There’s a time and a place for everything and right now it feels so right just to be out in the open, in the country, enjoying nothing but good clean fresh air and good clean fun. Where little changes except for the seasons and there are no decorations except for natures own way of trimming the trees and embellishing the landscape.
Black Friday fever has struck the world, the US tradition has reached our shores, although I doubt Rochefort went too crazy and if you mentioned it to any local in our village they wouldn’t have a clue what you were talking about. Just across the Channel in the UK there were people queuing overnight to grab a bargain in many of the large cities including London, Edinburgh and Manchester. I read that in Singapore the lines started at 11am the day before for those intent on nabbing a windfall on Orchard Road, Asia’s most famous shopping street. I’ve shopped there once and remember the streets being a little humid, to say the least!
But the feeding frenzy, like most things, has it’s counterpart, Green Friday, and this derivation is slowly making a little headway in France, including protests in some cities against the form of mass consumerism that Black Friday represents.
Whatever you did, whether you shopped till you dropped or just stayed well clear, there is thankfully now the tiniest lull before the OTHER festivities begin in earnest. And for me this is a wonderful time to just enjoy this colourful season for what it is, a beautiful turning point when the leaves are losing their grip on life and burn bright with the angst of their departure from this world. While the green cathedral spaces of summer foliage are a wonderful cool tonic during the heat of July and August, I have always found the melancholic russet tones of autumn a cathartic background for family thoughts – it’s almost as though I start to think of Christmas and a new year with my favourite people in mind; not just my children and Roddy, but also others who are no longer with us. I suspect the notion of everything about me fading and disappearing is a natural way to remember those who are no longer with us.
I may not have put this quite how I wanted, but in essence autumn always reminds me of the good things about my favourite people; thoughts that are tinged with a slight tear of sadness, which I think is what provides the catharsis, for I believe that grief is good for the soul in small doses. It drives away sentimentality and often leaves behind a fresh space one can fill with positivity. Does that make sense?
On a long country walk in autumn, I find myself often starting a conversation with someone, “Do you remember…..”
The largest gathering of people we saw yesterday were the regular faces at the boulangerie, a crowd of sage bread-buyers who discuss the weather with the same intentness the English do, but who also always feel qualified to comment on the patisseries as though they have made them themselves. The French truly are a race of food-lovers, and I refer not to the Michelin starred restaurants, but to the ordinary household that makes wonderful food out of basic ingredients adapted to traditional recipes – where perhaps a marmite containing a soup of faves beans, peas, onion, a ham hock and perhaps a little carrot, may simmer long enough through a half closed window that a passerby may stop for a second and sniff the air in appreciation, and then nod approvingly before rushing across the road for their baguette. It is a country where one can learn how to cook something in a quite surprisingly different way from the very person who sells it to you; it’s a country where an innocent question across a market stall may end with a dozen people offering advice.
Our afternoon saw us out above the marais, surrounded by silent still water
and trees ablaze with colour, fields green with the tender young growth of winter wheat and vines reduced to naked skeletons.
I imagine we were surrounded by unseen creatures, with hundreds of pairs of hidden eyes observing us from the undergrowth. Thankfully though, the only soul we saw was a lone hunter who stopped to ask if we had seen his dogs, a rather forlorn look on his face appeared when we said we had heard nothing, and his little white Renault van disappeared up the track with a clatter of stones and a scattering of mud about our boots, leaving us alone again in echoing tones of rusting leaves and sunlight.
The weather has turned chilly; crisp and clear, just how I like it. The meteo, my daily forecasting bible, has snow in store for mid-week. That’s right, SNOW. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the two tiny white symbols that translate to ‘expected white stuff’, and my heart started beating just a little bit faster, I felt like a child entering a candy store. Should I tell the children and build up their hopes, or keep it to myself? Because in reality the chances of actually seeing a snowflake are almost zero, for we never get snow here! I decided to keep quiet, there was no point in getting them all excited for nothing. And having said that, at supper last night I just had to blurt out, “They forecast snow this week!!” loudly enough to bring complete silence for a couple of seconds before delighted faces burst into animated chatter. Now, of course, I know I have jinxed it for sure!
But still, it’s cold enough for me to wear gloves and to make a November walk exhilarating, the type where you return to a warm house and really appreciate the crackling log-fire, where cheeks turn instantly rosy and fingers tingle. All in all, autumn is a wonderful season for many people, a time of remembrance perhaps, a time for preparedness also, but above all a time for a family to gather itself together again and remember what each of us should be for each other.
I hope you have or, depending on where you are, have had, a wonderful Sunday. x