A grey morning found me cutting firewood behind the house. The squeak of an old barn door opening announced the arrival of Annie, one of our neighbours. Annie and her husband Remy have raised Charolais beef cattle for the last 40 years in this little hamlet. Their dark hair and olive skin make them appear much younger than they should after a lifetime of ceaseless labour, which is the farmer’s lot. Annie is well known for being the first with the news and she always announces it with a beaming smile, regardless of the nature of the news. Death gets the same treatment as birth. It’s a balance of emotion that now makes complete sense to me and I regret not embracing that joie de vivre throughout my life. After the normal formalities of greetings I started to tell her how cold were my hands without listening to what she was saying, which I assumed would be the normal “weather” opening gambit, but the repetition of the words “warm” and “hot”stopped my flow and allowed me to listen. She and Remy had just returned from three weeks in Guadeloupe, their first holiday since their honeymoon some 40 years ago.
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