A Precarious Position

Friday, 4 September

As a child I dreaded going back to school in September. During the summer my mind softened like overripe fruit and firming it back into academic shape loomed darkly in my psyche. The condition lightened a bit in early adulthood, then got worse again when I had my own children and re-lived that churning back-to-school stomach through them.

The kids have long grown up and most summers now I keep working. August is no more than a comma, a soft pause, in the flow and I usually look forward to the more rigorous schedule that comes with cooler mornings.

But the year 2020 seems determined to be strange, off-kilter, in every way. August was too hot, too dry, too windy and I went to the vet seven times; September has me jittery once again.

The first days of August the heat was so brutal that the masons transforming our barn into living quarters arrived for work at 6am and stopped at 2pm. At the end of the week they tidied up their chantier and left on holiday…

Territory reclaimed by swallows

…leaving us and the swallows in blissful but canicular peace.

No sooner had the workers gone, however, than Tasha returned from a jaunt bleeding profusely. It was only a small tear in her ear, probably caused by a bramble or bit of barbed wire, but the blood was everywhere, including all over us.

The vet bandaged her up like Vincent.

Tasha Van Gogh

As you can see, she was miserable, though she really surprised us. Usually a dog who shares her every emotion, Tasha suffered her fate in stoic silence.

Next vet visit, she shook her strong head and off came the new, lighter bandage before we even got through the exit. Blood sprayed all over the waiting room. Third time round, ear still bleeding, the vet put in a staple and wound on another large bandage that only lasted a day.

At the 5th appointment she was deemed ready for the staple remover.

Silly us, thinking we could now relax and settle into the heat and drought. One week later she returned from another jaunt with a gash on her front leg, plus a couple minor wounds, most likely the result of an unfortunate scuffle with our resident badger.

More misery and bandages and staples, which yesterday, vet visit number 7, were removed. We are hoping she does not validate the French saying jamais deux sans trois (never twice without thrice) but we are not sanguine.

Fortunately the month had more pleasant distractions. It was bracketed by family visits; the Berlin contingent at the beginning...

Tasha and Fanny

...and half of the Londoners at the end...

Christopher and Kerry, who will brave a 14-day quarantine when they return to England

Once it got cool enough to move, we explored more of the area.

Driveway to the Château de Lonné, Igé

Our massive fig tree produced kilos of fruit that I turned into compote and jam…

…ditto for the plums.

Both David and I spent less time at our desks. Given his precarious pruning from atop this ladder and other feats of near handyman disaster, I was relieved he didn’t take off any more time.

Just like last year, on the 19th the swallows had one of their rave parties and were gone the next day. It felt lonely without them. We went into Paris. It was hot and dry and windy there too.

It struck me as I was walking Tasha in the searing gusts, many of the ill chestnuts and limes already leafless..

...that she is not the only one scrapping and injured this summer. The whole world right now is a battered place. By the coronavirus that continues to rage in some countries and is wasting no time surging back in others (France had 8975 new cases the 4th of September, up from 7017 the 3rd).

And by rising violence, around protests in the US recently and in France around the gilets jaunes last year, but also in daily interactions with officials, or by the police themselves. I have had numerous conversations with friends about the growing incivilité between citizens in the streets of Paris. Bizarrely even horses have been under attack throughout France this summer.

Meanwhile the signs of global warming are becoming terrifyingly obvious. After three consecutive years of drought and excessive heat, trees are weakened or dead everywhere you look, out here in the Perche too. "Our Forests Are in Agony," read a recent front-page article in Le Parisien.

Dead redwood, Château de Lonné

In the old days my September dread had eased by October and I was again enjoying the pace and demands of real life. This year I wonder. Our position feels as precarious as David's on top of that ladder.  

'No Planet B', Bellême