It's four weeks to the day since we uprooted ourselves from the Aude in Southern France to re-root ourselves in the Loire valley. Normally, a month in the old life would have probably zipped past relatively un-noticed but four weeks in a new life, new place, new garden, neighbours, acquaintances, towns, weather, builders, accents, food, and so on has been a journey of exploration even down to the tiniest of details such as having one of those 'grindy' loos, finding a snake in the house and cooking on the most ancient of electric cookers, ever.
It's odd how all the memories of the house we left behind are beginning to fade even just after a few weeks. Mark asked me yesterday, when we were planning kitchen ideas, if the other kitchen had a double or single sink. I had no idea. I must have stood at it a million times washing up and peeling veg but it was now just a white unclear object in my mind. I can still hear the certain creaks of cupboard doors, the crunch of gravel from the driveway or the sound of the piano being practiced in the back room but now the creaks are different, the gravel has mostly given way to silent padding over grass sounds, and the piano is more evident - now placed in the front room which is much better. A piano should be played and heard not sometimes visited at the back of the house.
Late summer/early autumn
The days have passed with a certain pattern in place: dog walks, and they are good ones - long, pacing over fields, down empty roads, through woods; unpacking and organising our belongings, showing builders around, exploring a little - not too far yet as there has been too much to do; talking to new friends, and old friends on the phone; getting back into our respective work and getting to know our rather extensive patch of land and all the nature it contains. The bird population within its hedges is very healthy, helped by the previous owner's clever planting of insect-encouraging plants; I've so far seen two pairs of green woodpeckers, a lesser spotted woodpecker (I think) wrens, jays, a kingfisher, many different species of finch, tits, blackbirds, and other birds I must learn the names of - especially in French.
One of the very wonderful things about this area is the abundance of local, often organic, fruit and veg. Within a short bike ride /walk there are four places to choose from, our nearest being Jean-Paul's place, a few fields completely stuffed with the most incredible produce. Having got to know him a little, he kindly came to look at our place and work out the best place for veg-growing would be, etc. We had tea and his strawberries and learned more about the area, the changing climate, the markets he sells at and how to grow things successfully in a very sandy soil.
This morning I went up and worked in his fields for the pleasure of learning something new and to glean a bit of info for the part of the book I'm currently writing. I was given the task of picking and making up bunches of coriander and parsley - much easier than last week's tough-on-the hands and skilful radish picking and bunching. I cycled back with a slightly complaining back and a gift of newly-picked carrots and herbs.