For the past three days we have endured the strongest wind from the south that I think we have ever experienced here. Like the fact that it can be minus 15C in the winter, no one tells you about the south wind, le vent d’autan, that can blow for days on end here.
In Provence they have le mistral; in the Languedoc they have le tramontane. Here, we have le vent d’autan. When it dies down, it invariably rains. When l’autan blows it’s warm, even in the depths of winter, since it comes from the south. It starts deceptively gently and then, all of a sudden, blows with an intensity that almost knocks you off your feet. Around Toulouse, it can blow at speeds exceeding 100 km/h. Apparently, in 1916, it was responsible for overturning the Toulouse-Revel train. Normally, by the time it gets here it has weakened a little.
On Wednesday morning it was still and calm here. We set off for a walk with our walking group at a rendezvous some 20km south of here. There, it was already blowing strongly. And you could see the Pyrénées clearly in the distance – that is usually a sign of rain within a few days.
The wind intensified during the day. On Thursday and Friday it had attained gale force strength. Despite our precautions, the gusts knocked over and broke three plant pots. One was a terracotta trough on the parapet of our covered balcony, which faces due south. I have never known the wind to knock one of those down – I left it because I thought it was safe. Our plastic watering cans rolled off down the garden. Part of a stone wall collapsed because the tree holding it up swayed around so much. And the aluminium chairs around the table outside fell over. We didn’t feel it was worth righting them until the wind had died down.
On our way to choir practice on Thursday evening we noticed that a tree down the lane was leaning over the road, supported by a thread on another tree. Over the past couple of days it has sunk lower and we will have to take it down (although it doesn’t belong to us). The lane itself was absolutely covered with leaves and fallen sticks. France Météo issued a severe weather warning for many départements, including ours.
Nonetheless, we’ve been lucky. The lights have flickered several times but the electricity has not gone off – unlike 50,000 other households in Midi-Pyrénées, it seems. We still have our phone lines, unless the aforesaid tree takes them with it when it falls.
Yesterday late afternoon (Friday) the wind dropped progressively but this afternoon it’s got stronger again. I can’t bear strong winds like this, especially when I am lying in bed at night wondering if the chimney is going to topple through the roof on top of me. There have been a few upsides, though:
- Barely a single walnut is left on our trees. The wind brought them all down and, since it’s been dry, they are in very good condition. All we had to do was go out and pick them up.
- Masses of kindling for our fire is there for the picking.
- The wind has blown the leaves into nice tidy piles in the corners of the garden so we will have less work to do when we want to sweep them up.
So it really is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
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