COUNTING DOWN, DAY TO DAY
There were days during last week when all of us in the house passed on the stairs in the early hours. Either going to, or coming from our nocturnal venture to the pool, attempting to take the sting out of the soaring temperatures. Wallowing in the extraordinarily warm water, still 32 degrees through the night, was the only way to cool down. Albeit only a little and for a disappointingly short while after getting out, before once again, the sweat started to pinprick from every pore and then slide earthwards in salty torrents.
The heat was brutal.
Not for us any of the usual wincing as the water hit the tender parts upon first submersion into those nighttime waters. Quite literally, we were throwing ourselves in and staying there until drowsiness won.
Temperatures have now dropped by a stonking 15 degrees centigrade and with that comes the bliss of managing to sleep at night and more activity during the day. Next week, however, sees the return of another heatwave.
The house renovations have started again in earnest as our paying guests have all now left. Not really fair for them to turn up to our peaceful gite and then we start firing nail guns, or running diggers while they are trying to relax.
Almost shedding an emotional tear, I find that my back seems as if it is sufficiently recovered for me to start helping Simon with some of the lighter duties. I am tasked with cleaning up the hundreds of old canal tiles that will lie on top of the new under-tiles for the new kitchen roof.
As fast as I can clean them, Simon lays them up on the roof, finally covering the insulation that has been all that was protecting my new kitchen from the elements. Easy to take a roof for granted when you have one. It seems an unattainable luxury when you don’t.
Despite my rigorous screening, I fall foul of a harshly stringent quality control master who rejects some of my tiles as deformed. Back they go onto the ‘seconds’ pile.
Explorations on the e-bike continue.
Passing through the beautiful Rat Wood (something of a misnomer), I see a new palombier has been fashioned. In essence, these are precarious shooting towers, used by hunters to snaffle large pigeons. Dubiously constructed from varying shapes and sizes of scrap wood and metal. The previous one crashed to the ground a couple of years ago, so no plump and juicy pigeons will likely have been on the table since then. I note the design is exactly the same as the previous one and wonder how long it will last and be safe to ascend the dizzy heights.
Onward and through the plum orchards, with the sweet fruits dangling like bunches of grapes. Famous around the world, these plums will be part cooked and transformed into Pruneaux d’Agen - prunes, with a quality and sweetness that surpasses anything from Turkey or California.
Branches are simply snapping off with the weight of the fruit. The farmers must be happy with the enormous crop this year and although some seem smaller than usual, their sweet juices are sticky and flavoursome beyond belief.
Venturing further, I decide to pay a visit to the totally hidden Église St Martin. Full of history, this completely isolated little church is invisible from any roads at all, sitting as it does in the middle of a wood. It’s a pretty eerie place to visit by yourself but has an unrivalled charm. There’s no way I can ride up this steep climb so resort to pushing my bike, arriving at the top and ‘parking up’, smiling at how much I’m puffing.
Built on top of the hill, under the hillside and church itself, there is a network of subterranean caves used by locals at various times as safe havens, most notably and recently by the resistance during WW2. When we first arrived in France, the caves were open but sadly now they are locked, as is the church today. It’s possible to get the key from the Mairie, but I’m not going to now.
I descend back through the trees, teeth chattering with the bumps, laughing and braking hard, childlike, with legs sticking out on either side of the bike in readiness for a tumble.
Still laughing, I make it down to the car park in one piece.
Continuing along roads, with diversions onto tracks and over streams, I eventually loop back to end up at our neighbour’s farm to collect the bread.
Our neighbour Nicolas, not only is an artisan baker but he grows and mills his own cereals for his baking too. He is in the process of building a swanky new bakery at his farm to cope with demand as his sales are quite rightly soaring.
Being so local, we are able to buy direct from the bakery at the farm. Twice a week, bread is plopped into a paper carrier bag hung on a Heath Robinson style clothes rail where we collect it, but only after giving Olivier the dog a scruffle first.
It sits in my bike basket as I make my way home, satisfyingly oozing all those freshly baked, crusty bread aromas. Almost zero food miles here although an easy 22km clocked up on the bike today.
Hurricane Idalia sweeps past Cuba and trundles on through Florida and Georgia wreaking havoc as it does so.
The countdown to our own Cuban adventure continues.