Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Never a dull moment...

It was 19°C in Montpellier today. Further north, in chillier climes, it was 3°C and snowing. Every Spring I bask in the early warmth of the south and congratulate myself on living in such a marvellous climate. My daffodils are out, and I have a tulip bud from one of the bulbs in a pot that will open tomorrow. The other 50 that I planted a bit later in the garden are 10cm above the ground and will be a blaze of colour in a couple of weeks.

Spring bathes the countryside in points of vibrant green as the leaf buds break forth dotting the trees with their annual youth. By late summer all is dry and tired and it's a relief when Autumnal coolness turns the dying leaves into a riotous blaze of golds and reds.

For the moment, though, my thoughts are turning to barbeques and picnics. Blankets spread out on the beach, tables groaning under the weight of sandwiches, quiche, crisps, salads, tomatoes and wine. I'm not a great one for spending hours preparing perfect little finger foods to nibble, and then being obliged to adorn myself with anti-mosquito spray pungent enough to douse the nasal faculties in a strong chemical haze. No point really, is there? With boys around, you can't linger in the same way you can in an adult only group, or you have to be tolerant about mid-meal energy expenders.

The funniest picnic I can remember was one, years ago, pre-kids, on the beach with my ex and some friends. We had taken a barbeque and were intending to cook some chicken wings. The 3' tall speakers from the home hi-fi had been brought along too to provide the party with some music, but, in the open air of the beach, the sound just evaporated.

The wings were coming along slowly, and needed turning. I believe it was my ex who forgot the grill was hot and, as he tried to take the metal handle, let out a yell and dumped all the wings into the sand. Oops. We took them to the sea for a quick wash and started again. They were just starting to sizzle when the good weather evaporated and we were in imminent danger of a good soaking from a suddenly very black sky. Rushing for the wings, this time it was me who forgot the grill was hot, and, as I tried to grab the metal handle, let out a shriek and dumped those poor wings into the sand again!

Back to the sea for a hurried wash and brush up, and a democratically agreed decision to abandon all plans for a picnic meant the wings finally finished cooking unceremoniously in the oven, and tasted interestingly of a marine environment.

Bad weather often seems to rush in upon the coast from out to sea. I remember another occasion on the Cote d'Azur, we had been taking a nice walk along the beach and were sitting on a jetty watching some black clouds approach. It was a lovely sunny day, and, carefree, we observed the meterological event with admiration. As it got nearer and nearer, however, we suddenly realised that it was heading straight for us, at speed, and that the clouds were accompanied by torrential rain. Jumping up, we literally dashed for the car and just made it inside, shutting the doors as the storm hit us.

Exciting stuff! And fond memories.

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