You say patatas – I say potatoes

My seed spuds are on the chitting-tray, but it’s cold and the sprouts are a long way off, and my hands are numb so I’ve come indoors to google.

patate – it can mean an idiot [invective] or a punch,  or a million old French francs, or the graphic representation of Cantor’s Set Theory.

être dans les patates – to be wrong or mistaken [Québécois colloquialism]
avoir la patate – to be in good form [French colloquialism]
en avoir gros sur la patate – to be very upset about something [French, with mayonnaise on top]
faire patate –  to screw up [Québécois]


We’re going to plant these Vitelotes again this year : they are the original Quechua spuds that came over in the 16th. century and while they don’t grow big, they are massively filling and taste like chestnuts : dense and floury at the same time. They stay purple too – unlike those treacherous purple beans . . .

While preparing the lazy-bed for these multi-denominated objects I have passed through all the above stages :- some of the time I’m enraged at the folly of our leaders, and the waste of people’s hard work and savings – then I revert to being in good form, because the work is satisfying and it’s going well. Then I want to wallop someone – a politician, an economist – for their wanton squandering of my efforts and of the future of my children.

And if the graphical representation of Set Theory resembles a potato – then I realise that this is probably the point that the Whizz Kids of econo-mathematics probably got away from the rest of us – and the regulators who likewise couldn’t keep up either.

So – if I don’t want to be une patate, and would much rather avoir la patate – then I’better get on with preparing the potato-bed.


The good thing about planting spuds is that they are ideal for new ground. Little by little the lawn is giving way to the kitchen-garden – and the lazy-bed is the best crop to help break up this much-compacted area. We are unusual in this region of the hot south to have such a thing as a lush green lawn. It has been a welcome area of cool green for the Northerners who come to visit, and who don’t want to toast themselves silly in the bronzing sun. The big old trees have permitted this rare luxury, giving shade and thus requiring less watering.

We face a future where our business will go slowly [or maybe rapidly] downhill, and we will be left with no painters and no mosaic-makers and no yoga groups and no walkers. We will have no need for the lawn. But transitions are not clear-cut. The ArtHoliday business continues, limping from crisis to crisis – and it may be difficult to tell when – if ever – the project that brought us here ten years ago and took so much of our time and all our money, is finished for ever.

So in the meantime we continue, as so many people must be : just continuing – because that’s all we know what to do. We continue and we up-date our site and we look forward to a different future. The lawn may shrink but in its place I am growing things that may have an equal or greater appeal: the garden – I am determined – must remain formal. As long as there are visitors who come to work at their art, who come to contemplate French gardening, who rate our vegetarian cooking, and who might want to see how a family can manage on a reduced diet  – of art and gardening, hard work and friendship.

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