Friday, 22 October 2010

Les Manifestations

Students are taking to the city streets. Refineries are blockaded.  Queues form at petrol stations. There's panic buying in the shops. The police move in at night to break up strikes. Friends in the UK wonder if we are stranded at home, running out of food.  There are posts on the forums about whether or not to travel and whether it's possible to get petrol and fierce arguments about whether striking against raising the retirement age to 62 is "right".

Here though, in this rural backwater, we are surrounded by a placid normality. 

Getting anxious from the news reports, I set out to fill up the car just before Tod came back from the UK.  Ah, the joys of the French "lunch hour"!  At 1.30pm I had the petrol station to myself. 

Now, a few days on, it's true there are signs saying "no jerry cans" and we're careful to top up before the tank is half empty.  We are more organised with our journeys into town (or at least a little bit).  As everything is only ten minutes drive away it's all too easy just to pop in, whenever.  But yesterday I set out with a car load for the municipal tip, instructions to check the tyre pressures, an empty gas bottle to change and a list for Leclercs, which was reassuringly empty of customers and full with goods.

On the way back I also took in the small garden centre that does cheap bedding plants in the hope that they might have something for the border I'm making behind the pool house.  They were full to brimming with huge pots of chrysanthemums  - nothing but great mounds of gold, rust, purple, in polytunnel after polytunnel - plants for La Toussaint (November 1st, All Saints Day) when France visits its dead friends and relations. 

They say the petrol will have to be flowing by then.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

This strange, magical world ...

... of the internet.

People I have never met - never will meet - have become important to me through their words and images on a virtual page.

I smile when they are happy, cry when they are in pain and worry when they do not write.

Through these days I carry in my heart and in my thoughts Wilf, Angus and "the Font".

Wilf the PON discovers France

Friday, 15 October 2010

Thick mist ...

... has lingered all morning.  The house feels cold and damp.

Thermals for Vita's walk.

The fire alight in the lounge.

Home-made vegetable soup for lunch.

Three days ago I saw cranes heading south.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

October on the Beach

Vita and I dropped Tod off at Bordeaux airport yesterday (on his way back to the UK for a week) and headed west.

Look at a map and Bordeaux is near the sea.  To get there though is a long haul through scruffy hinterland.  Endless straight roads are bordered by sandy, scrubby tracks that veer off into the gloom between interminable rows of pine tree trunks.  Tired hoardings advertise "PAINTBALL!" or the nearest collection of holiday "cabanes" that are many, many miles from a beach.

The road is only one lane in each direction and the French predilection for tail-gating means that we travel along in small packed convoys behind a battered Renault driven by an elderly man in a cap or an oil tanker heading for the nearest hypermarket.

But it's worth the journey.  Mile after mile of surf-pounded sand to walk along - almost alone. 

Vita agrees that sand is fun, but still thinks getting wet is very dangerous.



Thursday, 7 October 2010

I thought I'd done ....

...with digging boulders and builders' rubble out of the cottage lawn.  But apparently not.

I've bought grass seed.  We've had a bit of rain.  It's sunny and there's a light breeze. I thought I'll just dig out the weeds, rake it over and then seed before too many leaves come down and smother the new grass.

It's that sinking sensation as the fork goes in no more than a centimetre or two and there's that jarring gritty thud as the prongs hit something solid. But we dug this all over last autumn!  I thought we were rid of all the big stuff, but oh no!

It's the cornflake packet syndrome.  The big bits move up to the top as the small particles drop through the gaps to the bottom.  And that's what's been quietly happening to the lawn all through this year. 

I prod around with the fork, trying to find a gap where it goes in a bit further, heave, watch the tines bend and the ground in front of the fork slowly rise as another flagstone comes to the surface. Behind me the "lawn" is now a muddy mess.

And the weeds!  Tod has been mowing this scruffy patch and I'd hoped that it would gradually grass over, but there's more weed than grass and even the grass is more like weed - tough and coarse.  The mowing has kept it tidy, but the perennial weeds (dandelion, thistle, mallow, fat hen) have thickened and sent down long tap roots, which have easily found a way through the rubble. 

I carry this image of my father - bent over a neat lawn, legs straight, slightly apart (more so after his hip operations) picking up a leaf, digging out a weed.  He said he wasn't a gardener, but a "tidyist".

I could do with a lawn "tidyist" right now.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Air is Full of Dust and Noise

The combine harvester is in the next field.

The wind is blowing hard and hot from the south carrying the dust from the chopped-down maize across the border I'm planting on the bank behind the wall behind the cottage. 

So I'll stay inside until the noise and dust are further away.