Thursday, April 30, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day forty-five

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-five cycling rain
Cycling in the rain

Day forty-five, 30th April 2020

Wet, wet, wet

We have been out and about delivering flyers from our Mairie about the proposed distribution of masks to everyone, but initially to those with the greatest need. I volunteered to do the hamlets furthest from the village centre, just so Adrian and I could legitimately get out on our bikes to do the deliveries. Why oh why, after all the lovely weather we have had for weeks and weeks, did it have to be so wet yesterday afternoon that we were soaked through, even with waterproof layers on. Never mind, we did manage 15km on the bikes, out in the fresh air, and little bit of rain didn’t do us any harm.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-five rain
Life in the gutter

Gutter woes

Rain seems to be on my mind at the moment, but when it rains here, it knows how to do it properly. It was so impressive the other day we watched it fly off the roof, into the gutter and then cascade back out in a sheet of water that hit the ground by the back door with such force, it puddled indoors on the floor. It didn’t take Adrian long to decide the gutter must be blocked, but without a ladder tall enough he needed a plan. Adrian is a man for plans and with the help of Ed and his GoPro, two long bamboo canes, some rope to lash them together and a bit of Gaffer tape for luck, he soon had himself a gutter inspection testing kit. 

As you can see from the photo, we had a significant blockage that I am blaming on the dumb doves who think a gutter is a great place to nest. Thankfully a quick call to our builder friend and he arrived with his ladder, and cleared the gutters in double quick time, so he could hurry back home to help a birthing pig. All in a day’s work.

The rain looks like it’s here for the weekend, but at least now the gutters are flowing as they should and there are no more puddles indoors.

Stay indoors, stay safe.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-five Brasserie
Morning coffee in Banyuls 30th April 2012

April holiday memory 

On the morning of 30th April 2012 we set off from Collioure and followed the coast back down towards Spain, stopping in Banyuls for morning coffee and a spot of postcard writing in the sun, before driving up to the Tour Madeloc (652m) on a stunning road lined with terraced vineyards, cork oak trees, wild flowers and lavender flowering out of the cracks in the rocks. It was rather breezy but beautiful and we were loitering, reluctant to leave the Med behind us and head inland towards Perpignan. From there we drove to Forca Réal on roads lined with plain trees, olive groves and cherry orchards, and where we got our last glimpse of the Med, and the snow-capped Pyrenees for this holiday. Our afternoon drive to Carcassonne let us dabble into the Cathar castle route, took us via backwater gorges and through some stunning scenery, where we were often the only car on the road. A perfect Mini Cooper road trip driving day.

Lockdown library
Today it is release day for Augustine, the prequel to the Allouette Trilogy by Vanessa Couchman. Vanessa’s historical fiction books are all fantastic reads and I can’t wait to get stuck into her latest. You can read my reviews for her previous books here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day forty-four

Diary of covid-19 confinement day forty-four loss
Raindrops on roses

Day forty-four, 29th April 2020

Thank you

I am a little overwhelmed by the number of lovely messages I have received following yesterday’s sad post about losing our nephew Ben. Thank you for all your love and support, it is a great help to us, and I know his parents are also getting a lot of strength from reading them too. We all have a lot of fantastic memories of happy family times, especially when Ed, Ben and his brother Alex were little, and we are taking comfort from remembering the good times. It still feels too soon to fully accept he is gone.

Diary of covid-19 confinement day forty-four deconfinement
Summary of Covid-19 deconfinement from French government

Update from French government on deconfinement

The French Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe spoke on Tuesday about what comes next here in France. Thanks to lockdown, 62,000 lives have been saved in France, in a month, but here, as everywhere, there needs to be a balance between preventing the spread of Covid-19 and risking lives if the economy fails completely. We have to understand the risks of an economic crisis as if there is a lack of work, people can’t afford to eat, there are no taxes coming in, so no revenue to fund a health service and people will die.

The Prime Minister’s message was that Covid-19 is here to stay, so we have to learn to live with it and until a vaccine is found, our way of life is going to change. On the assumption that between now and 11th May there have been no major increases in cases, things will begin to open up, in stages, in an attempt to avoid a second wave of infection. The first stage will be the three weeks to 2nd June and every twenty-one days the situation will be evaluated.

He said the focus will be to protect, test and isolate. Social distancing will remain important, and masks will need to be worn in certain circumstances. The government is making twenty million masks available to the public that they are hoping will be distributed before 11th May and their aim is to test around 700,000 people per week. They are expecting 3,000 to test positive and these people will need to quarantine themselves either at home, or in a government requisitioned hotel.

Decisions will be made by the government on a department by department basis, based on the number of cases and spread of the virus in each area and this could mean some areas not being freed from lockdown on 11th May. A map will be made available by 7th May identifying the departments most at risk.

Schools, but not lycees or universities, will begin to reopen with a maximum of fifteen pupils per class, and parents have the right to keep their children at home. 

Businesses may also reopen, but home working is still recommended where possible and social distancing will have to be followed.

Bars, restaurants, large shopping centres, cinemas, theatres, churches and large museums must remain closed. Small museums and libraries may open. 

Some parks will open, depending on the risk in the area, but beaches are to remain closed and there will be no festivals or large gatherings until September.

Public transport will begin a limited service, but only one seat in two can be used and masks must be worn.

We will no longer need to fill in a form before leaving home, unless we are travelling over 100km, which can only be done for work or family reasons and where possible we should remain within our department.

We can now exercise further away from home than the one kilometre radius but must respect social distancing, and no more than ten people should be together at any time, for any reason.

Stay safe and keep those special ones you love safe too.

Diary of covid-19 confinement day forty-four Collioure
Collioure 29th April 2012

April holiday memory

As it looks like it will be a while before we are all able to get away on holiday, I hope you have enjoyed looking back at just some of the beautiful parts of France we have visited over the years, I know I have. Today I am going back to 29th April 2012 when we arrived in Collioure, on the Mediterranean, for the first time. We had spent the day driving in the Pyrenees, crossing from France, to Spain and back again and eventually catching a glimpse of the Mediterranean as we wound our way down from the mountains. Collioure is a beautiful place that was vibrant and full of life when we arrived, but our favourite time was when it was calm and quiet the following morning, before the hustle of the day had begun.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day forty-three

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-three loss

Day forty-three, 28th April 2020


I thought long and hard about what to write today, or indeed if I should be writing anything at all. Yesterday we received some tragic news that really has shaken us, but as I find writing to be therapeutic for me and have had such great support from you since lockdown began, I didn’t think it was right to just go silent. When you get the shocking news that someone has died unexpectedly it is like a stone being thrown from a height and landing in the pit of your stomach. A heavy feeling settles there but just like a stone breaking the surface of the water, the ripples travel up and down your body, so it feels hard to breath, your legs feel weak and your head aches. Then a numbness takes over until the reality sinks in.

This was not a Covid-19 related death, but we are living in a time when many more thousands of families are experiencing loss and grief than usual, and it doesn’t matter whether it was a virus-related death, an expected death from a long-term illness or one from an accident or unexpected tragic circumstances, loss hurts. It takes time to come to terms with and the new normal of social distancing means our usual methods of comforting each other and beginning the grieving process together have been denied. We can’t jump in the car and return to the UK to hug our families, and it is still too early to know if we can be there for the funeral.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-three loss

RIP to our lovely, sensitive and caring nephew Ben, aged just 22 and taken too young. Life is precious and should never be taken for granted or thought of as worthless. Please, please reach out if you are struggling with anything, as someone is always there.
Mind UK

Stay indoors, stay safe and keep those special ones you love safe too.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-three Pyrenees
28th April 2012 Pyrenees

April holiday memory 

There is something quite majestic and reflective about a towering mountain, so I thought I would still share this memory from 28th April 2012 on the drive from St Gaudens to Ax-les-Thermes where we saw some fantastic sights as we twisted and turned across the mountains, sometimes on roads so tiny we were sharing them with sheep and goats.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day forty-two

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-two
The potager in the sun yesterday

Day forty-two, 27th April 2020

As week six draws to a close, it has been a bit of a nothing day today. A foggy start put paid to our idea of cycling into Chef Boutonne to pick up a few bits from the pharmacy and supermarket. I didn’t even feel any thrill of excitement at getting out and seeing the real world. By the time the fog lifted, the rain had rolled in and getting outside was limited to dashing out to make sure the courgette and tomato seedlings weren’t in any danger of damage.

I’m not even bothering to cook this evening, thanks to the fact that the freezer has accumulated three individual lasagne portions, one fish pie, one vegetable pasta bake, one risotto, three different sweet potato and vegetable curries and one as yet unidentified meal in the last six weeks. Adrian has bravely volunteered to eat the mystery meal tonight while Ed tucks into a lasagne. I’ll be having a light meal of soup followed by a late yoga class that experience has taught me isn’t the most comfortable if you’ve just scoffed down a curry with rice and naan breads.

Tomorrow at 15h we will have an address by the French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe about what we can expect from 11th May when our restrictions are due to be lifted. 

Stay indoors, stay safe.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-two
Gorges de Save, Pyrenees 27th April 2012

April holiday memory 

My April holiday memory today takes us back to 27th April 2012 when we were on a Mini Cooper road trip and had arrived in St Gaudens in the Pyrenees from Villeneuve-sur-Lot. The morning had been damp as we drove through the plum, peach, apple and nut orchards around Agen and Condom, but the further south we went, the brighter the weather. The afternoon took us through the Cotes de Gascoigne and Armagnac vineyards as well as poultry farms with their fields of muddy white ducks. This picture is (I think) taken in the Gorges de Save that proved to be a pretty detour and we do love driving Gizmo the Mini through gorges. We caught our first glimpse of the snow-capped Pyrenees just before arriving in St Gaudens and we had a great view of them from our hotel window too.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day forty-one

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one journee nationale du souvenir de la deportation
Our village war memorial 

Day forty-one, 26th April 2020

It is the last Sunday in April, which I found out today is remembered in France as the Journée Nationale du Souvenir de la Deportation, or national day of remembrance for those who were deported and interned in the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. I’m not sure how I’ve missed this until now, as it has been ‘commemorated’ in most main towns and cities since 1954, with the laying of flowers at the war memorial. Life is not ideal for many of us at the moment and most families are affected somehow, whether it is by health issues, financial worries, or being isolated from families, but discovering this national day brought it home to me that we are still in a much better place than so many who have gone before us.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one gardening
Adrian in the jungle

Clearing the jungle

Motivation was in short supply this morning, despite the warmth and sunshine from a day when storms had been forecast, but eventually we got going on what turned out to be a pretty productive day. A bit more weeding from me before lunch and some major cutting back from Adrian, that then kept him busy for most of the afternoon too. 

The edges of our orchard have been completely taken over by monster bay trees, rampant ground elder, knee high nettles and brambles that weave their way through everything. Somewhere in amongst them are plum and pear trees; I know because I saw their blossom trying its best a few weeks ago. While I do harvest the bay leaves and nettles, and occasionally the elder flowers, I would prefer to be able to get to the fruit trees to pick the pears and the plums.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one gardening
Man at work in his barn

It is now looking much better but is one of those jobs that the more you cut back, the more you discover needs cutting back. Once free from the jungle, Adrian shredded all the prunings, and the compost heap he diligently turned during the week, has now got some good chippings to start off this year’s compost supply. I also spotted some rogue courgette family seeds that have germinated in the heap of compost ready and waiting to be used. I love to watch these grow as quite often they travel metres from their base and produce some monster squash (see here) that are never quite like anything I grew last year but taste great.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one compost
Compost heap

I’ve had a bit of quality time in my kitchen too, cooking down the nettles I picked, that will be added to my soups, making humous from the chickpeas left over from last night’s sweet potato and chickpea couscous dish and putting together a homemade fish pie for this evening. Don’t tell the boys, but my secret ingredient in the pie is pureed nettles stirred into the bechamel sauce.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one fish pie nettles
Fish pie ready to bake

Stay indoors, stay safe.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty-one Pyrenees
26th April 2017 cycling from Escos to Salies-de-Béarn, Pyrenees

April holiday memory 

26th April 2017 and we are still in the Pyrenees, on our bikes, and discovering more old railway lines now repurposed as cycle tracks. There are so many great cycling opportunities in the Pyrenees, even if climbing the cols isn’t your thing and one of my favourite was the voie verte cycle path from Escos to Salies-de-Béarn. Here we were lucky enough to cycle through the fallen blooms from the Acacia trees, whose scent hung in the warm air, and cross the fast flowing Gave d’Oloron river on an ancient iron bridge, while looking at snow covered peeks on the horizon. I am dreaming of returning to the Pyrenees and Pays Basques with our bikes. The weather will be sunny, but not too hot, and we'll feel alive once more as our legs and lungs power us up the passes and across into Spain.

Lockdown library

If you want to experience a little bit of everything the Pyrenees has to offer, then get stuck into the great Fogas Chronicles series of books, set in a Pyrenean mountain village, by Julia Stagg.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day forty

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty orchard
Ed finished mowing the orchard before the storm arrived

Day forty, 25th April 2020

There was a freshness and vibrancy to the garden this morning, following rain overnight and first thing, but despite a warm and sunny day so far, the clouds are gathering once more and there is a threat of storms. The long-range forecast shows no risk of frosts, but I think I will wait a little longer before planting out my courgettes, squash and pumpkins in the potager, even if they are as ready as we are to break out to pastures new.

Forty Days

We have now been in confinement for forty days and for number nerds like me, the number forty is a mysterious one, that is held in esteem in many religions and cultures and seen as a period of trial, transformation or purification. There are numerous bible references to forty days; God flooded the earth by sending forty days and forty nights of rain, Moses and Elijah spent forty days alone on mountains and Jesus fasted for forty days following his baptism. Lent is the forty days before Easter and often looked on as a time to give up something you enjoy.

The human pregnancy lasts for forty weeks and in many cultures a mother is then required to rest for forty days after giving birth for her post-partum confinement. In Eastern Orthodox tradition, the period of mourning lasts for forty days after death, the point at which it is believed the soul finds its place in heaven.

The word quarantine, meaning a restriction on the movement of goods or people to prevent the spread of disease, comes from the Italian root of forty days. This was the period of time merchant ships were required to remain at anchor before being allowed to land during the plague in the fourteenth century. 

Forty days hasn’t seen our lockdown come to an end, but maybe these next two weeks are the time we need to prepare for life after lockdown. It can’t and won’t go back to how it was before, but we have survived a forty-day period of change and are now ready to receive new instructions so we can make adjustments to our expectations and routines, to begin a new phase in our lives.

Looking back, I seem to have started many things, only to give up on them too soon. Sourdough (wasn’t for me), the clearing and sorting I promised myself in drawers, cupboards and bookshelves has ground to a halt and even my one barrow of weeds a day hasn’t lasted anywhere near forty days. I have kept busy, active and positive, although the virtual cycling on Zwift wasn’t a long-term thing for me either. One thing that has become obvious, if only to me, is that I am far happier as a family all together, than when I’m home alone. I think we all needed this reset phase and I know that by 11th May I’ll be ready to embrace a new future, as well as enjoy getting back out on my bike again.

Stay indoors, stay safe.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day forty Rex Hotel Tarbes cycling
Four-star luxury at the Rex Hotel in Tarbes, 25th April 2017

April holiday memory 

Today I am looking back to 25th April 2017 when we had arrived in Tarbes, in the Pyrenees, by bike. We had left the car in Pierrefitte, near to Cauterets, and hopped on the Voie Verte Des Gaves, an old railway line with little or no incline, that is now a cycle friendly route to Tarbes, about 56km away. Just before we reached Lourdes we turned off the voie verte and took the road to St Créac, following a river and climbing rather alarmingly, but the road was free of traffic, the verge alive with wild flowers and the only noise came from cattle bells; a soft and gentle sound in the distance. We lunched in Arrodets-ez-Angles, seemingly on top of the world, looking across to huge snow-capped peaks as we greedily scoffed down baguettes filled with tinned fish. My efforts were rewarded with a night of four-star luxury at the Rex Hotel. You can see some more pictures of our day in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains here.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day thirty-nine

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-nine dog walks
View from the dog walk

Day thirty-nine, 24th April 2020

Views from the dog walk

There are times when it feels like we have been in lockdown for so long I can’t remember what we did before, or even in those first few weeks. Then there are other times when it seems to whiz by really quickly. We took the dog out for a gentle walk after lunch today and realised that almost two weeks had passed since our last walk, yet it seems no more than a few days. Before you worry that we are neglecting Mini, at twelve years old, two walks a day, every day, would be too much for her and she and Ed have been enjoying their daily exercise together since he came home six weeks ago.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-nine poppies

The first thing I noticed was that a lot has changed in the countryside around the village. The wheat crop has ears, the poppies have started flowering, I saw my first Bee orchids and Pyramid orchids in flower too, and the butterflies were enjoying them all. 

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-nine acacia
Acacia blooms

The Acacia tree by the village lavoir (wash house) is just coming into bloom and will smell divine in a few days. There was also something very relaxing in that the only noise we heard was the sound of birds and bees, like a gentle ringing in our ears.

The garden is a busy place at the moment as well. The great tits who nest in the back courtyard every year are frantically feeding a noisy brood of babies, safely concealed in our old (and very much unused) patio heater. The swallows are back, dipping in and out of the barn, chattering to each other as they repair their nests and stake their claim on the best beams to build on. But the winners of the noisiest birds have to go to the house sparrows whose constant cheeping outside the bedroom window is the first thing I hear in the morning, along with the noise of their tiny feet, loud and amplified as they scrabble in the galvanized gutter. Their numbers are most certainly not in decline chez nous.

Stay indoors, stay safe.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-nine col d’Ispeguy Pyrenees Pays Basque
24th April 2017, Col d’Ispeguy Pyrenees

April holiday memory 

24th April 2017 was a big day for me; my first ever attempt at cycling up a mountain pass. We were in the Pays Basque and Adrian had carefully selected the Col d’Ispeguy as it is a gradual six kilometre climb, at an average of 6%, with stunning views and most importantly a bar at the top that serves gateau Basque. It is also a border crossing, so there is a real sense of adventure and achievement in cycling up a mountain and crossing from France to Spain. It has now become our favourite col and the first one we return to every time we are back in the Basque, which will hopefully be soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day thirty-eight

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-eight
Lockdown locked in - photo by Martin O'Neil

Day thirty-eight, 23rd April 2020

Now what?

When this lockdown began, we were advised it would last two weeks. Just as this drew to a close, another two weeks were added, and by the time it was extended for a further month, we were just days away from our wedding anniversary and a week off Adrian’s birthday, so had something positive to look forward to. Today, with a head slightly cloudy from celebrating last night, the two and a half weeks until we reach 11th May, when the government say deconfinement will begin, seems a long way off with nothing to focus on in between. We are not even sure exactly what will be allowed to begin with, although we do know bars, restaurants and cafés will remain closed, or how we will feel getting out and mixing with people once more. 

We are hopeful that the rules on cycling will be relaxed so that we can pack our coffee pot and a picnic and set off on the quiet back roads around here. The vineyards were nothing but twigs last time we went out and there was only the first hint of green in the hedgerows. Fields were ploughed and earthy, or green, but by now there should be the first vibrant colours from flax and rapeseed. I’ve always appreciated the changing seasons and the full sensory experience you get from a bike ride in the countryside, but this year it will feel a lot more special.

Adrian kept himself busy today with more mowing; round here there is always mowing, weeding and garden jobs to do, while I sought comfort from my kitchen cooking another batch of soup and preparing the lasagne for tonight. 

We then had a bit of a pamper session, or should that just be DIY hair trim? I even let him loose with the shaver at the back of my neck, mainly because it seemed a safer bet as he stabbed me while trying to trim it with scissors. I might be living in leggings, but it's still important to keep up appearances.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-eight  Pays Basque
April 23rd 2017 Pays Basque

April holiday memory 23rd April 2017

One of the places we were so looking forward to going back to this year is the Pays Basque in the Pyrenees. In 2017 we rented a gite for a week, took the bikes and had great fun exploring the local area as well as climbing our first mountain passes a little further afield. Today’s holiday memory photo was taken just down the lane from where we were staying. It was a lovely walk or cycle ride down the valley, to the water mill, the scent of the flowering Acacia trees was all around us, and we often stopped to talk to some friendly donkeys in a field. Pays Basque, we will be back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day thirty-seven

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-seven
Happy 50th Birthday! 

Day thirty-seven, 22nd April 2020

A lockdown birthday

Eek – I’m married to a 50-year-old! Happy birthday Adrian and congratulations for cycling up Mont Ventoux this morning, even if it was only virtually. 

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-seven
Jersey in hommage to Tom Simpson

The weather was so nice today that he relocated his bike and technical bits from the indoor pain cave to the garden, ready for a ten o’clock start. It wasn’t quite the same as having the wind in your face as you cycle along, but it was much better than being stuck inside. I might have done nothing more than cheer him along, but that didn’t stop me from indulging in a morning croissant when he stopped for a coffee break.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-seven
Rouvy virtual Mont Ventoux

A respectable time of two hours saw him crossing the finish line at the top of Mont Ventoux, which is similar to his estimated timings for doing it for real. A glass of Ventoux red wine went down very well with lunch followed by a slice of homemade birthday cake. After yesterday’s disaster with the topping I think I pulled it back from the brink with the inspired idea of using a thick layer of marmalade to glaze, topped off perfectly with a sparkly candle from the boulangerie. We even Facetimed his mum so she could watch him light the candle and see the sparks fly.

It might not have been quite the birthday celebrations we’d planned, but the sun was out, we had a few distance-respecting visitors at the gate, and I don’t think it’s a birthday we will forget in a hurry. 

If you have celebrated a birthday in lockdown, how have you made it special?

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-seven
22nd April 2016 - birthday boy in a beer cave

April holiday memory 

22nd April 2016 on our Sarthe à vélo tour, we had cycled from Le Mans to the north of the department where the rain found us, but on our damp arrival in St Leonard des Bois, we found a beer shop - it was the only shop in town and all it sold was beer. What more could you ask for on your birthday than a huge selection of beers to choose from at the end of a day on your bike, enjoyed in a cosy hotel room, following a delicious meal in a domaine, and with me by your side?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Diary of Covid-19 confinement, day thirty-six

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-six mowing orchard
Mowing in the orchard

Day thirty-six, 21st April 2020

Busy bees

Not only has Adrian been out for the weekly shop, he has also cleaned all the windows, inside and out, (and we have a lot of windows) plus he’s mowed out in the orchard. I know, he’s a keeper. 

The apple blossom is looking lovely at the moment and so far, it looks like it will be a good year for cherries and plums. 

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-six apple blossoms
Apple blossoms

I’ve been almost as busy in the kitchen, rustling up some tasty treats for his birthday tomorrow, some more successful than others. Let’s just say I’m not sure I’ll ever bother again with trying a yoghurt frosting for a carrot cake. I really do need to learn to stick to my tried and tested favourites and never deviate, no matter how good things look on the internet.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-six Mont Ventoux
Rouvy Mont Ventoux

Virtual birthday treat

As Adrian’s birthday is going to be a big one, he has decided that although we are living in lockdown, he needs to do something big, even if it’s not quite how we planned it to be. 

In 2014, when he first planned to cycle up Mont Ventoux in Provence, we had catastrophic engine failure in Gizmo the Mini Cooper on the way there and never made it. In 2017 he took himself off to the Ardeche and planned for a Ventoux summit on the way home, then had a catastrophic shoulder failure when he cycled off the edge of a mountain and needed rescuing. This year we planned to try once more, but Covid-19 has rather got in the way of that. Three times our plans have been thwarted, but he’s not to be defeated.

On Wednesday morning, 22nd April, using the wonder of Rouvy, a virtual cycling app connected to the turbo trainer, he will virtually set off from Bédoin for the ascent to the summit. I can watch from the comfort of a chair, cheer him on when necessary and provide coffee, snacks and water, and we won’t even have to leave the house. Wish him luck, it might not be quite the real thing, but he’ll still have to put the effort in to succeed.

Positive effects of lockdown

France Bleu reported today that pollution levels in Paris and surrounding areas have been reduced by up to 35% (some weeks were better than others) since confinement began, taking them to a 40-year low. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we are somehow able to hold on to this benefit when we are free to roam once more?  If major cities improve their cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to enable active alternatives to cars as a way of achieving this, then so much the better.

French Village Diaries covid-19 confinement day thirty-six Loir Sarthe
Crossing the river Loir in the Sarthe

April holiday memory 

On the 21st April 2016 we were in Le Mans on the halfway point of our Sarthe à vélo tour, although the picture I have chosen is a nice sunny one of me crossing the Loir for the final time the day before. Le Mans was a day off cycling, but it was far from a lazy day. We were lucky enough to enjoy a guided tour of the medieval cobbled streets of the Plantagenet City, where the timber framed buildings crowd around the narrow streets and St Julien’s Cathedral dominates the skyline. We were then whisked away to the Abbey de’Epau, final resting place of Queen Bérengère, Queen of England and widow of Richard the Lionheart and after lunch we visited the museum at the 24 Hour racing circuit, with the accompanying roar of engines in the background from a track day. One day wasn’t really long enough to do Le Mans justice, but maybe one day we will return.

Stay indoors, stay safe.