Watch this Space

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            We’re spring-cleaning in Tunis.  There was definitely some work to be done after the revolution and then some warm afternoons and a couple of glorious weekends have driven people outdoors to take up painting, clipping, and sweeping.  It’s cheerful and it has given us the spring in our steps to take on the final design challenge at our house in Carthage.  We’ve renovated the kitchen and bathrooms, changed out light fixtures, and generally upgraded whatever looked pretty worn out, and through all of this interior work, the yard has devolved further and further into just looking like a vacant lot.  It was actually badly over grown and needed massive removal of plants that were rangy or were much too close together.  There was also an outdated, unuseful concrete pad in one corner and some hodge-podge brick and concrete flower bed edgings that made the yard feel old-fashioned and hemmed in.
            But it had to get even worse before it could get better.  We had the unwanted concrete and brick work removed and hauled away two truck loads of debris, spent plants, prunings, and patches of mismatched grass.  There was a cypress stump, near one wall, with about 15 feet of trunk attached, the tree part long ago dead.  We hired a couple of gardeners to help us on a Saturday and the two of them and finally also Allan chopped, and levered, and kicked, and pulled at that trunk for about two hours before they could even get it to give up a pop.  When it finally came down, the density of the wood was astounding.  You could hardly detect rings.
            So we got what we worked to achieve: a blank slate.  The next step is multiple loads of topsoil to fill in the beds and build some berms.  Things are moving along quickly so we went to a nursery on Sunday and picked out plants.  Going to make a purchase at a store here requires some mental preparation.  Usually, we front-load ourselves with a little French vocabulary that can at least help us point and name what we need.  If the transaction will involve asking questions about products or prices, an agreement has to be made between us and the salesperson about whose mother tongue will be used.  “Parlez-vous anglais?” we ask hopefully. 
“Parlez-vous francais?” he shoots right back, looking a little panicked.
“Un peu,” we confess, motioning about an inch with our fingers.
“Je ne parle pas anglais!” he finalizes.
Oh no, he’s not even going to meet us halfway.  We’re going to have to use our French, though the linguicentrist in me does harbor the belief that there’s English deep down inside of everyone if only they would just allow it to come out.   We did very well with the nurseryman, mostly only needing to ask how much something costs, possibly what color the flower would be, and then telling him how many we wanted to buy.  I never bought more than 10 of any one thing so that was easy.   The salesman was thrilled with our purchases, which may have made him salesman of the month.  He congratulated me with several, “Bien choisi, Madam,” compliments which made me feel… flattered.
Now come all of the decisions about beds, paths, and plant placement.  Here’s what we’re working with.    Do you get any inspiration?  Keep watching for the after pictures.   

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