DERNIER MOT - WATER WATER EVERYWHERE
When we first thought about moving to the south of France, one of the attractions was all-year sunshine. "No need for heating," I chortled. "No hats, coats and scarves. Chuck the wellies out, we're off to lotus-land where the sun shines brightly."
I wasn't even going to bring my carpets. "It'll be far too hot," I told everyone. "We'll be walking barefoot on cool stone floors. No more hoovering..."
They didn't believe me. The Senior Partner crammed the carpets, the hoover and all the wellies into the van - and scored ten gold stars because it was pouring when we arrived in Moisson.
Torrents of water were cascading off the roof of our new house; there was a mountain stream gushing past the front door, the wooden shutters were so swollen we couldn't open them. There wasn't a cat or a dog in sight - the rain was literally "falling in ropes", and shafts of lightening were hurling themselves like spears into the sides of the patient mountains.
Soaked to the skin, we stumbled into the house to find that it was raining indoors too. The roof was impersonating a sieve and a friendly brook was babbling under the French windows into the dining room, splashing merrily through the sitting room and out onto the terrace where it formed a cute waterfall into the gardens below.
"All year sunshine," muttered the Senior Partner. "Lotus-eating. Sun-tan lotion. Let's all move to the south of France..."
But that was just a summer storm which didn't last long and luckily it didn't rain again until late autumn, by which time we'd managed to waterproof most of the house. And even that winter, it didn't rain much.
But it was absolutely freezing and we did need the carpets. All of them. And the rugs. And the snuggly wraps on the sofa. Certainly the Black Panthers (Sooty and Bad Boy Tombo) say they never would have survived -19°C without serious nesting.
Still, by the following summer we hadn't had a repeat of our welcome-home thunderstorm and I was optimistic that it had been a freak occurrence; a one-off blip.
"There you are," I crowed, "hardly any rain at all!"
The Senior Partner sighed. "Which is why they've turned the village fountain off," he said. "Haven't you seen the notice board? No watering flowers, no washing cars, no filling pools..."
"Sounds good to me," I said. "Less work, more play..."
"It's a drought," he said. "It's 46 degrees out there. Drink some water. Stay in the shade."
Flowers wilted, dust swirled, trees died, bacteria flourished in the reservoir, flies multiplied, and barbecues were banned as the fire-risk went through the roof. Day after day dawned bright and sunny and I finally had to admit that rain would be good.
And finally it came. Lots of it. In three days the reservoirs were rinsed clean, the river rejuvenated, the whole village cleaned up and like magic, the mountain slopes were transformed into flower-strewn meadows.
Which is why I refuse to despair, although it's been raining here for 19 days. The sky is leaden, there's a cloud stuck on the peaks surrounding the village, the river is so swollen we can hear it roaring from indoors, the garden has become a sodden quagmire, the boulodrome is flooded, the reservoirs are overflowing, and the sun is but a distant memory.
The gang is gloomy, but the monsoon doesn't bother me. Spring is on the horizon. We may not have all-year sunshine, but we definitely have all-year weather.
The watering-ban will soon be back.
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