Well here we are, April 2021 and sadly we have gone back into a more restrictive lockdown again. We are very lucky that in being here at Escrimis with the space and the stunning beauty of the landscape we do not feel the constraints of life in France too much at this time. It is only when we jump in the car to go and do something that it starts to hit us. We have a travel ban outside a 10km radius of our house, no entering into other departments (regions) and we have a curfew from 7pm to 6am.
All of this means I cannot pop down to any of my favourite markets and enjoy the wonderful sight and smells of the fresh local produce. It is sheer delight to wander through the stalls selling an astounding array of vegetables, cheese, wines, artisan breads, meat and so much fish. The waft of those delicious mysterious looking cheeses, baskets of vegetables in a rainbow of every colour possible attracts ones attention along with the divine smell of the freshly baked bread and the glistening large exotic trays of oysters. One of my biggest attractions are the plant stalls and I can never resists having to buy something new.
Market day here is a big event. The French eat very seasonally and do love their produce to be fresh and of the best quality. I am always fascinated to watch how much they inspect the vegetables, picking them up and really scrutinising them before making their choices. I often feel like saying ' do you really need to keep touching them' but I have to realise that this is part of the way the population shop. Of course, covid has stopped this activity, the stalls are now often sealed off by a barrier of tape and you have to ask for your produce, no prodding or inspecting! A lot of chatting goes on however and sometimes can be very frustrating when the conversations seems to go on forever over a few tomatoes!
Le Printemps (spring) has arrived with its usual gusto of lovely weather, buds and blossom bursting out everywhere. The farmers are back in the fields with their early crops. As I drive to Escrimis down our bumpy track I am hemmed in either side by enormous fields of yellow rapeseed, glorious and bold and making one feel so happy. Whatever the season this place is so very special.
One activity that has made me feel rather sad is the ripping out of our vineyard. The vines are around fifty years old and in the past few years they have been getting weaker and weaker. Last years yield was poor and so the vigneron that looks after the vineyard for us told us it was time to replace them. A bit of a shock as it all looked so pretty. It will be that way again, but not for a couple of years as the new plants establish themselves. It has been interesting to watch how quickly they managed to tear out the old vines and burn them. Now we wait for the ploughing up of the land and new stakes and supports to be installed. The type of grapes will be the same ' Colombard', a white French grape that is an offspring of Chenin blanc and Gouais blanc that are produced for the Cotes de Gascogne and the regional Armagnac. They are one of the worlds greatest blending grapes. I shall miss strolling through the rows of vines this summer but as we are surrounded by endless vineyards I will not have to walk far to enjoy that pleasure.
Covid is still putting paid to our plans of being able to host art courses here in the restored chapel. I still hope that in the future we will be able to do this. It is such a wonderful setting and has such a calm and inspiring atmosphere. I sit here for hours with my classic concert on the radio and paint and draw. It really is like being in some heavenly retreat and I hope to be able to share this with many others in the coming years.
Covid has not prevented two things that I love, the first is attending an art classes in our nearby town of Condom. Our wonderful artist tutor Florencia Cairo always inspires me. I am very timid at trying new techniques and styles but she really does push me to do this and I have learnt so much from her. I have only returned to art in recent years having not participated in any since my school days. This has been a blessing for me during these covid times. The mental relaxation and concentration really is so positive on those grey rainy locked-in days. I can no way profess to be a good artist but that is irrelevant, if you enjoy it then do it! As one tutor told me ' you cannot go wrong in art', I always try to remember that when the piece of work I am working on goes horribly wrong!
The other wonderful outing that is still possible here is visiting the hairdressers! Sorry, for those of you in the UK that is a distant dream. French women love to hair their hair attended to very regularly and I am always impressed with how good their hair looks.You will always notice as you drive through even the smallest of towns here that there are lots of coiffures. I have a lovely softy spoken male hairdresser with the most beautiful French accent who works magic with my scruffy mop. I always look so polished, sophisticated and groomed when I leave the salon, sadly that looks disappears pretty quickly when I get back on the tractor!
Well, I hear the lovely midday church bells ringing to I must go now. Bientot to you all and keep safe and well during these ongoing trying times.