Can Spring be far Behind?

Violets carpeting our lawn

The literary-minded will notice that the title is a quotation from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’, written in 1819 while the poet was staying in Florence. The poem can be interpreted in various ways, the most simplistic reading being simply a commentary on the weather. Spring isn’t officially here yet, but it has been flirting with us: sometimes revealing its radiant glory while at other times coyly hiding its face.

Over the past week, the reawakening process has accelerated. A large patch of vibrant violets suddenly appeared on the lawn. The daffodils are now in overblown bloom. In sheltered spots, plum trees are foaming with white blossom. Blackbirds serenade their mates and defend their territories from the treetops morning and evening, and the small birds are prospecting for nesting sites in our house walls.

Daffodils in full bloom

According to the SF (my husband, the Statistics Freak to the uninitiated), winter here goes from the beginning of November to the end of February. In some years, it has seemed a jolly sight longer than that. We have now had a run of four relatively mild winters with little or no snow.

Our 87 year-old neighbour says that in his youth the winters were much harder with several episodes of deep snow every year. You can tell that from the style of some of the roofs on the older houses around here. They are steeper-pitched and roofed with fish-scale slates rather than tiles to enable the snow to slide off more easily.

Snowbound in 2010


Verdict on winter 2016-17

We assign each day a subjective mark: plus if it’s good; zero if it’s indifferent; and minus if it’s bad. According to this scheme, our 20th winter here has been one of the better ones. Of the 120 days between November and March, we had:

52 pluses (42%). Only our very first winter had more fine days.
37 zeros (31%).
31 minuses (26%). Only two previous winters have had fewer bad days.

Along with fine weather goes less rainfall. During those four months, we had 236.5 mm of rain. We would normally expect 304 mm over the winter. December and January were particularly dry months, with rainfall adding up to only 45.5 mm between them. The average is 153 mm. March, however, has started wet and windy, with a brief respite over the past couple of days.

Fine weather in winter also equals frost (42 frost nights over the period). I don’t mind that. I would far rather wake up to a bright day with several degrees of frost than a gloomy, misty one. The latter have gone on for a week in some previous winters and I am climbing the walls after a few days. We had a cold snap in January with night-time temperatures down to minus 12C. A mere bagatelle. We’ve experienced minus 18C here and our neighbour tells us it got down to minus 27C in 1985.

Something to look forward to…

But now it’s all going in the right direction, despite the odd setback, and the evenings are noticeably drawing out. We await further harbingers of spring; the migratory birds that arrive in a certain order: cuckoos, swallows, hoopoes and nightingales.

Other signs of spring will soon be hitting the market stalls: asparagus and local Gariguettes strawberries, on which we gorge ourselves while they are in season.

So, while we still snuggle by the woodburner in the evening, we can start to dream of balmy twilights at our stone table, sipping a kir to the sound of nightingales.

You might also like:

Nightingales in Southwest France
The First Cuckoo
Seven Signs of Spring in SW France

Copyright © 2017 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved



  1. Having not seen much sun over the last week or so friday was blissful. As in your garden, our daffs and violets are out, the wayside ditches have a haze of blue from the many speedwells and a row of magnolia trees by our local station are all bursting into blossom. Ahhhhhh, time to prune, clear brambles, clean the gite, wash the gite quilts…….. love it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Friday and Saturday afternoons were perfect for working in the garden. We both caught the sun and felt as if we were glowing afterwards! The cowslips are now abundant in the ditches and verges. It may still be cold and unpleasant (more than likely), but c’est la belle saison qui s’approche.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Spring is the bravest season … all those delights that burst forth gung-ho at the first sign that there might be a cease-fire from winter never ceases to fill my heart with joy. Here we enjoyed snow for the first three days of the week and today the temperature is in the high 60s … never mind the vagaries, like you everything is bursting forth, the birds are singing fit to bust and the air smells sweeter for Spring being not so far behind! I love Shelley … he was the first poet I read seriously on my own so to speak rather than as a set text at school. I don’t remember why I particularly homed in on him but the affair has lasted thus far and I was delighted to see your title!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Although, as T.S.Eliot wrote, “April is the cruellest month”…! And it certainly can be. Our experience is that March can be lovely (although this March is very variable), but just as you think the winter is over, April comes in with a vengeance. Even so, the signs of reawakening are everywhere and my heart lifts every time I look at that lovely patch of violets on our lawn. You wouldn’t be able to make them grow like that. They choose their own time and place.

      Liked by 1 person

          • I know the feeling! I’ve no idea how I will even fit in the list of places in this country let alone any ideas of revisiting Italy for example! I do hope you get the chance to visit le Vercors …. quite apart from the dramatic natural beauty of the place, it is impossible to be unmoved by the stories ….


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