Sunday, April 26, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day forty-one

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one journee nationale du souvenir de la deportation
Our village war memorial 

Day forty-one, 26th April 2020

It is the last Sunday in April, which I found out today is remembered in France as the Journée Nationale du Souvenir de la Deportation, or national day of remembrance for those who were deported and interned in the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. I’m not sure how I’ve missed this until now, as it has been ‘commemorated’ in most main towns and cities since 1954, with the laying of flowers at the war memorial. Life is not ideal for many of us at the moment and most families are affected somehow, whether it is by health issues, financial worries, or being isolated from families, but discovering this national day brought it home to me that we are still in a much better place than so many who have gone before us.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one gardening
Adrian in the jungle

Clearing the jungle

Motivation was in short supply this morning, despite the warmth and sunshine from a day when storms had been forecast, but eventually we got going on what turned out to be a pretty productive day. A bit more weeding from me before lunch and some major cutting back from Adrian, that then kept him busy for most of the afternoon too. 

The edges of our orchard have been completely taken over by monster bay trees, rampant ground elder, knee high nettles and brambles that weave their way through everything. Somewhere in amongst them are plum and pear trees; I know because I saw their blossom trying its best a few weeks ago. While I do harvest the bay leaves and nettles, and occasionally the elder flowers, I would prefer to be able to get to the fruit trees to pick the pears and the plums.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one gardening
Man at work in his barn

It is now looking much better but is one of those jobs that the more you cut back, the more you discover needs cutting back. Once free from the jungle, Adrian shredded all the prunings, and the compost heap he diligently turned during the week, has now got some good chippings to start off this year’s compost supply. I also spotted some rogue courgette family seeds that have germinated in the heap of compost ready and waiting to be used. I love to watch these grow as quite often they travel metres from their base and produce some monster squash (see here) that are never quite like anything I grew last year but taste great.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one compost
Compost heap

I’ve had a bit of quality time in my kitchen too, cooking down the nettles I picked, that will be added to my soups, making humous from the chickpeas left over from last night’s sweet potato and chickpea couscous dish and putting together a homemade fish pie for this evening. Don’t tell the boys, but my secret ingredient in the pie is pureed nettles stirred into the bechamel sauce.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one fish pie nettles
Fish pie ready to bake

Stay indoors, stay safe.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one Pyrenees
26th April 2017 cycling from Escos to Salies-de-Béarn, Pyrenees

April holiday memory 

26th April 2017 and we are still in the Pyrenees, on our bikes, and discovering more old railway lines now repurposed as cycle tracks. There are so many great cycling opportunities in the Pyrenees, even if climbing the cols isn’t your thing and one of my favourite was the voie verte cycle path from Escos to Salies-de-Béarn. Here we were lucky enough to cycle through the fallen blooms from the Acacia trees, whose scent hung in the warm air, and cross the fast flowing Gave d’Oloron river on an ancient iron bridge, while looking at snow covered peeks on the horizon. I am dreaming of returning to the Pyrenees and Pays Basques with our bikes. The weather will be sunny, but not too hot, and we'll feel alive once more as our legs and lungs power us up the passes and across into Spain.

Lockdown library

If you want to experience a little bit of everything the Pyrenees has to offer, then get stuck into the great Fogas Chronicles series of books, set in a Pyrenean mountain village, by Julia Stagg.

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