July: Hotter than the New Arrivals

And the heat goes on... Shades of 2003 – except now there is some shade, deep within the house in the darkened 'master bedroom'.

Hotter than July. We're now on red alert in the Lot – along with the other departments in south-west France – so there's no more watering allowed. We've been quite liderally scraping the bottom of the barrels. With no more water in the rain butts to scoop out with our watering cans, we can remove them from their plinths, slosh out the sludge at the bottom and turn them up to dry out, ready for the next inundation. If it comes. There was rain forecast at the weekend, but an overcast morning soon turned into a sunny day. So... we must watch the garden along with the surrounding vegetation die off and hope that it will come back in milder climes.

This is the kind of summer that makes you question your wisdom in setting out camp so far south. Surely we'd have been better off in Brittany, where the winds off the Atlantic make for changeable and more tolerable conditions. But my wife's not having it. If we are ever to move to the seaside, it must be somewhere near Sete on the Mediterranean, because the sea is warmer. But so is the ambient temperature, isn't it? No, I won't stand for that. If global warming makes up its mind to subject us to hotter and drier rather than milder and wetter summers, I think Scandinavia's the place. Besides, it's an enlightened society. Generally speaking. Nice people, the Danes, the Swedes and the Norwegians. Even the Finns – if it weren't for the endemic alcoholism and a cuisine that's reputedly based around potatoes and porridge. I might have got it wrong.

Anyway, it hasn’t happened yet. Climactic and financial meltdowns are still just shapes looming on the horizon. For the moment, we’ve been focusing on keeping cool and inducting the new arrivals. It hardly seems possible that Otis and his half-brother Mingus arrived just over a week ago to complete Team Sampson once more. It seems like at least a fortnight that we’ve been watching them tumble around like kittens are given to do. Daphne has fallen for young Mingus in a big way and we have to keep a close watch lest she try to drag him around by his ear. The Daughter gets a little stressed by it all and we try to reassure her that they will work out their own rules. After all, her mother’s old dog, Max, used to carry his favourite kitten around in his mouth.

They came to us via our first friends in France. Régine ran the bar/restaurant in a nearby village, while Bernard worked for France Telecom pre-privatisation. They took us under their collective wing and did more than anyone to ensure that the new arrivals from far-off Sheffield survived the first few difficult years among the hill people of the Corrèze. Régine had to give up cooking due to a rare and debilitating illness, but she re-invented herself as a cookery writer – to find regional fame and, if not fortune, then a modest income to supplement Bernard's retirement pension.

Having moved to Marcillac on the edge of the Haute Corrèze, they journeyed significantly down to Brive the weekend before last to deliver the kittens to my lady's cabinet and check out our currently vacant apartment for their delightful daughter, Charlotte, who lived for a time in Southampton with friends of my sister's children and who learnt impeccable English and a wider perspective on life. They liked the apartment and we love their two kittens.

Otis and Mingus seem to have adapted very quickly to life in a comparatively luxurious animal-loving home. And why wouldn't they? All the love they can manage, all the water they can drink, all the food they can eat and all the litter they need to scrape and scatter for me to empty in some brambly corner where Daphne can't get to the... No, I won't even go there. Disgusting things, dogs.

Watching all three animals sleep through the worst of the afternoon heat makes you realise that they – and we – were never meant to contend with such temperatures as we’ve been witnessing this July. These are Spanish temperatures. Moroccan, even. Down in those parts, they sensibly take siestas. We, alas, come from a different culture. Spurred on by the good old Protestant work ethic, I have tried to soldier on at the computer. But I may as well have retreated to my bed, given what I have managed to achieve. You can’t think straight, let alone create. Heat like this saps the will to live and it doesn’t surprise me that so many of our older citizens have given up the ghost.

One compensation of mid July is normally the British Open. But our digibox that converts the satellite signals into images gave up the ghost and we had to await the visit of Satellite Stu on Wednesday afternoon. He put things right. Typically it expired at a time when there were three excellent films to record on Film Four. And at a time when I normally allow myself a few hours on the sofa to watch the gentle, sedate events on the golf course. It's St. Andrews this year, too. The filthy weather mocked our parched and ailing landscape, but provided one of the most exciting competitions for years. Alas, it was won by an American and not a European.

However, I did manage a round of golf one Monday morning on a new course that a passionate fan of the game has created out of old farmland, presumably with the money he must have made from selling his business. My friend and fellow Packers fan, John from Madison, Wisconsin, took me there and lent me his new-generation clubs. And because John is getting a little too old for dragging a bag of clubs around on foot, we got to hire one of those electric buggies, which was almost as much fun as riding a dodgem car.

It was my first round of golf in 12 years and I didn't disgrace myself. Not altogether, anyway. I hit a few shots sweetly and sunk a long putt and, despite the searing heat, it was a lot of fun. At one point, teeing off on the fourth hole, another buggy came racing towards us. It was the owner, bearing two cups of black coffee on a tray. Most of it had spilled on the tray, but I very much appreciated the gesture. Nor would he let us pay for our slopped coffees, because it was the quatorze juillet. Only in France, eh?

As we arrived at the green for which we were aiming, we chanced upon a pair of hoopoes. It's seemingly weeks since I last saw or heard one of these exotic birds. They flew off towards the surrounding woods on our approach. Like I am, they're probably looking forward to the end of this month. Normally, I do not welcome August, since it augurs the end of summer, but lower temperatures are forecast. If only it would rain.

Rain, rain, rain/Beautiful rain...

Rain at 0730 now the sun trying to peep through - 18° so notexactly tropical !

Bergerac & Chelsea deserve each other................

There were occasional short showers during the match (4:4) and Roman Abramovich spotted strutting around in the stadium (http://www.francebleu.fr/football/chelsea/bergerac-chelsea-un-festival-de-buts-et-un-milliardaire-en-tribunes-2503289). Given there was some kind of business lunch after with Chelsea perhaps something good is going to follow this game.

Last night at the folk music it really got cool, meaning climatically, 13°C when we got home and only 16°C at 0730 when I went out with dogs. However, heat forecast for later this week again.

Yes, it's all Brian's fault. Now that I realise that he's a Chelsea fan. And I used to love them in the 60s/70s when they were full of skillful characters like Osgood, Cooke and the great Alan Hudson - before a Russian billionaire took over and bought that Portuguese toad in to manage them.

26° and overcast here and quite heavy which isn't easy if you're playing football or golf.

I blame Brian for everything !

Red card chaps! You copped us fair and square Jane.

We have clouds and under 30°C. That alone is a change.

Why has this turned into a discussion on football?
Mark introduced golf, which I also do not u derstand, but we are now on Red alert in the Grosne region of Saone-et-Loire. We have had rain threatened, but it has passed us by.

And wo betide anyone unlucky enough to be sold to Cowdenbeath or Stenhousemuir !

May be so, but having the power to threaten to sell to Hartlepool United or Crawley Town is fairly omnipotent.

I'm a firm non-believer.

Anyway, you don't need to be a great coach to 'buy' a championship...

Striking god is a form of blasphemy, isn't it?

Well Tottenham actually with close links to the Goddess Delia !

If I happen to see José M in the street in St Junien I will definitely cross the road to avoid having to smack him in the teeth !

Should I put my BLUE shirt away then? The mighty Canaries fan has spoken, I must obey!

I expect you'll be sitting in a darkened room after the torture of watching C*****a FC ?

Shame on you BM !

If it's any consolation, it's the same up here in the North (60)! Had our first rain for over 2 and a half months last Saturday - the relief was almost exquisite! 45 degree conditions in packed commuter trains that take up to 2 hours longer than they should each day has not been much fun either...

Love the lawn description - we also have over-dry conflakes... Have been trekking down to the dwindling river with 10l cans to try to keep the veg patch and most delicate plants alive but even the river has dropped from knee deep in spring to ankle deep now, at least allowing us to clear out the deadly trash layer from the bottom - mostly glass bottles chucked from the bridge upstream, punctuated by a set of car number plates and an old boar skull. Nice

Yep, we are red alert too (I put up the topic on SFN last week, in fact). Farmers are supposed to limit use of forage sources even since the river is very, very low, watering lawns and non-agricultural 'crops' verboten and so on. In the real world: a neighbour has a small vineyard which he is watering several hours a day, ditto his pumpkin patch and a few other bits. Another neighbour has a pristine, weedless potager that is irrigated most of each day. Then just a few metres on is somebody who is actually a contract landscaper so should know what is what, his vegetable garden and tunnels are all being generously watered. Meanwhile farmers not near the main road, especially hidden behind woodland, are not playing the game whereas those along the main departmental road are being careful.

Grass, what grass? There is a substance the colour of over-dry cornflakes, same texture, where there was lush green just a few weeks ago. One daughter had friends here for a couple of nights camping in the field. Now that beautiful green corner of the field is Sahelian rather than lush. She suggested putting milk on to get it soft again. She is either obviously affected by the drought or has genetically acquired my sense of the absurdity. Gimme rain, please, just a splash at least. Recently there were storms, heavy black clouds, lots of lightning and thunder, heavy spots here for a few seconds, no desired downpours at all. I could see the rain between sky and ground a couple of kilometres away, could have gone on my knees to beg for just a smidgeon.

At least tonight and tomorrow night are the local free folk festival, my football fanatic daughter and I get to see Chelsea u21s play a friendly against Bergerac tomorrow, other daughter has her birthday tomorrow so we go to a friend's restaurant on the way to see the music until the wee small hours and if all of that outside activity does not tempt rain then I must put on my anthropologist's hat and find out where I can find a successful shaman who scores on the precipitation front!