Simple Pleasures

The past 12 days have afforded plenty of time for reflection. Too much, no doubt. Nonetheless, beneath the negative emotions that most of us have been feeling, there are flickers of a deeper process at work: one of re-evaluating and realigning the mental compass. I felt this when we embarked on a walk to the regulation 1 km limit and back yesterday morning. We are restricted in where and for how long we can walk, but we are immensely lucky to be surrounded by glorious countryside that is bursting with the vitality of an early spring.

I took the camera with me, something I have never done before on a simple stroll down our lane.

Signs of Spring

We have had no rain for some time, and the mud has given way to dust. But the verges are adorned with the lushest, brightest grass I have ever seen in March, thanks to a wet but mild winter and the recent warm sunshine. Spires and spikes of yellow cowslips and mauve honesty stand out against the sharp green.

The trees are getting that greeny-brown fuzziness when the leaves start to unfurl. There’s a fresh smell of cut grass and rising sap.

A rather fine oak. They are usually the last to come into leaf, but this one already shows signs of fuzzy leafyness

Best of all are the sounds. We realise that there is no traffic noise, except for a distant tractor. Even in our country area, the sound of traffic and the whine of jet engines coming in to land in Toulouse are ever-present in normal times. The lack of these gives the air a resonant clarity. The spring birdsong is intensified.

A woodpecker calls in the woodland that borders the lane and drills its beak against a trunk in a mating tattoo. A hunting kestrel cries as its wings flash above us. And there are rustlings and scurryings at the roadside: lizards, interrupted while basking in the sun; or mice, anxious to avoid our giant feet.

Wayside crosses

We walk down the lane with the sun in our eyes, past fields that have put on a spurt in a matter of days. Past the grazing cows and along to the poubelles (dustbins), roughly the 1 km limit. From here you have a view across the valley to the water tower on the hill, just visible on the left. There is not a jet contrail to be seen. Normally, they criss-cross like some manic barn dance in the sky.

Next to the dustbins stands a headless cross. Its top has fallen off long ago, and the broken pieces of stone have sunk into the field behind it.

These wayside crosses are a common feature of our landscape. Some are simple and unadorned. Others are elaborately carved, like this phylloxera cross below near Saint-Igne, a few kilometres away. It was fashioned by a local mason in a vain attempt to ward off the phylloxera bug that devastated the French vineyards in the late 19th century.

Phylloxera cross inscription with cross-bones

Rural views

We turn back at the poubelles and have a good view of the village of Parisot on its hill. The church spire is its highest point. You can also make out le château d’Astorguié on the slopes of the village on the right. This was uninhabited when we moved here, but it was bought and restored to its former glory.

A rather hazy village on its hill, with the château on the right. More prosaic farm buildings beneath.

It’s uphill on the way back, so we get something of a workout. I take a few snaps of the countryside. They never turn out as well as the reality, but it gives you an idea.

Our neighbours (300 m down the lane from our house) are taking breakfast in the sun. We stop to exchange a few words, keeping a safe distance apart. We all agree that we are fortunate to live in a place like this.

The reality of the situation doesn’t hit you until you take the car on the empty roads in pursuit of one of the restricted reasons for going out. In the shops, we do a sort of ritual dance to avoid getting too close to other people and breathe a sigh of relief when we get home, pull up the drawbridge and try to pretend that the world hasn’t turned upside down.

Appreciating the simple pleasures has become more important than ever.

You might also like:

Every Château Tells a Story #12: Le Château de l’Astorguié


Wine Blight: How the French Wine Industry was almost Wiped Out

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  1. The flowers are lovely, and you are so lucky to have walks like this accessible during this time. I agree that it is a good time for reflection and realignment, too. Hopefully the entire world does that and we all come out of this better than before. Stay safe and healthy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vanessa or Nessa, if I remember correctly; this is such a treat to read. It is both extremely sad and encouraging. You note everything we noted too – I am back in our home country since March 1st, after 12 years just outside of Paris – our home, which was always way more than just a house, is a near empty shell, devoid of our furniture, rugs, our decor, it’s absolutely glorious with precious murals, beautiful high rooms oozing with light and character, parquet floors and Nancy tiled mosaic floors for the hallway, kitchen and bath…., it calls our names with the thirsty plants galore, plants I myself put in the earth in our many, many pots and jardinières (and are dying now because nobody may enter and water them) – the huge garden (it’s over 1100m2 in a very beautiful and relatively quiet area) is probably buzzying with birds but we are ‘here’ in a rental flat, working at desks facing in each other, no room with any interest to it, and yet, and yet, we are surrounded by greenery, kind people in the buiding, I can go shopping on foot, we have a lake at a good 20′ walk from here – and it seems that people are happier. I’m quite sure and convinced that in your area it’s the French Life we knew before moving to a Paris based location, the air must be so much purer than it is in the super large cities – life is a tad slower here than it is elsewhere (especially now that everybody who can, works from home), and I rejoice greatly in my blooming tulips and daffs brazingly flowering in the falling rain and snowdrops worthy of the famous ‘April Weather’ we have right now. I have doctors and nurses in my family and friends’ circle, they tell some atrocious tales, we feel so protected, shielded from the ‘evil’, it’s almost unreal. We have visited the Toulouse region repeatedly in much earlier years, it was always a great experience although much too hot for our white ‘delicate’ skins, we remember vividly the airplanes drawing their lines in the sky – here all you hear right now is the birds singing, the neigbours talking amongst themselves and their families, doing brisk walks with their dogs or waddle along their small children. We have no traffic – it’s nearly as idyllic as your country life, but is only a less than one hour train ride from the (normally) buzzing Zurich. We both take solace in what we can in these troubling times and it’s wonderful to find so many virtual friends united around a few blogs, we all seem to ‘collect’ to our hearts. I’m probably and very likely the only one w/o my own blog – I use all my time writing to everybody on THEIR writing…. 🙂
    All the best to you – stay safe and keep up the courage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Kiki. I answer to both! Vanessa is my given name, but family call me Nessa, and I don’t really mind which I’m called.

      What a lyrical response from you – thank you. I can tell how much you miss your home near Paris. I know how much I would miss our place if we left it, although yours sounds more elegant than our rustic farmhouse! From a practical point of view, where you are now sounds a good place to be. And you have people around you – so important at a time like this. You’re right that life in our area is further back in time than around Paris, which was one of the things that attracted us in the first place. I am storing up in my head all the places I want to visit once we are able to again.

      Being able to connect with friends virtually has been a boon in the past couple of weeks. The internet has a lot wrong with it, but the ability to keep people connected over long distances is precious. I too take solace in reading other people’s blogs and sharing experiences and emotions. It always means a lot to me when people comment, but it’s especially valuable right now.

      Take care and bon courage to you, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nessa, you are so right. This IS a time to re-evaluate and reconsider. All of us have life halted to some degree, all of us have fear and anxiety. But we can take pleasure in what we have. What surrounds us (and yours is absolutely delightful, of course). Whilst we cloister at home, suddenly home takes on a new perspective. Nature is still doing what she ever does. It is quite wonderful to have the time and the moment to really SEE her. This does not in any way take away from the gravity of the situation but it does in some way give some value to the way things are. Stay at home, dance the grocery dance only when you absolutely have to. You are ever in my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t for a moment welcome what is happening, but if we can achieve an enhanced perspective on the things we normally take for granted, then perhaps some good might emerge. The small things take on their proper value. As you will well understand, for French people not to shake hands and faire la bise is a great hardship. The anguish I see in acquaintances’ faces when we dance around each other is not only fear but also a sense of having been cut off from a deep cultural tradition. Take care.


  4. Delightful Vanessa. So true and lovely to feel connected to the Tarn et Garonne while hundreds of kilometres away. Keep safe and love to you both.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, we can’t go far, so the daily walk to the poubelles and back is going to pall after a while. However, there are some detours to make it more varied. At least I have plenty of photos of T&G, which I will share in the coming weeks. I hope you’re both keeping well. Take care.


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