Glorious sunshine gilds the drab landscape as spring finally makes her debut.
In the forest glades dark carpets of leaves are punctuated by a scattering of violets, like a stolen hoard of amethysts, hurriedly discarded. And every now and then the paler daisy-shaped jewel of an anemone blanda, so charming, so delicate and as tough as old tree roots. Overhead the first green has begun to appear, long lines of chartreuse willow and tangles of hawthorn and honeysuckle, complemented perfectly by a froth of blossom from the early blushing brides, wild cherry, almond and blackthorn. A triple wedding – a promise of good times to come.
Down in the market everything had changed. The last of the winter vegetables stepped back and the spring beauties flounced into the limelight. The first asparagus had appeared, outrageously expensive and stealing the show. Huge crates of bitter greens and boxes of emerald watercress jostled the colourful chorus line; the earliest garriguette strawberries. They came from the hothouses of the Lot and Garonne but they were delightfully welcome nevertheless. Next door an impromptu stall had been set up by the jonquil sellers. Their tight bouquets of golden blooms light up the scene and lure unwary tourists, as in days gone by they lured me. I love them, but I no longer buy them, they are fully out and will be dead within forty-eight hours. However across the cobbled market square was a stall that was far more to my taste, primroses, primulas, polyanthus and cowslips. I knew I shouldn’t, I didn’t actually need any, but I could never resist this advance on the seasons.
‘Eh bonjour Madame!’ Pascal the stall holder greeted me, scooping up three of the palest primroses and tucking them inside my basket before I could catch my breath. ‘Les tetes-a-tetes aussi?’ he asked optimistically, trying to flog me a couple of pots of tiny bulbs. They too were in full bloom, but they would come back year after year and in the chilly depths of my garden, they would last for at least two weeks. All the same I already have about two hundred bulbs adorning the little corner of the wilderness I call my woodland garden, I really don’t need any more. I shook my head firmly, paid him for the primroses, from which there seemed no escape, and slipped away to treat myself a poulet roti for lunch. What is it about the wonderful aroma from a market roasted chicken? The scent pervades the busy scene until eventually you can’t bear it any longer, especially if you’re running late and lunch approaches. ‘Peu de jus?’ He asked laconically, ladle poised.
‘Bien sur.’ He touched his fingers to his lips and wished me bon appétit as he tucked the warm, steamy parcel at one end of my basket, well away from the fragile primroses. I arranged a Berlin wall of greens between the two and glanced up at the church clock. It was midday. I still needed a warm loaf from the boulangerie in my village and then I really would have to get home, tout de suite.
We ate lunch on the terrace, the first of the year. Chicken and fresh salad from the market, doused in olive oil. There was a little wine from our neighbour, in the old terracotta jug, fresh bread, ripe goat’s cheese and olives – a feast. We sat back, lazily enjoying the warmth after the bitter months, casually throwing olive stones over the balcony and reflecting on the coming summer.
The future did indeed seem promising.
© Amanda Lawrence 2011
Author White Stone Black Wine