The panoramic view from my terrace stretches for thirty kilometres, across immaculately tended vineyards, huddled villages, river valleys and great sweeps of forested landscape. In the far distance, if your eyesight is pretty good, you can just make out the tower at Tournon D’Agenais. Naturally the house is on the side of a steep hill, and yesterday, as I was out pruning my lemon trees and trying to coax the oleanders into a little more effort, my only company appeared to come from a pair of buzzards riding the thermals. Warm spring breezes drifted across my overgrown garden as I carefully tended the riotously blossoming orange tree on the corner, and I blissfully inhaled the wafts of delicious scent.

As I bent to pick up the fallen clippings, I realised I wasn’t as alone as I’d thought. For there, curled up in the warmest, sunniest spot, between the tree and a vast pot of creamy violas, lay Hisqua, my neighbour’s white cat.
‘And just what do you think you’re doing here?’ I enquired, conversationally. She stretched, yawned insolently, and opened one sapphire blue eye. I moved on to the kumquat. ‘You should be out mousing you know.’ I informed the interloper, ‘I’ve got a whole nest of them down on the lower terrace, and here you are lazing in the sun!’ She opened the other eye and began to wash.

It was nearing midday, and lunch was calling, so I abandoned both cat and pruning shears and fumbled for the car keys. I should just about make the boulangerie in time.
Our dusty old car trundled lethargically through the vineyards, beautifully pruned and sporting a healthy crop of spring green underneath. Cowslips winked from the verges and small pools of purple violets leaked into encroaching woodland.

Moseying into the ancient village of Albas, hanging precariously from the cliff, I nipped into the boulangerie and came away with an armful of golden spears. I had a dinner party that night. On the way back I stopped off to refill a five-litre bidon with healthy nectar from another neighbour.

Back home in the kitchen I threw salad about, ladled glistening black olives into a bowl, cut a vast slice of tonight’s pâté de truite and unearthed my computer-loving husband from his cell. Whilst he clattered about with cutlery and crockery, I took the warm bread and a jug of deep, dark wine out onto the terrace. I placed the olives in the centre of the table beside the salad, and with one eye on Hisqua, took out the pâté.
It was glorious. The sun was warm on our backs, the breeze gave a continual aroma of orange blossom and the simple repast tasted like manna.
Hisqua leaped up onto the balustrade to announce her elegant presence, and began to parade along it in a distinctly look-at-me style. This precarious wooden structure is four inches wide and fifty feet long, with a drop of another twenty feet if you happen to fall on the wrong side.
‘Stop showing off!’ I told her severely. She turned her wide, unblinking blue eyes on me and continued unabated. I picked up the pâté. She stopped. I sliced a tiny sliver. She jumped down and came to sit obediently beside me. Taking her bribe with perfect manners, she washed and went back to the pot of violas for a luxurious stretch and another little nap in the sun.

There are problems here as there are wherever one happens to be in the world. But taking one thing with another, it’s not a bad place to be. It’s not a bad place to be a cat, either.

© Amanda Lawrence

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It’s a Cat’s Life in France from French Vie

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