Thursday, 30 August 2012

Late August on the Beach

Tired of weeding-and-watering and watering-and-weeding, I head due west for the sea, to remind myself why I am living in this part of France, leaving Tod and the dogs content at home.

The joys of the French lunchtime. I arrive soon after mid-day and have my pick of places to put my towel and sun hat.  Only the hardy and the foreigners are still on the beach.

I venture into the cold Atlantic rollers, which one moment drag at my ankles, the next buffet round my thighs; and admire the fearless children pushing out through the waves on their flimsy surfboards.  Not a sea for swimming in, but it is enough to get soaked and breathe the salt-laden air.

A make-shift shelter behind a tumbled-over lifeguard turret means I can dry off and have the joy of reading The Time Traveler's Wife for a while in the shade before wandering along the promenade past restaurant after café after bar in search of a crêpe au fromage and an ice cream from a counter where they have at least thirty flavours including bubble gum and licorice (never dared try either!).

I stroll, take photos and admire the lithe bronzed bodies of those who have been here surfing for the whole of August.

By mid afternoon the beach is steadily filling with beautiful people, surfers, surf boards and large stripy umbrellas.  I breathe in one final lunge-full of sea air and head home.

Lacanau-Océan Lunchtime

Mid afternoon

PS: gardener's sun tan:  dark brown back and shoulders from bending over weeding; pink end of nose and chin that jut out from under sun hat; tide mark just above knees (where shorts end) down to mid calf (where wellington boots start); light brown grubby hands from mostly hiding in gardening gloves.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The swallows ...

... are gathering on our new super-power electricity line.  Not just in ones and twos but dozens, chattering and fluttering.

In the drought, Monsieur F has abandoned watering his maize and taken the lot for silage for his cows.

Further down the valley, the first of the fields of blackened sunflowers has been cleared. Those around us are not far behind.

The camper vans in the supermarket car parks this weekend will be heading north and home.

The pears on our small tree are blush coloured - nearly ready for picking - and the grapes on the old vines along the veranda are more black than green.

Even through these hottest of days there is a feel of the turn of the seasons.

First misty morning

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Yet again . . .

. . . this year high summer seems to arrive out of nowhere.

One minute we are fretting that the weather is not warm enough for our visitors and we worry that we will be chilled sitting out for a leisurely evening meal in a restaurant high on the escarpment overlooking the Lot valley.

The next, we are hiding indoors, shutters pulled to with just a crack to let a glimmer of baking sunlight through.  We wonder whether it was this hot last year? (It probably was.) Did the pool get up to thirty degrees? (It probably did.) And was the lawn this parched and dry? (Almost definitely.)

We stroll up to Laparade night market, leaving it late thinking the crowds would be thinning, but the hot night envelopes us like a blanket and cars are still arriving by the dozen, the tables are still packed and the queues for food still intertwine across the square.  A man in white with a red cap and scarf is singing Basque songs - quite well too. We spot friends in the dark silhouetted against the lights of the band and chat for a while.  But Bertie announces loudly to the world that he can see/smell another dog between the bare legs of the milling throng and we decide it's time to beat a retreat.

We park the car in front of the house and pause before going in, looking upwards at the huge arc of star-filled sky. The Plough hangs low over us - appropriate for this harvesting time of year.

Then, to the north east, across the dust of the Milky Way, I see my first Perseid meteor.  This is a good year to see them - no moon and an inky-black cloudless sky.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

July . . .

. . . came and went as quickly as the sunflowers in Serge's field alongside our chemin rural.

Warm, but not too warm, gardening became an all day activity, not just something squeezed into early mornings and late evenings.  So I weeded and dug and planted and half wrote blogs in my head that I never wrote down:

. . . like the one about the new electricity line that now brings power straight down from the road and not meandering across our neighbour's field, so the lights no longer dim when we turn on a kettle;

. . . and the rampant woodworm in our "only three years old" oak beams that Martyn found when lime washing the cottage, which meant I spent a week dressed like something from a CSI TV series - white hooded gown, pink marigold gloves, mask - while I sprayed every inch of every beam with some noxious substance in a squeezy bottle;

. . . and the hoopoe and the hares and the fluttery baby magpies who took ownership of our drive, so setting off in the car anywhere became like participation in a wildlife programme;

. . . and learning what it means to try and arrange a visa if we invite someone who is not European to stay with us and the "joys" of French bureaucracy and the helpfulness of our local mayor's office;

. . . and the fun of watching a recording of the opening ceremony of the Olympics the day after (which meant we could skip the slow bits and - on everyone's advice - turn off before Paul McCartney. Shame, he was once my favourite Beatle).