Sunday, 10 February 2008


I have been unwrapping the house from its winter gloom.

The glorious, unseasonal warmth is promised to continue for the rest of the week. So, although it may get colder again, I'm hoping that the cold will not get a grip and that we really can begin, like the plants, to unfurl for spring.

Because our elderly house is full of draughts, at the beginning of winter I sealed up the worst windows with large plastic sheets stapled to the frames. Some days you could see the plastic billowing from the gusts of wind coming through the cracks. It certainly helped keep us warmer, but oh it is wonderful to take the plastic down and throw open the windows and let in the sun and fresh air!

Last night we took our courage in our hands and went to our first commune fête as participants - €15 each for "poule au pot". Held in one of the two salle des fêtes in the village - all 60s concrete and high ceilings, with a wooden stage at one end - we were faced with long trestle tables laid out for supper and small groups of our neighbours standing around chatting to each other.

We knew no-one. Help! But to my amazement I have discovered that there is this slightly crazy woman inside of me who thinks she can speak French and who found herself chatting to four warm, smiling women, much amused by her efforts. And we all got by! Somehow, with the use of a dictionary, hand signals and considerable guessing on their part we had a conversation and I learnt about where they lived, their children and their husbands. Two are sisters-in-law. Their husbands - brothers - farm the same land: a large modern complex in wonderful folds of green fields that lie further along the ridge behind us. I have spent hours trying to capture their swooping landscape with my camera: sunflowers bathed in sun and shade last summer and now misty and mysterious.

And the warmth of the evening continued. Somewhat at a loss where to sit, in this roomful of people who knew each other, we coyly asked if we could join a group of six, who cheerfully brought us into their conversation. And to our amazement, we found we were next to a woman in her 60's who was born in our house!

She promised to visit. I hope she will come and tell us more about this old house and land that is now ours.

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