All hail to the Sun
CLIMATE CHANGE SEASONS
"So what brought you to the sunny South of France?" This is a question that the comedienne Caroline Ahern might well have asked anyone who had escaped the rigours of Northern Europe for life in the south. And yes, her cheeky supposition would almost certainly have been correct. When we ourselves decided to relocate, estate agents constantly pushed the fact that this region enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year. What's not to like? But let me issue a word of warning. For while we have certainly enjoyed many, many beautiful days, I have come to regard the sun with a degree of caution.
When I first met B. he was on a working visit to Britain from his home in Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe. When parking the car in an English car park he would always look for a spot with guaranteed shade. This puzzled me at first. When one is born in the north of England, the sun is not a significant factor in one's life. But after coming to live in France I have had learned some hard lessons. And now I myself would never ever park the car in a spot that might be subject to the full sun.
A few years ago we were enjoying some time on the Canal Rhône Sète. We had moored our much loved metal boat ' Njiva' at Maguelone, our favourite spot and had returned there in our car to spend a few days. The weather was set fair. The skies were blue and the sun shone. Solar panels ensured that we could run a cooling fan during the day, and we had brought our electric bicycles to explore the surrounding coastal lagoons. Life was very pleasant. Until one day I began to feel uncomfortably hot, and there was little that I could do to relieve things. The car was a short cycle ride away, as was the sea where I might be able to cool off. To cycle anywhere was completely out of the question. I quickly realised that I was suffering from the early stages of heat exhaustion. It was not pleasant. I desperately hugged a bottle of chilled wine and some cold beers from the fridge... all I could find to reduce my temperature. The electric fan was useless. Making an enormous effort, we finally managed to get to the car, and were soon driving home with the air conditioning set to maximum. Ever since then I have been extremely wary of the sun's power, and try desperately never to put myself in such a situation again. Sadly , this summer we had to limit the use of our boat for that reason.
But I still don't deny that the sun is a large factor in our choosing to live here. As I write my blog on this sunny February morning the sky is a cloudless azure blue and outdoor temperatures are very pleasant. Whilst we may experience cloud and even frost at this time of the year , these sunny winter days are a joy. Yesterday we had our first barbecue of the year , and the conservatory store(or blind) was rolled out to shade us from the sun.
Throughout the winter , at a time when most people may be facing their TV screens to watch the evening news, our chairs are set westwards, looking towards the mountains of the Espinouse. Whether we hold an evening 'apero' in our hands or not, we are ready to salute the dying sun. For every evening, without exception, we are treated to a fantastic display. No two sunsets are ever the same. Here are a few examples.
And so , while we enjoy these beautiful sunsets, and bask in the warm days of early spring, we must remain aware of the summer to come with its increasing threat of drought, exceptionally high temperatures and forest fires. Whilst I shall continue to enjoy life in this part of France , and make the most of the sun, I hope you will forgive me if I occasionally dream of rain and the mist covered Scottish moors.