Amanda on January 24th, 2011

Tapestry Of LoveThis delightful tale is a total submersion into a life that is altogether different, the French country way of life, slow, sweet and sometimes stingingly sad.
Catherine is a resilient and totally independent character, she speaks fluent French – so important – and is determined to make her new life in the wilds of the Cevennes work and work well.  I have lived this particular life for seven years now, and although the author herself lives in the UK, she clearly understands the way a French rural community ticks.  When a foreign body drops without warning into a tiny village they cannot expect instant acceptance.  Like the pebble on the pond the ripples spread and all sorts of unlooked for consequences can occur.  But as time passes tranquillity is restored, neighbours become friends, then more than just friends.  Rosy Thornton understands this as few others do and this insightful novel reflects her clinging attachment to the region.  Love, life, language tangles, the usual fight with the creaking bureaucratic machine all set amongst stunning scenery.  If this sounds like your glass of wine, curl up and enjoy it.

© Amanda Lawrence 2011

Book Review – The Tapestry Of Love by Rosy Thornton from French Life

Amanda on July 3rd, 2010
The Pink Ball 2010

The Pink Ball 2010

The dog days of high summer and the heat is on.  Cicadas scream madly from the trees and sunflowers reach for shimmering skies washed of colour.

In the markets meanwhile, colour reigns supreme.  Piles of misshapen scarlet peppers and shiny purple and mauve aubergines nudge their culinary partners, the abundant courgettes and vast, delectable Marmande tomatoes; a ratatouille dances across almost every market stall.  On the long fruit stands the star of the summer ball is making her flamboyant entrance – the beautiful, fleshy peach.  Cherries are over now, apricots are making their bow, but the lovely peach will see us through the holiday months – and for sheer voluptuous pleasure, there is nothing to touch a ripe peach.  A private pleasure of course, one wouldn’t want to be caught in the act, it can be embarrassing. Read More »

The Pink Ball from French Life

Amanda on April 4th, 2010
Fresh Asparagus

Fresh Asparagus

Spring is in full flow here in the beautiful Quercy. The countryside is foaming with blossom. Rivers of blackthorn, late after the freezing winter have run into the cherry, wild pear, plum and quince, providing a fountain of confetti for the thousands of avian brides newly arrived from their overwintering grounds in Tropical Africa.
As I drove down through the vines yesterday, delicious spreads of butter-yellow cowslips covered the verges. The crowded woods created a chartreuse backdrop and the enticingly warm breezes lured me from the car for a quick ramble through pristine fields of new meadow flowers. Read More »

April – Spring In The Quercy from French Life

Amanda on December 21st, 2009
Christmas Shopping In Toulouse

Toulouse Christmas Market

It’s official, I have become a bumpkin!  Five years of rural French living have squeezed the sophistication out of me, like toothpaste from the tube, almost without my noticing.  It was brought to my attention with blinding clarity one wet chilly Tuesday in late December.

It all began with a request to Santa for an LBD for Christmas.  The old boy deputed one his elves – heavily disguised as the beloved – to escort me to the metropolis, wine me, dine me and buy me something wildly gorgeous.  The metropolis in our case is Toulouse.  Sophisticated, rose-pink and undeniably youthful – it was a bit of a shock.  The city centre was heaving, people were moving en masse like a nest of chic ants.  Every sleek, soignée girl had knee-high shiny boots.  Mine were ankle-length and a tad dusty.  Every man was cool to the point of boredom and well under twenty-five.  Mine was harassed, fifty and a tad dusty.  Hmmm. I mused, slightly appalled at the yawning gulf between the two, time for a change of lifestyle. Read More »

Christmas Shopping In Toulouse from French Life

Amanda on December 14th, 2009
Frosted Juniper

Frosted Juniper

Strong northerly winds have swept the vines bare, the temperatures are dropping fast and outside my warm kitchen snow is falling. The prickly junipers and rosemaries on our rocky hillside, that in summer hang so grimly on to their precious water resources in searing tropical heat, are now half frozen and veiled with white. The Mediterranean pines are beginning to look like the marches of the Arctic Circle.

Winter has arrived in the Quercy.

In the fields sheep huddle in their winter woolly jumpers. A lone donkey watched me nonchalantly as I walked swiftly past – snowflakes gathering on his eyelashes – he stood there patiently waiting for the storm to pass, he’s a wise old beast and he’s seen it all before. I could spy a familiar figure toiling in the distance. Monsieur the elder was pruning his vines. Why now? I wondered for the hundredth time, why do they wait until the weather is cold enough to freeze a bowl of soup in thirty seconds? I really must enquire one day. As I neared his vineyard it rather looked as if I was going to get the chance, he spotted me, and came wading, waist-deep through the immaculate ranks.

‘Beh, ma belle!’ He greeted me affectionately, removing his beret and preparing to scratch my cheeks. As I gingerly pushed back my swathes of wrappings to receive his enthusiastic embrace I noticed his worn shirt and waistcoat, reinforced with just a light jacket. He wasn’t even wearing gloves. He is well into his nineties and as fit as any man around. They breed them tough in these parts.

Winter Has Arrived In The Quercy from French Life

Amanda on November 14th, 2009
Autumn Vives

Autumn Vines

Welcome to deep, deep autumn in the rain-washed Quercy.
In years to come people will talk about the long hot summer of 2009 and remind one another that it truly lasted from April to October. But it’s November now and the bitter Northern winds have swept across the landscape, turning the shivering vines scarlet and bringing driving rain in their wake. For the first time in my life I really don’t mind. The countryside is parched and gasping, wells and waterholes have been dry for months and the gardens are in desperate need of a good drink. Meanwhile the autumn pruning has been done, winter wood has been cut and stacked and all the leftovers piled high on the bonfire. The last of the wild harvests have been gathered too. Pinecones for the fire – pinecones make superb fire lighters – are piled in six capacious boxes on the lower terrace. Walnuts, still wet and unctuous, wait to be moved inside to dry out for the year, quinces await the preserving pans and bags of fat, glossy chestnuts will be roasted, peeled – what a fiddly job that is – and frozen for Christmas. Read More »

Autumn In The Quercy from French Life

Amanda on August 1st, 2009
Tree frog

Tree frog

The oleanders and hibiscus on my terrace provide the perfect backdrop for lazy afternoons and steamy nights. And last week we had a little visitor who was thoroughly taken in by the façade and looked as if he’d dropped straight out of an Attenborough documentary.
We were lingering over a late breakfast, about to pour a little more coffee, when our visitor announced himself with a distinct plopping sound. I turned round and there on a slender branch of the big hibiscus tree, a little wobbly but very much at home, was a bright green frog. Read More »

Sumptuous Summer Treats from French Life

Amanda on October 1st, 2008
Cahors Wine Grapes

Cahors Wine Grapes

Late September and the temperatures were still sizzling. We’d had no rain for weeks and the leaves on my pear trees were drooping disconsolately, like a guilty dog’s ears. In the vineyards the farmers frowned, growled and stroked the grapes contemplatively. They were ripe and just about ready for picking but they would have been better for a drink. It has to be supplied by nature too, a vine destined to make AOC Cahors wine cannot be watered artificially. It was too late anyway, having failed to produce a shower at the right time the weather mustn’t be allowed to break now, and ruin the year’s prospects. A good spell of sunshine is absolutely crucial for the harvest and the forecasters were on their mettle, a whole community depended on their getting it right. Read More »

The Fete des Vendanges from French Life

Amanda on June 1st, 2008
Cherries

Cherries

A month in which the residents of the Quercy prepare for the long, hot summer season. All along the boulevard in Cahors the little cafes and boulangeries that fringe this wonderful street have laid tables and chairs on the wide pavements. The established restaurants and bistros billow out in all directions screened from the road by strategically placed oleanders and potted olive trees. Short-sleeved waiters shimmy back and forth with trays brimming with the evocative drinks of summer, Perrier menthe and Coca Cola – in a bottle of course – cool foaming beers, Orangina and delicious iced tea. A deft hand removes the bottle tops whilst still balancing the loaded tray on the other hand – how do they do that? Read More »

White Stone Black Wine Published from French Life

Amanda on July 1st, 2007
Carnac en Fete

Carnac en Fete

Lazy high summer is upon us and here in the lovely Quercy that means the season. Not only the tourist season but also the glorious season of the fêtes. Every turreted village, sprawling town and elegant city in France has at least one – often more – but if there’s only one it’ll be in July or August so that every member of the community can attend, from Madame Dubois, the eldest lady in the commune, to baby Aurélie who was born last week. In our immediate area the first in the summer calendar is Villeseque and the last is Cénac. In these two crowded months we attend fourteen delicious and somewhat riotous fêtes. All these affairs start with numerous aperitifs and general chit-chat, then gradually everybody will drift towards the long lines of tables and wait for local girls to bring on the first course. Read More »

Joys of French Life – Summer Fetes! from French Life

Amanda on May 1st, 2006
Orchid

Orchid

The weather is truly warm here now, meals are taken outside and the more exotic flowers are beginning to make their appearance. The oleanders are full of bud, numerous tamarisk trees drip with dusky pink blossom and on a recent five kilometre ramble I spotted seven different varieties of wild orchid – the Quercy is justly famed for it’s orchids – and after a copious amount of huffing and puffing and thumbing through dusty tomes I eventually managed to identify my prizes. In all the years that I tramped the woods and fields the length and breadth of Sussex, I never found more than two at one time, thrilling. Read More »

French Life in the Quercy from French Life

Amanda on March 1st, 2006

Welcome to early spring in the Quercy!

Cahors Market

Cahors Market

It’s still a tad chilly here, cold nights and warm afternoons. There are few short-sleeved-shirts, with the strange exception of café waiters who seem to have an internal central heating system! There are fewer still bared shoulders, but there is an almost tangible air of expectancy, because when the warm weather comes to this land, it comes in a rush. Suddenly you’re wondering where you put the brolly because the terrace isn’t yet shaded by the old vine and whether or not to risk sitting outside for lunch if you can’t find it. Meanwhile the lemon trees that have spent the winter languishing in various cellars are cautiously re-appearing on terraces and balconies.
Read More »

The Joys of French Life in Spring from French Life

Amanda on February 1st, 2006

Welcome to early spring in the Quercy!

Cahors Market

Cahors Market

It’s still a tad chilly here, cold nights and warm afternoons. There are few short-sleeved-shirts, with the strange exception of café waiters who seem to have an internal central heating system! There are fewer still bared shoulders, but there is an almost tangible air of expectancy, because when the warm weather comes to this land, it comes in a rush. Suddenly you’re wondering where you put the brolly because the terrace isn’t yet shaded by the old vine and whether or not to risk sitting outside for lunch if you can’t find it. Meanwhile the lemon trees that have spent the winter languishing in various cellars are cautiously re-appearing on terraces and balconies.
Read More »

Early Spring in the Quercy from French Life