Making the Most of the Rain

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Sometimes, when it’s bucketing down with rain or just horribly cold and damp, it would be much nicer to stay inside; it would be so easy to batten down the hatches and work in the warmth of the kitchen, never straying too far from the wood-burning stove. But that is not an option when you have dogs. I only have to touch a lead hanging from the door and Bentley and Evie are at my feet, looking at me with that expectancy that says they just know they are going for a walk; by the time we’re in the boot room and I’m reaching for my wellies, there’s a keen sound of excitement at floor level; they don’t care if it’s wet or cold, or howling a gale; they just want to get out there! Our 200 year-old flagstones sigh at the scratching of paws and the wind-banging slam of the door as we go out and brave the elements.

I have walked with a certain spring in my step the past couple of days as the dogs and I leapfrogged puddles and dodged showers. I am extremely grateful for the response to my questions about blogging in my last post and I was naturally happy to hear that you like things as they are. Thank you all so much. As a result I have maybe stopped a little more frequently with my camera, spurred on to share all around me, and I’ve been re-arranging words to better describe what I see and hear. This deep in the country we don’t have any opportunity to have an ‘extravagant’ lifestyle, instead we take extreme pleasure in the most simple things; whether that’s our family life, the animals, the scenery, the fresh produce or just being grateful that we do not sit in traffic for a fifth or more of our waking day. Yes, we’re lucky, and we know it, and we appreciate it; and yes, we know how fortunate we are to live in the online age, where small luxuries can be bought with the click of a mouse too. It’s a magical mixture.

I never tire of the views on our routine dog-walk straight from the house. It takes me just one hundred paces to move from the 21st century and a computer-screen to this old landscape, where an ancient fortress surveys a working landscape it once proudly guarded from the ravages of Barbary pirates and the plundering attacks of British yeomen; where centuries of tears, smiles, births and deaths lie buried deep in the cloying inevitable embrace of the marsh that is the Marais de Brouage.

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Looking across at little hamlets, that have stood for centuries, I stand on a path that pilgrims have trod for 14 centuries, and still do today, as they go southwards to the great cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

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We go past dormant vines, not really enough to be called a vineyard, in fact there are just a hundred or so plants for someone’s private use – some of these ‘house’ wines are very unsubtle, some are little treasures.

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Bentley is always content to wait and take a breather while I take photos, he being of a slightly senior age, but Evie at only seven months old cannot sit still; she’s off, on the scent of a rabbit or some purely imaginary smell. Nose to the ground, she follows a translucent path of scent, weaving right and left, her nose twitching like the billion-pixel imagery tool it truly is. Bentley watches with knowing amusement as she scampers around wasting so much energy. However, our dog-training efforts are finally starting to pay off and she now comes back when called (most of the time!). She races back to the track ahead from where she’s been lost in some adventure, far out in the field or deep in a hedgerow, and darts around in all directions before shooting off ahead again, covering ten times as much ground as the rest of us.

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The weather has thrown everything possible at us this week, we have had freezing temperatures, gale force winds, torrential rain and beautiful sunshine. One morning we woke up to a rare frost and a thin sheet of ice on the puddles and the pool. Gigi and Hetty had a fine five minutes before school playing in our temporarily frozen landscape.

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A couple of days ago I arranged to meet someone I wanted to talk to about three houses she has renovated; this is for a future blogpost next month. The weather could scarcely have been worse. I set off straight after the school-run, the thermometer only just above freezing and the rain battering against the windscreen, wipers on full speed. Heading north-east and away from my usual stomping ground I started to go inland through little villages I didn’t know. On the way home I kept making deviations and stopping to take photos; my return journey taking a good hour longer than it should have done. I passed several small chateaux, the type that look ‘lived in’ by families rather than just being museums open to the public, and I made a mental note of many places I had to return to when I had more time and the school pick-up was not approaching rather too quickly.

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I stopped briefly in St Savinien, a small Gallo-Roman town, on the banks of the Charente; the rain had eased finally, which is just as well as the umbrella I had grabbed in my haste to leave the house on time was in fact broken, a fact I discovered with sigh of resignation as I arrived at the house I was visiting – alas the girls had used it once too often for some Alice in Wonderland adventure in the garden.

I stood staring at near deserted streets I had once seen in a very different season, for we had been here before last summer; then, flowers adorned every window box, boats with tourists silently glided down the river and locals and tourists alike strolled along the ancient streets. Now it was almost unrecognizable but just as photogenic, with the streets and houses slick with watery reflections.

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A little closer to home and after another quick detour I came across this wonderful farmhouse, with a large Vendu sign, clearly marking that it has recently been sold. I thought what a wonderful home it would make, tucked away off the beaten track but not totally isolated, located in a tiny village with a small church and a clutch of similar houses.

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and I also realised that I don’t need perfect sunny days all the time to take photos, as sometimes the light can be magical on grey days, when rain magnifies colours even if it’s cold and bleak.

So whatever the weather where you are today, I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

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42 thoughts on “Making the Most of the Rain

  • Good morning, I am new to your blog, but not to your Facebook posts. For some silly reason, I guess I didn’t know about the blog, but am glad I’ve signed up to get emailed. Your vivid descriptions and pictures make it peaceful reading on this very cold Wisconsin, USA morning. I look forward to the next adventure with you and your family.

    • Hi Jean, yes we have, I should have added hailstorms too! My husband grew up in Ireland so he’s quite used to the weather! Enjoy the rest of the weekend, it’s beautiful and warm and sunny here today! Susan

  • Wonderful photographs! They have made my morning so dreamily beautiful! Thank you….. I so love seeing your area of France through your eyes…
    What kind of doggies are Bentley and Evie? They are so cute!
    Keep blogging, please! All the best from snowy North Carolina!

    • Hi Marg, thank you so much, so happy to have helped with your morning! Bentley and Evie are Jack Russell’s. He is from Australia, she is a local French girl! Stay safe and warm in the snow and enjoy the rest of the weekend. Susan

  • I look at your beautiful pictures and following you with the adventure with the walking of the dogs through the country side. I wish I had a little villa or a cute little cottage in the beautiful photos you show.
    But right now I have to dig out the 15 inches of snow we received yesterday but at least you lifted my spirits.
    Kennedy JFK Airport New York received 30 inches of snow which is about 1 hour 15 minutes from my home in the New Jersey.
    Looking forward for spring…..

    • Hi Sallie, we have just been watching the news and all the stories about the snow, so much of it, the images they showed of central New York were incredible. Stay safe digging and stay warm and I hope you are able to enjoy the rest of the weekend. Susan x

  • Hi there, the sun is shining here too – just! This last week we have also had quite a mixed bunch of weather, temp’s from 15°c down to 4°c and then back up to 16°c! Still loving your blog + photos, please keep going. Take care & have a good week ahead.

    • Hi Petrina, what a strange winter we are having. Today was like spring in the garden, so warm and sunny and I believe it is meant to stay this way all week in the high teens – too bizarre but I am not complaining! Have a great week too, Susan x

  • Hi Susan. Yes, we do need to learn to love the grey rainy days as well as the bright blue sunny ones! Not always easy, but posts like this help to bring home how lucky we all are to live where we do and that we absolutely must make the most of it. Thank you for reminding me!
    Loved your little chaps out for their walk, and can just imagine Evie’s frantic to-ing and fro-ing! She’ll learn!
    Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend. I’ve enjoyed a day mooching round the lovely city of Bath with my daughter Louise. So rare for us to have uninterrupted talk and it’s something we began well before she met her man & had her little boys – an annual day/overnight stay in Bath just the two of us. Such a joy and as you are a mum of girls, I thoroughly recommend you make those plans as your girls grow older! They are golden moments in our lives! Have a great week!

    • Hi Marian,I hope you had a wonderful time in Bath with your daughter, it is such a beautiful city, I have not been there for years. Funny you should mention one on one time, everyone went to the beach with Roddy and the dogs this afternoon except Gigi and I. We stayed at home to tidy up the garden, jobs that should have been done in November rather than now! We had such fun just chatting away, no interruptions. I love all of them equally, I love every moment together, but sometimes it’s fun just to be with only one of them, we talk so much! Have a great week ahead, Susan x

  • Wonderful commentary and pictures. Loved the photo of Bentley clearly matching the prose of looking on in amusement as youth (Evie) has her day. I am guessing both of them had a nice long snooze after their walk.

    Still morning in US, bright and shiny today after the blizzard with just a little too much snow on the ground, but happily we did not lose power and we don’t have to be anywhere anytime soon.

    • Hi Mary, most importantly you are safe and I hope you don’t have too much shoveling to do. We have watched on the news all the images, so much snow! For the time being it will look beautiful with the sun. You are so right, both dogs curl up by the fire and sleep, slowly moving further and further away as they get too hot! Stay warm and have a good week. Susan x

  • A mild day here, but grey and overcast, but like you we got out, cycling the byways of Herefordshire. We did say we would rather be cycling through the vines of Charente than the apple orchards of our home county. Next month hopefully we will be back to the vines. Do keep posting your super photographs, you certainly bring our adopted area to live. Many thanks

    • Hi Jane, it sounds as if you are a frequent visitor to the area? I can imagine why you would love to come back here but Herefordshire is stunning too, I have family there and know it quite well. It was 19C here today and is set to remain like this all week – such bizarre winter weather. Very best wishes Susan

      • Hi Susan, yes we bought a ‘semi restored fortified barn’ in 2002 and we have been renovating ever since! We are nearly finished [ha ha, there will always be something to do] – it has been great fun and a huge learning curve in a fantastic area. We try to get down for a month four times a year. Today [26th] it is pouring with rain here, although mild, so we are hoping for some of your pleasant ear;y spring weather next month. Best wishes Jane

        • You are so right Jane, there is always something to do, I don’t think renovation ever really ends. We have got past the major work, now it’s what I call the fun part, but I always find something else that needs doing! I shall keep my fingers crossed for decent weather for you next month!

  • Susan,
    As always – I enjoyed your post. Seeing that into the idyllic French life some rain must occasionally fall makes the ‘sunshine posts’ all the more real. A little foul weather makes the glorious days better by comparison.
    Apropos your previous post, yes blogging has a future – at least until the next great technological shift. Can you imagine what that might be? Immersive blogging complete with first-person Virtual Reality in which you place your readers on the ground with you? I can already picture you lugging that 3-D, hologram camera through your beloved Marais – admit it, you’d do so!
    Wishing you a drier week, best regards.

    • Hi Jeff, it certainly rains here! But as you say it makes the sunny days so much better, like today, 19C and sunny, unheard of in January and set to stay all week. Oh I admit I’d take that camera down to the Marais, can you imagine what fun that would be, but I am not sure I am quite ready for virtual reality blogging!!! Susan

  • Thinking of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, make sure you have a cloth scallop on your coat just in case the Barbary pirates come inland. 😉
    Will look forward to reading renovation article.

    • Ha I like your thinking! I’ve walked so many various parts of the route, here and much further south near the Spanish border, one day I shall link the whole lot together! Many renovation articles to come, hopefully with the first on Thursday. Susan

  • Hi… Our son Jeff has steered us to this site… he intends to move to your neck of the woods in the (somewhat) near future. A project I heartily endorse. An interesting read to say the least. He has probably tasked you to find him the perfect spot… if he hasn’t he should have. My wife and I live here in the Pacific Northwest in the Columbia River Gorge. Pretty nice here, too. Your eclectic skeptic, Jack Jones

    • Hi Jack, so happy to have you following along and welcome to the blog! So many wonderful places here but as you say, you also live in a beautiful part of the world. Very best wishes Susan

  • I just returned from my walk. Here on Salt spring Island it is sunny and mild…about 10 degrees C. The daffodils are poking up. Because of all the fir trees it smells wonderful and of course the ocean smells. I can see snow capped peaks of Mount Baker in Wash. State. From my home there are many trails to temp…most with an ocean view. Like your selves it is a lifestyle choice. However if we want excitement….Vancouver and Victoria or just a ferry ride away.

    Starting to seriously plan….

    Ali

    • Hi Ali, you could be describing it here today, also sunny, mild, 19C, whoever heard of 19C here in January, the weather is too bizarre! It seems like we both made the right lifestyle choices, we have Rochefort and La Rochelle which more than satisfy my needs for city life! AS I have mentioned before I have so many distant relatives around the Vancouver area and on Vancouver Island, I feel as if I am discovering their area through you! Let me know if you need help with the plans. Susanx

      • Hi Nadia, had to interject here, we are going to be 17C today apparently! Yesterday was 17C also, so warm, Roddy took everyone walking on the beach except Gigi and I who stayed and gardened for hours! Today our first daffodil is officially in flower and I am sure by the end of the week we will have lots – all most bizarre!!!

  • I love seeing the lovely “grey” days photos particularly when we hit 43 here in Australia. Thank you for the “refreshing” posts!

    • Hi Ann-Maree, 43 is just a little too hot for my liking! We are meant to be up to around 18C today which is unheard of for January, the weather is most bizarre this year. Stay cool and have a great week, Susan x

  • Good Morning,
    I must have missed reading a blog somewhere, what are you renovating? Is your gite finished?
    Beautiful photos, especially in the muted sunshine.

    • Hi Nadia, no you haven’t missed anything, or at least nothing of any importance! I am going to feature quite a few people, mostly French but some ex-pats also who have renovated old French houses with before and after photos. Our gite was finished last summer, just doing some minor upgrading now which is the fun part. Have a lovely week in this beautiful weather!

  • Fabulous photos, it has been almost like spring here today, even the bees have been out. Hope you are well. Diane

    • Hi Diane, the same here, 17C! Unheard of in January and our first daffodil is in bloom and I can see we will have lots by the end of the week, it’s all rather odd, but I am not complaining! Let me know if you are ever in this direction, would love to meet up. Susan x

  • I’m of Irish decent with slightly blue tinted skin, so I love the grey days. These pictures remind me of all those lovely Spring/Autumn walks in France with my mother and husband. They make me a little heartsick ☺️.

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