at all as your car splutters and half dies and inches its way up the hill. And you are right. This is not a car that comes with airbags, padding in the door, or even a normal gearshift.

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I think, however, that it makes a perfect surf-mobile.

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This is an attempt to show you scale. I’m sorry to not be able to show you a picture of Donn, in beret and scarf, shouting “Contact!” as the engine rumbles loudly to life.  I just happened to have my camera one sunny afternoon when he had finished work and was able to head down to the beach.

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Why yes, he is saying, “Dear, I really do need to go!” How could you tell?

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