Not an April fool, either. The first two days of April were glorious, with temperatures well over 20ºC. We made a good start on all those outdoor tasks that hung over us last year because the weather was so bad. Things like cutting the lawns, strimming, opening the pool, dusting off the garden chairs, planting out some shrubs that have been waiting patiently in their pots over the winter, etc. We have nearly two acres and, while much of it is field or woodland, it still takes some maintenance.
Yesterday, we struggled to get the incredibly heavy winter cover off the pool. We almost have heart attacks putting it on each autumn, since it has to be secured with very strong elastic cables that are stretched over iron hooks secured in the paving. Then we almost have heart attacks when we do the process in reverse in the early spring.
Our efforts were rewarded by very clear water and just a bit of green gunk (and a few silently rotting frogs – how do they get in?) at the bottom. There were also half a dozen small green frogs occupying the skimmers. We knew they were there since they had been serenading for several weeks – it’s amazing how these small creatures can make such a row. They had to be scooped out (no easy task) and deposited in the damp greenery in the shade. No doubt they’ll be back in today.
After this, we felt we deserved a treat. Our barbecue on Friday evening was just saucisses-frîtes, so we planned something a little more special last night. We started with new season’s asparagus so fresh that it needed only the lightest of cooking; then came barbecued rare steak with potatoes roasted in olive oil and scattered with thyme and rosemary; salad and goat’s cheese; finally, local Gariguette strawberries, which are so sweet that they need no sugar. All washed down with a bottle of Château de la Rivière 2004 from the cave. Bliss.
The evening was balmy even after the sun had gone down, so we were able to stay out until the light went. We ate at our stone table on the terrace under the hazel tree, near which we have rigged up a rustic barbecue. The table was one of the things that sold us the house, reminding us of the famous stone table in Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. The Statistics Freak (being of that turn of mind) has calculated that the single slab of stone which forms the table top weighs around 900kg and that it would take 12 men standing shoulder to shoulder around it to lift it. No doubt it had to be installed with a crane. The hazel tree is a boon. It provides a natural parasol so we can sit beneath it even when the temperature is in the high thirties and the sun is beating down unmercifully.
Before you conclude that we eat out every day of the year, let me tell you that this is most unusual. Naturally, the Statistics Freak keeps a record of when we had our first evening barbecue each year. We have never had one as early as this before: the first one is normally in late April.
This reminds me that I am late with the weather report for March this month, owing to the nice weather. Will rectify that shortly.
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