February is usually a quiet month here…& often a very cold one too. This February has been no exception to that rule. The month started with us having snow & then we had a few days of almost spring like weather, during which I enjoyed seeing some green grass & a few flowers in the garden & even managed to have a nice cup of tea on the terrace one day in the sunshine. However, no sooner had I posted a photo on FB of a crocus in flower, than we were plunged back into the depths of winter again with the heaviest & deepest snow we have ever seen. It literally snowed for three days non stop & we soon had almost a foot of snow, covering any flowers which had been foolish enough to stick their heads up, completely. The snow is only now starting to melt again so maybe next week we can go back to spring again!
When the weather is as bad as that we usually pull up the drawbridge & hibernate, going out only when strictly necessary. However this month we have had a very charged social life with lots of occasions for eating out & visiting places & people. We have been proper little social butterflies really…& that doesn’t happen often here! Our first outing was during a gap in the weather at the beginning of the month when we went to a sort of “open day” at a new tourist attraction near Sauxillanges. A couple has begun an enterprise breeding Angora goats & & selling their wool. They have a loom & are prepared to do visits & weaving demonstrations too. It is all in its infancy & the day we went it was cold with sleet falling, which made the outside visit part a little difficult, but we could see that it would be a good place to send our visitors( especially children) as the goats are very picturesque with their long curly coats & goofy expressions. The mohair wool is also fabulous & I really hope this couple make a go of it all.
We then had a week of eating out & celebrations. We were invited out firstly to eat with our friends Julie & Jean-Luc on a very snowy night. We did wonder about the wisdom of going but then we knew J-L has a tractor so he would not let us get stuck! Their house is always very cosy & warm so it was the ideal place to spend a cold wintery evening! Following swiftly on from this came Valentine’s Day, & although Geoff has now toned down considerably his enthusiasm for celebrating this day (memories of Tarzanograms & placards declaring his love to all the world are now things of the past – thank goodness!) he still likes to take me out for a meal. We went at lunch time (not trusting the weather to be good enough for an evening trip) to one of our favourite auberges & had a lovely romantic meal. I am always a bit disappointed with the French’s lack of enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day really, considering that they are supposed to be a nation of super lovers. The restaurant was busy...but all the other tables were occupied by groups of blokes...& not a red rose in sight!
Next came my dearly beloved’s birthday which we celebrated at home, as we had more eating out occasions to come in the next few days. Geoff was very pleased with his day though & is back into his second youth (or so he thinks) wearing his new duffle coat! He was also thrilled with his present from the children, a ticket to the Springsteen gig in Paris in June. He has been a big fan of The Boss for ages & is really looking forward to going with Matthew to see him performing live. I have suggested that he needs to practice standing up for several hours & preferably learning the words of the latest album so that he can sing-a-long with everyone else!
Our next social event was to attend the 80th birthday celebrations of our friend Ron at their house in Sauxillanges. Muriel had organised a lovely lunch for about 30 people & we really enjoyed the afternoon. One of their friends had brought along his guitar, so we all had a good sing-song...although some of the translations of well known Dylan & Beatles songs into French had us smiling at times! Trust me; “Blowin in the Wind” does not translate well!
The day after this, there was another lunch out, this time with another English couple, Richard & Sarah. They had originally organised this lunch for the week before but had postponed it due to the bad weather then. Unfortunately, all this rich food (or maybe it was the alcohol??) had resulted in Geoff having a very bad case of D & V during the night. He was still at death’s door & not fit to take anywhere by lunchtime, so I went on my own. Another very nice afternoon was had & when I got back the patient had rallied so all was well again!
My final trip out was during the two days of “spring” sandwiched between the snowfalls, when I drove over to visit my friend Tots for the afternoon. The route takes me through the Livradois Forez Regional Parc & is always a lovely drive so I really enjoyed that. Although by then we had lost (temporarily) our snow there was still a lot about on the higher ground which made it even more interesting. It always makes me realise just what a beautiful part of the world we live in when I do that run.
All of this socialising & getting out & about this month has of course only been possible because we have been very quiet business wise, which of course is a big downside to it all. This would have been the first year in which I have had no visitors at all in January or February, which was starting to me make a bit depressed. So now we come to the “Surprise” bit of this post’s title...& one which really cheered me up considerably! A very last minute B&B booking for four nights (we rarely get four nighters!) & which has really rounded the month off nicely. The booking was confirmed last Saturday morning, to begin on the Sunday evening. I became very concerned as weekend progressed, as it was then that the snow came…lots & lots of it! Deep snow does not faze us much now & we are well equipped to deal with it here. But we often find that when we have guests in winter they do not always understand the meaning of “make sure you come equipped for the snow” in quite the same way! However, much to my surprise I have to say, our intrepid guests arrived as planned on Sunday evening in the midst of this blizzard, waxing lyrical about how lovely the snow was! They had (I’m pleased to say) had the sense to leave their car at the end of out little road into Chabanol as they didn’t have snow tyres & had walked the last bit. They were not the least bit fazed by the weather & thoroughly enjoyed their few days in the snowy Auvergne, hiking & exploring the region. They were perfect guests too, going out all day & coming back happy & exhausted after a days walking, so wanting to go off to bed early! What more could a B&B landlady ask for???
So February, my least favourite month, is over for another year & has ended on a high note really. As I write this the sun is shining brightly – & actually has a bit of warmth in it again, so the snow is melting at last. I’d like to think that this will be the last snow of this year (although I know from experience now that that is unlikely!) & that hopefully spring is finally on its way. We shall see…..!