With the arrival of several consecutive days of sun, and the possibility of more to follow, comes a new way of being. The fire is still lit in the evening but more as a comfort than a necessity. We have just passed the three days of “les Saints de Glace” which coincide with the fêtes of St.Mamert, St.Pancrace (didn’t he have a London station named after him, or was it part of the digestive tract, which latter would have been more apposite as we enter the underground system full of life and joy only to be expelled the other end transformed and drained of all goodness) and St.Servais. Since the middle ages, peasant farmers in France have invoked these saints to spare them the effects of “la lune rousse”, which prevails during this period, and which can bring unseasonal frosts. It seems the saints have gone marching by for yet another year and the time for clout casting is upon us. It makes me reflect on the amount of of mental angst that we Northern Europeans suffer in our annual anticipation of the short tryst with the sun and clear blue sky that we call summer. For us, of the cold, grey North, summer is a difficult period of the year to enjoy because, like so much in our lives, it rarely lives up to expectations. There is the ever present fear of making arrangements that might depend on the hoped for seasonal weather which, as we have learnt on the journey from childhood disappointments to adult stoicism, will invariably rain on our parade. Being able to carpe the dies is not in the gift of everyone. In fact only a tiny minority of us can enjoy this pleasure and those that can will, for the most part, not be entirely grateful. Being without work, being homeless, being very ill, being imprisoned are all states where the dies can be carped for the full 24 hours of sun filled fun, for it is so often the case that it will be the most unfortunate among us who have endless time on their hands. The remembered sun filled summers of childhood are tricks of memory which our minds have superbly edited to leave out the frightening bits so that they are now suitable for adult retrospective viewing. Well, don’t tell me that that didn’t cheer up your Monday morning. I meant to include that I seem to have achieved the ability to carpe dies without being in any of the above miserable states. Reading a book in the warmth of the sun, planting and pruning in the tiny garden, preparing and cooking food that will be eaten, sheltered from the sun, under an awning surrounded by pots of scented herbs are amongst the moments that I greedily enjoy in the way that a parched man will try to down draughts of cool water without choking. I have been reading a wonderful book called “Les Goûteurs de Provence” which describes a set of day trips undertaken by a Provencal restaurateur and a childhood friend of his who, having moved to Paris many years before, returns to rediscover his patrimoine. Even these privileged people had to grab a day here and a day there to undertake the journeys that created the book that is giving me so much pleasure. My pleasure was increased by a late lunch of confit de canard which was served with a warm lentil salad mixed with walnuts, mint and capers and dressed with lemon and walnut oil. Delicious lemon bars, from a recipe by Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes in London, were followed by garden watering, more reading, lighting the fire and going to sleep
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