As promised, we did indeed have an encounter with the “Beast from the East” or as it is more clunkily named here la vague de froid Moscou-Paris: the “Moscow-Paris cold wave”. That’s a term that probably reflects the long shadow cast by the appalling destruction of Napoleon’s Grande Armée by the Russian winter of 1812/13 in which some 380,000 soldiers died and 100,000 were captured.
The temperature fell dramatically on Sunday evening, it snowed all day Monday and began to stick in the evening. Tuesday we woke to a spectacular snowscape and Chris headed out with his camera and walked into Taradeau taking lots of photographs. Wednesday we had a renewed burst of snow but by Thursday afternoon it had all largely melted.
Last week the question was raised how Taradeau would handle the snow. After all there are only four routes into our village, roads here are never gritted or salted and two of the routes involve steep winding descents that demand caution even in good weather. And snow is not exactly common here: the last comparable snowfall seems to have been over ten years ago. The answer is interesting. There is a temptation for the British mind – doubtless heightened by books such as those by the late Peter Mayle – to think of villages in rural Provence as places still living in horse and cart technology where the obvious response to snow is to feed the animals, yawn and then go back to bed.
Well, on reaching the centre of Taradeau Chris noticed that the woman who runs the main office at the Mairie which offers advice on everything from planning permission to hornet extermination was there, as normal, opening up at 9:00 precisely. Impressive. No snow day there!
He then returned home, uploaded the photographs to the computer, did the usual tweaks and then sent off a dozen good images by email to the mayor’s office telling them they could use them if they wanted. Almost instantly there was an email back of “Merci beaucoup Chris! Nous allons les publier…” (“we’re going to publish them”). And lo and behold shortly afterwards they were up on the village’s website. An hour or so later the front page had been rewritten with one of the best pictures and a request that if anybody else had photographs to send them in. Nicely done guys.
In many ways that typifies the charm of Taradeau. Yes, with its vineyard festival, its seemingly permanent boules contests and (we kid you not) its “St Hubert Mass for the Blessing of Hunting Dogs” (we absented ourselves on ecological and theological grounds) it does look backwards with affection. But it also works: and on the basis of the snow day, very efficiently.