I’m starting to think about visitors and spring and holidaymakers and travel, everywhere we go there are little signs that the tourist season will soon be well underway and I have this nagging question that I cannot ignore but I cannot answer it alone and so I thought who better to ask than all of you.But first, scroll back a week. We had snow, here in the village.
I am sorry to those of you who have been shovelling vast quantities of it all winter, but for us it generated enormous excitement, I wanted to shout from the rooftops, “We Have Snow!!!” – you see, it is so rare here, this was going to be the first time any had settled for nearly a decade!
It started to fall softly right outside our kitchen window late one afternoon.
It didn’t last long, of course. The following morning our -7˚C freezing temperatures had done a complete turnaround, swept away by a warm southerly breeze. Snow-crusted winter scarves and coats were ditched damply back in the boot-room and snow boots packed away once more.
I feared the violets and daffodils would not recover. Chilled to the core, their heads drooped and their stems lay frozen on the ground.
But, what a difference a day makes.
As the warm breeze swept through the garden 24 hours later, so the snow melted and slowly our spring perennials raised their heads from their supplication to the snow and gracefully nodded once more towards the sun; within hours they miraculously stood proud and tall once more.
But warmer weather at this time of year usually means there will also be some rain in the offing – a state of affairs I am content to trade in, for I will happily take a few showers as a pay-off for some balmy weather.
On Sunday we headed to the beach, only too well aware that we hadn’t tasted salt on our lips or smelt the sea for far too long. We were quite amazed to find that seemingly everyone in the vicinity had the same idea. The car-park was as crowded as it is in the summer, with families enjoying long walks while dogs frolicked at the water’s edge. A couple of girls were cantering along the wet sand on horses. There was some muffled soul whizzing about precariously on a kite-buggy and a paraglider was floating along the wider spaces utilizing the ‘ground-effect’.
We walked a long way, a fabulous jaunt in every way – except for the debris. The beach was littered with rubbish. It hadn’t originated from the people there that day, I hasten to add; this was nearly all plastic that had washed ashore during the winter, perhaps pollution from this very beach during the previous summer, or perhaps it had come from another country, or even another continent. It was an extremely sight, detrimental to so much and of course most importantly – to all forms of marine life. I have no doubt it will all be cleaned up before the tourists arrive en masse, but for me that was not what made us all quite maudlin – the fact remains that still not enough is being done globally to bring some end to what is a huge problem.
Roddy informed me later that each year new rubbish ‘gyres’ (areas of ocean where rubbish builds up and rotates in an eddy of current for years on end) are being discovered. There is no longer just the central Pacific gyre, but one in the Indian ocean, and one off Indonesia has also been documented. Solutions are at hand and in development, but the planet is choking on rubbish, throttling itself at one end while at the other it belches out an industrial smorgasbord of smoke that is melting our glaciers and bringing polar bears and others to the brink of extinction. We sat in the car on the way home, young heads debating a future in which they will have to play such an important part. I hope it is not too little too late, but rather a sign that the youth of the world today recognise a problem that has been neglected too long.
Earlier this week we went to pick up Evie, our Jack Russell, who has been away having lots of fun making puppies (hopefully) but that’s another story in gestation for a few weeks time. However, on the way home I spied a half-ruined tower just off the small country road we were driving along and I took the next right-hand turn in the hope of getting a closer look. Sure enough, with a few more ‘lefts’ and ‘rights’, and a wee venture down a single-track lane, we ended up passing right beside it. Wouldn’t this make a wonderful project? Furnishing would no doubt be a nightmare with the round walls, but what fun.
This is what I just love about living in the country; being able to take a detour and still find places we have no idea exist.
A few hundred metres further down the road we crossed a small river and to the right saw this fabulous row of houses.
The river runs right underneath one. This has been the wettest winter we have had for years and as there seems to be no sign of damage from it I doubt if there is ever much risk of flooding here. It’s another of those jewels in France’s pastoral crown, appearing in the middle of seemingly nowhere.
Perhaps it was treasures like this that set me thinking about why so many people love France. I asked an American friend who was staying with us last week, because I am curious, and she could give no salient answer, just a reply that seemed to indicate a gravitational pull of indeterminate reasons – one of which was a longing to visit places where her father, in a very different world, came to do good and repulse evil.
We chose to live here for many reasons, one because we have French relatives which is always a good starting point. We also, of course, love the culture, and adore the open space. As Roddy often says, France and the UK are cousins, and have been for centuries, and it is always good to visit one’s cousins.
I am, of course, assuming that anyone who reads this blog does have a certain love of France. You possibly know the country well. Maybe you have visited just once or twice, or are planning to in the coming years. Or maybe you never will but still harbour a desire to know more about the country, and still imagine a trip here in your dreams?
But why France? Why not England, or Italy, or anywhere in Europe? Thousands of years of culture, incredible architecture and centuries of history abound in all of these countries. And yet France still remains a firm favourite for travellers. It’s still the most visited country in the world, and there are more books written on the subject of French style, French interiors, French country kitchens, French fashion, French cooking, the list goes on and on, than just about any other country. There can be no doubt that France exerts a pull on the mind, from every angle, and I just wonder why.
I actually started thinking about this last summer when I asked a few friends staying here the same question. I’d not thought about it much during the winter until now. Suddenly I find myself quite intrigued once more and who better to ask than all of you, because I know you have an opinion and I also know from emails and messages that you all love reading everyones comments. I really want to know what it is about France? Why do you find it so captivating, why France?