Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Book Club

Sunlight filters through the trees overhead. In the distance the Lot valley shimmers in the heat. We sit silent, bare brown arms crossed, elbows resting on the table, empty plates and glasses pushed aside. And between courses we listen as he talks of being an author and reads soft voiced from his own words.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Oh Those Summer Nights!

Summer is in full swing.

We meet with friends for a barbeque and with the hot afternoon breeze blowing across the valley, laze in the shade and plan where to go Saturday night.

Our commune is having its big fête. But last year's was disappointing and the mood is to go elsewhere. There's also the tomato festival in Marmande, but that seems too far. So we plump for a rock and roll band in the covered market square at Mas d'Agenais.

The evening starts slowly - empty tables and no-one dancing except for a plump middle-aged French lady in a beige skirt who happily keeps going (on her own) for the whole evening. The English, somewhat self-consciously, begin to shuffle into the space in front of the band and bob up and down for a bit, but as the night progresses it's the French with their elegant ceroc who show us how it should be done.

Sunday we hope to have more of the same in our local village square, but the music is heavy metal - no one's dancing (not even head-bangers) and the disco that follows is French teeny bop. So we watch the fireworks and somewhat reluctantly leave the young ones to the night.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Too Much

Sometimes the house is too big and dirty, the garden too scruffy and weedy.

Today is one of those days.

So I retreat to the small world that is my desk and computer.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Stormy Night

We are dog-sitting Guccio, a large shaggy Italian Spinone while his master does a week's tango workshop in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Guccio does not like storms. So he wedged himself under my desk amongst all the trailing wires when the distant thunder started yesterday evening.

By midnight I decided we should go to bed. In the time it took me to clean my teeth Guccio had settled himself on my pillow. He's big. But I managed to tug him down off the bed. So he went round the other side and climbed up again. We did this a few more times until he finally agreed to lie down at the side of the bed on top of a spare duvet.

Lights out, we doze off for a while until the rain, thunder and lightning start in earnest. He is panting hard and I fetch him some Rescue Remedy. Vita, who has been sleeping by the bathroom on the cool tiles, follows me back to see what's going on.

Guccio, still panting loudly, now decides he'd rather be inside Vita's crate. She pops her head in, decides there is nothing she can do to help and quite unconcerned by all the noise and the flashes settles down to rearrange the duvet. Then the power goes off. We find torches and try to sleep. Guccio by this stage has his head jammed under the bedside table and Vita has curled up alongside him.

He continues to pant and as the storm begins to move away I reassure him that it will soon be over.

We doze and then the next storm arrives. This time the rain is pouring through the gap where the roof over the lounge meets the roof over the bedroom (which used to be the cow shed). Padding about with a torch, I find a couple of the Sainsbury's shopping boxes that we brought with us from the UK (immensely useful for carrying tools) and put towels in the bottom so that the dripping from the beam high above is muffled. Vita stretches out asleep. Guccio pants and I pretend to be brave. Again, I reassure him it will soon be over.

When the third storm arrives I don't think he believes me any more. This time, in the dark, I can hear the water dripping in different places, from the other side of the room. I flash the torch and see rain water seeping through the cracked beam above the window. The window used to be a door on to the veranda and there are steps up from what was the cow shed, now bedroom, floor. I keep my shoes on the steps where the water is now dripping. I'm too tired to get out of bed and move them.

I turn the torch off and realise there is another drip - closer. The water's coming through the ceiling where a big beam crosses the room. The end of the bed is wet. I wonder about getting a pail or something, but don't have the energy to get up.

I finally drift off thinking of Goldie Hawn in the film Overboard, lying on a sofa trying to get to sleep holding buckets to catch the rain coming through the roof.

And I said in my blog last night that a storm would be a welcome relief!

Guccio recovering from last night

Monday, 13 July 2009

Before the Storm

My hair is sticking to my forehead and the back of my neck. It's a relief to get in the car and have the air conditioning going full blast.

I'm heading to town for door mats for the cottage. We're starting the big clean-up and we need to find a way to stop walking in dirt across our new floor tiles.

I pass Monsieur F's parents' bungalow on the ridge and his mother is sitting chatting with a friend, chairs leaning against the shady side, away from the sun.

The sunflowers in the sweeping valley where the two brothers farm have all gone over. Heads are bent against the heat.

Great rolling clouds are building up on the north west horizon and it's a relief when the sun disappears for a short while.

I heard a rumble earlier and thought it might be thunder but it was just one of the grain lorries up on the road behind us heading towards the cooperative yard.

The meteo promises a storm tonight. It will be a welcome relief when it comes.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Muddy Knees and Fresh Bread

Sunday was hot. Very hot. But also overcast and not too sunny to garden. So I spent the morning on my knees inching through a flower bed that I'm creating out of the lawn. Heavy thunder storms a few days ago have left our clay soil workable again and I'm pulling out couch grass and dandelions.

We had an invitation for the afternoon to walk from the town centre along the Garonne to an old village bread oven. We gathered - people and dogs - sun hats, shorts, water bottles, cover-up shirts ready for our stroll when Judy asked me what was wrong with my mud-caked gardener's knees. You can tell she's a mother of boys. She gave me a wet wipe so I could clean up before we started.

We gossiped and ambled through woodland with glimpses of the river, past old farms with chicken scratching at the roadside and between hot, airless fields of maize. We sat in the bake-house and listened to Gascogne songs and waited for the fresh crusty bread to emerge.

Later, we ate the bread with our supper and it smelt of wood smoke.