But the "météo infernale" is also a very real concern for the local economy, which relies primarily if not exclusively on agriculture and tourism. Temperatures at least 10oC below the average is not merely an inconvenience for tourists with suitcases full of shorts and T-shirts. It is a threat to the livelihoods of those whose region we invade each summer, but which is amongst the poorest in France, with per capita incomes significantly below the national average.
For the producteurs, it has been particularly difficult, with growers complaining of soil which is both froid et humide. The asparagus crop has been small, and what there is of poorer quality. The annual cherry market in Remoulins was cancelled. Only the three-day celebration of the pois-chiche, chick-peas, in Montaren, went ahead.
For the restaurateurs, “la fraîcheur rend les terraces presque désertes”, while those few establishments with substantial interior space continue to prosper. There is no need to book at most places for lunch after the famous Saturday market in Uzès. Indeed, two weeks ago, the market was decimated: only a tenth of the normal number of stalls were present. One could park with relative ease, but there was little to buy. The trendy boutiques are selling skimpy summer garments, “des vêtements très légers”. But we need sweaters and anoraks. One shopkeeper told the local paper, Le Républicain, that he had “ne pas avoir vendu un seul maillot de bain depuis le début de la saison”. Not a single bathing costume all year.
And yet, there are signs that there is some serious investment being made in the Uzège. Sotheby’s International Realtors have arrived in Uzès. Where once there was a single bar à vin in town, there are now half a dozen, of varying degrees of chic-ness, as the old and old-fashioned bars are being bought and re-developed. No more steak frites or omelettes or piéce de boucher. It's all scallops and posh salads.
In St Quentin la Poterie, the pizza place near us is, rumour has it, being transformed into a restaurant Lyonnaise. Frank’s boucherie in the Grande Rue is to be developed and expanded into a charcuterie, a deli, and a resto. In the market square, the bio boulangerie has been knocked down and a huge circumflex-shaped structure is being erected, with shops on the ground floor and offices above. The roof is going on as I write and it is scheduled to be open for commerces by the end of August. Apparently, all the shops have been taken. Meanwhile, good news for Sotheby’s, Eric, at Immo30, reports excellent sales all year so far in the village.
So that’s all good then. At least in the long-term.
And in the short-term, there is no danger of a water shortage. When the Parisians arrive, they will be able to fill their pools without a problem.
Today’s listening: Branford Marsalis with the Grateful Dead. The brilliant saxophonist sat in with the Dead five times, all well worth the listen. But my favourite is 10th September 1991 at Madison Square Garden, NY. And that's what playin' now.