After such a hot and strenuous day, traversing half of mid-western France, we opted to spend the day at the gite .
So after a leisurely breakfast it was of to the sun loungers to give the reading matter a hammering. I have finished the Kellerman that I started last week and I am well into a Jack Frost story. First Frost is written by James Henry, actually to fellers, supposedly in the style of R. D. Wingfield, Frosts original creator. To be quite honest I am not over keen on the style. It works well enough when converted for TV but it all seems bit light weight as a read. However, as it is set in Thatcherite Britain I feel quite at home.
As the day progressed so did the temperature levels. At one point I brought the thermometer out from the kitchen. Mid afternoon it was reading 30 + deg C in the shade. This is of interest as the interior temperature of the gite never seems to get any higher than 22 deg C. Although, when I returned it later it didn’t get back below 25.
Which is why I was sitting outside, writing this, at ten to midnight. It was hot and clammy. My wife had just gone up to bed and I still had the remains of our 2nd bottle of red to see off.
I also noticed that the quiet. No bees, no other insects, best of all no mosqitoes. Most unusual there are no owls calling.
Maybe the heat was too much for them too. There was no air movement either.
Occasionaly I could see and hear a bat as it performed its aerial gymnastics in search of its prey.
Decided today would be an unstructured day. Just drive out into the countryside and see what we can see.
Our initial direction took us to the next village, where there is a small chateau, and on to Chives (pronounced sheeve). Here there is an unusual church with what looks like a garage attached.
From Chives we headed deeper into the countryside where we came across a shady stream. Photo opportunity methinks. Soon I am laid on the ground, all professional and artistic, even got the external flash attached. Turns out that the batteries have enough oomph to drive the flash display but not enough for the flash itself. So I made do with what I had and plugged away.
Then we thought, “Why don’t go walk round Aigre ?”. We have passed through the town several times just to visit the nearest supermarket. It was time we paid a visit.
It turns out there is not a lot there but Aigre provides all the basics. Post Office, bank, pharmacies, a Spar, tabac and a couple of restaurants. We plan to give at least one of them a test in the next few days.
Decided to stay around the gite today so not much to report. We were loafing. Well we were both reading and my wife was catching the rays.
It was not a wasted day though. Enter Guided Tours by Didier. Initially this was an offer he made following a conversation we had about birds in general and owls in particular. The conversation had moved on to a particular bird that is a migratory visitor to the region. Didier’s bird guide had a name but no picture so we couldn’t tell if this species had an English name. Didier suggested he take me out to see if we could spot them out by the fields. Apparently they prefer to run, rather than fly, and are quite often seen on the roads.
We didn’t spot the elusive bird but did discuss many other things.
Didier explained how his family used to dairy farm but had moved on to grapes and other crops. Didier’s father had felt tied to the farm when they had cattle as they require 24/7 care. They then switched to grapes but discovered that they required a different kind of attention but were nonetheless demanding. Other crops are now the order of the day. In this area, in addition to the ubiquitous grape there are fields of various cereals, sunflower, maize, pea’s and Colza, used for its cooking oil although Didier claimed it is also used to run the tractors.
As Didier drove us around the maze of roads criss-crossing the patchwork of fields I wondered how the farmers kept track of which field were theirs. This potential confusion has been further exacerbated by the undocumented “swapping” of land to allow for a form of crop consolidation. The details of these swaps, he tells me, are held in each persons head.
At one crossroads I pointed out a large earthen, obviously man-made, structure. He informed me that it is a water reservoir. The water is stored during the winter and used during the summer to water the crops. This takes the burden off the local streams and rivers and also off the local water table. The local farmers were further encouraged by a government subsidy. A sensible and green action you might think.
However, something about this scheme has enraged the green activists who have obtained legal injunctions. So no more reservoirs will be built for now.
Go figure !!
Many vineyards have been cleared and the land now used for these other crops. There are also tracts of land that have been cleared and just left.