We went away for a few days and, despite blustery winds, sat outside in street cafes and restaurants, drank dark, dark red wine and lifted our grateful faces to the sun. We climbed ancient cobbled streets and narrow stairways in villages clinging to the sides of ravines, explored medieval and renaissance towns and marvelled at how, in only a two-hour car journey, the fertile rolling greenery of the Garonne valley gives way to the steep fissured cliffs and stony scrubland of the Lot.
We were glad we went out of season. We had our pick of hotel rooms and restaurant tables and had dramatic views and interesting alleyways to ourselves.
Vita adapted to hotel and cafe life and the occasional shared titbit with gusto.
We've come back to a garden bursting into leaf, daffodils in bloom, lawns that need cutting, small green tree frogs tuning up for their summer chorus and black redstarts, with their strange call like a baby's rattle, courting from the top of the young walnut tree we transplanted when we started work on the cottage and the pigeonnier.
Cahors on the Lot
The Lot Valley and Saint Cirq Lapopie (one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France)
After the stormy weekend, Monday was a blessing - a blue-skied spring day with a warm wind from the south.
I headed for Agen and Castorama to buy another shower unit, some lighting and to make a final decision on whether I really do want slightly girly pinkish tiles in the wet room. Somewhat to my surprise, I decided the girly tiles would look good and I've bought an oval mirror and slightly frilly lights to continue the theme.
After the stress of shopping a tea and bun seemed appropriate and I was making for Carrefour's excellent cafeteria, when I heard them. No one else seemed to notice above the to-ing and fro-ing of cars in the car park and the general noise and clatter of a busy supermarket. But they were there. I was sure I hadn't imagined that wild sound. I strained to see against the bright sunlight, scanning the horizon. But nothing. Then something made me look straight above my head and there they were - some two hundred cranes - rising on a thermal blending and splitting, weaving in and out, circling higher and higher.
For minutes - tea and bun forgotten - I stood with my head back watching their distant ballet, way above me in the blue sky.
By midnight Saturday the wind had quietened down and I went to bed, thinking it was over, to be jerked awake at 2am by the roar of a thundering express train in the room. Xynthia was going full force. No rain, just the wind.
Bearing in mind we have three large trees outside, heart pounding and stomach churning, I thought I'd be safer downstairs. Tod was awake, but more concerned about his cold and Vita came and said hello but wasn't worried. So feeling like a wimp, I tucked myself on the lounge sofa and watched late-night TV until the worst was over.
We got off lightly: a few tiles off the wood store (again - the same place as last time), the new plastic cupboard with the recycling rubbish strewn half way up the drive and a wheelbarrow and white plastic table (broken) in Monsieur F's field. The broken table is a nuisance - Tod's been using it at his bridge evenings.
We were fortunate. Further north and east there was flooding and some fifty people have died.
In the 1970's I lived in Brazil and I wrote home to my mother in the UK every week. Those letters became the story of my life there. In 2007 I moved to south west France. Not quite sure where "home" is, I have no family left in the UK. If I did, these words would be my letters home, capturing the first impressions of my life here, to share, enjoy and perhaps re-read in years to come.