Spring with a question mark about sums it up. The long, cold and extraordinarily wet winter has become a very wet spring. On odd days it suddenly feels like midsummer with temperatures in the 30s, but we are soon plunged back into the grey and damp, apparently while the UK has record high temperatures……..the irony!
It’s not all bad. Everywhere is a lush green and nature is still doing its stuff. Dandelions turn the some fields turn yellow then white, others are white with daisies. The hedgerows are full of birds and flowers.
On balance I think I’ll stick with it!
The weather in May here usually seems designed to enable us to make the most of the ridiculous number of bank holidays (4 this year, a mere 2 next year!) but this year despite having had barbecues in April, May has hardly been full of opportunities for al fresco dining. What’s more it has been even more capricious than usual. Given where we are, at the crossroads of several geographical features and weather fronts, we are pretty used to sudden variations, but this month has been spectacular that way: the most extreme being a daytime high of 32 turning into a night time low 24 hours later of 4!
Despite, or maybe because of, that I have never seen such an incredible display of spring blossom or so much noise from baby birds, nature seems to have really thrived on the mild winter and changeable spring climate. The eves of every house have swallows nests, the trees droop under the weight of acacia flowers, the night is alive with the sound of baby owls. May is often a lovely month here and in the UK. but this year has been really special, now if only the rain would stop so I could go out and enjoy it!
Whilst these days the march of globalisation does affect us here in our quite corner of France; we can relatively easily eat a “Macdo” (although still not a KFC!), we can go to a Vietnamese restaurant although not an Indian one, we can buy acceptable tea, although not suet and fresh milk, not just the preferred option of most French people UHT (loved for its practicality they tell me). Life here is much more in tune with the seasons than it was in the UK, at least where we livid.
This struck me particularly the other day when I found French strawberries on the market, whilst still very early in the season, I brought them home and my 13 year old son ( and 13 year olds are not generally renowned for their awareness of what’s going on in the world outside the internet.) “strawberries! already!” When we lived in England, whilst still keen for the English strawberry season, we were still happy to have them most of the year. Of course things have changed there now too I know and many people try to eat seasonally. The difference here I suppose is that it’s not new, it’s stayed part of life; mushroom hunting, gathering and drying walnuts, and making blackberry jam in autumn: gathering dandelion leaves and “wild asparagus”(rapountchou) in spring are so much part of life that it is assumed you will be doing it “have you gathered your walnuts yet?”
The rules of the seasons and the associated weather are a large part of life. Nearly everyone has a “potager” and plant according to rules associated with both the traditional and lunar calenders (plus a whole range of dictums). There is even much discussion each year about when to switch the heating on and off. In early autumn the houses are often cool as everyone waits for the exact moment to start the heating.