we went for a walk the other afternoon. so? i hear you thinking. well, due to the confinement, or lockdown as english speakers call it, going for a walk is not the simple or, dare i say it, enjoyable experience it once was. before setting out you, or in this case both of us, have to fill out the attestation that must accompany an individual on every step beyond the perimeter of home. exercise is allowed but cannot be undertaken for more than an hour and can’t be more than a kilometre from home. lou has been around the block a few times and when i googled the furthest point it transpired it was 100 metres over the kilometre. we hoped the gendarmes wouldn’t have google maps to hand if we were challenged.
identification has to be carried as well. early on it was a subject of hot debate on various facebook groups as to whether brits needed to carry passports or if driving licences would do. we take both as lou say our address is on our driving licence which seems a sensible precaution. eventually we were ready to set off.
as we approached the end of our drive the neighbours called a greeting. we often chat over the fence and discuss various garden plants and sometimes even swap some. it seemed odd keeping well back and shouting the length of their garden. just then friends from further up the hill, a mother and daughter, walked out from under the railway bridge and also called out a cheery bonjour. they made to step towards us and we instinctively moved back. this was all so unreal and so unlike our usual greeting which would have been kisses all round.
reassuring each other ‘tous va bien’ and a final shout of ‘seulement un heure’ from the neighbours we headed off. turning round the first left we passed a neighbour’s barn. this barn had been the venue for a repas de quartier, the first ever held since we moved here. these repas are jolly affairs where the neighbours in a particular corner of the commune meet up for an evening of food, drink and chat. ours was organised by a chap who is a chef by trade and lives opposite said barn. he cooked up paella and the rest of us brought along the aperos, salads, desserts and alcohol, of course. it was a lovely evening and we got to know people we had previously only nodded to. i pondered ruefully that it may be a long time before we can enjoy such a gathering again.
by now lou was pacing ahead, comme d’hab, while i stopped to take photos. about now i began to feel very vulnerable. all my previous lockdown excursions had been in the car and here i was maskless and not inside my metal bubble. but around the next bend the beauty of a bank of iris made me forget those misgivings and begin to enjoy being outside and stretching my legs further than the limits of our garden.
we had said to ourselves just a quick walk up to the ‘horse’ field, so named for our grandson because of the white horse that lives in it. highly original!
by the time we got there, several photos later (butterflies, barn doors, arum lilies…) we decided to carry on around the block as we still had forty minutes in hand. the road looked as if there had been a snowstorm. thick white blossom from the nearby poplar trees carpeted it from side to side.
(i had read about a red alert for poplar allergy sufferers.) just here we had a chat…at a safe social distance… with a gentlemen who was restoring the roof of the barn next to the house he had bought a couple of years ago. once again, i thought about how we would have shaken hands, agreed we were anglais and spent some time in idle talk if the virus wasn’t hanging over us plus the time allocation of our jaunt.
along the ridge, under a fabulous oak just bursting into leaf, down the hill and a swing left over the railway line. no trains for weeks now which we miss but the local cats are enjoying as they strut along the tracks as if they own them.
then we crossed the main road by the old farm house being restored.
about now i became aware of a bird singing away in the trees to our right. i was convinced it was a nightingale but was waiting for its familiar ‘peeep, peeep, peeep’…and as we turned onto the track across the fields it came! so a nightingale to complete the feast of the senses.
all along the walk i had been excited by all the briar roses out in bloom. i started off thinking they were a type of wild mock orange blossom but my new app on my phone identified them as roses.(thanks, bro) whatever they were they were beautiful.
by now i had lost lou what with photos and identifying plants with the app. checking my watch i began to hurry up. an hour isn’t long enough to take in everything but it certainly concentrates the mind and senses. this part of the walk takes you between fields that lead down to the river cere. one was full of buttercups while the one opposite give views across the river and up to the hills above the village
this path is often the start of my bike rides but those aren’t allowed at the moment unless the bike is being used to go shopping. the river comes in sight briefly where it is joined by the mill race.
we have a mill at port de gagnac. now it is a wood mill but our neighbour who lives to the east of paris remembers it being a flour mill in her childhood and the miller covered in flour looking like a ghost. the millrace lives up to its name and rushes through its banks and after heavy rain will flood into the farmer’s field.
and we got back within the hour…just
yesterday our prime minister gave a speech outlining the new conditions for deconfinement. we won’t need the attestation anymore after 11th may if we are designated as living in a green zone but if our area is designated red….it will just be around the block for the duration!