141 – Forty Plus Five

It’s five days since I was forty and things are going well. I’m alive and have returned from Lyon to a wealth of colour at the farm in Queaux. A million shades greeted me on Tuesday as I drove up the driveway. As though the scene had been painted by a painter with a lifetime’s supply of colour.

Today is Thursday and the copse where I used to collect my wood from in winter is shimmering with a million greens. The whole wood an incredible abstract of light green, dark green, middle green, low green, high green, all obscuring the view of the Vienne river in the valley below.

As I walk around the pond the frogs croak at me like a football crowd cheering on their favourite player. Pleading with me to replenish the murky swamp the pond has become in the recent dry spell with some fresh water. It’s certainly cause for concern as my dream of boating in it in the summer looks doomed with the level in places now no deeper than a cup of tea. So much so that I’ve started thinking of how much it would cost to fill it up with a hose. To keep the frogs alive, if nothing else.

The lawn on the other hand is far from struggling. The tall grasses and huge clumps of clover make it look like I’ve been away for an entire century rather than a long weekend. And once again I feel like I’m walking into an early JG Ballard novel. Walking into a world taken over by nature after all the humans have fled because of some nightmarish climatic change.

It’s so frightening how quickly nature takes over. The perfectly edged borders and manicured lawns I left last Thursday are now overgrown and distorted. The driveway a tangled carpet of bindweed and thistle. The pond an impenetrable swamp choked by bulrushes, marsh grass and dying frogs.

But it’s good to be back. And after a ruthless day’s mowing and strimming, it’s all back to ‘normal’, and I can continue watching the temperature rise on the thermometer as the spring drifts effortless into summer. A pair of Western Whip snakes basking by the pond adding to the strange colonial, almost tropical, atmosphere the place has acquired since our return. As though we’ve returned to some high ranking governmental retreat in the High Punjab back in 1910 to relax and drink gin and tonic to ward off malaria.

With all the snakes, frogs, lizards, hares, warmth and bursting colour, it’s difficult to conceive of how utterly bleak it was here a few months ago. It wasn’t unpleasant, there was life, quite a lot in fact, it was simply the lack of colour. And when the dark clouds swept in from La Rochelle, it was like living in a cloud in a lighthouse. Or in a lighthouse in a cloud.

But not anymore. Now there’s light and lots of colour. As though the painter I mentioned at the beginning has waved his brush over the dull canvas of Western France and created heaven in a single stroke. A scene as beautiful as a postcard reading: Four Months of Summer In France (and one World Cup).


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