Thankfully there are many, all year round, all ages, and from anywhere. When we bundled up our household and moved to St Remy au Bois, many predicted that our rich and complex social networks would be damaged beyond repair.In the desperate decade that followed our arrival here, it’s true that only the brave came knocking at the door of our dishevelled house and family.

Then our chaos began to give way to new structures, new contexts, new passions. Cinderella-like, the rickety house revealed itself to be rather more than the sum of all the handsome houses we had moved through in our previous lives, and the farm utility buildings lurching around the yard turned into graceful jam kitchens and, lately,a tea room.all set around an elegant courtyard of perfect proportions.


But the revelation has been that the old contacts have endured and become closer friends through the necessity of staying over rather than an evening shared, while an ever-expanding universe of new friends, both local and far-flung, seem always to be passing through. With them, our horizons expand, new visions open up, fresh ideas are seeded.  Last month, January, the new year was kick- started by two guests, both of them having put their money into their sustainable- energy commitments.

OWEN & DAMSON ONE KATHERINE& JUNE ONEOwen O’Neil, friend of our daughter Tilly. Owen created and manages Evolution Rickshaws, offering scenic and carbon-free transport around the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh.He has a special, joyful bond with the Dog Damson.



Katherine and June Tasker.

Katherine had one of the finest delis in London,The Lemon Monkey, but called it a day when two supermarkets moved in to the road.

Jam had brought us together, and Katherine fell deeply in love with the countryside here. She persuaded her sprightly mother of 90 to come back from Canada and join her in a new adventure: buying a field and commissioning an energy-passive house to put in it. Here they are in our kitchen, but a week back, they moved into their luminous house with a view.