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.
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’.
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.
There 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 ………
ALL PHOTOS © JANE MORLEY