The last week, since Andy and Tom left, it has felt very quiet, it is as if ,when they drove away, they took part of the soul of the house with them too. The boys had gone in the early hours of the morning, to do the long drive back to Exeter, to allow for quarantine, before Tom (all being well) starts back at Uni later this week, and having three of us in the house again had felt very comfortable
Since then it has just been Mille, Pusscat and I, pottering around the house and passing the days incredibly quietly. Happily the mouse, that had moved into the roof-space above the bedroom, spending its nights practicing tap dance routines, and apparently kicking a ball about, seems to have disappeared, so even the nights have been calm, and uninterrupted.
It always takes me a few days to get back into the habit of being on my own, it feels as if it should be easy and a simple shift to make, but in fact I always find it very strange, and it takes me a while to settle into a new routine. Normally I would hop on my bike and cycle around some of my favourite places, even in the depths of winter, but although my physio says that I can start riding again, I’m going to wait until Andy gets back, as it may take me a while to regain my confidence after my tumble.
Also the cafes and bars are still closed, so passing a couple of hours chatting with a friend over coffee isn’t an option, although on New Year’s Eve I did catch up with Jen from Cent Cinq, over a delicious, takeaway hot chocolate and cake from Les Colibris, the lovely, eclectic tearoom in Apt, and we spent a very pleasant hour putting the world to rights from a distance. I think not being able to stop for coffee, and sit and watch the world pass by, is the thing I miss most at the moment, such a simple pleasure that I won’t take for granted again
Eventually though, 2020 went out, without any of the fuss or excitement that is normally associated with the change of year, in fact in the end, I spent New Year’s Eve, curled up on the sofa, in front of the fire with a glass of wine and a new (rather complex) jigsaw, before going to bed at about 10pm, hardly even thinking about the date or its significance.
If I’m honest, the New Year didn’t exactly get off to the best of starts, when I woke early, to the sound of Pusscat using the shower as a litter tray. I appreciate that it could have been much worse, and know I should be happy that she used the right room, but it wasn’t really the gentle start to the morning that I had hoped for …… perhaps this year we need to try to train her to sit on the toilet seat instead? I hope it wasn’t just a way of setting the expectations for the year, perhaps (if I’m horribly positive), it was more a sign that things can only improve.
The start to the year has been bitterly cold, with heavy, leaden skies and only the occasional glimpses of the summit of the Mourre Negre opposite – it’s hard to really imagine that we climbed it in glorious sunshine just over a week ago.
We have had just about every sort of winter weather possible, and whereas when I wrote my last blog, I was sat at the table with the sun streaming through the window, I am writing this one in front of the fire, watching snow, like chicken feathers, falling gently past the window, with Pusscat snoring softly on the sofa beside me.
There is though, something wonderful about this cold and generally unexpected weather, as it brings an absolute peace with it too. The landscape takes on a different feel, with sounds seeming to travel much further, kept low under the blanket of cloud, from the distant tinkle of sheep bells, to the frantic barking of the hunting dogs as they run around the woodlands on the other side of the valley. There is little birdsong, if any at all, just the squabbling of Jays, and the occasional chatter of a Woodpecker as it flies across our path, and the weather has been so calm, that there hasn’t even been the sound of the wind passing through the branches to keep us company. It is as if the whole area has had the volume turned down, and it is delightful.
The great thing about having Millie with me, is that it means I have to get out for a couple of good walks each day, and it passes a few hours as we amble along, making our way up the rough, stony tracks around the house, or pottering further afield. I don’t see anyone, and it is as if we are exploring our own personal park.
We are so lucky to have so many superb walks from the front door of the house, taking us high above the hamlet, with glorious views across Apt and along the luberon valley…
Ever changing views across to Caseneuve, which for the last few days, has been an island in a sea of cloud…
And of course of the Grand Luberon, with its form and shape constantly shifting with the clouds and light..
Yesterday though, I thought I’d take Millie back up to do the ‘fossilised footprint walk’ at Viens, but start from near Gignac and walk to Viens, instead of the other way around.
When we left home it was cold and grey, but it hadn’t frozen at all, and I didn’t give ice a thought as we drove off to find the access path from the road. Starting to walk, I noticed that the trees, further along the path towards Viens, seemed to be slightly greyer than the others, thinking perhaps, that they were shrouded in a touch of mist.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. As we walked past the old mud bed, it was as if someone had drawn a line across the trees in front, with a defined point on them where the branches and foliage had been turned to ice.
It was as if we had walked into a film set for a magical winter wonderland, with everything covered in a thick, jagged layer of ice. Even under the grey skies, it was incredibly beautiful with every tree and plant shining a bright white against it.
Some plants looked as if they had been covered in a layer of glass, the berries and stems, glistening under the ice, with frozen droplets of water looking as if they had been placed there by a glass-maker, intent on getting the best effect possible.
Others, like these teasels were covered in dramatic shards of ice, that seemed to be defying gravity, growing horizontally from their stems and seed-heads. I have seen this effect on sign posts and snow poles at the summit of Mont Ventoux, but never around us. It was an incredible sight that simply stopped me in my tracks, marvelling at the artistry and elegance of nature.
As we continued upwards, the effect became even more dramatic, with the trees and hedges showering us in clouds of ice as we brushed through them, and the sun making them glisten, as it emerged from time to time, through the clouds.
And the lavender fields looked beautiful, dusted white, with the backdrop of frosted trees behind
It was exquisite and just so unexpected too, as there had been no suggestion of it at home, just a few kilometres away.
By the time we arrived in Viens, the cloud had shifted a little, settling a cold layer, into the valley below…
Giving us views across to the gleaming summit of the Montagne de Lure in the distance, although I have a feeling that was snow, rather than the heavy hoar frost we had had here
By the time we returned to the car, it was already starting to melt and I can’t imagine the effect was very long-lived, but I am so pleased to have seen it.
Today though has been different again, with tiny snowflakes falling during our morning walk, giving notice of what was to come, as by mid morning it was falling heavily, leading me to cancel this afternoon’s physio appointment, as the roads were white over and the wipers couldn’t keep the windscreen clear. The last thing I felt I needed to do was to drive to L’Isle Sur La Sorgue.
It continued for most of the day, causing much excitement, as snow like this isn’t a regular occurrence away from the mountains in Provence. It finally stopped mid afternoon, and the valley is now filled with a freezing mist, which turned and eerie, orange colour with the setting sun, quite beautiful, but still very cold.
As I said at the start of today’s post, over the last week, the days have fallen into a gentle routine, although I am becoming more aware of the little aspects of ‘pre-virus’ day to day life that I miss. The coffee catch-ups with friends have now become dog-walks instead and it is nice wandering along with Millie chatting with another ‘real life’ person a few yards away, keeping that all-important distance, which still feels very alien here.
So unlike other years, we have no plans, no adventures, no excitement to share at the start of the new year, we just will continue doing what we need to do to get us and the boys through this unsettling, stressful and very strange time.
Then, once this time is over, we will sit with a coffee and croissant (or two) on the terrace of our favourite boulangerie, surrounded by the gentle babble of other people enjoying being able to share time together. Only then will we really begin thinking about doing all the things that have been put on hold and start looking forward again.