Monday, 21 October 2013

Our Last Winter in the Old Cognac Farm!

Autumn is well and truly here and, ankle deep in bright red, copper and gold leaves, I walk my dog, Indy, through the woods near our home.  It's only a few months now until we move back to France. Breathing in the rich earthy smells of the season, I am transported to our last winter in the old cognac farm in south-west France. 

The huge kitchen with its oak beams and stone floor, wrapped itself around a massive wood burning stove, ensconced in the grate of a baronial fireplace. The silence of this dreamy place was punctuated by crackling logs and lit by the shadows that danced across the floor from its licking flames. 

I can't help but remember one particularly cold February morning, when we woke to a winter wonderland. The trees outside bedecked in ice crystals, stood motionless in the iron hard landscape, while alas in the kitchen below, the last embers of the fire from the night before, died peacefully away.  The shadows no longer danced across the floor and, in their place, an icy gloom hung in the silence. We had run out of wood.

Feeling like an Arctic explorer, I pulled the hood of my heavy warm coat over my woolly bobble hat and headed out into the frosty landscape. I was on a mission.  The ground was treacherously slippery, as I grabbed the two metal handles of our old wheelbarrow and set off purposefully up the lane, in the direction of a small dilapidated barn on the brow of the hill. Slipping mercilessly as I attempted to keep the wheelbarrow up-right, I struggled with its weight, only aware of my breathing and the goal ahead.

Reaching the barn, I wrestled with the ice cold bolt on the ancient wooden door and wrenched it open. Inside, shining the torch over rusting farm equipment and  broken barrels, I could just make out in the corner a pile of old decaying wood.  There were cobwebs everywhere, but undeterred, I started to climb, falling occasionally when something gave way below me. I broke the silence with the occasional yelp, but kept on going. Finally, pulling and hauling trapped logs from the pile, I hurled them with all my strength towards the door, not stopping until the corner was empty and I could begin to extricate myself from the dust and debris.

On my way back down the lane, I no longer felt the cold. I was surviving like the old cognac farmers before me, by pitting my wits against the elements, and it felt good.  Later that morning, my wet coat hung by the door, dappled in the dancing shadows of flames from the fire, while the crackle of burning wood echoed my new found connection to the past.

I look forward to reconnecting with nature, when I return to France for a new life in Burgundy.  Having finally submitted my book, 'Bonne Chance!' A Second Chance in the South of France, to a publisher, I hope that someday you might be able to share in my wonderful French adventure. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed our trip back to the old cognac farm.