It may be our imagination, but summer seems to be a little late a-comin’ to south-west France this year. It has only been in the last week that the first signs of Podostemaceae (otherwise known as the little white flowers of the river-weed that decorate the river like drifts of snow during the spring) have become apparent. The (horny) toads are slowly becoming more vocal as the weather finally warms, albeit imperceptibly. Previous blog posts bear witness to the delay, as these little ticks on the seasonal calendar happened earlier in prior years. It does give us a better appreciation for fine weather than year-round residency of the Virgin Islands permits, which is no bad thing. The pair of swans that establish themselves on the stretch of river opposite the house were here for several weeks. Last year my mother called them Tristram & Isolde. This year they were called Fred & Ginger. They have yet to produce their first clutch of babies, which I long to see. Graham is convinced that they couldn’t possibly choose to nest around here, as there are far too many dogs that love to romp along the riverbank, which must upset them. We shall see……. I live in hope.
This weekend, once we’d finished doing some of the preparations for new guests arriving this week, we took a spin out in the car. It seemed a shame to waste a glorious Sunday afternoon by staying at home. The car seemed to drive herself to the little commune of Mouliets and La Table Rouge. We arrived there to find that there was a large table set up in the shade of the terrace and quickly learned that the restaurant was the venue for a 100th birthday celebration. Unsurprisingly, there was a fairly venerable gathering which spanned four generations in attendance . The youngest was (we guess) in his early 30s. The eldest was an admirably sprightly and mischievous lady of 102. The birthday girl arrived slightly after most of her guests, who included 3 of her 7 children. She had a wicked sense of humour and an appreciation for the glass of champagne that was handed to her just before she sat to be interviewed by a local journalist. I have to say that I admired the lady’s zest for life and grasp of technology ……. a member of the family was unable to make the party so called in via a smart-phone conference call. Madame la Centenaire wasn’t at all phased by the call and handled it with aplomb.
I understand that France is host to the longest-living population of women in Europe. If the young lady whose birthday was marked this weekend and her friend are anything to go by, they represent a formidable sector of our communities. While I have ever professed a preference for a short but interesting life, they make the prospect of a long life quite attractive. Far more so than their peers in other countries. I have no doubt that she and her best friend would be happy to raise a glass to that. It would be churlish of us not to toast them.