Monday, 24 November 2014

There are times ...

... when the only card to play is that of a batty old English lady who doesn't speak much French.

Lost in the middle of Montauban at lunchtime,  as I turned left at the traffic lights, I realised immediately I was heading towards Auch and I should have gone straight on towards Agen. But not to worry, there on my right was a large lay-by in front of the gendarmerie where I could turn the car round.  As I did so, I heard the sound of shouts and whistles and hooting of horns and found I was facing a row of oncoming cars. Not perhaps the best place to choose to do a U-turn in a one-way street.

This was the moment to play the only card.

I was lectured severely by two young, tough off-duty gendarmes setting off for lunch with their large fierce dogs who obviously thought I should not be driving at all.  Vita, barking loudly in the back, gave me all the encouragement she could, .

French honour and discipline satisfied, we were sent meekly on our way.

Two hours earlier, in the calm of a small white room among farm buildings, at the end of a long grassy track, another elderly lady bent over Vita, her hands working steadily and gently up and down Vita's spine. I'd arrived with my story of Airedale skin problems, slug pellet poisoning, losing weight, an epileptic fit, but my imperfect French was barely heard.  The patient was Vita and it was her body that told its tale.

Fortunately, not all elderly ladies are batty.  Some grow old gracefully and with great wisdom.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Our Glorious Indian Summer has Finally Gone

After two months of warmth, with sun and blue skies most days and only one extraordinary night of rain (flooded basements in town and piles of grey hailstones, like grit, in all the gulleys) the weather has finally broken.

For the last two days the valley has resounded to the noise of tractors in all directions - harrowing, sowing winter wheat and getting in the last of the maize as the rain clouds gathered.  The co-operative shed at the corner of the road where we turn left to go down into town was open late last night, lights blazing, as the great golden pile of kernels was shoveled into shelter by a truck like a snow plough.

These weeks have given us heart and a chance to work seriously on the boat; something for a time that seemed quite beyond our capabilities.  In the certainty of dry warm weather we've been sanding down, cleaning out badly cracked and leaking woodwork, filling holes and gaps and applying wood treatment.  The boat is a long way from being water-proofed (as we will no doubt find after last night's rain) but it feels like we are making progress.

In the meantime, the garden (limp, dusty and gasping for water) is breathing a sigh of relief.  There is more rain forecast, so there's a chance we will be able to plant new young trees down in the field before St Catherine's Day (November 25th). The French believe "A la Sainte Catherine, tout bois prend racine" [up to Saint Catherine's Day all wood takes root].

To get more trees planted - that too will be progress.

autumn tints