Summer in SW France – A tongue-in-cheek look at The Start of Summer by the Editor of The Local Buzz. May and June mean public holidays, flower filled tubs and gnat bites, as well as a concerted effort to prep for the outdoor life that’s about to begin.
Is spring cleaning bred in us I wonder? Suddenly I have this intense and, believe me, unusual desire to fill in and paint over every odd crack in the very old walls of my house, scour the BBQ and scrape the remains of a bird nest out of the pizza oven.
I am always filled with excitement about the idea of entertaining family and friends into the wee small hours, sitting outside as the birds go to bed, the owls wake up, and the fight with the midges begins. I won the battle last year, a fearsome combination of lemon scented wax candles, oil filled flame torches, a tennis racquet-shaped zapper, those curled up snake type things and anti-mozzie spray had them beat. I am such a “sweet” thing that I was once bitten 23 times on one leg so I now take anti-histamine from June to August. Hmm, maybe I was bitten after all but just didn’t notice? I’ll still count it as a victory, I wasn’t awake all night, dabbing myself with vinegar!
May is, of course, the month of les jours des fériérs and les jour des ponts. What should be a single day suddenly becomes three days of festive fun, with shops closing early, or not opening at all, and the local boulangerie running out of bread by 11 am. We take to the supermarket shelves as if war might break out, and to the garden centres as if that last pot of herbs for the pizza topping is a matter of life or death. I guess if we were to use the wrong plant it could be!
It’s also the time of the geranium, a plant beloved by the French for its pretty flowers and its citrus-smelling leaves. You won’t believe this but I totally avoided this plant for years as not only did I find the aroma off-putting (says she with a garden full of lemony mozzie killers) but I only ever seemed to find it in red and red is just not in my colour scheme. I have no idea why I was so fussy – the colours in my garden usually turn to brown pretty quickly anyway! However, I found shocking pink ones last year and am a total convert. They’ve gone on forever with very little attention other than a bit of dead-heading and a daily drink. Some are even alive 12 months later, it’s a miracle!
Why am I so delighted? I used to have a greenhouse but I only ever grew dead things – that and weird shaped tomatoes which went berserk and took the whole place over. It was like The Day of the Triffids, that post-apocalyptic film from the 1960’s, gone seriously bad.
One of France’s other loves, and mine, is roses. I filled a bed with white hybrids for €2 each from a local flower festival years ago and they are still going strong, despite my “care”. I have just found out that geraniums and roses share chemistry, at least where perfumes are concerned. It seems they both have the same floral mid-notes of linalool, geraniol and citronellol. Rose is a sweeter, more feminine aroma whilst geranium, with its citrus, spicy, aromatic undertones, is favoured in cologne for men. Who knew? I guess my nose did!
First published in the May/June 2019 issue of The Local Buzz