The slightly disjointed nature of the blogs over the past month or so has been partly because we have been travelling backwards and forwards to the UK, first to see Chris’ dad in hospital and then sadly, last week for his funeral. So in the space of year Chris has lost both his father and mother: all very sad. It does however mean that we are adjusting to a new situation where we are not constantly waiting for the phone to ring with a crisis that we have to deal with from a thousand miles away. Something, we suppose, of a silver lining.
We got back on last Sunday night and despite lots of things demanding our attention went out on the Monday afternoon walk with one of the many local walking groups. We needed the exercise.
It was a fairly straightforward circuit on the Plaine des Maures not far from us. We have mentioned it before, but it is an extraordinary area which feels like nothing else in this part of the world. It is a very flat plain in the shadow of the range of the Maures hills where the hard pebbly sandstones are covered by soils so thin that the rocks frequently poke out.
The vegetation is very distinctive, generally a thin scrub with sporadic but dramatic umbrella pines. It is a strange, dry region that feels more akin to African savanna than Provence and you feel the odd giraffe or elephant would not go amiss. In reality it does not seem to have a lot of wildlife, perhaps because it is so dry in summer.
Possibly because of thin nature of the soils, the plants make the best of spring. This is one of the hottest areas of southern France and there is not a lot of groundwater to keep plants going in summer. This year, after at least two months without rain, there seemed to be a particular urgency to the plants, with spectacular irises, tree heather and rosemary.
Thankfully however it has rained heavily this week and there is the hope of more rain on Saturday.
Travelling to and from to the UK has of course constantly reminded us of the embarrassing debacle that is Brexit. The failure on the part of Leave campaigners and the government to comprehend the enormous quantity of links and legislation that has been quietly built up over the last 40 years between Britain and Europe is astonishing. Everything from importing a pet to bank arrangements, from driving licences to the validity of healthcare agreements is affected. The present state of the UK being in some sort of bizarre limbo of neither in nor out is not at all helpful. Someone, somewhere should have had the courage to say that if the UK was going to leave Europe then to arrange for it to happen was going to involve an extraordinarily expensive project that would last for a decade at least. So if you are planning your holidays in France this summer – and why not? – it’s probably worth checking the small print on everything from insurance to inoculations. But there is not much point in doing it now – it will probably have totally changed in the next few days.