Of Sunflowers, Kites and Kestrels….

In which we bang on about the weather again but for a different reason and then turn a little serious…………..

I have always had the fanciful notion that the weather here on earth is largely dictated by the activities of the Olympian Gods up in the clouds.  Right at this moment in time , they’re all having an humongeous party, throwing balls of volcanic rock down a wooden bowling alley of oak and mahogany – that’s the thunder we’re hearing – followed by the firecracker throwing and  blowing out of  the celestial cake candles – that’s the lightning . If we’re really lucky, they’ll break open a bottle of heavenly ambrosia and we’ll see a meteor shower……….

Being English I’m used to the weather being a major topic of discussion.  Our generally damp and exceptionally unexceptional climate gives us an endless source of conversational openings. If in doubt at a dull party, a  quick “Oh Dear, Cloudy again!”or “That sunny day we had a couple of  months ago was nice wasn’t it?’ is guaranteed to elicit a response and break the conversational ice.   Having moved to France and chosen a particularly mild , sunny area of the country, I imagined we had left all this sort of thing behind but it’s amazing how our French cousins are weather obsessed in just the same way as we rain-sodden Anglais.  They talk about it with a lovely wit which scuppers anyone’s notion that the French don’t understand irony. “Il ne fait pas trop chaud aujourd’hui !” “Not too warm today,then!”   probably minus 5°C, “Ce n’était pas terrible hier uh??” Wasn’t all that great yesterday was it?”, probably referring to a minor  hurricane or a monsoon downpour.Vineyards and hills

These last few months have seen the arrival in sunny France, of every meteorological extreme imaginable – excessive heat , humidity, storms to herald Armaggedon, enough rain to float an ocean liner, and  a general humid miasma that has hung over the countryside and left everything eagerly awaiting the cleansing cool of Autumn – well me anyway.  Here on the hillside, nature is reflecting these extremes in a number of ways.  On the negative side our usually bountiful plum trees have produced hardly a pip between them after the obliterating hail storm earlier in the year.  The apples are growing large but are mainly full of water and something has gone very wrong in the field of sunflowers behind us where instead of the usual dazzling rows of 6 foot tall stalks and dinner plate flowers, whole swathes of the field have produced only miniature flowers the size of dahlias.  So rotten a time are they having that I’ve even noticed some of the larger flowers are turning their backs rather than their faces to the sun in a sort of floral group ‘huff’.

Last year's splendid Damsons
Last year’s splendid Damsons

On the positive side the mild winter has meant an abundance of food for the birds and our regular pair of nesting kestrels produced a brood of 6 magnificent babies this year to beat their previous record of 4 by more than a head and a tail feather.   The grass is still green and lush and the colours of our little world are rich and beautiful. Best of all, on two occasions now,  I have been privileged to witness a huge kite (bird variety) soaring overhead on the thermals, it’s five foot wings outstretched in homage to the day, a sight of such majesty that I know it will stay with me for as long as I live.

The human effects of the weather have also been significant. For almost 4 months there was hardly a smile to be seen on even the heartiest of faces, people complained of low morale and seemed to completely lose interest in usually enjoyable things.  Now, with nearly two thirds of the year gone and no sign of the return of the sun, a more stoic and accepting spirit has appeared “Eh bein, il faut faire avec!” is often said accompanied by a wry smile and a Gallic shrug, “Oh well, we have to get on with it!” and there is almost a feeling of common solidarity, everyone  banding together in meteorological adversity.

Blossom 1There are those however for whom the weather has been too sad a reflection of their inner lives, the gloom and the grey recalling too much private loneliness and despair.   Just a few days ago our friend and neighbour took his own life at midnight , leaving behind him a letter and a bewildered family.  To me with my cheerful disposition and Pollyanna conviction that things will always work out, it is impossible to comprehend that someone apparently always surrounded by family and friends, with a good business and varied interests, could secretly arrive at such desperation.  Perhaps life on the land makes certain people too solitary and insular, perhaps families are not always easy to communicate with when you need to most.

For my part, I look out of my window at my beautiful, rain-battered hillside,  I smell the pure , clean air, I think of my animals, my little family, the  majestic kite flying overhead and I know that I could never for a single second, willingly choose to leave any of them ………





10 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh my god, how unbearably tragic. To lose a friend is appalling at the best of times but to lose one in this way is unthinkably painful. My sympathy.


    1. That’s very kind Sarah. Certainly a great shock to the whole community…..

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cheryl says:

    I love your writing style: it’s fun but informative, descriptive but not too detailed, conversational and welcoming. I’m sorry to hear about your neighbor, your wet weather, and disappointing vegetation, but I appreciate your ability to see the good and beautiful amid the bad. Visiting your blog is a pleasant way to spend part of my afternoon.


    1. Many thanks to you Cheryl, I really do appreciate that! 🙂


  3. A lovely, affecting post Jane……


    1. Thankyou Stuart, I really appreciate that…


  4. Your writing, Jane, is wonderfully reflective of a balanced mind and a hugely feeling heart. To read your observations about the natural world and how it fares in response to these unusual cyclical events is fascinating in and of itself, but to see you compare how mankind reacts to the same, is a reflection of our human frailty and strength. I truly enjoyed the post, and yet I’m saddened to hear of the loss of a friend. I hope the community will find some shared support for one another. I wish you all a better day and newfound ties to bind you through difficult times.


    1. Shelley, many thanks for reading and for your kind comments. Although our neighbour was not a close friend, he was someone we liked and knew a little. It is strange how deeply affecting these things can be, I suppose because it reflects how isolated human beings ultimately are from one another but at the same time reinforces the importance of nurturing the relationships that you do have. Once again I find myself counting my own particular blessings.


  5. orples says:

    I absolutely loved the photograph of the planted fields,with the colors and textures as only Mother Nature can combine her elements. Beautiful capture!


    1. Thankyou! Very much appreciated!


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