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19 June 2017

2017 in France, its summer again!

 The weather is heating up, summer has arrived and it may be a hot one.  

Time to continue writing the sequel to my story of this village, to sit down at the stone table in our courtyard.  The table is paved with huge flat stones where I imagined my heroine Claudette walked barefooted when these stones paved the cellar of our house hundreds of years ago.

As we drove into the nearby medieval town of Cluny this morning the fields were full of fat, round hay bales, scarlet poppies all along the hedgerows.  Everyone has been making hay, the weather ideal, the forecast good. 

Some of the newly ploughed fields are planted with maize, which will provide fodder for the animals kept indoors in winter. The tiny green shoots are peeping above the soil and a few storms in the last week or two have helped to nourish them.

Our vine is growing and is already laden with tiny grapes, at the same time it is helping to shade the galerie and the front of our house.   I try to encourage it to grow in the direction I want, gently hooking it in place with a walking stick.  Sometimes it breaks free again, but eventually, I will persuade it to hold. September will be time to have fresh grape juice for breakfast each morning.

I pick a bowl of raspberries and wild strawberries in the garden each day. The redcurrants are almost ready and soon I will be able to start picking gooseberries and black currants.   No sign of the figs ripening yet.



Over the pergola, Rosamond’s rose as always vigorous, is covered in blooms of many shades of pink and stretches along the garden wall. There are small ferns peeping out between the cracks in the rough stone, some with pale yellow flowers.   

Around the courtyard some of the stones in the wall are covered in a soft carpet of moss.  This is a very soft, peaceful place.  Roses are everywhere, so abundant and beautiful this year.  Coming out of the front door I take a deep breath to absorb the perfume and admire the red climbing rose at our front gate blending in with the vine. 

Our neighbour Jacqueline came to spray the vine against mould, and I have been instructed to remove any leaves showing signs of this very common vine malady. It shows itself in small pimples on the leaves, which if left become brown spots.  “Get rid of them, burn them,” demands Jacqueline, "never give it a chance to spread."  I try to check it very day. I am very proud of our ancient vine planted by previous peasant owners at least 100 years ago, and continue to nurture it with love.  We are rewarded with a wonderful harvest which we use to make grape juice.

The elderberry flowers have finished.  Last week a couple of storms destroyed the last remnants of the delicate small perfumed white flowers, but I managed to make 8 litres of syrup in good time.

I push the rusting wheelbarrow out to the garden through the gate in the stone wall, and potter around with my secateurs and clippers.  I tidy up a bit, struggling with the wretched nettles and stickleback, but soon come inside as it is becoming too hot already by lunch-time.  

And so it is time to write a few lines, to weave a few yarns, to spin a few threads.  I have just finished spinning a skein of natural brown lambs wool plied with superfine merino from Bally Glunin Park, Hamilton, Victoria.  I have already knitted a beanie, now the rest will be used to knit a cowl to tuck inside our arctic jackets when we go to the Greenland fiords and the magnetic north at the end of August.

We often think about how long we have been privileged to enjoy our lives for half of each year as part of this small village in rural France. It is 29 years since we bought and renovated this ancient stone house.  We have made many dear friends, absorbed the history and used our experiences to write and entertain.  Our family and so many of our friends have shared this house and village with us over the years. 

This is how we spent Saturday, two days ago.

A day in the life of a small village in Southern Burgundy, called Château:
Towards midday, we dressed up and walked down the hill, slowly following some of our neighbours to the Mairie and community hall for the 50th birthday party of our dear neighbours, Fabienne and Patrick.   

In true French style we kissed 65 people on both cheeks as we all arrived during the aperitif and introduced ourselves, mostly family and friends plus our neighbours.  After the long apero - one hour and a half - we sat down at long tables, decorated with spring flowers and lilac balloons. Musicians arrived and setup; much noise and chatter filled the hall around us.  We were served the first course, a variety of fish and shellfish, and some time afterwards the main course, paella.   The musicians sang George Brassens songs, plus several other songs of the same vintage, followed by more up to date choices from the hosts.  

After the main course, Patrick and Fabienne took the microphone and after thanking everyone for coming, announced that they had decided to get married, there was a short pause of surprise and then everyone stood up and cheered and clapped.  Patrick continued, "but as our friends and family are around us, we are going to get married now."  The happy cries and applause were deafening.    Pierre Nugue (mayor and friend) was there as a guest, he was the only one who knew this was going to happen and of course had prepared all the legal papers, and had posted the bans on the notice board which no one had noticed. The parents and children were totally surprised.  We were all invited to join them in the office of the Mairie to witness the marriage. We trooped out of the hall and followed them into the building next door.   I have never been to a marriage so funny, so happy – with pleasant jokes passing all the time, such a big surprise for everyone.

Marine, Patrick, Fabienne, Corentin, Thibault
 After photographs in the courtyard, we all trooped inside again and passed many happy hours eating, drinking, enjoying music and watched some of the guests dancing.   After the dessert there was a toast, and Fabienne’s father made a speech – he had to admit that he had prepared a speech for her 50th birthday, and not for her marriage, but was very happy to be here to celebrate it with us all.
 

Well, what a day, and how wonderful to share it!

Now to work.


Next blog: a visit to Provence with lots of photos.