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July

This is a strange July. I have no friends visiting and the weather is unpredictable.

The rather hectic month of playing in and attending music performances is now over. Some of the class of cellists met for the last time on Monday. Now I have the summer to learn my latest piece, the first movement of a double cello concerto by Vivaldi (RV531). Lovely music, but yet again a bit challenging for somebody at my level, with arthritic finger and right shoulder, which has never recovered from the reverse shoulder replacement and subsequent removal of damaged biceps tendon. I’m playing first cello, the second is to be played by Lilou, the talented 11-year-old. (We cant practise over the summer has she is the regional winner of a competition for a month of tuition and performances in Paris.)

Now I suddenly have time on my hands, but sadly this year – like last – there are no friends coming in July. All the uncertainty of the UK’s plans for the summer, combined with advancing age and so health problems of some, mean an empty diary. Even my pal Sarah, who usually fits me in before or after visiting her son, James, near Nice, is not coming.

Then there is the unpredictable weather. After the May drought and that dramatic heat in June (with afternoon temperatures approaching 40 degrees) we continue to have a surprising amount of rain. The storms in June put paid to the wonderful display of roses everywhere, but at least everything is now green, whereas usually my terraces take on a tired, parched brown look for two months.

One morning we can have clear blue skies (like the first photo of Bréau), the next day we are back to clouds and rain. Watching storms approaching can be fun, as the third photo, taken by my friend Dessa (and edited by me) shows.

I have not even been tempted to take dips in my pool more than a few times. Indeed the pool is a bit of a nightmare this year. It has a leak, which cannot be dealt with until the autumn, and the pump system which passes the water through the plant pool and then round the swimming one, is going into the red zone every two days (rather than the expected once a week). My arthritis prevents me doing the backwash myself. My neighbour, Ben, has been helping out, but he is away for three weeks, so now I’m paying a Dutch friend, Hans, to come several times a week. Now there is a third problem – water coming out all the time from the backwash pipe. Julien (the son of Jackie, who built the pool) is coming by this afternoon to see what can be done. I fear the next step is to pay for an expert to come up from Montpellier.

Still, I hope to do more expeditions to take advantage of the unusual green landscape, though I dont need to go far to enjoy the summer here. Last week I varied my daily walk; I took Poppy down to the river at Aveze.

Meanwhile back at home I’m not ignoring my feathered friends. Edith, my cleaning lady, and I routinely enjoy the bird theatre. Now all the babies are coming, so there are often six or seven birds on the feeder, and more queuing up on posts and nearby trees.The woodpecker and nuthatch have sensibly gone off to hunt for their own food, but the tits, sparrows and occasionally, black redstarts, continue to come. And of course the greedy collared doves are permanently dallying on the railings of my terrace.

My other animal activity has been done with some reluctance. I have to confess that I am to a cat fan – and lo and behold, I have found myself looking after not just the two cats of my tenant, Diren, while she is working down on the coast, but also those of my new neighbours, Ben and Alexa.

Diren’s cats were a bit of a nightmare as the ants discovered the croquette dispenser (can’t think what the English word is for the small crunchy dry food cats and dogs are given). Thankfully friends of Diren are staying there, so I’m off duty.

It was much easier looking after Ben and Alexa’s two cats. Ben is super organised in his house, and all the cat food was laid out for me, together with disposable cardboard dishes so I would not have to wash anything. But Alexa has now come back early from the camping trip, apparently suffering from allergies to the forest… Ben loves outdoors activities, whereas Alexa had never been in a tent before. Hum, I wonder about the future.

Meanwhile, August should be an interesting month. Both families look as if they will be able to come. Kate’s family are bringing their giant, bouncy one-year old dog, Bramble, who inevitably likes chasing cats. I somehow think Kate and family will be up here and Jude and family down in Diren’s house. Part of my letting deal was that she should vacate the house during family holidays. But I don’t think we covered cats in the deal!

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