It’s that time of year in the south of France when winter is quietly being forgotten and spring is considered imminent. Blossom and new shoots are appearing in trees, the bird hunters have put their shotguns away and supermarkets are running discounts on stoves and starting to display lawn mowers and garden implements. We felt certain that winter was behind us the other day when, two months after we ordered and paid for it, we finally received a spare part for our wood-burning stove.
Winter however has not yet completely and finally departed. There is still snow on the hills and we’ve had a bit of a chill wind blowing the last few days. All the books on France tell you that each wind direction has a special name. Perhaps in more rural days they did. Here every wind is simply called the mistral, but at least in this part of Provence it is nowhere near the howling roof-ripping gale of the classic mistral that you get hurtling down the Rhône valley towards the delta of the Camargue. Ours is much more civilised.
So before it is a distant memory here are a few photos to remind you of the departing winter.
We are looking forward to spring. We learnt last year that you need to value spring down here in southern France. It can be a blink-and-you-miss-it sort of thing: one week it’s grey, chill and wintry and the next the temperature is racing up to the 20s Celsius, and you are opening up the swimming pool, desperately trying to find a supermarket with spare fans and wondering where you put the insect repellent and the short-sleeve shirts. At the risk of irritating Welsh friends, this is a very distinct improvement to the situation in the Principality where it was all too common to experience just two seasons: three months of winter and another nine months in which spring slides into autumn with only a few days of summer. Sorry, we don’t miss that.