|Angouleme at sunset|
November arrives in a flurry of changes
They say a change is as good as a rest, but so much has changed, in such a short space of time, that I’m finding it exhausting.
We have said goodbye to October, which means my four-month contract working at the library is over, and the clocks have changed. It still amazes me how sensitive my body clock is to just a one-hour time adjustment and the gloomy early evenings really haven’t helped my mood. The first few days without the routine of work were busy, but then my motivation deserted me. I cleaned out the fridge, Adrian defrosted one of the freezers and we battled the crowds to do the weekly shop, foolishly thinking that as Lidl had decided to open all day on a public holiday, we’d be the only ones there – wrong – I’ve not seen a supermarket so crowded since life pre-Covid. I baked a cake, made a couple of batches of soup and tried my best to plan some exciting meals using food we’ve found in the freezer. I’ve got books to read and lists of jobs to do, yet for now, nothing seems quite as appealing as serving customers at the library.
Even without this huge change to my daily routine, November and December are my least favourite months of the year and it’s always been a challenge to keep my mind focussed. The weather has been changeable too, the sun has shone, the wind has blown, and the rain has poured down, sometimes all at once, but we’ve enjoyed the autumn colours on dog walks and bike rides.
|Our studio apartment in Angouleme|
Aigre to Angouleme
As a pick-me-up to take my mind off the end of my library work, we did manage to escape for an overnight mini adventure. The plan had been to finish work at lunchtime and cycle the sixty kilometres from home to Angouleme, enjoy a meal out, stay the night and then return the following day. Short, but sweet, however, things don’t always quite go to plan.
|Bright and breezy Autumn days in the Charente|
Despite checking the weather forecast before making the last-minute booking, what looked like a breezy, dry, two days had changed for the worse by the day we left. The breeze had become a headwind of thirty to forty kilometres an hour, with bright sunshine, on day one and the return was looking to be wet and wild with stronger gusts of wind. They do say there is no such thing as bad weather, just badly equipped cyclists, however low autumn sun combined with wind creates flickering leaves and shadows, which is particularly risky for my photosensitive epilepsy. To say Adrian was concerned with me attempting a sixty-kilometre ride in these conditions was an understatement, so we took the disappointing decision to take the car part of the way in order to reduce the risk of an incident.
|A Charente village cemetery for All Souls Day|
I can’t deny it was hard work battling into the wind, but the autumn colours were beautiful as we passed through villages, churches, cemeteries and vineyards. The villages may have been quiet, but the cemeteries were busy as family members placed colourful potted chrysanthemums on the graves for All Saints/All Souls Day.
|Sunset in Angouleme|
The benefit of only having a forty-kilometre ride meant we’d arrived at our town centre AirBnB with plenty of time to wander around Angouleme in the daylight, catch a dramatic sunset and treat ourselves to an outdoor apero before dinner.
|Angouleme street art|
Angouleme is a pretty town to walk around, with an impressive cathedral, a town hall that looks like a fairy tale castle, and superb views over the ramparts. It is home to an annual bande dessinée (comic book) festival and I especially love the themed wall art decorating entire building facades around the town. The apero treat soon turned into an eye-opening experience that was equally shocking and terrifying. To find ourselves amidst so many people out socialising, many in large groups, the students all greeting each other with multiple (unmasked) cheek kisses, almost made me run back to the sanctuary of our quiet rural village life.
|Le Bruleau Charentais restaurant Angouleme|
We ate at Le Bruleau Charentais, a small, family-run traditional restaurant where the speciality is steak cooked on an open-fire, in full view of the diners. Most of their produce is locally sourced. For a grand total of fifty-five euros, we enjoyed a glass each of the local Pineau aperitif with a shared charcuterie platter, followed by entrecote steaks served with chips and a half litre of house red wine. This was our second visit here and easily lived up to our experience two years ago.
|Breakfast in Angouleme market|
Breakfast the following day was coffee and a croissant in the (almost deserted) covered market, surrounded by the deliciousness of the fresh produce. We made our escape before the rain started and although we’d lost the clear blue skies and sunshine of the day before, it was still a lovely cycle, criss-crossing the river Charente and returning to the car in Aigre, damp, but not as soaked as we’d feared.
|River Charente in Autumn|
With a clearer head and an empty diary, the time has come to plan the next step in the adventure that is life. My dream job might belong to someone else, but I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to look after it for her this summer. Life is too short not to make every day count, something that hit home this week when I learned of the sudden death of someone who had been a good friend to us since we moved to France. Her enthusiasm for life was contagious and over the years she taught me so much about French food, culture and the language, as well as sharing her gardening and sewing skills. If it wasn’t for her, I’d probably still only be able to speak French in the present tense.
RIP Fatima. You were colourful, kind and caring, and lived life at such a fast pace, finding photos of you where you aren’t blurred in movement, or talking, was a challenge.