As we said in our June post, we have been taking the opportunity of having more time (with 'lockdown' effects on the Chambres D'Hotes) to focus on the garden. It has been interesting and challenging as, having had the very mixed weather in May and June (with some very heavy rainfall), the last week in June and the whole of July has been without rain ... and we are entering August with no prospect of any rainfall. What this has meant is that our attempts at bringing on later sown seeds (as we said, a second attempt) has now been compromised by the lack of rain, having had the first seed sowing largely washed away. Oh well! But on the 'plus side' it has meant that the more established plants have flourished and our attempts at trying to introduce mixed colours in the early and mid-summer have had some success - here's a little montage of what's been going on:
But as the dry weather has continued the grass has dried out, and some of the flowers beds have started to struggle , including our big grasses area:
So, what about the animals? Well, Oska deals remarkably well with the heat ... going slowly from shady place to shady place. A couple weeks ago he had an insect bite on his tail, which grew infected very swiftly - not a pretty sight and he had to go to the vet, which involved having his lovely tail shaved, so that it ended up looking like a lion's! We are not publishing a photo in deference to Oska's dignity.
And Graycie the cat? Well, she has settled in very well and, having explored the house (quite a lengthy task) she is now taking on the garden:
In terms of other animals, the wildlife, mid-summer is always a quiet time (to our eyes anyway) - particularly in this sort of heat. And which creatures thrive? .... lizards! They're everywhere - quite large ones, down to tiny ones, no bigger than a pin with legs. Masters of disguise, they blend into the stone walls, keeping totally still and then suddenly, in a blink, they just disappear:
So, for some of our trees, shrubs and flowers, and for the birds in particular, we hope that we'll have some rain soon.
On a more cheerful note - the sun has, as it would, spurred on our 'Grand Sunflower Competition' involving some of the grandchildren:
July has seen people realise that COVID-19 is a long-term reality. France has dealt reasonably effectively with the pandemic; there are marked variations between the number of cases and mortalities between the regions and Departments - Occitanie and the Tarn have been 'green designated' throughout, but the restrictions and anxieties have not respected boundaries. From our perspective the particular impact has been the extent to which social interactions have suddenly reduced and the ones that have remained have been re-characterised by social distancing and variations in people's worries and individual circumstances. So, our Chambres D'Hotes activities, usually very busy over July and August, have been very restricted; and visits from friends and family over the summer have been entirely 'on hold', particularly unsettling as the regulations on quarantining constantly change. Over the coming Autumn we will consider how we can best manage the facilities we have and how to do that to the best effect for the guests we may have.
Locally, the enterprises connected with tourism have been highly responsible and pro-active: restaurants are now open and obeying distancing and mask regulations, while remaining efficient and welcoming and they are making use of additional outside space (local regulations have been relaxed); and some other tourist attractions are able to capitalise on the region's blessings of just so much space - so activities like walking and water sports can be managed with comparative ease. People generally are being cautious; it is very apparent that there are less visitors from other countries, subject perhaps to their own restrictions and although Albi, for example, has a fair number of visitors and people are going to restaurants, shops and those attractions able to be open, the 'footfall' is far below what it would usually be for mid-summer. So, what will be telling is whether the tourism sector starts to shut down in the early Autumn quite so abruptly as it usually seems to do, or whether there are attempts to remain fully open over September and October, which are often the most lovely months here.
Having received a few more, very interesting, contributions we've now closed that and we will now put together a short 'report' to try to reflect the main themes and strands of people's thinking. We aim to get that out by the end of August - and if we publish that via the Blog it can be open for anyone to contribute responses and any further thoughts and reflections. Anyway, we hope that it will end up with something that is interesting and thoughtful. Thanks again to everyone who has contributed.
As we head into the later Summer and Autumn we do wish any readers of this Blog a safe and grounded time.