Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Melbourne’s Autumn brings Back a French Summer

The start of autumn this week has seen the return of summer heat to Melbourne, with skies and light reminiscent of our summers in north-east France. A recent discussion during dinner had us recalling the first July we spent at our house in France - an unforgettable event.

Late July: our first French Summer

Plaster dust, spider webs – old and new, airborne grime generated by decades of neglect, and reconstituted glue from soggy pieces of wallpaper, manage to amalgamate with perspiration generated by the summer heat, to form a sticky coating on our skin.

Empty glasses and water bottles litter the deep, buckled windowsill. Actions are laboured, but spurred on by the limited time available to renovate this minuscule room – a task that appeared to be straight forward and quick, but is now proving otherwise.

There is no movement in the village. Lunchtime has extended into a siesta as patches of bitumen on the road start to resemble tacky molasses. Charlie and Kenzo, our neighbour’s cats, lie splayed in the cool under the lone conifer that stands like a sentinel to the cluster of houses in our ancient ruelle (lane).

Unexpectedly the faint sounds of plodding hooves pierce the silence, echoing as they rise from the street that sits in the valley below. Inquisitively I poke my head out of the second storey window while straddling its sill – a precarious move.  Nothing new in the landscape to report.

As the sounds grow louder, the shouting of children becomes faintly audible. Peering left through the breaks in the tree-tops, I get a brief glimpse of the scene below just before a parade of tired, hot bodies becomes fully visible.

A young boy, perhaps 10 or 11 years old, leads a pony on a slackened reign. Like his 2 friends trailing him, he’s abandoned his saddle. A fourth pony, head drooping and strapped into a cart harness, slowly edges into the picture.
The poor animal is pulling a tatty canvas covered wagon, reminiscent of those of the Wild West, albeit smaller and in proportion to the creature’s size. 

My pity for this equine slave soon gives way to warm amusement as the rear of the cart and source of the high pitched voices, come into view. Pushing the wooden structure up the road’s steep incline, and almost parallel to the ground themselves, are 2 small lads, shirtless and gasping for breath amidst their encouraging shouts to their hoofed companion up front..........The doors to my childhood memories are prised gently open.

My husband now joins me at the window.  “How stupid to be riding in this heat, but what a great adventure” I mutter. “Oh to be young again.” “ But we are young, and a touch foolish – look what we’re doing!” he chortles as he deposits a sticky kiss on my damp, grime-encrusted face......
Life alters quickly when one’s perspective changes!

One clean and painted room - small, but mighty significant
for us.