Right up till the end of June, we thought summer wasn’t going to happen this year. But we have been basking in lovely sunshine for the past fortnight. There are a few who are already complaining that it’s too hot but it’s nothing like the canicule (heatwave) of 2003. And most people are saying, ‘C’est interdit de se plaindre de la chaleur’ (it’s forbidden to complain about the heat).
The local market has doubled in size
You can tell summer has arrived when the man who sells snails sets up his stall again. And the one who sells wooden artefacts. And the one who sells olives at eye-watering prices. They take full advantage of the fact that the local population swells several-fold from mid-July to mid-August.
We were late getting to the market at Caylus on Saturday and it was as if a plague of locusts had descended. Not only was it difficult to find anything left that you wanted but you had to jostle to get served. And car parking spaces are like gold dust.
A Parisian friend remarked, ‘We ought to stay in Paris over the summer!’
Not that I’m complaining. The local economy needs the brief two-month shot in the arm that tourism brings.
You can’t move for fêtes and concerts
Every hole in the hedge has its village fête and you are spoilt for choice for concerts, open-air films and marchés gourmands. Notice boards spring up like mushrooms on grass verges, bearing indecipherable posters advertising these events. To avoid the cost of printing, the organisers sometimes daub white paint on a black tarpaulin and stick that up. It’s usually more legible than the printed versions. And if you leave the car unattended for five minutes, your windscreen will have sprouted multi-coloured leaflets.
The swimming pool has come into its own
Before the end of June I swam maybe four times. We were starting to think – as we regularly do – that a pool is an expensive indulgence. But we’ve forgotten all that now as we plunge in several times a day. The best swim is the one we take late at night just before going to bed. Then the water feels like silk on your skin.
The miserable spring and early summer weather did have an advantage. In previous years, we have struggled with green algae growing on the pool liner. This year, because the weather stayed cool for longer, we so far seem to have avoided this summer scourge.
The bikes have come out again
Since many of our activities – choir, restoring the chapel at Teysseroles, etc – are on hold over the summer, we have a bit of time to take up cycling again. We used to cycle regularly and, since you can’t go anywhere around here without encountering steep hills, we were pretty fit. As our commitments steadily increased, so the cycling gradually decreased. We were determined that this year would be different.
In addition to the health advantages, cycling is a good way to see the countryside. It would be intrusive to go into tiny hamlets in the car but it’s fine by bike. People smile, bid you ‘bonjour’ and chide their dogs for chasing you. We’ll never make the Tour de France but we feel better for the exercise.
Barbecues are no longer just a gleam in the eye
As with the swimming, we could count on one hand the number of barbecues we had before July. Eating outside is one of the pleasures of summer in France. You don’t need elaborate fare – just a few sausages or lamb chops, some tomatoes and salad, fruit and a decent bottle of wine.
It would be an understatement to call our barbecue rustic. It’s not one of those in which you can cook a chicken. In fact, it has only one setting – incinerate. But we are very attached to it and it complements our stone table under the umbrella of the hazel tree.
So at least we will have had a summer and something to look back on when we huddle in front of the woodburner next winter.
I’ll leave you with some more shots of the fireworks at our village 14th July celebrations yesterday.
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