A funny old summer

Lots of things have been happening this week, so forgive me if this post is a little disjointed. I’ve felt a little disjointed myself over the past 10 days, partly because of the intense heat and partly because I turned over an already weak ankle in a hole in the garden that we had stupidly forgotten to fill in. Since I can swear in English, French and Swedish, the air turned several interesting shades of blue.

Meanwhile, the SF got himself stung on the hand by an angry wasp, no doubt aggravated itself by the heat. Conscious that far worse things are happening to many others, I’ll move swiftly on.

Heat and light

We sweated out a week of canicule (heatwave) when the temperature climbed to 38C or more (100F+) during the day and didn’t go below 20C at night. In those temperatures, you don’t do anything active.

A serious brush fire down near Varen required the attendance of 98 pompiers (firemen) and a plane that dropped flame-retardant powder on the blaze. Forest fires are becoming more common here, which underlines the need to be vigilant and not do stupid things like lighting bonfires during a drought. They are illegal all year round in our département, anyway.

Just when I was despairing of my garden ever recovering, the weather broke last Wednesday with a spectacular storm. We sat on our bolet (covered balcony) and watched it unfold, jumping at a couple of almost simultaneous flashes and bangs. The power of nature is pretty impressive when unleashed like that.

Bolet – port in a storm

A healthy 17 mm of rain fell, and you could almost hear the garden breathe a sigh of relief afterwards. The lagerstroemia (crepe myrtle), whose buds had previously refused to open, suddenly burst into flower, as did the hibiscus bushes.

Lagerstroemia against the stone wall of our well

Our place suffered no obvious damage. But when I drove down the lane a couple of days later, I saw that an enormous branch had been ripped off an oak tree beside the road. It had brought down the telephone cable with it. Those cables are obviously made of tough stuff, since our line wasn’t cut. A long scar ran down the trunk of the oak tree, which had presumably taken the brunt of a close lightning strike. The branch was the casualty.

We had another son-et-lumière show last night, but it was less violent. Welcome drizzle is refreshing the garden again today.

Food, glorious food

If you think I’m obsessed with food, you’re right. Many thanks for your fantastic responses to Robin Ellis’s Ma Vie Française interview last week, one of my most popular posts.

Robin and his wife, Meredith, kindly invited me to the online launch party for his book, Robin Ellis’s Mediterranean Vegetarian Cooking. This was beamed on Zoom from Robin’s kitchen in the Tarn.

Since I am inquisitive (aka nosy) by nature, I enjoyed this aperçu inside Robin and Meredith’s home. I love nosing around other people’s houses.

The event was great fun: Robin showed us his ratatouille recipe, and then other participants showed dishes they had made from the book. Plenty of questions ensued about, for example, substitutes for certain ingredients and the Mediterranean way of eating.

Gourmet takeaway

The SF and I have not eaten out in months because of you-know-what. However, enterprising local restaurants started takeaway services after lockdown had eased.

I wrote in an earlier post about the excellent menu à emporter we had from the Oustal del Barry in Najac. Since this is a big holiday weekend in France (le 15 août celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary), we decided to treat ourselves again to their continuing takeaway service.

L’Oustal del Barry, taken from inside the car while the SF fetched the lunch. Note the raindrops at the top of the windscreen

Najac is a 25-minute drive from us. At this time of year it’s heaving with tourists, so we were in and out as fast as possible.

Najac, tourist honeypot, even in Covid-19 days

On the menu for a very reasonable 15€ a head: faux filet de veau with aligot (cheese and potato purée) followed by chocolate brownies with a vanilla-y apricot mousse. Here, I should emphasise that local veal is reared under the mother in the fields and not milk-fed in dark intensive-farming conditions.

I was planning to take a photo of our lunch, but we ate it all before I had the chance.

A funny old summer

It’s been a funny old summer. Many events have been cancelled, including our local repas de quartier (neighbourhood meal), which should have taken place on Friday. Others are taking place only under strict conditions. We are avoiding many of those, simply because not everyone feels the need to respect the regulations. And the list of places I had planned to visit has been kicked into touch. But the examples above show how people here have adapted to the constraints in some cases.

Wherever you are, take care and stay safe.

You might also find these of interest:

Ma Vie Française #9: Robin Ellis, cooking up a (healthy) feast in Southwest France

Thunder in the air

Inside le Château de Najac

Copyright © Life on La Lune, 2020. All rights reserved.


  1. I hope your ankle is getting better, Vanessa!! Lucky you for having all that rain – we had a thunderstorm one night last week, with what sounded a really nice amount of rain. When I checked the rain gauge the following morning it was so disappointed – only 4mm!! 😦 I’d had made plans of turning over the ground where the potatoes had been and to plant some cabbages and leeks… Never mind, that’ll have to wait until we have some serious rain!
    Look after yourself and stay cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for asking. My ankle is much better. My own stupid fault. We had more rain than you, but even so it wasn’t a lot. We have counted around 20 mm in 8 weeks. At least it is much cooler here now. I will do a rain dance for your cabbages and leeks!
      Stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, it’s been as hot as it was for us in Italy in the last years there; too hot!!! The poor veggie garden has been gasping and the tomatoes not ripening, with pear trees dropping their load of fruit.

    Your takeaway sounds delicious and very reasonable … we have eaten there once and the food is excellent. Perhaps we’ll try tomorrow to get a takeaway!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The heat has been unbearable, hasn’t it? The 15th August is over which usually signals a change in the weather. Thank you for a new name for my lilas des Indes (crepe myrtle). I love ours. It begins to flower just as everything else is suffering in the usual high temperatures. It is just beginning to fade now but has been a beautiful splash of colour for ages. I hope your ankle heals soon. I tripped over a concrete channel at the (steep) side of our house going to fill a watering can. I am so grateful to only have a bruised knee and a sore arm where I smashed into the side of the cave! At my age you check to see if anything has broken. Still, far worse things to be suffering from at the moment. Bon courage.


    • I’m glad that relentless heat is over. Mid-August is always the watershed, after which it can still be hot but not stifling. Our lilas des Indes is late this year. It absolutely refused to flower until it had felt rain on it. Watering it at the roots obviously wasn’t enough.

      Ankle is on the mend, thanks. I broke a bone in my foot about 25 years ago, and the ankle has been prone to spraining easily ever since. My own fault for not looking where I was going.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hope you’re now enjoying some settled and cooler weather, we finally have that and it’s such a relief. You live in a beautiful part of France (well let’s face it most of it is beautiful). I have a rough idea of the area as we spent 2 holidays in Puycelci and spent our time visiting the villages and markets. For years we stayed near Brantome (Perigord). So many happy memories of France.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hopefully, we won’t have that searing heat now, although it can still be hot during the day. A definite autumnal tang this evening. Yes, we’re very lucky to live here. I know Puycelsi well, having sung there with choirs in aid of the church restoration. It’s about 50 km from us. There’s plenty to see in the environs. I hope you can get back there one day, and then we can meet in person. 🙂 Glad to hear it’s cooler in the UK. I know it’s been unusually hot there. Enjoy!


      • Much cooler and drizzly here today, perfect English summer weather! It would be lovely to get back to France, we both love it, so we just need to make it happen at some stage. Retirement can’t come soon enough to give us some free time. You’ll definitely be on my visiting list if we’re ever in the area. Take care x

        Liked by 1 person

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