Friday, 11 February
February has a bad reputation, at least in my book. A short but nasty month. Dark and cold and only fun if you spend part of it in the mountains or at the beach. Since I don’t ski, the former offers no relief, and it’s been years since we sipped rum punches and buried our toes in the sands of the Caribbean. Even the hope of a light snow providing a frisson of winter joy here in northern France is vanishing as the planet warms.
But this year—and maybe partly because of climate change—it’s seemed a month of awakening.
I spent the first days on a last-minute, mini-emergency trip to London. With grand-daughter Mira ill and unable to attend nursery in the afternoon, there were gaps in the child-care and panic in the parents’ hearts. It was my first call to action as a grandmother, one that I answered eagerly, especially after being gypped at Christmas by Covid.
Poor Mira was a victim of an already overstretched NHS, brought to breaking point by the pandemic. It took almost two weeks to correctly diagnose a succession of 40°C/104°F fevers and symptoms that indicated first tonsillitis, then bronchiolitis, then an intestinal flu. In fact, an adenovirus, they finally learned, was travelling from region to region of her tiny body.
By the time I arrived, she was beginning to feel better, and the little person that Mira is becoming emerged from a feverish fog: a budding book and music lover...
...who's no one's fool.
Back in Paris on my Saturday morning run, I remarked that day is breaking earlier and in a distinct hue.
On Sunday in the Perche, I marvelled at how a February morning puts nature’s architecture in an inspirational light too.
But even before that, the first thing I noticed walking out the door with Tasha at 7.30am was the birdsong. A chorus of chirps from the hedgerows and forest surrounded me, and I wondered if I've been deaf all these years or whether such cheery sounds in February are another manifestation of climate change.
After a grey and foggy January (and a rainy December, for that matter, November too) the sun has appeared frequently this last week. Its rays are way too warm, more like March, but after all the gloom, the sunlight does raise the spirits, soothe the soul.
As the works on the inside of our house limp to the finish line, things are stirring outside too. It's tree planting season, and Claire has just provided new homes for three American hornbeams that will help block ever fiercer winds and nicely mirror the two giant cypresses that tower over Deux Champs.
After a long stretch in hiding, deer have convened in our field every day this last week. Yesterday morning I counted seven enjoying the breakfast special of organic alfalfa and clover. Maybe they are partly attracted by the two ponds at the edge of the forest that Estéban had dug last summer to encourage wetland flora and fauna and that, thanks to lots of rain, are now full of water.
It's nearing 7pm, and I've just gone outside to get some air. The birds were chirping sleepily. If the sun is rising earlier, it's also setting later, and the evening light rivals the morning in its quiet beauty.
All this and we're not even half way through the month.
February, I apologise.