Last year I wrote you all a letter. Last week we sat chatting to friends, reminiscing about school days and later. How letters were sent home to the family. Not for the first time I have realised how incredibly lucky we are to have the internet and social media. When it is used the right way it is utterly fabulous. But, and there is always a but, let’s not forget the power of the written word and I hope the power of the pen and the old fashioned letter will never be forgotten. So today I thought about writing to you again. My letter would be interesting but not too long, I would never want to lose your interest or bore you, plus it would contain a whole host of snaphsots taken throughout the week. The envelope would be wonderfully fat when it arrived in your mailbox. One of those letters that you cannot wait to open. So close your eyes for a moment and pretend you are not reading this on a computer but instead it is in your hands, (hopefully it is legible, for my writing is not the best), but I can promise the paper is a delight, heavy and of the highest quality.
My dear friend,
What a week, I hate to start by writing about the weather but it’s all anyone can think about, every other day we believe summer has finally arrived. The sun, when it shines, is really hot, but it seems to be rather shy this year. But it is the rain that has everyone talking, showers that fall with tropical force in deluge proportions, leaving my poor roses looking rather bedraggled. I seem to be constantly calling for Roddy to help me support plants which have succumbed to the weight of the water and the ground is awash with prematurely fallen petals, but still the magic of summer is a feast for the eyes, even the brooding grey skies overhead and slick wet roads cannot mask the beauty of this time of year.
We’ve been in a permanent state of baby bliss. The puppies are six weeks old now, how the time has flown by, soon they will be leaving for their new homes and I cannot bear to think about it, each one has its own special character, if only we could keep them all. But we are keeping one for ourselves and Coco, who is going to England will be with us until the end of August, so we won’t be puppy empty nesters for a long while yet.
However, as if they weren’t enough we also have six chicks which hatched last weekend and another four under a second broody hen.
On top of all of this we have also rescued a baby redstart who came down our chimney and was flying around the sitting room. One of our goldfish is most likely pregnant, and the mosquito fish have just birthed another load of babies. With all the rain the frogs and toads are croaking louder than ever, our hedgehogs have made themselves known, they’ve survived their winter of hibernation and have increased their family size as we spotted two youngsters last night. The owls are hooting indicating that they too are in family mode. It gets more and more like “My Family and Other Animals” and Gerald Durrell’s life here every day!
In between downpours we’ve enjoyed some wonderful evenings on the terrace, apéros with puppies has become a regular thing and it means there is never a dull moment or a lull in the conversation. I think I have finally perfected my Crème Patisserie, the simplest of recipes that can be whipped up in a few minutes and turn any tartlet into quite a delicious sweet surpise at the end of meal. Topped with an abundance of fresh fruits, it’s hard to beat quite frankly.
Now of course it is brocante season here, every weekend we have a choice of at least three or four within a small area; what a wonderful dilemma to have, which one or two to visit. I don’t mind if I buy or not, it’s the atmosphere of just wandering around, chatting to some vendors, the setting always tends to be lovely and some local is always selling surplus fruits, homemade jams, freshly pressed juices. Villages tend to turn these events into special occasions, out will come the giant half oil can which becomes a makeshift barbecue. Around midday the delicious smell of roasting meat is all around. Some people pull up a few tables and eat together, a bottle of wine will be produced, some salad, always real cutlery and glasses. Those selling their wares will eat beside their stalls not minding in the least if they are caught mid mouthful, one cannot help but enjoy a great feeling of bonhomie, it is always an adventure and fun and it’s a part of the season I always look forward to immensely, summers here just wouldn’t be the same without these weekend forays into the world of vintage secondhand goods and everything that goes hand in hand with a visit to any local event.
It’s Roddy’s birthday tomorrow and I have planned a few surprises and a celebratory meal under the shade of our lime tree on the terrace as always. I am praying the weather gods will look on me kindly. There will be some bubbles to drink of course, a salad fresh from our potager to start with, and some sliced hard boiled eggs from our hens who are laying abundantly. I think I’ll follow this with some chicken marinated in garlic for a few hours and then cooked on the barbecue with a healthy sprinkling of fresh herbs from the garden. I will also pick up some asparagus grown nearby which is still in season and ridiculously cheap right now and some baby Île de Ré new potatoes, a real Charente Maritime speciality, simply boiled and served drizzled with a little butter and some chopped mint, their taste is incomparable. Then a little cheese and a birthday cake of course which I will make in the afternoon, nothing fancy, just a simple sponge filled with whipped cream and strawberries. It sounds like an enormous meal, but remember this is France, the portions are small, and you don’t have to eat a vast amount, a simple taste of cheese, and the smallest slither of cake. It’s the French way that allows one to enjoy so many different flavours and to really savour a long meal with friends without feeling over full and not in the least bit guilty afterwards.
Once more the sun is shining but I know the rain clouds won’t be too far away;
it’s not just here, all of France is suffering the same strange conditions. It is catastrophic for the poor farmers. Only today we have seen the worst floods in our area anyone can remember for many a year in the summer. There are ruined crops, sunflowers are literally floating dead in fields that now look like enormous lagoons. We passed fire brigades trying desperately to pump out water from the fields to salvage what they could. Roads have become rivers and fields have turned into lakes.
And poor Roddy driving down a country lane near to us ran into a flood yesterday evening. A tiny stream had risen to epic proportions, he was the first car to encounter it as it burst its banks. The car and Roddy found themselves floating, lifted up and dumped to the right of the road in a field; the power of water. Thank goodness he managed to open the boot (trunk) and climb out of the rear of the car and remarkably walked away unscathed, but very shaken. He knew if the car had rolled he would have drowned. I cannot bear to think about it. The car is a total right off, and unfortunately he was driving my car not his! A local farmer helped him and called the police who immediately closed the road and it remained that way until lunchtime today. They said the same would have happened to whoever happened to be the first to pass as it burst its banks, no one would ever have guessed it was so deep. Endless paperwork with the insurance company now follows, but all that matters is that Roddy is ok.
So one way or another it was quite an eventful week. I hope that wherever you are life is calm and most of all have a wonderful, happy and healthy weekend.
Bisous (as the French would say)