By Veronica

Le jardin secret

We love our garden. We don't mind the weeds growing in the gaps of the uneven paving laughingly known as the patio. Or the fact that it's inaccessible by car and you have to push your way through a thicket to find the gate. No electricity or reliable water supply (just a well that often runs dry in high summer). A tatty plastic table and chairs to discourage thieving.

Inside, apart from the vegetable plot, only local plants that can survive without being watered are allowed. That means lots of oleander, palms, yucca, fig trees, an olive tree, a neglected Muscat vine. It's surrounded by tall reeds that are very useful as tomato stakes.

It is completely ignored over the winter and in about April S goes down there with a machete and shears and beats back the invading weeds. In summer we cook on the makeshift barbecue, and lounge there in the evenings with books and glasses of wine, as the song of cicadas gives way to the croaking of frogs in the nearby river. Late night summer parties are illuminated by S's famous and thoroughly exciting Petromax lamp. Every few years it gets flooded, but it doesn't really matter as there's nothing much to wash away.

The garden is also a symbol of neighbourliness. We don't own it. We bought a house with no outdoor space because it was a holiday house. When we moved here, we hoped to rent or buy a garden (there are quite a few jardins potagers dotted among the vines). We asked around, and a couple of our neighbours simply lent us this garden, no strings attached, because they weren't using it.

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