A 220 year old maison de village does not respond well to being vacated and neglected for six months over the winter. Nor does it deserve such treatment. But each year, in September, we shut and shutter this little house in the rue de la Revolution of St Quentin-la-Poterie, a small ville des metiers d'art near Uzes, before returning apprehensively in May.
Will the roof have leaked again? Will the boiler have decided that, finally, it is retiring? Will the lorelei and Judas tree in the courtyard have grown uncontrollably? Will the back wall have crumbled completely away?
This last is the real concern each year because the house was built in 1792. The chateau had been burned down in the Revolution, and its old walls used as the back-drop for the small artisans' cottages of rue de la Revolution. So we don't have windows at the rear; but we do have serious damp.
Every year, our our first day, we think that this may be our last; that we will sell up.
This year, we have been fortunate. The house has borne the stresses of the winter with remarkable fortitude. Arriving in mid-afternoon, the house was a home again by early evening.
The village, too, was equally welcoming. Our first morning was market day, and the Bar du Marche was full. We met almost everyone we know within the first ten minutes. We ate carpaccio de boeuf with friends in Momo's. Saturday in Uzes was equally familiar and equally joyous. It was almost as if the town had gone into suspended animation on the day we left last year. The same people, in the same cafes, having the same conversations.
Quickly, we re-established the routine. Coffee in Le Bengali, a stroll round the market, acquiring a new suit for 10 euros on the second-hand clothes store, geraniums in the flower section, and then the first (and second) pichet of M. Floutier's gris in the Suisse in the company of many of the old faces.
Today, the sky is bright blue without a trace of cloud. The temperature is in the mid-20s. We are off for lunch with good friends who have a pool.
Maybe we won't sell up after all.
Today's listening: Shostakovich, Jazz Suite No 2. Great stuff.
P.S. Haven't worked out how to insert accents into the text, or even if it's possible. My apologies to those for whom this matters.