Summer here in Languedoc went by as usual in a blur of work: cooking and cleaning, teaching and entertaining our residential art groups. The weather couldn’t have been better – but the money could. Global crises were echoed by family ones – both offspring had to be ‘rescued’ from Ireland : daughter with a broken foot, son with a bipolar episode. Somehow we all managed to knit it back together – perhaps the global convulsions helped us all to focus on our strengths and on our need to hang together.
The perennial sit-down at six o’clock, an unfailing feature of our 30-year marriage – for wine and olives and serious conversation – gets us all around the table to be civilised and intelligent about the world and our situation in it. The daughter is in her last year of university but what will a degree in French and Politics mean for her? The son is struggling with his art and his life. We are attempting to handle the transition from a world of plenty towards a life with very much less.
Less would suit us two more – but for her and him it’s going to be difficult: there may not be a job or a career waiting at the end of her studies. I fear for the fragility of his talent in a world that may become brutal and impoverished. And I worry about us two – we have a large property that can’t be sold, and that is far from being self-sufficient.
But the glorious summer has segued into a delightful autumn, and there is work to be done. Summer work is all indoors, looking after the dozens of visitors : autumn sees us outdoors again (at last!) with cooler air and a garden that has been begging for attention. There’s not much actual work you can do in the south of France in High Summer – it’s just watering and picking. With no rain for the last 3 months there are few weeds – everything is simply ripening. But now there’s a mass of stuff to do, and glorious weather to do it in. The days are clear and blue and warm – but the nights are clear too : stars glitter from horizon to horizon – and the mornings are cold (that’s under 10 C.!)
The evening that we need a fire . . . is the turning point in the year. Slipping into sandals and shorts is a gradual affair when spring beckons and then betrays. The transition from long pants to short, socks and shoes to sandals is a blurry zone. Then suddenly it’s done : the socks are impossibly hot and prickly, and cloth clinging to leg is a horror. Now cloth against leg is a comfort, and sweat worked up by midday is chilly by afternoon.
My priorities sharpen – the Leaf Storm is a week or so off and there are beds to prepare, four compost stacks to turn, manure to locate/buy/shovel/unload – and then the Plan. What is the Plan this year? Each year the flower-beds shrink and the potager grows, and the question of self-sufficiency and chickens and rabbits returns – more urgent with each year, more fraught with serious questions about what and how we eat.
The frog has had a good summer by the looks of it – no food problems there.