If you were to say “You always seem to be on holiday, mate,” I could hardly argue otherwise. But Anne is recently retired, as I have been for more than seven years. So why not, so long as funds and good health allow?
So it’s back to La Bréchoire, where nothing much seems to happen yet there is always something to keep you occupied, like watching the show jumping at Auge.
A sparrow’s nest in the eaves; a hedgehog in the front garden; a sparrowhawk chasing an LBJ. Or one could just paint the shutters – but I never seem to get bored enough these days.
And, when possible, a cool swim in a lake or (someone else’s) swimming pool or mill pond. Delicious, even at 10pm.
A dinner with friends and neighbours, French or British; a visit to a local night market to buy and consume local produce en masse!
Yet it isn’t all wonderful
For a start, and crucially, there’s the weather. Do you remember when hot weather was thought to be a good thing? You’d say, “It’s 30C here,” and people would reply, “How lovely, you’re making me jealous” – but it isn’t lovely when it hasn’t rained for seven weeks. For the first 10 days after our arrival on 3 August, it was 35C or higher; on several occasions it reached an intolerable 40C.
Le Metéo on TV is always followed by the 8 o’clock news. The first 15 minutes are now invariably devoted to the huge fires raging up and down the country, and particularly in the Gironde department, which is well over 100 km away – and yet the smoke from them was noticed in Charente. Firefighters have come from as far as Romania to lead a hand.
Back in England we have been spared these megafires but the temperatures in the south have been almost as high. Large parts of Europe – and elsewhere – are in drought. We now understand that this year is unlikely to be a one-off. If this is the shape of things to come, then double-digit inflation is not the worst of our problems.
The world is on fire
I do not usually talk about politics in this blog. But – for the benefit of future readers, if any – there is a Conservative Party leadership election taking place to decide who our PM will be until the next General Election. It is a pitiful sight. One of the candidates (I shall spare her blushes) has made the tired tunes of Tory dog-whistle politics (tax cuts will solve our problems, plus the need to tackle the sinister “wokism” which is threatening British society) the basis of her campaign. One of her supporters is obsessed with bashing the Civil Service. Not a word about climate change, following the hottest day ever recorded in the UK.
Now I hear a rumour that out current PM (who has been served notice to quit Number 10) is about to become a close neighbour. Whatever I’ve done to deserve this, I’m truly sorry.
Who knew a year ago that Ukraine was a major exporter of sunflower oil? The Russian invasion has put a stop to that. It is now rationed in French shops, though France is also a major producer. The fields around La Bréchoire are full of sunflowers, but they are already black and withered. Although the heads are pretty small, harvest has begun. Better to harvest something than nothing.
There are no cobs on any of the maize plants, so that is a write-off. There were no plums or cherries earlier this year. The grapes, though abundant, are still small due to lack of rain. Food prices everywhere are rising and they will carry on rising. Droughts lead to famines. The wealthy will probably be OK, and I put myself in that category.
Now we have moved to a campsite in Languedoc where, perhaps surprisingly, the temperatures are slightly lower.
The area around Béziers is stunning
Finally… last night we had a thunderstorm with proper rain. Spectacular, but probably only adding up to about an inch. But at least it has been a cooler day.