A long, hot summer

After the longest and coldest winter for many years, indications are that the summer is equally likely to be the longest and hottest for many years.

From the blossom on the trees

to the hedgerows full of flowers

it appears that Spring has finally sprung. And is it my imagination, or are the primulas stronger

and more profuse this year ?

Even the gorse looks “jolie” in full bloom

The blossom and flowers indicate warmer weather. The swallows also have returned – I saw a lone one over Surtainville a week ago Monday, four over the port at Portbail last Thursday, and then again four over Surtainville the same day; and today a lone one over Pierreville. The cuckoo has been heard at Surtainville and at Pierreville; and there are even some reports of the Hoopoe in the area. Flies, butterflies, honey bees and bumble bees have also been in evidence over the past two weeks; and today this little chap decided to take a walk along the road

Will it last? local folklore says yes – for the first time for years we have only twelve moons (spring tides have been very high, but this is also supposed to be an indication of a good summer). And … the magpies are nesting right at the top of the tree, not in the middle

Let’s hope the summer turns out to be the best for years

Bob & Marjory

And the cuckoo, too …

has been heard in Pierreville, and in Surtainville. Along with the swallows, which now seem to be arriving in profusion, another sign of the arrival of summer.

Francis, our next door neighbour, told me of some old country lore about the cuckoo when I told him I’d heard them at Surtainville, and he’d said that they were in the fields close to home too. He asked how much loose change I had in my pocket at the time I’d heard them. To hear the call of the cuckoo is auspicious in annnouncing the summer, but if you have money in your pocket at the time, then that’s better; and the more money you have, the better the year will be. Let’s hope he’s right !!

Bob

One swallow might not make the summer …

but many swallows suggest that summer has arrived!!

swallow

Last Sunday the familiar shape passed over the road as we drove down to Portbail; but it was such a fleeting glimpse that it was not sure. However Tuesday was a very definite sighting of two over the bridge at Portbail, and then yesterday definite sightings of groups over the roads between Portbail and Surtainville.

It’s taken us so long to report these sightings because for the past week, as you probably can guess, we’ve been in Portbail. We’ve travelled in early morning, and not returned till late evening. 13hour days working with a group of French schoolchildren from just north of Paris on an immersion English course, including a daytrip to Jersey!! We’re exhausted, but just about ready for the season as it begins.

So summer is officially here, and all signs are that this is going to be a good one. A little cool today, Easter Sunday, but it’s only early April yet. Time to look forward to those long lazy days of summer holidays on the beach at Surtainville.

Bob and Marjory

“Carnaval” – is spring finally here?

This evening we’ve been invited next door for crepes – just a day late – it’s Cendres (Ash Wednesday) today; yesterday was Mardi-gras, Carnaval, or Pancake Day.

crepes

Strange the names and customs for the start of lent. Carnival goes back to the latin – “farewell to meat” – but means so much more these days. There have been  carnival clothes available in the shops for weeks now, and many “carnivals” particularly involving children at the end of their spring holiday locally. And of course, the great “carnivals” in Venice and other Italian towns and cities.

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Then again the Spanish and South American traditions of Mardi-gras or “fat tuesday” as seen in the Carnival celebrations in Rio and other places.

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The English affair is a little tame – Pancake Tuesday compares poorly with Carnival and Mardi-gras, and perhaps reflects the Puritan influence of “Shrove Tuesday”, the traditional English name which refers to being ‘shriven’ or confessed and forgiven one’s sins.

One could be forgiven for thinking that these are a reflection of pagan spring festivals rather than the approach of the penitential season of Lent. Especially on such a day as today when the sun is shining, the spring flowers in bloom, the catkins on the trees, the birds are singing (we are of course well past St. Valentine now!). Such a contrast from our last few postings of just a fortnight ago. Is spring here at last? Do we have a good summer to look forward to? 

“Hope springs eternal…” !!!

primula

Bob

Yet more snow!!

Just look at what we awoke to today –

snow-feb4 

 

After strong, and bitterly cold winds yesterday, it went quiet overnight, and this morning there was an eerie silence, without the usual traffic noise – the sound of the few cars on the road muffled by a couple of inches of snow. 

The house itself, and all the trees in the garden are blanketed with the snow –

snow-feb1

The meteo had forecast some snow flurries overnight, and continuing through the day – I’d say this was more than a few flurries. The 40-year old Christmas tree, planted out after their first Christmas by the people who built the house, and which now has pride of place in the garden looks even more magnificent than ever – pity it’s the last day of Christmas (Candlemas, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple) today.

snow-feb2

Do French children not play in the snow, or have snow-ball fights?!?  Last weekend, talking with a French neighbour about the possibility of snow this week, she asked “Is it really true that children in Scotland play out in the snow?” Marjory, born in Scotland, assured her that this was the case!!

On a different, but related, note, last weekend was the annual count of garden birds, organised by the Normandy Ornithological Group (GON). Very important this year after the coldest winter in these parts for over 50 years. I used to take part in a similar exercise with the RSPB in England, and really do need to get myself organised to join GON next year. If you’re interested in ornithology in these parts (just a few years ago we had English guests thrilled to have seen Hoopoes at Surtainville), you can find out more from Gon’s website – www.gonm.org

Bob

“One Swallow doesn’t make a summer”

          It was just before breakfast this morning             

– a familiar shape passed over the house,  the first swallow of the summer.

But as “one swallow doesn’t make a summer”, we had to wait till a little later to be sure that summer is here; but there it was as we set off – a pair of swallows passed over the road. And then a little later, one perched on the wire at Surtainville. So there we have it – Summer is here.

Interesting that the French phrase appears to be “a swallow makes the spring”. Does this have the same sense as the English?  Not sure about that. But French guests arriving at the gite today noticed the link between our surname and our company name, and when we mentioned that we’d seen un hirondelle a  Surtainville aujourd’hui, responded ‘that’s good, but aren’t you here all the time?!’

So summer, or is it spring, is finally here. And with it all those early-summer chores in the garden – cutting the grass, trimming the hedges, weeding the borders, and on and on. But time also to look forward to those lazy days of summer holidays.

Enjoy the weather, and the onset of summer.

Bob and Marjory