* I go all Japanese around blossom and beautiful stuff. It’s my default language of admiration and awe.
Yesterday, I finished delivering all my papers across the region – such a hard job, driving through the beautiful countryside stopping at gorgeous towns. Yesterday, it was the turn of Chasseneuil, Roumazieres-Loubert, Chabanais, St Junien and Rochechouart.
First stop is a little café in Chasseneuil where the wonderful proprietress told me her customers were ‘greedy’ for the magazine and she has to ration them. Chasseneuil is a sleepy little town that hasn’t really moved on much from the 70s. A lot of the shops have tired old displays and it’s definitely like a step back in time. Ever since the by-pass went in, the town hasn’t exactly died so much as stagnated. Having said that, I like it. I like the feeling of being in a completely different era, one with few cars and old shops with tired displays. The Madame in the café is like a breath of fresh air in a town where an Intermarché and a Lidl in need of a ‘relooking’ rule the street.
Next up is Roumazieres. Truthfully, I don’t like this town. It’s got little by way of anything interesting. The buildings are dirty, the people seem less polite – the whole place is out of step with the rest of the Charente stops. It just seems scruffy and uncared for. There aren’t any flower displays, there are no beautiful buildings. Even though Chasseneuil is a little tired, it still has THE most beautiful Art Nouveau town hall with beautiful tile work and lovely details. Romazieres can’t even offer that.
From here, it’s a little windy way from Romazieres to do a couple of drop-offs in more remote locations before getting back to Chabanais, which is an utterly charming little town. It sits astride the Vienne river and although it’s desperately in need of a bypass (in the process of being built) since all the traffic from Angouleme to Limoges has to pass along it, including hundreds of articulated lorries, it’s quite lovely.
St Junien is the biggest town on the route, and I like it a lot. There are ample shops, bars and restaurants. It always feels busy, too, which is rare for France. Plus, I get to do drop-offs at the wonderful Moulin de Tin Tin, a treasure trove of lovely household stuff as well as jewellery, handbags and clothes. A true delight!
I parked near the church and walked over to drop off magazines at Giac’s bar – only to see the most beautiful trees in blossom.
It’s at times like this that I’d love my film camera to hand. Truth be told, it doesn’t get so much of an outing any more. It’s becoming impossible to get good quality film (I only use Fuji for colour work because of the greens and the blues – amazing colours) and it costs a ridiculous amount to process. Black and white I can process myself, even though the film is still pushing on for 5€ a pop. So I use my cute little digital my mum, sister and brother bought for me, but it doesn’t have manual focus and the aperture range is limited, which is a shame. Oh the things I could do with a digital SLR! I think I need to start saving for a second-hand one because I miss what I can do with an SLR. Still, the shots don’t come out too bad at all!
If you’re a photographer, you’ll know what I mean when I say I’d like a better depth of field. I could make those blossoms pop out like you wouldn’t believe! Still, I always try to get the balance between remembering that a photograph is just a way of capturing a moment – and it should never be better than the moment was, or detract from the moment. And the warm wind, the petals blowing across the square like snow, the smell of the magnolias – a photograph could never do it justice!
This magnolia stellata was a couple of days past its prime – and another Japanese moment – mono no aware – simultaneous sadness and joy. The joy of the beauty of a thing and the sadness that it is fleeting and transitory. It was utterly magnificent. I had a magnolia (a tiny little one!) back in Manchester, and I’d love one here. I made do with a couple of 1€ purchases of some rather tired-looking perennials. I’ve still got to decide where to put this flowerbed of mine. I’m stacking up pots of perennials and need a suitably appropriate place to put them.
I love magnolias. They’re a kind of gift you get from the previous house-owner who perhaps had the kindness to plant one – as they’re not the kind of thing you can buy and see in all its magnificence by the next few years. I love the huge trees with tulip blossoms – but they’re years and years worth of growth – the kind you acquire rather than buy.
It is, however, days like these when I realise how lucky I am to have such achingly blue skies that almost make my heart hurt because they’re so, so beautiful. I think this time of year is a perfect time of year. Everything is still new, so alive and vibrant. It’s not too hot – the nights are beginning to get warmer – the breezes are delightful. The garden is manageable and beautiful and green. The chickens are laying. The animals are enjoying sunbathing and dirt baths. I wake up with the pear and quince tree in blossom outside my bedroom window. It’s light. The evenings are long and cool. All those dark little seeds are beginning to put out leaves and stalks. Everything is gentle and new.
Steve’s in the process of painting the outside of the house – it seems to have taken years off the house and given it a new lease of life. Amazing what two big tubs of cheap paint can do! Mind you, I’m a little worried it will a) put the rest of the house to shame b) put the rest of the village to shame c) blind people who come round the corner, used to seeing a grubby little vision, not a glowing edifice. I hope they aren’t so distracted that they drive into the house.