Mortality and a March miscellany

As we have explained before, we make a point in these blogs of not revealing travelling plans and thus absences  In fact for much of the past three weeks we have actually been in the UK. After a year in a nursing home with increasing dementia, Chris’s mum died on Saturday 10th March. She had been fading away for some time and her death, while sad, came as no surprise. We didn’t head up to the UK immediately – it’s not easy organising funerals out of a hotel room – but our sons both went up in the days after the death to see Chris’s dad. Thanks, boys! So we flew up on the Wednesday and managed to get the funeral and cremation arranged for the following Friday. In fact, as they say, everything “went as well as possible under the circumstances”. It was a good service (thanks Rev Mike for a good preach) and nice to see some family members that we haven’t seen for a long time. And just to add a little bit of excitement to the ten days in the UK, the day after the funeral we managed to move Chris’s dad from the nursing home he’d been in with mum to a new residential home not far away.

So it’s been good to return. We were expecting to come back to find this part of Provence in the full flush of spring but in reality things weren’t much more advanced than they had been when we left. The cold wet weather has continued and the good news is that in our absence we had a lot of rain here in Taradeau and our river is finally flowing.

The Florièye looking upstream from the Taradeau bridge. The top picture shows it bone dry in February, the lower one with (rather green) water on the left and right a few days ago.

In fact as we write this the temperatures are still unseasonally low and there are reports of snow down to 1000 m in the hills beyond us. One result of this is the sense of a curious pent-up spring as if nature is revving its engine ready to go. The first of the migrant birds are flying in and we’ve seen swallows and house martins. The giant orchid Barlia has popped its head up everywhere. Unfortunately its height seems to be at the expense of elegance: it definitely lacks the delicacy of most orchids.


Red-backed Shrike on the Plateau de Canjuers


In terms of wildlife there has been much discussion about the very worrying report on French birds which suggests that there has been a catastrophic decline, in some cases up to two-thirds, across the French countryside over the last few fifteen years. Given the fact that this has followed a massive decline in insect life it seems unarguable that the cause is the excessive use of pesticides linked to intensive farming, something also seen in the UK. Our own testimony here is that if you go up on the Plateau de Canjuers, the Isle-of-Wight-sized army training ground to the north of us, where there have been no pesticides, birdlife is much more in evidence. The Minister responsible for the environment, Nicholas Hulot – something of a French David Attenborough – has made a strong and impassioned representation about this at the highest levels and it will be interesting to see what happens.

Snow on the mountains behind Nice

Talking about government, we ought to mention for anybody planning to go to France this summer that we have now entered a protracted season of strikes and it’s well worthwhile checking on planes and trains. Given that M. Macron faces almost no Parliamentary opposition and is working on radical changes to the way France works, strikes seem to be the only way of expressing discontent.

Oh and given that – at least in theory – it’s only a year until Britain leaves the European Union, we have to report that no one this side of the channel has the slightest clue what’s going to happen. The impression we get is that no one is bothering to do anything until it is clear what exactly the depressingly dysfunctional British government manages to decide is actually going to happen. It could be a very long wait.

And finally, Alison has been one of those working on a new church website for Holy Trinity Cannes. Check it out here!

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