The literary-minded will notice that the title is a quotation from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’, written in 1819 while the poet was staying in Florence. The poem can be interpreted in various ways, the most simplistic reading being simply a commentary on the weather. Spring isn’t officially here yet, but it has been flirting with us: sometimes revealing its radiant glory while at other times coyly hiding its face.
Over the past week, the reawakening process has accelerated. A large patch of vibrant violets suddenly appeared on the lawn. The daffodils are now in overblown bloom. In sheltered spots, plum trees are foaming with white blossom. Blackbirds serenade their mates and defend their territories from the treetops morning and evening, and the small birds are prospecting for nesting sites in our house walls.
According to the SF (my husband, the Statistics Freak to the uninitiated), winter here goes from the beginning of November to the end of February. In some years, it has seemed a jolly sight longer than that. We have now had a run of four relatively mild winters with little or no snow.
Our 87 year-old neighbour says that in his youth the winters were much harder with several episodes of deep snow every year. You can tell that from the style of some of the roofs on the older houses around here. They are steeper-pitched and roofed with fish-scale slates rather than tiles to enable the snow to slide off more easily.
Verdict on winter 2016-17
We assign each day a subjective mark: plus if it’s good; zero if it’s indifferent; and minus if it’s bad. According to this scheme, our 20th winter here has been one of the better ones. Of the 120 days between November and March, we had:
52 pluses (42%). Only our very first winter had more fine days.
37 zeros (31%).
31 minuses (26%). Only two previous winters have had fewer bad days.
Along with fine weather goes less rainfall. During those four months, we had 236.5 mm of rain. We would normally expect 304 mm over the winter. December and January were particularly dry months, with rainfall adding up to only 45.5 mm between them. The average is 153 mm. March, however, has started wet and windy, with a brief respite over the past couple of days.
Fine weather in winter also equals frost (42 frost nights over the period). I don’t mind that. I would far rather wake up to a bright day with several degrees of frost than a gloomy, misty one. The latter have gone on for a week in some previous winters and I am climbing the walls after a few days. We had a cold snap in January with night-time temperatures down to minus 12C. A mere bagatelle. We’ve experienced minus 18C here and our neighbour tells us it got down to minus 27C in 1985.
Something to look forward to…
But now it’s all going in the right direction, despite the odd setback, and the evenings are noticeably drawing out. We await further harbingers of spring; the migratory birds that arrive in a certain order: cuckoos, swallows, hoopoes and nightingales.
Other signs of spring will soon be hitting the market stalls: asparagus and local Gariguettes strawberries, on which we gorge ourselves while they are in season.
So, while we still snuggle by the woodburner in the evening, we can start to dream of balmy twilights at our stone table, sipping a kir to the sound of nightingales.
You might also like:
Copyright © 2017 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved