In my last post, I gave you a sense of how ridiculous our life has been, over the last few months and the last few weeks haven’t really been much calmer. But a few things have now slotted into place and yesterday, I arrived back home, after another long day’s drive, whilst Andy stays with our youngest, in the UK for a while, to sort out the new house.
The main thing that has slotted into place, is having a little family base back in the UK. We stupidly, or selfishly, hadn’t really appreciated how important that would be, but after a few last minute glitches, which saw me age at least 10 years overnight, we finally got the keys for a little cottage in Devon, which has been the boys’ home for almost the last 20 years and hopefully now will be for the next twenty, too
It’s taken so much pressure off and has finally freed up some space in my brain, for me to be able to start relaxing again, although with the way life has been recently, I won’t take it for granted, as it’s only a matter of time before some other stress sneaks in to stake its claim.
Until that happens though, I am determined to start getting back into life in Provence and I could feel my shoulders start to drop, as soon as I pulled onto the drive last night, after 10 hours of heading south and dealing with the Autoroute du Soleil, which was hideously busy with holiday traffic.
In fact I could feel the stress start to melt from my shoulders, the minute I turned off the Autoroute, at Avignon, following the road back into the valley and seeing the folds of The Luberon, deeply shaded in the late afternoon sun. It’s a sight that never ceases to make me smile, that sense of home-coming, coupled with the comfort of seeing sights, so familiar that they make me feel as if I am being wrapped in a warm, all embracing, lavender-scented hug. I suppose that’s how home should feel?
Since I left, 3 weeks ago (is that all – it feels more like 3 months!), so much has changed. The landscape has been bleached by the sun, with the fields of wheat and barley, now blocks of pale gold, along the valley floor, all sign of green almost gone from the stalks…
But the lavender has exploded into flower, fields elegantly striped with the dark purple of the plants in full bloom, the delicate flower-spikes dancing gently in the warm breeze, adding a unique beauty to this, already stunning place…
I had also left, just before the Cicadas began their first, stuttering attempts to start calling from the trees and have arrived back to their constant, loud chattering, providing that noisy, but at the same time, peaceful soundtrack to summer. It never ceases to amaze me that some people hate the sound, in the same way that people despise cow and sheep bells, or even church bells (all things, I love to listen to). To me it’s soporific and it almost sounds empty, once they stop again in August.
The heat of the day also creates an afternoon haze, which sits in the valley, softening the views, making it seem as if I am looking at it through a lens, smeared with vaseline… or perhaps (now I think of it), when I got back yesterday, it may just have been because of my tired, and slightly teary eyes.
Despite knowing the valley so well, I still tell myself the names of the villages as I pass, ticking each one off as a marker, treating them like a Hansel and Gretel, crumb-trail that is leading me home, with Apt being the final stop, before turning off and taking the back road to the house.
Passing through Apt, I always keep my eye out for signs, advertising events that will be coming up and as ever, plenty of posters and banners were attached to the bridges and signposts, colourful declarations of intent from the villages and societies around us, filling my diary with the notion of mornings fuddling around stalls, hunting for ‘treasure’. I seem to have arrived back, just in time for the delightful vide-grenier that takes place in the little village of Sivergues on Sunday as well as the Apt Brocante, vide grenier and Lavender festival, which takes place on Sunday too. So that’s this weekend sorted!
After arriving home last time to the trauma of Pusscat’s eye, we had a house-sitter this time, which had worked perfectly and from the photos she had been sending us, it was clear that both Mille and Pusscat were as relaxed and happy as they are when we’re here. In fact, as I pulled in Pusscat was waiting on the terrace and almost seemed a little disappointed that I was back!
The garden has also grown considerably too, in the time I have been away. We had fitted a ‘goutte a goutte’ watering system before we left, hoping that just short spells of gentle watering overnight, would keep everything going and happily it had worked. Our little garden of old tubs, baths and planters is full of colour, with the plants rather taking over, which is everything we had hoped for.
And my little fig tree is covered with fruit, the first one, perfectly ripe, proving to be the best welcome-home treat possible…
We had moved things around too, before we left, as the roses we had originally planted, to grow around the new kitchen door, were in the shade and looking rather sickly, whereas the creepers were in their element. So the roses were removed from their tubs and relocated to a sunny wall, by the cars and we planted another purple-wall vine and hoped for the best.
The move has paid off and after being heavily cut-back, the roses are sprouting and even have small flowers….
And the vines have gone mad, coupled with the wisteria, which (even though it is about 20 years old) has only started growing in the last 2 years after we cut down the huge and unruly Cypress that had been growing above it. Since then, it has covered the terrace fence, the front of the house and now the side wall too, growing over 8 metres last year alone, realising my long-held dream of having a wisteria-covered house too….
The joy of seeing all these little changes, and a glass of wine, catching up with friends, kept me busy during the first evening, only interrupted by taking Millie for her evening walk, although Pusscat clearly didn’t want to be left out, so it turned into a little amble with both, along the lane to look at the lavender field. A rather amusing take on a family walk (minus husband and boys)
Needless to say, I slept like a log and was out early this morning to take Millie for a good walk, before the heat of the day really hit. There is something lovely about being out, before the world really starts to get going, with just Millie and the birds for company, the lilting call of the Golden Oriole seemingly following us as we went….
It’s the early light though, which is so special, with the golden tones of sunrise, which even on a greyer day, add a glow to the lavender fields, already a-buzz with bees, dapping from flower to flower and stem to stem. The scent sits in heavy, almost shimmering clouds, above the fields, seemingly trapped by a layer of cooler air, the perfume a constant, calming companion as we walk….
So less than 24 hours after getting back, my shoulders have dropped below my ears for the first time in weeks (perhaps months) and I can feel the stresses slipping down my back and being eased away, by the warmth, light and colour of this little corner of France. My jaw is still set & my teeth still grinding, and I know it will take a while longer, before I feel that I have space in my head for anything more than the most routine of day to day tasks, but at least I feel I can see some ‘fairy-steps’ in the right direction.
Unfortunately though, my bike is in need of a bit of work and I won’t have her back until the end of this week, which is a shame, as I miss riding, but perhaps I can just lower the saddle on Andy’s and go out for a little potter with our eldest, who gets back from joining his new cycle team at a race in Portugal this weekend. At least that would be something and something is better than nothing… but we’ll see. Perhaps a few days of pottering in Fifi, reading and just relaxing a bit will be just what I need.
One thing is certain though, that whatever I do, I will enjoy every moment of being in this beautiful little place and get back to appreciating the little details that I know, help keep me grounded, whilst we wait for the next twist in this tale of our life!