Monday, 23 June 2008

At Last!

I've been in the UK for a week. I left France a dank spring, I've come back to a roaring summer.

At Bergerac airport, we edged our way into a small hut, already full with passengers from an earlier flight, their suitcases being manhandled down a single ramp. We jostled good-naturedly in the heat and those of us still dressed for the UK regretted our heavy jeans and long sleeves. Suddenly all those who had travelled in strappy T-shirts and bare toes looked sensible.

Wheat fields are bleached the colour of light sand. The hay is cut and in circular bales the height of a man. Water canons and the huge wings of sprinklers are set up in the maize.

The petals of the pink roses by the pool are scorched to brown tissue and collect in corners. Red admiral and peacock butterflies settle on the veranda tiles, in pools of sunlight.

Summer is all the more welcome for its late arrival.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Thirteen Moons

Another grey, wet morning. And we're only eight days away from the longest day!

Despairing posts to Total France from those of us in the south ask if there will ever be a summer this year.

We grab the few hours that are sunny and rush out to mow the lawn (Tod) or weed (me). At least with all this water weeding is easy, just tug and they come out with a plop.

We scan the weather forecasts and plan trips for the odd days that promise better weather: Mont-de-Marsan last week and Pau this.

Because there's been so little sun, we treasure it more when it's here and have already bravely ventured into the swimming pool - no point in waiting for a hot day.

Those in the know, nod their heads wisely and say it will be a cool summer, like last year, because there are "thirteen moons in the year".

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Reasons to be Cheerful

Just brought Tod's damp washing in because it's raining again. Wettest spring for years, if not centuries.

So, looking on the bright side ...

- the girly pink roses by the swimming pool are lasting for days

- the herbs I planted while Tod was in England three weeks ago have doubled in size

- at 22 degrees C the swimming pool is warmer than the surrounding air

- I have been in the swimming pool twice since we took the covers off

- I haven't needed to spend hours watering

- we did have a drought in January; we needed the rain and all the reservoirs are now full

- when we do get sun, we really appreciate it: we've had couple of evenings on the veranda and a day out to Mont-de-Marsan with lunch at a pavement cafe

- there was a day when I saw a white and black Swallowtail butterfly

- everywhere is lush and green

Sleep Over

Our architect, stayed over Friday night.

He lives in Bordeaux, about 2 hours drive away. We had builders coming to look at our house on Friday afternoon and more on Saturday morning; so staying over seemed sensible.

It also meant that we got some "quality time" with him on Friday evening to go through the plans. We've been struggling with where to put the fridge in the kitchen. It's a big brute of an American fridge (seemed like a good idea when we bought it) and dominates the space. Fun to watch him drawing on his laptop; lines, arcs and rectangles appear, are pulled in and flicked around the kitchen outlined on his screen. What seemed initially like a problem has led to a creative solution and an improvement to the plans: move the kitchen door over, change the circulation, create a longer work surface and voilà, the fridge fits in better.

His staying over meant I had to tidy the gîte/apartment/thingy where he would be sleeping. We'd used it to dump the stuff that we'd moved out of the loft when we insulated back in the winter and we'd just never got round to sorting it out. As well I did! A mouse had made its nest in one of the beds, which had to be stripped back to the base, with the mattress and the linen going to the local tip. Reminder never to leave unused beds made up!

As I tidied stuff away, cleaned and hoovered, a redstart flew in through the gap round the old hay door half way up the wall to the loft. She circled round clicking anxiously at my presence, but finally calmed down enough to show me that she had a nest behind the boards that cover the ceiling, way above my head.

He assured me Saturday morning that he'd had a good night's sleep, despite the wildlife.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Time for Tea

"The grass is as high as an elephant's eye..."
.....with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein

I've come in for a tea.

I've been working along the bank under the fruit trees clearing the tall (elephant eye high) grasses that have been untouched since spring and are now a sodden mass. The sky's been leaden grey all morning and the wind has had a hint of rain in it - ideal working weather, not too hot and no need for a sun hat.

Some of the "grass" is wild oats and winter wheat that has escaped from Serge's field - tough to cut back with just a pair of shears. I really need a heavy duty strimmer to do the job properly, but they are noisy and smelly. When I use the shears I can still hear the birds singing.

Between cuts I've been eating the cherries from the low branches of our old raggedy cherry tree that I've been bumping my head on as I work. The cherries look so inviting - glowing bright red on the tree - and I always hope the next one will be different, but they are teeth-clenchingly sour.

When the bank is clear I want to plant the tulips that were in pots and have now gone over and are lying in a messy heap. But it's started raining seriously; so I've come in and that's yet another garden job half done!

"Oh what a beautiful morning" from Oklahoma