Today is a rather special day for us. More of that below. It’s been a rather eventful couple of weeks, which explains my erratic blogging record just now. Having taken part in a concert in the hilltop village of Puycelsi in aid of restoring the church, the following day saw the semi-destruction by fire of Notre-Dame de Paris.
A couple of days later our cat, Bella, went missing and didn’t return for 72 hours, when we were starting to give up hope. It’s almost impossible to settle to anything when that happens. Fortunately, she was unscathed, if starving, and has hopefully learned a lesson. In addition, I’ve been getting my latest novel ready for publication and attempting to stop the garden turning into a jungle.
With all this everyday life going on in the background, it’s sometimes easy to forget that we are lucky to live in such a beautiful, and historic, part of the world. We were reminded of this on Easter Monday, when we went for an 8 km walk around our immediate area.
This is a varied walk, which takes in hamlets, fields and woodland and affords some lovely views of the rolling countryside. There’s even a stream to cross by a ford at one point. Owing to the preceding spell of dry weather, we barely got our boots wet.
Sun alternating with rain had turned the countryside green almost overnight. It’s that lovely, fresh, spring green, which is not just one shade but goes through a whole palette of colours. Spikes of orchids pushed up through the grass and the fields were carpeted with buttercups. We were accompanied by cuckoos and nightingales, singing from the thickets, and put up a hare at one point.
We did the same walk again on Wednesday. Before you think we are lacking in imagination, the second time was with our local walking group, and we were leading it. On Monday, we were testing it to ensure no unforeseen hazards had appeared.
Unfortunately, on Wednesday, it was pouring when we started out. Regretfully, we had to abandon the idea of crossing the ford: that stream can become a raging torrent. Things improved from an unpromising start: the sun came out halfway through the walk and the countryside glistened under a blue, rain-washed sky.
What’s special about today? Exactly 22 years ago, we saw our house for the first time. The old stone always looks best in the sunshine and, on that April day in 1997, there was not a cloud to be seen. A cuckoo called from the woodland nearby, and we both felt – even before we admitted it to each other – that we had found our forever home.
Our house has its disadvantages. It’s difficult and expensive to heat in the winter. And, of course, in our ingénue state, we assumed the weather was always warm in southern France, and no one disabused us of this notion. The layout of the house is not perfect: the caves on the bottom floor and the grenier on the top floor were never intended to be living areas.
But, over 22 years, we have become inseparably attached to this place. While there have occasionally been difficult times, we have never regretted our decision to move here. One day, I guess we will become too decrepit to stay, but I hope that day is a long way off.
If you’re interested – and look away now if you don’t like reading about my books – my latest historical novel is set partly in SW France, specifically in Aveyron, the département (county) next to ours. There’s more about it on my writing website.
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