The first lilas, the first irises, daisy chains made of ‘paquerettes’…
It’s 26 degrees, Spring is beautiful and I’ve just made my first ‘Jardiniere‘ of the season.
Look out for Mamy Jeanne’s recipe in the following post…
Quelle belle surprise. It’s cold and about to snow again, friends left right and centre are ‘aol’ with colds and flu, but the sight of that beautiful pink… I go crazy in my head with excitement when I see the first trees in flower – and this was my first for 2013.
I know it’s only early Feb, but it gets me thinking of all the flowers to come – and Ding! goes my head with visions of colour and splendour from last year’s pickings.
So hell yeah, let’s have a cheesy insert to follow.
A ‘Collage de Fleurs’!…
Every year, leading up to the 1st of November, you will see florists and markets everywhere stocking up with chrysanthemums. In France as well as other countries in Europe – Spain, Italy, Poland etc, this flower symbolises death and is placed in cemeteries on ‘La Toussaint’ – ‘All Saints’ Day’ – the day people remember their loved ones and bring flowers to their graves.
The day of ‘La Toussiant’ in the Western Christian world dates from the 7th century BC in Rome under Pope Boniface IV, and from the 9th century BC for the rest of Europe. On a quick peek on the internet, it seems that other countries also take flowers to their deceased on this day: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Hungary, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, as well as some cities in the US.
I’ll always remember the first year I arrived in France, walking through the cemetery of Lagrasse, by chance, just after the 1st of November. I was in awe, it was the most beautiful spectacle of colours and flowers. ‘They really look after their dead loved ones here,’ I said to Benjamin. He laughed and explained the tradtion of ‘La Toussaint’ to me. From then on I’ve always made sure to have a wander inside the cemetries at this time of year to take in the beauty and have a think. I don’t do it often, but going in and having a quiet walk around, reading the various names and looking at the faces of those few whose families have left a photograph gives me time to reflect and be grateful for being around. Corny, I know – but it puts things back into perspective and I feel even more happy to be around walking the earth instead of under it.
Lilas and I went for a walk in our village’s cemetery this week:
Morbid I may be, but I loved this cross. The grapes, the wheat, it seems so rustic and perfect for a rural cemetery whose village is devoted to winemaking. I was probably wrong with the symbols however! – the blog ‘Graveyard Addiction’ (sounds very ‘Harold and Maude’ ) attributes the grapes as the blood of Christ and the wheat as a symbol of harvest (thanks G.A.!).
I spied Lilas with a pile of flowers in her hand – ‘No, you can’t take the flowers!’ I said. ‘Mummy, I’m picking the ones off the ground and giving them to ones that don’t have them,’ she explained.
I’ve just remembered that I used to give Mum chrysanthemums on Mother’s Day! – how funny to think of the twist from this Australian tradition to the French one… People keep saying the Aussies are topsy-turvy.
And your Tip For When In France: never present chrysanthemums to the host at a dinner party, or on your first date.
There was a beautiful orange glow lighting up our room early this morning and I couldn’t wait to get outside to see what the garden and it’s adjacent vines looked like in that light…
It’s nearing ‘les vendanges’ (harvest time for the grapes – or vintage, as we say in Australia) and it looks like it will be about a week early. The grapes are all looking pretty good (those night visits helped!) and Benji’s only 3/4 stressed. What you see above are bunches of ‘Syrah’. Some of our friends have already started on their whites here in the Minervois, but our red grapes here probably have another week to go before the chop! My days of picking are long gone I’m sorry to say. Darn that back. Everytime I see the pickers out in the heat with their broad smiles, sticky and dirty hands, having a laugh with each other, I get so nostalgic! I never realised how much fun and satsfaction I’d have from finishing a row – finishing a whole vineyard! – with a team. I was only beginning to learn French and so a lot of my time in the row was spent listening to mad, sun-induced conversations I had little or no chance of undersatnding, kind advice from a few of the pickers on how to learn French in Three Easy Steps, or being asked to rattle off sentences out loud to everyone, whose meaning I had no idea about, with hysterical laughter greeting them. They’d ask me to repeat these word for word to ‘the boss’ at home, and then I would know what they meant!… Sentences full of ‘gros mots’ (what the lttle ones call ‘swear words) apparently!
The only thing I couldn’t bring myself to doing was guzzling down the red at lunchtime. How did they do that? You stop for a very LONG 90 minutes (these traditions of meal times must be respected. Geez, in Australia it was a brisk 30 minutes), and then get going again in the full force of the afternoon heat, to finish at 5pm. Most people were very un-Anglo-Saxon and would have just the one glass, but some of the guys would go crazy! I’d look over at the red faces with red in their bellies and wonder how they kept standing, or kept from snipping their fingers. My lunch break was a much less festive affair: lunch with a spectacular view, a very petite conversation in the French that I had, and then a long nap in the vines. Not much else to do out there. But it was so much fun.
A lot of people are already proclaiming that it will be a good year, but it’s hard to know until everything is safe off the vines! Fingers crossed.
The garden looked pretty happy too this morning:
While I’m on talking about wildflowers, I thought I’d share these pics of the poppies (‘coquelicots’) and broom (‘genets’), in full bloom here, that never fail to delight me.
The roads and vineyards are all lined with these these gorgeous flowers and their strong red and yellow tones. And the smell of the broom is just incredible!
I hadn’t really appreciated the season of Spring until now, living here in France. The contrast of each season is quite dramatic and very different to my hometown of Adelaide. After the cold and harshness of winter (am I glad that we have central heating – something unheard of for me in Oz!) nature in Spring just bursts to life with colour and energy. Even the locals seem to get excited and step up a notch in energy.
Maybe it’s also living in the countryside that allows me to appreciate all this magic and colour.
happy birthday auntie mil
Brrr it’s still chilly, but the countryside is beautiful with all this blossom! The Minervois is dotted with these beautiful trees and in the sun-filled afternoons, their relief amongst the landscape provides for the most magnificent views.
Putting your nose right into the flower, the smell is of intense honey. Benjamin thinks they smell of beeswax. He’s right. If I close my eyes and sniff, I’m propelled straight into an old shop full of antiques!
It’s all too tempting… I just had to pick some for home!