We finally declared Summer open in Aquitaine today, as the temperature rose to 30°, skies cleared of any and all clouds, and the usually quiet countryside here reverberated to the dulled sounds of tractor mowers, hedge trimmers and people having a few drinks outside the bar. By the end of next week, we shall be back to various shades of scudding cloud and chill easterly winds, but for the moment I remember once more why this area seduced me all those years ago.
And blimey, it really is 47 years since – on the way back from a homage to Cadaques with American art historian chum Hugo – I discovered this voluptuously green region that remains today what is was then: a paradise as verdant as Devon, but seven degrees warmer.
While the cultured roses are belting out a range of primary colours, the more neglected nigella’s mid-blue china eyes are watchfully giving a breathtaking contrast to their bright reds and yellows. The wild pastel rose bushes of pink and cream relieve the potential monotony of Ash hedges….and where they’re not in evidence, elderflowers poke through every seemingly unpenetrable obstacle to declare themselves present and correct.
The primary sense stimulation doesn’t end there. The smells are incredible: rub an ash leaf at this time of year, and the scent is wonderfully evocative of Hallgarten wine. Bung some common garden mint into your builder’s tea, and it becomes a vastly superior version of Earl Grey. Rub new shoots of rosemary and chives between finger and thumb: what careens up your nostrils is a cross between garlic and lavender.
Transforming all this into a historic taste experience doesn’t require a lot of talent….which is handy, because my culinary skills (while creative) tend to be haphazard. However, fresh oregano never fails in my spagbols, and new potatoes with butter, mint and lemon basil are not half bad.
Encouraged by the warmth, I dragged the hammocks out of semi-retirement and hitched them up to variously paired trees. After a few vigorous morning hours of hacking at weeds, suckers and hawthorn, the late afternoon doze in a hammock feels somehow well deserved.
I wonder if John McDonnell, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, feels his chintzy country home (worth far more than mine) offers the same place of rest as he plots (on his own admission in today’s Times) “the overthowal of capitalism”.
I wonder if the public-school educated Jeremy Corbyn – several social classes away from the proletarian dictators – has the faintest idea how much stress, marital strain, perpetual guilt and conflicted emotions go with the eventual achievement of snoozing in a hammock.
I wonder if an ignoramus like Rory Stewart (left) knows anything about life in the eurozone beyond what the Daily Mail’s new editor tells him, or indeed whether he grasps how much World Trade goes on without the World Trade Organisation having anything at all to do with it.
I wonder if Vince Cable’s brain has accepted even a scintilla of fact about what the unelected bastards in Brussels did to Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Hungary.
I wonder if Boris Johnson ever has a moment’s lost sleep as a result of his assiduous cover-up of the Elm House scandal and the Newscorp Hackgate saga while Mayor of London.
And as I wonder about these dysfunctional beings, I sink into blissful sleep in the knowledge that (whatever happens to me) one way or another their ambitions are doomed.
Perhaps mine are too. But whether doom or realisation of such is my fate, at least it is entirely up to me.