Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer’s end

Before supper this evening DH and I were sitting at our somewhat shabby garden table on the grass in front of the house, enjoying a drink and the slightly hazy sunshine. The grass (or rather the mixture of grass, clover and plantain, which normally passes for a lawn in our part of Normandy) was newly-mown after my exertions earlier in the afternoon, and we were enjoying its scent and the sound of the birds. A lovely summer’s evening after the damp and even thundery evenings we have had recently and one of the last we have to enjoy before our return to the UK next week.

Yet it doesn’t really seem like summer any more. I know it’s still August, but somehow it feels as though autumn has come early this year, just as spring did. The grass around the cherry trees is already patterned with early-fallen leaves and the espaliered pear tree on the front wall of the house is laden with more and bigger pears than we have ever seen on it. Granted they are rock-hard and only edible after long simmering, but they are so large that they are starting to fall already, as are the apples, both eating and cider. Just like the grape harvest further south, the apple harvest is early this year and it is a bumper one. Suddenly autumn tasks are invading the last days of summer.

As I was making the soup for supper, I looked out of our north-west-facing kitchen window and realised that the sun was setting behind the apple tree to the left, rather than over the field ahead, a sure sign of the days drawing in. So summer is ending and what a varied summer it has been.  

A summer of a lot more rain and a lot less sun than we would have wished, yet the result is a bigger crop of fruit than I can ever remember seeing.  A summer of visitors, whose visits, luckily for them, coincided with the best of our weather.  A summer of quiet, rainy days at home with just the two of us, interspersed with strenuous bursts of activity in the garden when the weather allowed.

A summer of catching up with friends whom we only see here, of weekly meetings of the local craft group, where I’ve done a lot of chatting and even a fair amount of knitting. A summer of watching our litter of feral kittens grow and become more adventurous and self-reliant and gradually a little less wary of us. A summer in Normandy, like and yet unlike the ones which have preceded it.

And now, like the swallows, we are preparing to depart, though in our case we’ll be heading north, not south. Tomorrow, before the rain returns later in the week, we’ll be picking apples to take home with us, apples which will see us through the winter. Then will come the packing and the goodbyes and the tugging up of the little roots which we always manage to put down during each of our summers here. This time next week we will be back in Wales, sorry to leave Normandy, yet glad to be home again for a while, before setting off on the next episode in our peripatetic retirement. 


  1. Hello Perpetua,
    Nice to have you blogging again & to see you sitting smiling in your Normandy garden.

    Your experience of summer this year in Northern France is similar to ours here in Prague - predominently cooler & wetter than normal. We have just had about 10 days of really hot sticky days & nights that then come to a dramatic thundery & wet end (i.e normal Prague summer weather!) but in the past few days, the temperature has dropped by about 10 degrees Celsius and the last few evenings have had a real Autumnal feel to them.

    Rather than noticing the change as to where the sun is setting, we tend to notice how much earlier it is getting dark in the evening, especially as this is when we undertake our recently adopted 'weight loss programme' also known as walking the dog!

  2. Thanks, Ricky. I thought I'd do lots of blogging this summer with the weather so poor, but somehow it didn't happen. Poor Saint Francis is still waiting for me to finish his story....

    After the glorious spring, the summer weather seems to have been almost uniformly disappointing across northern and central Europe, though I gather it has been bakingly hot along the Mediterranean. Personally speaking, I can cope much better with the cool and wet than the very hot, so I guess I've been lucky :-)

  3. It's a lovely photo of you, Perpetua! And whilst we've had nothing but sunshine here in Alcala - sometimes a little rain would have been welcomed - I also have noticed the signs that summer is coming to an end already. The mornings and the evenings are chilly - I needed a blanket last night! And son #2, who is so very Spanish at the roots, came down to breakfast in LONG TROUSERS cos he thought it felt 'a bit cooler' this morning...whereas I (English to the core) shall stay in my shorts as long as possible!
    Look forward to a few more posts once you return to Wales.

  4. Nice to see you back in the 'real' world again. Well, I know what I mean. (I think).
    Lovely pictures and familiar story about the fruit crop.
    My brother in Kent was saying exactly the same about the early and heavy, fruit this year.
    Not much of a summer really, but it had its good bits.

  5. Hello Perpetua:
    How wonderfully relaxed you look in your Normany garden and what bumper crops you look set to have this year. We never think of 'going back' we just think of moving on towards the next episode of life's adventure since every season and every country brings its own delights as well as challenges.

    We are still holding on to summer's skirts in Budapest with temperatures still in the high 20Cs but the deepening intensity of the golden evening light heralds the onset of autumn. Safe travelling!

  6. Glad to catch up with what you and yours are up to! It sounds like a lovely summer. Apples, pears, fragrant grass, and kittens in France - so exotic to my urban American ears. We, too, have signs of summer ending--even as our temps reach high nineties in the afternoons, our mornings are beginning to feel cool. Safe travels onward to Wales!

  7. Thanks, Annie. Taken by my sister when she was over for our fete and after I'd been given the hat (a gent's panama, but now with the brim turned down) by a friend. It looked so very 20s/30s that we decided the only drink that could do it justice was a large G&T :-)

    Don't talk to me about chilly nights and mornings. Brrr! I too now have a blanket over my lightweight duvet and have even taken to wearing extra layers during the day. I do hope this isn't a foretaste of the coming winter....

  8. Nice to be back, Ray, though I'm shamefully behind with reading and commenting on my friends' blogs. Love your photo too - that's new since I last logged on to your blog!

    Having picked the apples today I can testify to the heavy crop. Not as many as last year but they are MUCH bigger and so much more useful than lots of tiny fruit.

  9. Thanks, Jane and Lance. The photo was taken during a very enjoyable visit from my sister and her husband, so we were all very relaxed :-)

    I think I will always think of going 'back' to Wales in the sense of returning the place where we have been rooted the longest. We may not spend all our time there, but I think we will always belong there. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't enjoy spending longer In France or Scotland, but Wales is the anchor-point for all the rest.

  10. Hi Penny and glad to bring a touch of the exotic to Atlanta, though to my ears Atlanta always sounds rather exotic too :-) If I remember rightly you had a country childhood, so did you pick fruit and enjoy the scent of new-mown grass back then?

    Temperatures in the 90s don't sound much like summer is ending. Hopefully things will cool down for you before long.

  11. I see you just made it under the tape before
    I could say to you

    Gosh, it's September already!

    Such a lovely photograph and such a great account of your summer...

  12. It's so great to read a post from you again, Perpetua, and your summer in Normandy sounds so idyllic. I loved the photos - felt I got to spend some vicarious end of summer time with you in France! Loved the picture of you smiling. A perfect ending to what sounds like a lovely summer!

  13. It was a close-run thing, Fly, but somehow I managed it! I honestly don't know where the time has gone, but we enjoyed it all the same. I like the photo too (not something I say often nowadays about photos of me) and just love the hat :-)

  14. Thanks, Kathy, it's great to be back in the blogging world, though I still have a lot of catching-up to do. Considering we actually got proper broadband here at the beginning of the summer, so I could keep up with my blog and the blogs I follow, I've failed shamefully. The best-laid plans and all that....

  15. So glad you had a good summer in spite of the poor weather. The apples and pears here are much bigger than last year and we have found some Victoria plums on a tree that hasn't fruited for years.
    Travel safely next week, and I'm still looking forward to more about St. Francis and Assissi.

  16. Hello fellow pilgrim, glad your fruit crop is as good as ours despite the weather. Our plums weren't very good this year and sadly our little damson tree, which was laden with fruit, blew down in a gale soon after we got here.

    Saint Francis hasn't been forgotten and I hope to go on with his story before his feast day of October 4th.

    See you soon :-)

  17. New mown grass, yes, but not a lot of fruit picking in my childhood, other than the yearly foray to someone's blueberry farm. We had some crabapples, which were there for the blooms, not the tiny sour fruits, and a big fig bush, but it was temperamental about actually producing figs, which I didn't like anyway. Interestingly, here in my urban neighborhood, quite a few folks have fig bushes in their yards, right next to the sidewalks.

  18. Glad you've had a good summer. Safe travelling onwards. Hope you have a glowing golden autumn

  19. I'd love to have a fig bush, Penny, but they need a warmer climate than we have here.

  20. Thanks, Catriona. We're in the throes of packing and shutting up the house now, and I gather we could arrive back in the UK to rain. Perhaps an Indian summer after that, hopefully?

    Still, rain might give me the chance to catch up with my blog reading, once we've unpacked....

  21. Lovely to see another post from you! I, too, have been watching the daily progress of summer closing in -- the summer has been beautiful since August -- with enough rain to keep things green and enough sun to keep us smiling! But now the evenings are shadier and the sun doesn't hit the patio for as long -- but still it's so peaceful and there is that sense of 'all's right with the world'. We are off to England in two or three weeks and I'm ready for that, too.

  22. Hi, Broad - yes, autumn is coming very fast now in the UK, as you will find when you get back. I keep thinking the trees will be half bare by the beginning of October, especially with all the wind we keep getting.

    Glad you're still enjoying your time in France and can stay long enough to make up for your delayed arrival.

  23. What a lovely post. It's so nice to read something evocative and pastoral and so appropriate to this time of year. It is still boiling here but like Normandy the setting sun is marking the turning of the year.

    I'm afraid I've been remiss in catching up with the whole of my blog list lately; so many bloggers have been writing such arch and negative posts that I don't feel like commenting (can't say something nice, say nothing at all!)and the whole thing has got so back scratchy and I just want to read genuine and honest things so it was lovely to catch up with perpetually in transit.

    Lots of love and thanks for the lovely images.

    K xxxx

  24. Oh Karen, that has to be one of the nicest comments I've ever received! Thank you so much. I try hard to write what I feel and am glad that comes over.

    You're not the only remiss blog follower either. As you must have noticed from my recent spate of comments on your blog, I'm still trying to catch up with my favourites in between all the preparation and am gradually getting there :-)

    P xx

    PS I was brought up on the same maxim and old habits die hard....


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