Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The barricades are going up ...

... on the road through town, each with a sign saying parking forbidden from Thursday evening to the end of Friday.

A notice on the main road warns the route will be closed on Friday from 11am to 6pm (woe betide anyone who doesn't know what's going on and has a plane or boat to catch).

The verges are being cut, balustrades are being jet-washed, the roads are freshly tarmacked (possibly too freshly, in a recent brief heat wave some of it looked suspiciously gooey), the white lines gleam from their recent repainting.  Every small bridge now has red and white bumpers covering the railing ends facing south. The village beyond ours has suddenly sprouted new plant pots and parking bays through the centre.

And whilst France is being far less extrovert than the UK (who would have believed Yorkshire could be so giddy - yellow sheep and all) nevertheless there is a certain restrained celebratory air emerging.  On the roundabout on the far side of Miramont there are four metal outline figures on bikes sporting T-shirts - one yellow, one green, one spotted, one white.

I've an eye on a nicely shady group of trees by the T-junction at the end of our ridge.  The road sweeps up from the roundabout and quickly disappears over the brow of the hill.  Nothing that will make the cyclists slow even a fraction, but the stretch is enough, hopefully, to give me some long shots of heads down racing towards me, quick close-ups of muscular arms and calves as they fly by and then a fleeting glimpse of lycra-covered bottoms cresting the ridge.

I'll drive as close as I can and then walk the rest, camera, sun hat and rucksack with water bottle, spare batteries and memory cards, a sandwich and if room a collapsible stool .  The "caravan" passes for two hours before the cyclists, so there will be plenty to keep us entertained, but it might be a good idea to have something to sit on for the long wait.

Tod plans to wander down into the village and take up a seat at a table outside the cafe that normally is never open except late on Saturday and Sunday nights for the Portuguese who work the fields.  He may find there is much competition for that seat.

All my best photos are always in my head and not in my camera, but I hope there will be something worth posting here after it's all over.  I must confess to becoming a tad excited about the whole idea.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Flaming June, Chilly Wet July

We warned our friends, and fretted before they came.

June is an untrustworthy month for a holiday. We've had the wood stove in the lounge burning on mid-summer's day before now.  "Bring a sweater and something water-proof", we said.

And the month was glorious. They swam in water the temperature of warm soup. They sun-bathed. We took them on the boat for a leisurely cruise to the nearest restaurant and lunched under the awning, glad of the shade.  In the evening light we leaned back to watch the aerial acrobatics of the swifts high above as we sat in the courtyard of our favourite crêperie. With the heat from the surrounding walls, the just-in-case-sweaters were not needed.

So they left content, their illusions intact that June in South West France is glorious.

July, on the other hand, everyone knows is reliable.  First of July, summer arrives.  At least, that's what the crowd of tourists in the small supermarket in Clairac on Sunday morning were trying to believe - all in their short shorts and gossamer-thin T-shirts.  As I stood in the queue (smugly wearing my heavy winter jeans, long socks underneath) I could see the goose-bumps on the bare thighs of the woman in front.

Tod lit the fire (in July!) to watch the Brazil / Germany match in comfort and then went to bed unable to bear any more after the fourth German goal.

At night, we lie in the dark listening to yet another thunderstorm rolling through and in the day snatch moments between showers when the washing goes on the line.

The garden in July has never looked so green (or so full of weeds).  The roses are still flowering, the veg patch bursting, the fruit trees laden, the water butts full and the watering cans unused.

I make apricot jam, do DIY, tidy my study. We visit Ikea in Bordeaux. The swimming pool cover stays firmly in place, the sun loungers stay folded.

The sunflowers and distant wheat fields glow against the grey-black of the banked up storm clouds overhead.

We're glad our friends chose to ignore our warnings and come in flaming June.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Weeks slipping by ...

... half-written blogs in my head.

None written down.

Every moment spent in the garden.

Shows me where, for now, my passion lies.

Tales to tell, left untold.

Maybe in a few weeks will come back here with renewed enthusiasm, when there is time.

One of the tales left untold: At Anchor - Collioure

Sunday, 13 April 2014

We returned from a smog-laden London to ...

... tree frogs, nightingales, cuckoos and hoopoes all tuning up for the summer.

Amorous black redstarts searching for nesting places - preferably in the house.

Wisteria and lilac in full bloom, pouring forth their perfume at dusk.

A tub of violas and tulips - a few old bulbs found in the shed now bursting with soft frilly whites, pale mauves and deep dark, dark purple (must be Queen of the Night).

Glow-worms on the door step.

Clear moonlit skies with just a wisp of cloud.  Or is it the Milky Way?

Oh, and a gang of wasps setting up home inside the Batmobile!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

We Have Voted!

A friend came for a late lunch and a long chat and time was slipping away.

He finally departed, gone five thirty, and we had no idea when the polling station, (at the Mairie) closed. Was it even worth going?  Well, it was only five minutes drive, so not a hardship if a wasted journey.

The number of cars in the carpark looked promising. And pushing open the swing doors and heading for the inner sanctum of the committee room at the back, we found ourselves in the middle of a crowded jolly party. There were smiles and offers of help all round, as we admitted this was our first time voting and we had no idea what to do.

We handed over our voter's cards and our passports for identification. And were led to the table where "the lists" were and blue envelopes. Our task: to go into the voting booth, choose the list we wanted and place it in the envelope. Only in the case of our commune - there is only ONE list: showing our current mayor and our current councillors. So that is our choice: vote for our current mayor and all his team by placing THE list in the envelope, or leave the envelope empty. As voters in a small commune we have an additional privilege: to strike out anyone on the list whom we don't want.

No wonder there was a party spirit! The vote is a total foregone conclusion.

We duly signed in the register to show we'd voted and the transparent box was snapped open to accept our envelopes.

Mind you, our village takes this all pretty seriously. Monsieur F, our neighbouring farmer and one of our councillors, was saying that there are 530 voters in the commune and about 450 of them will have voted (a higher proportion than in the national elections) by close of play. "Which is when?" I asked. "At six - about a minute from now!" Our lunchtime friend had left just in time.

We slipped away amid many "bonne soirées". The party looked to continue for some time after the voting booths had closed.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Even the mildest of winters here ...

... carry a sting in their tail.

As I walk up the steps to Yvette's front door for our weekly French/English conversation, little piles of hailstones nestle in the corners.

This week, "les giboulées de mars" - the unwelcome, early-March, cold, stinging squalls (much less friendly than April showers) - have arrived. A treacherous time for blossom.

But they are also a sign. As are the first cranes starting to fly north this week. And the tree frogs, beginning to tune up on the far side of the valley.

Spring really is just round the corner.

Thursday, 20 February 2014


Between bouts in the garden (oh the bliss of a mild February, even if it is wet!) I plonk myself in front of the TV to catch up on the Winter Olympics.  But rarely linger for long.  There really is only so much curling a woman can take.

Yesterday, for a change, I found myself watching a young Korean - Yuna Kim - doing wonderful things in a short freestyle programme.  I missed the beginning and much as I enjoyed her fluid movement over the ice and (almost) perfectly executed jumps, there was a part of me, totally distracted, thinking "What IS the music she's skating to?"  It was there, on the tip of my tongue.  I found myself catching fleeting words from it through the evening, but just could not pin it down.

This morning, I've found it. "Send in the Clowns" by Sondheim.  And this for me is the most achingly poignant version.  Not when she first sang it on stage in A Little Night Music, all those years ago.  But as she is now, with all her beautiful age and experience.

And this, Yuna Kim in all her glory ...

Friday, 31 January 2014

Night Walk

The owl lifts noiselessly off the field, his ghostly shape caught at the edge of the torchlight.

Startled, Bertie looks up at me for reassurance and his eyes glow green-gold.  Other eyes, across Monsieur F's land, reflect back the same colour and immediately vanish - a fox or feral cat.

We reach the brow of the hill and walk down the slope towards the small bridge crossing the stream.  Our cottage comes into view on the left. A grey outline with two small diamonds of light shining out from high in the end wall. No doubt Tod is still at his computer.

Vita and Bertie hunt ecstatically along the pitch black ditches. The wet grass sparkles with rain drops lit by the torch as we pass. The sky shimmers with stars.  Orion's Belt to the south and west. The Plough to the north and east. The only two constellations I recognise. A plane's lights wink overhead - too high for the engine noise to carry.

Heavy rain clouds lie along the western horizon, deep grey billows touched with orange from the light spill of a distant town.

We turn down onto Monsieur F's left-hand field , slipping and slithering through the mud, and follow the stream, swollen with all the rain, gurgling and splashing in the dark.

Sloshing across the gully that borders Philippe's farmland, we head back for the final trek up our meadow to the cottage. To warmth. And dry towels for wet muddy paws. And bed.