I never thought I’d be the type to hang a sign on my gate saying I was taking three hours off work for a little pleasure, but there you go.
I used to love the “Gone Fishin’!” signs, just for that whole thing of ‘I’m doing something much more pleasurable than working and I don’t even care if you want something or not’. Ironically, having just seen a friend’s twitter post about how France is shut at lunch times, some afternoons, Sundays and sometimes Mondays, even in high tourist season in tourist resorts, I think this whole attitude is endemic across the country. I’d be surprised if anyone did anything more than stick up a piece of paper in the window saying ‘Congés Annuels’ or ‘Fermé’.
My new best hobby is canoeing and kayaking from the little canoe place down in Mansle. I wish I had a canoe myself, but then I’d need a car that could take it and someone to help me lift it up and that’s a whole lot more effort than I’m prepared to make. I’d quite like a little wooden boat so I could put Tilly and Heston in it with me and we could sail away. Think I’m going to spend tonight reading Swallows and Amazons and dreaming of endless summers with no work and no school and no parents.
Mme. V and I have also found a very Swallows-and-Amazony kind of paradise place where we’ve decided we’re going to camp with the dogs. I vote for barbecues and camp fires. It’s a place which you’d only really know if you canoe or kayak. The Charente passes by several clearings, some of which you can get to, land side. This one is at the weir, so the Charente is slower, deeper and lazier there. Fish swim among the reeds in peace and quiet. The trees are high, so there’s a lot of shade, and you can only get to the clearing down a couple of miles of rutted trails. And there it opens up onto a wide bit of the river. A perfect pool.
I had visions of lying there in the sun, stringing up a hammock, camping and eating food cooked over the fire. Katie had visions of mosquitoes. She’s probably right. I guess I’d have to be plastered in Deet 100% and I’ve no doubt that the frogs also find it a delightful venue for camping too. The reality of the event will not be like the dream of it. It’ll be noisy and filled with biting animals and insects, and it’s probably a dogging spot for local farmers. Verity and I will be lying there in our sleeping bags with over-excited dogs, Tilly barking at everything, the puppies wanting to play, whilst every single mosquito in the Sud-Ouest makes its way towards our tender flesh for a bloody buffet whilst the frogs play out some kind of foul froggie chorus before froggie fornication and copulation, all at full volume.
Whether or not we go back to this spot next year for a bit of camping – or a pic-nic at the very least – is in the hands of the future, but meanwhile, as I search for winter wood, dig up the last of my spuds, get out my appointment book for the autumn term and rake up leaves in the garden, it gives me something to think about for next summer’s mini congés annuels. It won’t be glamping. There won’t be toilets. But what more do you need for a glorious time in the sun? A peaceful river, a secluded clearing, a picnic, some dogs, a good book, a portable barbecue, some rosé pamplemousse and a lot of Deet.
Here’s to next summer….