Hello and welcome to the latest blog in the Olivia Rose Diaries on 10th December 2021.
As you can see from the picture below, ẃinter has arrived and grey skies are now what we wake up to every morning. I feel as if I am living in a black and white world, broken up only by shades of grey. Definitely NOT my favourite colour.
Our nearest town is Castelnaudary. In 2018 we moored up just the other side of that rather grey lagoon that you see above as we cruised down the Canal du Midi under summer skies.
The canal is looking very different this time round as it has been emptied for maintenance work. The staircase of locks that opens into the lagoon was a mass of concrete, no more than a puddle of shallow water with leaves scattered over the surface.
It is fascinating to see these canals empty of water. They really are just big ditches. The canal will be shut for several months and much of that time is spent replacing the shuttering along the banks and carrying out works on the locks themselves.
We managed to organise our booster jab this week. Since it was opened up to more people demand has soared and many places are fully booked until January. We managed to get two slots in the small town of Trèbes, just under an hour away, and decided we would make a day of it and call in at Carcassonne on the way.
We had expected it to be much quieter than when we had been here before in high summer, but it was surprisingly busy. We heard so many Spanish voices that we almost wondered if the citadel had been transported over the border. Whilst this massive fortress is always an impressive sight, all those huge stone walls and buttresses mirrored the gloom of the skies above and it had a rather subdued atmosphere – or perhaps it was just me who was subdued!
Help came from an unexpected quarter. There is a large, very old graveyard opposite the entrance to the citadel. I wouldn’t expect a graveyard to be a cheery sort of place, but this one was full of colour. The gravestones and mausoleums were bedecked with chrysanthemums and cyclamens from ‘Tousaints’ in November, a time when the French remember their loved ones and place flowers on their graves. The wind and rain of the last few weeks meant the blooms were pretty much on their last legs but even so I found that the colours lifted my mood.
The French have the tradition of placing pictures of the family they have lost on the graves, which makes it all a much more personal affair. You could feel the loss that so many people had suffered, but with all the flowers, pictures and tributes, you could also feel the love that still endured. I rather envied them. My mother died when I was in my forties and we cremated her as per her wishes, but I often wish that I had an actual grave to visit, place some flowers and have a chat, albeit rather one-sided.
An hour later and we were sitting in a hall waiting to have a needle stuck in our arms. Roughly eleven million people have now had their booster here in France and they are pushing hard to get as many people through the doors as quickly as possible.
The drive back home took us through two beautiful villages and we resolved to come back next week when there is the promise of better weather and explore them. I’ll leave you with a couple more pictures from our house sit, birds this time, and see you soon.