Joy of joys…… it’s raining!
I never imagined that I would ever watch the weather forecast, as anxiously as I have this year, looking for any real signs of rain. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there was a time, (after one particular winter on Dartmoor, when it started raining in October and didn’t stop until the end of the following March) when I would have been happy never to see another drop of rain in my life.
But, after this summer and what has felt like weeks, of getting excited that it may rain here, it finally happened and I woke, in the early hours of this morning to the steady drumming of rain on the roof and the happy gurgling of water in the gutters. I wasn’t annoyed that I was awake, in fact it was exactly the opposite and I simply uttered a sigh of relief, before lying back, to listen and enjoy the sound, imagining the plants singing, a chorus of delight.
It wasn’t just a few drops either, this was the real deal, rather than the type of rain that has evaporated before it even hits the ground and when we opened the shutters this morning it was still pouring down, with the Luberon shrouded in cloud, looking like a film set for ‘The Land That Time Forgot’, rather than the Provence of most people’s imagination. So no cycling, but for once, it didn’t matter
To say that this summer has been dry, would be an understatement. We have hardly seen any rain at all, since June (perhaps earlier) and everything has been parched and has struggled to survive in the heat.
The ‘canicules’ when there have been exceedingly high temperatures, both during the day and at night have been regular and each one seems to have lasted for days on end, whilst we waited for some breeze, or perhaps if we were lucky, a cloud or two to hide the sun.
Don’t get me wrong, we love the long summer days and adjust our lifestyle accordingly, walking Millie as the first rays of sun stretch over the hill towards us and again at night, once they have disappeared again….
We go out on the bikes early, before the heat of the day really hits….
Before spending the afternoons in the shade, or in the tub with an ice lolly (with the Tour de France on in the background)…..
The old houses here, like ours, were built to deal with the heat (and the fierce cold of the winter too) with thick, stone walls, very few large south-facing windows and of course the old wooden shutters too, which are thrown open, first thing in the morning, filling the house with cooler air, before being closed again against the heat of the day, with windows and even curtains being closed too, to keep the house as cool as possible. It is amazing the difference that it makes, although having a dark house, in the middle of a summer’s day, still seems strange.
This year, we have seen the highest level of water-restrictions in place, with no car-washing, garden watering or topping up of pools being permitted, but it is understandable when we actually look at how little rain we have had. Everything has been tinder-dry and we have held our breath at times, worrying about the prospect of forest fires, which have ravaged other parts of the country.
After planting up our little garden, we have been doing what we can to try to keep it alive, resorting to putting a shallow, builder’s tray in the bottom of the shower, capturing the waste water, which we have then transferred to a watering can, to put on the garden. It was better than nothing and we have only lost a few things over the last few months, with the majority of the plants surviving, despite looking a little dry around the edges….
In previous years, the much-needed rains have arrived with a sense of drama and excitement, the heat building, before towering clouds appear over the horizon bringing dramatic storms that we watch in wonder, but that send Millie running to hide under the nearest bed. Today though has happened without the noise and bluster, as if nature itself was just too exhausted to make a song and a dance about it.
Wet weather though, still brings some things to a standstill and yesterday, I had notification of an event due to take place in Carpentras today, being cancelled due to the predicted rain. Saturday though, is still market day in Apt (rain or no rain) and I had arranged to go in with George’s girlfriend, who is staying with us at the moment, to give her an idea of how wonderful the local market is, so no hiding away for us…
We found coats and also an umbrella, dusting off the cobwebs and spiders that had taken up home on it, since I last had cause to use it, before Andy fired up Fifi, for the trip into town. Needless to say we didn’t have the roof down, but it was a good test for her windscreen wipers, which don’t get used that often here…
Normally, at this time of year, Saturday mornings see the streets of Apt packed with colour and scent, with the car park and squares filled with all manner of stalls, offering everything from general food to locally made crafts and clothing to home-wares. This morning though, there was just a fraction of the usual market, with stands dotted through the streets, the general focus on stalls offering fresh produce which would have been made specifically for today, without a linen frock in sight. Perhaps not the best introduction to one of the best markets in France, for our guest, but still enjoyable and a lovely way to pass the morning…..
After filling our basket with bread, fruit and veg, we popped into Cafe Les Valseuses for a much-needed coffee and a chance to dry out a little. On dry days, the cafe’s chairs and tables sit either side of the lovely old building, but today there was a delightful buzz inside, with a gentle atmosphere of times gone by as the chairs filled with couples and friends, enjoying the chance to catch up, out of the rain. There were coats and jackets draped over the backs of chairs and the rain from wet umbrellas, formed pools on the beautiful, old floor, which glistened with water just inside the doors….
Once we had dried out a little and had drained our coffees, we carried on, getting the last few bits from the list, before heading home for another coffee and a pain au chocolat, bought from one of my favourite stalls.
It may have been soggy, but there seemed to be a general relief that it had rained, people hopping over puddles and stepping aside to let people sheltering under their brollies pass by. Sitting here now, a few hours later, the rain has stopped and although there are puddles, the roads are already starting to dry and there is still no sign of any water in the river-bed. But the garden has had a good drink and although it may just be wishful thinking, on my part, the plants already seem happier…..
I still find it hard to believe that I am actually typing this, but let’s hope it’s the start of a more unsettled period, bringing more of this life-giving rain, that we so desperately need.