Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is It Really Here?

I think it’s safe to say that Spring might have arrived at last. Of course that could be a bit premature; the last time I thought that winter had finally pushed off was about a month ago, when the temperature rose, the sun shone and on a day out, we actually managed to eat our sandwiches in a picnic area without coats.

February is usually a great month for Spring-like weather in the Haute Garonne. We’re blessed with short winters which, even though they might be cold, are at least bearable. The knowledge that by the middle of February we could be sitting out in the sun gives us something to look forward too.

When I say ‘sitting in the sun’ I don’t mean I’m stretched out on a sun lounger in shorts and a strappy top ( a sight which should not be inflicted on those of a delicate disposition), it’s more like light sweater and jeans and sitting in a south-facing position.

This is what rattles me about those grumbling crumblies in the UK who have an annual chip at expat OAP’s who receive the government winter fuel allowance. For a start not every retiree gets it … it’s only paid if you were already getting it before you left the UK; everyone in receipt of a retirement pension has paid in to the system over a period of at least forty years so it’s not a charitable freebie, and lastly (and hilariously) there is a certain section of UK pensioners who actually think that south of Calais the temperature never drops below 20c. I heard an old girl on the Jeremy Kyle show rabitting on about this very subject when I was in the UK last year. Bless her heart, she actually seem to think that we were all spending the money on cheap booze and fags. I suspect she regarded anyone who left Britain to retire to pastures new as traitors and as such certainly didn’t deserve government hand-outs.

Well I can tell her that we had it cold enough to freeze the thingies off a brass monkey this year, and every winter it’s cold enough for a 15 tog duvet, so there! 150€ worth of wood keeps one room warm for about three months, providing we don’t light the fire until 6’clock in the evening and additional heating by way of radiators probably puts the electricity bill up by 75% on the summer quarters.

Not that I’m grumbling – the winters here are dry, crisp and bright even on the worst days. My recollections of East Anglian winters are dominated by memories of days that never seemed to get light. And an awful lot of mud. The roads around my village are nearly always clean, dry and mudless, but then this is cattle country, devoid of sugar beet lorries en route to the processing plant.

The garden has suddenly put a spurt on, as we knew it would once the temperatures rose, The daffodils were open enough to provide me with a Mother’s Day bouquet ( I live with a cheap skate who prefers to grow me flowers rather than buy them, but it’s the thought that counts). The crocus are always a hardy bunch, they keep coming through whatever the weather, as do the primulas which have self-sown themselves from the communal open ground at the rear of the garden. The trees have developed a delicate green haze and even our gorgeous Aubrac cows are looking happy. Yes, I’m going to stick my neck out and say “ Printemps est arrive. ”