Roasting July News 2022
Roasting July News 2022

Roasting July News 2022

Bonjour mes amis,

I wrote about our valley being green and lush last month but how it has changed in just a few weeks – tinderbox yellow now and, like a lot of Southwest France, looks dangerously ignitable.  The hot, dry summer is going on and on.  We’ve probably seen just 10 minutes of wet stuff all of July. The images of the giant forest fires in the Gironde have been horrific and we have French friends who were evacuated from their homes because of the smoke danger. The thousands of firefighters have had to deal with crazy temperatures over 40C and changing winds that fanned the fires further at Teste-de-Buch and Landiras pine forests.  The trees are brittle-dry & oozing with pine resin, so perfectly flammable.  Closer to us, at Bousses, a hunting reserve went up in flames – you could smell a very faint whiff of the smoke from the station and our guests sitting out on the platform reported seeing some bits of falling ash – so that’s pretty scary but we’re all safe & our surrounding trees are not burning.  The local newspapers reported that the fire services and army tackled this situation together and, using a thermal camera drone, managed to rescue a dog from the burning reserve.  They love a good hero story here for the local newspapers and especially when one of the firefighters is an ex-pro rugby player for Agen – it gets all the headlines. 

The Bastille Day celebrations (July 14th National Holiday) took place in the heatwave, minus the torchlight parades and fireworks, thank goodness, as we hit 39C here.  All we could do was close all the curtains, switch on the fans and watch the entire live coverage of the Tour de France – How did Tom Pidcock do that climb up Alpe d’Huez in that heat and win – and Froomey back on form, coming in 3rd – a sensational days cycling.  The French organise all sorts of amazing spectacles for this National Holiday – a Brit winning a stage of the Tour de France isn’t one of them.

And talking of “le tour” we didn’t think we would make a stage this year because of Tracey’s wrist and then the heatwave compounding matters but the draw of the mountains was irresistible to us, and we headed off towards the Pyrenees for stage 18, Lourdes to Hautacam.  We made it to a village outside of Lourdes before the roads were closed off, where we found a shaded parking spot for the van, right on the route with a spectacular mountain backdrop in a pretty little village and not too busy.  We had breakfast in the only bar in the village and settled down in the deck chairs to wait for the publicity caravan and then the race. We set the Welsh flags up as usual to show our support for “G”, Geraint Thomas, who made it onto the podium in Paris in third place.  A long day, but so pleased we made the effort.  The tour actually came closer to us the day after, but Tracey has started physio and had a rendez-vous in Nerac with a lovely physiotherapist to keep.  I’ve got 20 sessions to try to get the articulation back in the wrist and to try to get the fingers working again.  So far, the health system has worked well and efficiently, with the physio starting as soon as the initial 6 weeks recovery time was up.  I can hold and use a hairbrush and a toothbrush now albeit “caggy-handed” but typing is still very very slow. I have had to return to kitchen duties because, as lovely as Lee’s sandwiches and plates of toast have been, I wanted some real home-cooked food – see my beef & potato pie further down the page! You might notice our new vehicle – a Ford camper van with an extendable roof tent. We can’t wait to test it out properly with a week in the mountains, once the holiday season at la gare is over.

As usual, some more eating and drinking photos to share – There’s a photo of me holding a glass of floc rouge with my right hand and one of Lee drinking more Pousse Rapiere.  This was near Eauze, it’s the restaurant at the municipal campsite, Restaurant au Moulin de Pouy and there’s an old railway line, now a walking and cycling route, very nearby.  For folks not familiar with France, municipal campsites are in most villages, and they generally have a municipal swimming pool attached and a restaurant or snack bar. They’re only open in the summer months. Lee and I use the municipal swimming pools when we have guests using our pool and you can imagine how much we’ve needed to take a dip during the current heatwave.  Locally we can swim outdoors for a couple of euros in Mezin, Castelnau d’Auzan and Gabarret and there’s loads more choice if we travel a bit further.  There’s a picture of Lee cooling off with a vanilla ice-cream, that was near the river at Valence sur Baise, called “La Barge”- an outdoor restaurant with all the cooking done in a converted shipping container. 

We’ve had an open extension completed on Lee’s garage this month so that our VW Amarok can be kept under cover and Lee had to do all the wood treatment without Tracey’s help, in the roasting heat.  That’s it for improvement jobs during July – it’s just been too hot for work.  The garden has really suffered with the heat and we’re pretty sure that we’ve lost a lot of plants.  Tracey’s grandad was a nurseryman all his working life and is no doubt shaking his head at the sorry sight of the parched garden. The cucumbers continued to sprout though, and the tomatoes finally got some colour on them – we have some tasty yellow ones and some red plum tomatoes. I love the smell of home-grown tomatoes – more the smell of the leaves I think – it’s stored in my memory bank, along with the smell of geraniums, from picking them as a kid and I inhale the scent like a heady drug. So, we’ve eaten a lot of tomato salads this month – rough chopped with basil or chives from the herb pots & a little blob of balsamic – would have been a super healthy month if we didn’t have chunks of fig & walnut bread, piled high with a creamy soft blue cheese, that’s like a gorgonzola mixed with clotted cream – the creaminess is heavenly and one bite feels naughty & “heart-attacky”.

We’ve had a station full this month; one family of 4 generations were here for 2 weeks during the heatwave and took full advantage of cooling off in the pool.  Ages ranged from one to ninety years – fantastic!  We really hope lots of happy memories were made, despite the constant, unrelenting heat. Lovely to hear the West Midlands accents again in Sos and the guitar being played on the platform, with some singing by our celebrity guest, Birmingham electronic music producer “Rogue”  (oldies, like us, will have to google that).

And talking of music then, Lee and Tracey do not sing – we cannot sing – so to get roped into Karaoke Night at the local bar was a bit of a “ah-non-non-non” moment – we’re hopeless and Lee didn’t even know the tune to Shotgun by George Ezra let alone the lyrics (Tracey thought she’d chosen an easy anthem) so to say we bumbled through it is an understatement.  The French participants did all their favourite Johnny Hallyday songs, long,long complicated ballads by The French icon, known as The French Elvis, that even the youngsters knew the lyrics to. Culturally, we were impressed by their devotion to this musician, songs that British youngsters would no doubt consider very outdated. We did enjoy a live band in the Square at Sos this month, a Canadian Rockabilly group, called The WheelGrinders, the musician on the double bass was brilliant and the locals love to twirl & swirl around to anything rock n roll-ish. There’s a short YouTube clip of Daphne enjoying the music at –

We also enjoyed a great social evening this month with some Belgian friends that have a second home here, joined by their English neighbours and our French friends – a lovely spot amongst the trees, with views across our valley and an amazing African BBQ.  The meat just kept coming and coming and we were all completely stuffed, and very hot!  Check out their composite wood decking, very durable and according to Steffan, virtually maintenance free, just an annual clean required.  There are lots of Belgians down here in the summer and these friends speak Flemish, French and English fluently, swapping between the 3 languages all night and making our Duo Lingo progress look less than impressive – we must start progressing into a more fluent conversation mode – we’re still doing a lot of miming to explain ourselves or being lazy when friends speak English – end of term report would definitely say “must try harder”.

A few random photos to finish, the fishpond here at Sos which is full of goldfish, a frog and its shadow in the old lavoir, which is full of bouncing frogs, the church steeple in Sos and Tracey’s xray of her metal plaque in her wrist, (individuals keep their xrays & medical reports here, not the Doctor) plus some lovely shots of the pool and our boy Clarence. We’re spending a few hours a week in Nerac for Tracey’s physio so there’s three photos of old Nerac – the tourist riverboat from the new bridge, Lee and another ice-cream and a panoramic view over the weir on the river Baise. Oh, and a tractor and trailer that broke down right outside the station causing quite a bit of activity for several hours in route de la gare!

Our Pump House rental is available from 6-13 August if anyone is looking for a last-minute French Rural break – sleeps 4, cost £800.  Riverside location but no pool at this rental. Plenty of outdoor swimming pools a short drive away!

With our daily temperatures still in the mid-30s, we end the month as we started it, cooking in a sweltering, intense heat that has been quite debilitating some days – all those years living in England and our holidays in Wales, wishing for a bit of hot sun and here we are now looking forward to rain and cool temperatures. There’s no end in sight either having been advised by my physio that the first week of August is predicted back up to 40C – No doubt, at some point, we’ll be reporting flash floods & a deluge of biblical proportions – where did we put the wellies?

Thanks for reading, til August then,

Lee & Tracey,

Thinking of all our family and friends that we can’t be with to support during sad & difficult times. xxx