Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Season of Love

At the risk of offending those who have had a full winter of darkness and cold, spring has definitely come to the Arcachon Basin. The warm weather (20c+) and sunshine do much toward putting one’s mind at ease. For me it means we won’t need the full load of firewood we ordered during the coldest of cold snaps back in February (did I mention our house has no insulation?).  The nice man delivered it the day after our sub-standard heating system elected to strike after being asked to do it’s job, in the French tradition. At the time, I was so happy to see such a huge pile of nicely split oak, I failed to notice how curiously heavy it was. Needles to say, it didn’t so much burn as sizzle.  Next time we’ll ask for seasoned firewood. On the bright side, six or eight good drying months from now we’ll be ready.

Ok. So what gets me on the topic of spring? I’m glad you asked. A few things got me pondering how spring here is defined so differently from my experience, which is: 1. daylight savings time 2. snow melts 3. snow mold kills grass 4. leaves come out, although mostly on the stupid trees like poplars who don’t understand there’s at least one more blizzard coming. Here, many of the deciduous trees (one’s with real leaves) don’t waste their time losing their leaves, and those that do get naked seem to prefer producing blossoms before they leaf out.  I have no idea why.

This is a mimosa (with leaves).
This could be some kind of fruit (?)

I don't know what this is but the blossoms are tulip-sized.

That being said, the big trees, like oaks and sycamores, don’t seem in any real hurry to get leafy although the weather certainly indicates they could start any time.  

This is a tee box but those are oaks down the sides.
Another reminder was the cacophony, a word I love but rarely get to use, which greeted Bertrand (my new golf buddy – a retired lawyer from Paris) and I as we passed a water hazard on the golf course the other morning. We tend to start fairly early in the day.

Another busy day at the golf course.
Bertrand explained it was “the season of love” for the local frog population.  I thought it was a delightfully French thing to say. In Canada we would be more clinical (e.g. ‘mating season’ or simply ‘spring’).  The local bird population, including the woodpeckers, have also embraced the concept, and the morning air is filled with songs as foreign to me as French; pretty, but unfamiliar.

I would say we weathered the first winter fairly well, with some qualifiers. I know Ann missed a proper dose of skiing, although we did get a few days over the Christmas break. For me, I found it was difficult to miss something so out of sync with the local weather. I tend to think about skiing when I see snow, and golf when I see grass. In Calgary, that amounts to an 80/20 split, where I find myself pining for something green that isn’t salad. This winter, with the exception of one weekend in the snowy Pyrenees (see previous blog), I didn’t give skiing much thought.

Another stark lowlight of the winter season was the occasional bought of loneliness experienced by all members of the crew, an occupational hazard of expatriate work. I know both Ann and Perri are social animals (those who know me know I’m not) and the dark days of winter following a brief visit home illuminated our solitary existence (I promise to stop the conflicting lighting imagery from here on in). Simply put, the girls miss their peeps. Fortunately, we have been able to find ways to ingratiate ourselves into the local social scene. Perri has started to spend some non-school time with a few of the girls in her class. Ann has become a prominent member of the local smelly squash club, and I do not use that adjective lightly. It could hold it’s own against any hockey change room you could name. We have been invited to two (count them, two) dinners at the homes of locals. I can assure you nothing is more difficult for me than to sit quietly while the mealtime banter is both jovial and incomprehensible.  On a positive note, I can now add wild boar to the list of ‘animals I have eaten’ (it doesn’t taste like chicken). And, although I have found a few members of the local golf club who aren’t completely offended by spending a couple of hours with one so hopeless at their beautiful language, I too find myself missing a some parts of my previous life (e.g. there are some things said at card games which, although quite funny, are acceptable only to people with a long shared history). I’ll live, as long as I’m doing this stint with my girls, my cats, and the acceptance of the neighbor’s cats.  It doesn’t hurt that the golf season is twelve months long either.

Looking forward, we must now gird our loins for the onslaught of fleets of ships of guests. As the season of love finishes, 'la saison d'invité' begins...

post script - I was wandering along the other morning, while looking for an errant tee shot, when a noise from the trees gave me pause. It sounded like someone's Swiss wall clock was stuck. I always believed the cuckoo was the creation of some clock-maker's sleep-deprived imagination and yet here one was, earnestly cuckooing in hopes, I should think, of attracting another cuckoo with similar tastes. Another illusion shattered. I am now actively searching the tree-line for yetis, bigfeet (bigfoots?), and unicorns.